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Historic Tales 3


By Tom Rische

What do you know about Torrance? Because its 100th birthday is fast-approaching, Torrance is planning a series of events to honor its Centennial, starting Nov. 6, 2011. The kickoff will be a light show in which 2,000 residents will hold flashlights spelling out the city's name and age, as photos are taken from the Goodyear Blimp, which will pass overhead.

Meanwhile, here are some questions about early Torrance. Answers are explained below.

1.  A major problem in early Torrance was (a) dust storms; (b) locusts; (c) toxic smokes and wastes; (d) flooding.

2.  At one time, which of the following was seriously considered for Torrance? (a) the UCLA campus; (b) a major harbor; (c) Knott's Berry Farm; (d) the state capitol.

3.  An early name considered for Torrance was (a) Obrador; (b) Southport; (c) Dominguez; (d) Industrial; (e) all of these.

Much of Torrance's land 100 years ago was still in ranches and dry land farming crops (barley, oats, etc.) as the new city opened up in 1912. Cowboys and cattle roamed the fields of what is now the city's southern part. Thus dust storms were often a major problem when rains were skimpy.

But in South Torrance, runoff from the Palos Verdes Hills and higher surrounding areas often created a large body of water called Walteria Lake. During wet years, it extended from today's South High campus to the Torrance Airport, as far north as Sepulveda. In those days, major east-west traffic to Wilmington and Long Beach moved along Newton St.

The northern area was filled with farms and gardens. Many of them were run by Japanese who had settled in the Gardena (garden) area nearby.

A large slough, filled with murky water, covered much of the land in the present Harbor Gateway area. Until the late 1930's developers were considering plans for dredging it all the way down to San Pedro. Thus, the city's eastern parts would be part of a greater Los Angeles Harbor. Torrance planners, looking at creating a modern industrial town, thought Torrance's industries might be able to float their products down to San Pedro, so they pondered the name,"Southport," among others, like "Torrance," "Obrador" (Spanish for Industrial), and "Dominguez," after the owners of the early Spanish land grant.

Wanting a land connection to the San Pedro Harbor, Los Angeles annexed the long narrow strip now known as Harbor Gateway. LA feared that Torrance might try to annex this area first. Ironically, Torrance incorporated as a city in 1921, fearing that Los Angeles would try to annex it.

And in the pre-Prohibition era, the city banned brewing of alcoholic beverages in homes.