By Helga Gendell
The Marina del Rey Historical Society hosted a social event March 20 for members and the public to watch a documentary about early Marina del Rey, learn about the former “Hoppyland Amusement Park,” and view an exhibit by an artist that featured the historic oil rigs of Venice. The event was held at the Marina del Rey Hotel, the first hotel built in Marina del Rey.
The Marina del Rey Historical Society, co-founded by photographer Greg Wenger and local businesswoman and sail maker Willie Hjorth in 2007, drew a crowd of about 100 people to the event. The documentary on Marina history was produced and edited by Pat Reynolds, local boater and publisher/editor of The Mariner, a local boating magazine. He also contributes to The Argonaut’s Nautical News on a monthly basis.
The Hoppyland Amusement Park feature (original film from the Rosemary Delarme collection) showcased a who’s who of Hollywood actors and their families at the grand opening of William (Bill) Boyd’s (an actor who portrayed the character Hopalong Cassidy) park. Hoppyland was located in the vicinity of what is now Via Dolce and Washington Boulevard, currently the location of Islands restaurant.
Reynolds, explained to The Argonaut how he became involved with producing a documentary for the society:
“Back in December, Tim Tunks, a member of the historical society, asked if I would write something for their quarterly newsletter. Over the past few years I’ve been getting into video shooting and editing, so I asked if they would rather I produce a short documentary on the history of Marina del Rey. With the materials and experts they had available, I could have an actor friend of mine narrate it and maybe I could be like a ‘little Ken Burns, Jr.’ They said, ‘sure, go for it.’
“I knew before I offered that it was going to be an undertaking, because frankly, I didn’t know that much about local history and would have to get up to speed just to be able to navigate the project. As I delved in, I tasted what being an historian must be like. It’s fascinating; every area of this sort of an informational puzzle needs to be assembled,” Reynolds continued.
“It’s so interesting to look back and see what situations caused the people of an era to make the choices they made, and then to follow those effects into our own lives. For example, in the case of Marina del Rey, I never knew that a mosquito problem played a relevant role in where we are today. And those mosquitoes were there because of dirty oil wells that once inhabited this area.”
Reynolds said he isn’t sure how long it took to create the documentary. “With the conducting of interviews, writing the script, editing, recording the narration, assembling music, scanning photographs, and creating titles and graphics, it was a project,” he noted.
He said the narrator was Norman Merrill, an actor who appeared on “Knot’s Landing” and in other roles. Former Argonaut writer Judith Endler was also instrumental in the process, Reynolds said. “Judith has studied the history of this area quite a bit, and was working on a book at one point. She and I had numerous conversations that helped me to better understand the evolution of Marina del Rey.
“I originally was going to go from the late 1800s to the present, but quickly realized that it would take a long time to pull off and it would need to be a longer piece. I chose to go from the late 1800s to the conception of the harbor in the 1960s, because I think, for lots of people, the more distant history is more interesting. I hadn’t found many solid synopsis-type materials about the area’s history, and some, I came to understand, weren’t accurate, so that led me to that time frame,” Reynolds said.
Due to illness, artist JoAnn Cowans was unable to attend the screening event, but her exhibits were displayed. Cowans recalled that when she moved to Venice, the oil derricks were slowly being dismantled, and she was inspired by the sight, spending two years walking, painting and sketching what she saw in her neighborhood.
She donated several of her postcard colored prints of her paintings as door prizes, and donated a signed color print of one her valued oil well paintings for the fundraising raffle at the event, according to the historical society.
Historical society member Debbie Talbot, who also works for with the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, was asked several questions by audience members about various Marina projects.
The main question was why the American flag at the Marina’s main channel entrance hadn’t been replaced after the harbor had been dredged until recently. Talbot explained that the flag had been removed because the lighting had to be disconnected during the dredging. She told the audience that the county is exploring various ways to replace the lighting, possibly with solar energy, but assured the audience that the issue is being worked on and the flag will be properly lighted.
The Marina del Rey Historical Society can be reached at (310) 578-1001, or by mail, P.O. Box 9550, Marina del Rey, CA 90295-1950. Information, www.marinadelreyhistoricalsociety.org.