El Niño, Downtown Los Angeles 1966 - age 3.

El Niño, Downtown Los Angeles 1966 - age 3.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Dingbat - The 1950s Southern California Apartment Complex

A Dingbat ornament at the Harmony Terrace - Silverlake, CA

The outline of a missing Dingbat (upper left) - South Pasadena, CA

“Stifle Dingbat” was a term of endearment so to speak that Archie Bunker would say to Edith Bunker when he wanted command of their conversations in the Queens, New York based sitcom, All in the Family. The term Dingbat is also very prominent in Southern California culture and as you drive through sections of Santa Monica, Culver City, Hollywood, South Pasadena and in neighborhoods such as St. Andrews Square, Koreatown, and Little Armenia you will definitely see a Dingbat or the remains of one. Apartment buildings built in the 1950s in Southern California were just big stucco hat boxes adorned with palm trees and modern style decorations and letterings with kitschy names such as the Gower Arms or the Ambassador Gardens. These decorations were made of inexpensive metals and were usually in the form of a sunburst and somehow the buildings were coined “Dingbats“ from this. “Want to come over to my Dingbat for a drink?” after a night out on the town would be amusing today. These apartment buildings housed the thousands who flocked to post war Southern California in search of jobs, stardom and of course better weather. Over the course of time, many of these starburst ornaments have been removed, have fallen off, or have succumbed to the elements and have never been replaced. I am assuming replacing a cheap metal sunburst decoration on the façade of the building is on the bottom of a landlord’s to-do list, thus bringing more meaning to the term, “Stifle Dingbat” and gone forever.

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