Take It On Faith With The Evolution of Christmas in the Annual Number of “The Tidings,” Los Angeles, Christmas 1924, Part Four

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

We close this four-part post on the 1924 annual of the Los Angeles-based Roman Catholic newspaper, The Tidings, with a look at another wide range of feature articles related to the Church, the Christmas season, and the growth and development of the Angel City. On this latter point, for example, Arthur G. Arnoll, secretary of the very powerful Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, provided a review of the “Building Program in Los Angeles for 1924.”

He began by noting that it “was not as great as that of 1923, it should be borne in mind that 1923 was a most abnormal year and one without a parallel in the history of not only Los Angeles but any American city.” Indeed, Walter P. Temple was very busy that year with his burgeoning real estate development projects in the San Gabriel Valley and in downtown Los Angeles, including his biggest project, the launch, in spring, of the Town of Temple, renamed Temple City in 1928.


Arnoll continued that the reversion “to a normal rate of building” in 1924 still meant that enough houses were constructed through November for 60,000 persons “or enough people to compose the average middle western city.” It was estimated that some 15,000 houses were built with an aggregate value of some $73 million (the population figure was based on an assumed average of four persons per dwelling.)

As for commercial building construction, there was just over $20 million worth erected in the city during those first eleven months of the year, while industrial edifices totaled above $8 million. What were designated “public and semi-public” structures amounted to just shy of $20 million and miscellaneous building was not quite $17 million. In all, the aggregate was over $138 million and Arnoll was sure to note that “these figures . . . are not cited as a boast of the city’s accomplishments,” but, rather, “to substantiate the claim that annually Los Angeles adds to itself a population sufficient to fill the average sized city.”


He went on to suggest that “Southern California, and Los Angeles in particular, was built entirely by advertising” and lauded Frank Wiggins, who came out, as so many did, to recover his health and “became the nation’s foremost advertising and publicity man, and the builder of the nation’s biggest chamber of commerce now boasting a membership of more than 12,500.” Wiggins was also credited with luring industrialists to pore money “in the vast unexploited resources of this country with the result that Los Angeles today is the sixth largest manufacturing city in the country” with above $1.1 billion in products the previous year.

Arnoll added that workers wanted to live in the region and “American labor has not been slow to find that Los Angeles is free from tenement districts,” though it was hardly true that substandard housing was absent, as we saw from the third part of this post concerning the “immigrant problem.” In any case, it was claimed that “working people soon realize that it is possible to own their own homes in this city” and could so less costly and pretentiously than in the east because of this area’s incomparable climate.

Walter P. Temple was an investor in the Los Angeles commercial building named after its anchor tenant, The National City Bank of Los Angeles, and located across Eighth Street from the Great Republic Life Building, of which he was one of the syndicate of builders. Both structures were completed in 1924.

It was clarified that “a vast supply of skilled labor, being suitably housed” was the key and Arnoll stated that “Los Angeles has also drawn its population from among the best people of every state in the Union, many of whom have saved small fortunes elsewhere and have come here to retire.” This latter provided the basis for “many very attractive residential sections” in the Angel City.

He went on to suggest that “it is reasonable to believe that the enormous building program which Los Angeles has pursued during the past five years will continue for many years to come.” The surpassing of 1 million residents in 1923 astounded outsiders who, apparently, “still believed it to be an overgrown sleepy Spanish pueblo,” but Arnoll ended by forecasting that a population of 2 million was not that far away “and it is reasonable to expect that the cloise of 1925 will find it rapidly nearing that figure.” Official census figures for 1930 pegged that number at 1.238 million, though this was, as usual, almost certainly an undercount.


William H. Daum, who came to Los Angeles as a Santa Fe railroad ticket agent and founded his namesake company in 1904, being the first commercial realty broker, offered his take on “A Great Industrial and Commercial Empire.” Daum offered that the rudiments of the development of Los angeles and its environs could be traced to the limited development of supplying markets with cattle hides and otter pelts in the Mexican period. The discovery of gold was a major step, as was the growth of agriculture through winemaking and citrus production.

By the late 19th century, oil and gas production was a vital step as was hydroelectric energy generation by the turn of the 20th century, so that “California and the southwest is the greatest producer of hydraulic electric energy of any section of the world.” The recent two decades Daum accounted the “City building” era with urban building, expanded agriculture, the improvement of the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors, and other aspects.


He considered that the region was “in the last two principal stages of pioneer development;” these being the maximization of “industrial and civic life” and the realization of “ideal living and working conditions for the great majority of the people.” In the southwest, about 80% of the raw materials needed for almost all industrial pursuits on the planet was present and “we have an abundance of fuel in the way of oil and gas.” These powered steam plants which, along with hydroelectric generation, meant “that we are getting in abundance the cheapest pwoer for industrial uses of any place in the country.

Daum added that “the great cosmopolitan population” of greater Los Angeles meant “an experienced volume of help for praically any kind of industry.” Transportation through transcontinetnal railways and ocean-going vessels using the Panama Canal were expanding trade, which was also enhanced by the growth of western America. He went to aver:

In fact, every ideal condition exists to make Los Angeles the center of the greatest industrial and commercial life and development that has ever occurred any place in the entire world.

There was nothing mysterious abot the process, but Daum claimed that the wheels of development were set in motion from the beginning of missionary activity in Spanish California. This culminated in California being “a playground for the people of the United States, and the world for that matter, who want to live and enjoy life and play every day,” though, again, there were plenty of greater Los Angeles who did not have daily leisure as implied.

The images are renderings of the St. Lawrence of Brindisi parish school in Watts, which was annexed to Los Angeles in 1926.

He ended by claiming that “today much is being done to provide the ideal conditions for the people who work every day to earn a livelihood” including “the industrial worker to live and enjoy his work every day,” so that “the great foundation of industrial and commercial endeavor is being firmly built in the most natural and substantial manner.” After all, what is good for the tourist must be even better for the worker.”

While the business focus was on men (Mary Julia Workman, grand-niece of Homestead founders Willim and Nicolasa Workman, wrote of “man’s genius for commerce” in her contribution to the publication, covered in the third part of this post,) Grace S. Stoermer wrote of “The Activities of Women in the Banking Field.” Stoermer (1886-1961) was the granddaughter of an early Los Angeles gunsmith through her father and a teamster through her mother and a graduate of St. Mary’s Academy and Los Angeles High School.


After working in the county recorder’s office as a copyist, Stoermer was hired as assistant secretary to the California State Senate and then became the first woman in the country to be secertary to a state senate, serving in that office from 1921 to 1923. After leaving that position, she was hired to be the director of the Women’s Banking Department at the Los Angeles branch of the Bank of Italy, renamed Bank of America in 1930. When that change took place, the department was abolished and Stoermer became a vice-president of the bank, remaining in that role until she retired in 1946.

Stoermer began her essay noting, “as the many duties of the modern woman increase, the need for minimizing the details of her busy life is more and more recognized.” The bank could help through the department set aside specifically for women and, thereby, “taking from her shoulders the responsibilities of her business affairs.” All of the employees, from Stoermer to tellers, bookkeepers, clerks, messnegers and even the elevator operators, were women and this was notable, she continued, because “down through the eons of time the clink of gold and silver . . . the crackle of new paper money or the present sound of the check” and so on were “considered the peculiar right of masculinity.”


As for women, “mother’s pocketbook usually contained little more than stray pennies and these were dutifully shared with the children’s savings bank in order that thirft might be passed on to the younger generation.” The Bank of Italy, however, recognized the “sagacity, inherent conservatism and love of social intercourse” possessed by women and created a homey atmosphere with armchairs and sofas, writing tables, a rest room, and a conference room for clubs and organizations, as well as having Stoermer to “promulgate educational ideas and give investment counsel . . . as woman to woman, knowing the needs and interests of her own sex.”

The banker inculcated the idea “of a savings account as a character builder and of a commercial account as a business asset,” while the developing of a business foundation between the bank and customer and affirming “the value of knowing that thrift is a matter of correct proportions,” as were budgeting and understanding credit were also crucial. A paramount result was “that women can and are doing the worth-while things with the support of the bank in transactions involving real estate, stocks and bonds, trust funds, and business loans. One tangible benefit was the completion of the $1.5 million Women’s Athletic Club, financed by the Women’s Banking Department.


Noting that there were some 5,000 women who had accounts totaling about $2 million with her bank, Stoermer added that the staff tripled while the space doubled in size and growth of the department “has been almost startling in its rapidity—a rapidity to be accounted for by the natural fertility of the virgin soil out of which the idea grew, a natural, not a fitful growth.” She lauded bank founder Amadeo P. Giannini, writing that “nowhere will you find a more progressive and far visioned man or one who has the greater ability to make dreams a reality.”

Stoermer noted that there were some 528,000 depositors, capital and surplus of about $22.5 million, $326.5 million in deposits, 86 branches in 58 California cities, and 2,200 employees, making the Bank of Italy the largest west of Chicago and “the logical bank to introduce a novelty” in establishing the Women’s Banking Department and developing what was termed an “Everywoman’s Bank.”


Another interesting little feature in the publication was a report on the “Catholic Motion Picture Actors’ Guild,” organized on order of Bishop John J. Cantwell in March 1923. Among the film figures to join the organization were Colleen Moore, May McAvoy, Ben Turpin, child star Jackie Coogan’s father Jack and Jack Ford, later reverting to using his formal name John and who became a legendary director.

In all, there were some 1,000 members (those outside the industry could join as associates or $2 annually) who were to work to bring actors “into closer touch with co-religionists outside the profession” as well as to help make “clean pictures” and to “insure the accuracy of themes touching upon Catholic belief and practice.


It was proclaimed that, “it is only a question now of how long the salacious film will last” and it was claimed that “the Guild has been the means of bringing many back to the practice of religion.” A benefit was being planned for February 1925 at the Philharmonic Auditorium so that funds “will be used towards therection of a clubhouse in Hollywood,” though the Guild was responsible for the construction of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, of which an image was inlcuded in the publication.

In the editorial page, there were a couple of statements about the Christmas holiday, including a lengthy one that noted:

The annual return of the Christmas season always brings a full measure of spiritual, and even of material, happiness to those who understand the significance, the history, the traditon of its central festival. To the men and women who celebrate Christmas after the fashion of a secular anniversary, much of the intimate joy of the day is, of course, lost; and yet, in its own heedess way, the world still grasps, not always clearly, indeed, the real meaning of the anniversary of the Saviour’s birth.

Christmas, it continued, “is essentially the day of the little ones” and “to make them happy has become a feature, and a charming feature, of the holy season” because of the conetion to the Christ child, though it was added that “it is not the greatest of the feasts of [the] Holy Church; but it is certainly the most popular.” Moreover, “the peculiar appeal of Christmas to the human heart is, then, more compelling, more far-reaching, than that of any other day.”


The piece continued that “it is just because of this potent appeal that Christmas is joyfully observed by millions who never otherwise acknowledge the existence of God and the work of redemption wrought by His Divine Son.” More millions may not have turned completely away from God, but were unsure about Christ and “have followed false guides” so that “on the day of His birth they rejoice, after their own fashion, but they fail to catch the inspiration of the true Christmas spirit.”

For the true believers, however, the holy day “presents the spectacle of a Mystery that dazzles the understanding while it floods the soul with joy,” even as it needed to be defended against the “lucubrations [meditations] of the purblind philosophers of materialism, or marred by the crude sciolism [pretense of knowledge] of popular paragraphers.” It went on note that “the occasional scoffer may tell us that our feast is but the survival of the pagan rites which marked the winter solstice” and were “relics of ‘Saturn’s golden day,'” but it asserted that the evidence of long tradition and the strength of the Church “put to shame their pretended learning.”


Rather, the essay concluded, “Christmas . . . inspires a spirit of holy joy overflowing in outward manifestations of love for our fellow-men, children, like ourselves, of the great famly of God.” With this, “may we, then, be permitted to hope that the approaching solemnity of the Saviour’s birth will bring to our friends and readers the fullest measure of that peace which surpasseth understanding, that peace of heart which is the distinctive spiritual gift of Christmastide?”

A separate commentary by P.J.H. observed that “the Christmas season brings its positive joys to childrenand young people. For them it is a ‘good time’ season plus the greetings.” For older folks, it was asserted, “in the joys of Yuletide belong the greater pleasure of giving and the higher joys iof entering into the joys of others.” The summary was this:

Therefore while young we love Christmas for itself, but when youth is past we love it for the happiness which through its influence we may bring to others. To get the best out of the Christmas festival we must either be children or as children.

We’ll conclude with a sampling of another of the holiday poems found in the journal, this one by Frances Elliott Kane and titled “Christmas Morn”:

Now comes the season of the year

When ‘raptured hearts begin to hear

The wond’rous tale of Christmas day,

And what it means along life’s way.

We hear again the story sweet

Of that first Christmas, so complete

With “Peace on earth”; so let all men

Proclaim the joy the world knew then. . .

Oh! let us vow this Christmas dawn

That we will try as days roll on

To live a kindly life, and true;—

That no unworthy deeds we’ll do.

And in the days to come, when we

Forgetful or unkind would be;

So live that we will never say,

“There is no room for Him today.”

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