Dedicated to a pioneer that helped make Marina del Rey a reality
(Editors Note: This letter is from the late Larry Norman’s daughter and in her words gives a brief history of Mr. Norman and Marina del Rey.)
My father, Larry Norman, came to the Venice area in 1919 from Edmonton, Alberta and had been active and prominent in affairs relating to the development of the harbor and the beaches until his death. He was born in Canby, Minnesota on January 9, 1899 and at the age of eight he was sent with his sister to live in a convent in Inmesfail, Alberta after an intruder murdered his father. His mother, Mary, was a nurse in the Yukon Territory and flew from one Eskimo village to another providing medical treatment to the Eskimos. She was the only medical person at that time treating all the Eskimos in the territory.
After arriving in Venice, he worked at the Venice pier. He later became a newsreel cameraman for Pathe News. His first business connection in Venice was with the Harry C. Lieber Realty Co. Larry later worked for Harrison Brush Chevrolet Company as a branch manager in Venice.
In 1929, Mr. Norman opened the Chevrolet-Oldsmobile Agency in Hermosa Beach, while still living in Venice. While in the south beach community, he joined the Rotary Club in Hermosa Beach and became the president of the club in 1932. He also joined the Masonic lodge there and was Master of the Hermosa lodge in 1935. He was also a Hermosa Chamber vice president and a member of the police commission.
In 1936, he acquired the first property at 346 Washington Street for Trailer City. In addition to selling cars to finance the purchase of land, my father sold rebuilt electric meters out of his car while crisscrossing the United States. After each successful trip he would return to Venice and purchase another lot.
Eventually, Trailer City grew to 3½ acres and the park had 110 spaces that could accommodate single and doublewide mobile homes up to 50 feet long. It became one of the first mobile home parks in the city.
For years, during the summer months, whenever the circus came to town, they would rent space at the trailer park. Generally a band of Gypsies would follow close behind and they too would stay at the park. We were the only park in the Los Angeles basin that would allow them to make camp.
During the 1940’s, he was too old to join the military but that did not discourage him from doing his part in the war effort. He went to work in Long Beach as a welder building ships. My mother managed the trailer park and took care of the kids.
In 1950, he became active in real estate and insurance after he purchased the Bert Gable property and business at 327 Washington Street. He and my mother, Rose were very active in scouting and it was at the real estate office that he added a room for the girl and boy scouts to meet. He was president of the Venice Board of Realtors in 1958. In addition to scouting, Larry was very active in the P.T.A. and he received a lifetime membership from the Venice Council.
Mr. Norman sold his real estate and insurance company to Lloyd C. Knight when he became too sick to work.
Credited with being the most outstanding contributor from the beach community to the development of Marina del Rey and Venice, he began his civic activity with two terms as president of Washington Beach Improvement Assn. in 1949. He also became a director of the Venice Chamber of Commerce in 1950 and was elected president in 1952.
After Norris Poulson was elected mayor of Los Angeles in 1953, Mr. Norman was his first Recreation Commission appointment. While serving a full five-year term he was active in setting up numerous recreation projects for the Venice area, including the new Venice Beach million dollar recreation center, Penmar golf course, the expansion of Oakwood Playgrounds and the funds for the Venice all-year covered pool.
He was a member of the Marina Del Rey advisory committee. As chairman of the southern division of the Citizens Advisory Committee to the State Legislative Committee on Marine Affairs and Bay and Harbor Development, he was active in sponsoring state legislation which resulted in enabling legislation that made state approval and financial assistant possible in the harbor.
While working for the harbor development and as Chamber president, he traveled three times to Sacramento to aid in securing state funds with which to purchase the harbor site. After becoming a commission member, he made other trips to the state capital and one to Washington, D. C. on behalf of the funding of the marina.
Mr. Norman was a member of the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission and served as president for a year. He also has been a member of the Coliseum commission and he was a Chamber of Commerce president in 1953. He was a member and director of the Chamber of Commerce group for many years.
In 1960 Mr. Norman, his wife and three children took an extended visit to Europe. They went over to do some snow skiing at the famous resorts and travel throughout 17 countries in the six months they were there. Larry was able to attend a Rotary Club meeting each week in some of the major cities of each country. He was an informal goodwill ambassador for Venice Beach.
Mr. Norman and his family enjoyed many sports, but ice skating, water and snow skiing were the family favorites. With Lake Los Angeles only two blocks away, you would often find the family and friends at the lake. This lake is now the beach area of the marina.
He regularly performed in shows with the All-Year Mercury figure skating club. In a performance of Pinocchio, Mr. Norman played Gepetto and Richard Dwyer (age 11) played Pinocchio. Richard Dwyer also known as “Mr. Debonair” has been an Ice Follies favorite for 30 years and is the corporate general manager of the Redwood Empire Arena in Santa Rosa, Calif. For the past 14 years Mr. Dwyer and “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schultz, who is the owner of the Arena and the show’s executive producer, provide Sonoma County with an annual holiday extravaganza. The Thursday night premiere benefited Starcross, the North Coast community that cares for kids with AIDS.
During my father’s illness he would sit in his bedroom of our house on the hill in Playa del Rey and watch the progress of the building of the marina. On August 24, 1962, my sister took my father for a ride around the harbor on the newly paved Admiralty Way. He did not live long enough to see that thirty years of hard work building up the trailer park would be destroyed by the very project he spent so much time on getting developed.
My father died the next day, August 25, 1962. Shortly after his death the zoning committee took away our zoning for a trailer park and forced us out of business.
My mother sold our property to La Casa Linda Properties with Alan J. Radford as General Partner and there were sixteen Limited Partners. I was told that La Casa Linda Properties went bankrupt and my family never did get the $1.25 million dollars for the purchase of the 3 1/2 acres of land where Trailer City once occupied. My father’s real estate office at 327 Washington St. also disappeared from the trust fund set up by my mother and the probate court could never account for the dispersal of the land.
Some of the many photographs supplied by Linda L. Schmidt, daughter of the late Larry Norman.