Saturday, April 14, 2012

Forest Lawn Cemetery, Book Stores, and Venice Beach

So what do Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, and Gene Autry have in common with my great-grandparents?  They are all buried at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills.

We took a drive there this week to see where my great-grandparents, Edna and Orra Stutzman, were laid to rest. 

Edna and Orra were my mom's grandparents. When I was in 9th grade, we lived in Nevada for a while, and my family took a trip to Southern California to go to Disneyland and visit my dad's Uncle Herb (Marshall) and Aunt Edna who lived just a block or two from the Magic Kingdom. We also visited some of my other Marshall relatives in the area. Then we went North Hollywood to see my great-grandparents. I remember them living in an apartment on Riverside Drive.  When we got there, my great grandma had waffles made for us--she sure knew the way to our hearts!

I never knew my great-grandparents really well, but my Grandma Stutzman was really good about sending me a birthday card and a $5 bill for my birthday every year practically until the year she died. Three years in a row she sent me the same birthday card which I thought was hilariously funny! I was a little disappointed when she broke the pattern the fourth year. She always had a nice note written to me inside the cards she sent.

I asked my mom how her grandparents ended up in North Hollywood of all places.  My mom said that they had lived in Michigan and had saved up money during their working years.  They dreamt of moving to California when they retired, so they did.  They bought a four-plex apartment complex, and happily spent the remainder of their years living in the sunshine of SoCal. 

This is the row of graves where my great-grandparents are buried.  Their headstones are at the forefront of the picture.
Just a little history here:  Forest Lawn Cemeteries are actually a chain of cemeteries. There are many Forest Lawn Cemeteries in Southern California.  The Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, CA has many Hollywood celebrities buried there as does the one in the Hollywood Hills.  Dr. Hubert Eaton started the first Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale. He thought that the typical cemetery was rather depressing, and he wanted to develop a new type of cemetery that reflected a joyous afterlife.  The Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills actually has a theme--the Revolutionary War.  It has a monumental mosaic dedicated to the Revolutionary War as well as statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. There is a beautiful replica of the Old North Church in Boston.  The focus of the cemetery is not on the graves because most of them are flat on the ground; the focus is on the beautiful landscape and tributes to the Revolutionary War. The Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills is right next to Univeral Studios. Before the cemetery was located on the property, the land was used in films.  The battle scenes of the silent movie "The Birth of a Nation" were filmed on the rolling green hills in 1915. The story goes that when Dr. Hubert Eaton proposed a Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills, the citizens of the area greatly protested. During one night, Dr. Eaton had four "John Does" from the local morgues buried at the corners of the property. The land became a cemetery overnight.  Apparently the red tape of California government wasn't then what it is now! I'm sure he would have been arrested for the same actions these days.

We also visited some amazing bookstores the same day we went to the cemetery. We were about ready to head home, but the traffic was horrific as it usually is in California every weekday from 3 p.m.-9 p.m., so we decided to visit one more bookstore which just happened to be located a short distance away in Venice Beach. We discovered that the address of the bookstore was located in a venue right on the beach itself.  Venice Beach has a reputation for being an extremely immodest beach--more than usual, but the temperature was only about 60 degrees, so people were dressed (otherwise we wouldn't have gone). Venice Beach was one of the weirdest places I have ever been. 
In the above picture is a homeless man who plays classical piano for money.  I have no idea where he usually keeps his piano, but you can see a pile of junk behind the piano--those are his belongings.  There were several grocery carts piled high with belongings parked in various areas along this stretch of ocean. I didn't take any other pictures because Venice Beach is really a gross place.  There are shops that sell all types of drug paraphenalia, and there were at least three venues for legal marijuana use. 2-4 people wearing hospital-type clothing (like nurse uniforms) with big marijuana leaves on the front would stand outside each "clinic" and urge people to come in. As we walked back to our van, a young woman was kneeling in the grass trying to stand to her feet, but she couldn't. She would start to get up and fall down. She was literally stoned out of her mind, and the young man with her just stood there with a smile on his face. This is an area that is just full of teenagers and young adults who look like they have run away from society. My husband stated as we walked along, "If this is freedom, I don't want it." Man's freedom from God leads to a life bound by sin, and Venice Beach is a sin-sick location. My mind and my heart aches for those who go there longing to fit in somewhere in this world and instead find the emptiness of a life of sin. It was one of the saddest places I have ever seen.

Being that I don't want to end on a downer note, I'll end with this:  We did have a great day together as a family. I enjoyed being able to explore some family history, some great bookstores, and some interesting places with my favorite people.

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