Neighbourhood Detective

We’ve discovered someone’s detective work on their neighbourhood in L.A.:

I’ve been obsessed all weekend with researching…..the roots of my neighborhood — tracing the people who lived in the various houses on my block over the past hundred years and finding out what happened to them after they left the hood.

…..The hours flew by as I studied the handwritten census forms from 1910, 1920, and 1930, along with the Social Security Death Index and World War I Draft Registration cards.

I discovered a fascinating mix of lawyers, doctors, tailors, real estate agents, orange growers, owners of gold mines, a silent movie actress, the lead saxophone player in Paul Whiteman’s orchestra, the rabbi who married Irving Thalberg and Norma Shearer, a famous architect of Craftsman houses and his one-year-old son who went on to become an Oscar-winning Art Director, along with countless people of all ages who did not work but were listed by the census workers as having “own income.”

The rest of the entry is quite funny and has this funny part about someone in a yearbook:

[O]ne single-line entry immediately stood out to me: “Hyman Zarinsky: Has zest.” Nothing else was mentioned, but then again, when you have zest, what else is there to say? I had to research Hyman, of course, and soon was able to piece together a dossier of his life which ended on October 6, 1980. But some things can’t be found in government documents. Did his wife Molly share the yearbook committee’s assessment of her husband’s zest?

As I’ve started researching our own local history for ghosts, disasters and the macabre to add to my Dark Side of Port Moody tours this October, I appreciate anyone’s efforts in taking deeper interest in their neighbourhood. We’re going to keep reading this blog for more developments in the author’s historical detective hunt.

By Oana Capota

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