Ivan Forbes was in the audience recently when Beth Gates Warren, author of “Artful Lives: Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather and the Bohemians of Los Angeles” spoke at the Glendale Central Library.
Warren's book focuses on what she called Weston's ‘lost years,' the years he worked in a small studio at Brand Boulevard and Tropico Avenue (now Los Feliz Road) and lived in Tropico with his wife (the former Flora Chandler).
Weston kept daybooks for his entire career, she said, but later destroyed all those from his Tropico years.
When Warren learned this, she embarked on a hunt for those ‘lost years,' which culminated in her book.
During her talk, Warren described Weston's local career and his involvement with the ‘Bohemians of Los Angeles.'
Later during the question and answer period, Forbes, who was sitting in the front row, spoke up. When he said that he had grown up on Perlita Avenue, across from the Weston home, and that he had witnessed some Weston events, many in the audience (including me) gasped. Here was someone who actually had memories of the famed Westons. Later I went up and introduced myself and asked if I could contact him for an interview.
In our phone conversation the next week, Forbes said he was born in 1928 in Atwater (formerly Tropico). “We called it Toonerville.”
Perlita is a very short, narrow street. Forbes lived in a small house on the portion of Perlita that runs between Los Feliz Boulevard and Chevy Chase, between Glendale's western border and the Los Angeles River. The Westons lived across the street.
Flora Weston gave birth to four sons, Edward in 1910, Theodore Brett in 1911, Lawrence Neil in 1916 and Cole in 1919, and no doubt she was occupied with raising her family. Meanwhile, Weston became increasingly involved in his photography and with other artists, including Mather, and spent less and less time at home.
He left for Mexico in 1923, then returned in 1926, according to the Edward Weston website. In 1929, he and son Brett relocated to Carmel.
The Forbes home was at the top of a slight rise of land; from there, curious young Ivan (born in 1928) had a great view of his neighbors. Two events remain vivid in his mind: one was in the mid-1930s when the Weston boys built a large sailboat in their backyard. “I could see the boys building a boat. I wondered how they were going to get it out of their back yard.” One day, he saw a big crane arrive and watched as the boat was lifted onto a truck. “I saw it going away.”
His second memory was even more exciting to the young boy. It was the time the Weston house caught on fire. Forbes watched as the firefighters arrived, then saw a man come out to the street and watch the firemen work. Later he learned that the man was the famed Edward Weston. “That's the only time I saw him,” he said.
Although Forbes' childhood home still stands on Perlita, nothing is left of the Weston house. Even the lot itself is hidden behind a huge embankment, so the last vestiges of the Weston house are gone.
To the Readers:
Netty Carr and Sandra Caravella were also in the audience at Beth Gates Warren's presentation, which was sponsored by the Glendale Historical Society. Carr and Caravella recently co-wrote “Atwater Village,” an Arcadia Publishing book. While researching their book, they discovered Forbes, who later accompanied them on a driving trip around his old neighborhood and showed them exactly where the Westons had lived.
I met the two women while talking to Forbes and they generously offered to give me the same tour that Forbes had given them. A week or so later, we were in a car, driving up and down Perlita and the surrounding streets. They showed me Forbes' old house and the empty lot marking the spot where the Westons lived so long ago. The house was built on land that belonged to Flora's parents. They owned a huge swath of land very near the old Gladding McBean site (later Franciscan Pottery).
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