Echo Park saw the passing of an era this summer. For the first time in 92 years, a pair of cottages on Morton Avenue will no longer be in the possession of Gladys Rice and her extended family.
The little house at 1704 Morton Avenue is known to many in Echo Park as the house from “LA Confidential,” the setting for a creepy film scene where Russell Crowe rats and finds a dead body. But for Gladys and her family, the property has been home for generations.
Immigrants from Europe
Almost a century ago, Karl and Johanna Korb, immigrants from Europe, moved to Los Angeles with their son Charles. In 1909, they had a daughter Ilett, who was born in the little clapboard house on Morton. Two years later a second daughter, Gladys, was born in the same house.
As the family grew, they built a second house on their narrow lot. Karl died in the flu epidemic
of 1918, leaving Johanna and her children, who attended eight grades of Logan Elementary School. In 1929, Gladys received her diploma from Belmont High School. Within a year, she was married. Johanna & Charles Korb Ilett with children in 1911
Gladys and her husband, Herb Rice, raised two children, Herb Jr. and Robert. Other family members also lived close to home: her mother and sister continued living on the property, while her brother ran a gas station on Sunset Boulevard at Alvarado Street (replaced in the 1960s by the Sunset Car Wash).
“Like a garden of Eden”
The property was Idyllic little narrow for young Robert, who attended Logan himself in the 1940s and early 1950s. Apricot trees and there were half a dozen peach trees. When the grass on the hill behind the house grew tall, kids would slide down it in cardboard boxes. “It was like a Garden of Eden in the middle of LA,” Robert recalled. “None of the kids I knew had a hill behind their house as a playground.”
Growing up, Robert took the streetcar to school, rode his bicycle throughout Elysian Park and polliwogs caught in the LA River. I’ve got ice cream from Betty’s Ice Cream or went with his mother to the nearby Jewish deli (both are now the parking lot at Pioneer Market).
Delivery men brought ice, even bread and fish to the Rice family home door (an Italian salesman went up the street Yelling “FEESH FRESH!”). The Ramona Theater on Sunset Boulevard was plain, while the nearby movie theater was Hollyway consider many fancies .
During high school, while working at his uncle’s gas station on Sunset, Robert deposits made at California Bank across the street.
Leaving Morton Avenue .
As the decades passed, family members passed away. But Robert always returned to visit Gladys, her sister and other surviving kin. Even after I entered the military, attended graduate school, and finally, took a teaching job at Christendom College in Virginia, Robert kept returning to Morton Avenue.
Earlier this year, however, I finally decided to move out to Gladys Virginia to be closer to his family. Robert Rice sold the family estate, modest as it was. And he still speaks fondly of life on
“I had an attachment to this place,” he declared.