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Truck traffic became so heavy on San Fernando Road, which was also State Highway 99, that the city diverted trucks down Providencia Street to First Street in the late 1940s. Photos courtesy of the Burbank Historical Society
1910 – Burbank businessman Joseph W. Fawkes was determined, if eccentric. He opposed the incorporation of Burbank. He also spoke out against a campaign to have the Pacific Electric Railway — known for running Red Cars — extended from Glendale into Burbank.
One possible reason? His transportation experiment that failed years earlier. He built what he called one of the first monorails ever seen in the United States, though it really didn’t have a rail and could be more aptly described as an aerial trolley. The open-air car sat about 20 people.
Its maiden voyage in 1911 went through Fawkes’ apricot orchard, which would soon be in the newly incorporated Burbank. Upon launch, the car suffered significant damage. It rose only a few feet off the ground, so there were no injuries. The endeavor became known as “Fawkes’ Folly.”
July 30, 1920 – A reward is offered in the murder of Burbank Deputy City Marshal Robert L. Normand, and new clues are discovered.
Tire tracks were found going to and from a deserted house, and a piece of a woman’s dress, stained in blood, was found nearby, thought to be used as a bandage. Three men were suspects in the murder. But there are no reports of any arrests.
Dec. 2, 1927 – A huge brush fire engulfed both sides of the Verdugo Hills, destroying 110 homes, cabins and bungalows in Burbank, primarily in the Sunset Canyon area. The estimated loss was $500,000, a hefty price tag at the time. No injuries were reported. The fire would have continued its destructive path, except the wind changed slightly and fire crews, including firefighters and equipment from Glendale, Los Angeles and North Hollywood, were able to contain the blaze.
March 1-4, 1938 – Burbank was hit by seven inches of rain in just a few days, leading to flooding that swept away many houses along the channels. During the flood, 13 people, including Burbank businessman Glen M. Odens, were trapped atop the roof of a house. The structure was hit by another house barreling downstream, sending the 13 people into the raging waters. Only four of the stranded people were found.
December, 1941 – After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Burbank joined cities along the West Coast requiring blackouts to keep the city safe from possible Japanese attacks at night. The first blackout caught many drivers by surprise and led to several traffic accidents, some fatal.
Mid-1940s – The Army Corps of Engineers needed to hide the Lockheed Burbank Aircraft Plant to protect it from Japanese attack. The entire plant was covered in camouflage to make it appear like a rural subdivision from the air.
During World War II – The Walt Disney Studios contributed to the war effort in many ways, including producing news reels and making financial contributions. The company also created insignias at no cost for members of the U.S. armed forces.
Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Pluto and Goofy were mascots on the insignias, of which more than 1,600 designs were created. The 1,000th insignia, which was created for a field hospital in the European Theater of Operations, featured Donald Duck as a medical corpsman carrying a bottle of blood plasma on his rifle.
Sept. 5, 1950 – The fight against Communism reached Burbank as the City Council required Communists to register with the city government.
Anyone who registered could not own a gun or work for any L.A. County defense organization, such as a police department. No one registered, but three women were arrested a few months earlier for distributing what appeared to be Communist literature to Lockheed workers.
May 17, 1952 – A fire broke out at Warner Bros. Studios. Black smoke filled the air as a structure fell to the ground. About two months later, on July 9, another fire devastated the studio and consumed 23 acres of buildings, scene docks and sets.
The former home of Dr. David Burbank — the city’s founder who at one point owned one of the largest sheep ranches in Southern California — was still on property occupied by Warner Bros. The historic structure, built in 1867, was destroyed by the blaze.
March, 1953 – The murder of Mabel Monohan sent shock waves through Burbank. Barbara Graham, along with her friends Jack Santo and Emmet Perkins, killed Monahan during an attempted robbery. Monahan refused to give them her jewelry and money.
The trio were sentenced to death. All three were executed by gas. In 1959, actress Susan Hayward won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Graham in the movie “I Want to Live!”
April 21, 1956 – The California Police Commission busted a gambling ring led by mobster Mickey Cohen. The fallout led to the resignation of the police chief and city manager.
Throughout 1950s – A top-secret program was conducted in a facility at the Lockheed Aircraft Plant. Its objective was to develop a liquid-hydrogenpowered spy plane. Because the chemical is extremely volatile, early experiments were conducted inside a bomb shelter with 8-foot-thick walls.
Eventually, the plant was producing more liquid nitrogen than anywhere in the United States. Reports state that staff members wore grounded shoes and couldn’t carry keys or metallic objects that might spark an explosion.
There are also reports that in spring 1959, a stove only 700 feet from the liquid nitrogen tank caught fire. Local firefighters didn’t have clearance to enter the facility. The tank didn’t explode, but the experiment was deemed too dangerous to proceed.
Aug. 21, 1963 – An American-Nazi rally was held in McCambridge Park. The head of the western division of the party spoke at the event, which drew many protesters.
Nov. 9, 1964 – Aimee Miller, wife of Bill Miller, Frank Sinatra’s longtime pianist, died when she was swept away in a mudslide, which destroyed a house and several cars along Country Club Drive. Daughter Meredith was in the BHS class 1965.
Dec. 15, 1966 – There was a train wreck at Burbank Junction.
Feb. 22, 1967 – Fire broke out in a four-building industrial complex at 923 S. San Fernando Road, reducing all of the structures to rubble.
Magnesium parts in one of the buildings fueled the flames. There were no injuries.
Feb. 23, 1967 – During the Vietnam War, Operation “Cooky” Lift sent cookies to Burbank High School graduates serving overseas in U.S. armed forces. By this time, the project had sent 300 five-pound tins of homemade treats.
Nov. 25, 1967 – The Golden Mall, a six-block section of San Fernando Road from Tujunga to San Jose avenues, was dedicated. Opening several months later, the mall along that stretch of road was closed to traffic, a popular trend at the time.
The pedestrian-only shopping mall initially saw a 22% jump in retail sales, but the $918,000 project didn’t last. In 1987, San Fernando Road, from Olive to Verdugo avenues, was opened to vehicles. Traffic began traversing the rest of the former Golden Mall a year later.
November 1968 – Burbank resident Paul Perveler and his girlfriend, Kristiana Cromwell, were found guilty of murdering Perveler’s wife, Cheryl, in a crime fashioned from the movie “Double Indemnity.”
Perveler had a $25,000 doubleindemnity insurance policy on his wife of seven weeks. They were convicted on circumstantial evidence. Later, the two were convicted for the 1966 murder of Cromwell’s husband, Martin.
Cromwell had taken out a $35,000 insurance policy on him.
Feb. 11, 1971 – Burbank shared its water supply with the city of San Fernando after it was hit by a 6.6-magnitude earthquake on Feb. 9, killing 26 people and destroying many homes and buildings.
Summer, 1979 – Burbank Councilman Jim Richman demanded rock concerts be banned from the Starlight Bowl because they attracted “dopers,” homosexuals, anti-nuclear demonstrators and minorities. A majority of the council members eventually agreed, and rock concerts were discontinued.
The concert promoter, Cinevision Corp., sued the city for breach of contract and won $4.6 million. Years later, Richman said he still felt it was the right move.
Aug. 1, 1995 – Burbank City Councilman Ted McConkey proposed Burbank take over the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Air Authority, nullifying a deal among the three cities to jointly operate the airfield. The proposal generated discussion but no action.
March 5, 2000 – Southwest Airlines Flight 1455 overran a runway at what is now Bob Hope Airport and slid out onto Hollywood Way, coming to a stop near a gas station. The cause was listed as landing at an excessive speed. The air traffic controller was also faulted for putting the crew in a position that their only option was a go-around.
The gas station is no longer at that location.
November 2003 – The Burbank Police Department was jolted when one of its rookie officers, 26-year-old Matthew Pavelka, was killed during a shootout outside the Ramada Inn on San Fernando Boulevard.
Police Officer Gregory Campbell was critically wounded but survived his injuries. Pavelka’s was the first on-duty death in the department’s 82-year history at the time.
One of the two men who police said opened fire on the officers during a routine traffic stop, Ramon Aranda, was shot and killed during the gun battle. The other man, David A. Garcia, eluded police for two weeks until Mexican authorities arrested him in Tijuana.
Feb. 5, 2009 – A time capsule buried in February 1959 is unearthed. Back then, residents predicted Burbank would be served by a monorail system and use nuclear power. Another time capsule was buried on July 4, 1976, and will be unearthed on Independence Day, 2051.
September 2009 – The city discloses that the FBI and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are investigating the Burbank Police Department on suspicion of officer misconduct and excessive use of force. The city has since brought in outside consultants to review oversight measures and departmental changes.
Sources: Burbank Historical Society, Burbankia, Burbank Public Library, Burbank Community Book, Burbank Leader, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News.