Flaskaland
Monday, November 11, 2013
  Seibu, the Department Store 1962-ish
I can't find where I posted some of this before on some music writing blog.  Anyway.

On a family outing one evening, carrying Frank with us, we went to a startling new Japanese department store holding items for sale that were very different than the usual "cheap" Japanese imports flooding the US of the time.  This huge new building was located as I recall near Wilshire Blvd.  

This was a special evening outing of some kind, likely on a weekend night, as my Dad would be acting as chauffeur.  After a dinner, which was likely more superior than the usual fare as we were imposing on my father's good will, we loaded into the car and my Dad drove us all to Los Angeles.

I recall what a splendid sight it was to view the traffic and city lights outside the building from within the building as you rode down an escalator inside. We ascended and descended, up and down on the escalators, peered at the merchandise all up and down the aisles.  My sister and Frank each bought a pair of tabi  (held in assorted sizes in small thin boxes with lids).  I just remembered the name of the place, I am thinking Seibu.  As a business, this venture failed as a commercial establishment, as the timing and the market was off, as general consumers were not ready for that high end (actually quite upscale) Japanese imports at that time.

(The above photo is of a rare triple level server from Seibu Los Angeles of the '60s, to give you an idea of the items.  And the manikans in the store were Japanese figures dressed as Geisha).
Seibu history

Who's in that photo (above) 

The Grand Opening Made TIME!

What Seibu looked like then 

Seibu per wikipaedia 

Here's what was demolished to make room for Seibu (which we would have seen prior to destruction) 

Pages from a book on the demolition (History of Miracle Mile in Los Angeles)

My sister and I always noticed the Geller Theater Workshop, for example, as she knew a jazz saxophonist named Herb Geller. (As I recall, there was still a brass plaque on the front column showing the old historic name of the building despite the official name change).  We learned enough about Hollywood (as such facts fly at you from everywhere in the media there) to know Natalie Wood had attended the Workshop.

On a separate outing, we went to another Japanese store or building constructed somewhere out near Compton or signal hill.  This was a monumental structure, probably 6 storeys, nearly all of glass.  I could imagine what a splendid sight it was to view the traffic and city lights outside the building from within the building as you rode down an escalator inside.  But I didn't go in, and I haven't found the name of that place yet.

A researcher on Japanese retail history found the 1962 Seibu photos and was "shocked".  

So was I -- "shocked", that is, as it was all I could humanly do to dredge up the correct name Seibu for the department store we took Frank to.  I'm putting in all this background, because we didn't eat downstairs, my parents may have actually taken an expensive brew in the beer gardens upstairs and looked at the reflecting pools, but all I remember of the outing is the sensation of the escalator ride, the fact that two people bought something (tabis), and that Frank was with us. That tea room looks familiar, though.  

A different world Los Angeles was, just 35 miles away.  How different Seibu was from the local high priced and pretentious department store of the time in Claremont.  Snooty, despite being located next to a feed store.  

And one time my sister, Frank, and I went to Griffith Observatory, where the rumble from "Rebel Without a Cause" was filmed.  
 




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