To be black in Los Angeles before the 1950s, says Bernard Johnson, was to know Western Avenue as a two-lane blacktop barricade as impassable as the Gobi Desert and sometimes as inhospitable.
For blacks, Western Avenue lacks the history of Central Avenue, where Johnson is director of the Dunbar Museum, the 1920s Art Deco hotel built exclusively for blacks turned away by white hotels. Nor does it have the commerce of Crenshaw Boulevard, the first street where major stores, mindful of black consumers, stayed put after “white flight.”
The above excerpt is from a series of articles on Western Ave. from the Los Angeles Times written by Patt Morrison in 1985.
Since moving to Inglewood I’ve driven Western Ave. north to Los Feliz and south to its end near the ocean. There have always been storefronts of just about every type of business you can think of on western ave. I’d see these businesses from my truck as I drove past. Some were open, some were closed, some in disrepair, but there were a lot of them.
As far as I’m concerned there’s no better way of getting to know an area than riding through on a bicycle. Early on, while getting familiar with my new neighborhood of Inglewood I decided to ride my bike on Western Ave. from Manchester to Century Blvd. I’d noticed a large number of businesses on western between these two main streets. As I rode my bike (along the sidewalk) just past 89th st. I saw a storefront with its sign painted above the entrance that read E. J’s Odds & Ends Thrift Shop Antiques with large 3D California Raisins on both sides of the words “Antiques.” There were also framed paintings, a child’s tricycle, an antique table, birdhouses, chairs and many other things. There was enough “stuff” to make me stop and take a closer look. As I walked towards the entrance E.J greeted me by introducing himself and asking what I needed. Since I didn’t need anything he invited me to come in. He said something like, “come on in and look around, maybe there’s something here you need but you don’t know what it is until you see it.”
Since that meeting, I made it my business to stop by and chat with E. J until a few years ago when he closed the shop. E. J is a wealth of knowledge!
There were times I needed to make a repair around the house or working on a photography project and couldn’t find a part or the piece to complete the task I’d stop by E. J’s shop. If he didn’t have what I needed he’d know where to get it, who had it or something else I could use as a replacement. Walking into his place was really too much to take in quick visits. To really take in all the goodies he had there would take a few hours of slowly scanning each shelf, row by row from front to back. I saw soo many things I could use there; of course, the problem would be storing those things until I actually used them. For that reason alone I received great pleasure in just walking up and down the isles just looking.
When I was finally able to photograph E. J I originally wanted to set up inside, but there was just too much stuff to give a good representation of the place. The photo for this article is the result of the photo I chose to use of E.J. I think it shows his welcoming smile and a little bit of his “stuff,” and believe me, he has a story for each and every piece you see in the photo and all the different objects inside.