Culver Center, a post World War II development, was completed in 1950. It was one of the first shopping centers in Southern California, and feared competition for our little Main Street. In fact, the City Council refused to allow a May Company to locate there.
Ralph's site was originally a Market Basket. Women's clothing stores included the Oliver family's first Ames, Quist's, Her Nibs, Charlestons, Trend O'Fashion, Charlene's, Cindy's, Mode O' Day, and Anita's. Eskridges' Culver Center Flowers was in the Center as was the New York Bakery, Bert's Men's Store, Lerner's, Crosby's, Hellman Hardware, Holland's Draperies, Singer Sewing Machine Center (later the House of Fabrics and Joann's), the Sportsmen's Exchange, Western Auto, Center Deli, and later Lindy's Deli. Shoe stores abounded: Karl's, Berland's, Comar's, Stride-Rite, and Paige Family Shoes. There was Culver Center Beauty Salon, Shoe Repair, Cleaners, Stationers, and Department Store. J. C. Penney's and a W. T. Grants- a dime store, with a soda fountain, were on the same side as Sit and Sleep today. Other establishments included a drug store one of three run by the Wellington brothers, and a Thrifty Drugs- now Rite Aid. Martin's Music was a popular family owned record store. Curry's, with its huge ice cream cone outside was a busy place.
There were Torrey's and Gray's Jewelers, a Bank of America and Security Bank. The Culver Center merchants formed a strong association in early days, and in fact successfully fought a proposed Naradel development for a discount store (Zody's) and 40 retail storeson Washington and Overland. It offered locals, including students, a lot of jobs.
In earlier days, Culver Center Street was Hacienda Street. At the eastern edge of Culver Center (now Starbucks) was a Ships restaurant, but in 1874, it was the Machado Post office, located inside the Saenz family Dry Goods Store.
In 1992 and 1996 interviews with Ray Moselle, retired CCFD Batallion Chief, he related arriving by freight train for the 1932 Olympics. His brother was a professional fighter who lived in the boxing arena, so he moved in with him. In 1935 Ray found himself sweeping the arena for rent money. The arena was on the Culver Center site and fighters like Fred Fulton and Jack Dempsey as well as middle weight Nish Kerkorian, competed there. Kerkorian's brother, Kirk, who later bought MGM, was an amateur welterweight. Their parents owned a bar on Washington Blvd. near Adams. Fred Machado's uncle, Johnny McManus, also fought there. On Monday nights, Mae West had a front row seat, next to Pearl Merrill, one of the owners of the Meralta Theater (and Saenz's sister), and Lorene Furrow, a young teacher who later married councilman Leroy Koos. With the movie studios nearby, many stars were regulars, like Lupe Velez, who would yell from her ringside seat, "You need to chop wood!" if a fighter was out of shape. The Culver City Stadium burned down, but it had its place in history as Sy Saenz provided an athletic venue and helped a lot of boys get back on track.
Moselle remembered the area from Venice south as: Ed's Chili Parlor (owned by the Hennarty family), parking, the Culver City Stadium, (owned by Manuel "Sy" Saenz), a track and baseball field. Moselle pitched and Charlie Lugo, played third base for the Cardinals on that semi-pro baseball field. Ed's Chili Parlor offered affordable meals. An old menu offered a "Special Spanish Dinner" for 75¢, consisting of "Soup, Salad, Chili Con Carne, Spanish Rice, Spanish Beans, Enchalades and Fruit and Coffee." If you just wanted a bowl of Menudo, it would cost you 35¢.