Russ Hodgkins (photo Ted Carnell album)

Vernon Harry - US Army, Cavalry circa. 1941
(photo J.M. Rosenblum album)

In the late 1930s the Los Angeles Science Fiction League - as they were then known - were meeting in the Brown Room at Clifton's Cafeteria, a downtown eatery located at 648 South Broadway after initially meeting at members' homes, the Pacific Electric Building, and the like. T.Bruce Yerke recalled those LASFL days in his 1943 memoir MEMOIRS OF A SUPERFLUOUS FAN (also included in free ebook):

(Pictured above are two 1930s LASFL members who appear in Yerke's memoir.)

The great difference between the Chapter #4 of the SFL and the present LASFS is a subject of many ramifications, the product of an evolution of some years' length, and a very interesting study. Perhaps it may be summed up in brief by the observation that the club in l937 had no social life to speak of. The chapter centered about meetings held roughly every other Thursday. Otherwise the members contented themselves with occasional Sunday gatherings of a highly informal and unofficial nature. Often groups of three or four attended shows together or went book hunting en masse, but that was virtually the sum of it. For the most part, members saw nothing of each other between alternate Thursdays, save the vicarious mediums of post and telephone.

Aside from resident talent, we had a tortuous string of visitors. They included Arthur J. Burks, Dr. Keller, and Jos. Skidmore. But above all, there was an almost naive interest in science fiction and the world to come; the world, I sadly, sadly say, of those glorious years between 1940 and 1950. Ackerman would give accounts of the latest movies to be released with a scientifictional slant. He was always prepared to present some sort of scientifiction or scientifictionally slanted news items. He was in touch with virtually every fan of the time.

When the meeting adjourned, cliques of us would break apart and drift down into the cafe part of Clifton's, again ordering giant malts, or sponging off of Mr. Clinton's sherbert mine. A lot of the members at the time were just out of high school, or else simply and flatly unemployed. Perhaps that is why we took such flagrant advantage of Mr. Clinton and his generous cafe. There was no rent and all manner of free nourishment in his endless Limeade waterfall and the automatic sherbert mine, both nationally advertised items.

In 1941 the club, now renamed LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society), left Clifton's for a new venue at 1055 Wilshire Boulevard. The photos of Ackerman below were clearly taken after the club became LASFS and before he was drafted in September 1942, so it's possible they show the exterior of 1055.

Taken at different meetings, the two photos below show the interior of 1055 in late-1942. (Both courtesy of John L. Coker III.) It's been suggested the moustacioed, aged unknown 1 is EEEvans, but given he was only 49 at the time this seems unlikely. A positive identification would be appreciated.

unknown 1

Beverly Bronson, Morojo, Pfc Ackerman, unknown 1, unknown 2

Rear: Walt Daugherty, birdman, Paul Freehafer, Milton Rothman (birdman allegedly EEEvans)
Front: Morrie Dollens, Morojo, the three Finns (not sure which is which), Art Joquel, T. Bruce Yerke

This was their first dedicated clubroom and lasted until March 1943 when they were evicted, as reported in FANTASY FICTION FIELD #122 :

FANGELENOS CELEBRATE THROWING OUT PARTY. The Landlady at 1055 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, Cal., after repeated. warnings and second chances, finally gave the LASFS two weeks notice. Complaint was that the club was too noisy and destructive. Loud lafter was admitted to have emanated often from the clubroom after 10 pm (house curfew) & Bruce Yerke has been billed for damages to furnishings. Episodes that did not contribute to the landlady's cordiality toward the club were such as that one night when shrieks of "Arthur! Arthur!" rent the air to the second story from the street. Yerke, dashing out to find what was the matter, returned with the breathless announcement that Joquel's car was on fire, & his mother was trying to put it out. Fans began rushing around like roosters caught with their red pants down, filling wastebaskets with water from the bathroom faucet, running along the hall, & dashing down to discover ... it was merely a steaming radiator. That she lost five tenants the next day was considered oddly coincidental.

So a Shangri-LA-Farewell Party was held across the street at Morojo's the first Thurs after the clubroom was vacated. Meetings will be held at Director Freehafer's the next few weeks till either a soundproof storehouse or a deaf landlady is discovered.

Morojo lived around the corner from the Wilshire Boulevard clubroom on S. Bixel Street - which was where a new clubroom was quickly found.

THE CLUB OVER OUR HEADS - Walter J. Daugherty

The LASFS has met in so many different places that it would be senseless to try and enumerate them, but the main point of it all is, that at last after several very eventful years of activity, the club has settled into a very fine clubroom. Situated at 637½ South Bixel, it is in somewhat of an ideal location as far as transportation is concerned. Two apartment houses combined into one large, well-built, and fireproof brick building hover over it, and on each side. A plate glass door and a large display window with two small side windows and a glass transom make up the frontal appearance of the local Society. Altheda Slate, sister of former member Eleanor O'Brien, has painted the club emblem, our name, and list of activities on our large display window.

The fact that the room was formerly a beauty shop is advantageous one way. There are twelve electric plug-ins and sockets around the room at even intervals. A large closet houses the mimeograph and the mimeograph supplies. Out of the treasury, we purchased some venetian blinds for the door and the window, plus a large rug for the floor and twenty metal chairs. A large day couch with mattress has been donated and blankets have been loaned for same to house and bed any fan who arrives from out of town, and needs a place to stay for a day or so. Many local fans as well as out-of-towners have taken advantage of this convenience. Three large book-cases, built by Daugherty, adorn one side of the room.

When the clubroom was first investigated by Morojo and Daugherty it was noted that the place needed painting and the rent needed reducing to meet a budget. This was accomplished with the help of our swell landlady.

The room is about twenty feet wide and thirty feet long, with a high ceiling. The floor is painted grey, with a cream colored wall and blue trim. Blue molding, about eight feet high around the room, supports a large variety of science fictional original illustrations and covers. Well represented are the works of Dold, Cartier, Paul, Hunt, Wasso, Krupa, and Tom Wright. Several high powered lights, with silver tips to assure indirect lighting, keep the room well illuminated at all times.

Recent installation of a telephone has been a great convenience to the club for outgoing calls, as well as for members outside to contact the club at any time of day or night. Many types of queer calls have been made and received. The biggest surprise call of them all was the Thursday night meeting that was interrupted (pleasurably) by a phone call from Slan Shack, in Battle Creek, Michigan. The phone is one of the wall types and hangs in the rear of the room with an imposing list of local fans' numbers slightly over it.

The activity, I should say "THE ACTIVITY" of the group has reached a new high lately. Publications literally keep the mimeograph humming and hardly an evening passes but what the club is a veritable bee hive of one activity or another.

- SHANGRI L'AFFAIRES #13 (Apr '44)

The clubroom window on Bixel Street photo from
LASFS Photo Album

The move was also reported in FANTASY FICTION FIELD #125:

NEW HQ FOR LASFS! The fifth Thurs eve in Apr was spent by fangelenos mainly, in moving furniture, equipment & library into their new clubroom, only a half block from the old, but in more modern, SOUNDPROOF surroundings. After this labor of love, the crowd (by Ray Bradbury, May WT) proceeded to celebrate by besotting itself with rootbeer, grapeola & cokes, with cheesecrackers, cookies & popcorn for fillers.

Presided over by Dir. Freehafer, the meeting featured the first LA appearance of Sam Russell, former leading lite of the Mpls Fantasy Society, & the reappearence of Mr & Mrs Henry Hasse, from DC. All three intend to remain in Shangri-LA & be frequent attenders. Also included Barbara Boyard, Morrie Dollens, Morojo, Phil Bronson, 4e, Ed Chamberlain, Ada Charles, Helen Finn, Jack Dowdle & Mel Brown.

It is estimated the month of May will be needed to properly paint the place, drape & carpet & decorate it with originals, arrange the library, publishing paraphernalia, &c. The room, which is located on the ground floor front, with sidewalk entrance, of the WELLMAN Apts, next door to Morojo's, was a former beauty shop, & it is planned to have Altheda Slate (formerly O'Brien, LN-or Daugherty's artistic sis) paint the name on the window, & even, possibly, a replica of the club emblem. Probably the first meeting in June will be the official opening, for which a big party with door- prizes & auction is being organized by Walt Daugherty.

- LASFS: 637½ S. Bixel, Los Angeles, Cal. Every Thurs eve from 7:30. -

The official opening did indeed take place in June. An account of the party can be found here.

Soon, various fans began moving to Bixel Street to be close to the clubroom, which quickly became the social centre of a whole community of fans, causing T. Bruce Yerke to dub the area "the Bixelstrasse", a nickname soon picked up by others. Harry Warner Jr described it thus in ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (1969):

"The club moved into its celebrated soundproof clubroom ... in April, 1943, holding its first meeting there on April 29th. This sanctified site resembled to the passerby a second-rate apartment. Inside, its 20 x 30 feet of floor space was principally remarkable for its large collection of cigarette butts, the outcome of Ackerman's ban on ashtrays in his effort to halt smoking in the clubroom. Almost every type of fannish spoor could be found in the clubroom, even unto a printing press. Across the street was 628, Tendril Towers, a boardinghouse much favored by fans for its nearness to the clubroom, its lenient landlady (who once, when charged with being a Communist, retorted: "I can prove it!"), and its modest $6.00 per week rental. Mel Brown, Jimmy Kepner, Niesen Himmel, Gus Willmorth, Lou Goldstone, Art Joquel, E. E. Evans, his daughter Jonie, Art Saha, and Alva Rogers were among those who lived there at various times.Morojo lived in the same block at 643, an address that was later occupied by the Ashleys, Wiedenbeck, and Liebscher.

Most of these buildings are now no longer there, but there's one still standing today that they would've walked past. As it clearly shows, at least that section of the street was a hill:

And here's footage of Los Angeles in which you can see the sort of wooden-fronted rooming houses that would have stood on Bixel Street back then:

Of the clubroom, Laney later wrote in AH! SWEET IDIOCY!:

"...someone of other was in the clubroom nearly every hour of the day and night. So many of the members lived right there in the neighborhood; Brown and Kepner across the street at 628, Morojo next door at 643, Daugherty three blocks down the street, and Fern a ten minute walk away. Yerke, Bronson, Chamberlain, Benson, Russell, and Freehafer used the place a great deal as a meeting point to rally around a party to go to the theater or symphony; and Ackerman commuted nearly every night from Fort MacArthur, often spending the night next door on Morojo's and her cousin's guest couch. Then not only did many of the members work screwy shifts, but then as always fans were notable for absenteeism, skipping work at any time for any reason or none. In those first three months, I doubt if I ever spent more than an hour in the clubroom without being joined by one or more other members. The evenings especially saw the premises crowded; many of the members were actively engaged in publishing, kept their typewriters and other equipment right there in the room; there was usually someone reading something out of the club library; and of course the usual droppings in and out."

cover by John Grossman - who was 15 years old at the time! (see SCIENTIFANTASY)

According to Jean Cox's report on LASFS activities in the 1948 FANTASY ANNUAL (edited by Redd Boggs and published by Ackerman):

During 1948 the LASFS held fifty official meetings, and two holiday gatherings - Thanksgiving and Christmas - the latter at the home of Louise Leipar. The society changed meeting places twice: from 637½ Bixel to 556 W 31st, and then back to the old Bixel address.

In SHANGRI-LA #6 (May-June '48) it was reported that:

The apartment that has, for the last couple of years, been known as Slan Shack Pro-Tem is empty and no longer contains fen. One of the landmark's of Los Angeles Fandom is gone, swept away by these troubled times. In that apartment at 643 South Bixel Street where Myrtle R. Douglas (so well known to the fan world as the. gracious "Morojo") lived for nearly ten years, from whose rooms dozens of issues of the famous "VoM" crept into the sunny Southern California daylight, to which in 1945 the Galactic Roamers of Michigan lost their mainstays of the Slan Shack there: Al Ashley, Walt Liebscher, Jack Wiedenbeck, and Abby Lu Ashley; has happened dozens of happy fan events, gatherings, parties, and kindred events oft reported in the fan press. From that address many fanzines have appeared, at least for part of their life: Vom, Guteto, Stefan, En Guarde, Chanticleer, Fantasy Advertiser, Slithy Toves, to name but a few. It has often proven a haven for out of town fen who enjoyed the hospitality of the sofa, Myrtle's hospitality and, later, Abby Lu's cooking were appreciated by literally scores. Such was the spot that is no more, its denizens scattered to the four quarters of Los Angeles and Phoenix, Ariz. Bow your heads, you Sons of Fantasmia, and cast a moan for another of fandom's Shattered Institutions.

The thriving fan community that had existed on Bixel Street for most of the 1940s was beginning to drift apart, the end coming on 6th April 1956 when Tendril Towers closed its doors.

The club stayed on Bixel Street until mid-1949. SHANGRI-LA, the clubzine that replaced SHANGRI L'AFFAIRES, still gave the Bixel Street clubroom as the editorial address in issue #11 (Mar '49), but #12 (Jun '49) asked that correspondence be sent to Ackerman's home address. In #13 (Aug '49) the new editorial address was 1305 West Ingraham Street, a couple of blocks away. LASFS had their Bixel Street clubroom for six years, the move apparently being caused by a rent increase. According to Harry Warner Jr in A WEALTH OF FABLE, LASFS were still at 1305 West Ingraham in 1955.

Next came the basement room of the Prince Rupert Arms on nearby Witmer Street. The room wasn't entirely underground - there were windows that opened onto a side street enabling club members to see the feet and legs of people walking by on the street outside. Alas, Walter Daugherty, who had been subletting the room to LASFS and to the Pacific Rocket Society, lost the lease at the end of 1957.

In 1958, after meeting in various member's homes, LASFS started meeting at Byron's Coffee Shoppe, 5230 Santa Monica Blvd., a considerable distance away from their traditional stomping grounds.

For further moves, see here.