Although Downey isn't necessarily noted for its tourist attractions, it has one at this time of the year--courtesy of an 85-year-old resident.
Once again, as he has since 1955, Carl Seiler has on the front lawn of his house at 7227 Rio Flora Place an 88-foot length of tracks. On them are the large handmade and stationary cars of the North Pole Express, occupied by such miniature dummies as an engineer, baggage clerk, diners, a waiter and--on the rear platform--a waving and speaking Santa.
Seiler, a former shipyard worker and installer of bank burglar alarms, said that he got the idea when he and his late wife, Alice, used to belong to a railroad club that chartered trains for trips.
He and a friend, Wally Ong, later collaborated on making the large wooden and metal model set. Another friend, Don Huth, recorded actual steam and whistle blowing sounds during one of the club's trips, sounds that now emanate from the display.
"The locomotive is an 1860 model and contains a head-moving engineer. This is followed by a wood tender, then a Wells Fargo Express Baggage Car complete with a clerk at a 3-foot desk, then a dining car with the passengers seated at tables with lighted lamps, and finally an observation car."
Viewing is free from 6 to 10 every night through New Year's Eve.
The Santa sings "Jingle Bells" and says: "This is a rough trip, but it sure beats my sleigh and reindeer."
Continuing with the holidays, a modern touch will be added to tradition at noon Wednesday at the Los Angeles ORT Technical Institute at 635 S. Harvard Blvd., a Jewish-sponsored institution.
Students and faculty will symbolically celebrate the lighting of the traditional Hanukkah candles by means of a robot. The actual holiday begins at sundown next Friday.
"The robot was designed and built by the World ORT Union in England," an institute spokesman said. "It is controlled by a computer that will direct the robot's arm in lighting the candles."
Toys for 6000 Tots
And the Fred Jordan Mission at 5th Street and Towne Avenue downtown, which has served the needy for nearly four decades, expects more than 6,000 children outside the facility at 11 a.m. Saturday for its annual Christmas party benefiting the underprivileged.
"We hope to distribute about 21,000 toys, some of them from the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots Campaign," the Rev. Fred Jordan said. "Additionally, we hope to distribute to the adults 3,000 sacks of donated food."
A Match Made in BH
It had to happen department: The Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce now has on its staff a community affairs officer named--are you ready?--Beverly Hill.
"It's her real name, on her birth certificate," executive director Mike Sims said.
This Pothole's for You
Call it a pothole, chuckhole, time to re-tire.
Help is on the way: More than a few lucky Los Angeles residents are getting free certificates entitling them to the filling within 24 hours of a pothole of their choice--certificates sent out this week as the result of an idea by Maureen Kindel, president of the Board of Public Works Commissioners.
"Each of the 15 City Council members received at least 200 of the certificates, as did 52 neighborhood homeowner associations," a commission spokesperson said. "They may distribute them as they see fit."
The certificates bear the seal of the Department of Public Works, Bureau of Street Maintenance, and are entitled "Operation Pothole." They include a diagram allowing the recipient to describe the location.
Indeed a hole-hearted effort.
Scott Lends Helping Hand
Last August, Scott Paper Co. began Helping Hand, a program in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada whereby a nickel from each sale of the seven household products bearing that name was distributed among six charities: The United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Leukemia Society of America, March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, National Assn. for Sickle Cell Disease, and National Easter Seal Society.
Last week, at the Titus Street Nursery in Panorama City, run by United Cerebral Palsy, the results were announced. "So far," said Scott spokesman W. C. Bird, "$400,000 has been collected for the charities."
Delivery With an Antler
In the enterprise-is-still-with-us department, Bruce Kramer of Los Angeles has started a new business called Moose Mini Move.
What it offers, generally for $37, is same-day pickup and delivery of large items, such as might be purchased at a store, couldn't fit into a car, and would normally await the store's delivery schedule.
"Our four bright red trucks are recognizable," Kramer said. "Each has artificial moose antlers on the roof."
A Grip That Could Kill
Helen Miller, a 79-year-old great-grandmother from Pasadena, has reached the goal she set at the beginning of the year: Crochet 300 toy animals.
"I used four-ply yarn to make elephants, bears, mice and birds, and each is about six inches tall," she said. "They were distributed to County-USC Medical Center and Friends of Foster Children."