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DOWNTOWN : A Blast From the Past in Capsule Form

July 31, 1994|TOMMY LI

"By 2005 you will no doubt be flying from Los Angeles to London in from four to six hours."

"Los Angeles County will have a population of 12 million."

"There will be a cure for cancer."

"Skies will be clear and free from smog."

No, these aren't predictions from TV's "Psychic Friends Network." These optimistic and offbeat forecasts were compiled nearly 40 years ago by a group of countywide business leaders.

Today, a flight from Los Angeles to London takes an average of 10 hours; the county's population is about 9 million; cancer remains the nation's No. 2 cause of death behind heart disease, and Angelenos still fight allergies from the daily blanket of smog.

But with 11 years to go until 2005 rolls around, those soothsayers from the past can claim they have time on their side.

Their typewritten thoughts about the county's future growth and development were among the items found in a Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce time capsule--cemented behind a cornerstone on March 22, 1956, to commemorate the chamber's new building at 404 S. Bixel St.

The 6-inch-by-2 1/2-foot-by-2-foot copper box was to remain untouched until 2005.

But chamber officials decided to dig it out in late June because the chamber is moving to a new home across the street--its eighth since it formed in 1888.

"To get it out was about a six-hour period with hammers and jackhammers," said chamber President Ray Remy.

Instead of waiting until 2005 to see what's inside, the chamber board agreed to open the warped, rusted box and check the condition of its contents--some of which date back to March, 1903, and have been damaged by moisture, Remy said.

"It's a part of Los Angeles history," he said.

"We have not made a complete review of the items," Remy said. "I would think if there were some things here that would have some particular historic value, we would want to either display it or donate it to a particular society."

Though most of the books, Los Angeles promotional pamphlets, directories, maps and newspaper editions found inside the capsule were related to or produced by the chamber, some reference materials could be considered rarities.

The collection includes a March, 29, 1903, edition of the Los Angeles Times, which sold for a nickel, and March, 22, 1956, editions of such rival papers as the Los Angeles Examiner and Mirror News.

Around the time that the capsule was buried in March, 1956, actor Ernest Borgnine captured an Oscar, the Mirror News editor and publisher interviewed then-Philippines President Ramon Magsaysay about the threat of Communism and Russia tested more nuclear arms.

Also noteworthy are the predictions of the chamber members themselves.

Attorney James L. Beebe, a partner at O'Melveny & Myers, predicted the rise of such areas as the City of Industry in the San Gabriel Valley and Warner Center in the west San Fernando Valley.

"The most significant governmental development will be community centers, not merely shopping centers but centers of manufacturing, business, banking, administrative government and courts," wrote Beebe, then chairman of the chamber's state and local government committee. "This community center development will outpace downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and Miracle Mile."

J.E. Fishburn Jr., vice president at Bank of America, so far is missing the mark about cars being equipped with radar to prevent collision in poor weather. But Fishburn's statement about how "the freeway system in Los Angeles will be double-decked with the top level used solely for express traffic" foretells a similar project on a portion of the Harbor Freeway.

Mickey Mouse and his Disney friends should run for cover if this prediction from D.L. Marlett comes true:

"The present center of population of the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, now located at 17th and Broadway, will move to the vicinity of Disneyland, near Anaheim."

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