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Jolson, Gable at Santa Anita

December 25, 2006

Dec. 25, 1934: A crowd of Southern Californians, including Al Jolson and Clark Gable, spent Christmas Day at the racetrack when Santa Anita opened for business in Arcadia, The Times reported.

"The thud and thunder of the thoroughbred came back to Southern California after a lapse of 25 years. The drum of hoofbeats, the music of the track, caught the ears of 39,000 listeners who were packed in tighter than a tackle jammed against a guard," the newspaper said.

"These 39,000 spectators left their Christmas trees to sit under a blazing sun and look across Santa Anita at snowcapped peaks in the background."

The Times comprehensively covered the event, down to the fashions worn in the stands.

"There were thousands of Alpine sports hats," read one story. "The women's feathers were brighter, longer and much more saucy, tilting into the air."

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