19 Berkeley Square


As in the case of a number of Berkeley Square lots, the one on which #19 rose was likely acquired from the original developers in a speculative venture early in the history of the tract. In some instances such a lot was flipped in its unimproved state; in some, such as Lot 12 on which would sit #19, a house was built for eventual if not immediate resale. It's possible that real estate investor Hugh Barclay Brown and his wife Lucille intended to live in Berkeley Square longer than they did—after all, they hired a top architectural firm to design #19, building permits for which were taken out in Lucille's name on December 2, 1909; the attractive Colonial with vaguely Italian overtones was designed by David Wellington Terwilliger, who was then in partnership with Charles F. Whittlesey.  (Records are confusing, but some indicate that the Browns may have also built another house on spec, as yet unidentified, on the Square.) The Browns stayed at #19—addressed #12 before citywide changes during 1912 due to recent annexations—for less than two years before selling it to to Mrs. Melville Hamlin Hudson, widow of a successful Kansas City theatrical manager and theater operator, who had been living recently at 2914 Wilshire Boulevard

Mary and Mel Hudson had four children; their only son Melville Jr. and daughter Gertrude, who had married Walter M. Jaccard of the well-known Jaccard jewelry family of Missouri, remained in Kansas City while daughter Adah, and possibly daughter Bendena, made the move to California with their mother. Though they became well-connected socially in Los Angeles, the Hudsons appear to have lived quietly at #19 in comparison to some other Square families. About the most exciting thing to happen in the house during their tenure was a furnace fire in January 1914 that caused considerable damage.

No recorded weddings took place at #19; in 1925, when Adah became engaged at the age of 50 to her brother-in-law Ernest A. Jaccard, the nuptials were planned for the next year in Kansas City. It seems that rather than rattle around in a big house out in California all by herself after Adah's marriage, Mary Hudson decided that she would return to Missouri herself. One might imagine that the slick oilman who was to succeed her at #19 made her a prodding offer, if he didn't take the poor widder woman for a ride on the price, but one can only hope that she didn't leave the Square wondering what had hit her—probably not, as 20 years later there was much legal wrangling by descendants over various trusts. On September 27, 1925, the Times reported the sale of #19 to the Erle Palmer Halliburtons—who, despite a rather grand name, were living not long before in a one-room hovel in a one-horse Oklahoma town. The former Hudson house would become the scene of considerably more lively entertainments over the next 25 years.

From Erle to Ersters Rockefeller: The founder of Halliburton, a long way from
rope belts. Erle Palmer Halliburton Sr. was once among the world's
richest men, but his standing in the Midas club was greatly
 diminished through real estate speculation less clever
 than his oil ventures, #19 Berkeley Square not
 included. His lungs were greatly diminished,
too: A lifelong smoker, he died of
 emphysema in 1957, age 65.

The Halliburton Company, infamous later under the crypt-dwelling creep with the crooked smile, has since its 1919 founding in Duncan, Oklahoma, been a company of stellar capitalist cred but one never completely clever in terms of managing its overall image. Its founder, who with funds from his wife's pawned wedding ring, a few borrowed mules and wagon, began by cementing oil wells to increase the efficiency of their output. Not only was he to become a money-minting oilfield technology innovator who was also by turns a dabbler in the early passenger airline business, the mastermind in a nuts-to-orphans scheme, and a suspected rum-runner, but he was possessed of what appear to be narcisstic genes and somewhat exhibitionist tendencies. To be fair, as Clampettish as Erle Halliburton's arrival in Los Angeles in the early '20s was, it was perhaps more discreet than the nouveau pytrole riche Dohenys' displays of conspicuous consumption of 30 years before (not to mention their scandalous shenanigans during the '20s). After all, while Ed and Estelle were possessed to possess practically all of Chester Place, the Halliburtons showed almost Joadlike restraint in contenting themselves with only a lone though commodious house on a single lot in Berkeley Square. Yet clearly the Halliburtons wanted to live Oklahoma!-the-musical-large—perhaps a little too flashy by, say, Pasadena standards—but this was Hollywood-adjacent Los Angeles, after all. Though not without some charm, it would take a number of years of push before the family would be listed in either of the local competing Blue Books; one even suspects that the family employed a press agent, so many were their appearances in the papers between births, marriages, and deaths.

The original Whittlesey & Terwilliger design lost all delicacy in a 1936 remodeling by the Halliburtons

Vida and Erle Sr. had been to California before—they were married in Riverside in 1915. They proceeded to have five children, including two namesakes: Erle Palmer Jr., Zola Catherine, Vida Jessie, Ruth Lou, and baby David John, born in 1926, just on their arrival in the Square. (Can one help but wonder if somehow James M. Cain was inspired to name one of his most famous characters after Vida?) As with almost all Berkeley Square families, one finds connections of friendship and business by Halliburtons with others who lived there, on corporate boards as well as in accounts of birthday bashes, teenage beach blasts, and wedding parties. William Gibbs McAdoo of #5, for instance, who might have originally introduced Erle to the Square, was a partner with him in a commercial airline venture at one time. The children mingled with other Square kids at the annual Halloween party between the gates, but the Halliburton children were probably more often in Mary Janes and lace-up cordovans rather than participating in any Our Gang sorts of escapades. (There were actual Dust Bowl Okies for the family to distance itself from, after all.) The teenage Zola and Erle Jr. threw a dance for 130 at the Bel-Air Country Club in 1934; rather than have summer jobs, the children were taken on extended cruises on the family yacht, perhaps inevitably christened the Vida. (Ship manifests, amusingly, listed Erles Sr. and Jr. as "pursers," David as a "cabin boy," and the ladies as "stewardesses.") The educations of the young Halliburtons were not neglected, however, any more than a sense of privilege was discouraged. In due course the kids got married, several in lavish weddings in the garden of #19 Berkeley Square.

A fur piece from Bugtussle—Mother's Day, 1947: Mrs. Erle Palmer Halliburton Sr., the first 
Vida of many, flanked by fellow family mothers and their children. From left to right: 
Jonathan Hall next to his mother, Zola Halliburton Hall, who is holding Zola Jr.; 
Vida Halliburton Woelz holding Palmer Woelz; Vida Woelz Jr. next to her 
granny Vida; Mrs. Erle Palmer Halliburton Jr., holding Elaine; Ruth Lou
Halliburton Hall with William Hall Jr.; Erle Palmer Halliburton III.

Zola's engagement to John Elwin Hall in early 1941 was celebrated with a party for 150 at which "myriad lights twinkled from the windows of #19 Berkeley Square," according to the Times; Mrs. James Ricklefs of #25 gave the affianced pair a dinner soon after. The wedding took place in the garden of #19 on April 5; almost exactly eight years later Zola would tell the judge that John, by now a struggling young doctor, had become "completely indifferent in the face of my love." So he might have become to her desire for the high life; on granting the divorce, the judge mercifully ordered him to pay only $1 a month in support for the new grass widow and little Jonathan and Zola Jr. No doubt Papa Erle took care of the rest. 

Zola, Zola, Zola: Engagement and wedding, 1941; Splitsville, 1949

Two weeks after her big sister married Dr. Hall in April 1941, Vida Jr. eloped with film editor John B. Woelz, better known as Softy, to Yuma, Arizona. Whether or not this was an unpleasant surprise to Big Vida and Papa Erle is not recorded, but it seems that the newlyweds were taken care of at least in that they lived at #19 for a time in the '40s—and there was a French governess for Vida III (or Vida IV, if you count the boat) and little sister Palmer Catherine when they came along. With the arrival of the boob tube, Softy's ship must have come in—he was soon a producer in that medium, and, despite his primary legacy being Clarence, The Cross-Eyed Lion, he apparently did well enough in Hollywood, if not without a stipend from the oilfields, to build a $100,000 house in Mandeville Canyon...which, on the basis of his chronic "nocturnal absences," Vida was to get when the divorce came through in 1953. 

Zola became a decorator and a friend of fellow Square divorcée Jeanne McReynolds; in October 1952 she married architect John Leon Rex, a native Angeleno who appears to have been quite a near neighbor to Zola and Softy in the Canyon and was at the time associated in business with Sumner Spaulding, who had built Harold Lloyd's Greenacres in Beverly Hills in the '20s. Within a few years a number of significant Midcentury buildings had been added to the Los Angeles streetscape and there were five children between the Rexes.

1953: Vida, post-decree

After some speculation in the gossips columns that she and Softy might reconcile, Vida remarried. But not to Softy. She and second husband Artie Wayne were producers who, in 1959, were hoping to bring to stage and screen the life story of Mae Murray—silent pictures' Girl With the Bee-Stung Lips—but I don't remember ever seeing any such productions. Do you?

In 1945 Ruth became another Halliburton bride to be married in the garden of #19; she married William Meredith Hall of Tupelo, Mississippi—apparently no relation to Zola's first husband—and the two were married for many years. Later, according to the 1950 Southwest Blue Book, Ruth and Bill lived across the street at #20, the old Brent house, as did Vida and Softy before their divorce. (The Square was always a protective draw for its families, even in its dotage.) Erle Jr. had married Jane Miller in 1940, though rather than live in West Adams the couple built in Westwood. Among the cronies who hung around the Portuguese Bend Club with them were Donald Douglas Jr. of the DC-3 Douglases; Frank Vanderlip Jr., whose father was the original developer of Palos Verdes; Robert Stack, who was just getting his start in movies and who one day play would Eliot Ness on the small screen—a rare establishment-bred Angeleno who would go into the business; Barbara and Virginia Bekins, daughters of the moving and storage clan; Alphonzo Bell Jr., whose father had developed Bel-Air; Cobina Wright Jr., who became famous for being famous in the '40s; and Erle Jr.'s fellow wild young Berkeley Square scions: Hal Roach Jr. (#22), Willis Hunt Jr. (#3), and the notorious Reese Milner (#7).

April 1952: Joan Halliburton, 19, sought more than a blender 
after marrying and divorcing David within a few months.

According to the writer of the particularly inane "Skylarking" gossip column in the Times, when brother David married his first wife Joan Taylor in 1951, Erle Jr. sprang for a Waring Blendor as a wedding present. While it certainly was the de rigueur countertop appliance of the day, perhaps its choice was based on his expectations for the union. And danged if David wasn't divorced and at the altar again a year and a half later with Suzette Gagnon. David, one of those men whose rascally charm got him far, was later an early player in the development of Cabo San Lucas. At a party for his 53rd birthday at his Hotel Twin Dolphin there, he wore his favorite old Yellow Cab driver's cap; his companion was not, perhaps unsurprisingly, Suzette but rather (according to Jody Jacobs in the Times) "lean and long-legged Barbara Comfort, who appeared in a gold bikini with green rollers in her hair," and, later that evening, presumably sans Spoolies, in "a diaper-cut skirt to show off her legs." (Barbara Nichols might once have portrayed her in the movies.)

In the meantime, the patriarchal Halliburton, a man with a strong belief in an individual's right to do as he damn well pleases, was arrested and briefly jailed on Federal charges of smuggling liquor in 1931 when it was found that he was using his private Tri-Motor as an airborne rum-runner. Seemingly ever testing the limits of the dastardly government, seven years later he ran afoul of authorities when he tried to ship a ton of walnuts from his Riverside grove to orphans back home in Oklahoma; California state officials suspected the peculiar donation of being a ruse to circumvent state laws regarding agricultural shipments. (Surely not....) Indefatigable Erle also found the time to design the original aluminum suitcase, still sold today by Zero Halliburton. Vida Sr., who presumably got back her pawned wedding ring in spades, and who was content over the years to play family matriarch, died of a heart attack at home in December 1951; services were held at #19. Not long after, all the myriad lights of the lively Halliburton clan went out on the Square, only hastening its final decade of decline. By mid 1953, Erle was living in Scottsdale—he died in L.A. four years later—and the Reverend Pearl C. Wood had become the mistress of #19.

Memorial Park, Duncan, Oklahoma: Born in Tennessee, 
long of California, a favorite son of Sooners.

§ § § § § § § § § §

The Reverend Pearl C. Wood (variously Dr. Pearl C. Wood and Mother Pearl C. Wood) had come to Los Angeles from Arkansas in 1930, founding her Triangular Church of Truth—the name perhaps a take on Aimee Semple McPherson's Foursquare Gospel Church—two years later. Now known as the Triangular Church of Religious Science and long a pillar of South Los Angeles spiritual life, the congregation, after many years at 52nd and Wadsworth, moved in 1960 to its current building designed by architect Albert Butts at Western and 20th, close to Reverend Wood's home on Berkeley Square. The Triangular Church was the first African-American interdenominational congregation in Los Angeles, and is today headed by sculptor Gregory P. Pitts, a grandson of the founder, who succeeded his father in 1998. (The preacher-artist's work has been exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as well as at the Studio Museum of Harlem.) 

As seen in the Los Angeles Sentinel on January 29, 1948:
Reverend Wood walks down the aisle of her church
with her groom after a 6 a.m. ceremony at the
Triangular Church four days before.

On the 16th anniversary of the Triangular Church, January 25, 1948, Reverend Wood married her second husband, Frank Veasey of Little Rock, at the sanctuary on 52nd Street; afterward the couple settled into the large house still standing at 1910 South Harvard near the Square. When Reverend Wood married again in 1971, it was to Reverend A. Z. Riley of Decatur, Michigan, at Triangular on Western Avenue. She died in 1974.

One of the last large social functions at #19 was the the Regalettes' Annual Garden Festival in June 1960. Deloris Wilson is listed at 19 Berkeley Square in the 1960 Los Angeles city directory; the address disappears from subsequent issues and was soon under the 10.

Among the 1,000 guests who enjoyed the music of strolling troubadours at the
Regalettes' Annual Garden Party in June 1960—probably the last party
of its size on Berkeley Square—were, from left to right, Vivian
Morris, Mikki Moore, Zee Maddox, Adella Farmer, Georgia
Carr, Betty Griffin, and Virginia Johnson.