Oral History Program
A Personal View on History
EPHS is interviewing Echo Park residents to collect their personal recollections about neighborhood history. These oral histories will be made available to the public for research purposes.
Please contact us if you know of a long-time resident who should be interviewed or if you would like to conduct interviews for our oral history archives.
Oral History Interviews
Transcripts or tapes of oral histories of the following individuals are available for those conducting historical research. A small materials fee may apply in some cases. Contact us for details.
When Mary Garrison first arrived from Nebraska forty years ago she lived in Glendale, but it didn’t take her long to relocate to the greener pastures she perceived in Echo Park. The inspiration to move to Echo Park came on her bus route, Garrison says. “When the Glendale bus went through this neighborhood I kept thinking about how friendly the people here were. It was a mixture of people and I liked that.”
Garrison describes the Echo Park she moved to in the 1960s as having “a really nice friendly, family feeling.” “On Saturdays and Sundays, people would gather at Echo Park Lake and have little family picnics and cook some hamburgers and that kind of thing.”
Echo Park’s key location to other areas of Los Angeles aided Mary in discovering the many faces of her city over the years. Garrison recalls walking from her downtown office to Little Tokyo to have lunch with Japanese-American girlfriends. “We’d go to some little hole-in-the-wall place that was great. I learned to appreciate Japanese popular music there because they would be playing their popular records from Japan. I’d go back to my office humming songs that nobody else had heard before.”
Interview Date: February 2007
Interviewer: Alison Brady
Yvonne Suzanne Kimbrough
It was already 1964 when a friend brought NY native Yvonne Suzanne Kimbrough and her husband to Echo Park. They would raise two children here and find a small haven in the sprawling city they could call home. “Sunset Blvd is like a main, big boulevard. It goes all the way to the ocean but our part of it is a community.”
Physically, the landscape of Echo Park hasn’t changed much since Suzanne arrived but this activist has seen the community around her as changing and varied as ever with her self and other pro-active community members at the helm. “I guess I was always active but more so in the community”, she says. “We’ve had a lot of fundraisers in the house over the years. A lot of spaghetti dinners.”
Her local activism began when her son got involved with the National Farm Workers Association. “A lot of us in the neighborhood got involved in the grape boycott and the lettuce boycott. Caesar Chavez was forming the union. They had a grape boycott to tell people not to buy grapes because of the working conditions. We went out to markets passing out literature.”
Suzanne is as active as ever as a member of the Echo Park Improvement Association. She is actively involved in everything from the ongoing struggle to bring a Farmer’s Market to Echo Park to fighting the Angelus Temple’s plan to level several houses on Lemoyne Street to make way for a parking structure. “I can’t think of anything uglier than a 7 story parking structure,” states Kimbrough matter-of-factly.
Echo Park will continue to change with the times but rest assured Suzanne Kimbrough will be there helping the community and looking toward a future that continues to embrace it’s past. “We fight really hard to keep Echo Park, it’s going to eventually go but we fight really hard to keep it like it is.”
Date: May 2006
Interviewer: Heather Miller
Daniel Munoz, who now lives in an 1889 Victorian cottage on Bellevue Avenue in Angelino Heights, was born on February 24, 1949 in Dogtown near downtown Los Angeles. Evictions due to eminent domain seizure forced his family to move twice, eventually landing in Echo Park. A warm family life included extended family and friends centered on a home overseen by his homemaker mother and his tailor father. Browsing in the many downtown Los Angeles bookstores with his father was one of the highlights of Daniel’s childhood. Fishing in the Los Angeles River and Echo Park Lake, and racing homemade coasters down local hills are fond recollections of his early years with his two younger brothers, Robert and Arthur. Daniel’s life long fascination with local history led to his activism in local historic preservation and the creation of an extensive personal library that includes old phone directories, newspapers, photos, calendars, books and more.
Topics Covered: Birth date and place, family members and their history, Relationship to parents and siblings, home and neighborhood life, family values and customs, celebration of holidays and special occasions, educational history, effects of the 5 and 101 freeways on people’s lives, interest in local history developed into large personal library, community activist and historic preservation activities.
Interview Date: May 2006
Interviewer: Corrinna Aragon
Echo Park History Topics
Here are some topics you might want to consider when you interview someone about neighborhood history. Click on the link below for a copy of suggested questions. Click here to download file.
Interview Tips & Techniques
A successful oral history requires more than just coming up with a list of questions and a reliable tape recorder. Click on the link below for some information to get you started. Click here to download file.
Red Hill Interviews
The Echo Park Film Center in partnership with the EPHS produced the Red Hill project, a documentary on Echo Park’s progressive politics and activism. The videos below are interviews of Echo Park residents.