‘Dreamers and Schemers’ reveals L.A.’s rise by means of the 1932 Olympic Games


A group of the city’s energy brokers gathered in Los Angeles to hear from 1 they’d dispatched to evaluation the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. It is dire, he tells them, how substantially operate there is left to do. There’s no way Los Angeles can accept the huge expenses and challenges of the 1932 Games.

But 1 man is missing — Billy Garland, topic of Barry Siegel’s new book, “Dreamers and Schemers,” and he is, the author argues, the city’s most essential figure. So Los Angeles waits. No vote is taken.

Decades earlier, a young Garland fled the East Coast for what felt like a much more even playing field in California, exactly where roads in Los Angeles nevertheless applied dirt. Quickly he identified his calling: actual estate. Acquiring much more and much more dirt, he comes to think with fervor that absolutely nothing matters much more than who owns the land.

Barry Siegel’s new book, “Dreamers and Schemers.”

Garland is challenging not to like. He cottons promptly to driving, difficult mates to join him on what turns into a 5-week trek to drive a Pierce-Arrow automobile from Los Angeles all the way to the Atlantic. Along the way, he drops a wallet containing $six,500. Naturally, it is returned. Garland, Siegel shows once again and once again, is charismatic, fortunate and seemingly cannot drop.

After back in Los Angeles, Billy Garland requires up his greatest challenge but: What superior way to show off his city’s charms than to host the Olympic Games?

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The author of eight books, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for function writing and director of the literary journalism plan at UC Irvine, Siegel operates challenging to give a gripping portrayal of Garland’s marathon campaign to get the Games.

The saga is wily and prolonged, and it is a testament to Siegel’s chops that in all the machinations the story only sometimes gets bogged down.

We study a lot about Garland’s relationships with the town’s newspapers and its film business, and Siegel specifics the way each are galvanized to deploy what ever details are required to persuade voters to grant permission and funding. There’s even an odd couple/buddy film dynamic in the surprising and tender friendship in between self-produced Garland and the brief but appropriate Baron de Pierre Coubertin, head of the International Olympic Committee, whose august blessings Garland requirements to bring the Games to Southern California.

Almost certainly the most attractive nugget of insight Siegel provides is the way the 1932 Games in Los Angeles changed factors for athletes. The expense of coming to America from Europe — in the course of the Depression, with fascism on the march — was often going to be an obstacle for Garland. So he sturdy-arms till the globe bends, with hotels and railroads granting reduce-prices for athletes, low adequate to get even an Egyptian athlete right here. (The Brazilians, Siegel reports, sell sacks of coffee on their way up, sailing to San Francisco and back till they have adequate dough.)

USA Los Angeles Summer Olympics

American higher jumper Jean Shiley won a gold medal in the course of the 1932 Summer season Olympics in Los Angeles.


After all the contestants arrived, it was females — much more female competitors had been at the 1932 Games than at any earlier contest — who stayed in a hotel, even though the males bunked in specific cottages erected on land donated by a Baldwin Hills oil tycoon.

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This was the Olympics’ 1st objective-constructed athletic village. It was not only inexpensive, but it brought athletes from dozens of nations onto 1 patch of land, with shared kitchens and showers and a sense that for at least a couple of weeks, the globe could get along.

Endemic to books of this genre — heavy on historical documents, light on interviews with the living, a lot of weight place on old pictures and imagination — there is some speculation. On the day the Games open in 1932, for instance, we are told that Billy Garland “could not have been happier.” And that he certainly saw the peaks of Mt. Lowe and Mt. Wilson sparkling “with clarity.”

Siegel, even though, stays loyal to a bigger, stated target: to plumb with care and fondness the extent to which 1 man could overcome so several obstacles to do one thing epic, prosperous and with wide-ranging consequences for each a city and a worldwide athletic contest.

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So the subsequent time you go to the Coliseum, if you ever do, regard the plaque of Billy Garland. Perhaps he broke some guidelines, maybe his results is a solution of a method that permitted wealthy white guys to do much more or much less what ever they wanted.

But in any case the 1932 Games nudged future Olympics in a much more progressive and intriguing path. Siegel, a former Instances reporter, contends that the Games forever changed Los Angeles as well: For the reason that of the infrastructure constructed, the guests to the city (each athletes and audience), and all the consideration the spectacle delivered in the type of news coverage, L.A. was set by Garland and the Olympics much more firmly on the path to becoming 1 of the greatest cities in the globe.

Dreamers and Schemers: How an Improbable Bid for the 1932 Olympics Transformed Los Angeles From Dusty Outpost to International Metropolis

Barry Siegel

University of California Press: 272 pages, $29.95

Deuel is the author of “Friday Was the Bomb: 5 Years in the Middle East.”