supercali etc. by Tom Grode

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I was chatting with a neighbor named Don Garza on 5th Street in the Old Bank District immediately west of Skid Row.  Don is the Town Crier for the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council and he mentioned how communities overlapping Skid Row do not want any association with the name Skid Row. I said all the community names should be strung together as one long word like supercalifragisliticexpialidocious in the movie Mary Poppins.

We continued to chat as that idea lodged itself intensely in my mind.  When I got home I looked up supercali etc. on Wikipedia, was amazed to see what it actually meant and thought – wow, that idea was from the Lord.

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Fifth Street historically is central to life on Skid Row and decades ago a nickname for Skid Row was “the nickel” as a reference to Fifth.  I learned this by watching the local play Surviving the Nickel produced by Dramastage Qumran with a non-profit helping homeless vets.

I told Katherine at Trees of San Pedro what happened with supercali etc. and my plan to put this in the form of an arts and crafts piece.  We went on the Operation Facelift Community Walk to help catalog the need for upgrades and improvements in Skid Row, especially when it comes to trash cans and pick-up.  Later on she suggested I connect what I learned about supercali a piece of public art to Firehouse No. 23, located in Skid Row just east of the Old Bank District.

I first learned about Firehouse No. 23 through a video Katherine posted made a few years ago by Skid Row filmmaker Michael Blaze about a street festival, Community Unity on Fifth Street.  The video shows Firehouse No. 23 opened up with horses emerging from it pulling a restored 1910 fire engine and then running down Fifth Street with bell clanging as if responding to a fire.


The main headline for the early December issue of the Downtown News was Downtown’s Worst Eyesores.  Firehouse No. 23 was one of eleven buildings/spaces profiled in the article.  Here is what the article had to say:

Firehouse No. 23

Location:  225 East 5th Street

Eyesore Factor:  With its grand, arched front entrance, ornate ceilings and marble paneling, Fire Station 23 was once a civic gem.  The nearly 100 year old structure is a city Historic-Cultural Monument and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Yet, the former firehouse sits abandoned with an iron gate blocking the entrance.

What’s Next:  The building languishes in sort of a political purgatory.  In 2009 the city started the process of selling the structure – there was even a developer who wanted to buy it and open a restaurant.  However, the firehouse was one of several properties that, as part of a 1996 ballot measure approved by city voters, had to be used as a youth arts center.  Despite the designation, the 2.3 million set aside by Proposition K for a transformation was far less than a full renovation would cost.  The city Bureau of Engineering is now studying what it would cost to rehab the building.  A report is slated for completion in January, at which time city officials will decide how to proceed, according to the City Attorney’s office.


Super is above; cali is beauty; fragilistic is delicate; expiali is to atone; docious is educable. Something fresh is happening in Skid Row and her overlapping communities and it will be exciting to witness in the days ahead how delicate beauty from above will atone for a lack of education.

(to be continued)

By Tom Grode

Blogger’s note: The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Trees on San Pedro Street Project editrix, Ms. McNenny. This is a Community improvement blog and not faith-based.

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