All Around the
And when I first came here several decades ago, I thought Iâ
€™d never learn my way around. The freeways flowed either
fast and furious, or clogged and tedious. Neighborhoods
were spread and confusing, a patchwork of ethnic enclaves
often miles across. And the local streets. . . . I only managed
to learn the major ones in my immediate area.
At that time, that area was neither Eastside nor Westside but
South Los Angeles. Then it had a predominantly African-
American population, while the Eastside was predominantly
Hispanic and the Westside was mostly white.
After about a decade, we moved further south, to Lawndale in
the South Bay, which at that time was heavily Hispanic.
After another decade there, we moved to our present home in
Palms, on the Westside of Los Angeles. I work in
Westchester, which is about as far west as you can get, down
near the airport.
Now, the Westside is quite mixed racially, though my high
school is predominantly African-American and serves many
students from South Los Angeles, the first part of the city I
Each new section of residence in the city has added a section
to the street map in my mind. That street map is clearer in the
parts I've lived in, and the fact that those parts intersect, if not
overlap, sharpens my concept of almost half the city, from
Malibu south through the South Bay and east to downtown
and the Harbor freeway.
But my concept of other sections of Los Angeles--the
Eastside, for instance, or the San Fernando Valley--is still quite
hazy. I doubt that I'll ever grasp the whole of this complex and
Thus, I've spent much of my time here in profound gratitude for
the Thomas Guide--that voluminous spiral-bound book of
maps of all the streets and freeways in Los Angeles county.
East Side, West Side, all around the town
The kids sang "ring around rosie," "London Bridge is
Boys and girls together, me and Mamie O'Rourke
We tripped the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New
The song was written about New York, but we have our
Eastside and Westside in Los Angeles as well.
Thomas Bros. Maps was started in 1915 in Oakland,
California, by cartographer George Coupland Thomas and his
two brothers. The company, which moved to Los Angeles in
the 1940s, remained privately owned until it was purchased by
Rand McNally in 1999.
The first page of the Guide is a checkerboard of Los Angeles
County. Each square has a number that corresponds with the
number of a page after it. That page is a map of every street in
that section of the city, and each indicates the pages that
The Thomas Guide is a great help when I'm driving along and
suddenly realize that nothing looks familiar. I must have made
a wrong turn. I pull over and pull out the book, and soon I'm
heading the right direction again.
Of course, when I know before I start that I've never driven to
a particular address before, I generally check it out in Yahoo
Maps on the computer. I enter my address and the address of
my destination. Then I can print out, not just a map, but
detailed driving directions.
Thanks to the Thomas Bros. and Yahoo Maps, I can drive all
over Los Angeles--not just the Westside, but the Eastside and
even the Valley, with confidence.