Abby Cregor and Madisen Matsuura have a lot in common.
Both raised in Culver City, both seniors at Culver City High School, both in AVPA (Abby as co-president of Blurred Vision Theatre Group, Madisen in Visual Arts) – and both possess an enormous love of history and anything vintage.
All of these common traits add up to these two 17-year-olds spending some of their precious time during their last year of high school in the archives of the Culver City Historical Society.
Abby discovered the Historical Society during the height of COVID, when she had much more time on her hands during quarantine and distance learning. Looking for something to occupy her time, she started volunteering about seven months ago.
Madisen learned about the society from Abby, and recently joined her on the backside of Vets Auditorium on their afternoons off from AVPA.
They spend their time as interns straddling between actual artifacts and electronic files, as they catalog items that have been stored in boxes, shoved in closets, and dropped off on the doorstep of the society’s offices.
They also get to handle the goods. To date they’ve worked on exhibits featuring the first graduating class of Culver City High School; Culver City’s Tongva history; Jimmy Durante’s clown costume from 1962 Billy Rose’s Jumbo, in which he played “Pop” Wonder who doubles as a clown, and a Bo Peep costume (pictured above).
When asked about the coolest artifact they’ve come across, vintage-clothes-loving Madisen singled out the Bo Peep costume. “I love both history and art. This costume represents both. And we got to do some badly-needed restoration on it,” she said. Designed by Helen Rose, it was worn by extra actor Jean Dean in the 1948 film The Bride Goes Wild, filmed at MGM Studios.
Abby loved combing through the high school memorabilia, which includes a yearbook, a black-and-white photo of the Class of 1953, and a toy Centaur. But her favorite artifact to date is a 1962 Culver Citizen newspaper article on the Cuban Missile Crisis. In what seems like a preordained find, Abby recalled, “I was learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis during AP U.S. History, at the same time I came across this article.”
When asked why a community paper would write an article on an international crisis, Historical Society President Hope Parrish filled in some blanks. “Because the long-range missiles placed in Cuba by the Russians could reach as far as Washington State, the fear was real. Many people in Culver City had underground bomb shelters in their homes and our schools conducted drop-and-cover drills.”
Parrish, who is a third-generation Culver City resident and a former movie industry property master, along with Culver City Historian Julie Lugo Cerra, are bottomless wells of knowledge about Culver City. Having worked tirelessly over the years to preserve the town’s robust history, they are immensely grateful for Abby and Madisen.
“We are an all-volunteer organization,” Parrish said. “With 100+ years of history, grounded in the movie industry, we have such a long history, so many artifacts, so much inventory. We need young people like Abby and Madisen to help us sort through and preserve all of this. And more importantly to carry on the history and legacy.”
Located in the Veterans Memorial Building at 4117 Overland Avenue, the Culver City Historical Society Archives & Resource Center (ARC) is open the first and third Sundays of every month from 1 to 3 p.m. and by appointment. (Entrance is through the parking lot at the rear of the building.) For more information, visit Culver City Historical Society.