Off the Emery Wheel

off.the.emery.wheel.1The other day I got the urge to read a little more about Thurgood Marshall. The Los Angeles Public Library’s catalog led me to a book by badass civil rights lawyer Jack Greenberg (read it, it’s fabulous: Crusaders in the Courts, although it’s not the book I’m recommending). That led me to look for other books by Greenberg, and thus appeared before me a book called Off the Emery Wheel which, as you can see, was published in 1935 by an outfit in Hollywood called the Cloister Press. Clearly this was a different Jack Greenberg, but nevertheless I thought it’d be interesting to take a look.
The LAPL’s only copy is noncirculating, and, while a trip to the big library downtown is always nice even though it’s not plausible anymore to combine it with a visit to Grand Central Market since the goddamned-hipster-douchebag apocalypse and its associated fourteen dollar “revisionings” of the Egg McMuffin and suchlike nonsense, I didn’t really have time. However, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the stacks at UCLA, working on a historical project which you’ll read about here at some point, I’m sure (and which is at least somewhat related to the Hollywood BIDs, unlike this piece) so I thought I’d check their catalog. Well, Lo! And behold, they own a copy, which I promptly ordered up out of storage.
And what a pleasant little volume to hold this turned out to be!

Inscription in UCLA's copy of Off the Emery Wheel
Inscription in UCLA’s copy of Off the Emery Wheel
I mean, the poetry is abominable (which is why I’m not reproducing any here), but the book itself is an object of desire. And it’s inscribed by the author as well! And note the tidy little logo of the Cloister Press! A little more poking around and I was blessed to lay my hands on a promotional bookmark from the press, which shows that it was formerly located at 1608 Cahuenga Boulevard.
The Manne-Hole at 1608 Cahuenga Boulevard as it looked in its prime
I already knew about some of the storied history of this building, formerly home to Shelly Manne‘s Manne-hole, the subject of a sidewalk historical marker, but not that there’d been an artsy literary press in there.

Administrative Committee for the 1963 Billy Graham Southern California Crusade. Lawrence Young is on the right.
The Cloister Press was founded in 1925 by Lawrence Young, an evangelical Christian who worked with Billy Graham for many years. In 1971 Young talked to an oral historian about the Press and his evangelical work in Los Angeles:

I am in the printing business. I have a printing plant in Hollywood called the Cloister Press. I started it in 1925 when I was a lad just out of knee pants and graduated from Hollywood High School, seventeen years old. So I’ve been privileged to be a part of the Hollywood scene for a long time. …
1608 N. Cahuenga Boulevard as it appears today, home to an aggressively mediocre but conveniently 24 hour restaurant.
1608 N. Cahuenga Boulevard as it appears today, home to an aggressively mediocre but conveniently 24 hour restaurant.
Then, as the days came and went, we had many crusades, little and big. Now if my memory serves me correctly, we had a one-night stand at Hollywood Bowl with Billy Graham in 1945. [Christ for Greater Los Angeles, in cooperation with Youth for Christ held a rally in the Hollywood Bowl in 1945 with Jack Shuler as evangelist and another on June 21, 1947 with Billy Graham as evangelist.] I might be mistaken….

Published by Cloister Press in 1931
Published by Cloister Press in 1931
Young published a huge range of material over the years, including an early (1931) surfing book, The Art of Wave Riding by Ron Drummond and works by early silent film actor, poet, and photographer Sadakichi Hartmann. So that’s the story of an unexpected journey into marginally important Hollywood history. I hope you found it as interesting as I did.

The rights to those images that are hosted here rather than deep-linked into are too complex for me to work out, so I’m just going to see if I get any takedowns on them. The picture of the Manne-Hole sidewalk marker and of Kitchen 24 are ©2015


7 thoughts on “Off the Emery Wheel”

  1. Great book sleuthing. My father founded the Cloister Press of Hollywood in 1925. Publishing activity has been on hold since his death in 1987, but we hope to be issuing new titles soon. ~ Jonathan Young, Santa Barbara

    1. That’s excellent to hear, Jonathan! I wish you the best of luck in your venture. I’ve been able to look at a few more of your father’s books recently and they’re quite beautifully made. If you’d like to let me know when you’re up and running I’ll be happy to give you a plug here, for what it’s worth (more than nothing but not exactly something).

    2. Johnathon do you posses a copy of this book?
      I was messing around because I am reading “L.A. Noir” and
      Wondered if my uncle Lawerence ever did printing for Clifton who was in battle against the crime ridden establishment of LA.
      Remember how many times he took us all out to the Cafeteria?
      Cuz Jacqui

  2. Brother Jonathan Young and cousin Jacqui Young Klein, I just happened upon this site while looking for Hollywood history after seeing Once Upon a Time. . . in Hollywood. Loved the film. So true to our hometown.
    Mimi Young Barre, Lawrence Young’s daughter and former employee at Cloister Press.

    1. I remember the ad from my HHS 1982 yearbook with your entire family graduating, from your Dad to you..

  3. Hello All!

    Thank you, Michael, for the wonderful article!

    This is Lawrence Young’s granddaughter, Virginia Knox. My mother, Andrea Young, was the youngest of Lawrence’s six children. They traveled the world together, and the legacy continues.

    I visited Cloister Press as a small child-I remember faintly, playing with the little, inky metal letters and numbers, and how the shop smelled.

    We need to get David Knox, my brother, on this thread-he currently resides in the Young ancestral home in Toluca Lake, and has an original sign from Cloister Press hanging on his wall.

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