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

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Dreamers and Schemers chronicles how Los Angeles’s pursuit and staging of the 1932 Olympic Games during the depths of the Great Depression helped fuel the city’s transformation from a seedy frontier village to a world-famous metropolis. Leading that pursuit was the “Prince of Realtors,” William May (Billy) Garland, a prominent figure in early Los Angeles. In important Dreamers and Schemers chronicles how Los Angeles’s pursuit and staging of the 1932 Olympic Games during the depths of the Great Depression helped fuel the city’s transformation from a seedy frontier village to a world-famous metropolis. Leading that pursuit was the “Prince of Realtors,” William May (Billy) Garland, a prominent figure in early Los Angeles. In important respects, the story of Billy Garland is the story of Los Angeles. After arriving in Southern California in 1890, he and his allies drove much of the city’s historic expansion in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Then, from 1920 to 1932, he directed the city’s bid for the 1932 Olympic Games. Garland’s quest to host the Olympics provides an unusually revealing window onto a particular time, place, and way of life. Reconstructing the narrative from Garland’s visionary notion to its consequential aftermath, Barry Siegel shows how one man’s grit and imagination made California history.


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Dreamers and Schemers chronicles how Los Angeles’s pursuit and staging of the 1932 Olympic Games during the depths of the Great Depression helped fuel the city’s transformation from a seedy frontier village to a world-famous metropolis. Leading that pursuit was the “Prince of Realtors,” William May (Billy) Garland, a prominent figure in early Los Angeles. In important Dreamers and Schemers chronicles how Los Angeles’s pursuit and staging of the 1932 Olympic Games during the depths of the Great Depression helped fuel the city’s transformation from a seedy frontier village to a world-famous metropolis. Leading that pursuit was the “Prince of Realtors,” William May (Billy) Garland, a prominent figure in early Los Angeles. In important respects, the story of Billy Garland is the story of Los Angeles. After arriving in Southern California in 1890, he and his allies drove much of the city’s historic expansion in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Then, from 1920 to 1932, he directed the city’s bid for the 1932 Olympic Games. Garland’s quest to host the Olympics provides an unusually revealing window onto a particular time, place, and way of life. Reconstructing the narrative from Garland’s visionary notion to its consequential aftermath, Barry Siegel shows how one man’s grit and imagination made California history.

38 review for Dreamers and Schemers: How an Improbable Bid for the 1932 Olympics Transformed Los Angeles from Dusty Outpost to Global Metropolis

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Hamilton

    There is so much to like about “Dreamers and Schemers” by Pulitzer-winning author Barry Siegel. Reading his account of the years leading up to the 1932 Olympic Games, I can easily see why he was attracted to the subject and the force behind it. He tracks the event back to its origins with the arrival of William May Garland in Los Angele, decades before it became known as a major city on the world stage, long before “Billy” made his rise to the loftiest heights of wealth and influence. It didn’t There is so much to like about “Dreamers and Schemers” by Pulitzer-winning author Barry Siegel. Reading his account of the years leading up to the 1932 Olympic Games, I can easily see why he was attracted to the subject and the force behind it. He tracks the event back to its origins with the arrival of William May Garland in Los Angele, decades before it became known as a major city on the world stage, long before “Billy” made his rise to the loftiest heights of wealth and influence. It didn’t take Billy long to figure out Southern California—and Los Angeles in particular—had much to offer that couldn’t be found anywhere else. He quickly started buying real estate at the lowest rung, parlaying each purchase into something grander. He married well and was a shrewd negotiator, especially when buying up what would become prime Southern California real estate. What started as a ploy to attract more people to Los Angeles as a direct means of increasing his own wealth, soon became an all-consuming mission for Billy. He was convinced that hosting the Olympic Games would make people flock to his adopted hometown in droves, thus pushing up the value of his land holdings while garnering the recognition the nascent city deserved. Hell-bent on convincing the power brokers of Los Angeles County and the International Olympic Committee that LA offered the most ideal weather and amenities for hosting the Olympic competitions, Billy made numerous trips to Europe by land and sea. He never let his victories or defeats slow him down. What I loved the best about the author’s narrative is the depth of his research and his ability to create a vivid and captivating chronicle of events that had huge impacts not only on Southern California, but also the way the world would come to view the City of Angels. I so enjoyed learning about LA’s founding fathers and the indelible mark they made on California and the world. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history, as so many world events are covered along the way.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rene Salomon

    Brilliant writing by Barry Siegel in this well researched , interesting book about the wide open time of Los Angeles and its major boost in putting on the 1932 Olympics. Our protagonist is the whirlwind of a realtor named Billy Garland. Mr Garland is quite an operator, a right-winger who thought everything he did was right, and anyone who stood in front of him was wrong. If this sounds contemporary, not much changes with time. To his credit, he did get things done, by hook or by crook, first for Brilliant writing by Barry Siegel in this well researched , interesting book about the wide open time of Los Angeles and its major boost in putting on the 1932 Olympics. Our protagonist is the whirlwind of a realtor named Billy Garland. Mr Garland is quite an operator, a right-winger who thought everything he did was right, and anyone who stood in front of him was wrong. If this sounds contemporary, not much changes with time. To his credit, he did get things done, by hook or by crook, first for himself , in getting very wealthy in real estate and then, through, sheer force of will, bringing the Olympics to Los Angeles. Mr Siegel goes into great detail in the negotiation segment of the games. The ups and downs of the worlds political state, and then the despair of the depression frames the pulling off of the games as an impossibility. But, as we all know, the games went off, and to amazing success. However, framing it all is the great pathos of the American populations struggles, and indeed the participating athletes struggles. The stories of gold medal winner, American George Roth had to "thumb a ride home" only to join the breadline, and triple gold medal winner Helene Madison returning home to Seattle and being refused a job by the city as a swimming instructor !!! Its a packed 200 pages, of sports , politics, city planning, and human behaviour at its best and worst.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Al

    An excellent history of early Los Angeles and the struggle to obtain the 1932 Olympics and to promote them and finance them. The roadblocks were many including the Great Depression, the distance and difficult and expensive travel for the European and Asian athletes. Also, Los Angeles lacked the facilities for housing and venues for the games. It was also a biography of the primary promoter and visionary of Los Angeles and the 1932 Olympics. The book has mini biographies of many of the athletes An excellent history of early Los Angeles and the struggle to obtain the 1932 Olympics and to promote them and finance them. The roadblocks were many including the Great Depression, the distance and difficult and expensive travel for the European and Asian athletes. Also, Los Angeles lacked the facilities for housing and venues for the games. It was also a biography of the primary promoter and visionary of Los Angeles and the 1932 Olympics. The book has mini biographies of many of the athletes and a section about the 1936 Berlin Olympics. A very readable and informative book for anyone interested in the history of Los Angeles and/or the Olympic Games.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I wanted to like this more than I did. In fact, I ended up abandoning it about midway through it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Malis

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    Donald L Davis

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sharonkc

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  9. 5 out of 5

    Raleigh Gerber

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hamilton-bunch

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paul

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    Michael

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dеnnis

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sunnymay

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    Sam

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    Hilary Nelson

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    Frederick Rotzien

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    Julie

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    Kim Ellis

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    Lady Goodman

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    Steff

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    A. Buckmaster

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    Joshua

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    Douglass Abramson

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  32. 5 out of 5

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    lou brown

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    Deborah Gerhart

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    Brian Hart

  36. 5 out of 5

    Margo

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    Mary Simmons

  38. 5 out of 5

    Jodie Marie

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