Have You Ever Wondered… Why A Neon Clock Advertising a Jewelers Stands Outside the Closed Pacific Theatre?
May 21, 2014
The year is 1928 and Warner Bros has recently opened its brand new 2700-seat, fully-equipped-for-sound Warner Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. A popular young jeweler decides to open a second Hollywood location to complement the jewelry shop he already owns at 1092 N. Western Avenue. His name is William Stromberg, and he’s soon to become the jeweler to the stars with his new store located at 6439 Hollywood Boulevard in the street level retail portion of the majestic Warner Theatre.
“Bill” Stromberg had already developed a reputation for selling high quality jewelry at affordable prices at the time. His specialty was silverware and clocks. To promote his new business, Stromberg did what many jewelers of the day did and installed an ornate street clock outside his store. Photos from 1930 show a fancy timepiece with the word “Diamonds” on the top, and the store name, Wm. Stromberg Jewelry on the face.
With the opening of his new store, Bill’s celebrity client base grew. According to Gary Stromberg, Bill’s nephew, his uncle “…kept files about celebrities, their jewelry likes and dislikes, which were scribbled on note cards. If you wanted to buy a gift for stars like Gloria Swanson or Hedy Lamar, Bill could tell you their particular taste in baubles.” Stars of the day, like Rin Tin Tin, came into the store to pose with Bill for publicity stills. Stromberg noted that, “During the silent movie era, the Stromberg clock was often captured on film during car chases. The clock and the store interior were featured prominently in the movie The Grifters in 1990.”
Over the years, it seems the clock went through a few replacements. A photo from 1956 shows a newer design with the words Wm. Stromberg and Gruen (a watch brand) positioned in neon above the face. Today’s version, with just the name Stromberg Jewelers glowing on top, reportedly dates back to the 1980’s.
The clock is now one of only three remaining street clocks in the Los Angeles area, (the other two, also once advertising jewelry stores, are in Lincoln Heights and Alhambra). It was designated #316 in the list of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments after being nominatedby Kris Dennison, a friend of the Stromberg family. At the time, he noted it was enclosed by a metal fence because, “it has been hit by a bus a couple of times.” Although only half of the clock’s neon still shines, and the Stromberg store façade is covered up, we’re glad the clock made it through to remind us of a more elegant time.
Kim Sudhalter is the President of Urban Legend PR, a full-service public relations, branding and marketing company. She consulted with the Hollywood Entertainment District in its early years, helping to attract investment and revitalize the area. Originally from Europe and New York, she is an architecture and history buff who has a deep and abiding love for Hollywood and its past.