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When presidents lived in Compton


The last time most Angelenos remember seeing President George Herbert Walker Bush travel through the city’s southside was on May 7, 1992, following the path of the latest Los Angeles riot. Likely during that motorcade, the 41st president passed by his old neighborhood–in Compton.

You read correctly. Compton. The Hub City was the childhood home of baseball greats Ozzie Smith and Eddie Murray, rap stars Snoop Dogg and Ice T, and even actor Kevin Costner. Each hailed from or once resided the city.

Now add to the list former President George H. W. Bush. President and Barbara Bush lived briefly at 624-A S. Santa Fe Ave. near Myrrh Street, just south of the city’s downtown area.

Although the family’s stay, like the “Star Wars” prologue, can be described as: ”  . . .  a long, long time ago in a place far, far away,” this stop from Sept. 7, 1949 through April 15, 1950, was typical of Bush’s 60-plus years of near nonstop domestic forays and international influence.

The old apartment building where they lived was demolished in 2002. A series of single-family homes mark the block where the dynastic family called home and gave birth to their second child and eldest daughter, Pauline Robinson Bush, who died of leukemia at age 3 in 1953. At that time, the nation’s 43rd president, a 4-year-old George W. Bush, would be Compton’s second future commander-in-chief.

After graduating from Yale in 1948, George H.W. Bush began to forge his career as an oil executive, politician and national benefactor, the latter being his then-unexpected role as an early board member of the United Negro College Fund. His work-a-day life in 1949, however, was selling oil-drilling equipment for a Dresser Industries’ subsidiary called International Derrick and Equipment Co. During this time he also made sales calls in Bakersfield, Ventura and in Whittier.

“It was a lovely little apartment,” Mrs. Bush was quoted a saying some years ago. She was in her second trimester of pregnancy when they moved to the Southland. The family had a “little mutt” for the kids, the president remembered, in effort to set up home much like a typical young couple.

Bush remained with Dresser Industries (originally a supplier of a hard rubber cap or “packer” to plug an oil well once extraction began) until 1951 when he and Texas oil executive John Overby founded Bush-Overby Oil Development Co. Inc.

A few years later Bush would co-found Texas-based Zapata Petroleum, and, by the early 1960s, would become a millionaire and begin his career in politics moving from congressman to chair of the Republican National Committee to U.S. Ambassador to director of the CIA, vice president and, eventually, president in 1988.

Other members of the Bush family include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Neil Bush, Marvin Bush and the youngest, Dorothy Bush-Koch.

The former president has been hospitalized in Houston since Nov. 29, 2012, battling bronchitis. Officials at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, direct well-wishers to “drop him a line,” stating “…we are very diligent about making sure such requests reach his desk” at: The Office of George Bush, P.O. Box 79798, Houston, Texas 77279-9798.