There was a time when the name “Burbank” was nationally recognized. The TV comedy show “Laugh-In” and The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson made Burbank a household name referencing it with the popular mocking proclamation, “Welcome to Beautiful Downtown Burbank!”
Though a joke, it brought attention to the city. Now, few people under 40 years of age remember “Laugh-In” or Johnny Carson or Bob Hope. Which explains why the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority decided to change the name of the airport from Bob Hope to Hollywood Burbank.
According to airport officials, the facility has seen a drop in traffic from nearly six million passengers in 2007 to four million in 2014.
Any Burbank resident would question these numbers by the huge amount of development that has occurred over that time period. And now the airport wants to demolish the terminal building with an even larger one apparently believing that if you build a bigger airport, more people will come.
Quite frankly, those who live near the airport can only negatively be impacted with increased traffic who don’t desire a mini-LAX in their backyard.
In their quest for money, the commissioners have trashed history. When the airport took on the Bob Hope moniker shortly after the entertainer died 13 years ago this month at the age of 100, it was an honor well deserved.
Bob Hope was considered by many as the most popular performer of the 20th century, achieving success in all aspects of the entertainment industry: vaudeville, radio, film, television. Additionally, through his USO tours during World War Two and future conflicts, he made entertaining the troops the good deed that celebrities should do for Americans fighting overseas.
Hope taped most of his television specials in Burbank at NBC Studios. Plus, he lived most of his life in Toluca Lake. His name attached to the airport is a tribute to his link to the city.
Sometimes changing names from the past makes sense. It wasn’t until the 1970’s when Burroughs High revised its Injunettes cheerleader squad to Indianettes.
And just last year a town in Spain finally changed its name “Castrillo Matajudios” meaning “Fort Kill the Jews.” Well, that only took 500 years since the Spanish Inquisition.
Other times replacing names eliminates the history of an area.
Back in 1993 the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors changed the name of Brooklyn Avenue in East Los Angeles to Cesar Chavez since the demographics went from Jewish to Spanish. In a few decades from now when a different demographic is predominant, surely there will be another rebranding.
I work at a school named after Herbert Hoover who often appears on lists of the worst U.S. presidents. Hoover High opened just a few weeks before Black Tuesday, the beginning of the Great Depression. Even students who attend there don’t know who he is. Should the Glendale Unified School District rebrand the school with a more well respected chief executive in order to attract more students?
I understand the appeal of the name “Hollywood” but its geographical location is Burbank, so the proper name should be Burbank-Hollywood Airport. Or, if the main reason for the change is to attract travelers, call it the Ikea Hollywood Airport since the city will soon be home to the largest Ikea store in the USA, and charge naming rights.
Glendale High recently named its auditorium as the John Wayne Performing Arts Center. That makes sense since Wayne was an alumnus. But if the goal is to attract people, calling it the Kim Kardashian Performing Arts Center would have been better. Sure, she never attended the school, but she did consider running for mayor of the city once.
Meanwhile, Burbank has the Robert R. Ovrom Park and Community Center. I wonder how many years it will take before people scratch their heads not knowing that Ovrom was a city manager.
By the way, has Burbank ever named a building after a teacher?
Tom Marshall taught history to thousands of students for more than 50 years at Burroughs High School. Yet his lifelong dedication to kids is not memorialized. It’s as if he never existed, his past vanished. You would be hard pressed thinking of a worthier individual who positively affected people’s lives, not some city employee who opened the floodgates to the daily traffic jams that clog Burbank streets.
At least Burbank still has a Bob Hope Drive though it is the shortest street in town.
Every generation has a duty to maintain, not eliminate, history regardless of its marketability.
It behooves all of us to remember Hope’s most famous song, “Thanks for the Memory.”