Voices from Willowbrook

Willowbrook, a community near Watts and Compton, originally was a farming area settled in the 1800s that derived its name from the willow trees and rambling brook that decorated its landscape. This year, we are featuring Willowbrook on our website to highlight its vibrant community and burgeoning development.

Thanks to a $600 million-investment from Los Angeles County in new gardens, building, public art and infrastructure, the community is poised to emerge as a regional hub for health care, transportation, culture and civic activity. Catalyzing its resurgence is the development of three modernist buildings on the New Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus: A Center for Public Health, the new MLK Outpatient Center and a new state-of-the-art hospital.  To date we have featured Wilowbrook in our monthly architectural feature and with the digital version of the book, Willowbrook Is… Willowbrook Es.

But nothing is more valuable than the voices from the community. Willowbrook is home to residents and retains an old fashioned sense of neighborhood. For the next two months we will be featuring one interview each week with a Willowbrook resident.  The interviews were recorded by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; each voice is unique but the common thread is the pride residents have in their homes and community.

Oscar Neal

I relocated to the Watts area in 1946. I’ve been married 56 years. My wife and I both graduated from Jordan High School.

It’s kind of hard to look at America without addressing some of its problems which are obesity, drugs and killings. And moving forward we need to get away from what’s red and what’s blue. And begin to understand what America is, red, white and blue.

The Watts / Willowbrook Community with open arms looks forward to the opening of the Martin Luther King Hospital.

I got married and I had to get a job. And I went to work for a company, North American Aviation. And because of my high school education, I became a machinist. A machinist’s canvass is his metal. It’s not like thinking of an artist, where his canvass is a board. My canvass was metal. And I was a very good machinist. So being that my canvas was metal, I was able to send my kids to college. My older son, the lawyer, I was able to send him to Howard. My canvas was metal.

Anna Moore

I moved here 47 years ago, and I started working at the library in 1981. A lot of changes have been made here. It used to be an open field out there. Now we have new homes. We have children coming into the library checking out books. They really enjoy it. And I try reward them when they read books. They tell me what they have read. And I have prizes for them that I bought with my own money.

I talk with the kids and they look forward to coming and meeting Mrs. Moore. If she’s not there they say, “I’ll come back later.”

Things like that really touch my heart. I love people and I like to do whatever I can for the community.

Delores Glass

Community, family and God — that’s everything to me.

I’ve been a resident of Willowbrook for 49 years. I came to Los Angeles as a small child from Arkansas. As a result of our family being from a rural setting, we sought out a similar neighborhood. Willowbrook was known for being the country in the city, so to speak, having 350 foot by 50 foot lots. And so that’s where my family decided to purchase property. And our family has had property here ever since.

We have a rich history. The name Willowbrook came forth as a result of this land being a marsh land with these stream and willow trees that originally was part of a ranchero situation because of the fact that most of the people that purchased property here purchased that property because they wanted to raise livestock. They wanted to have the extended garden areas and a lot of space for them and their families.

I still reside in Willowbrook. I have no intention of living any other place. I still marvel at the fact that many of the families from Willowbrook to Mona and Imperial to El Segundo. They’ve been there for fifty plus years and they still maintain their property there. It’s a good feeling to know that the comraderie is still here. The sense of community is still here.