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Fighting smog with gas masks

Fighting smog with gas masks

Sept. 14, 1955: Motorcycle messenger Frank Stone uses a gas mask to make deliveries during smog attack.

Los Angeles’ smoggiest day occurred on Sept. 13, 1955, when ozone levels reached 0.85 parts per million in downtown Los Angeles and 0.90 ppm in Vernon. Many residents reported problems with burning eyes – a problem for motorcycle riders. The smog was almost as bad on Sept. 14, but as reported in the next day’s Los Angeles Times, one company found a solution:

A smog strike, one of the first of its kind in Los Angeles, yesterday produced some pretty startling results.

Forty motorcycle riders for a blueprint company late Tuesday went on strike against the smog.

Henry R. Davis, general manager of the company, said the men told him they refused to ride in smog that was so thick they couldn’t see. Riding one of the two-wheeled speedsters without being able to see, they pointed out, was hazardous.

Davis promptly went to a war surplus store and purchased 40 gas masks.

Yesterday, all 40 of the men were back on the job. They roared through downtown streets looking like men from Mars, with gas masks carefully adjusted.

The masks worked, too, the men said, making seeing possible and breathing more pleasant.

David may have come up with something that will be far-reaching. Policemen working intersections stopped the riders, not to give them citations, but to inquire where they got the gas masks.

An inquiry to Deputy Chief Harold Sullivan, head of the Traffic Bureau, brought this reply:

“We would certainly be interested in anything that would protect the health of our officers and enable them to perform their duties more efficiently.”

Who knows, maybe soon motorists will be taking directions from traffic officers in gas masks.

This photo accompanied the above story on page one of the Sept. 15, 1955, Los Angeles Times. The street in the above photo was not identified. The quoted story did not identify the company involved but, as found by Times Senior Copy Editor Larry Harnisch, an earlier May 26, 1955 Los Angeles Times brief identified Henry R. Davis as general manger of Rapid Blue Print Company.

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1 Comment

  1. August 26, 2014, 8:08 pm

    Unleaded gas sure makes a difference!


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