Sometime in the mid-1950s, a local wag noticed the “Wildasin” station on the Santa Fe Harbor Subdivision rail line, near Slauson and Normandie Avenues. He conjectured that the name was derived from “Wild As Sin, ” and imagined that at one time it might have been a neighborhood of ill repute, where people went to have a “rip-snorting good time.”
Nothing could be further from the truth, according to Magadalena Wildasin (pronounced WIL-da-sun), who had lived in the area since her birth in 1888. “Please be advised that the vicinity of Slauson Ave and Wildasin Station on the Santa Fe never was ‘Wild-As-Sin, ” she wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “On the contrary, it was a beautiful, peaceful farming community populated by the finest types of Americans.”
John Wildasin, the fourth child of Samuel and Catherine Wildasin, was born in 1851 in Muscatine County, Iowa. In 1875, he took over his father’s cattle business and operated it until 1884.
John Wildasin married Magadalena Crusius on October 12, 1878. In 1884, the Wildasins moved to Los Angeles, and bought a forty-acre plot of land near Slauson and Normandie. The tract had good railroad access via the Santa Fe line along Slauson. The Wildasins raised dairy cattle, alfalfa, fruit and other produce. In later years, Wildasin subdivided the property and sold several lots, but maintained the family residence between 57th and 58th Streets, just east of Normandie. (The portion of 58th near the property was actually named Wildasin Avenue at first.)
By all accounts, Wildasin, as well as the people who bought lots and lived near him, were average, straight-laced, conservative farmers. They occasionally got involved in local politics, but for the most part, concentrated on farming.
The Wildasins had three daughters: Louesa, Florence Nightingale, and Magdalena May. They (as far as I can tell) never married or had children, but continued to live on the Wildasin ranch long after their parents had passed away (John in 1928 and Magdalena in 1943). Magadalena in particular was part of the Los Angeles social scene, and was active in organizations such as the Native Daughters of the Golden West, a patriotic group for pioneer Californians.
The neighborhood around the Wildasin lands started to change in the 1930s. More houses began to appear, and farming eventually gave way to light industry. A lumberyard occupied the area near the railroad for many years. The social upheaveals of the 1960s and 1970s also brought changes to the neighborhood, which became poorer and increasingly crime-ridden.
Magdalena was a product of her era and upbringing and simply could not approve of many aspects of “modern” life in her later years. When film star Ingrid Bergman returned to the United States in 1950 after having an affair with an Italian film director, Magdalena wrote a letter in the Los Angeles Times condemning Bergman for “flout[ing] and defy[ing] the moral code,” and lamenting the effects of her behavior on young people. In another letter, she wrote “If the young people before World War I and before World War II had acted in the uncivilized manner in which they are acting today, we would have no United States of America today.” But she also did what she could to help, for example, being a frequent donor to a fund enabling disadvantaged children to go to summer camp. Magadalena died in 1987, almost a year shy of her 100th birthday.
Today, the Wildasin lands play host to various uses, including houses dating back to the 1930s, as well as apartment buildings, auto repair shops and other small businesses. The old Wildasin homestead is long gone, and a large apartment house now occupies the site.
Even the name Wildasin is fading from public memory, although official LA City Planning documents still refer to the area as the “Wildasin Tract.”
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“Metro”) now owns the former Santa Fe railroad tracks along Slauson. The transit agency has proposed using it for light rail or other transit project. Doing so would both improve transportation and encourage redevelopment opportunities in this neglected area.
Guinn, James Miller. History of the State of California and an extended history of its southern coast counties. p. 620
“Ham On Ryon” Los Angeles Times, Nov 7, 1955 and Nov 21, 1955 (origin of name)
“LA DOW ” Los Angeles Times, Oct 3, 1896
Los Angeles Times, Oct 9, 1928 (John’s obit)
Los Angeles Times, Nov 11, 1943 (Magadalena’s obit)
“Story Concerning Ingrid Bergman Draws Comments from Readers” Los Angeles Times, Feb 10, 1957
Wildasin, Magdalena. “Disappointed by Youth [letter]” Los Angeles Times, Oct 23, 1967