Larchmont’s own Jane Gilman celebrates a milestone

| December 29, 2022 | 0 Comments

JANE GILMAN at her retirement party in 2016 at The Ebell of Los Angeles, where she was joined by more than 160 attendees

On Jan. 13, 2023, Jane Gilman turns 90 years old. That’s a milestone worth celebrating for anyone, but especially so for a woman that many people credit with helping to turn Larchmont Boulevard and the surrounding neighborhood into the close-knit community we all know and love today.

Most of us recognize how important Jane has been in our area in historic preservation and community advocacy. Most, too, are familiar with the story of how Jane and her friend Dawne Goodwin started the Larchmont Chronicle in 1963, thus creating the glue that binds us together.

Few know, however, that Jane Gilman first planned to become a psychologist, or that she was a hat check girl in New York City, or how she met her husband, Irwin, who passed away in 2021.

Jane’s Early Years
Born in 1933 in Rye, New York, Jane graduated from Beloit College in Wisconsin, where she majored in English but also loved psychology.

“I was always interested in psychology,” she explains. “It dates back to Girl Scouts when I did volunteer work with children in the hospital. It was fascinating.”

One summer while in college, Jane worked as an assistant with psychiatric patients. “I escorted them to electric shock therapy and medical treatment.”

Although Jane enjoyed working in psychology, she decided that pursuing that vocation would require too much studying, and she turned her attention back to her major.

Perhaps it was inevitable that writing and publishing drew her interest because wordsmithing seems to run in her veins: Her older brother John was an adman responsible for the famous early tag lines, “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?” and “You can take Salem out of the country but you can’t take the country out of Salem.”

After graduating college in 1954, Jane sought work in the magazine industry in Manhattan.

New York stories
Recently, Jane has been writing short stories that document her many 1950s Manhattan adventures, including how her first post-college employment at the trade publication Air Transportation and her $50 a week salary there more than paid for her first Manhattan living situation in an all-women apartment building. Later, she upgraded to a third-floor walk-up in Greenwich Village which she shared with two girlfriends for $33 per month each. Today’s young people often live on ramen noodles when starting out; in Jane’s day, she and her roommates ate lots of spaghetti and canned chili.

Jane’s lot improved a bit when she began working at Cosmopolitan magazine in the era before Helen Gurley Brown took it in a sexier direction. Jane Gilman’s job was to fact-check such things as Ed Sullivan’s golf score.

To earn extra money, Jane secured a second job as a hat check girl at an Italian restaurant, where the tips were good, but, she says, “I was a non-entity, just a receptacle for some fedoras.”

Off to Germany
Parties, dating and a start in the literary world weren’t enough to satisfy the ever-active Jane, however, and she moved to Germany in 1956 to be the recreation director of a social service club for off-duty American soldiers.

“That’s where I met my husband,” she says with a laugh. “The odds were very good.”

Their meeting merits telling. Jane was in the service club’s office when a local German staff member ran in from the crafts room, shouting “Toter Soldat! Toter Soldat!” which means “Dead soldier!” in German. Panicked, Jane raced to the crafts room and saw a solder awkwardly splayed out on the couch. It was Irwin Gilman. He wasn’t dead, though — just dead tired. Irwin had come off guard duty and was so exhausted that he collapsed on the closest soft surface he could find.

Jane said dating in Germany was very romantic. She and Irwin enjoyed wine at the local castle, ate in beautiful restaurants and travelled to London and Vienna. “The scenery was incredible,” she remembers.

Marriage and a move to Los Angeles
After Irwin was out of the army, they married in Las Vegas and moved to Denver, Colorado, his hometown. On their honeymoon, they visited Los Angeles and San Francisco and immediately made plans to move to California.

In 1961, they drove their two beloved Volkswagens to Los Angeles and settled in West Hollywood.

A new day Dawnes

A YOUNGER Jane Gilman with Larchmont Chronicle co-founder Dawne Goodwin in 1981.

Irwin was a C.P.A., and Jane found work at an aerospace industry newspaper. That’s where she met her future partner-in-crime, Dawne Goodwin. They became friends.

“Dawne was a super salesman to trade newspapers. I was in the editorial department.” When Goodwin left her job and Gilman was laid off, Jane suggested they start their own newspaper. She had experience with shopping center newspapers with a front page of articles and ads inside.

Dawne jumped at the idea and brought Jane to see Larchmont Boulevard. Initially skeptical (“Is there a May Company? A Sears?”), Jane soon was taken by the street’s charm. Jane explains, “It was just like my hometown with angled parking and stores.”

And thus the Larchmont Chronicle was born. Working in Goodwin’s home on Poinsettia Place, Dawne handled advertising, her boyfriend did the production, Jane wrote the editorial copy, and Irwin did the accounting.

The first issue launched in September 1963 with approximately 12 pages and as many advertisers.

Jane retired after 52 years with the Chronicle, but her civic engagement never stops. She is still involved with the Wilshire Rotary Club, Hope-Net, the Assistance League and the Ebell of Los Angeles, among others.

Happy Birthday!
We thank you, Jane, for all you’ve done — and do — for our community, and we wish you a happy, happy birthday.

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Category: People

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