While taking this image, former Los Angeles Times staff photographer Art Rogers remembers “someone was using a jackhammer and suddenly stopped and all the rabbit ears went up.”
This photo ran the width of the page across the top of the daily L.A. Times picture page. It was well-received by editors and readers everywhere — except at City Hall.
Los Angeles Times columnist Gene Sherman explained Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron’s reaction in 1948:
About two years ago you may recall the startling picture taken by Times Photographer Art Rogers. It showed Los Angeles Airport framed above a row of bunnies alert along the east end, ears aloft. For some peculiar reason the picture created quite a stir….
… Setting some kind of precedent, Mayor Bowron categorically denied the photograph. When the picture later appeared in a national magazine, the mayor again challenged the integrity of photographic plate and flash bulb and informed the world that the idea of jackrabbits on the airport was pure poppycock…
.… From time to time passengers in giant air liners are amused when giant jacks race the plane on take-off. Until now, none of the rabbits has left the ground. …
A week later Mayor Bowron capitulated and visited Sherman at The Times office. Bowron presented Sherman with a real airport bunny. Sherman named the rabbit “Poppycock.”
In a 1955 column, Sherman wrote:
Mr. Robert A. McMillan, general manger of International Airport, received a desperate request from a lady named Willie Mae Rogers in New York who happened to mention over a lunch table that she’d seen hundreds of rabbits scampering over the runways down in Inglewood during a take-off some years ago. Apparently everyone had laughed at her. …
… Mr. McMillan got a copy of [Art Rogers’] picture and dispatched it hurriedly to Miss Rogers with a letter.
“Yes Willie Mae, there are rabbits at Los Angeles International Airport.”
In 1959, The Times published a full page of photos by Art Rogers of wildlife — including more rabbits — at the airport. A week later Sherman followed up with:
Art Rogers, the Audubon of the airport, had a fascinating page of pictures of various fauna that inhabit L.A. International in The Times last week.
It was Rogers, who can shoot A-bombs and zebras with equal skill, who straggled Angeltown a few years ago with a picture showing a horde of cottontails hippity-hopping down the airplane trails.
Much to the consternation of former Mayor Bowron, the place thereafter was referred to as International Hareport.
In a 1961 publicity stunt for dedication of a new terminal, a 6-foot-tall “rabbit” named Harvey joined the festivities. As reported in The Times:
A 6 ft.-1 in. rabbit named Harvey Lepodorae flew into Los Angeles International Airport by jet Thursday to attend opening ceremonies for the $70 million new terminal. …
“When I left here in 1946,” he said … “this place was strictly Rabbitsville.”
He was referring to the embarrassing fact that when the airport first became a terminal for major airlines back in 1946 there probably were more rabbits on the scene than passengers.
The rabbits were such a feature of the early days that they became nationally famous through a prize-winning picture made by Times photographer Art Rogers, who crept up on the airfield one day at dawn and caught hundred of them flocking around a couple of DC-3s.
By 1990, the wildlife at LAX had changed. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Harvey reported that pigeons had replaced rabbits as the scourge of LAX. He wrote:
Four decades ago, Times photographer Art Rogers (now retired) took a striking shot of the fearless intruders.
Most of the rabbits, says Mario Polselli, the chief of airport operations, were eventually eliminated by a local force: Foxes.
Now, however, “most of the foxes are gone” as well, Polselli noted this week. “Some of them were run over, I guess. I hadn’t seen any for a long time and then one day, three or four weeks ago, I saw one running parallel to the runways.”
The jackrabbit photo by Art Rogers was published as a double-page spread in the Dec. 2, 1946, edition of Life magazine.
Rogers died on Dec. 20, 2011. His obituary appeared in The Times: Art Rogers dies at 93; L.A. Times photographer.
This post was originally published on Aug. 4, 2011.