Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Around Town: Billy Curland


Back in 1880, when Bennett and Bessie Curland left Russia, the integration of the tiny town of La Cañada was the last thing on their minds. When the Curlands’ ship docked in New York the young couple, like so many others, emerged into a new world and a new future.

Bennett was a tailor. He soon found work in America.

Bessie began to have babies. Six children were born in New York, then the family moved to Milwaukee, where another child was born, and finally to California for the birth of the youngest.

In Southern California, the eight Curland children, all bright, attractive and talented, began to set down roots.

The fourth oldest was Fannie. From the age of 10, Fannie showed talent. She began to sing and dance in vaudeville. By 1910, Bennett and Bessie had moved to San Diego, but Fannie remained in Los Angeles, where she worked as an actress. Fannie also found love. She secretly married a gentile, to the dismay of her parents. And then, tragedy struck. In 1914, Fannie died. Although the coroner ruled the death a suicide, her father told the Los Angeles Times, “I believe my daughter was murdered.”

The third child was Abraham Curland, known as “Abe.” In California, Abe fell in love and married Lillian Byrens. By the 1930s, Abe and Lillian moved to a find house in the 4700 block of Indianola Way. They were one of the few Jewish families to live in La Cañada.

Abe and Lillian had three children — William, Betty and Melvin. Billy Curland attended local schools and then enrolled at Pasadena Junior College, from which he graduated in 1939. Billy was a good athlete and a varsity swimmer.

When the war broke out, Billy Curland signed up along with his buddies, Ross Woodbury and Danny Shuler. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Air Force and was assigned to the 753rd Bomber Squadron, 458th (“Heavy”) Bomber Group.

Somewhere after the Battle of the Rhine, but before the Battle of the Bulge, Billy Curland’s plane went down. Lt. William H. Curland was killed on Oct. 30, 1944. He is buried at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Belgium (Plot D, Row 29, Grave 8), and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and one Purple Heart.

On Memorial Day 2010, we hope to unveil a new plaque in La Cañada Flintridge’s Memorial Park, bearing the name of 2nd Lt. William H. Curland, U.S. Army Air Force. May his memory be a blessing for his family and our town.


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at anitasusan.brenner@yahoo.com.

Published Wednesday, August 26, 2009 10:10 PM PDT
Around Town:
Billy Curland
By Anita Susan Brenner

1 comment:

mike messing said...

Anita, thank you for the historical information on the Curland's. My brother in law Bill Byrens was a very close cousin to Billy Curland and often discussed his relationship with Billy in their formative years. According to Bill, Billy attended Pasadena City College and UCLA with Jackie
Robinson and knew him well. In addition, Bill Byrens remained very lose to Billy's younger brother Mel until his death several years ago. Bill Byrens who also served in the Army Air
Corp in WW II has also recently passed on. My sister Beverly Byrens reamins very close to Mel's wife Percy who currently resides in Idaho.
Thank you for the interesting article and the information about Billy who made the ultimate sacrafice in defense of his country and ideals.