Thursday, August 18, 2011

By Request

I got an email from someone wondering if I'd post a picture from El Centro, looking toward the water tower. "I've been away from home for a long time," he wrote. "I'd just love to see it."

Here you go. (Also, this.)


Mister Earl said...

Love those houses from the early 1900s. Love the song. The back story sounds intriguing.

kustom55 said...

I wasn’t feeling overly homesick this morning until I read this post...then saw the video. I mean this in a sad but good way, thanks for posting this!

Judy Williams said...

I'm all teary reading your post and listening to Simon and Garfunkel. What a great house. Nothing like asking for something and getting it.

This is great.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

JF said...

I always go out of my way to walk down El Centro, especially this part. I'm always curious of the old red line trolleys used to go down the middle of El Centro. It's unusual that the street is so wide there, sometimes it's because of rails down the middle.

Trish said...


Back when that concert was held, a friend lived in that house. No trolleys running down El Centro at the time, but the wide street made for a nice bike ride without dodging vehicles.

I always knew that if I could see the water tower, I could find my way home.

Am a bit out of range to see it via anything other than this internet connection now, but this view reminds me of simpler times.

Anonymous said...

I'm crying now. I didn't write you, but I come here every day to remember home. Thank you for this blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi I saw this in another thread:

"It is a working class town you know, as evidenced by the poor quality housing stock. Just look at some of your elderly neighbors in their now $1,000,000, clap board homes. They are school librarians, cafeteria workers, phone company workers and admin. assistants who bought in the 70s, maybe 80s. Some homes, of course, are of quality, but the majority are very low quality."

I'll never forget the shock when I visited South Pasadena in the late nineties after being away for 5 or 6 years.

My parents were getting ready to turn a handsome profit on a house they bought in the early 70's.

It seemed like the place had gone through a major gentrification upgrade in places. In some small cramped driveways of modest houses (upgraded to the latest paint and other features) I'd see a BMW parked. I walked to around Mission and Meridian where I remembered there were some of those very run down clapboard house who were usually occupied by low income renters. They were gone! Instead there was a posh mini mall of boutique shops.

My family was able to move from Northeast L.A. to South Pasadena in the early 70's because the town was kind of "frozen in place" by the threat of the 710 freeway in those days, i.e some people were bailing. We were able to buy a huge house that had gone to seed somewhat for a ridiculously low price and the seller never told us that we'd either have a freeway offramp two doors north of us (westerly alternative) or the sunken freeway (meridian alternative) right behind our property.

My gentrification shock was simply kind of an after effect due to the fears of the freeway having dissipated somewhat.

But no! This is not exactly true. There was also an election going on at the time of my visit. NO FREEWAY is a feature stamped on every election sign in every front yard. Newcomers to South Pasadena set down their roots quite furiously it seems to me.

The ambiance and geography of the town still fascinates me to this day but the siege mentality of the residents is VERY interesting as well. I wonder if any writer has really given this the attention it deserves.

Anonymous said...

"I'm always curious of the old red line trolleys used to go down the middle of El Centro."

I remember an old acquaintance of mine who was a raving train fanatic once pointing out some old trolley line remnants to me on Gravelia.

Now you have the light rail (for better or worse). Everthing old is new again - sort of.

Green Guy said...

Gentrification has happened all over the country as young families appreciate old architecture and restoration. It has been written about extensively. You people who call Victorian/craftsman homes "clapboard" probably put Stickley furniture into a yard sale. Jesus.

Love this, Laurie

Jason said...

Amen, Green Guy. And why bring up a rude comment Laurie closed? WTF?

Mary said...

I sure love my low quality, clap board house.

"siege mentality" is one way of describing preserving a three square mile city and its personality and charm. This city is used by Hollywood as a back lot for Anytown, USA. We love and appreciate it. My old home has been brought back to its 19th Century splendor. Hooray for clap board!

Laurie, I particularly love this shot. I live nearby.

Mister Earl said...

Clapboard beats McManion every time!

Anonymous said...

Hey folks,

I applaud the old-timers of South Pasadena who fought the good fight and kept the freeway away. I benefited from that. I came from lower middle class roots in Northeast L.A. Moving to South Pasadena was my family's attempt at upward mobility. And when my mom sold our house - it paid off swimmingly - monetarily at least. She worked very hard all her life barely rising to middle management and put a lot of sweat equity into that house.

However, some Southern California towns were not so lucky. Lynwood comes to mind. Yes, the home town of Weird Al Yankovich and Kevin Costner (who lived in La Canada for a time) bisected by the Century Freeway. Where did South Pasadena succeed where Lynwood failed?

Fights leave their mark on people folks. They may make you stronger but they can also make you meaner.

Never forget that no man is an island and you don't live in a vacuum..

Every day north/south commuters on Orange Grove, Fremont, Fair Oaks, etc curse you on their way to their destinations. I've seen their remarks in internet forums like this one.

While you celebrate your picture perfect slice of Mayberry RFD never forget that you may owe some gratitude to neighborhoods in Alhambra and El Sereno - they fought too.

Also AFAIK the idea of the freeway hasn't really gone away. It will never go away as long as there's powerful economic forces wanting a a more profitable way to ship their goods out of the Port of Long Beach.

On Google Earth I can fit on my laptop screen where the 710 dumps out at Valley Blvd in El Sereno and then where it begins again at California Blvd in Pasadena. Somebody, somewhere is still wondering why those two points still aren't joined.

Anonymous said...

"And why bring up a rude comment Laurie closed?"

Yeah it may have been a bit rude but it was kind of sad to see the conversation sort of shut down that way.

The banner says "don't be shy, join the conversation"..

"Clapboard beats McManion every time!"

The most famous clapboard house in South Pasadena will always be for me the house where John Carpenter's Halloween was filmed.

Hey I'm so old South Pasadena that I remember walking to school right by that house and seeing the carpenters fixing it up so they so film the opening scene to the movie. That was the LAST thing they did on the production. I remember thinking - oh how nice that somebody is restoring that abandoned house (Caltrans probably owned it.)

A year or so later it was back to its neglected state.

Trish said...

actually, Green Guy, Anon is right about clapboard houses---there used to be a ton of them around SoPas. And NO, they were NOT mis-labeled Victorians. Many fewer Victorians or Victorian styled homes in SoPas than the clapboards that were prevalent, esp along the supposed 710 corridor. CalTrans bought up a bunch of those homes and then rented them out with the stipulation that if they ever got the green light, folks might have no more than 30 days to get out before the wrecking ball came in. Eventually, CalTrans needed money and sold out some of those homes, tho some still remain in their hands. Some have, like a lot of the rest of the world, been upgraded, some still look as they did. That IS what makes SoPas what it is.

SoPas is what it is and that is how when I was watching the NFL game tonight I saw an ad for a Detroit Lions credit card; that I recognized Mission street at Meridian when the Dad was walking his daughter North across Mission. Not Detroit, but SoPas. My little hometown.

And yes, I started living in SoPas before the Altos was finished building and before Via del Rey was closed off, before Pronto closed and when B&H Bicycles was still on the corner of Monterey and Fair Oaks, before Pavilions was a twinkle in anyone's eye. Lots of good memories I hold dear and thoroughly enjoy remembering through Laurie's pics.

Again, thanks Laurie for taking a pic of one of SoPas' landmarks.

Laurie said...

FYI: I shut down the former conversation because it was insulting. My blog, my rules. Kinda like throwing a drunk jackass out of my dinner party.

Carry on.

Anonymous said...

I wrote you the email. Thank you for this picture. I love your blog as you know. I can't believe it is being taken over in comments by someone looking to argue. I have always loved your regular commenters like Mister Earl and DbDubya and Judy.

This was a special post for me. I don't know when I will be able to see South Pas again. Thank you for all the work you do treasuring the city and taking it into the future.

Laurie said...

Your welcome, emailer Anon. I love this place. Please keep in touch here. (And come up with a nickname! My head is swimming from all the anonymous comments lately!)

Anonymous said...

Boo. (Another anonymous comment.) ;-0

Arguing Guy said...

Pronto? Oh my Trish you ARE old South Pasadena. A ways back I tried as hard as heck to remember that name!

Now I remember in Highland Park or Eagle Rock there was a Pronto there or did it have some other name? For some reason I'm thinking it was Fiesta or ....

I guess not I just checked Wikipedia.

Laurie said...

Welcome, Arguing Guy! I must give props for that nick.

I have some wonderful old photos of many of the old South Pas stores and homes over the years. Recently, I even snagged a picture of the old Ritz theater next to Gus's from back in the 1930s. (Even our local history librarian didn't have one!) I am planning a Patch column called South Pas Then and Now for sometime this winter.

I've had the good fortune of researching the history of this place to a degree I've never researched any other place I've lived. I'm kind of obsessed. I've spoken to historians and spent hours pouring over old articles, books and photo collections. What I am most pleased about, as a somewhat new resident, is how the current South Pasadena has many, many residents who want to preserve and build on our city's history.

South Pas could have become just another bedroom community. It's not. It's a real, thriving city in its own right. We owe that to people who had the presence of mind to repair and restore, protect and preserve -- but move forward. Mission Street could have become another nondescript strip mall. (You should see the photos of 1940s Fair Oaks before the Vons strip malls.) The 710 freeway could have destroyed the historic homes in Oaklawn and on Buena Vista as well as the only existing Green and Green bridge. It could have bisected a TINY city and cut off the middle school from half the city. It's not as simple as the pro 710 folks make it sound. (And there are plenty of alternatives, written by people a lot smarter than me or most of the people ranting about how "selfish" South Pas is for not making it more convenient for someone else. Sigh.)

I've lived in Los Angeles for over 23 years -- from Hollywood to Venice, Palms and West LA, with six months in Santa Monica. I've lived in questionable areas, downright dangerous areas, ritzy areas and gentrifying areas.
I've never come across a community like South Pas. It's the home town I always wanted. It's special not just because of the incredible architectural treasure trove of old buildings and homes, not just becasue of the fantastic public school system but because of the lovely community that is diverse in culture but unified in caring for the place where they live. That, my friends, is worth fighting for.

The San Gabriel Valley as a whole is a special place. It's made up of several different communities, but we all share a love of the region and the lifestyle we enjoy here. I'm excited to see how many young families, artists, preservationists and young entrepreneurs are paying attention to Highland Park. Same goes for Altadena. I look forward to being an oldtimer in 30 years, talking about the changes I've seen.

(As always, I welcome discussion and debate here. But no ad hominem attacks, please.)

Laurie said...

Incidentally, my hope for South Pas (and the US in general) is that in my daughrer's lifetime, there will be no more "working class" (read: blighted) areas separate from "gentrified" areas. I like to imagine cities offering affordable housing, beautiful parks, good schools and public transportation that everyone can enjoy.

Laurie said...

Wow, people are paying weird attention to this thread. Got an email pointing out my many typos and grammar errors above. Oh well. It is what it is when you rush a comment while multitasking and don't bother to revise. ;-)

Mister Earl said...

Really? What is wrong with people? Who cares about your typos and grammar errors, which I didn't even notice.

Arguing Guy said...

Well Laurie from Austin, TX I'll be checking in from time to time to see your progress. My mom's family was from Texas originally.

In fact my mom's family (new immigrant/refugees from Texas to Southern California) was fortunate enough to be bought out of Chavez Ravine by the O'Malley family back in the day. Yeah there's an interesting piece of history there for you.

My mom told me she remembers her neighbors in Chavez Ravine herding goats back then. Yeah, wouldn't that would be a picture?

Yeah, you've got the bug something like I've got. That impression that the hills (especially the hills), the flora, the Santa Ana Winds, the sun and even the water flowing through the Arroyo Seco to the LA River makes on a person. Wouldn't that be a fever dream to see all that ugly concrete ripped up and restored to what it was.

It indeed makes for a special mix in South Pasadena. I haven't yet found another 3 square miles with such a variation of character. I don't know - ever single section of the town, every neighborhood, has spoken to me personally in so many ways. Geez I must have pedaled my 10 speed through just about every street in that town.

But with all due respect I believe you're only scratching the surface.

The real story is the people, the families. You know how South Pasadena formed do you? From those strange beginnings to what it is today and what forces brought people to the town and kept them there and convinced some like me to leave.

That's a tall order. Take your time. You have a young family to raise and that of course always takes priority. Good luck and best wishes. I'll be checking in.

Green Guy said...

Laurie is too nice to say it but I will. Argument dude, you're a condescending jerk. If you have some big revealing story about South Pas, write and publish it. Don't talk down to an award winning writer/photographer on her own friendly blog to make yourself feel like a big shot.

Sorry, Laurie. I can't stand this stuff, especially toward someone as nice and polite as you.

Laurie said...

It's all good, Green Guy. I appreciate the kind words. When you are a writer, there are always readers who have their own ideas about what you should write about. Even as a photographer I have received email with "suggestions" about how I should have shot a subject. It just means people are paying attention to what you are doing. That beats having no audience.

That said, I will continue doing my thing!

Arguing Guy said...

Green Guy,

I wasn't speaking so much to Laurie as I was speaking to YOU and those like you.

Ok maybe you're in a bad stretch, having a bad week or maybe you're like this all the time and that compadre speaks a good deal to some of why I left your town.

I dragged in a bit of comment from the previous thread and yes that guy was pretty obnoxious and certainly didn't have to fashion some of what he said into a personal attack.

But those resentments are as much a part of that town and so many other places as are the nicely tended landscapes and the restored craftsman homes and the glistening vistas.

Have a great weekend.

Shanna said...


Michelle said...

I agree, Shanna.

South Pas Oldtimer said...

Every city in the world has people with resentments who either complain or leave. It's called human nature.

Mister Earl said...

Laurie, you're coming along nicely! ;-)

Laurie said...

You checking my progress, Earl? ;-)