Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Learn about the Altadena Mountain Rescue Team at a free program on July 24

Dramatic rescues of  lost and injured hikers in the San Gabriel Mountains by Altadena’s renowned Mountain Rescue Team will be featured in a 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 24 program sponsored by the Altadena Historical Society.

The program, presented by Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dep. Dan Paige and AHS member William Dawson, will be free and open to the public at the Altadena Community Center, 730 E. Altadena Drive.

Founded in 1951, the rescue team is comprised of citizen volunteers and is based at the Altadena Sheriff’s station, one of eight such Sheriff’s Department rescue teams in the county.

“Bill Dawson and Dep. Dan Paige have searched the archives and files of the Sheriff’s Department and the Historical Society to produce this fascinating, illustrated program,” said Historical Society President Kathy Hoskins.

“Bill gives an overview of the historical uses of the mountains above Altadena, first by natives, then explorers, then tourists and now residents and day-hikers,” Hoskins said, “and Deputy Paige describes and illustrates some of the dangerous and dramatic rescues of lost and injured hikers that the team performs almost every weekend.”

The talk will be illustrated with both still photos and video, and rescue equipment will be on display as well as the team’s equipment truck.

The Historical Society’s current exhibit, “Fifty Famous Altadenans,” in the Community Center lobby and the society’s adjoining archives, will be open prior to the program.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Pacific Electric - A Brief History

This year we were pleased to have Aveson Middle School student Asher Nee intern at archives.  Asher helped us with filing, copying, scanning and other AHS tasks, while learning more about Altadena's history. What follows is a brief history he wrote about Pacific Electric.

By Asher Nee

A Brief Summary of the Life and Times of Pacific Electric
One hundred and sixteen years ago, two men, a railway executive, and a banker forged a company that would become perhaps one of the biggest parts of Southern California’s history- a system that is still remembered today, 56 years after its closing.
The late eighteenth century saw a boom in the population of Southern California. In 1880, Los Angeles had a population of 11,183. In 1900 that number was 102,479. The stage was set. In 1901, Henry Huntington founded Pacific Electric. Its interurban and freight lines covered Southern California. What started out as four hundred and fifty two miles of railway, soon more than doubled. By 1920, PE rails stretched from Newport Beach to San Fernando. Thus, the red car was born.
“Largest electric railway system in the World,” the company boasted. It was true, with over 1,100 miles of track, PE was an ever growing success - that is, until the depression hit. 1929 marked a dismal year in US history. Pacific Electric, along with many other companies, struggled to survive in spite of the collapse of the banks. The Railway’s number of passengers went from over 107 million, to less than 67 million - a loss of nearly 38%. It was no longer economical to ride the Red Car. The company just barely made it out alive.
The beginning of World War II brought new hope to the struggling company. Thousands of workers came to Southern California to power up aircraft factories. Gasoline and tires were being rationed, and so these workers used Red Cars to get to and from work. In five years, the number of passengers went up 56%. The Red Car became a vital part of society again. 
Unfortunately, this didn’t last long. After World War II ended, Pacific Electric continued to shrink. The Red Car was becoming a thing of the past. It seemed that buses were going to be the way of the future. The company tried to make the switch from trolleys, but without much success.
Throughout the late 40s, and 50s, the number of railways that PE operated was dwindling. In 1961, The Pacific Electric Railway Company went out of business. Thus the Red
Car died.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Have a (cannon)ball at our rummage sale on May 13


The Altadena Historical Society (AHS) will sell a wide variety of de-accessioned items from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 13, in the courtyard outside the Full Circle Thrift Store.

Included in the sale will be many books, pictures, pamphlets and picture frames—even a cannonball of unknown date and origin.

The thrift store is in the historic red brick Pacific Electric Co. powerhouse at 2245 N. Lake Ave., Altadena. (MAP)  Occupied by private businesses and not open to the public for several decades, the building with its soaring interior will be open for viewing and shopping.

AHS members will receive a 20% discount off their purchases. You can join right now from our secure online store.


“Every item in the sale has been scrupulously examined to determine whether it meets our mission, which is to preserve and promote the history of Altadena,” said Jane Brackman, Ph.D., society president.

The society’s archives and museum are located in the Altadena Community Center, 730 E. Altadena Drive, and are open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, and by appointment.

Visit our website. 
Like our Facebook Page.
Follow us on Instagram. 
Recommend us on NextDoor. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Learn about Altadena’s connection to the family of abolitionist John Brown



Writer and artist Hope Demetriades will discuss American abolitionists and Altadena’s connection to two sons of John Brown. The famous abolitionist lead the raid on an arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia n 1859 in hopes of starting a revolution to end slavery.

She will also display her original works of art that memorialize and canonize abolitionists.

The program is free and open to the public.

Monday, April 24, 2017
7:30 pm

Altadena Community Center
730 E. Altadena Drive
Altadena CA 91001



Friday, February 10, 2017

Memories about Altadena's Grocery Stores

We received so many memories from readers commenting on our January 2017 post about the closing of Ralphs, that we decided to include them here: 

Dick Bale wrote:
The store described in the blog as being on the southwest corner of Fair Oaks and Mendocino, was actually just south of Harriet. It was owned and operated by the McQuown family in the late 1930s through the ‘40s – perhaps later. Our home was just a few doors from the store and as a nine year old I liked to hang out with the man who operated the produce department. I’d help trim a crate of lettuce, pulling off any damaged leaves and rinsing the head in an outdoor sink behind the store. The McQuown’s also operated another modest grocery store on the east side of Altadena. I’m not certain but I believe it was on Altadena Drive near New York Drive or Washington St. Sometimes I’d go there with the produce man who let me ride on top of crates of vegetables in the back of his small stake truck. In the spring of 1942, when Roosevelt ordered all people of Japanese descent incarcerated, the Japanese produce manager signed everything, including his bank accounts and home, over to Mr. McQuown. When the war was over McQuown turned everything back to the returning Japanese family.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Free panel discussion on authors and cultural appropriation

NOTED AUTHORS AND ALTADENA PUBLISHER DEBATE WHETHER AUTHORS’ RACE, GENDER LIMITS WHAT THEY CAN WRITE ABOUT

A spirited talk between an Altadena publisher and three of her acclaimed authors will be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday Feb. 2 at the Altadena Community Center (730 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena, California 91001) The event is open to the public free of charge.

The panel discussion will be among Naomi Hirahara, an Altadena native who is author of a mystery series set in that foothill community; Rachel M. Harper, author of 2016’s notable novel, “This Side of Providence;” Joyce Gittlin, television writer and director and author of numerous movie scripts for Disney, Paramount and 20th Century; and Colleen Dunn Bates, founder and publisher of Altadena-based Prospect Park Books.

Their talk will focus on issues raised in the play “Bee-luther-hatchee” by Thomas Gibbons, being presented at the Sierra Madre Playhouse through Feb. 18.   The discussion is sponsored and produced by the playhouse, and is hosted by the Altadena Historical Society.

The play follows a publisher, Shelita Burns, who seeks to meet a reclusive author whose “biography” of a 72-year-old black woman has won a major award.  To her profound shock, the author is not whom Shelita expected.  The play is a provocative look at cultural appropriation and who has the right to tell someone else’s story.

Hirahara, Harper, Gittlin and Bates will discuss whether an author of one sex, or race, may write as another.  Hirahara, as a Japanese-American, writes primarily about Japanese-American characters and Harper, an African-American, wrote about a Puerto Rican family in “…Providence.”

The production and public discussion programs are being made possible by a grant to the Playhouse from the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Altadena' Most Memorable Floods


Although earlier flooding had taken its toll on Altadena decades before the 1934 flood that devastated La Crescenta, it was this flood that motivated the building of new infrastructure.

The 1934 flood took out large swathes of La Crescenta and Montrose
but most of Altadena was spared.

The New York Avenue extension bridge was finished soon after the La Crescenta Valley flood. Built by the WPA, it crossed Eaton Canyon wash to connect New York Drive to Sierra Madre Drive.