Monday, August 26, 2013

75 years ago tonight

These photos were taken 75 years ago tonight along Garvey Boulevard (today's I-10) on the stretch that passed through the Covina area. They are from the archives of the Southern California Edison Company, and were evidently taken to document street lighting along the roadway.
The first one shows the signage at the eastern boundary of West Covina – the city limits of which, at that time, extended all the way east to Range Avenue (today's Grand Avenue). The slope of the pavement down the grade to the Walnut Creek arroyo is recognizable even today.
The neon sign fascinates me because I never knew it existed. The smaller sign illuminated by incandescent light warns motorists about the speed trap that West Covina had become notorious for since the opening of Garvey Boulevard. (My father used to tell tales about the WCPD cops and their famously predatory traffic law enforcement.) It's pretty obvious from this very prominent signage that they meant business. "You have been warned!"

G. Haven Bishop, photographer. From the Edison Archive. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. Link to full-size image.

Here is another neon sign that I didn't know about before, either. It reads, "COVINA 1-MILE." Looking at the street signs in extreme closeup, I can see this is the intersection of "State Highway" and "Citrus Ave." The mileage sign points east to "Pomona 8" and "Redlands 42," and "El Monte 8" and "Los Angeles 23" to the west. The shaded mileage sign pointing north appears to say "Covina 1" and "Glendora [illegible]."

G. Haven Bishop, photographer. From the Edison Archive. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. Link to full-size image.

One might wonder what these people were doing hanging out down on the main drag through town at what must have been close to 10PM. Turns out they were assembling for a dedication ceremony for either that neon sign or the overhead street light (or perhaps both).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Driving around the groves

Although the postcard photo below wasn't taken in Covina (it's Grand Ave. north of Alosta in Glendora), it depicts a very typical scene in the East San Gabriel Valley in the 1950s and early 1960s: an old, narrow section road being widened in portions as the citrus groves are being developed, roadside rows of tall Washingtonia fan palms, and old grove-owner homes surrounded by new subdivision homes.

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Even into the 1970s, there were still several roads in and around Covina that suddenly narrowed to two lanes like this. The last one that I can remember was Vincent Ave. just south of Arrow Highway. That was finally widened to four lanes around 1980.

This shows the postcard location in the present day. If you look closely, you can see that the old grove-owner house at left is still standing today.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fall, 1954

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Postcard view of Citrus Avenue north from Badillo Street in Covina, California, in Fall, 1954. I can peg the date because both films on the Covina Theater's marquee are from 1954, and the later of the two - 'Down Three Dark Streets' - was released on Sep. 2. It might be as late as early November, though, because of the snow in the mountains and the ladies wearing winter coats. It can't be after Thanksgiving, however, otherwise Citrus would be decked out in its Christmas decorations!


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Oak Canyon Road

Oak Canyon Road, southeast of Covina, is one of the oldest surveyed roads in the eastern San Gabriel Valley, appearing on county maps dating back to 1898. It was originally the carriageway entrance to the ranch of pioneer son H.H. Houser – part of the Hollenbeck land holdings in the Covina Hills in the 1880s. In 1925, the California Preparatory School was built on the Houser Ranch property on the bluff overlooking Walnut Creek, and the palm-lined drive became the picturesque gateway to the new campus. (The road's terminus on the school grounds can be seen in the center foreground of this photo.)

I have vivid memories of these palms going back over 50 years. Our bus drove past them every day, for all my 6 grades at Barranca School. Even as a little kid, I could tell that long line of tall palm trees by Covina Hills Road had been there for ages – a lot longer than I'd been alive, that's for sure. All my life I'd been curious about them, but I strictly avoided that road when I was younger...and for good reason.

For probably decades before I became aware of it, Oak Canyon Road had a rather notorious local reputation. Generations of "bad" teenagers took advantage of the secluded byway to drink and make out. The L.A. County Sheriffs patrolled that road constantly, and it was mostly known in my day as a really good place to go if you wanted to get busted. The delinquency problem was solved once and for all, though, when Oak Canyon Road was finally closed to all vehicle traffic in the late 1970s.

The cars and juvies went away, but the palms endured as always; at least some of them did. The trees used to extend in a uniform line all the way from the base of the Walnut Creek bluff to the intersection with Covina Hills Road. Today, however, only the southern half of the palms live on.

This is my favorite picture from my visit last year to this quiet refugium. It was so amazing to finally walk among these palms and contemplate just how ancient they are. They were most likely planted soon after the road was first graded circa 1895. That means they are at least 115 years old now.

If you think about it, that's older than almost every man-made structure in the entire San Gabriel Valley.


The Baptist Seminary

In 1925-6, the California Preparatory School for Boys (shown above c.1938) was built on the 100-acre H.H. Houser ranch on former Hollenbeck lands southeast of Covina. The initially successful prep school soon became a victim of the Great Depression, however, and it limped along until the property was purchased in 1942 by the Theosophical Society Point Loma. The south-to-north view below shows the campus during the war years.

In 1951, the property changed hands again and became the California Baptist Theological Seminary. In this aerial view from c.1955, we're looking generally eastward here; the road to the immediate left of the campus is Covina Hills Road.

Seminary classrooms (left) and one of the dormitories (right). In the early 1960s, that dormitory was also the headquarters of Wally Moon's Baseball Summer Camp. It was the first place I can ever remember sleeping overnight away from home.

The 50-year-old school complex was finally closed for good in 1974. The grounds of the former prep school and seminary were redeveloped around 1980 for housing and offices. Essentially all the old buildings were demolished. The gymnasium was initially spared and turned into a racquetball and workout facility, but this last-remaining building of the old prep school campus was finally torn down in the 80th year of its existence in 2005.