By Jason KUROSU
Founders Day was planned for last Sunday, a testament to Montrose’s 102 years of existence, an admirable milestone by any measure.
However, longtime local resident Mary Ayling had Montrose beat, as Sunday was also her 106th birthday. Though Ayling now lives at the Mountview Retirement Community, many of her neighbors from Rockdell Street in La Crescenta came to visit on Sunday, along with numerous other friends and family members.
“If I could do what she did every day at her age…” said Christine Pehar, who recalled seeing Ayling walking around the neighborhood on a daily basis.
Christine and her husband John lived across the street from Ayling for seven years, until her eventual move to Mountview. Crescenta Valley High School teacher John Pehar remembered helping Ayling with chores around the house and driving her around the neighborhood in her ’67 Mustang “like Driving Miss Daisy.”
Randy Gregg, also of Rockdell, helped Ayling sell the Mustang and recalled Ayling’s independent nature and the rarity of someone her age living alone.
“She was one of the first neighbors to say ‘Hi’ when we moved in,” said Gregg.
Mike Pollender had a less than ideal start to his relationship with Ayling, as the two next door neighbors argued in depth over how much Pollender’s German shepherd barked at night. This was argued to the point that Ayling and Pollender actually went to court over the matter.
“When she decided to do something, she did it,” said Pollender.
The case was eventually dropped and the two neighbors became friends. Ayling’s grandson Dale now lives at the house on Rockdell with his family. After such strained and inhospitable beginnings, Pollender now has Ayling’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren routinely visiting him at his house.
Along with photos from her earliest years to her recent 105th birthday party, a short autobiography dictated by Ayling to her daughter Mary Alice Bremenour was available for all to read. Ayling’s life story, “Reminiscences,” reads like a historical document, covering her early years and, consequently, providing a window into daily life during the first half of the 20th century.
Ayling’s remembrances include her father serving in the Spanish-American War, having a vegetable man regularly traveling to Mary’s grandmother’s house by horse and wagon, walking home barefoot in downtown Los Angeles, and warnings by her grandmother of the dangers of electric light.
“Mary, don’t stay up late. This electric light is bad for your eyes,” Ayling quoted her grandmother. “The light is not like the natural light and it affects your eyes.”
Ayling moved to La Crescenta in 1936, where she lived on Altura Avenue until moving into the Rockdell home in 1959. She worked numerous jobs throughout the area, including serving drinks at Shell Oil, and Bullock’s Wilshire, where she did millenary and a little modeling. After going back to school to improve her typing, Ayling worked at Knudsen’s Creamery Company in La Cañada, Western Grinders in Montrose and, eventually, JPL’s cataloguing office, where she worked until retirement.
After moving around from different cities and different jobs, it was at this point that Ayling found a permanent home in La Crescenta.
Regarding her Rockdell home, Ayling wrote, “Finally my moving days, that had started almost from my birth, came to an end.”