Everything from a barbecue to trick roping guarantees a weekend of memory building.
By Mary O’KEEFE
Montrose is celebrating 100 years and the party will be all weekend long. The 2200 and 2300 blocks of Honolulu Avenue will be closed on Saturday and Sunday to accommodate two stages and lots of entertainment.
The weekend is a celebration of all things Montrose, from its 1913 beginnings to its respect of tradition. The theme has a western flare, which harkens back to what the Los Angeles area was like at the time.
In 1913, Cecil B. De Mille shot his first Hollywood movie, “Squaw Man” using the American West backdrop. In Montrose, the American West was outlined by the San Gabriel Mountains.
Saturday morning will start out with Karen Quest Cowgirl Tricks on the main stage at Ocean View Boulevard and Honolulu Avenue and Anthony DeLongis Bullwhip on the stage at Wickham Way and Honolulu Avenue.
Quest is the women’s big loop champion. She was born in St. Louis, Mo. and raised in Studio City. She performs a one-woman Vaudeville-style comedy western act. Her mix of rope tricks and comedy has thrilled audiences throughout the nation.
DeLongis is an actor, fight director, weapons specialist and bullwhip trainer. Remember the bullwhip skills of Michelle Pfeiffer in “Batman Returns” or Harrison Ford in “Indian Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull”? They were trained by DeLongis. In addition to the bullwhip, DeLongis is also an actor who appeared in Jet Li’s film “Fearless” and television’s “Leverage.” He is a choreographer of combat action and a bladed weapons specialist. He will highlight his bullwhip skills for audiences in Montrose.
Both Quest and DeLongis will perform shows throughout the day on both stages.
There will also be music. The stages will host country blues artist Kathy Leonardo, Frankie Fuchs with a tribute to Woodie Guthrie and Rocky Neck Bluegrass. There will also be a local artist, Eli Locke, performing on the main stage on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Locke graduated from Crescenta Valley High School in 2010. He played football while in high school and did not pick up a guitar until his senior year.
“There were only about seven houses around us. We had a barn and about 10 acres,” he said. “Most people had their own horses.”
His dad introduced him to country music and Texas swing. When he moved to CV, he left some of the cowboy behind but still loved the music. Country music seemed to fit with his writing. He said he had support from a friend who encouraged him to write, which led him to the guitar and to sing.
“The first time I performed in public was at the 2011 Foothills Relay for Life [event],” Locke said.
His friends volunteered him to get up on stage and sing. He was wearing a banana suit at the time, part of an eat healthy demonstration for Relay for Life.
“Was I nervous, first time on stage to sing … wearing a banana suit? Yes,” he said.
But from there he was hooked. He began singing at local coffee houses at night while continuing his education. He met his lead guitarist, Anthony Landin, in a class at Pasadena City College.
“I was in class and started playing, ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’ and Anthony sat down at the piano and began playing,” he said.
Together they formed Eli Locke and the Drifters, which includes bass guitarist Chris Macquarrie and drummer Matt Martin. Together they have played at several local events as well as pubs throughout Los Angeles.
“Lately we have been playing at The Crest on Foothill Boulevard and we played at the Old Towne Pub in Pasadena a few times,” he added.
Locke said that audiences have been supportive. Due to scheduling conflicts with band members, Locke will be playing solo at the Montrose centennial and, though he would like his band to be there, he is ready to perform.
Starting his career out yodeling on stage in a banana suit has given Locke an “I can do anything” attitude and playing in front of a hometown audience is always a little easier.
But it is the history that will be the real star of the weekend.
The land that is now Montrose was financed by Jay Frank Walters and sold by real estate agent Robert A. Walton in 1913. The pair brought a trolley system to the area that traveled from Eagle Rock through Glendale to Verdugo Park, said Robert Newcombe, author of historical books featuring La Crescenta and Montrose as part of the Images of America series. The trolley played a key role in connecting rural Montrose with more cosmopolitan areas.
Newcombe will be conducting walking tours of Montrose this weekend and is holding two seminars titled, “The Legend of Montrose” and “100 Years of Montrose.”
He said he wasn’t certain if Walters and Walton had a solid vision of what they wanted for Montrose, but it appeared that they really didn’t have a plan beyond selling parcels.
“They didn’t build anything. They did bring water in and the [trolley],” he said. “They promised to build buildings but never did.”
Newcombe said that maybe the first person with a vision for Montrose was Stephen Meyers, a developer who built the Montrose Hotel that is now Andersen’s Pets and the Montrose Theater, now Andersen’s Pets’ parking lot.
But the biggest visionaries, Newcombe said, were local business owners who directed the 1967 Montrose makeover. The planning actually started about 10 years earlier.
“In the 1950s, shopping malls were popular,” Newcombe said.
But while malls were being built elsewhere, the Montrose business owners along Honolulu Avenue were envisioning something different – Main Street USA.
“If you look at [Honolulu Avenue], it was an urban looking street in the 1940s,” he said. There was even talk about putting the freeway down Honolulu Avenue.
“Merchants got together to save it,” Newcombe said.
The redesign weaved the street back and forth, slowing traffic to allow those driving to see the stores along the avenue.
“[The merchants] didn’t own the property [the sidewalks and all the businesses], they just owned their storefronts,” he added. “It was a real gutsy move.”
Some may say that move is why Montrose has survived 100 years when other areas have become more commercialized. Montrose has remained a community town.
“These buildings were built in the 1920s and ’30s. It has that touch with the past in a park-like setting,” Newcombe said. “It is what the Americana and Grove are [striving] for.”
Prior to the makeover, Montrose was annexed by the city of Glendale. There was a push to annex all of La Crescenta at first, but residents voted so heavily against that idea that Glendale officials began canvassing the area, block by block, from 1951 to 1955. The annex was done one neighborhood at a time, which explains the twist and turns of the border between Montrose and La Crescenta, Newcombe said.
Business owners continue to maintain Montrose’s community-friendly attitude through the Montrose Shopping Park Association. The businesses promote events that bring the community to town, like Sunday’s Harvest Market, the day after Thanksgiving’s White Christmas event, Halloween’s Spooktacular and the once in a lifetime centennial celebration.
Montrose Travel Celebrates the Centennial
By Mary O’KEEFE
Ask those, from the young to the old, who walk along Honolulu Avenue and they will most likely tell you this is what home feels like: the tree-lined sidewalks and benches that are perfect for eating ice cream and meeting friends. There are also businesses that anchor the shopping park and one of the most recognized community business is Montrose Travel.
It seems only fitting that Montrose Travel is the main supporter of the Montrose centennial celebration. After all, the town and travel agency have shared a long and successful history.
“Montrose Travel has been around since ,” said Isabel Burcher, marketing specialist Montrose Travel.
The company has grown and expanded, weathering several economic storms, including the most recent one.
Joe McClure Sr. and his wife Leora purchased the company in the early 1970s. Together they built it into a strong community based business.
Burcher has only been with the company for two years, but said she felt as if she had been there forever.
“It’s like working with family,” she said.
The company has stayed in the McClure family hands with Joe McClure as president, Andie McClure-Mysza as co-president of Montrose Travel and president of MTravel and Julie McClure as chief financial officer.
“Anyone who comes into work here is treated like family,” Burcher added.
It is that family and community feel that has helped sustain the business in a time when travel plans can be made on the Internet.
Many travel agencies have gone by the wayside as a result of the travel.com industry.
Burcher said it all comes down to customer service. The team at Montrose Travel is constantly keeping up with social media. The agents use the Internet to their advantage, but always maintain that personal touch.
“The bottom line is the service you are going to get from us is different than from [an online travel service],” she said.
If a traveler loses their suitcase or has a trip lost due to weather, they will find it difficult to deal with online services. Being able to call someone at Montrose Travel can give travelers peace of mind, as well as resolve their issues.
But Burcher said it goes beyond the travel agency. Montrose Travel supports the community. They are generous to local schools and events like the Foothills Relay for Life. The owners and the employees believe in giving back to their community.
The Montrose centennial is about celebrating Main Street America and how this little town has come full circle. They have grown without losing their community foundation – values that Montrose Travel continues to practice with great success.
A Colorful History of Montrose
By Mary O’KEEFE
Montrose Shopping Park has inspired paintings and photographs and has been the setting for many films, but in one local woman’s eyes the town is just perfect for a coloring book.
Gloria Beyer is a local artist who was an art teacher for 30 years. She loved the art found in the design of the old buildings in Montrose and wanted to create a coloring book that not only was artistic, but also historically significant.
“I have lived in Montrose for many years. I love it and wanted to do this for a long time,” said Beyer.
She discovered that local history was taught in school to fourth and fifth grade students and decided to gear her coloring book toward those ages.
“I have always appreciated the historical value,” she added.
It helped that her husband was a member of the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley. He would bring home the organization’s newsletters, and the old photos of the buildings and of the shopping park would inspire her. For years she collected the photos, knowing that one day she would create the book.
“And now that I am retired, I had time,” she said.
When Beyer heard of the centennial celebration, she knew this would be the perfect time to complete her project.
She started the book with the Native American Indians that first settled here and the animals that were here long before society moved in. She has drawn children in the era-appropriate clothing in front of stores.
“Like the trolley car barn which is now where Anawalt is,” she said. “And I have kids dressed in 1950s [clothing] in the front of the bowling alley, which is practically untouched [by time].”
Each page has the drawing and information about the location, what it was then and what it is now.
Beyer will be selling the Montrose Centennial Coloring Book at a booth at the centennial event. The proceeds will go to the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley.