All was not right in Crescenta Valley as ‘Wicked Crescenta Valley’ authors share the unsavory history of the foothills.
By Jason KUROSU
As a follow-up to their 2013 book, “Murder & Mayhem in the Crescenta Valley,” authors Gary Keyes and Mike Lawler recently released “Wicked Crescenta Valley” and will be speaking about the book this Monday, July 21.
While “Murder and Mayhem” detailed numerous homicides within the foothills, “Wicked Crescenta Valley” focuses on other seamy, criminal aspects of the history of the Crescenta Valley.
As noted in the book’s introduction, “Most communities want to see only the good sides of their histories. But not the Crescenta Valley. Our history is so dynamic and colorful that to only cover the ‘good’ aspects would not do it justice.”
In “Wicked Crescenta Valley,” Keyes and Lawler unearth a variety of lurid tales, many of which are probably new to current Crescenta Valley residents. The book covers, among other things, prostitution in the hillside community now known as Whiting Woods, racial prejudice from Ku Klux Klan members within Glendale and La Crescenta, speakeasies during the prohibition era and the Tuna Canyon Detention Center, an internment camp.
Lawler, the former president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, said he and Keyes, a former Crescenta Valley High School government and history teacher, consulted old newspapers, letters and eyewitness accounts to put the book together, just as they did with “Murder and Mayhem.”
“I was really happy to team up with Gary [Keyes] again,” said Lawler, who said his co-author “loves to talk about the creepy side of CV’s history.”
“Wicked Crescenta Valley” offers a rare view of the foothills for those who only think of the Crescenta Valley as a nice, peaceful place to raise families. Lawler epitomized this by speaking about the Foothill Boulevard Riots of 1975, which is a part of the book’s chapter on Crime.
As cruising culture took off, La Crescenta teenagers tried to organize weekly Cruise Nights on Mondays, events that quickly drew the attention of local police.
“The police tried to break it up,” said Lawler. “But the local kids said they would just come back – and they did.”
When that happened, clashes between teens and police led to tens of thousands of dollars worth of property damage and numerous arrests on Foothill Boulevard.
The book portrays a scene that is starkly antithetical to modern day La Crescenta: “A crowd of over seven hundred youths was allowed to build up in the Lucky’s [grocery store] parking lot. For two hours, the crowd sporadically threw rocks and bottles at police and spilled out onto Foothill, stopping traffic. The crowd briefly tried to overturn an unfortunate RTD bus trapped there but failed. The police repeatedly called for the crowd to disperse, but it continued to build, and at 10:00 p.m., officers swept the sidewalk from west to east, arresting everyone they could catch before the crowd took off. The arrests were dramatic – often an arresting officer was surrounded by teens screaming obscenities at him, raising tensions further. Cars were impounded and towed away by the score. News photographers had a field day, and dozens of photos of handcuffed kids struggling with police were printed.”
Keyes and Lawler will be speaking on Monday night at the Center for Spiritual Living-La Crescenta located at 4845 Dunsmore Ave. The event will begin at 7 p.m. This is a free event and all are welcome to attend.