By Mary O’KEEFE
The Crescenta Valley has lost a valuable eyewitness to its history. Charles Bausback, long time
resident and active member of the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley, passed away on Saturday, Aug. 21. He was 88.
“His memory was flawless,” said Mike Lawler, president of the historical society.
“The guy had a [mind like a] steel trap,” added John Newcombe, historical society member, author and filmmaker.
Bausback moved to La Crescenta in 1928. He was a perfect walking historical reference.
“His stories were accurate. He was true to his word,” Newcombe said.
Bausback was often invited to speak at the historical society and events like the opening of the La Crescenta Library.
When asked, both Lawler and Newcombe have their favorite story from Bausback.
“My favorite was when he spoke about Hindenburg Park,” Lawler said.
The park is now known as Crescenta Valley Park at 3901 Dunsmore Ave. In the 1930s there was a strong local community of Americans of German descent. The park was a place for those immigrants to gather. It was also a perfect place for the Nazi party to make speeches in an attempt to recruit.
“It wasn’t that there was a large group of Nazis here, but the park was more a place for German descendants to meet. And you know, northern and southern Germans didn’t mingle [at that time],” Lawler said.
Seeing the photos and film footage of that era may lead people to think that Crescenta Valley was a hotbed of Nazi activity but the first person account from Bausback clarified that perception with reality.
“His memories helped us understand the German culture,” Newcombe said.
“He was there when the [Nazi party] would do their ‘snow storming.’ They would fly planes over the park and drop [propaganda] flyers,” Lawler said.
Bausback was the “go to” guy for any and all historical information, from big stories to little pieces of information.
“He told us about the Santa Ana winds. When they used
to blow in this area, before all the homes and buildings, they were much worse than they
are now. He told us of one house where the Santa Ana’s blew
the walls down, but left all the stuff inside. He said people would go by just to see the sink and bathtub standing there but no house [around it],” Newcombe said.
“He had a photographic memory. I know we hear people say that, but he did. That was one of his trademarks,” said Bausback’s son Eric.
Even when Bausback was in the hospital that memory was still strong. Eric said his wife had noticed a book of poems written in 1922. His father could quote the poems in the book.
Last year the Crescenta Valley Town Council and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich honored Bausback for his contribution to his community and in recognition for being the longest living resident in Crescenta Valley.
He had worked for Mobil Oil for 37 years. After he retired in 1984 he saw a program hosted by Huell Howser on Public Broadcast Service. The program would eventually morph into “California’s Gold,” a look into the state’s past.
“[Dad] saw that program and called Huell up. He said he liked it but that he had gotten a few of the facts wrong. He also gave him about six new [areas to explore] for the program,” Eric said.
From that point on Bausback was Howser’s historian. Howser put the following on his website, “We lost a very dear friend this past week. You probably have seen his name on the credits for all our shows under the heading of ‘Research.’ Chuck has been a part of our family team since the very first California’s Gold aired twenty years ago. He had an extraordinary knowledge of our state, its history and its people. It never ceased to amaze me how he always seemed to have a rich, personal story to enhance any research we were doing about any story. He loved California and over his lifetime he traveled all over it and experienced its wonders first hand. Over the years he and his late wife Sigrid became part of our family – on both a professional and personal level. We will miss him.”
His wife, Sigrid, preceded Bausback in death. He is survived by his three sons, Kurt, Eric and Olin.
His family is planning a memorial but as yet do not have a date.