Indian Springs Resort’s Opening Celebration
Last week I wrote about the origins of the Indian Springs Resort, a well-loved recreational feature of Montrose before and during the boom growth years of post-WWII. It was located in a small wooded canyon just off Verdugo Road to the east of Montrose. The canyon was filled in the ’60s and is today the site of Vons and CVS pharmacy.
Indian Springs was built by Charles Bowden in 1927 and opened in spring of the next year. A driveway came off Verdugo Road and visitors passed beneath a huge arrowhead-shaped archway before heading east down a curving driveway, descending into the trees of the little canyon. The roadway crossed a small bridge over the streambed formed by the natural spring that flowed from the far eastern end of the canyon. The road then looped back west across the floor of the canyon, which was relatively flat, supplying ample parking. A few outbuildings including Bowden’s home were scattered about, along with a dance floor, merry-go-round, stables and picnic area. Everything was done in an American-Indian motif. A massive Olympic-sized swimming pool dominated the northern side of the canyon. It was built above ground and loomed over the parking area below. The dressing rooms and grandstands were built slightly into the hillside of the northern side of the canyon. A tall high-dive platform was located at the western end of the pool.
The opening day for swimming was Friday, May 18, 1928, attracting a couple of thousand visitors. But the evenings of the following weekend were the main event. The newspaper ad in the week preceding read, “Grand opening, Indian Springs Park and Plunge Bath. The land of the sky-blue water at Montrose.” Saturday and Sunday nights at 7:30 p.m. featured the music of the Indian Springs Spanish Troubadours, and dances performed by “beautiful Spanish Senoritas.” Beginning at 8:30 p.m. was a special diving exhibition by “The Handcuffed Diving King” who had recently dived handcuffed from the Philadelphia-Camden Bridge. He was to dive off the Indian Springs high dive bound both hand and foot. Next up, The Masked Diver! A well-known businessman of the valley would perform a spectacular dive while wearing a mask to hide his identity. The first person to guess who he was would receive a season pass to Indian Springs. This was followed by “high-class swimming exhibitions” by the Hollywood Champion Pacific Coast Swim Team and the Glendale Swimming Club Team.
As spectacular (and slightly goofy) as the events were in the evenings, the events of Sunday afternoon took a more cultured tack. At 3 p.m. the exotic “Oriental” Princess Der Ling of China would give an address to the audience about the possibilities of better relations between China and the United States. (In reality, “Princess” Der Ling was actually a mixed-race woman, born in China to a commoner but western educated. She served briefly as an interpreter in the court of the Empress Dowager of China, and the promotional “Princess” title was self-given.) After that, the international theme was continued with an opera performance by Bert Rovere “soloist of the Royal Italian Opera.” (Again, Italian-born Rovere was better known as a Hollywood restaurateur, infamous for skirting Prohibition by serving alcohol to Hollywood stars at his popular Paris Inn. While not a professional singer, he did occasionally sing opera at his restaurant and on local radio shows – and at the Indian Springs opening.)
Charles Bowden ran the Indian Springs Resort for the next 25 years, creating what came to be a regional attraction, pulling in visitors from all over the area. Concerts were performed each weekend, the music drifting across the quiet Crescenta Valley, and a big dance floor was well-used. Kids were welcomed with a playground and a small merry-go-round and, as they grew older, a terrifyingly tall diving board was available for those ready for their rite-of-passage first jump off the high-dive. Equestrian events were staged in the picnic grounds. Bowden continued his celebration of his American Indian heritage by staging yearly pow-wows that featured tribal dances, music, foods and customs. Indian Springs had become a little piece of paradise in an already wonderful community.