Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

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Indian Springs Golden Years

Mike Lawler is the former  president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical Society
of the Crescenta Valley and loves local history. Reach him at

Through the ’30s and ’40s, Indian Springs remained a financially viable attraction on a regional level, pulling in visitors from surrounding areas. But it’s the late ’40s and ’50s that are considered the “golden years” of Indian Springs. Returning WWII veterans streamed into the valley to buy homes and start families, creating the “Baby Boom.” This in turn assured a boom in the business of Indian Springs as the newly born younger population of CV made the pool their summer home-away-from-home. As well, many local organizations that had grown with the valley’s booming population held their meetings and events at Indian Springs. Before the advent of A/C, it was the hottest place in the valley to cool off.

A man named Monte Friend was the owner during this period, and he was indeed, as his last name implied, a friend to the kids of our valley. He had been previously, and maybe concurrently, the owner and manager of the Montrose Theater, another popular attraction for children. Monte was well known for his generosity at the theater, where he would often let the poorer kids in for whatever they could pay. That sort of generosity was in play at the pool as well. We’re told that he would open the pool each morning by having the kids line up at the water’s edge, then reach into his pocket for a big handful of loose change. He’d fling the quarters, nickels and dimes into the water, and the kids would fly in after them. Summer season-passes were available, and many kids spent every single day swimming in the clear waters of Indian Springs.

Along with Monte Friend came a world-class swimming and diving instructor, Lyle Draves. This added a new dimension to the pool, as besides offering legitimate swim lessons to the legion of valley children, it also became a training ground for Olympic athletes. Lyle brought with him his wife and star diving trainee Vicki Manalo Draves. She competed in the 1948 Olympics and won two gold medals in diving. Returning to the valley as celebrities, Vicki and Lyle settled down in a house on the grounds of Indian Springs Resort, started a family, and continued teaching swimming and diving. Under their guidance hundreds of local teens received professional caliber coaching in swimming and diving completion, resulting in a string of Olympic gold winners and national champions that came out of Indian Springs. The pool advertised itself as “The Training Spot of Olympic Champions.” As well, Lyle coordinated swimming and diving shows, called “aquacades,” that displayed exhibitions of precision diving and synchronized swimming. For the kids, “clown divers” put on shows. Fully dressed or wearing ridiculous costumes, they would “accidently” fall off the high dive.

As those kids grew, the pool and grounds became a popular teen hangout. The pool was heated to 80 degrees, and was open until 10 at night, ensuring a perfect spot for young romance. A juke box was located just to one side of the pool and on a quiet summer night the ’50s tunes could be heard drifting across the valley. Under the oaks next to the pool, a hamburger stand offered the standard fare for teens of that era – burgers, fries and shakes. Cruising became a pastime at Indian Springs, as teens in their hot rods and jalopies indulged in the rituals that would be later immortalized in the movie “American Graffiti.” The cars would enter off Verdugo Boulevard, wind down the driveway beneath the oak trees, then circle the parking lot that was next to the above-ground pool.

There were a few blips in the steady business of the Indian Springs pool in the form of the polio scares of the ’50s. The crippling polio virus was thought to be transmitted in public pools, and some parents kept their kids away during outbreaks. But Indian Springs’ death knell was that after 30 years of hard use the pool was showing its age. Not only that but many families also were having pools built in their backyards. By 1960, Indian Springs’ days were numbered.

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1 Response for “Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler”

  1. Floyd Farrar says:

    I vividly remember Indian Springs pool. (Thanks for posting this)

    The snack bar was great too. When Monte threw his pocket change out into the pool, we would TRY to get 20 cents so we could get an order of french fries for lunch at the snack bar. That could hold a young active 12 year old like me till dinner time. We lived just up Waltonia at the Glendora junction of Rincon (not there anymore due to one of the 210 freeway ramps), Each summer we would BEG mom for a quarter to go swimming. We would don our trunks, and walk (yes kids.. WALK, barefoot too) down Waltonia to Park Place and up around the corner to Indian Springs. Braving hot cement, pavement, AND the always present “sticker” weed plants that hurt the heck out of your feet, and flattened the balloon tires on our one speed bikes. Oh yes I forgot the infamous RED ANTS.. they stung the heck out of your feet too!

    Vicki Draves would always be doing diving demonstrations from the low and high boards. She was poetry in motion to watch.. A few years back I drove up from my place in Cypress to a CVHS meeting about Indian Springs. I had the pleasure of meeting Lyle and Vicki whom were living out near Palm Springs- what a treat! There was memorabilia from the snack bar etc. GREAT time reminiscing.. I heard sometime back they had both passed away – sad to hear. One of our last links to a wonderful era in Montrose history.

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