Treasures of the Valley

Posted by on Jul 22nd, 2011 and filed under Viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Listening to Memories

One thing I truly enjoy is to hear an old-timer tell stories about life in early CV. Recently I caught up with Joe Rakisits and his wife Linda and wrote down some of his memories. Joe gets a wonderful twinkle in his eye when he tells about the hi-jinks he and his six brothers got into.

Joe tells me that his family settled on a chunk of sagebrush at the corner of Ocean View Boulevard and Cross Street, now a pricey locale, but then the sticks. Joe has an early memory of stuffing his little brother into a truck tire and rolling him down Ocean View. I asked Joe how far he rolled. Joe told me, “I have no idea, but I do know he was never right after that!”

Even though the family was dirt poor, they took care of others. During WWII, an anti-aircraft gun emplacement was built up on Reynolds Hill, which now overlooks the La Cañada car wash and the Briggs Sheriff’s Station. Mrs. Rakisits invited the gun crew down to their place, shifting her sons out of a little cabin they shared so the soldiers wouldn’t have to sleep in tents next to their guns. In the big ’34 flood, Pa Rakisits and the sons rescued some of the trapped survivors. When a nearby La Cañada mansion owner refused to open his door to the refugees, Mr. Rakisits showed up on his doorstep with his biggest son and a sledgehammer and told the homeowner he’d bust his door down. Needless to say, some refugees were housed there.

School was a challenge for the cantankerous Rakisits boys. Joe ended up in the “Opportunity Room,” so named because they were given the “opportunity” to stay in that school via this class. The class was run by a tough sparkplug of a woman named Mrs. Ray. Joe said it was a fun class, but they didn’t do much school work there.

The route to and from school was all fruit orchards, and the boys moved through the trees like locusts, stealing fruit for their breakfasts and lunches.

Later when Joe reached Clark Junior High (now CV High School) he’d been held back a couple of years, and so was already driving. One day he drove his Dad’s big Cadillac to school and, on a dare, he drove it up the front steps of the school, straight down the hallway, and out the other side.

The trolley line that ran through CV provided some entertainment opportunities for the boys. They would grease the tracks at the uphill stop at Verdugo and Honolulu and roll with laughter as the trolley car spun its wheels trying to get going up Montrose Avenue. On the weekends, freight hauling on the trolley line ceased and the freight locomotive sat unattended on a Montrose siding. The boys would hop on the big electric engine when no one was looking, connect it to the overhead wires, and take it for a joy ride to downtown Glendale and back.

Saturdays would often find the Rakisits boys and their friends in Montrose, hanging around outside the Montrose Theater. Monty Friend who owned both the theater and the Indian Springs swimming pool was a softy for the kids. They had a regular routine with him. The boys would scrape together enough money for possibly one ticket – a dime back then – and then they’d mope around in front of the theater. Monty would eye them, ask them if they’d promise to be good if he allowed them in – of course they said yes – and then let the pack of them in for the price of one ticket. At intermission, he’d find them inside the theater and give them the dime back so they could get some candy or popcorn.

Joe and other early CV residents have some great stories. If you take time out of your busy schedule to sit down with these guys and enjoy their memories, history will come alive and our community will have more meaning to you. These memories are the less tangible treasures of our valley.

Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley. Reach him at

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