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Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

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Our Old Hometown Newspaper – The Ledger

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

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

From 1922 to 1978, the Ledger was our own newspaper, a twice-weekly, multi-page record of happenings in the Crescenta Valley. It recorded every birth, every death, every burglary, and every car crash. More importantly, it reflected the trends of growth, the changing governments (local, state and national), and the attitudes of the residents. It served as a local Craig’s List, with pages and pages of classified ads, where people could buy and sell, and look for and post jobs. The reporting ranged from trivial to serious, from bowling scores and flying saucer sightings to disasters and murder coverage, something for everyone. It served as a political forum, where issues of the day could be argued, and the paper itself was often a catalyst for change. All the info you needed was there in one place, hitting the driveways of nearly every home in the valley each Thursday and Sunday. And through nearly its entire lifespan it was owned and operated by one family: the Carpenters.

The La Crescenta Ledger was born in 1922, closely tied to its twin, the Record Ledger which covered Sunland-Tujunga. Carroll Parcher, who later went on to fame as editor of the Glendale News Press and four-time Glendale mayor, was one of its founders. Grace Carpenter, the matriarch of the Carpenter family worked as its reporter. In 1920 the Carpenters had come from the Washington, D.C. area to become ranchers, and had settled in the caretaker’s cottage of the old Gould Castle high in the sagebrush at the top of Ocean View. It was here in the empty halls of the abandoned stone castle that Grace grew fascinated with our local history, and began recording it – records that have become priceless to local historians today.

In 1928, the Carpenters shelved their aspirations as ranchers, and purchased the then-named Crescenta Valley Ledger. Husband Art Carpenter handled the typesetting and press work while Grace was the publisher, reporter and ad manager, along with mother to three kids. Talk about “Super-mom!” The offices of the Ledger were located in several spots over the years, but always in Montrose. Grace Carpenter was a talented reporter and a gifted writer, and reported thoroughly on such huge events as the 1934 flood. She was a strong advocate for the community. For instance, it was through her passionate writing that federal aid came in for victims of the flood. As the country was swept up in World War II, her two sons Dick and Don, both college grads who had served as reporters pre-war, enlisted in the Coast Guard.

When the boys returned, they, particularly Don, transitioned into ownership of the newspaper. Grace continued to write for the paper, mostly focusing on the history of our valley. The paper grew with the community, eventually establishing itself in a large purpose-built plant in Montrose. At its height it employed 165 employees. Don Carpenter was a conservative firebrand, and in the 60s embraced far right political ideals, which both reflected and flavored the political leanings of our community. In 1978, Don Carpenter retired, ending a run-in which the small-town newspaper had won nearly 200 awards for excellence.

In 2002, local historian Art Cobery (from whose records I write this) went on a crusade to preserve the Ledger for future historians. He found the funding to have the entire run, over 50 years of newsprint, photographed on microfilm, and copies made available to local libraries. That was an important step. It’s from those microfilms that most of what we know about CV’s history comes. But microfilm technology has become obsolete, and today’s historical researchers look to digitized computer versions of old newspapers for research. An effort by the County Library is currently underway to have those microfilms scanned and available on our home computers. They would be “live” articles that would be word-searchable. One could simply log-on to the Ledger Newspaper site, type in your address, and find every event that ever happened there. I hope this project will be achieved soon. It will usher in a new, more fruitful age for local historians.

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