When I visited the new Montrose Trader Joe’s, I happily noted how well they had used the themes of the community in their architecture and interior décor. I wish all new developments would take a clue from the success of this philosophy and let their new structures say something about the culture and history of the community they are building in.
One of the images portrayed in the interior of the new Montrose Trader Joe’s is that of the Montrose town clock. In Trader Joe’s, the clock’s image is permanently painted to 8 o’clock. When I first spotted the clock above the deli section, it coincidentally was 8 o’clock in the evening, and I had to look very closely to make sure the painted-on hands of the two-dimensional clock weren’t somehow magically keeping time.
The real Montrose town clock does keep the correct time, located prominently on the corner of Honolulu Avenue and Market Street in the heart of the Montrose Shopping Park, where it has become an icon of Montrose.
It fits so well with the “Mayberry” atmosphere of Montrose that newcomers to Montrose assume it’s as vintage as it looks, and even old-timers forget that it wasn’t always there. In fact, it’s only six years old, having been installed on May 24, 2005.
I met with former Glendale City Councilman John Drayman recently to find out its short but distinguished history.
Its roots lie with the Peet family, pioneers in the Crescenta Valley. Floyd Peet operated a print shop in early Montrose and the shop’s name “Peet Printing” is still found in ancient and cracked terrazzo tile at the entryway to Victori Ana at 2311 Honolulu Ave. Floyd’s daughter Anita Peet Geyer continued the family business in its later years as Peet’s Stationery. When Anita died in the ’90s, she bequeathed a sizable inheritance to Montrose, the town she loved deeply, splitting the sum between the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and the Montrose Shopping Park Association. The Chamber has used its money for scholarships, while the Shopping Park reserved the money for civic improvements.
It was Bill Dotson who came up with buying a town clock idea originally. Bill is a local war hero who maintains Montrose’s Vietnam War Memorial and raises and lowers the American flag located there. He thought a town like Montrose should have had a town clock and wondered if we had one once and it had been taken down. I remember getting the call from Drayman in 2004 asking me to go through the files of the Historical Society to research that. I found that several businesses had large clocks over their entryways as was the fashion in those days, including Valley Pharmacy (now FroYo Life) and Security National Bank (now Faye’s). Montrose even had a train-style steam whistle over Thompson Cleaners that blew at noon each day. But no town clock.
The Montrose Shopping Park Association thought putting one in was a great idea, got busy locating a large pole clock, and finding a suitable place for it on the avenue. Volunteers were sent to various locations with paper clock faces taped to long poles, while others viewed them from down the street to make sure they could be seen throughout the park. The clock was purchased and was stored appropriately in the Anawalt Lumber barn (once the home of the Glendale and Montrose trolley) until it could be put up. The timing was perfect as the City was just then redoing all the sidewalks and electrical systems in the shopping park, so hooking up the electrically powered clock was no problem
The clock’s been a key part of Montrose in the six years since, and bears the inscription “Montrose – Established 1913.” Next time you walk by, stop and read the plaque dedicated to Anita Peet Geyer at its base.
The fact that Anita left her fortune to groups that promote small business in Montrose is a tribute to a generation of Montrose merchants that valued not just their bottom line, but also “what’s best for Montrose.”