Treasures of the Valley

Memories of Early Montrose/La Crescenta – Part 2

I continue with a wonderful set of memories penned by Bob Potts in 1953. Bob was the son of T.O. Potts, who in 1915 opened the very first store in Montrose at the intersection of Honolulu and Verdugo. That’s the building that recently housed the closed restaurant Benitoite. The memories have some fascinating details of the beginnings of Montrose and life in early La Crescenta. I’ll continue my plagiaristic ways by printing the words Bob wrote with my notes in [brackets].

“Traveling was a little arduous in those days. Nothing at first was paved, although Verdugo Road got a meager treatment before long. [Dirt roads often had a layer of oil sprayed on the surface to keep the dust down. That could be what he means here.] Michigan Avenue, now called Foothill, was paved with concrete in about 1917 and was just wide enough for two Model-Ts to pass. Ocean View extended from Honolulu to Foothill. Honolulu was about as it is today, it and Foothill being the only roads traversing the valley. Montrose Avenue barely crept by Ocean View. [Montrose Avenue petered out when it reached Pickens Creek.]

“There were three perennial streams in the valley then. One came down through the present site of Indian Springs [that’s now the Vons/CVS Pharmacy shopping center], wandered alongside Verdugo Road and emptied into the general basin of Verdugo Woodlands. A second came down just west of where Rosemont Avenue is [Pickens Creek], and emptied into a third stream running along the mountains past Whiting Woods, Onondarka and Oakmont [that would be Verdugo Creek at the southern base of the valley]. Thus it was that there was plenty of swimming and water playing for us as kids. That second stream was what caused the destruction of the Legion Hall during the flood of 1934 when it came bursting out of Pickens Canyon.

“Except for a few slight areas, the valley was covered with its native brush, which averaged a good six feet in height. There had never been a fire to my knowledge and the Verdugo Hills were almost impenetrable.

“What is now Oakmont [Country Club] and Montecito Park was what we assumed to be the largest grape vineyard in the world [owned by the local Le Mesnager family]. Dwarfing that however was the Sparr Ranch. From the San Rafael Hills to what is now Ocean View, from almost the bottom of Sparr Heights to Honolulu, was solid with peach and apricot trees with a little plum added here and there. From Ocean View to La Crescenta Avenue was nothing but citrus. The navel oranges had a hide a half an inch thick, and the navel was actually as large as a golf ball.

“We had moved into the house atop the hill at the entrance to the Baldridge Ranch, now called Onandarka [today’s Oakmont Woods neighborhood]. The place had just been vacated by Lawrence Tibbitt [famous opera star] so we felt a little proud. Now and then my parents were unable to attend the cinema and I was obliged to walk if I wanted to go. And of course I went. Yet between my home and Montrose there were but two houses. The rest was sagebrush and no streetlights. I was the scardest 8-year-old you ever saw.

“In 1917 my father moved his store into a new building that occupied the northeast corner of Montrose and La Crescenta. A year later we moved to Arizona for a year, then returned to Montrose where T.O. built and ran the Union Oil station at Verdugo, Montrose and Honolulu [where the Montrose Verizon store is today].

“I must add that our grocery store was not the first in La Crescenta. One was already located just east of La Crescenta Avenue and it contained the post office. After WWI, the southland and the valley enjoyed a real estate boom.”

More memories next week.

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