A Walk Through Montrose in 1929 (Part 3)

We continue our trip back in time with a walk through Montrose in 1929. Last week we were in the Montrose Pharmacy on the northwest corner of Honolulu and Verdugo (where Gus & Andy’s restaurant is today). We walk out the front door and decide to cross Honolulu to the southwest corner of Honolulu and Verdugo.

There we find the Security First National Bank in a beautiful one-story building that curves around the corner. It’s built with white ceramic bricks that shine brilliantly in the sun. Other striking features include a medallion topping on the building above the door and colored glass bricks above big glass windows fronting the bank. (Today this is the seemingly forever-closed Benitoite restaurant, and the white ceramic bricks have been covered in stucco.)

We turn and look east. On the opposite corner (where the Verizon store is) we see a tiny wooden gas station with tall gas pumps out front. That’s Wadey’s Service Station and they proudly sell Hercules Gasoline. While we’re watching, a car pulls in to fill up. The attendant comes out and puts the gas hose in the car’s fuel inlet. Then we see him go back to the pump and start turning a handle to get the gas flowing. He watches a clock-faced dial on the front of the pump that tells him how much fuel he’s pumped.

We turn around and start walking down Honolulu heading west. We pass Unique Café and next to it the Champion Shoe Store. We continue to 2210 Honolulu (now the new travel agent where Frank’s Shoe Repair used to be). Here we see the offices of the local paper, the Crescenta Valley Ledger. Peeking inside we see a counter where a clerk is taking classified ads from several people. Behind the counter are a couple of writer’s desks, and beyond that is a printing press. It’s not running currently but we smell the rich smell of ink coming out the front door.

Continuing west, we encounter our first two story building, the Montrose Hotel. It’s a really ornate brick building (today that’s Andersen’s Pet Shop at 2218 Honolulu). The ground floor is retail, hotel rooms on top. On the left is the Fellows Social Hall. We can see several pool tables inside and we can see the air is thick in there with cigar smoke. On the right is the C. M. Knox Hardware Store and we peek in the front door. On the left side of the store we see several stand-alone oil heaters displayed. Hanging on the wall are a selection of baskets. On the right side of the store we see gardening supplies fronted with a rack of seeds. Beyond that we can see trashcans and ladders. A salesman wearing a suit and tie looks up at us as we scan the store. What strikes us the most, however, is the bright natural lighting supplied by a huge glass-paned skylight in the ceiling. (The outlines of that skylight, now covered, can be seen in the ceiling of Andersen’s Pets.)

Before we continue, let’s check out the upstairs hotel rooms. (The upstairs part of what is now Andersen’s Pets was demolished after the ’71 earthquake.) Standing out on the sidewalk, we see double doors opening to a stairway leading up. We climb the stairs to a check-in counter. Passing that we see hallways heading off in both directions, with the doors of the rooms visible. As we walk down the hall we hear conversations behind one of the doors. It sounds like two comedians rehearsing a routine. We can also hear a clarinet practicing. We realize these must be vaudeville acts staying at the hotel for their nightly performances next door on the stage of the Montrose Theater. The clarinet stops and a man leaves that room with a woman. We hear him tell her he’s playing in the band tonight at the Verdugo Lodge, a high-class speakeasy hidden back in the Verdugo Mountains.

We follow the pair down the stairs and back out onto Honolulu.

We’ll continue west on Honolulu next week.

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