A Walk Through Montrose in 1929 (Part 4)

We continue our trip back in time with a walk through Montrose in 1929. Last week we were in the Montrose Hotel (now Andersen’s Pet Shop). We’re back on the sidewalk on the south side of Honolulu Avenue in front of the hotel. We stand still and take a look around.

Having just come from Montrose in the present, the most glaring difference we notice is the lack of shade in 1929 Montrose. There are no street trees at all and the bright sun glares down on the stores. Most of the stores have ample canvas awnings over their front façade to provide some shade. Some of the awnings are retractable and in fact we can hear the squeak-squeak sound of one of the stores down the way cranking out his awning for the day.

We notice another thing we don’t see in modern Montrose. Looking down at the ground we notice big oil stains where the cars park. Three distinct stains in each unoccupied parking spot – engine, transmission and rear differential. Those old cars leaked more than cars do today.

The street is wide as there isn’t the landscaping we enjoy in the present. And it’s all nose-in parking, the cars made up mostly of Ford Model Ts, a few Model As, and a smattering of other brands.

We also notice the streetlights. They look like the same ones we have in modern Montrose! But we remember that the ones we have now are reproductions of the streetlights that Montrose had in the ’20s.

Looking up we see a heavy wire strung across the street. It’s held up by poles on either side. In the center of the wire over the street is a big wooden sign spelling out Montrose in big white letters. We can see it also has small colored lightbulbs outlining each letter. Around the M-O-N-T are green lightbulbs, and around the R-O-S-E are red lightbulbs. Below the wooden Montrose sign hangs another sign proclaiming, “The gateway of the Verdugo Hills.” The two signs swing in the wind and we think to ourselves that these hanging electric signs couldn’t last too long in our strong Santa Ana winds.

We look directly across the street at a big two-story brick building (that’s the Black Cow restaurant today). The bottom floor appears to be a car dealership. We see two cars inside the building, both big sedans. It’s the Fairbanks and Fee Pontiac dealership. We look at the windows of the second floor (windows are now stuccoed over) and we can see it’s an office. Writing on the window tells us it’s the office of Dr. Longman, dentist.

We look to the right of the car dealership and there’s a single-story store selling radios (now the Star Café). It’s distinctive in that it has a tall radio tower on its roof. We look to the left of the two-story car dealership and there’s another single-story store (now Technix Academy and Nix Marie dress shop). One side of the store is a laundry service and the other is a jewelry store.

Next to that (where Lost Books is) is a vacant lot. On one side of the vacant lot is a tiny whitewashed shack with a front door and two small windows. A blade sign over the front door says, Abe’s Shoe Shine and hanging below that a key-shaped sign that says Keys. A Black man is out in front of the building sweeping the sidewalk. That’s Abe Williams, the owner. (Abe’s Shoe Shine became Abe’s Lock and Key, still in business today, further down the street. It was remarkable in that it was a Black-owned business in a very White community!)

Sharing the vacant lot (where Lost Books is) is a tiny building on wooden skids, parked in the dirt of the lot. That’s the office of Andy’s Transfer (still in business on Verdugo Road). Their office is on skids so they can drag it easily to another vacant lot when the current one is developed.

Next week we’ll continue walking west on Honolulu in our time-travel adventure.

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