Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

A Walk Through Montrose in 1929 (Part 6)


Let’s continue our time travel adventure. We’ve gone back to 1929, and we’re walking west down Honolulu Avenue. In our last episode, we had explored the Montrose Theater (now the parking lot for Andersen’s Pets). Let’s continue walking on the south side.

We pass the Viola Cleaners (now Pho 22). Next we come across the  Piggly Wiggly grocery store (now the recently closed Holiday House). There is no front door. The entire front of the building is wide open. Produce is out front where shoppers can see it easily. Among the bins of apples and oranges is apparently a new fruit sensation, “alligator pears” (avocados), and women are gathered around chatting about how to serve it.

We chat up one of the ladies, who tells us that she is happy to have a Piggly Wiggly store to shop from. She says that this store is a nice change from the grocery stores of the past, where she would bring her shopping list and hand it to the clerk. The clerk would then find everything for her on high shelves while she waited, then hand her the bag. Now, thanks to Piggly Wiggly’s innovation of self-serve markets, she can peruse the shelves herself, with all the items easily at hand.

We continue west on Honolulu, passing the Sterling Café (now the Body Lounge LA tanning salon). They are gearing up for the lunch crowd. We cross Market Street which is still unpaved, and we come to another small market. This one is Safeway Market (now Honolulu Jewelry and Mayhall’s Sewing and Vacuum Center). Let’s go inside and check it out.

Just like Piggly Wiggly, the front of the store is completely open, with the fruit and vegetable bins crowding the sidewalk out front. On sale, fronted by hand-painted paper signs, are watermelons, bell peppers, and “cukes” (cucumbers). We pass by the produce to the interior of the store, which is pretty dark, compared to modern brightly lit stores. And it’s tiny, smaller than a modern convenience store. We can see cans and boxes lining shelves along the sides of the store. One item on the shelf stands out. It’s a big cereal box “Kellogg’s Pep, The Peppy Bran Food, A Laxative Bran Food, Rich in Food Iron, Lime, and Other Mineral Salts”. What, no sugar?

At the back of the store is a small check-out counter with a huge cash register sitting on it. Next to that is a small butcher section with a glass display holding the fresh cuts of meat. Above the counter are hand-painted signs: “Pork Roast 17 cents a pound” and “Picnic Hams Hockless 23 cents a pound”.

Heading back toward the front we pass a huge pyramid stack of big metal cans of Folger’s Coffee. On the way out, we strike up a conversation with a clerk, who is sprinkling water by hand over the produce, apparently to try to keep it cool as the day heats up. We ask how he likes his job. He says he just got a raise to 35 cents an hour, so he’s pretty happy. He says he also gets to drive the new Chevy panel truck to make home deliveries. He tells us it’s a new service, where customers can telephone in their grocery orders, and Safeway will deliver them.

We step back out onto the sidewalk, and look directly across the street. There is another small market, this one “A & P Food Stores” (now Bluefish sushi restaurant). There are lots of small markets in Montrose. People only had small iceboxes at home, and so had to shop almost every day.

On either side of A & P market are empty lots. We can see behind the stores to the north are homes, where today is the big parking lot. (The houses were purchased and demolished in the 1960s to make way for the parking lot.)

We turn and resume our walk west on Honolulu toward Ocean View. We’ll continue our 1929 stroll through Montrose in the next episode.

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