Treasures of the Valley

The Memories of Norma Quinn Potter
– Part 3

A few weeks ago I began a series on the memories of Norma Quinn Potter, who moved to the valley as a kid in 1931. Norma today is a bright, charming woman and she was a bright, charming kid. She wrote about her childhood in an essay she titled “It’s All About Me!” and I’m quoting directly from that.

Last week we learned that Norma survived unscathed the New Year’s Flood of 1934. We pick up her narrative in 1934/1935, which turned out to be tough years for dogs, as you’ll see. I’ll insert my comments in [brackets].

Norma writes: “The yearly trips to Oregon [to visit Grandma’s farm] were always something Jeanne [sister] and I looked forward to. We would save our nickels all year so when Mother stopped in a few towns along the way we would buy what was called Big Little Books. The reading kept us busy and quiet for hours of boring travel. We also had that special back seat shelf that Uncle Bub made for us to play on while traveling.

“The dog we had during this time was a wire-haired terrier named Scorchy. Whenever Jeanne and I would sit down to play at the piano, we would say ‘Sing, Scorchy, sing’ and he would point his nose in the air and sing (or howl – your choice) while we played. He had a grumpy disposition and didn’t like me at all. He got along with Jeanne okay but he would chase me up on the piano bench with a mean look in his eyes. After he bit the mailman, we never saw him again. The folks never did say what they did with him.

“My outstanding memory of this particular house has to be the tree in the backyard. I don’t know what kind of tree it was but it had a swing and was easy to climb. Jeanne tried but she was never able to do it so it became my special place. I would climb up high and take my drawings and trinkets and leave them in a notch where only I would be able to reach them. Looking back I think it may have been a way of fulfilling a need to have a space of my own. Since the day I was born, I always shared Mama’s [Grandmother’s] bedroom, bed and closet, and Jeanne’s toys, friends and bath. This tree was mine!

“In 1933 we moved to the Keith house at 2828 Altura. [This house looks nearly identical today.] We all loved this house! It had a circle drive clear around the house, a large covered front porch with pillars, and was completely surrounded by vacant lots. We had plenty of room to ride our broomstick horses, dig in the dirt to make our houses, sleep outside in the summer, raise our chickens and goats and had more fun friends to play with. As soon as we were settled, Pop built another large and very beautiful fish pond [as he had done at the previous house]. I guess this was his way of marking his territory.

“We also had a long legged ugly dog that Pop named Oleopercamorphum. It was the longest word in the pharmaceutical dictionary [Pop was a pharmacist], and we called him Ole. He didn’t stay long. He probably ran away from that name.

“We had a half basement under the house and it was a great place to hang out and play our hand-cranked Victor phonograph. Jeanne and I chose this venue to try our first cigarette. We snitched one from Pop’s pack and lit up. Ugh! As soon as we went back in the house, Mama let us know that the ‘Tell Birds’ had let her in on our stinky adventure. We assured her that we did not like it at all and would not be doing that again. We escaped punishment as she let our bitter tasting tongues take care of it.”

Classic and timeless childhood memories of old La Crescenta. Next week more from Norma’s memoirs.

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