Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

Old Lady Scott


“You kids get out of here – this is private property – or I’ll call the police!” For a curious little buckaroo like me, that struck terror in my heart. I mean, all we were doing was playing in the old orchard behind our house, running in-between the orange, lemon and apricot trees. It was new, uncharted land for us cowboys. When we froze and turned around there was a scary old woman, sort of hobbling, with her cane up in the air waving at us. I immediately thought of that mean old lady in the “Wizard of Oz” who took Dorothy’s dog away and later became the Wicked Witch of the West. I’m a goner for sure! So that was how she got her name “Old Lady Scott.” She lived in the big house at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and New York Avenue, an old Victorian-style farmhouse with two stories. From then on, whenever we drove past it we always looked at the second floor and asked, “Is she looking out now? Is she there?”

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

So writes Michael McClish. The neighborhood “scary old lady” is a universal experience for many children. For most of us it remains a humorous memory of our youth – the creepy, mean old woman living in an old dark house all by herself. Was she a hermit? A witch? But few of us backtrack and dig deeper to find the real person behind the “scary old lady.”

Michael McClish grew up in CV in the late ’50s, early ’60s. He was raised in a new development on Maryann Street, west of New York Avenue. Behind his house was an old orchard. A dark old Victorian house occupied one corner and there lived the creepy Old Lady Scott we met earlier. Michael grew up, went to CV High School then to college and finally enjoyed a career in music and teaching. Old Lady Scott’s house was torn down, and a 76 gas station built in its place. The orchard was replaced with auto shops and mini-malls.

Now that Michael is 70, he finds himself looking back at his childhood with a mature eye. He wondered who was the human being behind the Old Lady Scott character who terrorized his childhood imagination. He delved into her life story and wrote a beautiful essay on her life.

At the turn of the last century, the Scott family of Illinois had five kids. One of them had a streak of adventure, and decided to become a farmer in the “wilds” of Southern California. He bought a section of land at the corner of Foothill and New York. The house and orchards were occupied by various members of the Scott family over the years. The final Scott family member, otherwise known as Old Lady Scott, came here via a rather inspiring story.

Brother and sister Harry and Ellen Scott were born into the Illinois Scotts. Harry married and had one son, Myrl. Soon after the birth his wife died and young Ellen put aside her dreams and took on the role of raising Myrl. She raised him well and, just after WWII, Ellen and her young nephew Myrl moved to the property in La Crescenta.

Myrl did great here in La Crescenta. He was a star pupil at Glendale High, went to Stanford and became a very successful lawyer. Ellen stayed on at the house at New York and Foothill and became the dreaded Old Lady Scott. She had never married, had dedicated her life to raising her nephew and now lived a solitary life, probably quite lonely. Myrl finally moved her closer to him and cared for her. She died in 1974.

Michael McClish finishes his story: “Old Lady Scott was not a witch at all, just a country lady from Illinois who raised her nephew to be a fine, successful man. Rest in peace, Ellen. I was scared of you but now, at 70, I am singing the praises of your courage, your spirit, and the successes of your nephew Myrl.”

If you’d like a copy of Michael’s full story with photos, I will email you one.