Treasures of the Valley

A Memory of a Special Friend – Alfred Clark

I recently sat down with Dave Kimball, who grew up at Kimball Sanitarium located where Ralphs is today. He shared much with me, which I will write about in upcoming articles. But first I want to share a story he wrote about Alfred Clark, son of the valley’s beloved Reverend Andy Clark, for whom our local school is named.

“In the early 1930s a major flood passed through the Crescenta Valley where I grew up. Alfred Clark was a victim of that flood, barely survived and, as a result, had relatively severe physical issues for the remainder of his life. He lived alone in a small cottage on the Reynolds property next door to ours. That was a large property, at least two-three acres, as I recall, with lots of trees and shrubs which my brother and I, or I alone, would often use as our personal playground.

“It was during the early years, I’m guessing beginning at about age 8, that I first met and literally fell in love with Alfred. He would encourage and pretend with me as I played the games that a lonely child of that age would play: cowboys and hide-and-seek are the two that come to mind, but there were others.

“Alfred’s little cottage was also my special hiding place. Many times I would go to his cottage just to hang out, help him a little and listen to the stories he used to tell me. Most of the time nobody knew where I was. In spite of his advanced age and physical disabilities, Alfred was really smart and was fascinated with the incredible scientific advances that were being made during those years.

“He was especially interested in space exploration but he also tinkered with electronics. In fact, just as television was beginning to become available for consumer use, Alfred built his own television from scratch and I was the first of my family to get to watch this new phenomenon. Alfred always claimed that the TV set he built was the first to be used in our little valley. Sadly, for me, once my brother and sister learned of Alfred’s television they started coming over to watch as well and my special hiding place was no more. Later, our parents, not happy with all three of us spending so much time with Alfred, bought their own television so that we would spend more time at home.

“Alfred was my special ‘grandpa.’ I never knew my real grandparents. They all died before I was born. Alfred’s cottage was my favorite hiding place throughout the formative years of my childhood.

“After I had graduated from high school and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, whenever I was able to come home I always made it a point to visit Alfred. I remember in the fall of 1957, I was home for a weekend. I went to visit Alfred in the late afternoon and stayed until early evening. As I was leaving and we walked together out of his little cottage, he looked up in the sky and saw Sputnik I, the original unmanned Russian space satellite. I saw tears come to his eyes. That was an incredibly moving moment for him – and for me to see his reaction to that sight. Alfred, my true friend and grandpa, in whose cottage I had spent so many happy hours as a child, left this world shortly thereafter.”

Update on the Thompson Brothers Cleaners steam whistle. I got an email from Steven Thompson regarding the fate of the whistle: “I’m the grandson of Ed Thompson, who co-founded Thompson Brothers Cleaners with his brothers Penn and Gus. I still have the whistle but it is badly bent. One day the noon whistle didn’t sound and Roger, my dad, went up on the roof and found that someone who apparently didn’t like the noise had smashed the whistle with a sledgehammer. My dad figured if someone hated the whistle that much, there was no point in trying to repair it.”

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