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South Pasadena's Birthday Book : Chronicles of a Century of Cityhood

December 11, 1986|JUDY ROMBERGER

SOUTH PASADENA — The fight against the proposed extension of the Long Beach Freeway is not the first time this city has gone to battle over a road.

In 1888, Ralph Rogers began charging a toll for use of a road that connected South Pasadena with Los Angeles. He erected a barricade at its end and tried to collect the toll there. But outraged residents balked and called in the sheriff, who took down the barricade and let the drivers through.

That incident is one of several little-remembered events in the city's history that are documented in a book to be published next March in conjunction with South Pasadena's 100th birthday.

The book, "South Pasadena: A Centennial History 1888-1988," also shows that some proud residents, not wanting their city to be mistaken for a suburb of better-known Pasadena to the north, have fought repeated attempts to change its name.

At one time, a group suggested renaming the city Oneonta, to honor the birthplace in New York state of railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington, part of whose real estate holdings eventually became the Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Gardens in San Marino.

San Pasqual seemed logical to others because South Pasadena sits on the Spanish land grant Rancho de San Pasqual. Live Oaks was favored by still others because it reminded them of the 100-year-old oak trees in the Arroyo.

"Bajadena," a combination of baja , the Spanish word for south, and dena , the latter half of Pasadena, was among the names bandied about. Other suggestions have included Raymond, after a once-prominent hotel in the city, Liberty, Lafayette, Robleda, Calidena and Poinsettia.

Sally Swan, a volunteer who heads the committee that oversees the South Pasadena Library's bookstore, said she hopes the 450-page book will be a collector's item and not just another dust collector.

The idea for the book grew out of a request from the library staff to the Friends of the Library, a nonprofit support group, for a reference book to answer the many inquiries the library gets about South Pasadena's history.

Past histories have been confined to pamphlets that focused primarily on the city's mission period, and a few soft-cover essays. According the Swan, this is the first full-length official history of the city.

South Pasadena librarian Jean Jones, former librarian Mary Helen Wayne and Swan selected author Jane Apostol of Altadena, a researcher for the Huntington Library, to write the book. She is the only person involved in the project who has never lived in South Pasadena.

"What really captivated me was to discover that sheep herders had grazed their flocks in the Monterey Hills until recently," Apostol said. "That and the fact that everyone mentioned its (South Pasadena's) pleasant small-town character and sense of community."

Apostol, who donated her services, relied upon facts derived from newspaper files and city records.

The book begins with a chapter on the city's mission and rancho period and goes on to trace events from 1837, when all the land south of Huntington Drive was a profitable orange grove, to the present day.

It describes South Pasadena's separation in 1874 from what was then called the Indiana Colony, which included the more commercial Pasadena to the north, and its incorporation in 1888 to rid itself of the disreputable saloons that lined Columbia Avenue.

Apostol also documents the history of the school system, the business community, the electric "Red Car" that traveled on tracks in the center of Huntington Drive and Fair Oaks Avenue and the posh Raymond hotel, which once rivaled the Huntington hotel as an attraction for winter guests from the East.

During her research, Apostol discovered a photograph of her son's godmother, Helen Jerome Eddy. The silent film star was featured in a scene in "Pollyana" filmed at a train depot, now gone, that was within walking distance of the library on Oxley Street.

A number of people who grew up in South Pasadena are putting the finishing touches on the book.

Two of them, Lawrence Clark Powell and Ward Ritchie, worked together on the 1924 South Pasadena High School yearbook and were reunited as a result of the project. Powell wrote the foreword and Ritchie designed the book.

In the foreword, Powell, founder and dean emeritus of the UCLA School of Library Science, wrote:

"The history of Southern California has seen many a small community devoured by a large tax-hungry neighbor. One sturdy survivor is the town (of) South Pasadena."

Despite being "situated dangerously between Los Angeles and Pasadena," the city "managed to maintain its territorial integrity," Powell wrote.

Gerry Williams, who lives in the house where Powell spent his boyhood, is handling public relations for the book. He said he hopes it "captures the quaintness, the uniqueness and the quality that is South Pasadena."

The cover, designed by Vance Gerry, features his drawing of the Oaklawn waiting station, designed by Charles and Henry Greene, that once served the Red Car and passengers going to the Raymond hotel.

The book includes seven original maps drawn by Miriam Campbell, a former city planner, and 175 photographs, some never previously published.

The library is now taking reservations for the book, which will cost $24.95 until Jan. 1 and $34.95 afterwards. A limited printing of 150 boxed special editions, signed by Apostol, Powell and Ritchie, will be available for $100 each.

Proceeds from sales will help repay the $25,000 loaned to the library by the City Council to have the book published. Any profits will be donated to the library.

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