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A Librarian's Notes Shed Some Light on History of Glendale

May 30, 1991|BY DOUG SMITH

The gist of what follows came scribbled on two yellow legal pad sheets, purporting to be a letter.

The message was encumbered with so many pages of documentation, margin notes, parenthetical remarks and photographic evidence that the sender appealed for help in sorting it all out.

The sender was Barbara Jane Robinson Boyd, special collections librarian for the Glendale Library. As protector of the full, accurate account of everything that has been in Glendale, Boyd is known to strike with terrible wrath at those who nurture untrue stories.

So I was relieved to learn that I faced correction on only one distortion of the record in my recent suggestion that local history could provide subject matter for public art--an envoy, not Fremont himself, met General Pico in Glendale. Beyond that, Boyd merely wanted to supply detail in support of the public art proposal.

She approved of father Wilmot Parcher and son Carroll, each in his time a mayor and powerful influence on Glendale, portrayed together in their prime admiring the high-rise buildings of Brand Boulevard.

"Your Parcher fudging is plausible," Boyd wrote. "How about papa and son in Parcher Plaza--older-looking Wilmot sitting or standing with younger-looking Carroll standing behind chair or seated facing papa?"

Here the parentheses began to intrude. She thought that father could be instructing son "(in marketing of strawberries maybe? Papa was president of the fruit what-you-call-it)." Growers' association, no doubt.

That quaint notion led to a fertile line of thought.

"A GIANT strawberry on some restaurant row, for that berry called the Tropico Beauty shipped all over the U. S. and abroad. . . . While on restaurant row--or on Colorado where he originated--a life-sized figure of the real Big Boy."

That would be Richard Woodruff, the tall, scragly kid who hung out at the original Bob's Pantry in a checkered shirt, thus becoming the model for the internationally known statue with the upraised hamburger.

"Richard was a very nice person," Boyd wrote. "He came up here and we talked for about three hours three or four years before his death in 1986."

More ideas flowed from obscure literature: Hoy's 1939 "So This Is Glendale" and John Underwood's "Madcaps, Millionaires and 'Mose.' " The latter, a chronicle of Glendale's short-lived role in early aviation, brought to mind tributes to the Glendale stopovers of Amelia, Lindy and "tiny little Shirley Temple on the Good Ship Lollipop."

The current "A Pictorial History," by E. Caswell Perry and Shirley Catherine Berger, offered images of many a Glendale hero.

"Bust of L. C. Brand, somewhere on Brand, probably in front of the building he built (1st two-story brick and still there, 100 block on east side of street) or him on horseback? We have a small pix. Sitting, he was a commanding figure. Sat tall. Standing he reminds me of a satyr. . . .

"Casey Stengel at Stengel Field in Verdugo Park . . . Floyd Caves 'Lefty' 'Babe' Herman at the Babe Herman Little League field, size 13 shoes and all . . . Frank Wycoff, 'the world's fastest human" (Babe Herman beat him once when they were in school at Glen Hi). . . ." Photographer Edward Weston, "known worldwide and began his work here--studied on today's South Brand. . . ."

Somewhere, she thought, there ought to be a pavement bas-relief (like the star symbols of Hollywood Boulevard) of the 36,403.32-acre Rancho San Rafael with an overlay of the city today. "There is so much Spanish-Mexican influence here and throughout all of California. . . ."

"American Heritage" and "Early California Costumes" gave models for the dons on horseback and their predecessors, the bare-breasted Gabrielenos. Boyd copied pages and sent along with pointers written in the white space:

". . . Macho male--did you know that all the Berdugos, male and female, had Maria as one of their three names? (There had been no V or Z before the gringo came and phonetically wrote the language. Hence Verdugo). . . .

"California Indians were simple, gentle persons. . . . The male figure would make a good statue, but I doubt the namby-pamby would accept the undress of the female. . . ."

A notorious animal admirer, Boyd found a citation for wild creatures in public art:

"We have a clipping in one of our many files in which a man narrates growing up here and as a small boy padding down a dirt lane between shrubbery and trees, kicking up puffs of dust. He was playing hooky and going fishing. He heard a noise in the brush and from it stepped a bobcat. Both froze, staring, then both whirled and took off as fast as they could scat. I get a grinny feeling when I picture that happening on what is today Central Avenue."

She brought all this to a definite conclusion.

"I've run out of time and you out of patience, but I do think in the Spanish-Mexican ethnic background those facts in history should be visually remembered. . . . Let the new cultures learn about the past of the place where they have come to establish their own futures."

The ideas are all welcome, so long as the namby-pamby don't get hold of them.

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