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COMMENTARY : Memories of Monterey Park

October 06, 1991|JACK LEIGHTON RUGH | Rugh, a retired labor relations specialist, lives in San Gabriel

I remember rural aspects of Monterey Park years before a developer decided, circa 1929, to add Jardin El Encanto and the Side Hill Waterfall on Atlantic Boulevard, described so well by Irene Chang in her article "Showing Pride in Their Past," (Times, Sept. 12). Nostalgia for me. I was there.

We moved from Los Angeles to Monterey Park in 1918, when it was called Ramona Acres. The main drag, Garvey Avenue, was nothing but a ribbon of asphalt lined with chestnut trees between Garfield and Alhambra avenues, along which I and my brother, Harry, walked 1 1/2 miles to Ynez Grammar School. Speaking of ethnic changes, in 1922, the student body at Ynez had only one Asian student, Susmi Agawa. His father ran the grocery store at the corner of Garvey and Garfield avenues.

The exclusive spot in those early days was the whites-only Midwick Country Club. That's where, on Sundays, the limousines in caravans brought movie stars and socialites to watch the polo games on the big field, which was lined with beautiful evergreen eucalyptus trees on the Hellman Avenue side of the club. They entered on Campbell Avenue, which crossed the Pacific Electric Red Car Line to Hellman.

Looking back, I remember clearly not only developer Peter N. Snyder's Jardin El Encanto and the Waterfall--aspects of his grand idea for Midwick View Estates--but also the huge neon electric "Question Mark," which he built upon the top of the hill beyond and above the falls as part of his scheme to attract potential homeowners.

In 1929, the "Q Mark" was only accessible by a winding dirt road. It was a favorite spot for teen-agers who were lucky enough to have a Model T Ford, like me, who could go up there for a quiet starlit spot with sweethearts to neck. Nostalgia! Somewhere in the archives of the Monterey Park Historical Society, I believe, it will be discovered that Snyder and company were so hot for their development that it included a movement to change the name of Monterey Park to Snug Harbor!

I graduated from Ynez in 1926, Alhambra High School in 1930. I was 80 on Sept. 26, 1991. There are not many octogenarians left who can relish Chang's Times flashback, recall details of childhood in an idyllic rural town, where in 1920, kids like me and my brother, on lazy summer days, went fishing for carp in Little or Big Garvey lakes, or hunted for ground squirrels in the hills beyond the lakes. Unforgettable memories.

It may be laudable in some quarters to restore superficial aspects of Snyder's works, if not the Question Mark, but I am inclined to agree with Councilwoman Judy Chu that the restorers should not make a "hero" out of this guy. I would rather see taxpayers' money spent to restore some of those beautiful, magnificent eucalyptus trees which posterity has lost to growth, development and change.

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