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January 06, 1994

Attention Thursday Food section collectors ("The $1,000 Cookie Jar" and other stories, Dec. 2): Please do not omit a pottery made locally--by hand, in the riverbed of the El Monte-Rio Hondo rivers.

The clay deposits were almost pure. The sands clean. Harry Bird dug the clay. His Mexican assistant (I don't remember his name) sat at the foot-run equipment and made and sold Bird Pottery (hand-painted and decorated by Bird) to the passing traffic.

If Harry Bird, my father's good friend and mine, were here today he would be surpassing 100 years.

A quick run-down on Harry Bird: His grandfather helped build the Great Southern Railroad empire. His family moved to Chicago. He was injured as a teen-ager and was given one of the first X-rays in Chicago. The nurses left the room. When they came back later, the boy was nearly cooked to death. He kept living. The family moved out here (he on a wood slab) to Compton, where they had a large home in the orange groves.

As Harry Bird came back to this earth he started the pottery business.

I have picked up pieces at yard sales, thrift shops and the work is beautiful--all hand-done.

I asked Harry one day if he knew the Bird Pottery (I do collect), and he then told all of us the history. As El Monte grew up, the large open river areas were taken over.

Sitting under the town are perfect clay deposits, someday to be found again.

Harry Bird also sold the first cars in Los Angeles and pictures of the movie stars driving.


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