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Community Profile: Temple City

February 09, 1996|CECILIA RASMUSSEN

Like many of Los Angeles' pioneers, the Temple family lent their name to a variety of physical artifacts that perpetuate their memory: Temple Street in Los Angeles, the Temple Building in Alhambra and Temple schools in El Monte, La Puente and Los Angeles.

But the banking and farming family reached the top rank of historical memorials when it conferred its surname on an entire community--Temple City.

In the Roaring '20s--in Southern California, as elsewhere, an era of jazz, flappers and bathtub gin--Walter Paul Temple made a fortune on oil drawn from deep beneath the Montebello Hills and on walnuts plucked from the San Gabriel Valley's orchards. He began to buy back land once held by his father, Francis Pliny Fisk Temple, a prominent Los Angeles banker.

The younger Temple purchased 400 acres of Lucky Baldwin's famed San Gabriel Valley ranch and called it the "Town of Temple." In 1921 he began subdividing lots for a town where, as he envisioned it, "people of medium income could come to live and afford to own their homes." Temple's assessment of the housing market was shrewd, but shrewder still was his success in persuading the Pacific Electric Railway to extend its Red Car line from Alhambra into the new town.

In 1927, the Red Cars arrived at the station at Las Tunas Drive and Kauffman Avenue, where the city hall stands today.

Given the contribution that mass transit made to Temple City's development, the founding Temple probably would have been puzzled when, in 1992, the City Council rebuffed efforts to join their city to the new Metrolink rail system. Council members said commuter train stations would just cause problems, attracting transients and traffic.

In 1936, the Town of Temple became Temple City. The change was made primarily because mail intended for residents frequently was delivered to Tempe, Ariz., and Angelus Temple in Echo Park.

The Red Cars notwithstanding, Temple City retained a rural ambience until after World War II, when its bean patches, orange groves, corn fields and chicken ranches gave way to additional housing subdivisions.

Today, Temple City, like many San Gabriel Valley communities, has a burgeoning population of Asian immigrants, who now account for more than 19% of the town's 31,100 residents.

Immigrant entrepreneurs own and operate the city's 12 bridal shops, which have made Temple City nationally known and attracted brides from as far away as New York.


* Used car salesman Verne H. Winchell opened his first doughnut house at Hart Avenue and Las Tunas Drive in 1948. A real estate office now stands where the appetite for jelly doughnuts once thrived.

* For more than half a century, Temple City has been known as the "Home of Camellias," where thousands of residents line Las Tunas Drive for the annual Camellia Festival. About 5,000 youngsters participate in the three-day event, which showcases their activities and accomplishments. This year's festival is scheduled for Feb. 24.

* It may not have the prestige of Sunset Boulevard, but Las Tunas Drive--a remnant of Americana--has drawn film crews who use the 1950s-style Pie 'n Burger as a setting for TV commercials.

* Armed with cans of insecticide, repairmen in 1989 uncovered millions of ants, whose wire-eating antics knocked out several traffic lights along Las Tunas Drive, costing the city $22,000 in repairs.


By the Numbers


Date founded: May 25, 1960

Area in square miles: 3.85

Number of parks: 2

Number of city employees: 34

1995-96 operating budget: $6.6 million


Population: 31,100

Households: 11,029

Average household size: 2.78

Median age: 35.6


Median household income: $38,789

Median household income/LA County: $34,965

Median home value: $253,600

Employed workers (16 and older): 15,260

Percentage of women employed: 56%

Percentage of men employed: 75%

Self-employed: 1,192

Car-poolers: 2,067


Total stores: 118

Total employees: 985

Annual sales: $92 million

Ethnic Breakdown

White: 61%

Latino: 19%

Asian: 19%

Black: 0.5%

Other: 0.4%


Married couples with no children: 31%

Married couples with children: 29%

Non-family households: 25%

Other types of families: 15%

Source: Claritas Inc. All figures are for 1990. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

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