Saturday, August 30, 2014

What's a Shovel and Hard Hat Doing in the Heritage Room?

Our Heritage Room contains artifacts as well as books. Among those treasures are the shovel and hard hat from the the groundbreaking ceremony held on December 5, 2007. As talismans go, it's a bit odd to have those items so prominently displayed, but it reminds us of the generosity and dedication of Monrovia's citizenry when it comes to the current showpiece of Library Park.

There were two more ceremonies for the library. The Dedication Ceremony, hosted by Mayor Rob Hammond, was held on April 4, 2009 and allowed people into the building before it was furnished or the books and computers were moved in, to give them a sense of the scale of the project. Finally, the big Grand Opening was held on May 16, 2009 and the library was officially open for business.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Henry Ford: Connoisseur of Monrovia's Groceries and Monrovia Bakery

Henry Ford was once a frequent visitor to the San Gabriel Valley. His wife's sister and brother-in-law resided in Altadena, and he spent a great deal of time in Pasadena and the surrounding area as he particularly enjoyed the natural beauty of the region. But did you know that he also made regular visits to Monrovia? Ford found the quality of Monrovia's groceries and baked goods to be superior to those offered in Pasadena, and the prices were fair. He was said to have motored daily from Pasadena to Monrovia to shop at Slick's Grocerteria and the Monrovia Bakery. In 1919 he even paid a surprise visit to Nelson and Mosher, the local Ford dealership, whose historic sign was recently uncovered in a business on Foothill Boulevard. He offered a personal demonstration of the operation of the Fordson tractor, and then returned to Pasadena in one of his very own automobiles.
Source: John L. Wiley, History of Monrovia (Pasadena: Press of Pasadena Star-News, 1927), p. 185.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Just over a century ago, the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools expressed his concern that the fashions worn by teenage girls in the county schools were getting out of hand. In January  1911, the Monrovia Daily News printed some of his remarks, including his suggestion that legislation be considered, “providing that students of the California schools wear simple uniforms instead of the old ultra fashionable raiment of the present day […] unless the present day tendency of the younger generation to […] extravagance in dress is checked.”

What, exactly, did this extravagance entail? Superintendent Mark Keppel spoke against the “smart filmy gowns” that were “ruinously expensive and altogether inexcusable from any standpoint of reason, art or necessity.” He advocated “reform in dress and death to the hobble skirt, the tube gown, paint and powder, the transparent and cloud-like material in dresses and waists, and to the ‘Baby Doll’ curls and puffs.”

Hairstyles, it seemed, were a particular issue, as they involved “fluffy Chantecler puffs, the baby-like Nell Brinkley curls, the stately coronation braids and the transformation, the moderate pompadour and even the cute little cupid bangs.” All of these styles, it was suggested, should be subjected to reform – and a haircut!

In the end, no legislation was necessary to bring more modest fashions to Monrovia. In 1924, the female students of the Monrovia High School adopted a uniform following a lively debate and a vote of two-thirds majority. The uniform, which a number of students had independently adopted the previous year, was made up of a white middy blouse and a blue skirt. The decision was said to be popular among the general public, who appreciated the simple, attractive style of the uniforms as well as the return to focus on education.

Source: John L. Wiley, History of Monrovia (Pasadena: Press of Pasadena Star-News, 1927), p. 120-122.

Ed. note: Clearly the basketball team pictured above didn't exhibit the frippery that so concerned the Superintendent of Schools.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


How did poppies play a role in the early growth of Monrovia? It all began with increased options for transportation, one hundred and ten years ago. In 1903 the Pacific Electric line opened in Monrovia, offering service to Los Angeles. For the first time, it became possible for Monrovians to seek employment in the city, while enjoying the benefits of home life in the suburbs. Automobiles were also increasingly popular, apparently so much so that in 1904, it became necessary for an ordinance to limit the speed of vehicles on Monrovia’s main streets to a mere eight miles per hour. Imagine crawling up and down Myrtle Avenue at that rate! 

Monrovians also saw the need to maintain the beauty of their roadways. City officials spent five dollars on poppy seed to be scattered alongside the roads that year. Perhaps this paved the way for the Poppy Car, which was established the following summer. This railroad car traveled along the Orange Grove route and made stops of an hour or more at each station, allowing excursionists to disembark to explore the surrounding city and neighborhoods. It was said that Monrovia saw a thousand visitors per week thanks to the Poppy Car, and many of the excursionists chose to make Monrovia their home.

Source: John L. Wiley, History of Monrovia (Pasadena: Press of Pasadena Star-News, 1927), p. 92-93, 96-97.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Saloons, Tippling Houses and Disorderly Places - Oh My!

At the time of Monrovia’s incorporation in 1887, it was of particular importance to the city founders that an ordinance be established to outlaw the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquors. Ordinance No. 4, therefore, prohibited saloons, “tippling houses,” and other disorderly places. A saloon, however, was already in operation on Myrtle Avenue, so Deputy City Marshal Oglesby and several members of the city council decided to take matters into their own hands. As a group, they entered the saloon, and each requested a different alcoholic beverage – whiskey, wine, or beer. The saloon keeper served their drinks, and after the men had the opportunity to sample them and confirm that these were, indeed, intoxicating liquors, the Deputy City Marshal, a native of Texas, made the announcement, “We-all have incorporated and we-all don’t want you here. This place is closed – now.”

Of course, although this first saloon was closed down, Ordinance No. 4 did not prevail over the long term. Myrtle Avenue now boasts a bustling nightlife with multiple establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. What would our city founders have to say about that?

Source: John L. Wiley, History of Monrovia (Pasadena: Press of Pasadena Star-News, 1927), p. 65.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mules Did What Now?

Monrovia once had a unique mode of transportation. An influx of visitors via the Santa Fe Railroad led Louis Bradbury to oversee the construction of an additional line for those wishing to travel east from Myrtle Avenue along Lime Avenue, then north on Heliotrope Avenue to White Oak (now Foothill Boulevard). May of 1887 saw the debut of the Myrtle Avenue Railroad, which had a single passenger car pulled by mules. At the end of the line, the mules were allowed to board a trailer as gravity did the work for them on the return. One day, however, as the car picked up speed on the downhill journey, the driver lost control and was unable to make the turn at Heliotrope and Lime Avenues – now the location of the Monrovia Memorial Hospital, just south of Wild Rose Elementary School. The trailer toppled and the mules fell into the street, after which they refused to be passengers on the Myrtle Avenue Railroad.
If you would like to read more about the early days of Monrovia, History of Monrovia is available for library use at the Monrovia Public Library.
Source: John L. Wiley, History of Monrovia (Pasadena: Press of Pasadena Star-News, 1927), p. 57.