A Trip Down Memory Lane

Capturing Ruth Adams Wolf's Reflections (at 93 years of age) on her Glendale Years (1927-1954)

Written by her daughter, Linda Jean Wolf Kubitz)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mother and I got up early, grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed to the Santa Barbara train station in dawn's early light! We were on our way to Glendale for Mother's trip down Memory Lane!!

Light was just beginning to show in the sky when we boarded the train. We sat downstairs, in the handicapped section, had coffee from the snack car and bran muffins from home, and watched the world roll by. The trip from Santa Barbara to the Chatsworth station is quite scenic, but the scenery deteriorates rapidly when the train passes through the industrial areas of the towns in the northern Los Angeles Basin.

Ken met us as we stepped off the train at the 1930s art-deco style Glendale train station. We drove to a restaurant near the train station where we were planning to have breakfast. Unfortunately the restaurant was not yet open, but that did not stop Ken from asking the people working there if we could use the restroom anyway. They said "yes", we did, then proceeded to our next stop, Fred 62 on Los Feliz Blvd. Ken had been there many times for breakfast and knew that we would enjoy it. Fred 62 is named after two Freds born in 1962 and is located in a funky, on-its-way-back neighborhood. I had breakfast enchiladas; they were fantastic!! The place was very upbeat with friendly waiters and many neighborhood diners who obviously love to begin their Saturdays at Fred 62.

From the restaurant we drove down Brand Blvd, the main street in Glendale, and Mother's memories began. Although today's Brand Blvd. bears little resemblance to the Brand Blvd. of old, Mother did notice the Alex Theatre; it was the high-priced cinema in her day.

Our next stop was Stocker Street, to see the home where Mother and Daddy lived when I was born. Many of the old houses on the street have been replaced by apartment buildings, but a few originals remain. One of those homes, #223, looks very much like the home we used to live in; we will do some research at Mother's to see if we can find an address from the time she lived there. The Stocker Street house is the home in which I celebrated my first birthday, well-remembered for the ant-covered cake. Mother and Aunt Betty discovered the ants when they went into the kitchen, then proceeded to pick off the ants, one by one, before lighting the candles and presenting the cake to the guests outside. An interesting fact I learned is that Uncle Walt and Aunt Betty moved into that house after Mother, Daddy, and I moved out. Mother remembers that they put up ivy wallpaper in the dining room.

On Glenwood Road Mother saw Mark Keppel School, her elementary school. Mother told us about the Maypole dances the school had every year on May 1. Students held onto long ribbons and danced around the pole, weaving the ribbons in and out until the pole was covered with ribbons. Two students were chosen to be the May King and Queen. Next door to Mark Keppel is Eleanor Toll School, Mother's junior high, and Hoover High School is across the street. From the front views the schools seem to have changed but little over the years. Hoover High School is the most changed with a much newer red brick facade on the main building, but the auditorium where Mother's 1937 graduation ceremony was held is exactly the same as Mother remembers it. The school auditorium was closed for several years due to severe earthquake damage. Mother's graduating class was the first to use the newly-repaired auditorium.

We traveled down Glenwood Road to Graynold, the tree-lined Glendale street where Mother lived for several years. She was very disappointed to see that the house at 1353 Graynold had been completely remodeled; it does not look anything like the house Mother remembered. Many of the other homes on the street still look the way she remembered them: very pleasant Southern California Mediterranean-style homes with red tile roofs built in the late 1920s and 1930s. According to Mother not every lot had a home on it in those days; there were several vacant lots. Mother's good friend, Doris Bell, lived kitty corner across the street (toward Olmstead). Doris, Mother and Jess played many games of jacks together on Mother's front porch. Mr. Bell, Doris' father, often helped Mother with her math homework. When Mother was married, Doris' older sister loaned Mother her veil; that was the "something borrowed" that Mother wore.

Around the corner on Olmsted Drive we found #1020, a house that Mother and her family lived in for awhile before moving to Graynold Avenue. This house has a unique round turret-like structure on the front which was the kitchen eating area when Mother lived there. According to Mother, the house, except for the grown-up vegetation, looks just like it did when she lived there. Sadly, Mother's parents lost this house; according to Mother her father would not work at the extra job needed to pay the mortgage. That was the last straw in a rather difficult marriage, and led to her parents divorce.

We rounded another corner and came to Idylwood Road. The two story house with a second floor porch and balcony at 1333 is the home where Daddy and his family lived when Mother and Daddy met. Mother knew Aunt Helen first; they walked to Hoover High together. Soon Daddy began walking with them and started carrying Mother's books!! Mother remembers the fun teen age gatherings at that house with the Wolf kids, Aunt Jess, and other neighborhood teenagers such as the Hamilton girls and the Dickey boys My grandmother, Helen K. Wolf, loved to have young people around her; every birthday and New Year's Eve were reasons to celebrate. Mother also remembers the very hot Glendale summer nights when she and Jess and Aunt Helen slept out on the second story porch.

Back on Glenwood Road, between Idylwood and Graynold, we came to the Connors' home. Mr. Connors was Grandma Ruth's landlord and he and his family were good friends with Grandma, Mother, and Jess. Their home was an old farmhouse complete with a long white arbor and a sunroom which still looks much as it did in the 1930s. Mother remembers eating cantaloupe with vanilla ice cream on the sun porch, listening to the player piano in the living room, and picking delicious tangerines from the tree in their yard. When Grandma Ruth had to work late, Mother and Jess would stay at the Connors' house and sleep in the sunroom until Grandma came to pick them up. Mother first tasted coffee at the Connors' home; coffee and toast were served at 10:00 when the news came on the radio, station KFI.

Mr. and Mrs. Connors' daughter, Maude, was an attorney. She handled the divorce case for Mother's parents in 1929. During the proceedings Mother and Jess had to sit just outside the courtroom in case they needed to be called to state with which parent they wanted to live. That was a terrible time for Mother and Aunt Jess as they did not want to hurt either of their parents. Fortunately an agreement between both parties was reached and Mother and Jess did not have to testify; they lived with their mother, but saw their father regularly. Sadly, he died within a year, of complications from jungle fever contracted while filming on location in Borneo.

Across the street from the Connors' home was the site of the vegetable field where my father worked when Mother first knew him. He worked there after school in exchange for food for his family. At that time Grandpa Walter Wolf could not hold a job, and as the oldest son, my father was called upon to help out. Today the field is gone, replaced by neighborhood houses.

We stopped outside Grandview Cemetery, but could not enter because it is open only on Sundays. Grandma Helen K. Wolf is buried there. The cemetery is very close to the homes where Mother and Jess lived. After Memorial Day each year, when the cemetery was filled with flowers, Mother and Jess would walk through the cemetery, catching bees inside the canterbury bells that were decorating some of the graves!!

Our next stop was Newby Street, right off of Glenoaks Blvd. Grandma Wolf and family lived there through much of the 1940s and early 1950s. That is the house I remember, as I visited it countless times as a young child. In fact Daddy, Mother, and I (Billy was born while we lived there) lived in that Newby Street house until Daddy finished building our home in Altadena. I remember the swing that Daddy built for me for my fourth birthday; it hung from a large tree in the backyard. I remember Grandma's large kitchen and her Fiesta Ware dishes in hues of turquoise and rose and the big grand piano in the living room. Every Christmas morning we drove to that house for a celebration with the entire Wolf family. Many of those celebrations were captured by Daddy in the home movies that he took. The front yard had a large sycamore tree and an ivy-covered front porch. In 1945 I stood in front of that house holding a newspaper with the headline "War Ended". So many memories . . ., but the house today looks nothing like the house of old. The trees are gone, the ivy is gone, and the house is in disrepair. From looking at the general area, I can see that Glenoaks Blvd. is the dividing line; north of Glenoaks the neighborhoods are well-kept, but south of Glenoaks they are quite rundown. I will remember the Newby Street house as it was, not as it is today!!

We drove past Thomas Jefferson School, the elementary school that Mother attended while Mark Keppel was under construction, then headed to La Canada. Our destination was the the Church of the Lighted Window where Mother and Daddy were married in a candlelight ceremony on April 18, 1941. Today the church is called La Canada Congregational Church, but a pre-school on site is known as the Lighted Window Preschool, obviously a nod to the former name of the church. The church building looks much as it did in 1941, but the streets around it look very different due to the proximity of the 210 Freeway.

By that time we were in need of some cool refreshment; the temperature was well into the 90s. We found a Pinkberry Yogurt Shop in La Canada and enjoyed both the yogurt and the air conditioning!

Ken drove us down Chevy Chase Drive on our return to Glendale. I remember taking Chevy Chase from Altadena when we visited Grandma Wolf on Newby Street. It was a very pretty, but very windy road, heavily covered with oak trees and vegetation. Today many of the oaks have been replaced with large homes; it is quite a lovely area. Daddy proposed to Mother on Chevy Chase Drive! As they were driving one evening he asked her if she would like a stick of gum from his glove compartment. She reached in, but did not find any gum. Instead she found a small box with an engagement ring inside!! Just one more of the interesting family facts we learned that day!!

Back at the train station we munched on currant scones that Ken had brought to us from Some Crust Bakery in Claremont and waited for the train to take us back to Santa Barbara. It was the end of Mother's Memory Lane Adventure. We all had a wonderful time traveling down the lane with Mother and learned much about her young life and the times in which she lived. Ken was a super guide for the day; thanks to him we saw everything that Mother wanted to see, and Ken and I are the richer for all of the memories that Mother shared with us.