by Paul R. Spitzzeri
As greater Los Angeles embarked on its first boom period, albeit much smaller than successive ones, during the late 1860s through the mid 1870s, former ranch properties were increasingly subdivided into towns and townsites. During that period, a number of these popped up through the region including Compton (1867), San Fernando (1874), Artesia (1875) and Pomona (1875,) while some like Centinela didn’t take but morphed into later communities—in that case, Inglewood.
Another such example was Lake Vineyard, which was the name of the estate of Benjamin D. Wilson (1812-1878,) a Tennessee native who came to this area in late 1841 from New Mexico with the so-called Rowland and Workman expedition. Wilson actually hoped to catch a ship at Monterey for China, but literally “missed the boat” and wound up remaining in the Los Angeles area where he was an Angel City mayor, state senator and prominent rancher and farmer, including viniculture and wine-making.
Seeing the obvious as settlers came to the region and possessing well-watered and fertile lands very close to Los Angeles, Wilson and his son-in-law, James deBarth Shorb, decided, in 1874, that it was time to subdivide and sell some of their holdings and created Lake Vineyard. The treasurer of the company was F.P.F. Temple, who was fully involved in a wide array of business activities during the boom and who was president of Temple and Workman, one of the two commercial banks (along with Farmers and Merchants, run by his former partner, Isaias W. Hellman) in the city.
The inevitable bust came in late summer 1875 as the state’s economy cratered due to the bursting of a stock bubble involving silver mines at Virginia City, Nevada, but which were directly tied to San Francisco. When the state’s biggest bank, the Bank of California, went belly up, the telegraph furiously ticked the news to Los Angeles, where panicked depositors besieged the banks. Farmers and Merchants, ably run by Hellman, weathered the storm, but the poorly managed Temple and Workman did not. Lake Vineyard also did not survive.
Later, however, the town of Alhambra sprung up and it took its inspiration from the famous Spanish palace and fort, as well as the general tenor of Spain, which colonized California as its empire slowly decayed in the late 18th century. When a much larger boom hit in the 1880s, particularly during the 1887-88 mayoral term of William H. Workman, nephew of Homestead founders William and Nicolasa Workman, Alhambra succeeded where its predecessor could not.
Successive booms came during the first few decades of the 20th century and its proximity to Los Angeles, much as was the case with, say, Glendale, if not quite on that level, allowed for Alhambra to grow dramatically, especially in the post-World War years and early 1920s. One of many newcomers to the city was the family of Walter P. Temple and Laura Gonzalez, who stunning turn of fortune with the discovery of oil in mid-1917 on their Montebello-area ranch, grandiosely called “Temple Heights,” allowed them to choose a new home.
The same week in late November they bought the 75-acre Workman Homestead, the Temples purchased a large Craftsman-style house on a large lot on the east side of Alhambra. The property was not only in an upscale residential area of the growing city, but it was a short distance west of Mission San Gabriel and, again, allowed for easy access to Los Angeles. As Walter Temple turned to real estate development with much of his oil proceeds, he became a prime developer in downtown Alhambra, building and acquiring several structures there between 1921 and 1927.
In fact, his last real estate project under the auspices of the Temple Estate Company (he also had the Temple Townsite Company specifically for developing nearly Temple City) was the Edison Building, which happens to be one of the only surviving structures of his and which was completed in April 1927 at the northwest corner of Main and Third streets. Other Temple-owned buildings (all now gone) on the north side of Main between Third and Fourth, including the Temple Estate Building, the Temple Theatre and the Utter and Sons mortuary, also were largely directly across Main from Alhambra High School.
That school, however, has migrated a bit to the south, while a shopping center now fronts the main thoroughfare on its south side. In any case, as the city’s population leapt dramatically during the Roaring Twenties (incorporated in 1903, Alhambra had 5,000 residents in 1910, 9,000 a decade later, but almost 30,000 by 1930), so did that of the high school’s student body.
Tonight’s featured object from the Homestead’s holdings is the year-ending issue of the school newspaper, The Moor, dated 16 June 1927. Naturally, the big news was that there were 179 graduating seniors for the summer class—many high schools had winter and summer classes in the same year (by contrast, there were some 650 graduates at the school this year and a total population of about 2,450, which is of an entirely different ethnic composition than 94 years ago, being 51% Latino and 44% Asian).
The main article began with the observation that
The general student body is very glad to witness the graduation of the mighty senior clas. It is gratifying to realize that their goal has been reached; that they have so well fitted themselves with the armor of education in which to grapple with the world.
Of those graduates, only one was Asian, being a Japanese student Susumu Igauye, while there were just two latinos, Lottie Duarte and Efren C. Mata. A box on the bottom of the first page indicated the immediate future plans of the graduates, with many planning to find jobs right away. Of those going to colleges, quite a few were heading to UCLA, which still operated out of its campus on Vermont Avenue, as the current Westwood location did not open for a couple of years. There were some students heading for USC as well as Cal Tech, business colleges, art and music schools, religious colleges, law schools, nurse training schools, and others.
A few female grads were readying to get married, while others looked to travel, including one who was going to South America and another to Europe. A couple of young men were heading off to aviation school. Perhaps the best known name, though not to our younger generations, is that of Eliza A. Scudder, whose family moved in 1920 to Monterey Park, where her father owned a gas station, though he was disabled when a car fell on him there and he died in 1928.
Her mother, Laura Clough Scudder, was a nurse who passed the bar exam while the family lived in Ukiah in northern California and she listed herself as an attorney in the 1920 and 1930 censuses. In 1926, however, a friend suggested she sell her home-made potato chips and she launched what became a thriving enterprise in several western states and which purportedly sold half the potato chips in California by the early 1950s. She sold by the business several years later, though the name existed under other owners for a few more decades before it vanished.
Also printed on that front page was a short message from the superintendent of schools, Forrest Routt, who told the grads that those going to college still would represent Alhambra High and he added that “the succeesses you make in after [high school?] life also reflect back upon your high school.” He concluded with the hope that they would experience “a maximum of joy, an abundance of wholesome, honest work and [a] maximum of happiness.” Principal George Bettinger was even briefer, telling the seniors that “I have seen some really fine men and women emerge from this institution and I am sure that their footsteps will be followed by many members of this graduating class.”
Graduation day began with a parade down Main Street followed by breakfast at the First Methodist Church, which happens to still be on the Temple property, sold to the church when the family relocated to the Homestead after Laura Temple’s passing in late 1922. The church was built along Main Street, while the home was turned into, and remains today, the rectory, though it is hardly recognizable as a former residence. After returning to school, there was a senior assembly at the auditorium, which “was filled to its capacity.”
That evening the commencement ceremony was to be held on campus, with a Franz Schubert military march by the school orchestra, followed by an invocation; a recitation of class milestones; music from a school classical quartet; the distribution of PTA scholarships; an address by Whittier College President Walter F. Dexter; the presentation of the class by Bettinger; the disposition of diplomas by E.L. Farmer, the school board president; and a benediction.
For commence week and class day, there were also skits, the singing of popular songs like “Yes, We Have No Bananas” and “All Alone” from the last four years, a paper drive, an oratorical contest, and other components. An editorial by Frederick Dilg, senior class president for the summer cohort, who began his farewell message with the observation that,
The saddest experience that any interested high school student undergoes while he is get a student is graduation. After that, he is no longer a part of that school to which he has devoted himself. The school and its affairs go on with new faces in tehir charge and, to all appearance, do very well without any of the “old stock” . . . We realize that our time, too, has come. We are going to leave as sad as any before us, some of us perhaps more sad than others.
In stating that AHS students learned so much from their time at the school, Dilg asked his classmates who remained enrolled “that you make of yourselves loyal school citizens” in activities and school politics “and, most of all, to do and say what you, yourself believe.” He implored students to “be guided only by your own conscience” and added, “that a high school has as much to feat from ‘cliques’ and ‘mob rule’ as has public life,” certainly an interesting sentiment to express.
Speaking of school politics, here were articles on elections fo the Boys’ Federation, albeit that the campaign “did not greatly concern the many boys in the school,” and the Commission of Co-operative Government, which appears to have been akin to a student council, though it turned out that there was a proposal to amend the school constitution to abolish the committee, because of new offices of commissioners of boys and of girls.
In the sports section, it was reported that the Moors baseball team defeated Santa Barbara High, 5-4, in the Southern California division semi-final, with the squad to face Fullerton for the regional title the following weekend. It turned out that the team lost that game 9-0 and did not return to a regional final until 2012, when the team again was disappointed, losing to Bonita High of La Verne, 5-1.
There were also reviews of the football and basketball seasons, though it is strange to read of scores for the latter such as 16-12, 25-15, and 14-12, which, of course, sound more like you’d expect from the former, along with track, swimming wrestling and cross-country, though there did not appear to be any girls’ sports or at least these were not covered in the issue, if there were.
Also of interest was an article by Avis Farrell about Gay’s Lion Farm, a noteworthy attraction opened to the public two years prior, after previously operating near Lincoln Park in Los Angeles, in nearby El Monte and famed for having animals used by Hollywood film studios. Farrell wrote that owner Charles Gay “is the only man in the world who can claim to have a farm of this kind” and added that Gay started with a small pride of animals by “gradually he increased the number and answered calls which were issued for lions to be used in movies, zoos and circuses.”
Farrell added that “Numa, one of the largest lions owned by Mr. Gay, died about three months ago, but his picture can still be seen on the emblem of the Goldwyn Pictures,” this being part of the combine of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or M.G.M. She noted that there were thirty-one small lions currently at the farm and “which will probably be used in motion pictures before very long.” She talked about the names bestowed on the animals, including Merry Christmas, Tweedle-dee-dee and Tweedle-dee-dum, along with expected ones like Cyclone and Monarch. She concluded by reporting that “recently Mr. Gay has acquired more property for his farm, and he intends to fix this up as a typical jungle such as lions live in in their native countries.”
Lastly, we have to point out the sole piece of history found in this issue of The Moor and titled “Old Adobe Crumbles.” Walter Ernst wrote that “because of the rains [there was heavy flooding that winter that caused damage at the Homestead and other areas] and the gold seekers, the old adobe in the hills south of Monterey Park is fast crumbling and soon will be in ruins.” Accounted “one of the oldest and [most] historic landmarks in California,” the structure “recalls the days of Spanish fiestas and picturesque bandits.”
Ernst went on to note that “over fifty years ago an Italian [from Genoa], Alessadro Repetto, secured the land [which was on former public land not connected to a rancho] and the adobe which bears his name, adding that the building was completed in 1821. He went on to say that Repetto was an Italian Army doctor before coming to the United States and that his son [Timoteo] lived in what was then called Wilmar, now in the South San Gabriel and Rosemead area and who was presumably the source for the information in Ernst’s article.
The piece went on to observe that
Wealth soon gained Repetto fame, but also caused him much grief. A noted bandit [Tiburcio] Vasquez, visited the rancho one day and demanded a large sum of money and if not paid, the penalty would be death. The money was paid but about a year later Vasquez was captured and put to death by the sheriff of Los Angeles. Because Vasquez did not take the mone with him, it is believed that he hid it near the adobe.
The story actually was that Vásquez, when he showed up at the ranch in spring 1874, demanded $800 and Repetto’s son (or nephew as reported in newspapers at the time) rode to Los Angeles and to the Temple and Workman bank, where Repetto’s funds were deposited. F.P.F. Temple, the bank’s president, was alarmed by the nervousness of the young man and sent for Los Angeles County Sheriff William R. Rowland, whose recently deceased father co-owned Rancho La Puente with Temple’s father-in-law and banking partner, William Workman.
Rowland sent a posse to follow the young man back to the Repetto place, but, being warned by the frightened son or nephew, the banit and his men escaped by heading north to the San Gabriel Mountains (stopping to rob an engineer working on water sources for a new settlement that became Pasadena) and eluding capture. Vásquez was caught weeks later in what is now West Hollywood, but was extradited to San Jose to face murder charges, for which he was convicted and executed in spring 1875.
In any case, Ernst lamented that “the inhabitants of this vicinity do not realize what a priceless relic this old adobe is” and observing that “this clay house is built on a small hill and from it may be seen many cities which did not exist . . . in the days of these men [like Repetto] one could look in all directions and only see fertile uninhabited valleys, green hills, and the small pueblo of Los Angeles.” In 1927, however, there were “many cities, oil wells, large business centers, and all the necessities of modern life.” He concluded by reporting that “recently the Native Sons of the Golden West made an appeal to the people and civic bodies to have the adobe preserved,” but “noting was done and today the building is a pathetic remnant of its glory of a more romantic age.”
This issue of the Alhambra High School newspaper from nearly a century ago is interesting for many reasons, with respect to the campus itself, but also the Alhambra community, in which the Temple family was quite involved for about a decade ending that year, and the incidental pieces of Gay’s Lion Farm and the soon-to-vanish Repetto Adobe, as well as ads from local businesses. We’ll continue to feature notable artifacts from the museum’s collection related to education under the “Getting Schooled” banner, so check back for more of those.