Daily Archives: November 10, 2012

saloons & poultry

  I’ve been doing some reading about Arcadia . Arcadia calls itself  the ” Community of Homes “.  I have yet to discover how the City chose that mundane city slogan : Community of Homes ?  I do have a theory or two , though .

I’ll guess that when the Arcadia chose that slogan the city of Arcadia was not known as a city of homes . An older slogan , by the way , called the city The Queen City  . Why Queen ?  I guess that moniker wouldn’t fly  or ,  as Texans might say ,  that dog won’t hunt .

In the twenties and thirties Arcadia was a poultry-raising city , the egg capital of Los Angeles County  . Rex , my passed neighbor , used to tell me about the old days when he was a kid in Arcadia . It was all chicken ranches , he’d say . I thought at the time that he was exaggerating ,  remembering wrong .  But he wasn’t .

Rex used to tell me about he and his buddies taking the Red Cars down to the beach . I should have listened better . I should have asked more questions about early Arcadia . I should have asked about The Wigwam , for example ,which was a snack shop in the early days two blocks from  here . The Wigwam  was covered with palm fronds  and had armchairs outside . Was it still there when Rex was a kid ? Nowadays a McDonald’s sits on the Wigwam spot .

I talked to a talkative gal who used to live not too far from here in the 1940s . She talked about riding along Santa Anita Avenue . ” Double Drive ,” I said . Her eyes lit up . That’s what they used to call Santa Anita Ave .

” Yeah , that’s what we used to call it , ” she said . Visions of the 40’s were flying around the room . ” And we used to go to Carpenter’s Drive -In over on Huntington , ” she said .

” Were you a wild teenager ? ” I asked her .

She nodded . There was a new light in her eyes , a sly smile , and  she looked directly at me . ” We couldn’t be too wild ,” she said . ” There was a curfew . And gas rationing . ” 

Her father had been a soldier stationed at the Balloon School in Arcadia which was where the County Park is now . It was on the site of old Lucky Baldwin’s first race track . That track lasted only two years in operation because California outlawed racing soon after the track opened for business . The Army trained crews to raise huge hydrogen balloons which were used during WWI as spotters to locate enemy positions . When her father left the army he went to work for the guy who owned Seabiscuit .

Before the poultry farms and the Army balloon school , the new city of Arcadia , begun by old Elias J. ” Lucky” Baldwin , was on it’s way to be a gaming city . It had , immediately , at least eleven active saloons . In all of them gambling was a big activity . One of Lucky’s daughters , Clara , owned and operated one of the most active saloons .  Almost all  of them offered gambling , and Clara’s place was said to offer the services of prostitutes . That was, evidently ,   a well-known fact , mentioned in several contemporary publications , but worded more  politely or , at least , indirectly .The first ordinance issued by the new city instituted  alcohol licensing . The first city council was made up of  Baldwin relatives and employees . E.J , himself, was the first mayor . The Arcadia of the time , with about 600 residents , was known as a sporting city . One train a day came there from downtown Los Angeles. Later , Henry Huntington built a trolley line out there and tolleys left and arrived to and from  L.A. every twenty minutes .

” Let’s call it Community of Homes ! ”

” Better than City of Saloons .”

” Better than Chicken  City “.

The city leaders of the time wanted to mold a prosperous city . They outlawed poultry raising within city limits . They issued more building permits that put more and more subdivisions on what had once all been Lucky Baldwin’s land . More homes and more businesses . It’s a  city in need of a slogan  writer .


Filed under humor