Friday, November 27, 2009

If These Walls Could Talk

A couple of months ago we painted and fixed up a small bedroom. I posted then about the layers of wallpaper we had to remove. We also did some wall repair. When we removed a portion of the drywall we found this message written on the inside of the wall.

The writing seems completely "random" as the kids would say. But, it is not. In the late 60's Scope mouthwash ran a series of television ads featuring "The Green Phantom." In the ads bottles of mouthwash were mysteriously delivered to folks with bad breath. Accompanying the bottles was a note signed by The Green Phantom and urging the recipient to use the mouthwash. The ship captain, teacher, manager or whomever received the mouthwash would then interrogate their underlings trying to unmask the offending Green Phantom. The whole thing was pretty funny.

I very vaguely recalled the ads and found them assembled for viewing at this Duke University website.

Don't know who left the message, but I sure like their sense of humor. The Green Phantom, being associated with the competing Scope, would be just the sort to steal Listerine. Gave us a big laugh.

We closed the wall leaving this silly fun message intact. Just as work was done 40 years ago and as we did work this summer, I am sure that someone in the future will again work on this small room in this old house. We'll leave for them the joy of uncovering this amusing plea.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

Some interesting turkey facts on this Thanksgiving Day.

These are wild turkeys. They are the biggest game birds in North America. Wild turkeys have dark feathers to help them blend in with their surroundings. They eat seeds, berries, acorns and small insects. At night, they evade predators be sleeping on tree branches.

Wild turkeys populate many areas of the country. Seems wild turkeys were also native to the Los Angeles basin. Don't know if any wild turkeys remain here. But, there are wild turkeys in northern California. The flock above was photographed in the Sierra foothills.

None other than Benjamin Franklin championed the turkey for the nation's Great Seal. Dismissing the bald eagle as a scavenger of bad moral temperament. Franklin preferred the turkey because, "though a little vain and silly" it is a "Bird of Courage." I think Franklin more loathed eagles than exalted turkeys. He also made a case for putting a rattlesnake on the Great Seal. More seriously, he quite poignantly proposed a dramatic scene from the Book of Exodus.

Ever wondered how the turkey got named? The Story of How the Unofficial Bird of the United States Got Named After a Middle Eastern Country is an entertaining piece on the MIT website that explores the question. And yes, our word "turkey" was named after the country Turkey.

The turkey on your table this afternoon is a distant cousin to the birds that fed the Pilgrims or which roam wild in the foothills. The National Turkey Federation website describes modern turkey production. Domesticated birds have been bred to maximize breast and thigh meat, can't fly, and have white feathers which don't leave pigment spots when the bird is plucked. The NTF reports that per capita consumption of turkeys in 2009 is estimated to reach 17 pounds. Seems like a lot to me.

All right. Time to get going.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lincoln Portrait By East Pas Pioneer Used in School Curriculum

President Abraham Lincoln by William F. Cogswell
White House Historical Association (White House Collection)

William Cogswell is a fascinating part of local history. About a year ago, I wrote about William Cogswell, the famous artist and East Pasadena pioneer. I've also written about the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel, which Cogswell founded in 1876 with his son-in-law, and the mystery surrounding his contribution to the Pasadena Public Library.

Mr. Cogswell's most famous work, his official White House portrait of Abraham Lincoln, is being studied as part of interesting new curriculum for junior and senior high school students in Ohio.

Cincinnati Public Media, a PBS affiliate, has developed a curriculum titled "Remembering Lincoln." In a section called "Appreciating Images," students study and contrast Lincoln portraits painted by George Healy and William Cogswell. In 1869 the portraits were submitted to Congress as part of a competition. The winning portrait would hang in the White House. Congress appropriated $3,000 for the winning artist.

Of course, Cogswell's portrait won and remains part of the White House Collection today.

Cogswell was a fascinating and talented guy who made a huge contribution to our local history. I am glad to see him getting some well-deserved attention.

One more thing. The curriculum cites to East of Allen (which is how I learned about it).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

J.F.T. Titley: Vile Villain or Bumbling Benefactor?

I don't want to leave the subject of Mr. J.F.T. Titley without a little more musing about the man's true character.

The easy conclusion is that Mr. Titley was a greedy rotten scoundrel - a guy who preferred bilking poor householders over building communities. Kind of like, to put a seasonal face on it, the cold, evil, Henry Potter.

But, maybe that's being a little too simplistic.

Just maybe, our Mr. Titley was more like good old Uncle Billy -- a well-meaning type, whose bumbling ways were apt to misplace a few thou here and there.

In a hundred years, not much has been written of Mr. Titley. And after this humble post, I can't say that anything more will ever be written of him. So, I'm feeling a heavy burden here to give the man his due.

I've got to say this for the man:

He started a small town out of virtually nothing. It was a town of beautiful cottages that the big city newspaper described in the most appealing fashion. A town with homes that catered to poor families who worked hard but struggled mightily to make ends meet. The Times article credits Titley with the goal of being a "benefactor" to the poor and trying to give the poor a chance to own their own homes.

I'm impressed that he gave this small town his own name -- Titleyville or Titley Town. Hints that he thought grandly of himself and of the town he created. From the Times' description of Titleyville, seems a measure of pride would have been well deserved.

So maybe, just maybe, J.F.T. Titley was a good-hearted guy whose business acumen fell short of his big plans and noble aims. Though he enraged many of his own townspeople and added to their financial hardships, in the end, seems he achieved a pretty meaningful goal. He created a small town of beautiful cottages which families of modest means could own.

Maybe, just maybe, J.F.T. Titley is the kind of guy who deserves to have a street named after him. Most certainly, Titleyville is a place worth remembering.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

J.F.T. Titley: Founder of Titleyville and Namesake of Titley Ave.

Organ music played in the background as I opened the attachment labeled, "Titleyville.pdf." A story from the May 3, 1908 Los Angeles Times appeared. The headline was gripping:

"WHOLE TOWN LOSES HARD EARNED HOMES: Poor People Discover They Have Been Paying Installments to A Man Who Doesn't Own Land - Poor Dupes Threaten His Life."

Whoa!! The music grew louder. Here were answers to the mystery of Titleyville and little Titley Ave.

Indeed, there was a Titleyville and its setting was one of beauty. "Titleyville is a town between Lamanda and Arcadia. It lies romantically under the bending bows of the trees and its cottages are covered with vines and roses."

And, indeed, the town was started by one J.F.T. Titley around 1900. Titley is described as an enterprising man who wanted to give poor people a chance to own their own homes. His "grand idea" was to build small homes in Titleyville, then sell them to people using installment contracts.

Understanding how Titley sold his real estate is key to appreciating the tragedy that ensued. Titley didn't sell homes the way we do today. Persons contracting with Titley agreed to pay him a monthly amount toward purchase of their home. Only when the buyer finished paying all the required installments, would Titley transfer title.

At least that is how it was supposed to work.

But, as is often the case with aspiring real estate moguls, Mr. Titley needed money. Using Titleyville as collateral, he obtained a loan from Pasadenan Susan Reeves. Titley got money for a new venture and Reeves took a mortgage on Titleyville.

The stage was set for tragedy to befall the hard working denizens of Titleyville. Though Titley continued collecting installments from his buyers, seems he neglected to pay Mrs. Reeves. Finally, in 1904, Reeves foreclosed.

Those who paid their installments to Titley were left with nothing for their hard earned money. They had a contract with Titley, but Reeves was the owner.

Though she had other options, Reeves allowed the people to stay in their homes. New installment contracts were made. Buyers had to go back to square one in paying for their homes.

Mr. Titley became persona non grata in his own town.

The good folks of Titleyville wanted the man's hide. Town leader, Mr. Estrada, said "It would not be safe for that man to ever be seen here again. I do not say that I would kill him, but others here feel so that I guess he would never leave here alive. I know that I would fix him so that he would have to spend a few months in the hospital."


Many thanks go to Roberta Martinez, author of the wonderful new book, Latinos in Pasadena. and to Paul Secord for graciously sharing their research into Titleyville and Chihuahuita.
Sure seems like J.F.T. Titley was a first rate scoundrel. But, we might be terribly mistaken if that is our final view of the man. More in my next post.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New Road Under the Freeway - Part 2: The Last Remnant of Titleyville

Titley Ave. is a stub of a street that starts at Foothill Blvd. and runs south a few hundred yards where it dead ends into the 210 freeway. When Kinneloa Ave. is extended northward under the 210, it will connect up with Titley Ave. In turn, Titley Ave. will be renamed Kinneloa Ave. Little Titley Ave. will be no more.

When Titley Ave. goes, so too will any physical reference to an old place named "Titleyville."

Not that Titleyville was ever an official city or town. There were no "entering" or "leaving" signs, city councils or chambers of commerce. But, for half a century, the name marked a place where hundreds of people made their homes, did business, and raised families.

Depending upon the source, Titleyville spanned the years 1900 - 1950. The village center was the site of the present day Target store (previously Fedco) on East Colorado Blvd. The unofficial boundaries seem to be east of Eaton Wash, south of Foothill Blvd. and north of Colorado Blvd.

I have not found the origin of the village's name. I assume there was a Titley family in the area around the turn of the century, but haven't seen any reference to them. Spanish speakers had another name for Titleyville -- "Chihuahuita" or Little Chihuahua. The later name was possibly given in recognition that some early residents immigrated from Chihuahua.

Whatever the name, by the 1920's there were 350 residents, primarily Latino, in an established village. Many residents worked in area vineyards, orchards or packing houses. As historian and civic leader Roberta Martinez points out, this was a vibrant little village.

Martinez writes about Chihuahuita in her excellent book, Latinos in Pasadena. Because it was a distance from Pasadena proper, there was a self-sufficiency and definition about the place. Chihuahuita had two stores with shopkeepers who lived in the village. It supported two churches -- a Roman Catholic Church and a Methodist Church. And there was a school, which opened in 1915 as Titleyville School and was later renamed Chihuahuita School.


So what happened to Titleyville/Chihuahuita?

The combination of time and growth gradually overcame the little village. Bit by bit the distance and distinction between the urban City of Pasadena and rural lands to the east were diminished. The old communities of Lamanda Park and Titleyville gradually melded into East Pasadena. And the old names lost their currency until one day the only physical reminder of Titleyville's existance was a stub of a street dead-ending into the freeway.

Soon, even that last sign of Titleyville will be gone.

Check out Pasadena Adjacent for more on Roberta Martinez and her book.

Also, a brief but nice discussion of Titleyville/Chihuahuita is in the East Colorado Specific Plan.

New Road Under the Freeway -- Part 1: Kinneloa Extension

It is not every day that we get a new route under the freeway. Above is a picture of the work in progress to extend Kinneloa Avenue from Colorado Blvd., under the 210 to Foothill Blvd. That's Team Chevrolet on the other side of the tunnel. All of this is courtesy of city plans which call for the street extension to offset increased traffic expected with more development near the Sierra Madre Villa metro.

View Lamanda Park, CA in a larger map

Toward the bottom of the map you can see Kinneloa Ave. Seems likely that Kinneloa Ave. once led to Abbot Kinney's estate, which was located on the mesa above present day New York Drive. Over time the length of Kinneloa was chopped up until all that was left of the avenue was a short stretch of road running south of the 210 to Del Mar.

Don't know whether the Kinneloa extension will help traffic, but it stands to be an important link to establishing the long-planned Eaton Wash trail. The thin blue line on the map is the Eaton Wash. The opening of Kinneloa will provide a route for trail users to traverse the freeway and stay near to the wash.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bear Signs -- Bear Poop

My favorite photographer got this shot of bear poop in front of our house.

It is all pretty interesting. To think that this giant animal stopped (I assume they stop) in front of our house to deposit his or her load. The whole pile is big -- about football sized. You can tell what the bear has been eating. Judging from the green and orange chunks above, it looks like this bear had eaten some apples, carrots or peppers. Years ago we found a bear pile in our backyard (across the fence from our neighbor's trash can) that had parts of an ice cream carton in it.

There is a lot on the Internet about how to recognize bear scat and stories of people finding bear scat with parts of pizza boxes and even bike chains. And, of course, there's the Man vs. Wild episode where Bear Grylls washes the undigested parts of bear poop and eats it. Lots of surprising stuff about bear poop.

Now that it is November, I'm seeing fewer signs of bears. No signs last week at all. No trash cans down. No dog barking. We are doing what we can to discourage the bear from coming our way and maybe it is working.