The steak house and coffee shop at Brand and Glenoaks boulevards that Jack Pike opened in 1947 was immediately popular. By 1951, Pike’s Steak House had added the Oak Room and was famous for its Spencer steak, served with baked potato.
“Every Sunday, the family would get takeout from there and eat at home. That gave us the family time we didn't get during the week,” said son Jack Pike (who went by Jay when his father was alive) as he recalled in a recent series of emails from his Las Vegas home.
“Thinking back, as a really young kid, dad and mom were gone a lot during the week but always made time for [me and my brother Chris] especially on Sunday.”
His parents didn’t talk much about work at home, but he recalled conversations about the food they should serve “from a growing boys’ perspective.”
The Pikes lived in Montrose before moving to Kempton Road. Son Jack Pike attended Fremont and Field elementary schools, then Toll Middle School and later Hoover High.
When he was older, he worked in the kitchen after school. He “peeled never-ending potatoes” and helped prep for the dinner rush.
His mother Mary was the hostess, along with her mother Vi Lennon and longtime friend Vi Koski. During those years, the plans for Verdugo Oaks came about, with a huge family gathering to weigh the pros and cons of building a restaurant to seat several hundred diners.
“Dad was emphatic that if it was built, it had to be successful. It had to be special, and it had to be one of a kind,” the younger Pike said.
In 1956, Jack Pike announced plans for “Glendale’s largest and finest restaurant,” Pike’s Verdugo Oaks, to be built on a triangle of land between Glendale Avenue and Verdugo Road. It opened in 1957, according to Carroll Parcher’s 1957 Glendale History book.
Son Jack worked as a cook, a parking lot attendant, behind the bar and in the dining room.
He was also the lighting and sound technician for the Versailles Room shows.
“No other local establishment had the ability to offer them,” he said.
The restaurant presented singers, comedians and musicians such as Les Brown and his Band of Renown as well as then local singer Grant Griffin, who still performs in Las Vegas. Master of ceremonies was Greg Hunter, who also covered the entertainment beat for the Glendale News-Press, as noted in the Aug. 11, 1995, Los Angeles Times.
“Glendale was pretty conservative at the time,” son Jack Pike wrote, recalling that his father was offered an act (three black female singers) for very little money, but turned them down.
“The act was Diana Ross and the Supremes,” he said.
Holidays were very busy. “All of us worked together. At the end of those long days, we all ate together and talked about the day, and sometimes even the next holiday and what we could do better,” the younger Pike recalled.
After graduating from Hoover in 1964, son Jack attended Glendale Community College for two years, served in the U.S. Army and then returned to the restaurant. His father died in 1980, and his mother, who had divorced and remarried, died in 1985.
The restaurant closed shortly after her death, and he worked for the local chapter of the Red Cross before relocating and eventually leaving the area. He moved to Las Vegas four years ago.
“Dad was a hard worker, and, while my brother and I probably didn’t imagine what the outcome would be, his work ethic and capabilities were often recognized by the restaurant industry,” son Jack Pike wrote.
His father served on several boards, held city government positions and was active in a restaurant-owners association.
“That was Dad,” his son said.
Our city had a starring role in the 1945 film “Mildred Pierce,” about a single mother who opens a restaurant right here in Glendale. In the book by the same name, written by James M. Cain in 1941, Pierce opens a restaurant featuring fried chicken. The old Henry’s restaurant at the corner of Glendale and Colorado avenues served as the location for the film version, according to Special Collections at the Glendale Central Library.
Learn more about the movie from Mark A. Vieira, author of “Into the Dark: The Hidden World of Film Noir, 1941-50,” and Catherine Jurca, local historian and “Mildred Pierce” scholar, at a Jewel City Noir event, at 2 p.m. on Aug. 19 at the Glendale Central Library, 222 E. Harvard St., Glendale.
KATHERINE YAMADA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. or by mail at Verdugo Views, c/o Glendale News-Press, 202 W. First St., Second Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include your name, address and phone number.