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Monterey Park to Put Its Own Stars on the Map

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Do potato chip queen Laura Scudder and Tiburcio Vasquez, a legendary Mexican bandido, have anything in common?

They do. For better or for worse, both helped put Monterey Park on the map. And for some reason, both were forgotten, or simply overlooked, in the days when city officials were naming new streets, parks and meeting halls after other local luminaries.

On Monday night, the City Council decided it wasn’t too late to honor those left by the wayside. It approved a list of 20 names of Monterey Park’s most notable characters, each to be used whenever a new street is paved. The top six constitute a kind of A-list and will be used first.

Among the honorees is Scudder, who on Nov. 26, 1926, fried her first batch of potato chips in a factory near the corner of Garvey Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard.

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Vasquez was a stagecoach robber and horse-and-cattle thief. In 1874, according to popular legend, he buried $40,000 in gold on a ranch in Monterey Park, setting off a decades-long treasure hunt that proved fruitless.

First on the list is Kenneth R. Gribble, the former mayor of Monterey Park and Chamber of Commerce president who died of cancer last year. His parents, John and Carrie, ran the city’s first grocery store, Gribble’s Food and Fuel. They share a spot on the list with their son.

Last on the list, but not least, is Anna Edwards, a longtime teacher at Ynez Elementary School who was “loved by all,” according to biographical information accompanying the names.

“None of these people have a street named after them,” said Beatrice Rexius, a member and former chairwoman of the city’s Historical Heritage Commission, which compiled the street names list. “There definitely should have been a street named after the Gribbles.”

And what about No. 14 on the list, Dan and Leona Hurley? During the 1920s, Dan Hurley played the drums in a burlesque theater on Garfield Avenue. It was there he met Leona Mason, a chorus girl who attracted his attention. The two married in 1932, opened a dance studio and held musical shows in Monterey Park every Friday night.

In fact, at one point the Hurleys informally named a small side street after themselves. But for some reason, the name Hurley Drive never became legal, according to a transcript of an interview with Leona Hurley, who still lives in the city with her husband. Today, the street is Roselyn Way on the map.

The city’s first mayor, John Dutcher, made the list. So did the city’s first woman mayor, Leila Donegan, who held the post in 1960-61.

No. 3 on the list is landowner and developer Peter Snyder, famous for envisioning a community within Monterey Park that he hoped would rival Bel-Air and Beverly Hills.

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But Snyder’s ambitious project, proposed in 1928 as Midwick View Estates, flopped during the Great Depression. After that, Snyder donated 1.5 acres of the land to the city. A distinctive Spanish-tiled fountain and meeting hall, called Jardin El Encanto, still stand on the property.

There were no Chinese names on the list, which city officials justified by saying that Chinese immigration to Monterey Park was too recent to have produced any historical figures yet.

One council member, Fred Balderrama, questioned why the only Latino was Vasquez, the bandido.

“You mean the only one you could find is a Frito Bandido type?” he asked Rexius. “That’s all we have from Monterey Park’s history is a bandido who buried treasure here?”

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Balderrama voted to approve the list, but said he plans to suggest a list of Latinos who helped shape Monterey Park.


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