Once an isolated farming enclave subject to the whims of the flood-prone San Gabriel River, Bellflower began to thrive during the Great Depression. Dutch dairy farmers were attracted by ample local financing, and green thumbs set about producing sugar beets and blossoming plants. Dahlias became so prevalent that the city adopted the many-petaled bud as its official flower. The '40s ushered in a golden era. The population quadrupled, and seven schools, a city park and an airport were built. By the time of its 1957 incorporation, Bellflower had one of the liveliest downtown shopping districts in southeast L.A. County. Although Bellflower Boulevard fell on hard times, the city is restoring its former shine.
ONE THING TO DO
New Action Flick Stars You
Get splattered at Hollywood Sports Park, a 30-acre playland that professes to be the only "action sports theme park" in the world. Activities include rock climbing, BMX biking and soccer. The most popular is paintball. Choose one of eight fields, five of which are film-themed: Mad Max, Saving Private Ryan, Tombraider, Water World or Starship Troopers. Co-owner Giovanni D'Egidio says celebrity customers include Gov. Schwarzenegger: "It's an outlet for people to blow off steam." Go to www.hollywoodsports.com for an activity price list. 9030 Somerset Blvd., (562) 867-9600.
Bellflower's ranking in a list of the most populous cities in L.A. County
Chicken reigns supreme at Henry Moffett's Old Fashioned Chicken Pies. Opened in 1958, the family-run business recently welcomed its third generation when Henry's grandson Griffin started busing tables. Pat McDonald, a waitress for more than 14 years who works the night shift, says the staff is like family too. "I'm a newcomer compared to the day girls." 16506 Lakewood Blvd., (562) 925-5061 . . . Located in a strip mall, cavernous Stagger Inn might be the best dive bar we've discovered in years. There are 14 50-cent pool tables (plus a 75-cent one), cheap draft beer and loose-wristed bartenders. If you're the stay-up-all-night type, you'll be glad to know that the inn hosts an after-hours party Fridays and Saturdays with a $5 cover. 9108 Alondra Blvd., (562) 866-9311.
A Diamond in the Rough
Johnson Jewelers has one of those classic midcentury neon signs: a slender blue- and red-lettered marvel crowned with a sparkling diamond, attached to the side of a mint green Art Deco facade. It stands as a symbol of Bellflower Boulevard's illustrious past. "I like to call us a dinosaur," says third-generation owner Kevin Stevenson. "And we're proud of it." Surrounded by Johnson's custom-made jewelry--diamonds, gemstones, platinum, gold, silver--it's easy to imagine that you're in a more elegant era. 16727 Bellflower Blvd., (562) 867-4420.
Filmed on Location: Although it pulled a vanishing act at the box office, 1988's "The Invisible Kid," starring cuddly Jay Underwood, made quite an appearance in Bellflower. St. John Bosco High School is the site of the transparent mayhem spawned when Underwood's character, a geeky teenage scientist, discovers a formula to make himself invisible. Harmless fun in the girls' locker room soon gives way to payback for bullies.