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Life and Arts

Verdugo Views: Article about ostrich farms sparks memories for two women

Judy Mislay Gorham is pictured in 1940 on a wagon drawn by an ostrich at the Los Angeles Ostrich Far
Judy Mislay Gorham is pictured in 1940 on a wagon drawn by an ostrich at the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm in Lincoln Heights. Opened in 1906, it closed in 1953.
(Courtesy of Judy Mislay Gorham)

The article on local ostrich farms (Verdugo Views, Feb. 9) brought several responses, including two from Glendale women who were both born at the Glendale Sanitarium, now known as Adventist Health Glendale.

The first was an email from Judy Mislay Gorham, who sent a photo of herself at the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm, the last of the ostrich attractions.

It had opened in 1906 in Lincoln Heights and remained open until 1953. Gorham was just 3 years old when the photo was taken in 1940. She has no memories of that visit, but said in a follow-up email that her “mother kept great scrapbooks.”

She attended Columbus Elementary and entered seventh grade at Toll Junior High.

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She remembers going to the Alex Theatre for Saturday cartoons and taking the bus from the corner of Burchett Street and Pacific Avenue to the swimming pool, known as the Key Hole, adjacent to the Civic Auditorium.

The pool is now the site of a parking structure. The bus fare was 7 cents each way.

Her family shopped at Famous Department Store at Brand Boulevard and Harvard Street. After it closed, the Mislays patronized Webbs and Sears and other downtown places. “It was a treat to eat at the Woolworth’s lunch counter or Sharps Cafeteria.’’

Her sister was born on D-Day, and she remembers the air-raid drills and the celebrations when World War II ended in 1945.

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The Mislays moved to Tujunga in 1949. At the time, an elementary school and a junior high were on the same campus as Verdugo Hills High, Gorham wrote. Her sister started elementary school there, while Gorham finished junior high and went on to high school.

They still took the bus to Glendale to shop. She also remembers riding the red cars to downtown Glendale and into Los Angeles.

The family moved back to Glendale in 1958, to La Crescenta in 1963 and back to Tujunga in 1970. She’s resided in Glendale since 1974 and worked at Glendale Community College and for the Glendale Unified School District, for a combined total of 40 years.

During a phone conversation with fellow Glendale native and Glendale Adventist alum, Marilyn Nadeau Chrisman, I learned about her great-great-grandfather, Remi Nadeau, who made his fortune with 20-mule teams that hauled silver ingots from mines high in the northern Sierras to the Los Angeles Harbor.

He opened a four-story hotel — one of the city’s most prestigious — in 1882 at First and Spring streets in downtown L.A. The hotel boasted Los Angeles’ first elevator and Griffith J. Griffith, owner of the property where an ostrich farm was later located, was one of the first to ride the new elevator.

Griffith, a Welsh-born immigrant who made a fortune in mining, according to Wikipedia, purchased 4,000 acres of what had been Rancho Los Feliz in 1882, the same year Nadeau’s hotel opened.

The ostrich farm opened three years later and Griffith installed picnic areas and hiking trails for the public. When the ostrich farm closed — in 1889 — he gave most of the property to the city of Los Angeles for use as a public park.

Chrisman also told me about a pigeon farm along the Los Angeles River near the Arroyo Seco. In earlier times, her family members had hunted duck in that area.

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“There were lots of cattails there then,” she said.

The pigeon farm opened in 1892 to raise squab, or young pigeon, then a luxury food served in fine restaurants, according to Nathan Master’s Lost LA, posted on KCET.org.

The farm was not open to the public, but visitors to Elysian Park could look down onto the farm and watch the birds. It closed in February 1914 after a massive rainstorm flooded out the pigeon coops.

To the Readers:

The Famous store was the second occupant of a 1921 three-story building, which also included a basement. Built to house Pendroy Dry Goods Co., it had quality finishings, such as highly-polished eucalyptus gum floors and cabinets of solid mahogany.

After only four years, the elegant store closed. The building was later purchased by the Famous Army & Navy Department Store of Los Angeles, which set about transforming the expensively-finished interiors into a lively store crowded with merchandise.

A brand new Ford was given away on opening day, along with a $200 set of gold-rimmed dishes, a radio set and $50 worth of merchandise.

The main floor included men’s work clothes and dress shoes, while ladies’ garments, made at the Army & Navy factory in L.A., were on the second floor, but the real deals were in the basement, where smoked meats and groceries were sold, along with an array of camping outfits, tents and hardware.

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At Christmas time, a tree stood in the middle of the store.

The store closed in the late 1940s or early 1950s, due in part to competition from Sears, which had opened in Glendale in the mid-1930s. [Verdugo Views, May 1, May 15, May 29, 2004]

Katherine Yamada can be reached at katherineyamada@gmail.com. or by mail at Verdugo Views, c/o Glendale News-Press, 453 S. Spring St., Suite 308, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Please include your name, address and phone number.


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