When Lauren Grayson, who headed the city’s Public Service Department for nearly 20 years, retired in July 1970, the City Council passed a resolution that the Glendale Steam Plant on San Fernando Road be named the L.W. Grayson Steam-Electric Generating Station.
Grayson’s tenure began in April 1951 when the city’s electrical demand was 40,000 kilowatts. Demand increased sharply in the following years, and when he retired, the city had a 140,000-kilowatt demand, according to the Ledger Independent, July 1970. To acknowledge his firm leadership during these growth years, the council named the power plant for him.
Grayson began his professional career in Riverside. After graduating from Riverside Polytechnic High in 1925, he went to work in the city’s utilities department and studied for one year at Riverside Junior College. By 1942, Grayson was superintendent of public utilities for the city.
The city’s water needs were very urgent at that time, said his son, David Grayson, of Glendale.
The elder Grayson often relied on a divining rod, a forked branch from a willow tree, to search for a place to dig the next well. In 1947, the year he graduated from his father’s old school, David Grayson watched as the Riverside crew dug a well on the spot his father had indicated.
“He’s the one who decided where to drill for water,” said David Grayson, as he displayed a Riverside Daily Press from that time.
The headline read “Newest Artisan Well Produces Record Flow.”
Despite the fact that he had no engineering degree, Lauren Grayson worked his way to the top. He was appointed Riverside’s chief engineer and general manager in 1950.
The next year, he assumed the same position in Glendale, in the post left vacant by the 1949 death of Peter Diederich, who headed the Glendale utility for many years.
Lauren Grayson and Diederich were business associates and friends. A February 1951 Glendale News-Press article announcing Lauren Grayson’s appointment, said Diederich had expressed the wish that Lauren Grayson work in Glendale. “Both were self-taught,” continued the article, “making up in a wealth of practical experience what they lacked in formal training.”
He began his Glendale job during in challenging times, Lauren Grayson told the Los Angeles Times in July 1970.
“A heated controversy was in progress during annexation of half the Crescenta Valley,” Lauren Grayson said. “I walked into the job of detailing city takeover of electric and water service to the area.”
He was active in professional organizations, serving as national president of the American Water Works Assn. He was also involved locally, serving as campaign chairman for the Community Chest in 1954.
He presented the first Community Chest “Oscar” for outstanding achievement to the drive’s largest contributor, Wian Enterprises, headed by Robert C. Wian, founder of Bob’s Big Boy.
A heart attack forced Lauren Grayson’s early retirement in July 1970. He was honored by an overflow crowd at the former Pike’s Verdugo Oaks as Mayor James Perkins and City Manager C.E. “Gene” Perkins, along with politicos such as Assemblyman Carlos Moorhead, were on hand to present certificates of appreciation for his illustrious career.
“He received lots of recognition,” said his son, David Grayson. “He was a terribly hard worker, but he also had a relaxed side. He liked to play gin rummy, and as soon as my daughter Stephanie was old enough, he taught her to play.”
His love of gin rummy was alluded to at the retirement dinner when he was presented with a deck of playing cards sent by Jack Pike, who was recuperating from a heart attack.
One month later, the City Council named the power plant for Lauren Grayson. He died just two years later, suffering a heart attack while on an auto trip.
KATHERINE YAMADA can be reached by leaving a message with features editor Joyce Rudolph at (818) 637-3241. For more information on Glendale’s history, visit the Glendale Historical Society’s web page www.glendalehistorical.org; call the reference desk at the Central Library at (818) 548-2027; or call (818) 548-2037 to make an appointment to visit the Special Collections Room at Central from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays.