Verdugo Views: Theater built by Armenian

Glendale News Press

A young man by the name of M.G. Khodigian arrived in Glendale in 1917, on the last leg of an odyssey that began in his native Armenia in 1900.

He graduated from an Armenian high school that year, at age 17, then left his home and family, traveling through Syria, Egypt and France to reach New York City in the fall. He spoke four languages at the time, none of them English, he told the Glendale Evening News in the Oct. 19, 1925, edition.

Khodigian entered night school in Rhode Island, then traveled from state to state, reaching Los Angeles, where a family member was in the wholesale fruit business, in 1906.

In 1917, during World War I, business was slow, so on Thanksgiving morning they went for a drive. They were looking for a house on a large lot on a well-traveled street where they could raise a few chickens, grow vegetables and start a small business.

"It happened that we drove into Glendale and turned onto Colorado Street. We enjoyed the odor of orange blossoms and flowers," Khodigian said.

"At that time it appeared to us as a good location for business. Therefore, we started to hunt for a home and a business place. While crossing Colorado and Adams streets, we noticed an old house with a few orange and walnut trees. We investigated the place and located the owner. After making a deal with him, we repaired the house and moved in without waiting for the title."

In 1918 they got a permit to build a little store for a fruit stand and soft drinks. At the same time his brother, Stephen, passed a civil service examination as a letter carrier.

"Our intention was for him to work in the post office while I ran the fruit stand," he said. "He joined the Army in a short time and when he returned, we cooperated, working every day of the year, continually, for five years, 18 hours a day."

The business and the surrounding community grew rapidly, he said.

"We were forced to build a larger building," he added.

In 1923 the two men embarked on a two-story building project on the southwest corner of Colorado and Adams with a grocery store on the ground floor, but then decided to retire from the grocery store business.

"I leased the building and transferred the business to Sam Seelig. At that time Stephen married and went back east. After his return, we moved the old building to 1910 S. Olive Ave., in Burbank, and he continued in the same business."

Meanwhile, Khodigian set in motion a plan to build a movie theater.

Within a year, according to an item published in the Glendale Evening New in the Oct. 29, 1924, edition, Khodigian took out a $100,000 permit to build a 1,000-seat motion picture theater adjacent to his corner building. Plans called for four stores on the street level and eight apartments above. The value of the land, the structure and the furnishings to be installed was placed at $250,000. The theater was to be operated as one of a chain by L.L. Bard of Los Angeles.

Bard's Glendale Theatre opened with great fanfare in October 1925, with promises from Bard that the films shown would always be a good ones, with something on the bill for the entire family.

Khodigian lived in a small house at the rear of the property at 1101 E. Colorado St., while the theater was built. He had two daughters — Marian, who attended Wilson Intermediate School and Victoria, a student at Broadway School.

Khodigian was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and several organizations including the Glendale Elks and the Masons.

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