One day, back in 1949, three men got together for lunch at a local restaurant. Dissatisfied with the cuisine, they discussed getting a men’s club going in Glendale, somewhere where they could get good food.
That conversation eventually led to the formation of the Verdugo Club, a social organization for men that opened its doors in July 1950.
The club’s history, written by Cary Griffin and printed in 1960 in its newsletter, the Verdugan, said that sometime in 1949, John Barringer had lunch with two other men, Skeeter Erickson and Roland Bush. As they ate, they lamented the food and discussed the idea that Glendale should have a club similar to the Overland Club of Pasadena, which had been around since 1900.
The trio separated after lunch, Griffin wrote, and Barringer went over to Jack Lawson’s office to continue the discussion. Lawson, son of one of Glendale’s pioneers, John W. Lawson, was very active in the community and had already had similar discussions with two other men, Mark McMahon and Carroll Parcher.
Eventually Lawson appeared as the leader of the fledging group, which held meetings around town. Their first informal events were at the Oakmont club, the Chevy Chase club and the Saddle & Sirloin restaurant. Some suggested a club with 1,000 members, but others were more conservative. The founders finally agreed on a goal of 200 members and an initiation fee of $240, plus $48 tax, again according to the 1960 Verdugan newsletter.
The Verdugo Club opened in 1950 on the second floor of the Stepper building at 220 W. Broadway with 135 members. The space had been extensively remodeled by architect Wayne McAllister before the formal opening in July.
The main lounge had divans, club chairs and cocktail tables and a separate reading room.
The dining room, just off the lounge, was marked by colorful curtains that opened to provide one large space. The long buffet table at the far end of the dining room adjoined the kitchen where Chef Marius Badiny and his chief assistant Walter Angel worked. The dining room’s unusual light fixtures led to its informal name, the “Flying Saucer Room.”
Lawson, who served as the first president, said at the opening that the club “furnished a long-felt need among Glendale’s business and professional men.” The club was restricted to the use of men during the day but was open to women after 4 p.m., noted the Glendale News-Press, July 21, 1950.
By the time the 10-year lease was up, membership had increased to 250, and the club needed more space. They decided to buy and further remodel the building they were in since it had a convenient location and good parking, reported the News-Press on Feb. 10, 1959. At the time, the building was also occupied by the Forge restaurant, a beauty supply business and salon and an accountant’s office.
The club had grown to 350 members by 1964, and membership was capped at 400.
The members built a new clubhouse on Glenoaks Boulevard in 1979.
Nick Caron, who now lives in Fallbrook, said the article on Art Cobery and the Tower Market at the corner of Central Avenue and Vine Street brought back many memories of growing up in Glendale. (See Verdugo Views, March 27, 2011)
Caron lived at 203 W. Elk Ave., and passed by the Tower Market on his way to and from school. He remembered the Maydags who owned the grocery store.
“They allowed me to ‘steal’ some cookies from the cookie bin.”
He said that the store had a row of bins with clear lids — the bins contained beans, grains and other items beside cookies. He laughingly added that as a child he thought of the Maydags as the ‘Maytags.’ Caron attended Edison Elementary, Roosevelt Junior High and Glendale High, graduating from high school twice, he explained. He was a member of the class of 1949, but in 1948 he and his father traveled to Italy to bring his grandmother to Southern California. That put him behind, so his “cap and gown” graduation was in 1950.
Like Cobery, Caron knew Dora Verdugo.
“We would go over and buy tamales from her. She was a nice lady, very sweet.”
If you have questions, comments or memories to share, please write to Verdugo Views, c/o News-Press, 221 N. Brand Blvd., 2nd Floor, Glendale, CA 91203. Please include your name, address and phone number.