Verdugo Views: Photographer captured history through his lens

Glendale's buildings and businesses were photographer Glenn B. Ward's domain. Not only did he work here — his studio was on Colorado Street — he documented the surrounding area as it looked in the mid-20th century.

On weekends, when the weather was right, he roamed around, photographing whatever caught his eye. He often took his family along, his daughter Sharon Ward Thompson said.

And sometimes he went to great heights — climbing trees or making his way to the top of a building — to get the right shot.

One adventurous day in 1957, Thompson and her father went up on the roof of a building overlooking a plot of land on Harvard Street. Later, that plot would be the site of the current Central Library, but then it was a park, Glendale Central Park.

From their rooftop perch, Ward got a great shot of the park and the old Presbyterian Church at Harvard and Louise. The church was severely damaged in the 1971 earthquake and later demolished. But Ward's photo left a record of both the church and the park, a testament to the way Glendale used to be.

Ward sometimes asked his family for help. Thompson and her three sisters, Peggy, Barbara Jo and Glenda, grew up serving as occasional models, as did their mother, Betty.

Thompson recalled the time her father was taking photos of a shirt for a Christmas ad.

"He shot that one at home with a Christmas tree in the background. He positioned a chair in just the right spot, while my sister Peggy and I were kneeling at the foot of the chair, looking on," Thompson said. "When everything was all in place, he sat down, holding the cord to the camera, taking pictures as he carefully held up the shirt to show his daughters."

Years later, he enlisted Thompson's husband, Rob, as a model. Ward was preparing to photograph a brush, one designed to clean big cables, and he needed someone with good-looking hands to hold the brush.

"Rob got a manicure and his hand ended up in a brochure," Thompson said.

Ward became very busy in the 1970s and 80s when big businesses were buying out small local shops, Thompson said.

"It was good work. I was told his prices were not the cheapest in town. 'I got a good price' was what he told us. He was a perfectionist. He did good work and customers kept returning," Thompson said.

Ward made multiple copies of the photos so he could provide a copy later if a client needed one.

When he died in 1994, he left files filled with 8-inch by 10-inch glossies. Thompson gathered them up and embarked on a quest to find each client.

"There were hundreds of photos," she said. "Some places were out of business, but some were delighted. One was celebrating a major anniversary and was delighted to receive the old photos of their products."

Thompson said her father's legacy is the many photos, taken throughout his career, that preserve local landscapes, buildings and neon signs, and create a valuable pictorial history of 1950s Glendale, Montrose and La Crescenta.

Readers Write:

Don Mazen, a 34-year Glendale resident, covered La Canada Flintridge as a news reporter and editor for 47 years and also wrote a book on that area. So when he read the Sept. 12, 2013 Verdugo Views column on Sen. Frank P. Flint, he wrote that Flint was responsible for bringing water from the Owens Valley to the city of Los Angeles.

In 1913, Flint authored the necessary legislation in the U.S. Senate, thus "transforming an infant town into a growing metropolis, now one of the largest cities in the United States."

Mazen added that the city erected a white marble fountain in Flint's honor in 1933. It is on the south lawn of City Hall.

Mazen's note is very timely, as this week marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. City officials celebrated the event at the base of the mountain where water from the Owens Valley splashes down a sluice just off the Golden State (5) Freeway.

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