Verdugo Views: Remembering the pre-freeway neighborhood

Ron Magneson’s family moved to Walnut Drive in 1948 when he was four years old, and remained there until they were forced to leave in 1964 by construction of the Glendale (State Route 2) Freeway.

“It was a very short street,” he recalled. “It was one block long, running between east Chevy Chase Drive and Eden Avenue. The original home in the area was across the street and was built by the Brown family. Eleanore Drive was named after Mr. Brown’s wife.”

Lilac Lane was named for the lilacs she planted on the hill adjacent to the new road, which originally opened onto Walnut, he added.

“The small Canyon Market, at the corner of Walnut and Chevy Chase, was a gathering place for many in the area.”

Magneson started kindergarten at Glenoaks Elementary shortly after the family moved to Walnut. He was very young when his mother died of cancer in 1951, “leaving my father to deal with three small kids ages 4, 7 and 10.”

In September 1955, he entered Wilson Junior High. “It was the opening day of the new school, which had previously been on the Glendale High campus.’’ From there, he went to Glendale High. “We just celebrated our 50th reunion last October,” he recalled.

One of their neighbors was character actor Glenn Strange. “He and his wife and daughter were wonderful people. Glenn made many 'B' cowboy movies in the late 1940s and early 1950s,” he said. “As one of the ‘Arizona Wranglers,’ it was not unusual to see the singing cowboy Eddy Dean, Hoot Gibson and others out in Glenn's backyard playing their guitars, fiddles, and singing western songs. If I remember correctly, even Roy Rogers occasionally attended some of those sessions.”

Magneson said he doesn't recall many details of the freeway proposal. “I remember my family, along with everyone else in the area that was potentially affected, was notified of the possibility of the freeway being built in our area. I remember either two or three possible route choices … and I did attend one of the public hearings where the choices were discussed. Ultimately, of course, the present route was selected and eventually each affected property was toured by the agency in charge and a price was determined and submitted to each property owner. I know my father was very unhappy with the resulting price.”

The Magnesons moved to Brookhill Street, near the top of Dunsmore Avenue in La Crescenta, in 1964. He graduated from Glendale College and then went on to Cal State L.A.

The freeway, high on the list of essential transportation corridors, was named the Glendale Freeway in August, 1955 by the California Highway Commission, according to a pamphlet on file in the Glendale Library’s Special Collections.

The first 3.2-mile stage, from Route 134 to Fern Lane, was completed in 1975, said The Ledger, January 28, 1978. Other portions were completed in various stages and eventually connected the Golden State Freeway 5 with the 210 Freeway.

“Of course Walnut Drive was just a small street,” Magneson recalled, “But I have wonderful memories of the people that lived there. It was a wonderful place to grow up.’’

Readers Write:

Jeff Lawson wrote regarding Verdugo Views, April 11, 2012. “It was good to see Henry Mingay in the news again, he was such a colorful character in his day. We have many so Civil War veterans in our local cemeteries. The war was a catalyst for many to decide to come west and start a new life. Union General William Starke Rosecrans had a large ranch down near Manhattan/Hermosa beach area and died here. He was first buried in Angelus Cemetery, where many Civil War veterans are today, until his remains were moved to Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C. Henry Mingay, as well as many others Civil War vets, are buried locally in Grandview Cemetery and also in Forest Lawn.’’

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