Start the Presses: Living library offers pages from the past

They say when an older person dies, a library is lost. If that's the case, I met a university-sized one Monday, and I'd like to preserve at least some of the stacks for perpetuity.

Enter Genevieve Fisher, a 98-year-old woman who has lived in the same house on Norton Avenue in Glendale since she was 23. For those of you keeping score, that would be during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first term, and just a few blocks away from the high school named for FDR's predecessor.

Fisher got in touch with me after reading my last column, in which I mentioned a business story that ran in the Oct. 4, 1955, edition of the Glendale News-Press. The company featured, the Royal Egg Co., was run by Fisher's husband.

I had no particular reason to use that particular story, as I only mentioned it to illustrate that our community papers had not changed their mission or focus throughout the decades. But because I brought up Royal Egg, I got to sit down with Mrs. Fisher and chat it up about Glendale's past.

Fisher's father, Mike Berman, moved his family to Glendale in 1911 and had a tailor shop on Brand Boulevard, between Broadway and Wilson Avenue.

On March 13, 1914, when it was time for Fisher to come into the world, her mother was at the shop, so her parents simply went to the Woods Hotel next door.

“So that's where I was born,” she said with a smile as we sat at a round, white table in her kitchen, centered with a plate of chocolate chip cookies.

The home is filled with pictures, memories and history. At one point she handed me a picture of her father, looking sharp in a suit.

“That was my father,” she said. “Anyone that wanted to look nice went to S. Berman.”

I was perplexed. Wasn't your father's first name Mike, I asked? Oh yes, she answered. So what did the S stand for?

“Simon,” she answered. “That was his first name, but he went by Mike.”

“Was Mike his middle name?” I asked, deciding to use my investigative journalism abilities get to the bottom of this.

“No,” she answered. “He just liked the name Mike.”

Fisher's late husband's name was Maurice, so perhaps she had a genetic affection for the letter “M” in addition to longevity. Her sister, Anne Lane, turns 103 in a few days.

Maurice and Genevieve met at a birthday party when she was 13, but nothing much came of the meeting until just before New Year's Eve in 1932, when she got a box of candy with the greeting “MFALH.” As this made no sense, Fisher said she never opened it. (She later discovered the greeting stood for “Maurice Fisher of Alhambra.”)

“One day, Maurice came by and asked me if I got the candy,” she said. “I said I didn't open it, because I didn't know who it was from.”

Despite the initial disconnect, the two married shortly after. She graduated from Glendale High in the winter of 1932, and was married the next year. The couple raised two children in the Norton Avenue home, who in turn produced four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Maurice, she said, stayed out of World War II due in part to a military contract to provide eggs to the Japanese internment camp at the Santa Anita racetrack. I asked if she ever went along.

“Once,” she said. “It was very sad.”

But Fisher does not dwell on the negative very long, and soon it was more stories of her children and family, more than I can fit in this column. Her life is active and filled with joy.

Her memory of events, dates and figures — she remembered they paid $1,250 for the lot her home sits upon — is frankly amazing. I am honored to have met her, and I hope she has many more years left.

DAN EVANS is the editor. He can be reached at (818) 637-3234 or

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