Our Readers Write

Cal-Med gone, but not forgotten

Awareness of my mortality is never more acute than when I hear of a loved one's death. And so it was last week when I phoned Cal-Med Pharmacy.

"Today's our last day — we're closing," the pharmacist said matter-of-factly.

No big deal. Businesses are born and die every day. Right?

But this was Cal-Med, one of La Cañada's oldest businesses (as far as I know).

How proud and nervous my dad was on Cal-Med's opening day in 1965. My parents, four siblings and I — all freshly scrubbed — anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first customers.

My dad opened a second Cal-Med store in 1969 on the east end of town, which my mom and I still own. (We changed the name to Flintridge Pharmacy a few years back to avoid the misperception that our family still owned both stores.)

Lee Souter took over ownership of the original Cal-Med store back in the '80s, but I still considered it part of our family's legacy here. Now it's gone, gobbled up by the voracious Walgreens. Cal-Med customers' prescriptions have been transferred to that juggernaut's new La Crescenta store.

Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike chain stores. I'm a Walgreens shareholder. My best friend works for that company. And were it not for the generosity of another chain, Ralphs, Flintridge Pharmacy would not be ensconced in our beautiful new store. But the charm and distinctiveness of La Cañada does not emanate from its chain stores.

A very successful TV producer told me a few weeks back that he and his wife were considering moving out of town. They decided to list the pros and cons, and Flintridge Pharmacy was one of their top-ranked reasons for staying. Wow!

I understand why small towns like La Cañada are losing their distinctive charm as they morph into just another homogenized collection of chain stores. Commercial landlords prefer the financial security of renting to national chains. Small-business owners are increasingly overwhelmed by too-long hours with too-little pay. So they pack it in. Go work for the chains. Starting this week Cal-Med's owner will be wearing a Walgreens smock in La Crescenta.

As for me, I'm still standing tall. With Cal-Med's death, Flintridge Pharmacy is one of La Cañada's oldest surviving businesses. That's not important, though. What is important is that La Cañada retains its distinctive charm.

Michael Stremfel

La Cañada


Exchange student host families needed

As a member of your community, I'd like to appeal to you about hosting an AFS international exchange student.

AFS-USA is a nonprofit leader in international high school exchange that has changed the lives of thousands of students and their host families for more than six decades!

This year, we had students from Panama, Sweden and China living in La Cañada and attending La Cañada High School. We need host families for amazing students for the 2010-11 school year. You provide a bed, meals, and the same care and concern you would share with a child of your own for a year, semester or a few weeks. You'll have volunteers to support you throughout your experience.

Here's a link to a video showing some of our students from abroad: http://tinyurl.com/287zyug.

Need more information? Fill out a quick interest form at http://www.afsusa.org/usa_en/view/10948 to learn more. You can also call (800) 876-2377, e-mail hosting@afs.org, or even visit us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/hostingwithafsusa to get a better sense of what our community is like.

I hope you will join us.

Wendy Bennett

La Cañada


To whom the Bell tolls 

It's sad that the city of Bell trusted their politicians with their taxes. Instead they lined their own pockets with absurd salaries and pensions.

I think their fighting words should be: I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to give it anymore."

Good luck, Bell.

Rudy Cataldi

La Cañada


City fallen victim to 'professionalism' 

The recent "tale of two oak trees" as reported in our hometown newspapers brought back memories of my days on the LCF Public Works Commission in the '80s before I resigned to spend a year on the L.A. County Grand Jury. That interesting body met four days a week, and there was a great deal of shared experiences, much of it about our hometowns.

LCF had barely been incorporated for 10 years, and I can vividly remember the disbelief that came from my description of our tiny city staff and very dedicated (but amateur) commissions. Such was the objective of our founding residents, and since the city is little larger today than it was then, I suppose it could be run just as well in the same way if the time clock could be reversed.

But the clock spins on, and obviously LCF has fallen victim to "professionalism." A little may be essential, but unfortunately it is not only self perpetuating but often breeds uncontrollably. The day when city staff stops serving the wishes of LCF residents and starts running the city to fit into their individual plans or outside manipulations is going to be sad indeed.

Bully for the pros and amateurs who saved one of the veteran oak trees. That's the spirit that created our city, and it is also the spirit that should carefully examine "over management" that in any way contradicts the spirit.

Mayfield Marshall

La Cañada

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