Listen to the Eyewitnesses of Altadena History
The Altadena Historical Society began collecting oral histories back in the days of audio tapes to record the personal recollections of longtime Altadenans for future generations.
Our collection includes first-hand accounts of Altadena life from its residents. This includes interviews with Pasadena’s first Black taxi driver, Jesse Gilton, documentary filmmaker Pablo Miralles, Scripps’ gardening family member Fumiko Yuge, artist Jirayr Zorthian and more. We have put many of these online. Click any underlined name to listen to that person’s story.
No interview date.
Annas, born in 1910, talks about growing up in Altadena, visiting the poppy fields, Rubio Canyon, and Millard Canyon. She remembers when Fair Oaks was a dirt road and flooding was a problem. She talks about life during the Depression and living in Altadena over the years.
Interviewed June 1997.
Bagnard talks about picnicking at Switzer’s camp and Millard Canyon, visiting Rubio Canyon and Echo Mountain via cable car, and taking streetcars in Los Angeles.
Interviewed January 1993.
Barnes lived on Rubio and Maiden Lane during a time when there were still orange groves in the neighborhood. She talks about the Farnsworth family, Pasadena’s attempt to annex Altadena, her 50 years’ worth of work with the League of Women Voters, segregation in schools, women’s suffrage, and her husband’s career at JPL among other topics.
An extremely popular educator, Barnes taught at John Muir High School from 1960 until 1993 and then went on to teach/evaluate graduate students. He speaks of the difficult days of school integration and explains how the School Board, teachers, students, and parents often had differing goals. He talks about the origin of “Fundamental” schools and how teachers led the effort to integrate students. Still committed to young people, he comments on the “Save Our Lives” movement against guns in schools and in society in general. He tells a never-before-revealed story about visiting Groucho Marx!
Bertonneau, Kenneth, owner of Fox’s Restaurant
Interviewed March 1997
Bertonneau talks about his family ownership of the restaurant, his role managing it from 1966-1997, and his pride in all the friendships built through the restaurant.
Interviewed June 2018
LA County fire historian and retired. Dave began his fire service in 1953 as an auxiliary fireman with the Altadena branch of the Crescenta-Canada Civil Defense Corps, serving for two years out of Altadena’s fire station 12 at 2760 Lincoln Avenue. He retired 41 years later in 1994 as a Captain in the Los Angeles County Fire Department. He talks about growing up in Montrose, joining the La Crescenta Fire Department, and what it was like working as a firefighter.
Brooks, Frederika & Dillinger, Jeannette
Interviewed February 1993
Teachers who were actively involved in school and neighborhood integration in the late 1950s and 1960s. They talk about the Altadena Human Relations Committee, welcoming African American neighbors, Altadena Neighbors (a welcome wagon for new minority residents), the Council of Churches, and other issues related to integration in Altadena in the 1960s.
Discussed being a woman in academia in the 1960s, living in Altadena after WWII, and other topics.
Interviewed March 1997
Her grandparents came to California in 1920. Carnahan attended Canyon Crest School, Altadena School, Eliot, and PCC. She talks about growing up in Altadena during the Great Depression, and then in the 1930s and 1940s when there were vacant lots and children rode their bikes to the Arroyo. She talks about how West Altadena was “goat pastures” and had cheaper housing. She talks about her family, fashion over the years, the business area on Lake and Mariposa, life during WWII including blackouts and volunteers on Mount Wilson, life after the war in Altadena and Pasadena, Sarah Noble Ives who was a friend and neighbor, and her Greene & Greene home she was living in at the time of the interview.
Interviewed March 1997
Champion talks about growing up in Altadena, with a focus on his participation in the Boy Scouts starting in 1938.
Interviewed October 2014
Talks about growing up in Altadena in the 1930s and 1940s, summer movie nights at Farnsworth Park, life in Altadena during WWII, his work on the Mt. Lowe Pavilion restoration in 1962, finding relics at Echo Mountain, and directing traffic on Christmas Tree Lane as a Boy Scout.
Interviewed January 1993
Talks about his family coming to Altadena by steam train in 1929, riding trains and streetcars to Mt. Lowe and beaches, orange and avocado orchards on Alameda Street, how Fair Oaks was a dirt road until the 1940s, poppies on the hillsides, his adulthood during and after WWII, his involvement with Theatre Americana, and being friends with the Fosselman family.
No interview date. Not online.
This interview focuses on Mr. Davis’s dream to build a tramway from Altadena to Mount Wilson (recorded before the tramway was denied access by LA County).
Interviewed February 1993.
Dorland, Assistant Principal at Eliot Middle School, talks about growing up in Pasadena. He talks about becoming a teacher and serving in WWII. He reminisces on the Altadena Golf Course being built, the first fire engine, and peaceful life in the suburbs.
Dupuy, Frank & Jo
Interviewed August 2000
The Dupuys owned the McNally House on Mariposa. They bought the house in 1954 when it was in bad condition. They talk about repairing it and various items found in the house during repairs.
Interviewed February 2006
Dyer talks about moving West after graduating from high school and buying a house on Palm Street. Talks about her involvement with the NAACP, the PTA, and the League of Women Voters. She talks about integration and her advocacy for it, including the integration of schools. She served on the Altadena Town Council for 8 years.
Interviewed July 1999
Artist and sculptor, Estey talks about moving to Pasadena, studying art, and doing set design for the Pasadena Playhouse, and some exhibits of her work around the state. She talks about her involvement with Theatre Americana and her role creating “Millies,” ceramic figurines given as awards.
Ferris, Art & Betty
Interviewed January 1993
This interview includes how Art’s family owned a cabin in the Arroyo, connections to Jackie Robinson’s family, serving in WWII. They talk about how loans were hard to get, and as a result, many properties were subdivided. Talks about integration and white flight from Altadena.
Interviewed May 1997
Gilton describes his life as an African American. His grandfather was a slave, challenges of trying to find a job, working as Pasadena’s first black cab driver, his life driving taxis, racism at restaurants and in local real estate.
Interviewed July 1997
Grant, who was 85 at the time of this interview, talks about living on East Altadena Drive, all the changes on New York Drive and Lake Avenue, eating at the Fox and the Venetian, integration, and opposing the Pasadena annexation effort.
Green, David Oliver
Interviewed December 1992
A sculptor who moved to California from Chicago in 1941. Green created the sculpture “Owl Tree” for the Altadena Library. It was stolen and later replaced. He also created a Tree of Life sculpture for the library.
Interviewed November 1997
Gregory founded Altadena Heritage, and talks about his work on the town council, the early days of Altadena Heritage in the 1980s, and creating a card file system of homes and their histories.
Interviewed May 1993.
Guerrant talks about moving to Altadena in 1923, the large citrus groves, and meeting Zane Grey. He remembers Christmas Tree Lane as “way out in the country.” His family was charter members of Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Interviewed March 2000
Haines talks about growing up at Mariposa & Fair Oaks, and how Altadena was sparsely settled. His parents were both physicians. He talks about the trolley tracks on Fair Oaks, attending local schools (Edison, Eliot, Pasadena Junior College, and Stanford). His family was friends with Zane Grey, the McNally’s, the Scripps family, and others.
Hull, Herb & Jim
Interviewed June 1995
The Hulls talk about their memories of Altadena and Pasadena, including the Mt. Wilson toll road, paying in advance for water stocks, a dairy at Marengo and Poppyfields (and how most of the dairies were gone by the 1940s because of competition), Hastings Ranch as pastureland, and a large farm at Las Flores & Marengo that grew corn. He remembers a trash dump on the north side of the Rose Bowl and how boys would salvage “good stuff.” He talks about “home brews” and a speakeasy at Loma Alta, and more.
Interviewed with others in a group in January 1988.
She talks about growing up in Altadena, a field at Porter & Altadena Drive that had a platform for viewing Catalina Island, the white cars going to and from Mt. Lowe, Webster’s Pharmacy and its ice cream fountain, air raids during WWII, and a terrible fire at La Vina.
Recording of a talk he gave at the Women’s Circle Meeting at Scripps Hall in January 1997.
Kinsinger, Laurie & Doug
Interviewed February 2015
The Kinsingers talk about when their families came to Altadena, growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, churches in the area, and more.
Lepisto, Walter & Dorothy
Interviewed May 1998
This interview focuses on Farnsworth Park and their experiences as its caretakers.
Lewis, Catherine “Kit”
Interviewed May 1997.
Lewis talks about her life in Altadena, including her house (which was built for Culver of Culver City), housing development after WWII, visiting the Cobb Estate, and local wildlife (including tortoises, raccoons, and skunks).
Lyons, Darrell “D.L.”
Interviewed February 2017.
Lyons talks about growing up in Altadena in the 1970s and 1980s, his mom’s work at a barbershop, his own pursuit of a career as a barber, the role of rap and music videos in influencing hairstyles, mentoring youth, the gentrification of Altadena, working with at-risk youth, books he’s published, and more.
Interviewed October 2016
Mathews was a member of Theatre Americana, which was in Altadena from the 1930s until 2007. She talks about her career with Theatre Americana, its history and performance of original plays, membership in the theatre, borrowed props, involvement with Old Fashioned Days Parade, and the decline of the organization.
No interview date
Talks about the urge to travel, exploration of his roots, visiting family in Argentina, busing to Eliot and school integration, the Asian American communities in Altadena and being influenced by Civil Rights, and screening a film he made on these topics. See the film on Vimeo.
Nash, C. Scudder
Interviewed October 1989
Nash, who was born in 1906, talks about his grandfather’s store (Nash’s in Pasadena), where he worked as a boy delivering food in a Model T. Talks about night hikes. He shares a lot of memories about Switzer’s Camp, including how a piano had been hauled in by a team of burros. He remembers church services at the Chapel on the Cliff and going for walks after and visiting Mount Lowe.
Interviewed January 1993
Actress in Parenthood who lived in Altadena. Very short interview.
Smith, Edna on Meals on Wheels
Interviewed August 2003.
Discusses the history of meals on wheels, how it was meant to help elderly people with nutritious meals, the early days of the organization, and its more recent operations.
Smith, Edna on Altadena Historical Society
Interviewed July 1997
Smith talks about the need for managing AHS’s archives to maintain objects, people who helped start the archives, donations from prominent community members including the Kellogg family, and more.
Smith talks about growing up African American in Los Angeles County, her parenting advice columns, some of her philosophies, and her work as a standup comic. She talks about her books, her parenting seminars, and life.
Interviewed in 1998
Thomas, who was born in 1914, owned Altadena Hardware. He remembers a great steam running in the arroyo year-round, living on Lincoln Avenue in the 1930s when everyone had chickens and rabbits, and being active in the Altadena Business Association in the 1930s. He remembers the snowstorm in 1949, and people skiing down Lincoln and Lake Avenues. He talks about the business district, including Zane Grey’s role in funding Altadena Bank and his paintings in the barbershop.
Interviewed November 1989
Werner talks about Pasadena’s attempt to annex Altadena.
Interviewed May 2003
Yuge reads a written description of her family’s history in the area and their work for the Scripps Kellogg family, their internment during WWII, and their return to Altadena after the war.
Interviewed in 1994
Zorthian discusses a film about the Zorthian family, designing the 1969 Rose Parade float for Altadena, his art, and living at Zorthian Ranch.