Historical artlcies about the city of La Verne.
Torrey’s Grocery Store
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Few in La Verne have heard of the Torrey family, but a century ago Torrey’s General Store stood on Arrow Highway near “D” Street in Lordsburg.
In the 1880’s, Luther and Susan Torrey lived in a sod house in Kansas. They ran a general store, farmed, and raised six children. They were very religious and hard-working.
When Luther and his son Martin heard wonderful stories about Southern California, they came west on the Santa Fe Railroad.
In San Dimas, they bought land to build homes. Luther built a house at the northwest corner of today’s Cienega and Cataract. It was later known as the Rouse House. Martin built the first of three houses which stood on the southwest corner of Bonita and Walnut.
Luther built a general store in the business district of Lordsburg, on Arrow Highway just off D Street, then sent word to his wife to sell the Kansas store and bring the family west.
The Torreys planted fruit trees on land Martin bought on the northeast corner of Bonita and Walnut, and on San Dimas Canyon Road. When the trees bore fruit, it was dried, packed and taken by wagon to a store in north Pomona across from the Santa Fe depot to ship east.
The Lordsburg store did rather well, selling just about everything for the home and farm. People could buy on credit, paying as soon as they had money. Luther’s son Albert helped in the store, and was Lordsburg Postmaster for two years.
Seeing that citrus grew well, Martin Torrey replaced his fruit trees with small orange and lemon trees from the R. M. Teague nursery. These had to be irrigated regularly with water brought down from the mountains in ditches.
He and his wife Jane raised five sons – Raymond, Earl, Tevis, Kenneth and Guy .
The boys were still small when Lordsburg College invited people in surrounding towns to a family picnic day. By now Martin Torrey owned a Buick touring car, so Jane fixed enough food for several families and everyone piled into the car. They arrived to find at least twenty other automobiles there, most touring cars. The college had games such as potato sack races, and awarded prizes. Later the women put the food on the tables for lunch and visiting. There were more games for the kids while the tables were cleared and the men showed off their cars to each other.
After Jane Torrey passed away, Martin assigned tasks to their five boys. Raymond took over household duties of cooking, cleaning, washing and shopping. Earl finished his second year at Bonita high school, then helped his father in work to make a living for the family. Tevis had the job of looking after his two younger brothers; they fed the chickens, rabbits, cow and horses, milked the cows, churned butter, and tended the garden.
By the 1920’s Martin’s enthusiasm for automobiles led him to speed. He bought a Model T Ford which he souped up by installing a special “Rajo” unit. Each Saturday his family piled into the car and roared through La Verne to go shopping in Pomona.
Torrey always drove too fast and was soon involved in a running battle with La Verne Speed Control Officers Epperson and Hayden, who could not stop him from speeding. The Torrey children were a bit scared and watched to see if the police car was gaining. This went on for months. The officers told him one day they would catch him and throw the book at him.
One evening in Pomona, Martin told his sons that he would stop for the police. He did so. They gave him a ticket, then wanted to know what he had under the hood. They seemed a bit disappointed that he had stopped, so the next week he outran them again! He would drive by the police station and honk so they knew another chase was underway.
Torrey’s market is now long gone. The Martin House, home of the San Dimas Chamber of Commerce, now stands on the site of the Torrey home.
Drawn from an account written by Luther’s daughter Nadine.
La Verne Icehouse Was Vital in Shipping Citrus East
- Published Date
When you next drive along Arrow Highway, look north just east of E Street and you’ll see the former Sunkist packing house. It is now a University administrative building. A large mural depicting a citrus label – La Verne Mutual Citrus Association – faces the railroad tracks.
A high cooling structure stood on the roof of the squarish building at the east end. Water once dripped down through layers of planks as part of ice manufacturing. Lines of boxcars were drawn up alongside the building, and trapdoors opened in their roofs. A chute below the cooling tower poured a stream of crushed ice down into the boxcars and workers packed it around crates of oranges and lemons.
It made sense to ship California-grown produce east. Railroad companies were given free quarter-sections of federal land on either side of the tracks in return for putting the tracks through. They plotted out land, and turned it over to farmers as an inducement to settle. Their produce was sent back to eastern cities by rail, and industrial goods went west to the growing agricultural communities.
The Teacher Who Built His Own School
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Life was tough during the Great Depression. Jobs were hard to find. People looked for anything to survive and helped each other out. Fred Brunk was one of those without a job. He graduated from La Verne College in 1933 as a teacher, but all local positions were filled. The City of La Verne or the school district could only hire him and another man as playground supervisors.
The co-worker had lost his job as an accountant in Chicago in 1931, and brought his family to California in a house trailer. They camped for months near Hooverville, a town of shanties built on forest land at the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. People lived in ramshackle structures with canvas roofs made water repellent by using gasoline mixed with melted wax. Many panned for gold.
"Camp Bonita" was on the fire road at a bridge across the river. It wasn’t much - a pool hall with a leaky roof and a little general store to the east, and a small Ranger’s cabin to the west.
The couple from Chicago now lived in La Verne at a home on 5th Street. Reatha, Fred’s fiancé, lived next door. She was hanging out clothes with the co-worker’s wife one day when mention was made of a possible teaching job at Camp Bonita. It was in the La Verne Heights school system, but the road was unsafe for a bus. School had been held in the pool hall the winter before.
W. C. Hanawalt and the Hanawalt House
- Published Date
A Pennsylvanian educator who came to California more than a hundred years ago left an enduring legacy for La Verne.
He brought his family here, kept a college going, and built a rather solid home.
The saga began in 1887 when I.W. Lord, a Los Angeles entrepreneur, bought land from Hispanic ranchers, and had it surveyed and divided into building lots. It was the time of ‘boom towns’ sited near the railroad lines
That May, bands went up and down streets in Los Angeles and Riverside telling of a land auction. Potential buyers took a free train ride here to enjoy a barbeque and bid on building lots for the new town of Lordsburg, which Lord modestly named after himself.
Part of the promotion was to build a large hotel on the block south of 3rd and west of D streets. It was, of course, named the Lordsburg Hotel, but as the real estate boom soon collapsed, the hotel never had a paying guest. Lord and his backers were left with a white elephant on their hands.
Several years later, members of a church known as the German Baptist Brethren bought the large building and opened Lordsburg College, actually more of an academy. Teachers and students lived in the large structure where classes were taught.
In 1902, after some ups and downs and great personal sacrifice, the trustees had to close the school. Some income had come from the church, which rented an assembly room for services, but this ended when they built a church at the corner of 4th and E streets.
W. C. Hanawalt, a school superintendent in Pennsylvania, heard about the situation, and took a train to Lordsburg to see if he could help. He saw reopening the institution as a challenge and convinced the trustees that he could do it.
Hanawalt went back to Pennsylvania and resigned his position there, then returned to Lordsburg in September 1902 with his wife, two children, and a young teacher named Grace Hileman, who became famous as Grace Miller.
Hanawalt leased the Lordsburg College for six years. He cleaned and repaired the building, organized a curriculum emphasizing secondary education, and provided dynamic leadership. He revitalized the institution. Without his backing and leadership the school may not have survived.
Hanawalt bought land for a home across from the college. His half-brothers Russell, Ross, and Harvey joined him in Lordsburg and used a cast-iron hand-operated machine to make concrete blocks for construction.
The home was one of the earliest private homes in California to be built of such blocks. It is two-story, with a wide porch to the north and east, and a hexagonal tower at the northwest corner.
Hanawalt enjoyed running the college. He was piqued when the lease ended and trustees decided to turn the work over to the church district. Lordsburg College became La Verne College, and is now the University of La Verne.
Hanawalt rented out the house in 1908 and moved. His wife passed away and he remarried, farmed and served as a federal loan appraiser.
Two similar homes were built in Chino and McFarland using the concrete block machine.
Harvey and J. Ross Hanawalt became leading contractors. Many of the homes here have foundations built of their concrete ‘Hanawalt blocks.’ The two supplied cement and construction expertise when the church group built the enormous Church of the Brethren in 1930.
Hanawalt farmed in Pennsylvania for ten years, coming back in 1945 to retire here. He remained interested in the college, but still rankled at his treatment. He passed away in 1953.
His wife Pearl lived in the home another twenty years, then sold it to the University of La Verne. It served as a child care center, then campus offices.
A bronze historical marker was ready to site when in December 2004, the historic old home caught fire and was badly damaged.
Our community solidly backed the decision of university officials to restore the structure for office use. Restoration is now complete. The building is ready for another hundred years.
Early in May the Hanawalt House is scheduled to be reopened. The bronze marker will be placed to honor the home and its builder.
W. C.’s nephews Wayne, Clair, and Dwight Hanawalt and others of the large Hanawalt clan should be at the ceremony.
It will be a time to look back and pay tribute to W. C. Hanawalt and the accomplishments of the Hanawalt families in La Verne.
Bits n Pieces of History
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Way back in 1884 American writer Helen Hunt Jackson wrote a novel of the waning Spanish days of California, a heart-tugging Victorian romance. She named it "Ramona" after her heroine.