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Happy 90th Birthday, Glendale, California (1996)
Reminiscently Speaking
An Interview with Sara Louise Bisbey
by Hoover High student Colleen Khachatourians (March '96)

At the age of seventy-eight, she speaks of growing up in Glendale, of the era of big bands, "real" dancing, and simple joys. From a little country town just out of San Antonio, Texas, Sara Louise (Coney) Bisbey moved to Glendale in 1931. Her school years were spent at Theodore Roosevelt Junior High School and Glendale High School. Uniforms were worn by all: Sara Louise Bisbey
Sara Louise Bisbey
"[We] wore black skirts and white middies and we had to be real careful because they were real baggy, and so we pinned them in so we would have a waist."

At Roosevelt, Sara was part of the first class who didn't graduate in the auditorium which had been condemned in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake ("it was my first earthquake...and how it shook up here"). Most of the girls had made their own formals for the occasion which made graduation more festive, especially after having to wear uniforms through junior high school.

"High school was a very special time," says Sara, her mind drifting into the past. It was quite a walk from Garfield Avenue, where she lived, and Glendale High School. But during Depression time, "[you] couldn't afford to let your children ride the street car: they were a nickel."

Money was certainly scarce then and people, teens especially, made their own fun. They rode bikes on the streets, went to parks and had picnics, and went swimming.

"And none of the boys had cars," she mentions laughingly. Dancing was a large part of life, high school proms meant dancing all night, "none of this cutting out early," she teases.

Proms were held in the auditoriums at the schools and seniors would take weeks planning decorations ("I hear you don't have them at school now," she said inquiringly, and tsked when we told her of the lavish affair planned at Union Station). Big bands played and couples danced "and then we would go to the ice cream parlor... and that was the big night out."

Graduation night was another monumental time "...we drove up to Santa Barbara so that we would be out all night. There were three couples of us. Of course by the time we got up there, ----------------it was part of the big night." Sara spends a second to ruminate on the silliness of the trips (giggles) and moves on.

Among some things we miss in modern Glendale was the dancing at the civic auditorium for 25 cents every Friday and Saturday night "and it was packed." Mrs. Bisbey mentions a friend, Flora Alice MacKay, who lived in Glendale since the twenties "and remembers a whole lot more than I do." And she hands over a letter from Flora, who writes of growing up in the 'city:'

My father had a furniture store on East Broadway, and as I went to the store after school almost every day, East Broadway became my play ground. There was a candy store close to Brand, where they made pulled-taffy in the window and next door was Nelson's Ice Cream parlor that featured Glendale's first double decker ice cream cone for five cents.

Flora Alice MacKay and gang "This is 'the gang' at Balboa in southern California during Easter vacation our senior year," says Flora MacKay (top). "This was the place back then, and 20 of us kids threw in $5 each to rent a room. We're all still friends and many of the couples have been married for over 50 years."
"On the corner of Broadway and Maryland was Sherwood's department store. At Christmas time they displayed a whole window full of toys... Across the street was the Rolling Pin Bakery, where twin sisters sold homemade bread and cookies. The fire house was on the 300 block where the post office now stands. Across the street from the firehouse was a small coffee shop that sold hamburgers for five cents and a bowl of soup for ten cents. On the 400 block and on the south west corner (at Kenwood) was an ice cream and candy shop. They may have sold other things but I only remember the ice cream and candy."

"Across the street where the first Methodist Church stands was a gas station where they gave out cardboard twirling ornaments that attached to the radiator of your car. Stores along the block were a photo studio, a beauty shop and the Goodwill Store. On the other side of the street was the post office. Then the new post office was built and the old one became a skating rink. The Dutch Boy paint store was on the corner."

"When I was very young I remember watching a fire at the Glendale Sanitarium on the lot where the Glendale News-Press was later built. On the corner across from the paint store was a little soda fountain and down the street was a variety store near where there was once a movie house. Farther down was Anderson's furniture store, a paint shop and the Piggaly Wiggley market."

* * *

Air planes were still new in the thirties remembers Sara. "The first air strip in Glendale was in the Grandview area. Mr. Brand built the "Castle" at the end of Grandview... He would have his guests flown in. This was when Flying was very, very new."

Before the modern monstrosities of LAX and even the Burbank airport, was the Grand Central Airport on Sonora and San Fernando. "Many famous people flew in and out of the airport. The planes would fly so low over Sonora, you could almost touch them." And this her twin brother and friends did on Sunday afternoons, rode their bikes out to the airport and watch the planes land, even touched a few as they came down.

Most of all, Mrs. Bisbey remembers a time when youth "didn't have the pressures and things [we] all have now."

"You children can't -- just listen to me call you children -- with the drugs and the shooting and the crime and the gangs, you're really great if you can keep your feet on the ground.

CWIRE Note: Colleen Khachatourians was a journalism student at Hoover High School, in Glendale, CA in 1996.

Community Wire invites all Glendale, CA students to contribute to this site.

Please let us know if you are willing to be interviewed, or if you know someone who should be interviewed for this site. CWIRE is collecting family photos, postcards, magazines, and other memorabilia that depict life in Glendale during the past nine decades. We are committed to supporting this site throughout the year, and are making plans to archive this information for posterity. We are open to your suggestions on what to do with the archives that we are now accumulating.

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Viewed: 8/18/2018 8:46:59 AM
Last Modified: January 24, 2007
Source: Colleen Khachatourians (Mar '96)

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