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(posted Nov. 2002)

  Happy 90th Birthday, Glendale, California (1996)
An Interview with Barbara Larsen

by Janny Chang


 
I fidgeted with the notebook I had in my hands and listened to the humming of the elevator as it pulled its way up. Suddenly, it came to a halt. When I finally entered the halls, I could feel my heart thumping. I said to myself, you've done this plenty of times and still, you hyperventilate. Finally, I reached the end of the hall. One door was already opened and standing in the doorway was a petite woman whose youthful, friendly smile made me forget all the worries I had before. "Hi, I'm Barbara Larsen. Just call me Barbara. Come on in," she said and before I knew it, we were seated upon the couch, talking and laughing like old friends. As she began describing her 89 years of residency in Glendale, an awe-inspiring memory land unwinded and I was willingly thrust into a time when life reflected an innocence and simplicity.  

Barbara was born in 1907 in Glendale. She and her parents lived on a ranch where her father, Julius Kranz raised and sold oranges, lemons, and grapefruits. Every Saturday, he would use his two horses to haul the produce to the bare streets of Los Angeles. Seven years later her father sold the ranch and built a house on North Brand. A friendship soon developed between neighbors of their new home. On Sundays, all the neighbors gather at the Pepper Tree Inn the "social mecca" at the time and dined there. While the adults chatted about current events, the kids played baseball outside in front of the magnificent pepper tree. It was in front of the pepper tree where the men wore khaki uniforms and marched up and down several blocks to prepare to protect their loved ones during World War I.

Even back then, Glendale was a rather popular town, especially with the movie industry. Five of the kids, including Barbara were chosen to act as "extras" one time and they were paid with all the chocolate ice cream they could consume just for waving, crying, or laughing on cue. On other occasions when the gang didn't feel like playing baseball, they would pack a lunch and hike up Green Bucket Canyon and Dead Horse Canyon, which have recently been replaced by developmental homes up Mountain Street. In the summertime, the kids would splash around in the reservoirs of two school teachers who would often invite them to take a dip underneath the blistering sun. They would also take the red car line to Hermosa Beach and swim there. Girls wore one-piece suits without midriff, which looked similar to a dress with shorts. Frequently visiting the beach with friends and family, Barbara became an expert at swimming and battling the vicious waters.

While Barbara's childhood abounded with exciting events, her life was also full of acquaintances with many movie stars. It was in the journalism class in Glendale High School where Barbara met Marion Morrison, otherwise known as John Wayne. He was tall, gallant, handsome football player. All the girls made a fuss over him and would find excuses just to walk by his desk. When all the students were signing yearbooks, there was a long line at Marion's desk. And of course he signed Barbara's yearbook, which still remains upon her bookshelf. She described him as a "real nice fellow who said, "hi" to everyone." Barbara, as secretary of assemblies and Marion, as class president were both in student government. A common place to meet movie stars was at the Casa de Verdugo, a restaurant which was on North Brand between Mountain and Stocker. Encircling this superb restaurant was a beautiful garden where early movies were filmed. Many movie stars and tourists travelled a distance just to taste the famous Spanish cuisine. For one of Joan Crawford's movies, the studios visited Glendale, searching for a modest home to use in her movie, "Mildred Pierce." The studios were deciding on Barbara's house; however, it wasn't chosen. Later on when another of Joan Crawford's movies, "Dancing Daughters" was showing in the theaters, Barbara wrote a letter to express her joy in seeing the movie. After Crawford wrote a novel, she was at the library signing autographs. Luckily, Barbara was able to go and chat with her as well as getting her autograph on a poster size picture.

As Barbara grew older, numerous events occurred. She married and gave birth to a daughter. Now she is a proud mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. In 1980, an unexpected tragedy occurred when a car hit Barbara. Though she survived, the doctors informed her that she may never walk again. But she was strong and bold. She beat the odds and note only walked after the accident, but she also swam. Since 1985, Barbara had been setting a swim record. Reaching a 850 mile goal in 19083, Barbara received a priceless bracelet made from Red Cross charms. Glendale is extremely fortunate to have such a devoted resident as Barbara Larsen who contributes so much to the community. She was a member in the Glendale BPW, Glendale Beautiful Women's League, and the Mexico Sister City Project. For many years, she taught a conversational Spanish class at the Brand Library and continues the class today in her home.

What was Glendale like in the early days? This question is repeatedly asked by residents of Glendale. In a summary of one word, Barbara described Glendale as "gentle." "People didn't get so riled up about things back then," she said. How dreadful it must be to live through the staggering difference between now and then.

By talking to Barbara, I learned more about Glendale than I ever had. I knew I would be back to visit her for I had gained a role model as well as a friend. As I was leaving her apartment, Barbara Larsen looked me in the eye and said, "You know, I feel like we've been friends for a long time." Someone once said that friendships are made through unforgettable experiences. Never did anything prove more true.

CWIRE Note: Janny Chang was a journalism student at Glendale High School, in Glendale, CA in 1996.

Community Wire invites all Glendale, California 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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URL: http://cwire.com/pub/Glendale/birthday/larsen.asp
Viewed: 12/13/2017 2:39:36 AM
Last Modified: January 24, 2007
Source: Janny Chang (Mar '96)



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