Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mid Valley News Second Article

MEMORIES OF EL MONTE
By Richard Cortez
 


Let’s begin our tour with “The Pit”. The Pit was a hamburger stand located at 610 Garvey and Hoyt (oops Tyler). The Pit was opened in the early 1950’s by one of the employees from “The Hat”. This may be the reason why The Pit resembles The Hat building. The Pit was most famous for their Pastrami double dipped sandwich. The Pit became very popular with the high school gang who would be there every Saturday night. Last year I met with Bob Summers the youngest brother to Mary Ford at a pub he was playing at and Bob told me there was a recording studio called “The Sound House” located in El Monte right off of Merced and after they were done recording the whole gang would go to The Pit for burgers and malts. There was a big grin on Bob as he recalled The Pit. I want to thank Cristy Sheehan for sending me the picture of The Pit.
The Nashville West was located right in the center of Five Points across the street from “Crawford’s Market” and “Pep-Boys”. The Nashville West was a country and western bar that had live entertainment. Although many great country and western bands played there one of the house bands became the favorite of the bar. The house band didn’t have a name so they took the name of the bar. The Nashville West Band consisted of Gib Gullbeau, Gram Parsons (who started the rock group “The Birds”), Clarence White and Wayne Moore. Some nights their friends would drop by and sit in. Glen D. Hardin, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Lloyd Green would jam along with the guys. In 1967 The Nashville West Band recorded a live album at the bar called what else “Nashville West”. Can you imagine how cool that would have been to be there that night? Well the Nashville West is gone but it will remain in record form for many years to come.

Rosemead airport was located where Flair Park is today next to the 10 freeway. The runway ran along the Rio Hondo River northeast to southwest and was bordered by Ramona Blvd before the 10 freeway was built. The airport was first documented in 1942 and was called the Western Air College Airport owned and operated by the Heasley brothers. By 1944 the airport was renamed Rosemead Airport. Sometime after WWll the Heasley brothers sold the airport to Fletcher Aviation Corp. The Fletcher Company manufactured droppable fuel tanks for airplanes during the Korean War. Fletcher also manufactured napalm bombs. The Fletcher Company tried their hand at manufacturing planes but could never break into the market. In 1950 Goodyear picked Rosemead airport to be their west coast headquarters for the “The Goodyear Blimp” Enterprise. In ordered to land the blimp the Goodyear Company would recruit students from the local neighborhood to work the ropes. You had to be 16 years old and male to do this job. Unfortunately this only lasted 6 months Goodyear decided to move their operation to Culver City where it is still in operation. By 1962 or 1964 the airport closed down for good but the Fletcher Company continued their manufacturing portion of their company. The airstrip was demolished and office buildings were built. One of the companies that occupied a building was Aerojet. Now Aerojet continued the legacy of air flight by manufacturing rocket engines. Areojet best achievement was the rockets for the space shuttle.
On our last stop of our tour is KRLA. There is a vacant lot located next to the 60 freeway on-ramp. On the corner of Lexington and Galletin Road stood the home of the transmitter site for KRLA 1110 am. Yes the KRLA we all grew up with and loved. The original oldies station in the southland started out as KPAS owned and operated by The Burke Family from Santa Ana. The Burke Family also owned a newspaper and started the radio station to promote the sale of their newspapers. In 1942 the Burke family bought the land and built a transmitter building and erected 6 broadcasting towers with studios located at the Huntington Hotel in Pasadena. KPAS would broadcast news, church services and plays. In 1945 The Pacific Coast Broadcasting Company bought the station from the Burke family and change the call letters to KXLA. Pacific Coast changed the format of the station to country and western music. One of the disc jockeys was Cal Worthington. Today you know Cal Worthington as owner and spokesman of Cal Worthington Ford. In 1959 KXLA was sold to The Eleven Ten Broadcasting, Inc. owned by Canadian Jack Kent Cook. Eleven Ten again changed the call letters to KRLA. KRLA was up against KFWB the big rock and roll station in town and KRLA fought back with out of this world contests. The contest consisted of KRLA hiding a treasure chest somewhere in Southern California or did they? Well you guessed it they didn’t the FCC was informed and after investigating both the contest fraud the FCC looked at the owner Jack Kent Cook. It turned out he was not a US citizen. In the United States you must be a citizen to own a radio station. In 1964 the license was pulled from Eleven Ten and was put in trust with Oak Koll Broadcasting. Oak Knoll was part of KCET public television station that would run KRLA as a non-profit station. From 1964 to 1979 the money generated by KRLA was used by KCET and thus KRLA had no money to buy or fix any of the broadcasting equipment. The equipment was breaking down so much that they finally had to move all their operation to the little brown transmitter building in El Monte. That’s right I bet you didn’t know that your favorite oldies station in town was broadcasting from El Monte. The disc jockeys still broadcast from the Huntington Hotel studios but everything else was done from El Monte transmitter building. In 1979 the FCC finally granted the KRLA license to Bob Hope and other investors. They moved the transmitter and towers to Irwindale and thus ended an era. The transmitter building still stands as a testament to KRLA’s time in El Monte.

12 comments:

  1. I stumbled upon your site searching for some history of my hometown. My Father still lives there as do my sisters and brothers so all my family will get a kick out of seeing these old photos and info. I wonder if you have come across any photos of the Santa Fe Farms market on Peck road and Durfee. In a recent funeral for a relative, all my cousins joked how they new they were on the right direction to my house because of the giant chicken sign with a egg stuck in mid air. Inside you stepped into the produce dept on your left and I think it was a deli on your right? further in was the butcher where plump smiling pigs painted behind the butcher counter danced to their demise. Or how about the Alpha Beta and TG&Y and my favorite hang out Zachary's cameras. You really brought back some great memories, but The Pit brought tears to my eyes..Picking up Pastramis and going over to the El Monte Drive In best of times. I look forward to hearing more. dw

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  2. Lived in El Monte from 1952 to 1964 and graduated from EMHS in 1962. Loved the pit and so many other remembered places. I was especially taken by comments about the Summers. We followed Esther wherever she played and called he Mom. Her sisters Mary, Carol and Eva were the rest of the Summers Sisters. Loved knowing them and was a pleasure when they would come into the club and sing. Miss them all so much.

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  3. I remember going to The Pit when I was a kid with my parents and their friends. My mom worked for The Pit off and on during the 60's. It's not there anymore but I sure do miss it.

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  4. I grew up in El Monte from 1947 to 1966. Graduated from EMHS in '65. Our last house a on Granada, a block from The Pit. The "suicide" mixed sodas were fun. I also remember the Hula Hut out toward Puente. Another great place to eat.
    Do you remember when the In 'n Out had bumper stickers? They said:
    In 'n Out or when trimmed they said: In 'n Out
    burgers.... urge

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    1. Hi Mike. Did you know Mike Diaz? He use to work at THE PIT in HS. He & I grew up together. We were both the class of '66, but I didn't graduate from El Monte HS.

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  5. My mom used to work at the Pit when I was a kid and we all used to hang out there during the 60's.

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    1. My Dad owned the restaurant. He has since passed away but I'm certain my mother or brothers would know who she was.

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  6. I played in a club few miles down from the Nashville West when Sharon Leighton and country sunshine were there. Think the club was called "The Place". Don't know if anybody remembers the after hours jams. The Holiday 2 on Peck road rocked 'till the sun came up- circa 1978-?

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  7. You were right the first time. It was Garvey and Hoyt...not Tyler.

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  8. One of my friends was a disc jockey at krla for many years! His name is val valentine!

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  9. I grew up in South El Monte BEFORE it was South El Monte. Prior to 1958 our neighborhood was in LA County referred to back then as "Alhambra Rural." Our postman delivered our mail on his motor scooter! The Helm's Truck came through everyday, too. We lived on Merced Ave. between Klingerman & Rush. My folks owned a half acre that we farmed. We even had our own well. My folks moved there from Baldwin Park in 1946. I went to Wilkerson, Columbia, and my parents moved to San Dimas in 1963 so I was the only child of five who didn't graduate from ELMHS in the 50's. I think the 1950's was El Monte's heydays. I live out of state now. My whole family is gone except my oldest brother Danny who lives in Oceanside. Anyone who lived in El Monte remembers Crawfords. What a place! I've never seen anything quite like it since. Most of my memories of El Monte are good. It looked pretty sad the last time I drove down. Never was Beverly Hills.

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  10. Got to unincorporated S. EL Monte in 1959. Had to bus to Rosemead. Had a great run. Stopped at the Pit all the time when we had little league games down the street. Gre older and YES, KRLA...big hangout for us after we cruised Colorado Av in Pasadena. The actual station was at The Huntington-Sheraton Hotel. At that time Dick Biondi was the hot DJ. What a great place to grow up at the time. LA was happening!

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