Monday, August 4, 2014

Magical Midwick Tract

Yesterday we attended the celebration of life for one of the moms of Midwick Tract in Alhambra, California, and this moniker for the place where I grew up was mentioned. It felt perfectly appropriate since we all agree we were truly blessed to have spent our childhoods there.

Built in 1912, the property was originally the Midwick Country Club with a golf course and polo grounds. Movie stars and the rich and famous frequented the place. The membership was highly selective (all white) and the membership fee was steep. In 1932, some of the equestrian events for the Olympic Games were held there.

It was selected as a set for quite a few movies, including an early version of Robin Hood and They Died With Their Boots On.
Photos from Charles Mullaly
Following a fire, which destroyed the clubhouse, the property was sold and subdivided into much-needed post-WWII housing.

My family moved into one of the first houses on Hathaway Avenue in 1948. (All the streets were named for famous golfers of the era.) Larry’s family settled on Hitchcock Drive in 1949 when phase II opened.

Because most of the owners were returning GIs with young families, we never had to look far for playmates. Nearly every house had kids—often our age. Some of those remain close friends to this day.

The 1950s was a time when all the moms (except ours) stayed at home while the dads went out to work. The entire neighborhood was more like an extended family. We didn’t need designated block parents because all the adults watched out for us. And we could never get away with anything because, by the time we returned home, our folks had already heard about any infraction and our punishment awaited us.

Since my brother and I were raised by a single mother, who had to work outside the home, several of the others on our street took on the role of our surrogate parents. We always felt safe.

During the summers, we spent our entire day at Granada Park at the edge of the tract. At a fairly young age, we either walked or rode our bicycles unaccompanied to the park where we played in the playground. Two sets of swings accommodated everyone from the little kids to adults. I remember sliding down the hot, high, metal double slide in the summer where we took sheets of waxed paper to make our rides even faster. We spun on the merry-go-round (foot-powered, of course) and played in the sand.

For twenty-five cents, we could spend all day at the swimming pool with its double diving boards. I used the lower one often, but only once jumped—with my heart in my throat—from the high one.

We rolled down the hillsides or slid on anything smooth. Cookie sheets worked pretty well, as I recall.

In the early days, a fish pond occupied the northwest corner. However, it became a hazard, so it was fenced off and later filled in.

During the summer, craft classes were offered. The lessons were free, and we only had to pay a minimal amount for the materials. How many lanyards and key chains did we all make? I remember using a manual drill to twist crepe paper into rope, which we wound around and glued to an empty bottle for a vase. And we painted countless small plaster decorations. I also learned how to do copper enameling there. I’m sure we were offered even more activities, but these are the ones I particularly remember.

I also remember reading in the shade of the large trees on the hill as a cool breeze blew.

We attended the Little League games and rooted for our favorite teams, since they were made up of all our friends. Their dads were the coaches. Larry’s dad coached his brother, Casey’s, team. (Back row, second from the right in the plaid shirt.)

On summer evenings, we played outdoors until the street lights came on and someone’s mother called them home.

On countless summer evenings we barbequed with the neighbors. I especially remember the delicious hand-cranked ice cream at the end of the meals.

And slumber parties. Many of those.

It was a different time and a different era. And oh how lucky we were to have grown up there in marvelous, mythical, magical Midwick Tract.


  1. Lorna is so right about the Midwick Tract and growing up in our little Area. In the early days The tract had two Public schools The kids would go. Marguerita Was the one and Fremont was the other. Being That everyone would spend so much time at the park. We all knew each other. In the summer little league was really a big deal back then. There were so many boys in the area that making a team was really hard. So not many played. Even so Summers at Granada Park are something I will never Forget Great times for sure.

  2. Lorna you're exactly right So if the Collinses moved in in 1949 we probably moved in early 1950, gives me a frame of reference. I can remember Murl would let us put on his old Nqvy uniforms and we could play in them. Murl iwas also the first person I know that played golf I still play, he had a sweet swing.

    1. Somewhere we have a picture of you in Murl's uniform. I need to see if I can find it. Dad played golf until just a few months before he died at 94. He hit 8 holes in one in his life! Most people are fortunate to get one.