Friday, February 5, 2016

Remembering Granada Park

Last week, I wrote about growing up in the Midwick Tract in Alhambra, California. At the edge of the tract was Granada Park, the hub of activity for the entire area.

The kids in the tract attended two public schools and the nearby Catholic school, but on weekends and during the summer, we all met at the park.

In those days, we walked, skated, or rode our bikes everywhere. Parents didn’t worry about us. We had no need for block parents because most mothers stayed home. If we ever needed help, we knew we could knock on any door and find it.
For the neighborhood boys, summer began with Little League tryouts. Although several teams, sponsored by local businesses, played at Granada Park, not every boy who wanted to play made a team. Larry’s dad (second from the right in the back row) was a coach for his brother’s team. I also recognize quite a few of the other neighborhood dads in the photo above.

The park featured a large baseball diamond where the games were played. We sat on bleachers to cheer on our friends. Parents manned the snack stand in case we were hungry. A second diamond, adjacent to the main one, could be used for practice.

Next to the baseball diamonds, were the tennis courts. When others weren’t playing, we roller-skated on the cement courts. Sometimes we rode our bikes there as well. Some years later, lights were installed so the courts could be used at night. Larry remembers skateboarding there in the evenings.

The biggest draw at the park was the pool. Although I learned to swim at the YMCA, most of the neighborhood kids, like my brother, learned at the park.

I always associate the strong smell of chlorine with the pool. We paid our quarter and were entitled to a full day in the pool. We accessed the deck through the locker rooms, segregated by gender. Before we emerged, we were required to shower. Of course, most kids turned on a shower and flicked water on themselves. If the lifeguards caught anyone with a dry suit, they blew their whistles and made the dry swimmer return to the showers.

Between the locker room and the deck, we had to traverse the footbath. The strong chlorine smell burned my eyes and stayed on my skin for days. I often wondered if straight bleach was poured into the basin.

The pool seemed huge to me as a kid. It might have been Olympic size or larger, but I can’t be sure. The shallow end was two feet deep and the depth increased to about ten feet. (I’m sure others will correct me if I’m wrong.)

Two diving boards graced the deep end. One was a standard springboard. When I took diving at the Y, I practiced on the low board.

Next to it was the high dive. A platform rose probably fifteen to twenty feet high from the deck, accessed by a steep ladder. (Again, it seemed high and scary to me as a kid. I’m sure others may remember exactly how tall it was.)

When I was in my teens, I finally decided to try it. I climbed the ladder, but when I looked down, I froze. I had intended to dive, but the idea of going headfirst into the water so far away terrified me. Only one of us was allowed to be on the platform at a time, and the kids on the ground started yelling at me. Retreating down the ladder would have labeled me as a chicken for life. I finally screwed up my courage, walked to the end of the board, and stepped off the end. I held my arms close to my sides and dropped straight in. I sank to the bottom, kicked off, and rose to the surface. I never tried the high dive again.

A big hill rose in the center of the park. I remember rolling down it with my friends. We often had grass stains on our clothes. Our mothers complained but we loved playing there.

Some kids brought large pieces of cardboard they used as sleds to get from the top to the bottom. Others brought large blocks of ice. In the heat of summer, riding those down must have felt good. I never did it, but some of my friends remember it fondly.

My idea of a great summer day was riding my bike to the park with a book and sitting under a tree on the hill reading the afternoon away.

When I was in junior high, a gymnasium was built at the top of the hill. Kids played basketball on the court, and dances were held there. I attended one, but I never went back.

Next week, I’ll tell you about my favorite place in the park: the playground.

Did you go to a park as a child? What do you remember?


  1. Thank you, Lorna. You captured many of my most memorable moments at Granada Park, as well. Still remember the chlorine, foot baths and cardboard slides. What about the tall, double slide in the playground?

    Best, Bill

    1. Ah, the playground. I'll devote a whole blog to that next week. So much to talk about!

  2. I also did the 'freeze' on the high dive. Still remember being yelled at to 'Jump'! I took my swim lessons there and thought I could fool the teacher by walking on the bottom of the pool but using the correct technique with the arms. I often think of that pool of water we had to walk through each time from the locker room and the key we had to pin on our suits for the locker. Such good memories that are fun to share with the likes of you!

    1. Larry's mother always 'swam' using only her arms and jumping on the bottom with one foot. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the chlorine!

  3. Great articles. I have great memories at this park.. some of my favorite are when my grandparents would take my sister and I on Thursdays when Fremont school would have minimum day. They would take lunch for us, we would sit on top of the park and enjoy the view and play all afternoon. Or walking from 7-11 with ice cream or a slurpee and enjoying the park. I remember as kids we would also ride our bikes to the park and eat free lunch at the gym during the summer then go swimming. I am not sure if they still have that.

    1. I don't remember free lunches, but then, it was built at the end of my time in grammar school.

  4. We lived on the west side of the park... on Montezuma. The field just north of the playground was where we spent countless hours playing football and "300" (adding up points for baseballs batted to us). There used to be a large fish pond and the far north end, but they filled it in.

    Until I was in high school, I spent hours at the playground shelter doing arts and crafts: lanyards, copper etchings dipped in sulfur, and tons of other things, and play games (like caroms) with other kids.

    Granada park was our "extended" home nearly all year round.

    Didn't do the pool think much since my dad managed the San Marino (HS) pool during the summers. The rec center was built after I left HS.

    Baseball diamond, snack bar, trading baseball cards.

    What great place to grow up! Thanks for the memories.

    1. Next week will be devoted to the playground, fish pond, and craft hut. I know those of us who were fortunate enough to grow up in Alhambra at the time were extremely fortunate.

  5. I loved going to the Club 88 dances (am I remembering that name correctly?) in the gym on Friday nights. One memorable time I won "The Jerk" contest (haha). Now Mom's great grandchildren go to Granada Park when they come to visit her. I'm always happy to see that the park is still a beautiful oasis and enjoyed by young and old.

    1. I think they were called that because they were for the 8th graders. Glad to hear it has been maintained. I haven't seen it for years.

  6. I've been enjoying your blog posts on the Midwick tract, Lorna. Did you know that one day in 1949 there was actual snow skiing at Granada Park, rather than cardboard on grass. It was on Jan. 11, 1949, the last time, that I am aware of, that there was significant snowfall in the L.A. area. Here is a photo of skiing at Granada Park on that day. I wasn't certain if I could add photos here, so I have placed them in my own personal Web space:

    Here is a photo of 2-year-old me on that day, wondering what that strange white stuff was, in front of our home on Roark Drive, half way between Midwickhill Dr. and the cul-de-sac at the top of the hill:

    We lived in that house from 1948 until 1965, and then we moved across the street to a larger house right on the cul-de-sac. My mother lived in that house until 2013, when, at age 90, she moved to a retirement home, so she lived on Roark Dr. for 65 years!

    And finally, here is a photo of a Pacific Electric train on that day, plowing through the snow on Oak Knoll Ave. near the border of Pasadena and San Marino, headed toward Huntington Drive. This train used to run along what is now the grassy median in the middle of Huntington Drive:

    I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts on the Midwick tract.


    1. We lived there at the time, and I have a faint recollection of the snow. Larry says he remembers it well, but he was two years older than I. Thanks for sharing the photos!