The Cross of San Ysidro, Mt. McGroarty, Tujunga
"San Ysidro, Patron Saint of Little Homes, was not a saint of the Catholic Church, according to John McGroarty . . . He was a Spanish peasant, and his name, McGroarty said, indicates he was probably a Jew. . . Thus the dedication of this monument was sponsored by an organization of laymen, held around a cross that was raised in honor of a “saint” who probably was a Jew, and blessed by a Catholic priest during ceremonies involving all Protestant organizations in the Valley.... – Wallace Morgan – for The Record-Ledger
"In selling the idea of it, McGroarty, the Scribe and
Booster Bard, wove the fabled life of San Ysidro – in which
the saint had ceased his work to help the grandam find her goat,
whereupon (in his absence) an angel took those labors up.
A parable in which self-interest was replaced by the
spirit of benevolence – For in the hard life of farming
dry and rocky soil, only with each others help could one survive
"With the convert’s passion, and the spirit of a man reborn
(having thrown the shackles of nocturnal asthma in the sweet
and solemn-breathing air of the Verdugos) the Scribe sold
the broken colony his ecumenical hopes – so much so
they built his cross in weeks, and pledged to find the funds to light it.
"Perhaps by raising it, a monument with manifest ideals,
a people perpetuate such standards. Perhaps not. But
consider this: On the antipodal Verdugos in
J"uly of ‘24, the Times reported on quite different
pageantry beneath a cross – rather, several – burning as
eight hundred on the Glendale hills joined that city’s Ku Klux Klan.
Or this: that when ‘30s Tujunga Jewry formed their Temple
Shomrei Emunah, Guardians of the Faith, the Women’s Club gave
them a home, five years, while they built. This while La Crescenta’s
chapter of the Bund held pro-Nazi rallies at their parks, and
Pasadena practiced covenants excluding Jews and papists.
"Four months, and they had lit the cross – and in a time when night pulled
a drape of perfect darkness on the hills, the Cross was more than
cross, but spoke of noble-minded roots, what they valued in others
and hoped for from themselves. And perhaps in those black nights, its light
was consolation for their failed Utopian dream, broken
by the harshness of life in a place known as the Rock."
– Wallace Morgan – for The Record-Ledger
To all of us who live in this beloved valley, who, cut off from the rest of our far-flung City, must rely on each other for safety and even for continued health as we seek to safeguard the historic quality of the air that sustains us* -- I wish us the peace that surpasseth understanding. The founders of this community, the Little Lands Colony, a socialist-utopian agricultural colony, relied on the good will of others to an extent we rarely see today. But I believe, with them for inspiration, that we can live in tolerance of each other, and protect this beautiful land, as those who came before us did: our historical society, founded by the community in the mid-50s, who told the City they would not allow the City's planned destruction of Bolton Hall -- now a treasured landmark honored as a National Landmark, State Point of Historic Interest and City Historic Monument -- and in so doing created Los Angeles' Historic Preservation ordinance, which now protects over 1,000 cultural or historic landmarks; community activists in the '80s and '90s who demanded that the City stop sending the urban blight of auto wrecking yards to our town, and insisted that our hills and mountains be off limits to developers, along the way creating the Scenic Corridor and Foothill Blvd. Specific Plans; and the community activists of this 21st century who for four years said no to the City and one of the most devious, conniving and well-funded of America's commercial giants, and in beating Home Depot lent encouragement to communities all over the nation who have gone on to successfully fight off the incursion of big box stores and their slash-and-burn economic models.
We face a new threat today. The City has fast-tracked a publicly funded 5-floor monster of a Housing Project on Samoa Avenue at Valmont, an area already suffering from its occupation by the notorious Toonerville gang (according to the Los Angeles Times, Daily News and the LAPD). According to the LAPD's website (lapdonline.org), one Toonerville Tujunga banger is among their top ten most wanted gang members, Top Ten, first wanted for the murder of a Tujungan on Valmont, two blocks from the proposed Projects. And the City's idea of how to help us rid ourselves of the scourge of gang violence and crime is to obliterate more of our one-storey historic community and stuff 64-units, all but three of them three- to four-bedrooms, onto a twenty-foot wide street on land once occupied by two two-bedroom 900 square-foot houses. High density housing projects have been denounced by all other western nations as an absolute failure in providing decent affordable housing, serving instead to promote crime, pollution, asthma and a perpetuation of hopelessness. Another boondoggle for billionaire developers and a stab at the hopes of low- to moderate-income asthmatics with the hope of being able to breathe in a home of their own.
Thank you for all you do to make this place so wonderful.
Kathleen, a former educator, is a 4th-generation Angeleno. An art historian who specializes in historic restoration, she lives in a 1924 bungalow farmhouse in Sunland that she restored. She reads her poetry with the Village Poets of Sunland-Tujunga, who present their readings on the fourth Sunday of each month, 4:30 p.m., at Bolton Hall Museum, 11000 Commerce Avenue.
* Sunland-Tujunga was a haven for those with asthma from its inception. Once known as one of two places in the world with the perfect air quality for healing respiratory ailments (the other in the Nile River Delta, Egypt), asthmatics moved here from all over the world to be healed, and stayed. Even now, surveys reveal that half of all households in our community house an asthmatic, many of them maintained by our life-giving air alone, without medication. But new construction with the release of toxins from teardowns, from the disturbed soil and from the highly toxic building materials now used, along with increased vehicle traffic, threaten to destroy the fragile balance of our perfect air, cleaned by our surrounding hillsides, our native trees, the directional orientation of our valley and the wind patterns whipped by the many canyons of our favorite high wind zone.