More Words About Pasadena

Feb 12, 2011

Michelle Huneven; photo by Karen Tapia

Writers both famous and undeservedly little-known have lived in, or passed through, Pasadena and her sister towns, and we’ve collected some of their bot mots about these towns. Recently we posted Part 1; here’s Part 2.

Tiny ramshackle houses gave way to stores, and then again to houses, albeit nicer, as they crossed into Alhambra, and nicer still in South Pasadena. Now the median was lawn and tended bushes. The sign said San Marino and the houses were nicer still….

Suddenly the houses were large and lovely, the dream realized. They sat back on wide lawns; their inner workings were modern American, the latest plumbing, the latest wiring, the latest central air. They were lath and plaster, but their looks were diverse copies of English Tudor and French Provincial, Monterey Colonials, brick Williamsburg, and sprawling modern ranch. Their grounds were manicured and flowers still bloomed despite it being December. A few already had decorated Christmas trees in big front windows framed with lights.

Mad Dog whistled. “This is definitely the high-rent district.”
Dog Eat Dog, Edward Bunker

Monty lay still, and smoked a long time. Then, in a queer, shaky voice he said: “I always said you’d make some guy a fine wife if you didn’t live in Glendale.”

“Are you asking me to marry you?”

“If you move to Pasadena, yes.”

“You mean if I buy this house.”

“No—it’s about three times as much house as you need, and I don’t insist on it. But I will not live in Glendale.”

“Then all right!’
Mildred Pierce, James M. Cain

Everywhere there was beauty, and the nerve-rest of steady windless weather….

This place did not seem like earth, it was paradise. Kind and congenial friends, pleasant society, amusement, out-door sports, the blessed mountains, the long, unbroken sweep of the valley, with snow-peaks at the far eastern end.
The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Charlotte Perkins Gilman about her time in Pasadena

The name of the Millionaire Town has scared away from Pasadena many respectable middle-class people who have gone to Southern California to make their homes. Once they take a look around the place, see the palatial mansions, note the lack of industry, and hear the fatal words, Millionaire Town, they are on their way to Whittier, Monrovia, Glendale, or some other community of just folks.
— “Croesus at Home,” Morrow Mayo

They drove west to an area near the Rose Bowl where, at the turn of the century, wealthy midwestern industrialists built enormous family homes on one-acre lots along curving tree-lined streets. Together the houses formed a kind of architectural beauty pageant, the Swiss chateau, the Craftsman, the Mission revival, the shingled Cape Cod, not one matching its neighbor. The long, graceful gray limbs of bayberry trees overhung the streets, filtered the sun through bright green leaves. The pea-sized berries, crushed by tired, mentholated the air and made the whole neighborhood smell like a cough-suppressant rub.
Blame, Michelle Huneven

Roy knew that people adored this town, even the psychos. Homeless people “loved” being homeless in Pasadena. Pasadenans who moved away, for whatever length of time, almost always moved back. What made Pasadena so special? Was the Crown City really that different from any other place?

… Roy was fascinated by the personal lives of Pasadena elites, who always married well. The images of gorgeous, poised, healthy-looking, young women dressed up as Rose Princesses and Rose Queens no doubt impressed rich, would-be mothers-in-law with their uxorial qualities. Roy guessed that few of the college-bound members of this royal family finished their education without a diamond ring to go with their degree.
Love, Death, and Other War Stories, Victor Cass

When we’d finished downtown, she headed back to Pasadena, which she said was eminently civilized. In a study of 295 American cities, she said proudly, Pasadena has been ranked as America’s most desirable city, based on its high ratio of radios, telephones, bathtubs, and dentists to residents. She believed it to be the most beautiful, healthful, cultured, and intelligent community in the West.
The Distant Land of My Father, Bo Caldwell

Tibbs shook his head. Before he could speak, Gillespie intervened. “Virgil here is a police investigator out in Beverly Hills, California.”

“Pasadena,” Tibbs corrected.

“All right then, Pasadena. What difference does it make?”
— In The Heat of the Night, John Ball

There is a saying in Los Angeles that rich people who move to Southern California do not go to Pasadena to live unless they have had money for at least two decades….

Money does not flash in Pasadena. The community is so modest on the subject of wealth that even the word millionaire is taboo in the local press. In the whole history of the town no movie star has ever lived there.

— “Croesus at Home,” Morrow Mayo



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