by Paul R. Spitzzeri
This second part of a post examining journal entries written at the “Workman Homestead Rancho” by Thomas W. Temple II during late July and early August 1924 while he enjoyed his summer vacation includes a second entry penned on 25 July. The first entry, presumably written in the morning, was followed by this evening postscript, noted as being finished at 8 p.m.
In it, Thomas related accompanying his sister (they were chauffeured by the Temple family’s driver), Agnes, to her school, St. Mary’s Academy, a Catholic girls’ school then located at Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard near the Baldwin Hills (which was owned by the Temple children’s grandfather, F.P.F. Temple and great-grandfather William Workman and others until the Temple and Workman bank collapse of 1876, after which it went to Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin who foreclosed on a loan to the bank and acquired collateral like the hills).
On the way out, however, the siblings stopped at the home of Agnes’ godmother, Petra Pelanconi Hardwick (1876-1938), who was apparently a friend of the Temples’ mother, Laura Gonzalez. Petra’s father, Antonio, was an early Italian resident and winemaker of Los Angeles.
Those familiar with Olvera Street know La Golondrina Cafe and that building, the oldest surviving brick structure in Los Angeles known as Pelanconi House, was built by Giuseppe Covaccichi in the 1850s. Antonio Pelanconi bought the building in 1871 and used it for his business until he turned it over to his partner Giacomo Tononi in 1877.
Pelanconi died in 1879 and, two years later, his widow, the former Isabel Ramirez (whose father, Juan, once owned much of Olvera Street, then known, not surprisingly, as Wine Street) married Tononi. In 1910, Isabel Tononi and her son Lorenzo Pelanconi built a warehouse for wine storage fronting on Main Street behind the house.
Isabel Tononi lived in a home just east of Westlake (now MacArthur) Park and
Thomas recorded that the structure, long gone and now a parking lot for a Jack-in-the-Box, was built by “Mr. S[ylvester] J. Cook, the builder of our home,” meaning La Casa Nueva.
Thomas added that Petra Hardwick’s niece, Mary Valla, was at the house when he and Agnes arrived. Mary was the daughter of Petra’s older sister, Honorine, who married Dr. Antonio Z. Valla, whose liquor dealer namesake father was from Italy and whose mother was Trinidad Moya, a native of Mexico.
Antonio Valla was educated at St. Vincent’s College in Los Angeles (now Loyola Marymount University) for what would be equivalent to a high school diploma and then received a bachelor’s degree from Santa Clara College near San Jose. He was an early graduate of the medical school at the University of Southern California, earning his degree in 1888. He returned to his father’s home country and graduated in 1891 from the Royal University of Turin with post-graduate work in Berlin and Paris. Not long after returning to Los Angeles he married Honorine Pelanconi and the same year, 1893, established his practice.
Thomas noted that the Vallas were enjoying the summer at a home at Hermosa Beach and Petra was to join them, but Thomas and Agnes took her out and then brought her back home. When they got to Hermosa, they found that “Dr. Valla is about the same—quite ill, his stomach is ulcerated or something equally as grievous.” In fact, Antonio Valla died the following year at just age 59.
Another Valla daughter, Stella, was there and Thomas, after stating “I always did like her,” mentioned that he would “look forward to looking her up at San Rafael.” This was because she was attending Dominican College, a Catholic girls’ school, and, because Thomas was to begin his junior year at Santa Clara College, it was reasonably close.
Thomas recorded that Petra Hardwick, who’d only recently married Walter Hardwick, had known him for a long while and that “even mama knew of the match before she died,” nearly two years prior.
He also noted that, the prior weekend, he’d received a visit at the Homestead from Dick McInerny and his sister Maureen, who hailed from San Bernardino, where their father was a successful dry goods merchant. Thomas added that “Dick and I are good chums at Santa Clara,” while “his sister is very sweet and attends the San Rafael College of the Dominicans” as did Stella Valla.
Thomas added that “Friday night we [presumably Agnes went along as well] went to see Douglas Fairbanks [in] ‘The Thief of Baghdad,” a beautiful fairy tale.” The next night, the group “dined at the San Gabriel Country Club,” which opened in 1904 and which counted Walter P. Temple as a member. After the meal, the group headed out to Los Angeles “and danced to Max Fisher’s Orchestra at the Cocoa Nut grove, Ambassador Hotel.” That famous Myron Hunt-designed hostelry opened three years earlier and the Cocoanut Grove quickly became a popular entertainment venue for the Hollywood set. Sunday, it appears the McInerny siblings joined the Temples at the Rowland Ranch picnic mentioned in the first part of this post.
While Thomas had two years to go before completing his bachelor’s degree at Santa Clara, Agnes was soon to finish her senior year at St. Mary’s Academy, now located in Inglewood. She then went to Dominican College, where Stella Valla graduated in 1926 and Maureen McInerny became a close friend during Agnes’ years there.
On 27 July, Thomas penned a one-page entry recording the visit of Emelda Fuentez, whose father Juan came from an Orange County family and was a private detective while her mother was a native of Illinois. Emelda stayed at the Homestead for a weekend, but, because Agnes remained at St. Mary’s Academy, Thomas added “I had to do the entertaining.”
Pointedly perhaps, Thomas’ father Walter noted that Emelda, who Thomas noted was “a very pretty girl,” was “a very sensible young lady—and that’s something.” He added that she was “a wonderful girl and is not as impulsive or forward as her younger sister Mary who is the life of her family.”
Mary Fuentez stayed with the John and Margaret Shepek family of La Puente, where John owned a grocery store, and Thomas wrote of Mrs. Shepek that she was “one of the most beautiful ladys [sic] of the valley and equally as hospitable.” Thomas added that Alberta Shepek married Lorando “Laurie” V. Rowland, a great-grandson of Rancho La Puente co-owner John Rowland.
Also of note in this entry is that Thomas wrote that “the new church [St. Joseph’s in La Puente] is rapidly nearing completion” and that “Dad gave the big window and dedicated it to Laura G. Temple, our loving mother.” Moreover, Walter P. Temple “helped out with the organ” and it was expected that the church would be completed and dedicated by the 20th of August.
That church was later torn down and the current St. Joseph’s stands across the street. Thomas’s brother, Walter, Jr., a longtime resident of La Puente, remembered seeing the demolition and tried to find a way to save the 9-foot diameter stained glass window his father paid for, but was unsuccessful.
The expected dedication day of the church was also when Thomas was to return to Santa Clara “to resume studies, as a Junior, 2nd year law man,” this latter meaning that he concentrated on law for his liberal arts degree.
He closed the entry by observing that “the children [meaning his younger brothers, Walter, Jr. and Edgar] fixed up the radio tonight and are enjoying the same music that I heard last night at the Ambassador.” The radio was in the large auditorium converted by Walter, Sr. from the largest of the three Workman winery buildings and which stood about where our Homestead Museum Gallery is now. Reception in the rural locale of the Homestead was enhanced by a large antenna placed next to the building.
We’ll continue in a couple of days with the third part of this post on Thomas’ journals, so check back then.