Saturday, July 12, 2008


When I heard the FDIC was taking over IndyMac bank my first thought was, "What happens in Pasadena?" The bank is headquartered here with 3,000 employees, 500 of whom presumably received pink slips last Monday. They got 30-60 days' notice.

I like to look on the bright side if there is one. I watched the video linked in the FDIC article above. In it the spokesperson says the FDIC has taken over IndyMac and is going to continue to run it as a full service bank, and to do that they'll need employees. I wonder if they'll need all 3,000. Maybe those 500 with the pink slips just got a reprieve. Maybe that's wishful thinking.

Of course this has larger implications than just for Pasadena, and I'm not qualified to discuss them—well, we're all qualified to discuss them, but you're better off reading this or this if you want the facts. But although the banking and housing industries are in lousy shape right now I know certain sectors of our economy are doing fine: retail, fashion, restaurants, and don't get me started on oil. Some folks are still making money in this country.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dam Rappelling

It's not every day I find the Altadena Mountain Rescue Rescue Team rappelling from the Devil's Gate Dam. But there they were Wednesday as twilight was coming on.

I let them rappel (wasn't that nice of me?) and they let me take photos. When they were finished, they answered my questions. I hadn't known before that to become a member of the Altadena Mountain Rescue Team you must first become a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy as well as an EMT.

Wow. I'd heard it was an all-volunteer organization, but let's be clear: these guys are volunteer heroes.

And not just guys. The deputy leaning over the dam is a woman, and so is the trainee in this photo. It was her first rappel ever, and she was already a pro.

The Altadena Mountain Rescue Team has its own website at, but I couldn't get it to load. How much does that matter? Do they have to be techies when they've got so much else going for them?

You can see a cool rappel from a helicopter in this video of the Rescue Team.
I shot the trainee's full rappel, and those photos are at Overdog.

Goodbye, Church of the Angels

Behind the Church of the Angels a crypt is built into the hillside beneath the rectory. Kelly, who guided me through the church last week, wasn't quite sure of the crypt's history. No mention is made of it on the church's website. Someone out there may know.
The story goes that Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Robert Campbell-Johnston were buried there together, at least for a time. But Pasadena zoning laws don't allow burials, so the bodies were eventually moved. This may or may not be the case.**
Web research turned up very little, except an intriguing bit from Brompton Cemetery in London. Click on the link and scroll to the caption under the third photo.
'Alexander Robert Campbell Johnston
Who served many years in China
Under H.M. Foreign and Colonial Offices.
He died at San Rafael Ranch, Los Angeles
January 21st 1888 aged 75

In beloved memory
This stone is erected by his widow and children

Also to the memory of
Frances Ellen Campbell-Johnston
His beloved wife
Who died at 84 St. George's Sq. London
November 21 1893 Aged 56'

It could be them. And it doesn't say they were buried there. Did she die so soon after he did? Did she spend so little time admiring the chapel she'd built?
I tried looking into the crypt. It's not like you can tell if anyone's there.
It's their place. It was made for them. I hope they were allowed to stay.*

**1/26/2012: Much later! Update on this crypt: 
*It was not made for them.
In a book called "Within the Vale of Annandale" by Donald W. Crocker, a relatively rare but not impossible-to-find book first published in 1968, there's a short chapter about the church with pictures, very interesting, pp 38-42.
On page 40, Crocker says the " vault which was later added to the church...bears the remains of two of the Campbell-Johnston sons, Alexander Napier and Augustine, and Augustine's wife, Alice."
The book was "A Fund Raising Project of Scout Troop 35." It's an entertaining history of the southwest side of Pasadena, and Garvanza. I found it by searching online sellers.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mrs. Campbell-Johnston's Wishful Thinking

When I first got to Church of the Angels last week Kelly, my guide, was finishing a conversation with friends and said I could go on in. I had never been there before and didn't know what to expect. When I walked into the small chapel I saw this window and gasped a little.

Kelly's husband, The Scout, got a much brighter picture of the window. It's posted at Kelly's blog, West Coast Grrlie Blather. Maybe the window glows differently at different times, like we all do, according to the sun. (Maybe The Scout's a superior photographer, which he is.) But I saw the the nave around me in darkness and the window aglow.

Click on the photo above to enlarge it and you can read the inscription at the bottom. The window, made in London in the late 1800s, shows an Easter motif: "He is risen..."

This is said to be one of the "finest examples" of stained glass in America. I don't know who says it, but I do know it knocked my socks off. Seriously. I was wearing socks when I got there, but I couldn't find them when I left.

Tomorrow, our last installment of Church of the Angels: the crypt.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Memorial to Love

The Church of the Angels looks large from the outside, but Kelly, my tourguide, told me it holds only about 130 people "tightly packed." In part, the church was meant to be a place of worship for the people of the village of Garvanza, now the section of Los Angeles surrounded by South Pasadena, Highland Park, Eagle Rock and Pasadena.

But mainly this church was built by Mrs. Alexander Robert Campbell-Johnston as a memorial to her husband. She had the the means to demonstrate her love in a most impressive way. Expensive appointments abound; in the photo you can see the red pressed brick of the walls and beginnings of the upper redwood beams. The lectern resembling the Archangel Michael was carved in Belgium from a solid piece of a bog oak tree more than 400 years old. The baptistry, with a figure of Italian marble holding a font of Mexican alabaster, was a gift from the workmen who built the church. (I'm saving the stained glass window for tomorrow.)

In front of the church, a stone sundial in a heart-shaped setting is a memorial to Mrs. Campbell-Johnston, donated by her sons. And over the years, the congregation has maintained the whole place with care.

Money made the place impressive, but it's the love that makes it special.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Then and Now: Church of the Angels

It's a bit of a thrill to find an old photo, taken from a spot you can get to, then go see what the shot looks like today. I've wanted to try it for a long time.

Pasadena's Church of the Angels is a good place to start. It's the oldest church in Pasadena (built in 1889), rich in history and still active today. It appears in films and TV from time to time.

My friend Bob Goldstein used to be a docent at Pasadena Heritage and probably still would be, had he not moved away from southern California. He loved that volunteer position and relished giving tours of Pasadena's historical neighborhoods. Bob took his post card collection with him, but he's shared some good scans with me. He sent tour information, too—I still haven't perused it all. There'll be more "Now and Then" installments, thanks to Bob.

There'll also be more pictures of Church of the Angels in the next few days, thanks to Kelly. She showed me around her beloved church and read to me about its history. A beautiful old building is a treasure, an old church a quiet mystery. When you and your friend have that to yourselves, it's a special kind of blessing.