La Verne Magazine
"La Verne's Borders: North, South, East and West"
Living on the Edge
by Enedina Perez
photography by Summer Herndon
Wide-eyed and wondering, this opossum, donated by the Opossum Society
of the U.S.A., now makes its home at the San Dimas Sanctuary. Don Peterson,
recreation service leader, cares for many of the animals.
The two cities face each other but at different elevations. On one side,
there is San Dimas, with dirt brown street signs introducing California
suburbia stucco homes mixed with wood ranch-style houses holding cactus
garden front yards.
On the other side, there is another city. Its green street signs are
placed in planned neighborhoods with big decorated mansion-style houses,
manicured lawns, elegant outdoor lights and paved driveways that represent
the city-type setting.
Though these two cities seem to be at arm's reach, they are separated
by a 50 foot cliff that draws the dividing line between the two for more
than a mile. This is the northwest border of San Dimas and La Verne -- a
place where canyon meets suburbia.
Here, on the border, one will find a historic and popular attraction
-- the San Dimas Canyon Park. Behind the old rectangular wooden park sign
that has rusty nails and staples banged into its peeling and chipped orange
lettering, there lies a scene that portrays life in San Dimas .
The park often offers residents a refuge from the 97 degree temperature
on a late summer day. Among these residents is four-year-old Lacey Adams,
who wears a yellow sundress with her blonde hair in small pigtails. It is
early afternoon, and Lacey is kicking her legs on a swing in hopes of gaining
A few feet away from her is grandmother Barbara Adams, 54, sitting on
a bench under the shade provided by the Live Oak trees. Besides cooling
off from the hot temperature, Adams is also keeping an eye on her granddaughter
as she goes down the slide.
These two San Dimas residents have the park to themselves. Their laughter
is mixed with the birds chirping and noise from traffic traveling along
San Dimas Canyon Road.
On weekends, the park is busy, but it still offers visitors plenty of
evenly-scattered concrete and wooden benches, barbecue grills and a spacious
grass field that is ringed by grass and aged oak trees. It is a clean park;
the only debris are fallen dry leaves.
This is the kind of tranquil atmosphere that northwest San Dimas offers
"It's great living here," says Adams. "It is not so populated,
and it has a very nice setting. The people are really nice too."
Adams has been living in San Dimas for 12 years with her husband and
her granddaughter Lacey.
"We lived in Azusa before," she says, noting that the family
chose this area after searching for a more rural place to live. "I
think it's neat to pass by the park to get to where we live."
The northwest border of La Verne and San Dimas combines the rustic ranch
life with the stucco echo of suburbia.
Adams says that there do not seem to be any problems with noise where
she lives. "Once in a while we do hear the sirens going to the fires,"
she says. "We have had a couple [fires] both last year and this year,
but nothing big enough to evacuate."
This was not the case for Rita Thakur, 20-year professor of business
and economics at the University of La Verne. Thakur, who has been living
up in the San Dimas hills for nine years, remembers being given five minutes
to evacuate last year.
"The fire was seven or eight houses away from us, so it was not
too close," she says. "But at the same time, if the house had
gone, there was no way to get out, since there is only one way in and one
way out." Fortunately, the firefighters were able to stop the fire
from spreading. Today, although Thakur realizes the fire danger, she, her
husband and their three daughters could not be happier. "It's so peaceful,
so serene and so natural. You can just go back in the hills and walk five
to seven minutes, and you're totally out of everything. You are in the wilderness,"
Her love for her home was borne when she spontaneously decided to purchase
it. She still remembers going to see the hilltop house during her lunch
break. "There was one house left," she says. "I thought,
'It is such a beautiful area' that I picked it up right there, without asking
my husband," Thakur laughs.
She distinguishes her San Dimas home from her former Claremont home
because of its character, and she receives visiting wildlife "guests"
on a regular basis. "There are rattlesnakes, mountain lions, coyotes
and wild bunnies," she says. "We can even see deer crossing the
road. They come down to drink water. We have a new pond. Where else can
you find something like that?"
"We planted broccoli and as of yesterday the bunnies hadn't found
them, and I was really happy. This morning, they did find them, so I don't
have broccoli anymore," she laughs.
"The people who live here are working middle class. They have the
kind of values I want in my kids. They all watch out for each other and
care for each other. It is a little community." There are 80 houses
in Thakur's hilly area with their backsides facing the natural rugged Southern
Down the hill on San Dimas Canyon Road, the houses represent San Dimas'
western setting. Both single and double story houses saddle up to each other.
Many houses are built with Spanish-influenced arches. Front yards are
furnished with basketball courts, flower plants hanging from hooks and elegant
brick pathways that lead to front doors. Some are gated with metal-crafted
fences; most have neatly cut grass lawns with glass lamps resting on their
A child's mid-day birthday celebration captures the center of attention
on an autumn afternoon in San Dimas Canyon Park. The park, on the La Verne/
San Dimas border, is often the site for company picnics and family gatherings.
It is Tuesday, and brown trash cans along with recycling bins are in
front of every house on Durflats Road, waiting to be emptied by the garbage
truck. It is late afternoon, but hardly anybody is outside. Rarely can one
see a person walking. Although the neighborhood streets are not crowded
with people at this time of day, one can still hear sounds coming from inside
some houses. The "whirr" of a vacuum cleaner is a frequently heard
sound, along with the barking of dogs looking out from behind a fence.
On Grasscreek Avenue, a man wearing shorts and a tank top is painting
the outside of his house. His garage door is open, displaying bicycles and
tools. James Paine, a 64-year-old retired resident has been living in his
San Dimas home since 1965. This long period has created an appreciation
for him toward this neighborhood. "It is a beautiful and great place
to raise kids, or at least that is what my kids say," he says. "It
is quiet, and there is only one way in and one way out. I've made a lot
of good friends."
Continuing north on San Dimas Canyon Road, one comes to the city's golf
course that was designed in the early 1960s by Dan Murray. Although the
cliff, which is clearly visible on the east, separates the two cities, La
Verne's city limits wander down to the valley. It is said that at one spot,
one can drive a golf ball from La Verne to San Dimas, then back again on
two different holes.
On top of the cliff, the neighborhood changes to a noticeably suburban
setting. Above Baseline Road down Wheeler Avenue, the La Verne houses, located
on wide city streets rimmed with street lights, seem larger than those in
Some La Verne homes are gated with bricks, while others have invitingly
open front yards. Other houses have huge rocks, set as decorations on front
yards of manicured grass. Single and double story homes are mixed on this
side of the cliff. One can still see a windmill as a piece of history left
from old La Verne when farmers grew oranges.
On Aldersgate Drive, the sound of crackling leaves is heard as a person
on a bicycle rides over fallen dry leaves. Birds can also be seen, as they
fly above the houses and respond to one another's calls.
Wheeler, the major artery in this area, is surrounded by several significant
points of interest, including a police and fire station on the corner of
Ruggles Avenue, and recreational parks like Heritage, Oak Mesa and Mills.
Oak Mesa Elementary School, located on the corner of Oak Mesa Drive
and Wheeler Avenue, has been up and running for seven years, with a total
of 565 students, according to Mercy Woods, secretary to Principal Tom Milligan.
Woods says that the school does an effective job in trying to keep the
parents involved. "We have an active PTA which has put together events
like Grandparents' Day, carnival programs and fundraisers," she says.
She talks highly of the School's Student of the Month Program that offers
students recognition for their hard class work. Several of these honored
students can be seen in the main office where their little faces are displayed
on the wall. According to Woods, the School provides an extended Day Care
Center that promotes security and safety for children.
At the Oak Mesa Park, used on afternoon hours for children's soccer
practice, pigeons are occupying the recreational area at this time of day.
Down Via de Mansion Avenue, at Heritage Park, an elderly lady sits on
a bench facing the street, while another lady takes a nap beside her. Vivian
Frances is her name. It takes her a while to think about her age, but eventually
she says, "82," followed by, "I don't think it's quite that
She has been a La Verne resident for 30 years, after she and her family
left their hometown in Pennsylvania. Her husband's health condition brought
the couple back home. Now, they are here once again on a visit. "We're
thinking about coming back," she says. "We want to move and enjoy
life because we're not young chickens anymore. It's very pleasant up here.
The people aren't stuck up and think that they own the country."
Whether it is a western or suburban setting, the northwest border offers
lifestyle diversity to those who "live on the edge."
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