Throwback Thursday | At the Crossroads of Heaven and Hell

The roads and rails of South Pas are both a blessing and a curse

PHOTO: Pasadena Museum of History | News | Early automobile passing under the Colorado Street Bridge

South Pasadena is like no other place on Earth. The weather is perfect, and views of the San Gabriel Mountains are breathtaking.

South Pas is uniquely located at the “crossroads” of Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley. Our city is so well situated many believe it is both a blessing and a curse.

PHOTO: Pasadena Museum of History | News | L.A. & S.G.V. Railroad crosses the Arroyo Seco
PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | News | Red Car crossing the Arroyo Seco
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | News | Colorado Street Bridge crossing the Arroyo Seco

For decades we had the finest transportation system of any small city in America. Route 66 ran along Fair Oaks and Mission, and a modern light rail system spread throughout the city.

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The area had freshly paved streets with new automatic traffic signals installed at major intersections. Bridges crossed the Arroyo Seco at several places, joining local communities and providing direct access for transcendental travelers.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | News | Roy Knabenshue piloting his dirigible with The Raymond in the background
PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | News | View of Knabenshue’s dirigible in flight with passengers

Roy Knabenshue offered the first commercial flight service in America – taking guests from The Raymond in his airship, way up high where the red-tailed hawks fly!

PHOTO: Pasadena Museum of History | News | | Opening of the Arroyo Seco Parkway

However, the streets and highways that unite us also divide us! The Arroyo Seco Parkway slices through our city, and the proposed 710 freeway extension threatens to plow through it from another direction.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | News | Symbol of “The Fight”

“The Fight” (a term I coined for the epic battle between our residents and Caltrans) to keep a second highway from entering our city has been going on for more than a half-century. For those keeping score: Advantage, South Pas!

Throwback Thursday is written and produced by Rick Thomas


Rick Thomas
Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.