Throwback Thursday | Oranges Make Better Snowballs

In the late 1800s, vacationers preferred sunshine and eating oranges rather than enduring another snowy winter back home

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | News | The Raymond resort hotel, South Pasadena (1890)

Most of us gaze wistfully at our snowcapped mountains, knowing we can fully appreciate the winter season without having to shovel snow.

Every day is like paradise in the San Gabriel Valley. Plenty of sunshine. Mild winters.

PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | News | City of South Pasadena sprouting up among its agricultural community of orange growers, Monterey Road in the foreground (1899)

The closest thing we have to a snowball here is an orange. Winter vacationers used to send postcards to relatives back home saying, “I’ll eat oranges for you. You throw snowballs for me!”

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PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | News | Vintage photographs of vacationers picking oranges in our local orchards

Back in the day, we had plenty of ostrich eggs too – they look kind of like snowballs (white-ish but the wrong shape). You certainly don’t want to get hit in the head with one during a snowball fight!

PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | News | Cawston Ostrich Farm, South Pasadena (1932)

Snowfall is rare in South Pas. But we do experience the fall of blossoms from our urban forest of trees.

Every year in May/June on Marengo Avenue, “purple snowfall” occurs when jacaranda tree blossoms fall covering the street, cars, sidewalks, and front yards. At the height of the jacaranda bloom, driving down Marengo Avenue is like traveling through a purple tunnel. And when I do, I hear Prince’s song Purple Rain in my head!

Hard to make a snowball out of tree blossoms though.

PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | News | Stratford Avenue in South Pasadena (1949)

Wait a minute! Hmmm. Come to think of it; it did snow in South Pas once.

On January 11, 1949, the palms along Stratford Avenue were flocked with the “real white stuff” (not movie magic). South Pasadena became a winter wonderland when a freak snowfall covered Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley communities.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | News | Newspaper advertisement – Cawston Ostrich Farm (1921)

And of course, everyone knows this time of year, Santa flies over our neighborhoods with his sleigh pulled by a team of ostriches from our Cawston Ostrich Farm in South Pasadena.

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.