Library card photo had family connection

November 01, 2011|By Katherine Yamada
  • Ernest Abbott, second from right, was the operator of the last Pacific Electric car to run from Los Angeles to Glendale in June, 1955. The others are unidentified. (Photo courtesy of the Glendale Public Library Special Collections)
Ernest Abbott, second from right, was the operator of…

One day, a young girl named Kaylie Becerra went to the Glendale Public Library to get a library card. When she saw one of their commemorative cards (a series of photo cards issued when the library turned 100 in 2007) she told her mother, "That’s the one I want."

The photo on the card she selected was of a group of people standing in front of the last Pacific Electric car to make the trip from Los Angeles to Glendale. As it turns out, one of the men in the picture was young Kaylie’s great-great-grandfather, Ernest Abbott.

Kaylie and her mother Amber Barnes shared the news of their discovery, and soon most of their relatives came to get a new library card with Ernest Abbott’s picture on it. Vorda Abbott Gordon, Kaylie’s great-grandmother, was one of them. After all, it was her father who was in the picture, which was taken in June 1955, according to a Metro web site.


In a recent interview, Gordon recalled her father and her childhood. She said the Abbott family was living on a farm in Nebraska during the Depression. “Times were very hard,” she said. Her father had two brothers working for Pacific Electric and when he heard they could get him a job, they sold everything “for pennies on a dollar” and made their way here.

Abbott got a job as a conductor. His duty was to stand near the door in the middle of the car and make change as needed when riders deposited their coins in the slot. “He needed money, so he took any job they asked him to do. He eventually became a motorman working 10 to 12 hours a day. He had no seniority, so he never had weekends off or vacation time during school holidays.” Gordon said she was in junior high before her father got a vacation during the summer.

At first, the Abbott family lived near the present site of Dodger Stadium. When the children were nearing school age, her parents inquired about good schools. “That was in 1941,” Gordon said. When they heard that Beverly Hills and Glendale had the best schools, they purchased a very old house at the corner of California Avenue and Adams Street. (Gordon graduated from Glendale High in 1952.)

Their house, originally a one-story wood-frame dwelling, had been converted into a two-story structure by raising the house up and building another story underneath. “That’s the way they used to do it,” Gordon explained.

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