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Verdugo Views: The tangled story of the Webb family

March 22, 2013|By Katherine Yamada
  • This ad for Webbs Store for Men and Boys appeared in the local paper in 1917. The proprietor, Harry Sickles Webb, had previously operated a dry goods business in Chicago.
This ad for Webbs Store for Men and Boys appeared in the… (Courtesy of Special…)

For years, Webb’s department store was a fixture on Brand. But few knew the story behind Webb’s.

The story came to light when I interviewed Sharon Thompson about her father, Glenn Ward. Sharon’s husband, Rob, sat with us and talked about Ward and when we were finished, asked if I’d like to see home movies made by his great uncle, Harry Webb, who, by the way, had founded the department store.

Well, of course, I wanted to see the home movies. And, so, through the magic of old film, I met Harry S. Webb, his mother and sister and second wife and her daughter — but, I’m getting ahead of the story.

Here’s how Thompson tells it: The Webbs were from Chicago. Arthur and Frankie Webb had two children, Harry and Helen. When Arthur died in 1899, he left his wife financially well off. Being musically inclined, she taught music and voice at a conservatory and Helen was her pianist.

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Helen married James Sawyer in 1907, moved to Vermont and had two children, Henry and Barbara. In 1914, James died of appendicitis and the next year, Helen decided to go west, to Pomona, where a cousin was living.

Back in Chicago, Harry's wife, May, ran off with his business partner and almost $100,000 in company money. Harry, out of money, with a failing business and no wife, decided to join his sister. Frankie, not wanting to be left alone, came along. This was in 1916.

They soon decided to be where the music and entertainment “action” was. They rented a large house at the corner of La Brea and Hillside in Hollywood. Frankie was active in musical events and productions while Helen played and sang for World War I soldiers on leave. Harry, meanwhile, ventured over the hill to Glendale, where he found a small dry goods business for sale in 1917. Since he had no money, he borrowed from his mother.

In 1920 they all moved to a rented house on Jackson Street. In 1923, Helen purchased her own home at 1520 Ridgeway Drive.

Meanwhile, Harry met Elsie Duryea and they married in 1926. Harry purchased a large house at 2307 Blanchard, at the corner of Opechee, for his new wife and her daughter, Vera.

When Harry married, Frankie moved in with Helen. Both of them lived out the rest of their lives on Ridgeway; Frankie died in 1935, Helen in 1975.

Harry and Elsie lived on Blanchard until Elsie died in 1937. Vera sued Harry for her mother's share of his estate and the courts awarded her the house, so Harry purchased a home in La Cañada.

Two years later, he married Mildred Jacobson, a cashier in the beauty shop at Webb’s.

He died in August, 1947 and is buried at Forest Lawn, Glendale. “He picked out his plot on a hill where he could see the H.S. Webb building,” added Thompson. “He said a view lot was important to him.”

“Interestingly, Harry Webb never repaid the loan from his mother, even though he made millions in his business. But, what goes around comes around,” said Thompson. “When Frankie died in 1935, she left all of her estate to Helen, nothing to Harry.”

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Readers Write:

Phillip Hain remarked on the coincidence that the movie, “Mildred Pierce,” aired on Turner Classic Movies the same night my column on the movie appeared (Verdugo Views, February 2, 2013). “As an aficionado of old movies, I’ve seen the film several times and was very interested in reading about the myriad of Glendale locations where scenes were shot.’’

Hain said quotes from various readers were very helpful in finding Mildred’s house. He took a picture when the house appeared on screen and took the photo along on his Sunday morning walk. Within 10 minutes, he’d found the house and was delighted that after 68 years, it still looked pretty much the same. “Thank you for giving News-Press readers an informative overview of Glendale’s history,’’ he wrote.

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If you have questions, comments or memories to share, please write to Verdugo Views, c/o Glendale News-Press, 202 W. 1st St., Second Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include your name, address and phone number.

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