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Verdugo Views: Photographer captured history through his lens

November 06, 2013|By Katherine Yamada
  • In 1956, Glendale photographer Glenn B. Ward was hired to document the opening of the Cinerama at Carthay Circle. His wife, Betty, and two daughters, Sharon and Peggy, were unpaid extras. Betty (in light coat and dark shoes), Sharon (in light dress and light shoes) and Peggy (dark shoes, in the shadow of the pole) all stand to the left of the Riley Way street sign. (Courtesy of Sharon Ward Thompson)
In 1956, Glendale photographer Glenn B. Ward was hired…

Glendale's buildings and businesses were photographer Glenn B. Ward's domain. Not only did he work here — his studio was on Colorado Street — he documented the surrounding area as it looked in the mid-20th century.

On weekends, when the weather was right, he roamed around, photographing whatever caught his eye. He often took his family along, his daughter Sharon Ward Thompson said.

And sometimes he went to great heights — climbing trees or making his way to the top of a building — to get the right shot.

One adventurous day in 1957, Thompson and her father went up on the roof of a building overlooking a plot of land on Harvard Street. Later, that plot would be the site of the current Central Library, but then it was a park, Glendale Central Park.

From their rooftop perch, Ward got a great shot of the park and the old Presbyterian Church at Harvard and Louise. The church was severely damaged in the 1971 earthquake and later demolished. But Ward's photo left a record of both the church and the park, a testament to the way Glendale used to be.


Ward sometimes asked his family for help. Thompson and her three sisters, Peggy, Barbara Jo and Glenda, grew up serving as occasional models, as did their mother, Betty.

Thompson recalled the time her father was taking photos of a shirt for a Christmas ad.

"He shot that one at home with a Christmas tree in the background. He positioned a chair in just the right spot, while my sister Peggy and I were kneeling at the foot of the chair, looking on," Thompson said. "When everything was all in place, he sat down, holding the cord to the camera, taking pictures as he carefully held up the shirt to show his daughters."

Years later, he enlisted Thompson's husband, Rob, as a model. Ward was preparing to photograph a brush, one designed to clean big cables, and he needed someone with good-looking hands to hold the brush.

"Rob got a manicure and his hand ended up in a brochure," Thompson said.

Ward became very busy in the 1970s and 80s when big businesses were buying out small local shops, Thompson said.

"It was good work. I was told his prices were not the cheapest in town. 'I got a good price' was what he told us. He was a perfectionist. He did good work and customers kept returning," Thompson said.

Ward made multiple copies of the photos so he could provide a copy later if a client needed one.

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