Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre Edition [Pasadena] Saturday, September 9, 2017

MVNews this week:  Page A:3


Mountain View News Saturday, September 9, 2017 

Walking Sierra Madre…The Social Side 

by Deanne Davis

At the foot of the Old Mt. Wilson Trail, what is now called 
Mt. Wilson Trail Park in Sierra Madre was once the center 
of activity for the pack trains that hauled everything 
up and down the trail. Don Benito Wilson used this as 
the starting point to revamp an old Indian trail in 1864. 
From 1864 to about 1905, this was the access route, 
both to the top of Mt. Wilson and to several camps and 
resorts which were developed for recreation. Thousands 
would hike up the trails each weekend, and you had to 
either hire a pack train to haul your supplies, or carry 
them yourself. The pack trains also hauled in the supplies 
needed for the resorts and camps. Mules, burros and 
horses hauled everything from food and water to tents, 
pianos, telephone poles and even the materials for Mt. 
Wilson’s first 13” telescope. At the turn of the century, the 
famous Mt. Wilson pack station served up to 160 animals 
and was located at the site of the present water tank.

 We live in such an historical place, friends and 
neighbors, we really do, and we, my history buff walking 
buddy, John, and I got to be part of the capacity crowd 
at the Kensington a week or so ago to hear Dr. William 
White talk about the Pack Trains, the telescope, and 
Sierra Madre Hospital and Clinic which, for many years, 
stood on the spot where the Kensington now stands. 
To this day, we miss the Sierra Madre Hospital where 
Dr. Thomas Pickren took out my appendix in 1970. I’m 
sure many of you will remember Dr. Pickren riding his 
horse down Sierra Madre Blvd. during the 4th of July 
parades for many years. Dr. Pickren lived into his 90’s and 
passed away quietly last year, still in full possession of his 
faculties, which is an admirable accomplishment. I’m not 
so sure I’m still in full possession of mine.

 I miss the clinic, too. When our kids were little and 
fell off of something requiring stitches, or had a strange 
rash or got stung by a bee, all we had to do was phone and 
Peggy would say, give me a few minutes and I think I can 
get you in. And she did. Of course, the doctors didn’t all go 
home at the stroke of 5 p.m. I remember vividly when our 
son, then about 9, fell off the block house in our back yard, 
came to the back door covered in blood calling, “Mom....” 
Well, we stuck him in the car and raced down to the clinic 
where Dr. Norman Johnson was still working. All the rest 
of the staff had gone home and he asked me if I thought 
I could hold John’s hair out of the way while he did some 
stitches in his scalp. I allowed as how I could, and John’s 
Dad turned about as white as it’s possible to turn and said, 
“I think I’ll wait outside.” Yes, those were the days and, as 
I recall, an office visit was $9.00. Anyway, Dr. White told 
us that he started practicing at our 25 bed hospital in 1963 
and was the original Chief of Staff. In its heyday the clinic 
was seeing 50-60 patients a day. But I digress! The Pack 
Trains of Sierra Madre is the subject today!

 Dr. White said he started writing a book on the 
pack trains twenty years ago and now he’s retired, 
he might very well finish it. He’s still hiking the Trail, 
btw. Meanwhile, there’s a really splendid book by John 
Robinson that is available at Lizzie’s Trail Inn and is 
on order at Arnold’s Hardware. Dr. White showed us a 
series of photographs taken by one E. B. Gray, who was, 
apparently, a professional photographer who just loved 
hanging around the Mt. Wilson Trail and the camps 
– Strain’s Camp, Martin’s Camp, Robert’s Camp, to 
name a few - where there were 200-300 cabins built for 
vacationers. These camps were located at various levels 
of the Trail and were quite popular. The pack animals 
were donkeys, favored for smaller loads on the narrower 
trails, and mules for the larger loads. We were astonished 
to see these little donkeys carrying loads of lumber that 
had to be 10-12’ long, not to mention bathtubs, sofas, a 
piano, and one donkey had baskets on either side of him, 
one of which carried a cute toddler. That’s how the Mt. 
Wilson Hotel up at the top got built. One of the photos 
advertised: Roberts Camp “We struggle to please!” as 
they were bringing in an upright piano! There was even 
a post office at Roberts Camp.

 It took a month in 1889 to transport the famous 13” 
Alvan Clark telescope with its delicate lenses, which 
arrived in 20 boxes by train, up to the top and the folks 
who were transporting it had to blast their way through 
some of the rock! Now that’s exciting. That telescope is 
now in South Africa. The story of its short sojourn at Mt. 
Wilson is quite a tale, too!

 The pack trains are still in business today going up 
from Chantry Flats with supplies of all sorts. The rate was 
originally paid by distance at a penny a pound. It’s gone up 
now to $1.00 a pound. At one time the Mt. Wilson Stables 
were at the foot of the Trail and what we call Turtle Park 
up at the top of Mountain Trail was once the place where 
100 or more animals were on hand. There’s so much more 
history here involving the Mt. Wilson War, fences put 
up and torn down, emotions running high, the courts 
involved... Well, ya gotta get the book! Dr. White really 
knows his history and if you get a chance to hear him talk 
about the pack trains, don’t miss it!

 The back to school heat wave is going to end...someday! 
Meanwhile, stay hydrated out there and if you can give to 
help out the folks in Houston, that would be good. 

 My book page: Deanne Davis


 “A Tablespoon of Love, A Tablespoon of Laughter” is 
now available at Sunrise Books + Coffee at Pasadena First 
Church of the Nazarene – just down the road on Sierra 
Madre Blvd.

 Kindle readers, give yourself the gift of the Emma 
Gainsworth Adventures:

 “Just Dessert: A Fall Fantasy” – “The Intergalactic 
Pumpkin Battle” – “The Lost Amulets”

 They’re on on my book page!

 Follow me on Twitter, too!



Beloved small business owner, proud veteran and 
longtime Pasadena resident Rodney J. Otto died 
peacefully September 1, 2017 at the age of 85 from a 
sudden illness. He was surrounded by his family at his 
home in Pasadena, Calif.

 He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Marlene, his son 
Tim Otto, daughter Teri and husband Frank Grimmer, 
son Gary Otto and wife Amy and his grandchildren 
Joey and Amber Grimmer, his brothers Wilbur and 
Jerry, his sister Ruby and many nieces and nephews.

 Rod was born to Devina Fenhaus and Hugo Otto on 
March 10, 1932 on a dairy farm in Athens, Wisconsin 
where he grew up, an experience that informed the rest 
of his life. After graduating from Athens High School, 
Rod joined the Army and proudly served in the Korean 
War. He married Marlene Riehle of Athens, WI, in 1959 
and moved from Wisconsin to Pasadena, California. 
The couple had four children together, including 
Tommy, who died in infancy. He was a great family 
man, a loving father and grandfather. Rod opened the Hasting Ranch Barber Shop in Pasadena in 1959 
where he worked for 28 years before moving his barber shop to Sierra Madre, CA. In his 58 years of 
being a barber he enjoyed a loyal customer base. Thanks to Rod’s varied interests, love of conversation 
and genuine compassion for others, frequently his customers became dear friends. Rod was involved 
with BSA Troop 31 at Assumption Catholic Church in Pasadena and St. Rita’s Catholic Church’s Troop 
110 in Sierra Madre. Rod enjoyed the outdoors, nature, enjoying the horse races at Santa Anita racetrack 
and was an avid reader of diverse subjects. His friends, neighbors and family will always remember him 
as a kind and generous man with a great sense of humor. 

 A funeral will be held at 10 am on Saturday, September 23, at St. Rita’s church 300 N. Baldwin Ave. 
Sierra Madre, CA, 91024, with a reception to follow at O’Malley Hall. All are welcome to attend and 
celebrate Rod’s life. 

Mountain Views News 80 W Sierra Madre Blvd. No. 327 Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024 Office: 626.355.2737 Fax: 626.609.3285 Email: Website: