We are delighted to introduce you to Pauline Pritchett as part of our “Neighbor of the Month” series-an effort started last November to highlight Elysian Valley residents. It is our sincere hope that doing so contributes in some fashion to better know one another, build, grow and appreciate the make-up of our community. The NW thanks Pauline and her family for their contribution to Elysian Valley.
Pauline Pritchet was born to Joseph and Josephine Ruttone in 1940 and has lived in Elysian Valley for 71 years. Her father was an immigrant from Naples Italy and her mom from Baja, CA, Mexico. She lives on Riverdale Ave. in the same home originally owned by her parents—purchased then for approximately $6,000. She attended Dorris Pl Elementary School, Irving Junior High and is a graduate from John Marshall High School. While at Dorris Pl, she remembers being read “Little House on the Prairie” by wonderful teachers. Her weekly school meals cost 25 cents.
Pauline remembers a safe and beautiful Elysian Valley that extended to present day Elysian Park. “Being out of the house was fun.” She recalls jumping rope, playing hopscotch & baseball on the street with other neighborhood kids. There was no phone texting so the call to play outside was a loud holler from her best friend Laura Lee, whose family was Mormon. The manhole cover on the street was home plate. The present site of Jardin Del Rio Community Garden (Riverdale Ave./Crystal St.) was known as the “dirt lot”. Here, influenced by radio stories of WWII, she recalls playing war games. “We had more fun than a barrel of monkeys”, says Pauline. The neighborhood then had a considerable Italian and Irish presence. Pauline remembers being cared for at home by doctors answering house calls.
Like other longtime residents, Pauline too remembers a vibrant business community. There was a Malt-Shop on Riverside Dr. at or near Gatewood Ave. & Fernleaf St. Next to it was a gift shop and barber shop, a good size grocery store between Riverdale & Meadowvale Ave., and a tortilla factory on Altman & Birkdale St. There was The Elysian Movie Theater next to present day Kessler plumbing, a plumbing store and nightclub on Barclay St. and a Christian chapel on Shoredale Ave. The 2 o’clock movie matinee was 10 cents. When unable to attend the movies, her and her friends would bring a box and sit outside the plumbing store to watch TV through a large display window facing Riverside Dr.
One of Pauline’s fondest memories is picnicking with friends at Chavez Ravine (modern day Dodger Stadium site). They walked up Riverdale Ave. and hiked straight to the top. “It was like finding a hidden treasure.” There were beautiful fields of flowers and residential homes. The displacement of people and nature in favor of Dodger Stadium construction was “the saddest day of [her] life.” She could not believe the sight of people literally being carried out of their homes. For this reason, Pauline is an Angel fan and hopes the Dodgers “lose every game.”
When remembering the frogs of EV, Pauline describes the scene as a nightmare. The streets were covered in brown/grey frogs that crawled up to the front steps of the house. “ There were so many that you could not avoid stepping on them.” One good thing that came from having so many frogs was that they kept Elysian Valley free of bugs. They too were great predictors of incoming rain, says Pauline. Without fail, “it always rained when frogs croaked a certain way.”
Pauline is of Catholic faith and feels blessed to have had a good father, mother and husband. “We had no money but never lacked anything.” Her husband of 30 plus years was James Robert Pritchett, nicknamed “Tennessee”. He joined the US Navy at 14 years old, became a “gunner on the Marmac Hawk” and received an honorable discharge. She describes him as a “cute, smart, polite, hillbilly white southerner” having wonderful manners and an appreciation for country music. Because of him, she is Johnny Cash’s No.1 fan.
When asked what single thing she most wants others to know about Elysian Valley, Pauline is quick to point out the area’s rich American Indian heritage. “The Yang-na Indian Tribe lived in EV, hunted in Elysian Park and fished on the LA River.” Pauline wants to be remembered as someone who valued and appreciated this rich history and “the loving care Native Americans had for this land.”