Working on Route 66 in Pasadena, CA

Updated on November 7, 2018
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Sherry has been writing about home, family, and pets since 2008. She enjoys retirement, traveling, reading, and crafts.

An issue of the Smithsonian magazine listed Route 66 as one of the "10 Must-See Endangered Cultural Treasures" of the world. It is one among treasures, like the Hill of Tara in Ireland and Fenestrelle Fortress in Italy. The government in Ireland has planned a highway that will shave off part of the Hill of Tara. An action that will certainly make people think later.

There is a feeling of lose when going down parts of the road along the San Gabriel Valley in LA Basin. The San Gabriel Mountain range is the backdrop of Route 66 for 40 miles, as it makes it way through Southern California to the Pacific Ocean. I wonder what was here in 1929? What did the travelers see as they made their way to the Pacific?

The traveler would have seen the end of the desert as they drop from the mountain pass into Cucamonga. Now they see rocks, creosote, and farms, along with eucalyptus wind barriers and grape vines. The grape vines change to orange and lemon groves in Upland, through Claremont/La Verne, and avocado in Glendora. There would be little cafes, filling stations and motels to greet a weary motorist.

Coming up to Arcadia the landscape gets more plush and hints of lazy Southern California weather with palms and mansions hidden among towering trees may excite the observer. Arcadia is the suburb mentioned in Jack Kerouac's On the Road, or was it Dharma Bums? After Arcadia you are in Pasadena, city of the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl constructed in 1922.

On Route 66. Marengo and Colorado Pasadena, CA
On Route 66. Marengo and Colorado Pasadena, CA

The photo above is taken from the 10th floor of 177 E. Colorado looking towards Marengo and Colorado Blvd., 2008. This is late afternoon.

A 1929 photo of Colorado Blvd. Click to enlarge and note the street lamps and the two buildings at the center of the photo. They are the same buildings as those at right. Now I know those buildings were built before 1929. The 117 building is also visible. 117 was occupied by the phone for many years.

The old photo is interesting because the feel for the old traveler can be imagined.

Pacific Telephone moved into the 177 E. Colorado office, built for its own specifics, in 1971. After 43 years of occupation the phone company has sold the site. I went by one evening in June, 2014. It is dark. It used to be a very busy place. The digital age has come.

Sale Announcement

The building sits on Route 66, an American icon. It is a wandering road of legends, stories and myths. It is a concrete system that can be stood upon; also a road of liberation. Liberation that can be lost in a few missteps. No other road in the United States has the popularity or recognition in name as this one.

This Seventies Building is on Route 66
This Seventies Building is on Route 66

Working on Iconic Route 66

The last twelve years of almost 40 years I worked at the phone company was spent at 177. Not once did it occur to me I was working on the steps of an iconic American roadway!

Yes, there were plenty of days workers did not want to be there, but the street out front always hinted of other possibilities. The road was interesting, noisy, showy and entertaining, even though, it was not officially Route 66. The Mother Road has been decommissioned for awhile.

Old Town Pasadena is Route 66 right at my source of office discontent. I also lived a few miles from the Pasadena location between 1971 and 1984. Past and present hold many memories on the famous road.

In 1995-6 there were cosmetic upgrades to most floors for new work groups. That is when I was relocated to the building. Many of those groups are now gone because of new technologies in the digital age.


The picture above is the San Gabriel Mountains. The area above the range is the Mojave Desert. The down side is the LA Basin and the road hugs the San Gabriel foothills till it turns left towards the ocean at Pasadena.

Old Town, Pasadena, CA
Old Town, Pasadena, CA

This old drug store is now the J. Crew store at 3 W. Colorado, Blvd.

The Mother Road in Pasadena

Old Town Pasadena since 2005 is about high end money and fancy restaurants.

In the late sixties it was a different kind of hang out. The Free Press Book Store was where the Pottery Barn is now. Adult stores, pawn shops, second hand stores and coffee houses predominated this section of the road. A Salvation Army thrift store was housed in an ornate 1920's building. Store and window fronts are still festooned with Leed's or Penny's ground tiling, but occupied by whoever.

There were lots of coffee hang outs, a long established Mexican family restaurant called Ernie's. A small old mission style filling station at the end the area.

The office building I worked in was not even built. It wasn't called Old Town Pasadena.

When many phone company jobs were transferred to the the building in 1996 it was "Old Town Pasadena" and updated but still interesting. I enjoyed sellers of import Mexican pottery and goods, and shoe stores that featured Doc Marten's. On lunch break explore Art Galleries, eclectic handmade arts stores, knives, music instruments, handmade papers from Japan, a used record store where you could get music from local ska bands. Tower Records occupied two stories on one old building. There were little eateries that didn't bust your pocket book.

All the businesses taking full advantage of the old feel of the buildings. Old floors, ceilings and old smells still present.

After Heidi Fleiss served her time in jail she opened a little lingerie shop for awhile.

Heidi Fleiss

It is a much higher rent district now.

Pasadena, CA street light
Pasadena, CA street light

Old Town Pasadena Now

Explore Old Town at night. The following pictures are some of the sights to see. The original street standards are still present. I have seen them in pictures from the twenties. The city added fluorescent poles that shine down on them.

There are five blocks of original buildings still standing in Old Town at this location of Route 66.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This reflection on an old window took care of the glare and exposed the iron lampwork.1947 burger joint.Building detail.This section became so popular some years it was an evening cruise nightmare.  Not so, since the big recession and the big rents.Friday or Saturday night has many visitors along the Old Town corridor.Building details on Route 66, Pasadena, CA
This reflection on an old window took care of the glare and exposed the iron lampwork.
This reflection on an old window took care of the glare and exposed the iron lampwork.
1947 burger joint.
1947 burger joint.
Building detail.
Building detail.
This section became so popular some years it was an evening cruise nightmare.  Not so, since the big recession and the big rents.
This section became so popular some years it was an evening cruise nightmare. Not so, since the big recession and the big rents.
Friday or Saturday night has many visitors along the Old Town corridor.
Friday or Saturday night has many visitors along the Old Town corridor.
Building details on Route 66, Pasadena, CA
Building details on Route 66, Pasadena, CA

Route 66 Was Realigned in 1940 - Arroyo Parkway is Opened

In 1940 the Arroyo Parkway was opened as the region's first freeway. Instead of turning left on Fair Oaks or taking an alternate over the Colorado Street Bridge, into cities of Eagle Rock and Glendale, you had the luxury of three lanes of uninterrupted motoring with scenery to downtown Los Angeles.

This freeway still exists and was an unexpected challenge for the first timers driving it. High speed means 55 and ramps only ten feet long and boom you are on the road of curves and turns.

After many art deco tunnels and curving through the hills of Mt. Washington you are in L.A. The original intent was a beautiful leisure drive to the city.

Note the Xs on the building on the right
Note the Xs on the building on the right

A picture of the famous Rose Parade along Colorado Blvd, but of interest is the building on the right. This is at the northeast corner of Arroyo Parkway and Colorado Blvd. The corner of the building shows the distinctive X tile design over the first floor. You can see it in the picture of Moose McGillycuddy's above. The address of this building is 117 E. Colorado. The Pacific Telephone had working offices there before 177 opened in 1971.

Take note on the upper left Anderson's Typewriter Company. It is still in town in a much smaller building near Arroyo Parkway.

Colorado Street Bridge


Here is the Colorado Street Bridge in 1920. An alternate Route 66 went over the Arroyo Seco River which you see in the foreground. In the late Thirties engineers would follow the river for the scenic parkway opened in 1940. Pasadena City Hall is two miles to the right or east. The San Gabriel's and the origin of the Station Fire in 2009 in the background. The foreground is the precise location of the novel called Pasadena by David Ebershoff.

In Mildred Pierce, 1941, by James M. Cain, Mildred motors the distance from Glendale to Pasadena in driving rain and crosses the Colorado street bridge from left to right.

"She came to a washout, where part of the hill had slid down on the road, but one track was still open, and she slipped easily by. She came back to Colorado Boulevard at a point not far for the high bridge, so popular with suicides at the time, and went splashing across." Cain, James M. Mildred Pierce. New York: Vintage Books, 1989. pg 189.

Interesting, rainfall records for LA show high rain for the years 1938-1941.

City Hall

City Hall is visible from Colorado Blvd. From the upper floors of 177 there is a beautiful view of City Hall and the San Gabriel Mountains, as well as northern Pasadena and the Rose Bowl. Penthouse options are a plus for this building.

For many years workers in the building had a view of perching peregrines on a church tower. The birds built their nest on the uppermost floors of 177.

In 2006-2007 the whole City Hall complex was emptied and retrofitted with earthquake safe upgrades and new lighting scheme.

The Pasadena Area

This set of 1000 photos will give you an idea what Pasadena is like and why, authors, artists, actors and more, are and were, drawn to this city at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Photos by okarol give an exciting view of Pasadena, Ca. All these photos are of locations in and around the area. Enjoy.

Pasadena,CA by okarol

Have You Traveled on Route 66?

Let us know if you been there.

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A Road Has Ended at the "phone company"

This writer is very happy to have retired. The views were grand and the area interesting but I have a much better time telling about it rather than living it.

This photo page is dedicated to all the people who have worked at 177 E. Colorado.

Especially to those that still work there and will ever work there in the future. The "phone company" can be a long route to take. Not as fun as Route 66.

Questions & Answers

    © 2009 Sherry Venegas

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      • MJ Martin profile image

        MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 

        6 years ago from Washington State

        I am sure I was on route 66 at least once when I use to live in So. Calif. I loved going to Pasadena. I have on my bucket list to travel Route 66, so thanks for a great lens to remind me.

      • paperfacets profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Venegas 

        9 years ago from La Verne, CA

        @anonymous: OMG! exactly. The frame job was very tasking with climbing ladders, on your feet all day and the lower level technical stuff, but when I became a communications tech I was blown away with how many guys they had doing easy stuff, and they were getting top pay!

        Later with computers, digit switching and testing it was worth top pay for craft workers. Very technical. Good for you pursuing college and other directions. Driving that van gave you extra empowerment!

        If you are retired and have time, look around Squidoo, maybe you will like writing. You can hit my contact button under my paperfacets page if you are interested and have questions. There are lots of baby boomers writing here.

        It is fun to meet you, Debbie and talking about the "phone company."

      • profile image


        9 years ago

        @paperfacets: Well, I was one of the first females to work as a "Motorized Messenger" - a position I was only allowed to fill after answering the question, "when did you last menstruate (I foolishly challenged the legality of asking only females such a thing)?" That episode is just one of many frustrating ordeals that finally sent me off to better things, beginning with college! But, to answer your question, I loved driving that big van (many a head turned abruptly when other drivers realized there was a woman behind that wheel!), listening to the radio all day, and the whole experience of being out on the road. Bottom line: I've always said I never worked so little, nor made as much money (for that era), as I did once allowed to hold a job previously available only to men! What a lesson in sexism! BTW, do you remember the adage "No job is too important not to be done safely?" It was everywhere - because it was printed around the rims of all the PT&T ASHTRAYS. Oh the irony!

      • paperfacets profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Venegas 

        9 years ago from La Verne, CA

        @paperfacets: Haha Debbie, this is too amazing. I was a repair clerk at the desk where the big wheels were with all the records of customer phones. I later worked the frame in Glendale starting in 1976. How did you like being a messenger? It was much easier to drive around LA in the seventies than now.

      • profile image


        9 years ago

        @paperfacets: I most love the falcon story & wish I might have witnessed such a testament to nature. I transferred from DA (Temple City) to the Pasadena business office in 1970. I worked @ 600 Green St. as "the mail girl" & later as a teller & cashier. I was the blond kid in big tortoise-shell glasses & tiny little skirts - I used to stop by the frame to talk to the guys whenever I could because you all were pretty funny. Later, as a messenger, I was back in those frames shooting the meters! We may have spoken way back when!

      • paperfacets profile imageAUTHOR

        Sherry Venegas 

        9 years ago from La Verne, CA

        Hello Debbie,

        Glad to hear from you. I was working at 600 E Green at that time in the PCC that had the test board. The cafeteria at 177 finally got new carpeting a few years ago and now the furniture in the auditorium lobby and the kite mobile is down. The pipes in the twelfth floor executive offices burst in 2008 onto our desks below. Not pleasant but it made me think of Mr. Bell. He was such a big figure in southern Calif. well into the late 90's. After him we had the peregrine falcons.

      • profile image


        9 years ago

        Like you, I also worked for Pa Bell in Pasadena (1970-1976) & elsewhere (before fleeing for soooo many reasons). I was among the workforce moved from the Green Street building to the new business office digs when the Colorado Blvd. building was new! I have so many fond memories of lunch hour walks through the real Old Town. I also have a few memories of things like Mr. Bell's exploits "upstairs"....!

      • KimGiancaterino profile image


        9 years ago

        Wow ... this is great. I live right off Route 66 (Colorado Blvd.) and do a lot of mobile notary work in Old Town Pasadena. I also love the old Arroyo Parkway, even though zero to 55 in a matter of seconds is tough sometimes. Definitely not the thing for little old ladies from Pasadena!

      • Ramkitten2000 profile image

        Deb Kingsbury 

        10 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

        I'm rather fascinated by Route 66, partly because I live right on it now (or a few hundreds yards away, at least). I always love to see old parts of the road no longer in use, sometimes right alongside the new highways that took its place. And I enjoy visiting towns along the parts of 66 that still exist, like Seligman, AZ for one.

      • profile image


        10 years ago

        Wow! So "the March 2009 issue of the Smithsonian magazine listed Route 66 as one of the '10 Must-See Endangered Cultural Treasures' of the world." That is pretty cool -- I did not know that!

      • Linda BookLady profile image

        Linda Jo Martin 

        10 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

        I would love to drive on Route 66 from one end to the other. I will put that on my vacation wish list for some future year. Thanks for the tour of your section of the route. My father was raised in Pasadena on Mar Vista Avenue. His birthday was January 1 and when he was very young he actually thought the Rose Parade was his birthday celebration!


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