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An Alhambra family for three generations

The Sixth Street in 1922. From left to right: Robert, Victor, Edward, and Catherine KowellPHOTO ESSAY: The Kowells moved to Alhambra in the early 1920s and built a house on Sixth Street. Bob Kowell shared some stories with Community Contributor Joe Soong of Alhambra and his family's connection to the city over nearly 100 years.*

Victor Kowell moved his family from Ohio to Alhambra in a 1913 Hudson touring car and took a job at a local foundry. The Kowells settled in a house at 1515 S Sixth Street, where Robert, who was 3 years old at the time, and his four brothers and sisters grew up.

Bob's grandparents had frequent get-togethers at the Sixth Street home.

Robert remembers frequent family get-togethers at his parent's Sixth Street house, the strong smell of orange groves all the way to the mountains, and heading to the old country club — located south of where the 10 Freeway is now — to watch professional polo players and golfers.

Robert Kowell at the Hathaway house in 1948.

Robert attended Pasadena City College, where he met his wife Edna. They were married on March 7, 1943, and went on to buy a new house not far from his parents at 2300 Hathaway Avenue. Their son Bob was born five years later in 1953.

Edna (center) helps host a New Year's party at the Kowells' Hathaway home.

Before television was the prominent form of entertainment, Bob and his friends found ways to have fun in the city. There was a stream near their Hathaway home where local neighborhood kids would gather to catch crawfish and pollywogs. The Kowells would also head to Granada Park to swim or ride ice blocks. They would even go to the dump.

"The big thing for people to do was go once a week to watch a helicopter pick up the airmail bag. There was a dump where they landed near the railroad tracks — I am going to say it was at Garfield and Mission," Bob said.

Bob Kowell ice-block riding at Granada Park.Bob Kowell running track at Moor Field in the late 1960s.

Growing up in Alhambra in the 1950s meant heading to the drive-in movie to see the newest flick or stopping by Ricki's on Valley for an expensive meal. "Two-hey’s Restaurant used to be a drive in restaurant," Bob said. "We would go there often and eat in our cars."

Bob — who remembers riding his bike for his Alhambra Post Advocate paper route — graduated from Alhambra High School in 1971. His parents lived in the Hathaway home until the early 1980s, when Edna inherited her parents' home in Pasadena. The Kowells still own the Hathaway home, and Bob, who lives in Murrieta, visits often. 

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said the Kowells drove to Alhambra from Ohio in a Ford V8 Coupe and that Ricki's was a diner. We regret the errors.

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7 thoughts on “An Alhambra family for three generations”

  1. Great Story. I hope to live my life as fully as they lived theirs.

  2. Great pictures. I grew up at 200 and 206 S. 6th. My sister lives in our original home and one door down, my 86 year old mother lives in a big house that looks like a barn. First recorded people living there was recorded in 1909. I moved to N. First St in 1981 into a 1923 bungalow and still there. Love these old houses and all their history.

  3. Amazing to find an historic, pre-1930’s home in Alhambra is actually still extant.

    1. There are actually a lot of pre-1930 homes around Alhambra especially on streets like South Sixth street.

  4. This made my day! I love the pictures and wish Alhambra would keep this wonderful friendly neighborhood charm!

  5. Terrific photos and backstory. America in its heyday … lives of Americans who lived the dream.

  6. The Heliport mentioned was just past Chapel on Mission