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Elmer Smith Bridge (Arroyo Seco / Gabrieleno Trail)

A teammate on my running team recently cleaned up the graffiti on the sign on the bridge.

A little background on ol' Elmer:

I've run up to that bridge many times and wondered, "who was this Elmer Smith/" In 2005 I ventured to the Pasadena Historical Society and found one article:

Elmer Smith was born on July 8, 1897 in Melrose , Massachusetts . At the age of six Elmer and his family moved to Pasadena where he attended Washington Grammar School (also the alma mater of Jackie Robinson and Pasadena HS. After graduating high school, Elmer enrolled at Cal Tech where he received a bachelor of science degree in engineering. During his college years he also attended the School of Agriculture at UC Berkley and supported himself by working as a surveyor for the Highway Commission. Three days after graduating from Cal Tech Elmer took a job with the Pasadena Water Dept.. Apparently he had other job offers that would pay more, but took the job with the PWD because he loved the city Pasadena and wanted to stay in the area. One of Smith’s early assignments w/ the department called for a complete survey of San Gabriel canyon for dam sites. Smith stayed with the Pasadena Water Department for 38 years and retired as assistant chief engineer in 1961.

As for his family life, Elmer was married twice. His first wife (name unknown) gave him a son (Robert) who became a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps. He was serving as a navigator on a B-29 bomber when his plane was shot down by a Japanese suicide bomber near Nagoya .

Elmer married his second wife (Matilda Hornberger) in 1947. She was known as the Star Spangled Banner Lady because of her determination to teach school age children the National Anthem. Elmer and Matilda met in California when Matilda was visiting relatives. Before becoming Elmer’s better half, Matilda was part of a singing sister act in Cincinnati , Ohio . She graduated from the Cincinnati College of Music. Once settled with Elmer she became a music teacher in the Pasadena area. She also claimed that she was a professional at doing the hula.

Matilda passed away in 1996 and Elmer followed her in 1997 at the age of 100. At the time of his death he was recorded to be Pasadena ’s longest residing resident. Their home was on Linda Vista (just above the Rose Bowl) and their favorite pastime was travel. Elmer also enjoyed hiking, gardening and fishing. Smith’s longevity in Pasadena earned him a place on the board of directors of the Pasadena Pioneer Association as well as the presidency of the Pasadena Historical Society.

One last Elmer Fact:
Elmer once rode his bicycle from his home in Pasadena to Yosemite.

Anyone here know anything else about Elmer or the bridge? When was it constructed and when was it washed away (partially)?


First question...where is this bridge?

Elmer Location - "Per Hike Up"

Hike Up this is in what I call the Lower Arroyo  ~ Elmer is roughly 2.25 miles north of Devil's Gate Dam. Start at Devil's Gate, through Hahamongna wash, cross JPL parking lot, up into the Arroyo.

A friendly stroll or a nice little trail run up the Gab Trail.

Washed out bridge (left of trail) just before first stream crossing.

Nice mellow hike maybe for your little one. Watch out for Mt. Bikers though...

Got it. Thanks!

Thanks, I was up there this past Friday and noticed the Bridge, closed but I noticed it.

On the Bridge, there are a few bridges! and water crossings. Great hike and go early to avoid the crowds.


Elmer Smith

A couple more key points, I grew up next door to the Smiths.
Elmer worked for the Pasadena DWP and was instrumental in a number of major projects, thus his recognition with the bridge.
Matilda also taught the local neighborhood children piano (I was one) and she not only wanted you to know the anthem, but to sing it properly.
Elmer and Matilda's house was on Wellington, not Linda Vista and he had a number of citrus trees that he maintained until his death.
He hiked the local hills and drove until he was no longer able.
A neat, wonderful couple.

Thanks Grezer.

A few months ago I looked up that address in an old phone book that I found at Pasadena's main library.  Drove by and noticed it was up for sale. I did see the numerous citrus trees that you mentioned as well.

If I recall from the obituary he was involved with some of the dam projects in the San Gabes.  Morris Dam I think. I may be wrong. I need to dig up that article.

Very cool to hear from someone who knew the man and if you have any more tid bits I'd love to hear 'em.
 Thanks for sharing.

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