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67  4 Graduation Day For work or war, the Anglo world needed him, but it refused to allow him to live among its citizens. Mexicans had to be pushed away and kept at the periphery. —Alejandro Morales, The Brick People Jim Stafford’s first year on the planning commission involved organizing the formation of newly incorporated Lakewood, dealing with the accelerating pace of homebuilding in the San Gabriel Valley, and, most importantly, executing Herbert Legg’s idea of reserving portions of the adjoining La Puente Valley for industrial use. At one point, however, in about 1954, when the Lakewood plan began to reveal its potential, Legg and perhaps the railroads decided that creating an industrial city offered the best vehicle for obtaining their desired results. According to Laurence Peck, Industry’s first chamber of commerce director, the push for incorporation unquestionably came from the railroads, which needed to secure “a warehouse distribution center to compliment their extensive railroad switching operation in nearby Colton, California.”1 A savvy reader could have gleaned as much from a Los Angeles Times item published in May 1954, a few months after La Puente’s residents had announced their intention to submit their own incorporation petition. “Both the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads are aiding in the development of the valley,” the business story noted, adding that “Puente is the terminus of the Southern Pacific’s $4,000,000 branch line, which will connect the company’s main line with the Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbor areas.”2 The speed at which competing plans for the La Puente Valley appeared suggests that Jim might have felt torn, if only briefly, between defending 68 city of industry his agrarian lifestyle and pouncing on the biggest money-making opportunity ever to come his way. Still, a few of his neighbors actually believed that he was too much of a rancher to change his stripes. Helen Walsh, a real estate broker who described herself as an early convert to Industry’s incorporation, recalled that Jim “was initially opposed to . . . incorporating the area because he thought the rezoning would force his cattle feed yard on Valley Boulevard out of the area.”3 Grandfather Vernon Apparently, Jim sought the advice of Leonis Malburg, mayor of nearby Vernon, to help him make up his mind. Matthew Patritti, a property owner whom Stafford recruited to his cause, has credited the mayor with selling Jim on the benefits of a single-use city. Years later, Patritti recalled that Jim’s longstanding friendship with Malburg and his familiarity with Vernon made him susceptible to the mayor’s advice.4 No doubt, Malburg reminded Jim, perhaps during a tour of Vernon, how the SP’s main line and spurs had made his father’s milling, warehousing, and feedlot operations possible in the first place. Jim would have understood Malburg’s point of view. A descendant of Basque ranchers, the mayor came from the small circle of latenineteenth - and early-twentieth-century European immigrants who had been his father’s oldest customers and friends.5 Perhaps Malburg told Jim the story of how Vernon got its start in 1905, when John Baptiste Leonis, a French Basque hog rancher, persuaded the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads to extend tracks to his city to attract new factories, their preferred freight-hauling customers.6 As it had for C. C., rail access encouraged Leonis to open the Vernon National Feedlot and Stockyards and operate a feed mill for the cattle he was fattening for slaughter. These Leonis ventures set the stage for the arrival of new meatpacking plants and stockyards east of Vernon along new railway spurs and for the Santa Fe Railroad’s expansion of its switching yard in 1912.7 No doubt Malburg told Jim how he had improved Vernon’s single-use technology by making the city buy or condemn existing housing to reduce its residential population, thus eliminating voters who could oppose his program of unrestricted industrial development. His city had established the authoritarian ideal of a city without citizens, not so much as a company town but as a precursor of the corporate city-state. His “policy of negative population growth” carefully spared the homes of political allies and loyal employees; he carved out the city’s boundaries by reducing a preexisting, graduation day 69 mostly working-class Mexican population of nearly 5,000 residents. By 1980, the city’s population had dropped to...


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