Memories of a Lost Boulevard; JonSons Markets

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JonSons Market
4820 Whittier Boulevard between Fetterly & Fraser Avenues, East Los Angeles
Brooklyn & Matthews Avenue, East Los Angeles
Whittier Blvd. & Lorena, East Los Angeles
Whittier Blvd. & 20th Street, Montebello

Every payday my dad would give my mom her expense allowance for the week.
I recall that it was about $25 for all the groceries and necessities our household might need. My mom would grumble about what a cheapskate my dad was and she’d have to always supplement that allowance with her meager earnings from her seamstress job at Jod’is Sportswear sweatshop factory on Whittier Bl. & Vancouver Ave….

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A very grainy image of JonSons Market on 4820 Whittier Blvd. taken from a 1968 newspaper ad.

jonsons1 Some original 60’s era local Tribune paper ads & coupons for JonSons Market. I remember these well! My mom would check these for the weekly specials……

jonsons3 The $120 a week my Dad made went a long way…….

.jonsons4 … And don’t forget the Blue Chip Stamps! …More on that a little further down!!!!!

dsc01241 This is the current exterior view of JonSons Market. dsc01240 Now a Top Value market.

On the weekends my Mom would usually drag one of my brothers and me to go grocery shopping at “La Yonson.” We lived two short blocks away so we’d all walk down Whittier Blvd. where I’d check out the movie posters at the Center Theater and my mom would window shop at Lerner’s, Woolworth and La Popular. Sometimes my mom would stop and make a lay-a-way payment along the way and I’d stop and toy shop when she’d let me run into Grant’s or Kress department stores.
I actually enjoyed myself on those grocery shopping trips. My duty was to push the shopping cart around while my mom shopped. She’d be casually choosing the chile serranos, & verdolagas while I tortured my little brother as he sat in the shopping cart seat. I’d spray him with the little water hose you’d find next to the fresh produce displays and make him cry until he snitched me out and I was ordered to get the hell away from there.
If I had any coins, I’d go push them into the vending machines in the back of the store and score some cool plastic Batman rings. Then I’d wander the aisles examining the little red boxes of Cudahy Rex Manteca Lard, The googly-eyed pig heads in the frozen case and poke my fingers into the Van De Kamp’s pies. JonSon’s also had a tiny toy rack that I’d peruse until I found an item that I could try to sneak into my mom’s cart along with the Count Chocula or Pink Panther cereal that was constantly denied me.
The place was bright and colorful with an interior balcony along the back wall. There was a staircase to the second level which housed a barber shop and some offices. The store manager would often lean over the railing to check on any suspicious types. That little staircase near the back entrance always drew me to climb it and explore the catwalk that overlooked the store. It was a great view of all the shoppers and lots of fun until I got ordered down one day for throwing shit down at my brothers.

Some images of the interior of the store today. A few things remain unchanged, but it’s been entirely transformed for the most part. You can spot the upper floor walkway towards the rear ceiling line in the third image below to the right.

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jonsons1 The intriguing staircase near the rear entrance leading to the upper level catwalk and offices. I’d run up there all the time. Currently off limits.

dsc01239 The snack bar area near the Whittier Blvd. entrance.

dsc01235 The rear entrance/exit facing the parking lot. This is where the bulletin board used to be. This used to be a place where the locals would tack up index cards advertising everything from rooms for rent to sobadóres and solicitations for babysitters and housekeepers.

dsc00480 The rear of the store.

dsc01243 JonSon’s Market had an expansive parking lot in the back that spanned Fetterly to Ferris Avenues. This little shack Locksmith Key Shop has remained intact as far as I can tell. It still stands!

The JonSons Markets chain was first opened in 1947 by the Inadomi family who were in the food retailing business since 1923. In 1968 Manager Yosh Inadomi (who I remember seeing in the store all the time) invited customers to “Look for the galaxy of values in groceries, meats, produce and delicatessen arranged for you by the young men of ideas, who are the managers and department heads of the JonSons Markets chain. Youth must be served.”
Near the Whittier Blvd. entrance there was a popular food stand inside the market. I recall also a bakery and a taco kitchen being there over the years. In the late 80’s I remember that they also brought in a vendor with the latest thing, VHS videos for sale and rent, mostly Spanish language titles and bad dubs of Mexican films.

Halloween
JonSon’s Market employees would put on the most elaborate, scary and fantastic costumes on Halloween day. Every year, we’d go down just to see what everyone from the bag boys to the managers was wearing. We were told that there was a big cash prize incentive award for the best costumes. They were always the talk of the town on Halloween. My little brothers would express their terror with wet cheeks and calzónes. What fun it was to have a wicked witch ring you up while a mummy bagged your groceries as Satanas would wave and growl “Please come again!” I loved it!

Adjacent to JonSon’s Market was the RECORD INN music store. Opened in the early 60’s by Mike Carcano, this store was in the forefront of promoting local and Chicano music and was the local outlet for records by local groups from The Romancers and Cannibal & the Headhunters to Tierra and Los Lobos. There were times I’d walk by and hear live bands rehearsing upstairs. If you ever wanted to check out what shows and dances were coming up with your favorite local bands, you just had to check out the colorful assortment of posters that filled their windows. It no longer exists. The former space now sells swap-meet style tschatskes.

dsc00483 You need to look really closely to make out the old “Record In” painted signage.

card_record_inn An image of a Record Inn record collector’s card you’d get with every record purchase!

media_jonsons_article_64_175pxls Ad for a live music show that was presented back in the 60’s in the rear parking lot area behind JonSons Market & Woolworth’s.

media_jonsons_bands_64_500pxls Looks like it was a heck of a fun show!

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Accessible from that JonSon’s back alley is also CAVAZO’S UNISEX (as it used to be called) HAIRSTYLIST & BARBER SHOP. The original Mr. Cavazo no longer runs the shop but his name has remained on the sign. My dad has a great story about visiting Cavazo’s Barber Shop. It seems that one morning he and some other customers were sitting in the shop waiting for their turn at the next available barber. Enter, one of the barbers reporting for late for his shift with alarmingly unsteady steps and begins pulling on his smock and preparing his cutting tools. The obviously inebriated barber then turns to the waiting customers and with a dizzying, swaying posture begins to call out “NEXT!” My dad tells how every customer hid behind magazines or pretended not to to hear as the drunk barber continued to call out; ”NEXT!”————“NEXT!”—————-“NEXT!

dsc01242 ….Oh, and you’ll find the Mexican Walk of Fame right out side the door at JonSons.

Here are a couple of old 1969 images of JonSons from the period of the Chicano Protests…….

morning-after You can see the store and sign way in the background.

whittier-aftermath This shot is from the front of JonSons side of the street towards the corner of Fraser Ave. Some post-riot destruction. I remember the Market being boarded up before that weekend, as many stores also did,  in anticipation of the possible violence and looting.

Here are some current images of the other three old JonSons Markets locations in East Los Angeles;

matt This is the current location site of the old Brooklyn Ave. & Matthews store. It looks to be a big lot with temp offices used for some off-site field work and vehicle storage, possibly for the Linea De Oro construction.

dsc01231 This is the old Whittier Blvd, near Lorena location. It’s now a Vallarta Market. Here’s a couple more images of this one…

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This is the former location of the JonSons Market in Montebello, as it looks today. It’s been replaced by Senior housing,…..Que lástima!

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…Getting back to the BLUE CHIP STAMPS, I happen to own a couple of original booklets of BLUE CHIP and S&H GREEN STAMPS,…

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I remember going with my family to the Stamp Claim Center so that my mom could pick up her prize merchandise. I also remember that it was a process that took forever and I’d be bored out of my mind in there. Luckily they did have a few toys and kid friendly items I could pass the time with. I decided to go look up the old Blue Chip Stamp Claim Center in Montebello. This is it today. It appears to be some kind of medical office.

dsc01270 I’m glad that at least the building is still standing.

JonSons Market will always be a part of my heart and memories. It’s funny how it’s the little things that become such a big part of our lives. Hasta Luego!

This entry was posted in culture, East Los, Eastside, Food, history, Personal, Photos, Uncategorized by AlDesmadre. Bookmark the permalink.

About AlDesmadre

Al Guerrero, Artist/Humorist. Los Angeles, CA. Born in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico and raised in East Los Angeles from the age of two, Al Guerrero grew up just steps from the famous Chicano strip, Whittier Boulevard. His youth experiences include witnessing and participating in the 1970 Chicano Power demonstrations, cruising cars on Whittier Boulevard, and graduating from Garfield High School. After dropping out of UCLA (with honors), he drew upon his lifelong passion for art and cartooning and pursued a career in graphic arts. During this period, he traveled overseas and found artistic inspiration from the masterworks he discovered within the European Art Museums. His career blossomed when he was eventually hired by the Walt Disney Company in 1995, where he worked as a creative artist for a number of years. Although the artistic work was rewarding, he eventually grew weary & disillusioned with the bureaucracy of the entertainment business, and left to work briefly in the educational field. His credits include producing a feature film with actor, Conrad Brooks of Ed Wood fame, founding and performing with the Punk Rock group “The Psychocats” at numerous L.A. & Hollywood venues during the 1990’s, and in 1999 he founded and created a hell-bent puppet cabaret show aptly named: “The Puppets from Hell”. As a long time active member of the Los Angeles Cacophony Society, Al “Quaeda”, as he was known, was involved in countless Cacophony Society pranks and events throughout the city. He also produced the “Incredibly Strange Cinema” cult film series as well as themed events such as the now infamous “Pornothon Movie Nights” and the satirical “Mexican Night: Noche De Tequila & Putas” shows at local nightclub venues. Throughout his art career, he has exhibited his canvas paintings at various local galleries, and has also written & illustrated numerous comic strips and Graphic Novel stories. Today, he lives in Silver Lake, California and works as a freelance artist and writer with numerous multi-media projects under his belt and in the works. His personal hobbies include collecting vintage toys and comic books, cinema history and Los Angeles City history. Contact: alguerrero@earthlink.net Al Guerrero P.O. Box 29697 Los Angeles, CA 90029-0697 www.alguerrero.com Myspace.com/thepuppetsfromhell

53 thoughts on “Memories of a Lost Boulevard; JonSons Markets

  1. I worked at the Lorena Jonsons, and as one earlier poster noted, those were all union jobs that paid well, and had outstanding benefits. I snagged a college scholarship given by the national.

    What’s amazing to look back and realize how young and naive we were. One of my friends and fellow employees died just a few days prior to this post. We had gone to the same grade school, he had gone in to be an electrician who did quite a bit of work for my dad. RIP, Johhny H.

    The owner would come into the store late at night. Old Japanese guy, but man, did he move quickly. Every night he said the same thing. “Tira la basura!” He was fluent in Spanish, I know he spoke English, but he would only say that command in Spanish. One of the teenage girls that came into the store regularly was a classmate of mine at LMU. That’s where we hooked up, and still have fond memories of her. Quite a time, quite a place….

  2. Thank you for all the great photos and write up! I lived on Lee St. just off Lorena and Whittier. We went to Jonson’s market. I remember when they built the McDonald’s. I’d go to Rexall drugstore on the corner. I wish I had photos.

  3. Chuck do you remember Armando López? He worked at the Whittier and Lorena store.

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