Brainchild of the Sierra Madre Civic Club

Our family lived right across the street from Sierra Madre Memorial Park . . . home of:

1905 World War I Howitzer Cannon
Annual Easter Egg Hunt
Horseshoe pit for retired men—I never saw women pitching horseshoes!
“Park House” for social and civic events
Playground for children
Santa arriving every Christmas Eve via fire engine— 
sirens blaring and red lights flashing
Summer evening concerts for the whole family
Tennis courts
and my personal favorite . . . TOY LOAN

Let me take you back with me . . .

Nestled near the playground was a small “house” painted pink. Whether the modest building was constructed as the home of Toy Loan or previously existed to later be converted to Toy Loan is unknown to me. Per Sierra Madre Historical Timeline—

January 20, 1949:
Sierra Madre Civic Club begins Toy Loan program

What an amazing idea! Many details have faded from my memory, but here’s what stuck:


  • Hosted by community women volunteers
  • Open weekly—limited days and hours
  • Participation restricted to Sierra Madre residents
  • Minimum and maximum age limits
  • Requisite respect for all borrowed toys
  • Card file system utilized to record child’s name and toys on loan—including date borrowed and date due back.

So many cool toys for girls and boys! An efficient tracking system enabled the volunteer women to verify toys were returned on time in good condition with “stars” affixed to the cards as rewards. When enough stars were earned . . . DRUMROLL . . . the child was invited to choose a brand new toy from the top shelf—to keep. Such incentive! 

So why share all this?

In reminiscing about my childhood, it occurred to me that something as seemingly minor and short-lived as Toy Loan helped shape me into who I am today. Developing gratefulness and responsibility for toys that didn’t belong to me—toys my parents didn’t purchase with their hard-earned money—taught me to be conscientious about other areas of my life.

Make sure our dog, Sandy, received food and fresh water each day
Promptly return neighbors’ newspapers after Sandy “retrieved” them  
Take care of my own things—bicycle, toys, clothes, etc.
Return borrowed items (library books, too) on time in good condition
Practice the piano . . . even when I didn’t feel like it
Be considerate of other people and their property
Take good care of God’s handiwork!

When we hear about animal species going extinct, we utter a sigh.
If cherished toys cease to be manufactured, we groan.

But when was the last time a major news network
featured a piece about intrinsic values becoming obsolete?


10 Replies to “Brainchild of the Sierra Madre Civic Club”

  1. It’s where I found the Golden Egg one Easter Sunday and got a huge basket full of goodies….good memory

    It is also where I smashed my elbow into a mushy mess. Bad and good news because they were able to save my arm and while a bit bent here and there, it still functions quite normally.

    The cannon was fun to play on.

    1. Aaah, a Golden Egg. How fun for you!

      I well remember your painful elbow incident. Seems your elbow met a steel sprinkler head in the park. Steel v. bones/cartilage —> steel always wins. 🙁 If my memory is correct, you were quickly taken to Arcadia Methodist Hospital where they fixed you up as much as possible. So thankful you didn’t lost your arm.

      And, yes, we all loved playing on the cannon. So many fond memories were made in that park!

  2. This is such a great memory! When my family moved to Sierra Madre I was too old to participate. But I heard so many stories from others about the toys they were able to borrow and I have always been impressed with the practice of making toys accessible to all children who wanted to participate. I have shared the toy loan of Sierra Madre to many over the years and it always brings smiles.

    1. Dee . . . thank you for sharing that. So sorry you missed out on participating in Toy Loan, but it is good to read you were aware of the opportunity and have even shared the memory with others.

  3. Enjoyed the journey back. Did not have this in my life but my parents taught me these values and I passed them on to our children and grandchildren. The way you write put me in that house looking up at all the new toys . That excitement is gone today. Sad because it was a wonderful feeling to accomplish something by following rules.

    1. Yes Sharon, you and I were very blessed to have parents who taught us enduring values. Not all children are as fortunate.

  4. Thank you again for such a precious post that encourages us to continue to live this way and to pass it on. Brian and I grew up in a time when this was encouraged by our whole community and we were encouraged to pass it onto our children. Your story is another one that will encourage your loved ones, all of us and others to continue (or start) to do the same. Keep your stories coming.

  5. Is this the same big park across the street from Sierra Madre Congregational Church? The way it’s described sounds like it. But I grew up in the parks of San Gabriel, so only know of your special park because my parents later went up to the church I mentioned. If it’s the same one that is? What a cool idea the ladies of SM had to have this special Toy Loan for the children and what a nice reward for obeying all the rules by teaching respect and responsibility.

    1. Welcome Linda! Thanks for posting your comment. 🙂 Yes, Sierra Madre Memorial Park is directly across the street from Sierra Madre Congregational Church that Rev. Richard (Dick) Anderson pastored for many years . . . on opposite corners of Hermosa Avenue at Sierra Madre Boulevard. So many wonderful memories associated with that park. Just learned through a quick internet search that the church is now Christ Church Sierra Madre and have no knowledge of when that change occurred. From my earliest childhood recollections, is was always Sierra Madre Congregational Church.

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