The fundraiser for the Burbank Historical Society at Story Tavern brought back a lot of memories for many of the more than 100 people attending the Monday evening soiree.
The event marked the second anniversary of the downtown restaurant as well as the 102nd anniversary of the incorporation of the city on July 8, 1911. Story Tavern is located where Story Hardware did business from 1915 to 1986, and was founded by Burbank’s first mayor Thomas Story.
Burbank’s history is woven into many aspects of the Tavern, said General Partner Ted Slaught. The date the restaurant opened last year was chosen to coincide with the date of the incorporation of the city. Two years before the restaurant opened, Slaught approached the historical society and told members about his plan to open a restaurant with the theme dedicated to the history of Burbank. That led to the acquisition of historic photos of the city’s early days gracing the walls.
“We rely very heavily on the Burbank Historical Society for advice and guidance,” he said. “They have given us access to their digital photo libraries and we thank them very much!”
The historical society membership is mostly folks who were born and raised here. Members volunteer time to maintain the museum in Izay Park and serve as docents from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Museum founder Mary Jane Strickland was greeting guests at the Tavern front door. She worked at Ervin’s Jewelers, which was across the alley from Story Hardware on San Fernando Blvd.
“We used to come in here if you needed a nut, bolt or whatever, this is where you would come,” she said. “And then the fact that Thomas Story was the first mayor, that always fascinated people that the store was still here. On the way down I passed the Story family home on Angeleno and I thought about it, so the connection is still here.”
Dr. Ervin, an optometrist, owned the Ervin’s store building. Ervin’s was the only place you could buy Spode china. Dr. Ervin’s wife ran the gift shop and had the rights to sell it in Burbank, Strickland said. Another interesting fact Strickland remembered was that most customers had to pay cash. Only the more affluent patrons were extended credit on their purchases.
Sandy Dennis, who is a docent at the historical museum, remembered Ervin’s as well.
“It was about the only store in town where you could get your china when you were getting married and where you could actually register,” she said. “My china came from there and my silver and different things. It was a fun place to go to and they had a lot of clothes.”
When Dennis thinks of early Burbank and San Fernando Blvd., she said she thinks of such stores as Dotty Lee, and a hat store that was nearby.
“Before Easter, we would come and buy our hats there,” she said. “My uncle took accordion lessons at the music store down the road at Loretta Ward’s.”
Dennis noticed a photo on the wall of Dr. Elmer Thompson, who opened the first hospital –Burbank Community Hospital. Dr. Thompson used to ride in his horse and buggy to Dennis’ grandmother’s home in Glendale every Sunday for dinner. And he delivered
Dennis’ mother at that home.
Betty Penrod, historical society executive board member, said she loves this fundraiser and the Tavern’s food.
“It has turned into something everyone can enjoy,” she said. “You walk in and feel like you are home.”
Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy said the event drew an “unbelievable turnout” and the ages of the people attending were diverse.
“It shows that honoring our past is something the whole community supports,” she said.
She was also dazzled by the photographs of early Burbank on the walls.
“So much of our past — our movie past is right here on the walls,” she said. “It is a joy to see it. I am so thrilled that the owner has been participating wholeheartedly in doing this. He really thinks history is important as well.”
Slaught told the group that the restaurant is expanding into the next-door unit where, in a couple weeks, they will open additional patio seating. They will also add craft cocktails to their beverage menu that already boasts craft domestic and imported beer and hard ciders.
In the final moments of the party, Slaught lit the 102 candles on the chocolate birthday cake and everyone watched as Strickland blew them out — in only two breaths, then proudly posed with Mayor Gabel-Luddy. It will make another perfect photograph for the Tavern’s wall.