California Fool’s Gold — Exploring El Monte, the End of the Santa Fe Trail (or at least some trails)

California Fool's Gold


Valley Boulevard and Peck Road — Welcome to El Monte

El Monte is a city in the middle of the San Gabriel Valley. As of the last census (in 2010), its population was 113,475. It contains the neighborhoods of Arden Village, the Auto District, Downtown, Five Points, the Flair Business District, Hayes, Maxson, Mountain View, the Northwest Industrial District, Norwood Village, and Park El Monte.

Pedersleigh & Sons Cartography‘s map of El Monte, available on merchandise and art prints

El Monte is neighbored by Temple City, North El Monte, and Arcadia to the north; Irwindale to the northeast; Baldwin Park to the east; City of Industry to the southeast, Avocado Heights and South El Monte to the south; and Rosemead to the west. Although El Monte’s top three employers are school districts, its economy seemed to me to be dominated by auto shops and smog checks as well as nail and beauty salons.


Aerial view of old El Monte Station and freeway

El Monte has long served as a crossroads and transportation hub. It is believed that the Tongva made camp in the area when traveling between villages. Later, Spanish missionaries and soldiers used to rest in the area. Even later, some have claimed that it’s the end of the Santa Fe Trail.

El Monte Metrolink station with lions and film motif

Today El Monte is still a crossroads — it’s served by two freeways, the Los Angeles Metro‘s rapid transit Silver Line, Southern California Regional Rail Authority’s Metrolink train, a 61-kilometer bike trail that connects the San Gabriel Mountains to Alamitos Bay, and two rivers (that aren’t terribly reliable ways of getting around for most). It’s also home to the largest bus station west of Chicago (and served by many bus lines) and Longo Toyota — the number one auto dealer in the US (by sales and volume) and El Monte’s fourth-largest employer. I was accompanied on this episode, the debut of Season 7, by librarian Matt Patsel, first and last seen in Season 4‘s episode, “Gardena – The South Bay’s city of opportunity.”


The land that is now part of the city of El Monte was something of an oasis in the middle of the semi-arid San Gabriel Valley as it is situated between the banks of both the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel Rivers and thus has relatively fertile soil. Somewhat surprisingly, El Monte is one of the oldest towns in Los Angeles County and yet seemingly few vestiges of its rich past remain today. Despite its current appearance (very few buildings remain that were built before the 1950s and almost none from before the 1920s), El Monte has a rich history.


End of the Santa Fe Trail or End of the Gila River and Old Spanish Trails?

Spaniards named the area “El Monte” — an archaic Spanish term that describes an uncultivated scrubland and not, as is probably often assumed, “mountain.” It was part of The Old Spanish Trail, which originated in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As of 1821, The Santa Fe Trail (which connected Kansas City, Missouri to Santa Fe) was extended to El Monte. This is why El Monte is said to be “The End of the Santa Fe Trail” — a claim that is rejected by the Official Santa Fe Trail Association.

A 1923 photo of Main Street shows a sign naming El Monte as the end of the Santa Fe Trail (El Monte Museum)

At the time El Monte was referred to by several variations including “El Monte,” “The Monte,” and simply “Monte.”  In 1826, explorer Jedediah Smith led a party that stopped in the area. One of the members of his party, Harrison Rogers, referred to the area as “Camp Monte” and “Monte Camp” in his diary entry about it.


Oldest home in El Monte as it appeared when photographed in 1922

Sources vary on exact dates and names but Americans began to permanently settle in El Monte around 1850. The first non-Native-constructed home was built for Nicholas Schmidt. Other early settlers included were G. and F. Cuddeback, J. Corbin, and J Sheldon. Mostly farmers, they came from Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas. Around 1851 the Thompson Party (led by Ira W. Thompson) settled there. Captain Johnson, was from Lexington, Kentucky and he convinced the villagers to rename their settlement “Lexington” after his hometown.

Plaque commemorating Southern California’s first Evangelical church

Shortly after the settlement was founded, the structures of a small town followed. In 1852 the first schoolhouse was erected. That same year John Prior organized the first Evangelical congregation in Southern California (a plaque was installed in 1930 to commemorate the site). By 1855 the town was rounded out by the Old Cecil Saloon and a Masonic lodge. In 1858, El Monte became a stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail route. By then El Monte’s economy was based around the production of bacon, castor oil, cotton, fruits, grains, honey, hops, and wool.


El Monte was very much a Wild West town in the mid-19th Century and frontier justice was the law of the land. A notorious vigilante militia, the El Monte Rangers, was established in 1854 to impose their brand of justice (namely in the form of trial-less lynchings). They later evolved into a group that called itself The El Monte Boys.


Although California was a free state, by 1861 El Monte was a stronghold of CSA sympathizers. A. J. King, an undersheriff of Los Angeles County and former member of the El Monte Rangers, formed a secessionist militia company, the Monte Mounted Rifles in 1861 (taking after the pro-Confederate Los Angeles Mounted Rifles). After he marched through the streets of El Monte carrying a portrait of Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard he was arrested by a U.S. Marshal. In 1862, Union troops established New Camp Carleton near El Monte to suppress any rebellion by southern sympathizers.


In 1866, the California State Legislature divided up the state into governmental units known as townships. The village of Lexington was made the governmental seat of the new El Monte Township but the residents soon after voted to change the name of their town to El Monte. As the town continued to establish itself, the Willow Grove Inn was constructed by the Thompson family to serve travelers on the Butterfield Stage Route between Riverside and Los Angeles.


El Monte in 1889

The Southern Pacific built a railroad depot in El Monte in 1873. In 1875 W.L. Jones built the El Monte Hotel (which was sold and renamed the Lexington Hotel in 1875). In 1876, El Monte began publishing its own newspaper, the El Monte Gazette (later the El Monte Herald). In 1888, B.F. Maxson and P.F. Cogswell planted El Monte’s first crop of walnuts. El Monte soon grew to become the walnut-growing capital of the world. The first local drug store opened in 1892.


El Monte’s Main Street in 1908

In the early 20th century; dairy, fruit, hay, vegetable, walnuts, and truck farms dominated El Monte’s economy. Arden Farms (a dairy) and Bodger Seed Ltd were two of the largest operations. The El Monte Union High School District was organized in 1901. In 1907 the Pacific Electric Railway (the so-called “Red Cars”) expanded its reach to El Monte. In 1910, refugees from the Mexican Revolution arrived in significant numbers, and most found work in El Monte’s agriculture sector. In 1911, D.W. Griffith filmed a western, Was He Coward? In El Monte. El Monte was finally incorporated as a municipality in 1912.

“Welcome to Friendly El Monte” — the Welcome Wagon in 1920
More than “knee-high by the Fourth of July” — El Monte corn crop in 1914

By 1920, El Monte’s population had grown to 1,283. That year The Son of Tarzan, starring Kamuela C. Searle as Korak, Son of Tarzan, was filmed at Woodland Park.

In 1934, another Tarzan film, Tarzan and his Mate (starring Johnny Weissmuller), was also filmed there.


El Monte’s first movie theater, The Rialto, opened in 1923 at 10818 Valley Mall (then Main Street). It was built for local developer Walter P. Temple and was designed by Walker & Eisen. For sixteen years, the Rialto was operated by Arthur Sanborn. In 1940, the Rialto was sold to James Edwards and became part of the Edwards chain until it closed in the early 1950s.


Postcard from Gay’s Lion Farm – El Monte

Gay’s Lion Farm opened in 1925, offering visitors an alternative to the usual ostrich and alligator farms of Los Angeles and its suburbs. It was operated by Charles Gay and his wife — two retired circus performers. Gay’s pride of more than 200 African lions was used in film productions — including more Tarzan installments. Metro Goldwyn Mayer used El Monte lions “Jackie” and “Slats” in their logo from 1924 until 1927. El Monte High School adopted “The Lions” as their mascot in 1925. The lion farm was featured in the documentary Lions for Sale (1941). The lion farm closed in 1942 due to a wartime meat shortage and the lions were given to zoos.

The original lion from Gay’s Lion Farm — in front of El Monte High School

Today, the original lion statue from the farm is situated in front of El Monte High.

Marker identifying site of Gay’s Lion Farm

In 2000, another lion statue was installed beneath the freeway at Valley and Peck to commemorate the original site of the lion farm — behind bars and just below the 10 Freeway.


By 1930 the population of El Monte reached 3,479. By then the population was roughly 75% white, 20% Mexican-American, and 5% Japanese-American. Most of the Mexicans lived in El Monte’s barrios (Granada, Hayes Town, Hicks, Las Flores, Medina Court, and Wiggins). Most of the Japanese residents grew berries, melons, and vegetables on small tracts after the Great Depression hit in 1929 and forced many larger operations to sublet their land to tenant farmers. Schools were segregated with Anglos attending class with Anglos, and Japanese and Mexicans attending class together. Theaters were segregated along similar lines but there were occasional tensions between the town’s main minorities, such as with the famous strike of 1933.


Thousands of Mexican berry pickers, organized by the Communist Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union (CAWIU) demanded a raise (nine cents per hour wasn’t unheard of). The Mexicans’ employers were Japanese. Due to alien land laws, Asians weren’t allowed to own land so the 80% of El Monte’s agricultural land that they farmed was leased. It was the largest agricultural strike in California at that point. The Japanese and Mexican consuls, and the US and California Departments of Labor intervened but a settlement wasn’t reached for a month.

Small Farm Homes in El Monte, CA — 1936 (by Dorothea Lange)

During the 1930s, the city became a vital site for the New Deal‘s federal Subsistence Homestead project, instigated in 1933. Many of the new arrivals were Dust Bowl refugees and their new ranch homes built as part of the project were photographed by Dorothea Lange.


The El Monte Airport, built in 1936, is the last remaining one in the San Gabriel Valley; Alhambra, Arcadia, Monrovia, Rosemead, and San Gabriel’s airports have long since closed. It was founded by New Jersey transplant Nick Lentine. In 1931 he became the first Californian to land a plane on a city street (in Pasadena) due to fog.

Matt and I checked it out. Not only was it filled with small airplanes but the smell of food being prepared and consumed at Annia’s Kitchen. Annia’s has an outdoor patio that offers a view of the San Gabriel Mountains and arriving and departing airplanes. We looked at some of the displays but opted to eat later.


The El Monte Community Center

The El Monte Community and Civic Center also opened in 1936 and initiated the annual Pioneer Days festival. Because they were too rowdy, the festival ended in the 1940s. A new Civic Center was built in the 1950s. The complex also includes the El Monte Historical Museum, headquarters for the El Monte Historical Society (established in 1989).

The El Monte Historical Museum
The El Monte Aquatic Center

Up the street is the El Monte Aquatic Center. I couldn’t find out what year it was built but in 2012 it made the news when fourteen of the lifeguard staff were fired for filming an homage to Korean musician Psy’s music video for “Gangnam Style” whilst wearing their uniforms (despite the fact that they did so off-hours).

The El Monte Library

Just a little bit further up the street is one of El Monte’s two public libraries, the El Monte Library. It was founded in 1890 (although the current building is obviously much newer). The other is the Norwood Library — which we didn’t visit.


The old El Monte Theatre

In 1939, the El Monte Theatre was built in 1939 for Arthur Sanborn after he sold the Rialto to Edwards. That same year the Tumbleweed Theater opened on Garvey. The building was designed by S. Charles Lee and was designed to look like a barn (with a windmill on top of the marquee). It was demolished sometime in the 1960s.

The Tumbleweed


By 1940 the population of El Monte reached 4,746. Throughout the decade the population nearly doubled. The advent of World War II saw small aircraft parts factories spring up on the west side of town. World War II also saw El Monte’s till-then-prominent Japanese population forcibly rounded up and sent off to concentration camps. The berry fields went into decline and never recovered.


The El Monte Drive-In Theatre

The El Monte Drive-In opened in 1948 at the corner of Lower Azusa Road and Ellis Lane. It was featured in the films Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (the 1993 remake), Bikini Drive-In (1995), and the stop motion short, Wazzock (2006). In 1980, reflecting the change in El Monte’s demographics, it became a Spanish language theater. Around 1999 it was torn down and replaced with a Home Depot.


El Monte Legion Stadium

One of El Monte’s most-missed treasures is the El Monte Legion Stadium. Construction of the stadium began back in 1927 and was completed in 1929. It was originally built as the gymnasium for El Monte High School. It was used as an Olympics venue in 1932. The Long Beach Earthquake of 1933 damaged it and most of the campus and it sat vacant until it was bought by American Legion Post 261 in 1945 at which point it officially became known as the American Legion Stadium in El Monte and unofficially as “The Pink Elephant.”


After buying the old El Monte High School gym in 1945, the American Legion first used the hall for little more than meetings. They had little success with it as a basketball venue but more with boxing, wrestling, roller derbies, mini-car racing, and dances. Then came Cliffie Stone. KTLA‘s famed country music programHometown Jamboree (produced and hosted by Stone beginning in 1949). It ended up being recorded at the stadium. Country acts who played there include Johnny Cash, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Tex Ritter, to name a few. Along with Compton‘s, the Town Hall Party of which debuted in 1952), El Monte was one of the major hubs of country and rockabilly music on the west coast.


Art Laboe in El Monte with his people

Famed DJ Art Laboe had originally tried to organize rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm & blues concerts in Los Angeles but ran afoul of those who objected to race-mixing minors and the then-widely detested music. He (and fellow DJ Huggy Boy) began promoting concerts at the El Monte venue beginning in 1957 with as part of a series billed as Oldies But Goodies. Brenton Wood, Dick Dale and His Del-Tones, Jackie Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Otis, Ray Charles, Ritchie Valens, Rosie & The Originals, Sam Cooke, and others performed at the popular Friday night dances. The house bands were The Phantoms and The Romancers. The song “Memories of El Monte” (written by Frank Zappa and originally recorded by the doo-wop group, The Penguins in 1963) celebrates the once vibrant scene.

The scene extended beyond just music to other Eastside subcultures. El Monte was a hotbed of lowriding culture. Whereas many other venues had strict dress codes, the diverse El Monte crowd fostered varied sartorial expressions. Sir Guy plaid shirts and khakis became cholo fashion and young black men favored velvet or satin-trimmed suits (de rigueur for the Continental look).

As rock ‘n’ roll became more accepted and racial hostility cooled in Los Angeles, big acts started opting to play there instead of in El Monte. By the late ’60s, the stadium was losing money and was occasionally rented out for weddings (boxing and wrestling continued to be popular). Grateful Dead recorded a live album there on 28 December 1970 that only saw the light of day as a bootleg. The venue was bought by the US Post Office for the site of a new post office and subsequently demolished in 1974.


Plaque marking the execution of Flores Gang members

The population of El Monte reached 69,837 in 1970, following the biggest decade of growth. Even after Anglos became a minority, the Nazi Party still had an office there. After many young Latino lives were lost in the Vietnam War, gangs proliferated. The largest, El Monte Flores, and several others had roots in the old barrios of El Monte’s agricultural past and even further back. A survey undertaken at the time estimated that there were ten to twelve separate gangs operating in that decade with roughly 1,500 gang members. Author Benita Bishop‘s books, Escape from El Monte and The Lost Girl from El Monte recount her experiences as a young Latina in that decade.


Approaching the new El Monte Bus Station
Inside the new El Monte Bus Station
Map of El Monte Bus Station Services showing connections

The old El Monte Bus Station opened in 1973. The new one opened to the public on October 14, 2012. It is currently the largest west of Chicago. [Click here to read about my misadventures there on 2012’s Election Day].


By 1980, the population of El Monte had reached 79,494. Faced with a serious gang problem in the ’70s and the attendant influx of heroin and violence, the El Monte Police Department Gang Employment program was initiated in 1980 with the aim of finding proper jobs for gang members. By most accounts, the programs met with limited success. However, by 1988 only 40 active gang members were counted — a considerable decline from the bad ol’ days of the ’70s. Despite this huge decrease in gang activity, as the population of El Monte has grown increasingly Latino, many El Monte old-timers have since taken to internet comment sections to moan about how gangs are taking over El Monte in what (as far as I can tell) is nothing more than not-so-thinly-veiled racial hysteria or at best, cognitive dissonance.


Thrifty Ice Cream in El Monte

Thrifty Ice Cream has its roots in a chain called Thrifty Cut-Rate Drug Stores, run in the 1930s by a pair of siblings known as the Borun brothers. In 1940 they decided to start making their own ice cream at their Hollywood factory. It moved to its massive El Monte facility in 1976.

Beginning in the 1970s, realtor Frederic Hsieh had begun marketing another San Gabriel Valley city — Monterey Park — as “The Chinese Beverly Hills.” As Monterey Park’s population grew much more Asian in the 1980s, political pressure from hostile old-timers drove some of Monterey Park’s newer immigrants into neighboring cities in the valley. El Monte remains primarily Latino but there was a significant influx of Asians in the 1980s and ’90s.


In front of El Monte’s City Hall is a thirty-foot tall fiberglass replica of the Statue of Liberty, donated to the city by Dr. Jung T. Wang, Paul Mu, and Victor Chiang on 4 July 1986. In 2012, sixty rose bushes, Japanese boxwood shrubs, and two purple leaf plum trees were planted in front of it in commemoration of the city’s 100th anniversary of incorporation.


In 1990 the population of El Monte reached 106,209. The Edwards El Monte 8 opened in 1992.

Outside the San Gabriel Valley Badminton Club
Inside the San Gabriel Valley Badminton Club

The San Gabriel Valley Badminton Club started in September of 1995. The club was Matt and my first stop upon visiting the city. The rates are quite reasonable and, with a few exceptions, most players didn’t seem intimidatingly skilled. The facility itself is a huge building that seems likely to have been a factory in some previous incarnation.

In 1995, 72 undocumented Thai workers were discovered working in an El Monte sweatshop where they worked sixteen to eighteen-hour days, seven days a week for less than $2 dollars an hour making High Sierra, B.U.M., Anchor Blue, and other brands for Miller’s Outpost, Nordstrom’s, Target, Sears and other stores. Ultimately, in 1999, seven companies paid out more than $3.7 million to 150 El Monte sweatshop workers, many of whom were also granted citizenship.


The Heaven’s Grace Maitreya Buddha Society was built in 2001. Maitreya is the future Buddha, presently a bodhisattva residing in the Tushita heaven.


113,475. 73% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran with smaller percentages of GuatemalanNicaraguan, Honduran, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Peruvian), 19% Asian (mostly Chinese and Vietnamese with smaller percentages of Filipino, Cambodian, Burmese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Thai, and Pacific Islander), 7% white, 1% Native American, and 1% black.


El Monte was the birthplace of Gregg Myers and singer/guitarist Mary Ford. Joe “Country Joe” McDonald grew up there.

John Paul Larkin
was born in El Monte on 13 March 1942. As Scatman John he released the hit “Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)” when he was in his early 50s. El Monte was formerly home to Pate’s Tapes and Records and is still home to Musica Latina. There used to be a county music club, the Nashville West, in Five Points. The house band, also known as Nashville West, released an eponymous album in 1967.


A palomino named Bamboo Harvester was born in El Monte in 1949. He later gained fame as the star of Mr. Ed. Actor-filmmaker Timothy Carey filmed much of The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962) in El Monte. Actors Glenn Corbett, Mark Idda, and Virginia Gilmore were all born there, as was screenwriter Sam Rosen.

In addition to the aforementioned films, El Monte served as a filming location in Back to the Future II (1989), Back to the Future III (1990 — the McFly Residence in 2015 is the home at 3793 Oakhurst Street), Falcon Crest (1981 — two episodes featured the El Monte Police Station), Shocker (1989 — at Legg Lake Park), Death Ring (1992), L.A. Sheriff’s Homicide (2003), and Songs Like Rain (2006). The Circus Clown (1934), Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936), Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me (1992) and A Test of Will (2005), were all filmed primarily or entirely in El Monte.

There are a couple of mom ‘n’ pop movie stores in El Monte that one might consider supporting — Video 1 DVD & Game, Video Sales, and Video Plus.


Cyclists of all ages can ride or walk The San Gabriel River Trail (if they can find an entrance) which connects Azusa and Duarte in the north with Seal Beach in the south. El Monte is home to few proper bars. My research and exploration turned up the Oasis Club and the Silver Dollar Saloon. There’s live music, karaoke, and gambling (and probably smoking) at Babyface Restaurant & Bar. Pool players have KBC Champion Billiards. Karaoke fans can go to Happy KTV. El Monte sports clubs include Badminton Fan Club, San Gabriel APA, and the Los Angeles Table Tennis Association. There’s also a Moose lodge.


There are several parks in El Monte with a variety of services.

Tony Arceo Memorial Park

The first park that Matt and I visited was Tony Arceo Memorial Park. The park originally opened as “El Monte City Park.” It was dedicated in 1974 to Ton Arceo, a policeman who was killed that year in the line of duty.

Tony Arceo Park Bandshell

In the summer the park hosts a short series of free summer concerts. Last year’s line-up included cumbiamariachi, ranchera, rockabilly, and rock ‘n’ roll sounds.

Pioneer Park and Santa Fe Historical Park

We later went to Pioneer Park, which includes Santa Fe Trail Historical Park (which opened in 1989). Matt and I walked around it — not surprised that it was closed on Martin Luther King Day. However, one-half of a couple of day drinkers told us that it’s never open (and then laughed maniacally).

Other parks include Fletcher Park, Lambert Park, Lashbrook Park, Mountain View Park,  Rio Vista Park, and Zamora Park.

Though not parks — there are these things called “Tree Power Towers.” According to the legend, there are twelve along Valley. The mascot is “Monty.” A search on the internet yielded absolutely nothing.


One of the most popular pastimes in El Monte is dining out — there’s even a culinary club, The Medina Court Men’s Breakfast Club, which meets once a month. There’s a wide selection of eateries offering the cuisines of Mexico, Vietnam, and China. There are additionally a lot of taquerias and bakeries. However, the number of burger and donut joints is simply staggering. The first drive-thru burger joint was Big D Enter-Out Restaurant, which opened in the late 1960s (after the similarly-named In-N-Out). Since then it opened it moved to a larger location. The old location is now the home of Art’s.

Outside Jolly Jug
Watching the inauguration at Jolly Jug

Matt and I ate at Jolly Jug. The restaurant (and bar) was established in 1947, making it one of, if not the, oldest restaurants in El Monte. The ambiance was charming, we both quite enjoyed our food.

Here’s a list of the rest:

Ajos y Cebollas, Alberto’s, Alfredo’s Mexican Food, Amigo Donuts, Angel Bakery, Antojitos, Apple Jack’s Coffee Shop, B & B Ice Cream Wholesale, BBQ Express, Baby Bros Pizza & Wings, Bamboo Wok, Basileia Cafe, Best Noodle House, Big Famous Burgers, Bill’s Drive In, La Barca Restaurant, Brothers Burgers, Burritos La Palma, CG Italian Bakery, Cafe Rosemead, California Sushi & Teriyaka, Carlton’s Market, Cate Japan Teriyaki & Sushi Exp, Cerezo Bakery, Cha Cafe,

Chanos Restaurant Number Two, Chillin’ Thai Cuisine, China Express, China Great Buffet, Chinatown Bakery, Chinese Restaurant, Chinese Taste Fast Food, Chopsticks Kitchen, Christy Donuts, Corita Bakery, Cyber Yogurt, Da Cheng Vegetarian Food, David Son’s Meat MarketThe Deli Box, Diana’s Restaurant & Tortilleria, Donut Capital, Donut Galore, Doublz, Douglas Drive-In, Dragon Restaurant, Dulceneas Tacos y Bionicos, Eat Low Taqueria, El Bukanas, El Burrito Grande, El Caney Market,

El Chamango, El Comalero Pupuseria No 2, El Gallito Market & Restaurant, El Gordito Taqueria, El Huarache Restaurant, El Jacalito, El Patio Bar and Grill Restaurant, El Salvadoreno Pupuseria, El Siete Mares Restaurants, El Sol de Acapulco, El Sombrero, El Taco Man, El Taquito, Fanta Chinese Food, Flames X Press, Flo’s Coffee Shop, Fogo de Andre, Foody Goody, Fortune BBQ Restaurant, Fu-Xing Bakery, Gardunos Restaurant, George’s Produce, Golden Ox, Golden Ox Burger,

The Good Donut, Goody’s Restaurant, Green Produce Market, Happy Bakery, Havana Club, Ho Ho Kitchen, Hoa Binh Restaurant, Hot Space Restaurant, I Love Pho, Italiano’s Restaurant, Jack’s Sub, Jade Cafe, Jim’s Burgers, Joy’s Market, Juan Colorado Meat Market, Kim Hoa Hue Restaurant, Kim Long Hue Restaurant, King Taco, Kirin’s House Chinese Restaurant, LOL Cafe, La Blanquita, La Blanquita Tortilleria, La Fruta Feliz, La Lonchera, La Mexicana Bakery, La Michoacana,

La Michoacana Bakery, La Pizza Loca, La Pradera Market, La Principal Bakery, La Reyna de Michoacan, La Sirena Restaurant, Las Islas Marias Restaurant, Las Mas Meat Market, Liang’s Kitchen, Links Hot Dogs, Little Malaysia Restaurant, Lorena’s Mexican Restaurant, Los Toros Meat Market, Louisiana Fried Chicken, Love Sandwiches, Malaysia Kitchen, Maria’s Bakery, Mariscos Cancun Restaurant, Mariscos La Quebrada, Master Fresh Donuts, Menos Pinches Burgers,

Mexicali Grill, Mi Pueblo Market, Mitchell’s Donuts, Mr. Chopsticks Seafood & BBQ, Mr Pizza & Pasta, Mr Steve Donuts, New Nature Food Co, New Wok, Nick’s Burgers, Ocean Bo, Palermo Pizza, Paleteria Y Neveria, Peck Market, Pepe’s Mexican Seafood Restaurant, Pho Hai Phong Noodles, Pho Hien Mai Restaurant, Pho Huynh, Pho Kim, The Pizza Oven, Point Dume Chinese Food, Pollo Mania, Qi Lu Restaurant, Queen’s Donuts, Ray-Ray Restaurant, Restaurante De Mariscos Altata,

Rice Wok, SIR Pizza’n’Chicken, Sk Donut, Shrimp House Original, Shun Fat El Monte Superstore, Sunny Restaurant, T & M Market, TC Bakery, Taco N Tento, Tacos Don Chente, Tacos La Bufadora, Tacos Los Betos, Tacos del Chino, Tacos el Arco, Tai Pan Chinese Food, Taqueria Azteca, Taqueria La Cabana, Tasty Express, Tay Do Quan Hy, Thai Excellente Restaurant, Thanh Diem, Thanh Loi Tofu, The Sandwich Place, Thien Tam Vegetarian Restaurant, Thrifty Maid Ice Cream Co,

Tina’s Bakery, Tito’s Market, Tommy’s Original World Famous Hamburgers, Tommy’s Burgers, Tommy’s Restaurant, Top Donut & Sandwich Shop, Triple J Burger, Universal Donuts, Valenzuela’s Restaurant, Viet Huong, Wing Lee Fresh Poultry, and Yummi Chinese Fast Food.

For a great hand account of El Monte, visit Richard’s History of El Monte. Please share your own memories and impressions of El Monte in the comment section as well as any additions or corrections.

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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA?, at Emerson Collegeand the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubithe StoryGraphand Twitter.

19 thoughts on “California Fool’s Gold — Exploring El Monte, the End of the Santa Fe Trail (or at least some trails)

  1. Amazing article. Kudos on all the research. Only issue is that there is no such thing as Tongva Indians. They’d either be Kizh or some other Gabrieleno tribe.


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