Monday, February 26, 2018

Glenn Alvin Smith

Glenn Alvin Smith

My maternal great-grandfather was Glenn Alvin Smith. Glenn was born on April 2, 1891 in Los Angeles, California. He was the first of two children born to his parents, Walter Samuel Smith and Julia Emrette Bigham.

Glenn Alvin Smith as a young child

Glenn's parents were both originally from Illinois but met in Los Angeles. After their marriage in 1890, they bought a home at 732 East 20th Street, just south of downtown Los Angeles. Amazingly enough, the bungalow they lived in still stands today. This was Glenn Alvin Smith's first home.

732 East 20th Street, Los Angeles (Google Maps)

On April 5, 1893, Glenn's sister Laurita Smith was born. She was his only sibling.


Glenn and Laurita Smith as children

Glenn's father, Walter, was the foreman at a local ice company, supplying ice to home ice boxes, and later refrigerators. His mother, Julia, stayed home to raise the children. In 1910, the population of Los Angeles was 319,198, the 17th most populous city in the nation. It had not yet become America's second largest city and a major industrial force. While Glenn was young, the foundation for the city that Los Angeles would become was laid. In 1910, director D. W. Griffith shot In Old California, the first movie ever to be filmed in Los Angeles. Over the next decade, Los Angeles would become the epicenter of filmmaking, as the pioneers of Hollywood set up shop there and made international stars of their actors. Los Angeles began to boom, the population grew, and my great-grandfather got to experience an enormous amount of change there during his lifetime.

On June 5, 1913, Glenn married my great-grandmother, Genevieve Frances Murray. None of my family members knows exactly how Glenn and Genevieve met. Genevieve had recently moved to Los Angeles from Oakland and was working as a secretary in a downtown office. She may have met Glenn through her work, but we don't know for certain. The following year, in 1914, the first of Glenn and Genevieve's seven children was born. They raised seven children in Los Angeles:

Virginia Kathryn Smith (b. 1914)
Glenn Murray Smith (b. 1916)
Barbara Frances Smith (b. 1917)
Patricia Anne Smith (b. 1920)
Shirley Mary Smith (b. 1922)
Joan Yvonne Smith (b. 1924)
Kevin Anthony Smith (b. 1929)

While Genevieve had her hands full at home, raising her five girls and two boys, Glenn built a series of businesses. He was a true entrepreneur, with a head for business and a knack for knowing what was profitable at any given moment. He was successful in his endeavors, and the family settled into a large home on Buckingham Street in central Los Angeles.

Glenn founded and operated a series of businesses; sometimes more than one at a time. When my grandfather, Glenn Murray, was young, his father, Glenn Alvin, owned a wholesale jewelry business located in the diamond district of downtown Los Angeles. He later founded the American Petroleum Exporting Company, which shipped oil in barrels from Los Angeles to China.

When his oil enterprise weakened, Glenn found other ventures. He wildcatted for oil in Texas, which was one of his only failures. Then, he purchased a wine and liquor business and bottled wine and brandy for the American market. This company was named Del Norte, and did very well during World War II. Glenn bought a vineyard in Forestville, in Sonoma County, to help supply grapes for the business. He would later split and sell this property after the war. Today, the house on the property is the Santa Nella Bed & Breakfast. The vineyards are owned by Korbel. Glenn was always looking for the next great way to make a profit, and he nearly always succeeded.

Due to his business commitments, Glenn traveled quite a bit. Sometimes, his wife Genevieve accompanied him. He journeyed to China several times, and also to Australia and South America.

Glenn at his desk in later years

At home, Glenn enjoyed spending time with his children. His son, Glenn Murray, later recalled that his father would challenge him to games of tennis and bouts of boxing.

Top (L-R): Virginia Smith Ross, Glenn Murray Smith, Genevieve Murray Smith, William B. Ross, Pat Smith Quinlan, Claude Hill, Joan Smith McDonald
On Sofa (L-R): Glenn A. Smith, Julia Bigham Smith, Walter Samuel Smith, Laurita Smith Hill
On Floor (L-R): Kevin Smith, Shirley Smith Connelly

In the late 1940s, Glenn and Genevieve moved to San Marino, a suburb just east of Los Angeles. They settled on Mill Lane. At that time, Glenn was serving as president of Glenn A. Smith & Associates, continuing to seek out new business prospects. 

Glenn and Genevieve lived happily in San Marino for the next two decades. On April 27, 1960, Glenn died of lung cancer at a hospital in neighboring Pasadena. He had been a smoker, and was just 69 years old at the time of his death. Glenn was survived by all seven of his children and a multitude of grandchildren.

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