|Now defunct, the Fedco Department Store's Fedco Reporter provided a good history of Simons Brick Company. For further reading, visit the tab above L.A. - Books, Journals, Websites for books about the company.|
The cities of Montebello and Commerce share the history of Simons because some of the areas formed by the brickyard were carved into the boundaries of the City of Commerce in 1960. Click on those cities' blog posts for more discussion on Simons Brick Company.
Proprietor Walter Robey Simons was a transplanted Iowan descended from English brickmakers. When Mr. Simons started the brickyard, family dwellings were built in the compound for his workers, and he imported workers from the Mexican states Michoacan, Jalisco, and Guanajuato. The job-seekers came by train, leaving behind the turmoil and uncertainties of the Mexican Revolution, to find work, and send for their extended kin.
The brickyard reached 350 acres and a population of over 3,000 residents at its peak in the 1920s. Due to a prolific manufacturing operation of quality common red brick coupled by the business acumen of Mr. Simons, the company had a key role in early 20th century Southern California architectural history. In addition to the well-known structures mentioned above in the Fedco Reporter article, other places where Simons bricks can be found are the Santa Ana Theater, the Getty House, the walkways of Olvera Street, the original 1913 portion of the Natural History Museum and the 1927 Fine Arts Building in downtown Los Angeles, along with countless construction projects, including affluent residences. The reconstruction of San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake was aided by Simons masonry. (The 1936 film San Francisco, starring Clark Gable, featured Simons bricks).
Walter Simons collaborated with other businesses, in example, this truck ad.
1933 Long Beach Earthquake - A Set-Back for Brick Manufacturing
Company Closes in 1952
|Employment Letter of Reference for Francisco Vasquez (Courtesy of F. Vasquez)|
|Simons Return Address on Boyle Avenue (Courtesy of F. Vasquez)|
In 1952 the company was tending to the details of closing up shop. Notice on the above the return address on the envelope indicates the company office on Boyle Avenue (Plant No. 2). [Update posted March 22, 2012: read a 1954 article on the filling in of the land on the former brickyard by scrolling to the end of this page.]
|The popularity of the Simons brand has been sustained since the company resumed in 1989 when John Williams purchased the company name. Pictured are two of the bricks used by Mr. Williams' firm as molds.|
Mount Carmel Catholic Church
|Exterior of Mt. Carmel Church (Courtesy of Gurrola Family)|
|One of the last markers of the town of Simons is Church Road, a short path that dead ends at the railroad tracks. The road accesses the back end of the Home Depot store in Commerce.|
|Church Road is pictured here. In the foreground was where Mt. Carmel Church stood. The church was constructed in 1913 by company owner Walter Simons. To read a historical account, click here.|
|A Simons marker can be seen on the southbound Interstate 5 Freeway from the Washington Boulevard on-ramp.|
Life at El Pueblo de Simons
El Pueblo de Simons, as it was known, had its own post office, company store, elementary school and a town sheriff. Gradually, a brass band was formed, as well as baseball and softball teams and Fiesta beauty queens to be represented in local parades and sports events.
|Vail School (Courtesy of Gurrola Family)|
|A school play with home-sewn kimonos (Courtesy of Gurrola Family)|
|Simons operated its own company store.|
Pictured are Simons tokens. (Courtesy S.J. Collection)
|A Simons cattle brand. (Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History)|
|Mr. and Mrs. Romo in costume for a performance at El Salon de Simons. Note the sugar cane in background. Circa 1930s (Courtesy of Gurrola Family)|
|Calle Carmen - the neighborhood youth at Carmen Street (Courtesy of Gurrola Family)|
|The Simons Club, celebrating September 16th, 1946 (Courtesy of Gurrola Family)|
|Lunch at the Rio Hondo (Courtesy of J. Adame)|
|(Courtesy of J. Adame)|
|House under construction (Courtesy of Fred Vasquez)|
Patriotism and Loss
|Young Simons resident Charles Vargas was one of the unfortunate enlistees who was lost in World War II. (Courtesy of J. Adame)|
|(Courtesy of J. Adame)|
The story told to me was that Charles (Carlos) Vargas, while held as a prisoner of war, was placed on a Japanese ship. While sailing en route from the Philippines, the ship was attacked by the Allies. (See updated blog post June 15, 2017)
|Myles Underwood, working at Simons, undated photo|
(Courtesy of T. Sitton)
Dirt Delivered - Filled In Former Brickyard in 1954
|Article dated August 8, 1954|
Al wrote: Probably taken in the early 20's. Some sort of a girls' club at the time. One photo shows Mr. Salvador Nunez seated and the girls standing, holding a variety of musical instruments. I really don't think they actually played the instruments. My aunt Jesusita, the third from the right, didn't play the guitar. I wouldn't be surprised if one of those guitars belonged to my Dad. The other photo is of the girls only. My aunt appears on this one as well. She is standing, first left to right.
Above photo described by Al: It was taken at the conclusion of the 1949 or 1950 (I think) Pioneer Days Parade in Montebello on the corner of Whittier Blvd. and Taylor Ave. Rear left to right are myself, Manuel Martinez, my brother Carlos and Vincent Olague. Front left to right are Joe Arroyo, my sister Carmen,Agnes Vasquez and my brother Luz. We rode in a float entered by the Simons Progressive Youth Club. As you can see the theme was very Mexican. I was supposed to be serenading Miss Vasquez. Manuel and my sister were sitting at the rear of the float holding the American and Mexican flags. The other four guys were playing the serenade music. I think we won some kind of an award.
Mt. Carmel Church and Father Charles Espelette are seen on this webpage photo.