Longtime residents of Chevy Chase Canyon still recall the Christmas season when Ruby Barnett decorated the service station at the corner of Chevy Chase and Linda Vista drives with Santa Claus and his reindeer.
Shortly after, Barnett, who was said to be very artistic and clever, was inspired to form a garden club open to all of the women living in the canyon.
As a result of her inspiration, the Chevy Chase Estates Garden Club began in 1947. At first, about 30 members gathered monthly for doughnuts and coffee at residents' homes; it became a place to talk and hear neighborhood news.
As new homeowners moved into the canyon and heard of the club, the membership grew, so the meetings were moved to nearby restaurants.
In 1987, Wanda Owen, for many years editor of the Living section of the Glendale News-Press, wrote an article noting the club's 40th year. “Over the years, the club has sponsored canyon-wide activities such as Christmas parties for children, social get-togethers for older children, open houses at Christmastime, pool and patio parties, fashion shows and progressive dinners for canyon residents.”
The Christmas season has always been an active one for club members. For years, they created holiday decorations that member Sylvia Moody stored in her garage and loaned out to canyon residents.
“One Christmastime event was so popular that it had to be given up,'' Owen wrote. “It was ‘The Night before Christmas,' when virtually all the homes in the canyon were decorated and ablaze with lights. People came from miles around to see the lights and the streets became so clogged with traffic that it had to be shelved.''
But part of that holiday tradition continues. One of the club's primary responsibilities is to maintain the portals at the entrance of the canyon and decorate them according to the season.
Their purpose is to support conservation of the natural resources within the canyon.
To that end, they collect funds for a group that reforests local mountains after fires. They also support the Theodore Payne Foundation, which stresses the importance of planting native trees and plants, and they make annual donations to nature-related organizations such as Descanso Gardens and the Los Angeles County Arboretum.
Each Arbor Day, the club donates trees in recognition of people who have contributed to the group or have been closely connected with it, a tradition that began in the club's early years.
One of their largest projects took place in the 1970s when members joined with Glendale's sister city, Higashiosaka, Japan, to erect the teahouse in Brand Park. It was dedicated in 1974. Later, they also helped refurbish the Doctors House, located next to the teahouse.
For many years, the Ruby Barnett award was given annually to a member whose garden best characterized the spirit of the canyon, helping continue the tradition begun by Barnett in 1947.