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Helms: Arcadia yesteryear and today

Editor’s note: the following guest blog for Arcadia’s Best (initially published in Arcadia Weekly) was written by former Arcadia Mayor Jim Helms (1971-72), an attorney in his 90s who is still active with estate planning, trusts, probate and business law.

Jim Helms

When I arrived in Arcadia more than 60 years ago we called our town a Community of Homes. We lived and raised our families in single story homes which we quaintly called Ranch Style. We had beautiful and well-manicured front lawns (many in Dichondra plants) and the door was always open to neighbors and friends, Our children played together; on our cul-de-sac they played ball in the street. We had block parties. We decorated our houses for the holidays, and on our street we had Christmas candles on every lawn. As a town we were well organized – there was a group to fit any interest. We were a cohesive community. We donated our money to many charitable and civic causes. We especially favored our schools. We invested a great deal of money both in our schools, and in the infrastructure of our city resources.

Alas, the world is constantly in change. Sometimes we can see change only by looking backward, but in Arcadia we can see change on a daily basis on every street. So many of our friends and neighbors have moved away. The New Arcadians have different lifestyles. They prefer larger homes and they especially like their privacy. They plant tall hedge rows in front of their homes to insure their privacy. We seldom see their children at play. Of course I am writing with a “broad brush.”

We Old Arcadians are so fortunate that these newcomers chose to invest in Arcadia. Our friends who have sold their homes got astonishingly high prices for them. The New Arcadians keep their homes looking immaculate. Many of them are involved with the Arcadia Chinese Association which is an outstanding and civic-minded group. The ACA is a real blessing for our city. Their leaders are highly respected and highly-regarded people. We have seen the New Arcadians taking leadership roles with the Methodist Hospital Foundation and other civic groups as well as the City Council. This is as it should be.

It troubles me that some Old Arcadians believe that their lifestyles should be imposed on the New Arcadians. We loved our single story homes. They prefer much larger homes. They are now the New Arcadia. Why should we try to impose our lifestyle on them? We should not change the rules of the game in the waning years of the Old Arcadia – and after many Old Arcadians have sold their homes (lots) and the New Arcadians have built the houses they prefer. To paraphrase the Bard Shakespeare, Our time on the stage of life is brief. The time of the Old Arcadia is passing quickly. In a very few years the people who want Arcadia to remain as it was years ago, they themselves will become history.

Editor’s Note – Part 2: Jim Helms has twice been named Arcadia’s Citizen of the Year by the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce in 1978 and again in 2004, is director emeritus of Methodist Hospital Foundation’s board of directors, has served as chair of the Arcadia United Way, director of the Los Angeles United Way, president of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce, president of the San Gabriel Valley Legal Aid Society, president of the Foothill Bar Association, president of the San Gabriel Valley Association of Cities, and multiple terms as Master of Arcadia Lodge 278 of the Free & Accepted Masons of California.

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