Based on Chapter 27 in East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte and South El Monte Arts Posse’s “East of East” archive.

Text and archival material curated by Romeo Guzmán and Colin Burch

Depiction by Fernando Corona

For many Los Angeles residents, South El Monte is a city they pass while driving east or west on the 60 freeway. If you are headed to the San Gabriel Valley from East Los Angeles, you will pass the Montebello mall and slowly descend until you find yourself temporarily surrounded by the Whittier Narrows Parks, one of the largest green spaces in Los Angeles County. If you keep driving, you will see South El Monte High School, a McDonalds sign, and newish condominiums.

The contemporary geography obscures one of Greater El Monte’s most beloved places of leisure, fun, and desmadre: Golfland Arcade. From 1975 to 2013, its bright green artificial turf, signaled to LA and San Gabriel Valley residents that they had arrived in South El Monte.

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Artwork by Fernando Corona, inspired by Michael Jaime-Becerra’s essay

Golfland, as Michael Jaime-Becerra so eloquently notes in his essay for East of East,  was much more than a sign along the 60 freeway. It was both a haven, an escape, and a rite of passage: 

To be at Golfland is to do something outside of your parents’ approval. This is your first taste of rebellion. The thrill feels seedy and vaguely self-destructive, the nascent equivalent of being in a casino, a nudie bar, and a street fight all at once. Each week, you are drawn there with the sort of magnetic, gravitational pull experienced by wayward meteors and dommed astronauts returning to Earth.”

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Golfland demolished July 2013, photo by Michael Moran

It is important that we think and hold onto both what Golfland was and what its replacement can tell us about the future of South El Monte and El Monte. On this tour, we will situate Golfland within the rise of miniature golf and video arcades, read and excerpt from East of East, and explore what the appearance of condominiums in South El Monte/El Monte tells us about development, urbanization, and ever-expanding cost of housing.

Below you will find a few items from the “East of East” archive related to Golfland as well as an oral history of El Monte novelist and UCR professor Michael Jaime-Becerra:

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Golfland, as this photo demonstrates, was also used by city officials for the backdrop of their sponsored beauty pageant.

Golfland Ad.pdf

LA Times advertisement for grand opening, 1975

To learn more about Michael Jaime Becerra’s experience growing up in El Monte listen to SEMAP’s oral history: