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It's a Trojan kind of town: Deep, long connection ties USC to La Cañada

'It's not just an education, it's a legacy,' says one LCF resident of USC.

October 10, 2013|By Tiffany Kelly, tiffany.kelly@latimes.com
  • Hector Aguilar atop "Traveler," the University of Southern California mascot rides during the Fiesta Days parade on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, 2013 in La Canada, Calif.
Hector Aguilar atop "Traveler," the University… (Photo by Libby Cline )

The crowd erupts in cheers as a Trojan warrior parades a white horse down Foothill Boulevard.

“It's Traveler!” shouts a woman, who dashes into the street for a photo with the University of Southern California mascot.

GRAPHIC: La Canada's Trojan logo inspired by USC

Sounds of excitement ripple like a wave down the boulevard during the city's annual Fiesta Days celebration in May, a showing of community pride in which the horse and its rider are the biggest stars.

Although La Cañada lies more than 15 miles north of the downtown Los Angeles campus, symbols of USC are everywhere — decorating private homes, the local high school and even City Hall.

Many residents in the city, including a strong contingency of alumni of the university, are die-hard fans of USC.

“There's definitely a deep, long connection among La Cañadans,” said Steve Orr, a lawyer who lives in the city with his family.

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A family legacy

Orr's family is one of several in the foothills with multiple generations of USC alumni.

The family tradition started in the 1950s, when Orr's mother, Thelma, obtained a physical therapy certificate from the university. His father, John B. Orr, later became a professor of religion at USC.

Orr and his brother, John, both graduated from USC. Now he has two sons; Will, 19, and Matt, 21, both enrolled at the campus. Attending USC football games and picnicking with other La Cañada families also became part of the tradition.

Will Orr said he had offers at other schools but couldn't imagine going anywhere but USC after graduating from La Cañada High School in 2012.

“I grew up coming to USC for the football games,” he said. “It's like a home away from home. I've wanted to come here my whole life because it's been such a family institution for us.”

Orr, a sophomore studying history, lives in an apartment near campus with two other La Cañada High graduates. At his freshman orientation, he said, he could count about a dozen other classmates from his hometown.

“Once you get a family tradition going, it's really fun,” said Will Orr. “It's not just an education, it's a legacy.”

Strong alumni network

The network of USC grads living in the city has been described by locals as tight-knit.

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