OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895


MEETING # 1554

4:00 P.M.

APRIL 13, 1995


by Conant K. Halsey

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library



Describe briefly the fervency of spirit in Grace Mullen that created Redlands Bowl. then her disappointment in not receiving tax funds for her programs, but her fight to continue and third, the contribution of the Clarence G. White family toward building the Prosellis.

In the Bowl's early years the City of Redlands provided some financial assistance. Later a move prompted by then Mayor Allen Wheaton, and others to seek municipal tax support. Subsequently on June 25,1926 Ordinance No. 680 was submitted to the voters which provided for a levy not exceeding five cents per $100 assessed value. Unfortunately the necessary two thirds of the electorate required to adopt the ordinance did not approve and the City was thus obliged to withdraw all support. Mrs. Mullen refused to accept defeat and stated that "by the grace of God we'll continue."

On May 29th 1929 a prominent citizen named Clarence G. White approached Mrs. Mullen and unveiled his longstanding dream to make some kind of substantial and worthwhile gift to the City of Redlands, He proposed to give a new and more adequate band shell to the community.

In due course the Prosellis was conceived and completed. Herbert J. Powell the designer of the beautiful chapel on the University of Redlands campus had been chosen for the job. Powell and the Whites invented the completely new word "prosellis" meaning' before the seats." A suitable inscription suggested by Powel " Without Vision A People Perish." was placed above the arch. Merrill Gage created the artistic cast stonework. A close inspection reveals three very specific areas of symbolism.

This is one instance of a contribution by two families to enrich our cultural heritage.


















My purpose here is first to describe briefly the fervency of spirit in Grace Mullen that created Redlands Bowl; then her disappointment in not receiving tax funds for her programs; but her fight to continue and third, the contribution of the Clarence G. White family toward building the Prosellis. Grace Stewart Mullen was born in Sparta , Tennessee on October 2, 1875. Her mother was her only teacher until she was 12 when the family, including ten brothers and sisters moved into Nashville to give the children a better opportunity for education.

Grace eventually finished her college education and came west to visit friends, She liked California so remained to teach school. Later after marrying George Emmett Mullen they resided for a while in Los Angeles and then were attracted to Redlands in 1916 and built a lovely home in the Garden Hill area. Grace lost little time becoming involved in community activities. PTA, service to the community’s day nursery, Contemporary Club activities, and charitable work related to World War I then in progress. Her friendship with Mrs. Artie Mason Carter, founder of the Hollywood Bowl inspired her to undertake a comparable endeavor in Redlands, which was ripe for such a move as the city had long been considered a cultural community. Most of the residents of the south side were not receptive to her ideas of free concerts for all, They did not relish the thought of sharing musical evenings with their maids, butlers, chauffeurs and gardeners. . Nevertheless Grace was determined that her "dream" must succeed. She had many obstacles to overcome including the City Engineer George Hinckley, who, in due course, was converted and became an avid supporter.

In the Bowl’s early years the City of Redlands provided some financial assistance. The City Council voted $200 a month for four months and supplied about $1000 for the purchase of a piano.

But Grace Mullen was not at all content to rest on her laurels. Further evidence of the thinking which impelled her to start Redlands Bowl is reflected in her reasoning that at one time there were no tax supported public schools, no free public libraries in America. Neither was there any high caliber. free public music in the nation, so she vowed to initiate it. This thinking. plus the pinching. financial shoe with which the Redlands Bowl has always lived. prompted a move by then Mayor Allen Wheaton, other friends of the Bowl. and the Association in 1926 to seek municipal tax support. The minutes of an adjourned regular meeting of the Board of Trustees of the City of Redlands (Messrs., Fowler, Kimball, Thornquest, and Wheaton together with the Clerk and Attorney) held on May 10, 1926, records that "The first matter considered was the request of the Community Music Association verbally presented at the last regular meeting and referred to this date for consideration. Attorney Hartsell advised that a special election could be held submitting the proposition to the voters and that it would require two-thirds majority of the vote of the people to authorize the levy of a tax for such purposes." " Bruce McDaniel and W.E. Howard, representing the Music Association, requested the Board to call such an election at as early date as possible, thereby putting the matter up to the voters as to whether they wish such a sum expended for such purposes. President Wheaton and other members of the Board expressed themselves as being doubtful of the voters authorizing such an expenditure. Representatives of the Music Association suggested that they would supply the necessary officers for holding the election thus relieving the City of that expense. After full discussion of the matter, upon motion, the request of the Music Association for a levy not exceeding five cents on the $100.00 assessed value was granted."

On the subsequent June 25th the above matter formally appeared on the ballot as indicated by the following excerpt from proposed Ordnance No. 680:

"Shall Section 1 of Ordinance number 680 adopted on the 10th day of May, 1926 and providing as follows:

"There is hereby levied upon all taxable property in the City of Redlands, California, for the fiscal year 1926-27 and for each and every fiscal year thereafter occurring, a special tax of not exceeding five cents ($.05) on each one hundred dollars of the assessed valuation of such property for the purpose of providing music.

:(a) Such tax shall be expended under the supervision and control of the Board of Trustees of said city in providing such music in said city as to whom it may seem best.

"(b) Such tax shall be levied, assessed and collected at the same time and in the same manner as city property taxes as assessed and collected in said City of Redlands as provided by law, and such tax shall be in addition to all other taxes now authorized by law to be collected, become effective in the City of Redlands."

Needless to say , this proposed ordinance became a controversial issue and one that was widely discussed. Opponents were concerned about the added tax burden, the basic importance of the Bowl, and also about the wisdom of setting a precedent of this kind. The thinking of those in favor was articulately outlined in the following editorial from The Redlands Daily Facts..


"Redlands, as a municipality, has no recreation fund. The city councilmen, in making the budget soon, probably will not provide for recreation, publicity or entertainment funds unless there is a decided popular demonstration that such provision for the coming year is desired.

"Cities of the sixth class, such as Redlands, are legally permitted to expend for entertainment or publicity 5 percent of the general fund. In the case of Redlands the amount would be in the neighborhood of $8500. or 5 percent of $170,000. That, of course. is a maximum amount allowed from this fund and any lesser percentage would be possible.

This city is best known throughout the West for its Bowl. A small group of persons have been loyally carrying the burden of the weekly concerts, a small group, who with high ideals have given the people of Redheads free opportunity to enjoy the very highest talent without cost. The fame of these programs is so nationwide that no argument here is necessary to call attention to their value as a community asset, For this reason they should receive some municipal support, a proper procedure that is practiced for much less worthy enterprises in many other cities.

"The rub comes from the fact that the city finds a use for every penny in the general fund. Always there is the tight struggle to get through the year within the budget. It is always used up and there is always a waiting list of things that should be done other than entertainment.

"It is thought that every member of the city council believes thoroughly in the worthiness of the Community Music Association, for instance, and would vote any reasonable subsidy to it. However, there may still linger a doubt as to the people’s attitude.

"These Bowl concerts are too important to be put in jeopardy from lack of municipal or public support. They are continual pageants, peculiarly the property of Redlands and her people. They should be fostered. But it is hardly to be expected that the municipal government shall go to a large expense in connection therewith in the absence of a direct authorization by the people. No large continuing expense is justified on the part of any government, which provides for any activity outside that of the government. The FACTS believes in our Bowl concerts as a feature that means growth and progress and prosperity for us, and it is too much to expect that they shall forever continue without some organization and permanent support behind them. That should be provided. It should be encouraged by the city through modest and therefore justifiable support. It should be provided in large sums only by direct authorization of the people."

As the voters marched to the polls on that fateful election day, however, the first single moment of epochal crisis crept stealthily upon the unsuspecting Grace Mullen. Ever the optimist , she went to the Bowl concert at the end of election day without having any knowledge at all of how the voting had been going. Midway in the first half of the concert, Mayor Wheaton came grimly to Grace’s side and told her that the voters appeared to be rejecting the music proposal overwhelmingly - in a ratio of about two to one, to be exact. (The final count was 532 for and 1184 against.) This meant he told her, that regardless of his own personal feelings, he was now powerless to render the Music Association anything more than moral support. By mandate of the people, municipal financial support of any kind was permanently repudiated. This was a devastating blow, because the city had appropriated about $2,000 for that season to help pay a part of the expenses of the orchestra plus salaries for Prof. Kuehne, the conductor and also for the concertmaster. All of this was now also gone.

As the gloomy word spread rapidly through the crowd, every friend, every city father present, every member of her own family, including her own fifteen year old son, begged and pleaded with her to stop and abandon forever this wild, beneficent dream. They even urged her to halt the concert then in progress at intermission and announce publicly that the jig was hopelessly up. But this Grace Mullen could not bear to do. Instead, hurt and stunned, she arose quietly from her seat and moved slowly, blindly, toward her favorite, great eucalyptus, her "meditating tree" to the east of the bandstand. Leaning against it, with her eyes closed and the music still playing, she again approached the Almighty, the only place left for her to turn in this bleak hour. Calmly she talked things over with her Father, as she was wont to do, and suddenly the answer emerged crystal clear. This was no defeat at all, not really! One third of Redlands voters had supported her with their ballots! For them and their continued support, she became more stubbornly determined than ever to go on with her project - and to eventually convert the misguided two thirds.

At intermission Grace announced the unhappy news to the audience and said that everyone was imploring her to give up immediately, but she also stated simply, "I can’t do that." She freely admitted disappointment and discouragement but not to the point of giving up "by the grace of God, we’ll continue," she said. Then in all seriousness she stated, "I can truthfully say ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’." With that, Grace remembered for years that a titter raced through the crowd, and she responded quickly by saying that she had "never said anything more sincerely in my life. If all of you had understanding, you would have voted for it, too, recognizing the Bowl as a way of bringing people together in a spirit of brotherhood, regardless of race, creed or politics," The earnest outpouring of her heart stopped the tittering instantly as she went on to explain that she could no more give up than to disown her own child. Later on she described the reassuring feeling of having been "sustained again by the infinite spirit of God." In conclusion she pointed out that this was the third summer with all bills to date paid in full and that there just was no reason to expect anything else in the future.

After the concert a board member, who had been making a $100 gift annually, told Grace that he was thoroughly disgusted, through with the board, and going to make no more gifts. He still felt that the concerts should be abandoned, because the people had shown such "an ungrateful attitude." The vice president of the board stated flatly; "The directors think you’re being very, very obstinate, Mrs. Mullen. You’ll have to go it alone now." To which she replied, "Others around me don’t know it, but I do know it - that we must go on . Something within me tells me that we must." For a long time thereafter no board meeting was called, but the concerts flourished, So it was that a critical crisis had passed, and again there was no one able to alter her intent.

On May 29,1929 Grace attended church as usual and after the services as she was leaving the sanctuary she was approached by Clarence G. White, prominent Redlands citizen, inventor, and a member of the family of industrialists known especially for White trucks and White sewing machines, among other things, He made arrangements for another and more private meeting with Grace for that same afternoon. At this meeting he broke the news to Grace of his longstanding dream to make some kind of a substantial and worthwhile gift to the city of Redlands. He then indicated that he had finally made up his mind to give a new and more adequate band shell to be built at Redlands Bowl to replace the tiny, old Gregory bandstand which had served so long. Formal announcement of this gift was made shortly thereafter by the city council, and, of course, many glowing words in praise of the Whites were justifiably spoken and written.

Both Clarence and Florence White, the latter an accomplished painter, had been watching with keen interest the fortunes of the Music Association from its very beginning and had become deeply impressed with the need which it was creating for new facilities. They also noted the vital role which the amphitheater was playing for patriotic gatherings, civic meetings, and high school commencement exercises. Perhaps most important of all, they were keenly aware of the fact that neither the Music Association, the city management, nor the Chamber of Commerce - collectively or individually - were able to finance such a project out of available funds. And everyone recalled so very well the music tax defeat at the polls.

"When private citizens thus step forward with such a material expression of appreciation for their home city and of the conviction that a suitable equipment for the Redlands programs is desirable," The Daily Facts observed, "it is a sign indeed that the community harbors residents much in love with their neighborhood, dwellers of an order difficult to equal in all America." "There is assurance that the gift will be a beautiful structure of lasting materials in keeping with the architecture and motif of this colony of music lovers, and adequate for all demands for many years. Mr. and Mrs. White probably feel that in the programs made possible because of this convenience there will be reward enough. But the Redlands family, to judge from expressions on every side, is deeply appreciative of the gift itself, and feels that this gesture from the Whites is one of the best compliments ever tendered Redlands."

Long before the gift was officially announced, the Whites had been working closely with architect Herbert J. Powell .He was born in Redlands, a graduate of Redlands High School and a member of the 1920 graduating class at the University of Redlands. He earned his masters degree at Harvard and did advanced study in Europe. Back home in California. his very first building was the beautiful chapel on the University of Redlands campus. After many discussions between the Whites and the architectural firm the final present design was selected. In these same sessions they also spent much time trying to agree on a suitable name for the new edifice, The word "proscenium" which in Greek means "before the scene," kept bobbing up in their thinking, but it didn’t quite suit them. In our modern understanding a proscenium, by one definition, is the stage of an ancient theater - usually Greek or Roman - but this was not the connotation desired in this instance. The front area of a stage that is still visible to the audience after the curtain is lowered may properly be called a proscenium and so may the curtain itself when considered with an arch or other framework which holds it. By these definitions the term became all the more unsuitable, because there were no provisions in any plans under consideration for either a curtain or a potential device to hold one at any time in the future.

Their thinking, however, did lead them "to one particular word which is highly controversial as far as its true origin is concerned. Here is why. The ancient Greeks built their temples around a sacred inner room which was the abode of their deity and into which only authorized priests and priestesses were permitted to enter. The Greek word for the seats in this holy room is spelled sigma epsilon lambda alpha in the Greek alphabet, or using the first letters of each character, it becomes "sela" in the anglicized version. Later the Romans adopted the holy inner room of the Greek temples for their own structures. To describe the corresponding seats therein, they used their word "sella" or "sellis" in the plural. Therefore, you see, the word for seat in both the Greek and Latin had the first three letters, S-E-L, in common; the Greek "pro" (pi rho omicron) and the Latin "pro" also shared exactly the same definition "before." In any event, Powell and the Whites invented the completely new word "prosellis" from this rather jumbled background, meaning in either language, "before the seats."

Once this word idea was agreed upon, "The question arose between the Whites and myself," Powell said, "as to the proper spelling of the word. I appealed to Professor Jimmy Kyle, who was professor of Greek at the University of Redlands, and he gave us the spelling of the word as it now is." Powell went on to say, "Here is a case where it is both Latin and Greek. And I don’t much care who gets the honor."

Actual construction of the Prosellis required nearly eight months and was under the direct supervision of C. W. Driver, a general contractor from Los Angeles. The building was "inserted" into an already beautiful, natural setting of greenery and required the removal of but two trees, one of which was later replaced with a palm at the east end of the stage. This balanced the one at the west end which had been left undisturbed. The Prosellis was specifically designed to harmonize with the style of the nearby A. K. Smiley Library and to fit well into the general scheme of Smiley Park. For this reason mission tile similar to that of the library was used on the Prosellis roof.

Constructed of reinforced concrete, the central section of the building is a symmetrical shell with curved, reinforced arcades extending out from each side to form a background for the ample concrete stage. Both arcades are open and are intended to provide a transition from the solidarity of the shell to the open air of the park. Trees and shrubs are visible through these arches to enhance this transitional effect. The arches and their roofs which form the arcades are actually extensions of the shell proper and were originally envisioned as aids to dance productions and other programs involving large casts. Time has, indeed borne out the wisdom of this thinking.

In the back of the shell is a great door which can be opened to permit the moving of large sets into the storage area. These include two large rooms of equal size for the storage of music stands, stage lights, props and any paraphernalia needed from time to time. Back of these rooms are the dressing rooms, each provided with make-up mirrors, lockers, costume racks and adjoining restroom. It isn’t generally known, but the shell was designed so that grills could be installed later in case it ever became feasible to place an organ in the shell. Since the University of Redlands already had one of the finest organs in all America, White didn’t believe that another was needed when the Prosellis was built, but he insisted on making these contingent provisions anyhow. His feeling that the university organ would be sufficient for the needs of the community for many years to come was well taken as no organ ever has been installed in the shell to this day. Another of the many things that Powell and the Whites discussed together was the matter of a suitable inscription for the front of the Prosellis. Only one was ever suggested. Powell especially liked "Without vision a People Perish," and the Whites immediately agreed with his recommendation. Foreshortened from the twenty-ninth chapter of Proverbs, verse eighteen, to fit the available space, these five appropriate words have been the motto of the Music Association ever since they were selected to adorn the Prosellis. The complete verse from the King James version of the Bible reads, "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."

Powell commissioned Merrell Gage, professor of sculpture and head of that department at the University of Southern California to create the artistic stonework of the Prosellis. All of the masonry designing was actually done by Gage with both suggestions and wholehearted approval from Powell, but Gage worked at his Santa Monica studio entirely independent of the Whites or anyone else in Redlands,

All of the sculpturing on the Prosellis is in reality cast stone that was manufactured at Gage’s studio and assembled later on the site at Redlands Bowl. Once the drawings were completed, the entire design was modeled in clay, and then this material, in turn, was cast in plaster waste moulds. Next step in the process was to lift the waste moulds from the clay moulds and pour concrete into them. After thorough hardening the plaster was stripped away - or wasted, in language of the trade - exposing the finished product.

A careful inspection of the cast stone on the Prosellis will reveal three very specific areas of symbolism. The featured central section depicts three figures that are originals by Gage. As he said," They were selected to represent the various activities which would take place in the Prosellis. They were kept in flat relief as contrasted with the rich depth of the carving on the balance of the Tympanum, because we wanted to keep the key block a strong conspicuous surface." In order to carry the activity symbolism across the entire face of the Prosellis, there is a small carving at the top of each column on both of the arcades. The second, largely unsuspected area of specific symbolism is the pattern of three triangular shaped figures which are repeated at close intervals clear across the full width of the Prosellis at the bottom of the deep carving. These three triangles represent the three great mountains of the San Bernardino Valley - Mt. San Jacinto, Mt. San Gorgonio, and Mt. San Bernardino. Closer examination of the deep carving itself would very likely produce major surprises even for those Bowl fans who have been coming to the concerts for years. The two areas on either side of the center of interest include figures depicting much of the plant and animal life indigenous to the area. In fact it is amazing what can be found up there. In a letter of 12 January 1992, to Dr. Frederick Bromberger, Mr. Powell answered a question about the indigenous figures at the edges of the tympanum: "... the little annuals and birds in the tympanum panels and a lizard or two are the kind native to the Redlands area. The model shop that made the plant forms in the panels did an exceptionally good job—they worked from a scale drawing I had made."

At the outer end of the east arcade there is a carved panel containing four lovely lines of unidentified verse which relatively few visitors have ever noticed in all probability. These lines read as follows:

"Work to keep us going,

Joy to match the sorrow,

Thought for a good sowing,

Hope for a fair tomorrow."

For years they have literally been "mystery lines," because their source was unknown to virtually everyone, including Grace, Powell, several major libraries between Los Angeles and New York, and all Redlands residents queried - except one. The lone exception was Mrs. Betty White Dittmar who graciously solved the "mystery" with these words:

The four lines ...... were composed by my father, Clarence Greenleaf White, and my mother, Florence Fisk White, to express their philosophy of life. They wanted something of themselves on the Prosellis, and being modest people, did not sign it."

In a similar position on the west end of the building another carving equal in size, quotes White’s opening remarks from the words he spoke when the Prosellis was formally dedicated: " A thank offering for all who have made Redlands a good place to live in." Even before the dedication, the city had already made its response in the form of a bronze plaque which is to be found inside the western arcade and which says, "In commemoration of the public spirit shown by Clarence and Florence White in the gift to the city of Redlands of the Prosellis dedicated to the highest expression of community life, this tablet is placed by the council of the city. 1930 A.D.." Not until twenty four years later was the counterpart of this bronze plaque installed in the eastern arcade, however. It reads, Presented by the Redlands Community Music Association in honor of Mrs. George Emmett Mullen, its founder and president, for her untiring service and vision in providing a musical and cultural heritage for the people of Redlands and Southern California. September 8, 1954."

Mayor Wheaton appointed a special committee to be responsible for the official dedication exercises, and it included representatives from the Contemporary Club, the Music Association, University of Redlands, A.K. Smiley Public Library, and the public schools. Those who served were Kirke H. Field, chairman; Henry G. Clement, Victor Duke, John P. Fiske, Mrs. George S. Hinckley, and Mrs. George E. Mullen. All of their efforts were directed toward the dedication date of April 29, 1930, bearing in mind that the Prosellis was to be more than a little theater, more than an ornamental shell, more than a place from which messages were to be delivered to the people. As The Daily Facts commented, "It is predicted that this place will become a shrine of music, to which people will journey from far places." And what an accurate prediction that proved to be! At the dedication Clarence White almost reverently delivered what Frank Moore, The Daily Facts editor, likes to describe as the "Gettysburg Address of Redlands" - brief, deeply heartfelt,. and straight to the point. In presenting the Prosellis to the City of Redlands,, he said:

"We hope that each man, woman and child who has been impelled to do more for this community than he has been compelled to do will feel that he has contributed to the building of this Prosellis. We hope that such good citizens, if they have not received a full recognition of work well done, will feel that here is recognition, cooperation, and perhaps some reward. "No city lives by taxes alone, The nearer it comes to that condition, the more drab and monotonous its existence is. Many of us take for granted the immense amount of free personal service that goes into making a town like Redlands. If this building emphasizes such service to you, and the need to help keep Redlands at its best, Mrs. White and I will remember this occasion with full hearts.

"What this building is good for is just what you and I make it good for. By itself it is only an ornament. If we citizen give it a meaning, it is a challenge, and maybe a responsibility. Mayor Lelean, as the official head of the city, we give you this bag of keys in belief that they will not only unlock the doors of this building, but also the doors to a future richness in the flowering of civic life."

This is one instance of a contribution by two families to enrich our cultural heritage. Our Town is unusually rich because of the zeal and sacrifice of many who, out of nothing, created the Smiley Library, the University of Redlands, the Lincoln Shrine and many beautiful churches, parks and gardens.

Credit to John Morthland for original research.

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