OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

MEETING # 1594

4:00 P.M.

DECEMBER 18, 1997


by Conant K. Halsey

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library


The purpose of this paper is to delineate and pay homage to those individuals and institutions which helped Grace Stewart Mullen develop and sustain the Redlands Bowl.

Grace Stewart Mullen was the founder-president of the Redlands Community Music Association. Eventually the Board of Directors resolved that she would retain the title of President as long as she lived. It was her vision and dedication backed by unbridled determination that created the " Redlands Bowl." Inspired by Artie Mason Carter, founder of the Hollywood Bowl, in 1924 she felt that Redlands was ready for a comparable experience. However, she mandated that, unlike the Hollywood Bowl, there would never be an admission charge, but would remain admission free to all.

It was a tremendous undertaking, and her family was not entirely in accord. However, she persevered, and her family gave her complete support. The Bowl as a performing-arts venue would never have survived without the dedicated support of many, many other visionaries. Many must remain nameless as no adequate records were kept. After operating as an unincorporated corporation for its first five years, The Redlands Community Music Association was duly incorporated on October 25th, 1929 and the following nine directors were elected:

Grace S. Mullen

E. A. Moore

G. Calder Bennett

Christina Lindenberg

W. L. Fowler

A. E, Isham

Theo. H. Doan

William M. Cochran

George H. Bunnell

The By laws stated (Parg. 4th.) That the number of directors shall be (9) who shall be members of the corporation; three to hold office for one year; three for two years; and three for three years. In June 1949, the board was increased from nine to fifteen members and in September 1957 it was increased again to twenty-one members. In 1967 it was increased to twenty-five, where it remains. During these years the Bowl has been fortunate to have had many hard-working, dedicated members; however, there have also been those who did not attend meetings or concerts and were only interested in the prestige that Bowl directors enjoyed. Fortunately as of this writing we have a board that we can be really proud of.

In 1925 Grace Mullen prevailed upon Hugo Kirchofer of Los Angeles to come to Redlands to preside over the community sings. He was paid $50 per night until the depression years when it dropped to $20. He instituted the practice of recognizing visitors from other states and nations. and calling the children from the audience to take part in the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. This practice continues. The only change has been the giving of a souvenir to two who have apparently come the greatest distance and choosing one of the children to lead the "Pledge." Kirchofer was followed by Wilbur H. Schowalter, Choral Director at Redlands High School. After his death in 1979, Schowalter was followed by C. Alen Ritchie, Charles DeMirjyn, and Curtiss Allen, Jr. In 1980 Curtiss Allen, Jr. succeeded to this position and continues to the present. From the Music Association’s inception in 1924 until 1978, Ruth Grinnel Fowler, the Community Sing Accompanist, never missed playing the piano. Today Kim Hoeptner and Harriet Talbert share the pianistic honors.

Probably the Major Donor to support Grace Mullen in the early years of the Music Association was Mrs. J.A. Kimberly. During the 1930 summer season Grace Mullen exuberantly announced to the audience that a very substantial gift had just been made by Mrs. Kimberly, Redlands patron of young people and sponsor of the best in the community’s art, drama, and an outstanding leader in Redlands Society. The gift was unencumbered by any special restrictions and, furthermore said Grace, Mrs. Kimberly had also promised to double whatever money remained in the Music Association’s treasury at the end of the current fiscal year in October.

By way of explanation, Mrs. Kimberly was especially fond of Spanish music and dancing, and her endowment was at least partly inspired by a desire to perpetuate this sort of entertainment at Redlands Bowl. She was also motivated by compassion for all the Mexican-American citizens of the San Bernardino Valley who shared her feelings but who, generally speaking could not afford to buy tickets to attend such programs. To her undying credit Mrs. Kimberly supported Grace Mullen staunchly when it wasn’t altogether fashionable for a person of her stature to do so. Her decision to support the Music Association so tangibly in 1930 was an important reaffirmation of this support.

True to her word, it was announced on October 8 that Mrs. Kimberly had increased her gifts to the Music Association thus making possible the establishment of the Helen Cheney Kimberly Redlands Community Music Association Endowment Fund. She did so because she had become so thoroughly pleased with the great work which was being done and because she was anxious to help insure its continuation. This Trust Fund is still in existence, only it has to be maintained separately from the present Endowment Fund and has a value of approximately $22-23,000. It had originally been placed with a bank which badly mishandled the funds.

Mrs. Elbert Shirk followed her mother’s example and was also very supportive of the Bowl, and in the late 1950’s anonymously had sorely needed rest rooms built in Smiley Park adjacent to the Bowl. Mrs. Shirk also left a generous bequest in her will to the Music Association.

One of the more colorful individuals who worked at the Bowl was William E.

(Bill) Nance. Bill presided over the lighting equipment for over 28 years. Bill had been an old-time Los Angeles stage-hand and movie projectionist soon after the turn of the century. Bill had installed a new electrical control board early in the 1930s in the Procellis which was vastly more complicated than the previous system, so he agreed to stay on until a suitable replacement was found. This did not occur until 1959. By that time he was one of the most beloved old characters in Bowl history. There were a few very busy extra moments when Nance required the services of an assistant (whose wage he paid out of his own pocket), but most of the time he was in sole command of the Bowl’s electric power. When he first began, lighting was his hobby; after twenty-eight years he still said that he’d "do it all over again," even though it did spoil twenty-eight years of summer vacations for Mrs. Nance.

At that time the permanent electrical installation consisted only of footlights and border lights in addition to the control board, but over the years Nance accumulated over $3500 of his own accessory equipment which he rented at a loss to the RCMA. The toughest programs for Bill to handle were those by amateurs—all amateurs. They tended to appear with costumes that were an unwieldy conglomeration of color, and many rehearsals were required as a result. Professional groups, on the other hand, were never seen by Nance ninety-five percent of the time, until they were seen by the audience. These ensembles sent their cue sheets in advance of their performance, and from there on Bill was left to his own experience and his own devices, building his programs according to the costume colors and movements of the performers so that everything would synchronize. Importance of the cue sheets was emphasized by the fact that two hours were required to make major changes of color on the stage lights, so last minute alterations were next to impossible. As he sat at his controls one evening, he looked down the corridor through the backstage area of the Procellis and was startled to see a young lady who appeared to be nude from the waist up. He soon realized, however, that she was wearing a skirt and pink top. The program was ‘Salome,’ and the role of Bill’s innocent victim was to dance across the stage carrying a platter holding the recently removed head of John the Baptist. Blue light was dictated by the existing conditions to intensify the girl’s costume colors, but capricious Bill used red in its place and momentarily ‘undressed’ her He gleefully recalled having more fun watching the chins of the audience drop at the sight of the debacle, and the next day the newspaper had some fun of its own editorially.

In 1959 William J. (Bill) Locklin purchased Nance’s lights, cables, etc. and professionally operated the lighting system until 1964. He then sold said equipment to the Music Association. From that date until 1980 Earl Tavares, James Gross and Minor Dixon operated the system for varying periods of time. In 1980 Jay Grady took over. He had had two years experience with Minor Dixon so at that point was eminently qualified. For many years he has had an important position as a chemist with California Portland Cement, but on the side has built his knowledge of stage lighting into a profitable hobby in high demand throughout the Inland Empire. He delights the Bowl audiences with interesting special effects and split-second changes in lighting when demanded. Artists vocally express their pleasure at his proficiency. For eighteen years Jay has been one of the most dependable members of the Bowl staff. May he continue so indefinitely.

Until the fall of 1934 there was no sound equipment in use at Redlands Bowl for any occasion. Microphones were largely new-fangled gadgets which people did not understand or know how to use, so their solution for the problem was to simply ignore them. But progress couldn’t be denied, and the first person to use a still crude mike at Redlands Bowl was Upton Sinclair when he visited the community during his unsuccessful campaign for the 1934 campaign for the governorship of California. His mike was then the property of Ralph E. Smith; from then on he provided the equipment and was the Bowl sound engineer until 1959. At first the limited sound equipment was used only to amplify the voices of speakers during such things as civic events, Bowl intermissions. and political rallies. Soon though, a much greater need for sound equipment evolved as crowds grew larger and the music presented grew more elaborate. Over the years Ralph continually accumulated, discarded, and replaced a great deal of equipment which he owned and rented to the Music Association and other users. Except for an occasional "spectacular," Smith kept the control of Redlands Bowl sound as a one-man operation to concentrate responsibility and assure trouble-free operation as much as possible. There is a tendency to take excellent sound at the Bowl for granted, when it is really the result of one man’s skill and dedication. He had very limited equipment and facilities at that time. However, he was very innovative and ultimately contrived two excellent extensions that he attached to the extreme ends of the wings of the Procellis. Each extension had pulleys which enabled him to pull out to the end of each extension fairly large speakers as well as retrieve them when the need was over. Ralph suffered from arthritis yet he managed to put these heavy speakers on his back and carry them up the stairs and out to the ends of the Procellis and return them at the end of the concerts. He also had an amplifier and other control items on a small portable stand placed on the grass to the left of the stage near the location of the present flagpole. This was all replaced in 1969 when the forerunner of the present sound and lighting systems was installed.

Paul Allen, the Chairman of the Park Commission, approached the President of the RCMA Board in 1968-69 and said that they had idle funds and were willing to make them available to the Bowl for major improvements. He was informed that the Bowl sorely needed the decrepit old benches replaced and the area cemented. It was determined that sufficient funds were available to put in new seats from the crosswalk to the orchestra pit. The remaining seats in the back were subsequently replaced. Prior to the cementing, sound and lighting conduits were put in place from the control stations in the Procellis to a new control area more conveniently located. Charles Dawson, Park Superintendent, designed and constructed the seats and their supports. A masterful undertaking! Harry Main of the Park Department supervised all of the actual work. This included new poles from which to hang the sixty-some stage lights and four new and very powerful speakers.

At the same time, the Redlands Soroptimist Club and Mrs. Elbert W. Shirk raised money for proper acoustical studies. The Music Association is forever indebted to them for the ten thousand dollars which was used to hire a nationally outstanding firm of sound engineers to do the necessary acoustical studies and mandate the proper sound equipment, as well as pay for all the needed amplifiers, cables, microphones, stands, etc. The first operator of the new sound equipment was Charles F. Cook, a bass player from the Symphony orchestra. He was followed by Minor Dixon, and then in 1980, good fortune smiled on the Bowl and Tobi Maki succeeded to this responsibility. He has proved to be extremely competent and knowledgeable. He has become increasingly dedicated to the summer concerts. He has been using much of his own very expensive equipment at the concerts at no charge to the Music Association. He has made available on the Internet a tremendous amount of Bowl history, programs, which he keeps up to date, and other pertinent data. He has recently designed and installed backstage monitoring equipment so that artists waiting in the dressing rooms can follow the action on the stage and can also receive their cues for entrance. This is another important step in professionalizing the Bowl’s operation.

One of the city employees to give the Redlands Bowl the greatest attention in recent years was James McKenzie, long since retired, who took it upon himself to see that the city made the necessary repairs and improvements to the physical structure. In 1973 he saw to it that the Procellis had a complete facelift, covering the lower part with a colorless substance that permitted easy removal of graffiti. He also had an unused city-owned vacant lot in back of the Bowl cleared, graded and paved for a welcome parking lot for the Bowl and the A. K. Smiley Library. Also in 1973, he advised the Bowl to apply for a grant then available to the City from government sources to update the aging electrical system and lighting. The Bowl was awarded $57,000, and the City engaged an electrical engineer to design and oversee the changes. Two new higher light and speaker poles were installed forward from the stage. Additional outlets were installed for microphones and electric boxes. New, larger lights were purchased, as well as two modern follow-spots. The old, extremely hazardous electrical controls were stripped from the electric control room, and new state-of-the-art lighting units, which provided considerably more latitude in lighting designs, were installed. Also at this time very high combination night lights and audience lights were put around the perimeter of the seating. We are all deeply indebted to Jim for all that he did on behalf of the Bowl and Redlands.

Through the years the Music Association has become increasingly indebted to the many Service Clubs in the community particularly for ushers an concert nights. Collecting the evening offering at intermission is vital for the financial health of the Bowl as the season total can amount to as much as a fifth of the season expenses. Specifically the Rotary Club built stairs up into the Procellis prop loft, designed and built costume storage in the same area, bought and mounted window air conditioners in the dressing rooms. The Soroptimist Club sells ice cream on concert nights and splits the profits with the Music Association. In 1962 when an office addition was provided by the city, they made available funds to furnish the office: desks, chairs, files etc. For many years the Junior Chamber of Commerce (now disbanded) poured and sold fresh orange juice. The Optimist Club succeeded to this chore and now make available pop-corn, candy and soft drinks. Again splitting their profits with the Bowl. Many other organizations such as the Redlands Community Hospital and La-Z-Boy West also provide ushers. Other companies have chosen to make specific grants of $2,000 or more to help cosponsor specific programs. Some, such as the Physicians of Beaver Clinic have been contributing generously for many years. The Harris Company has been underwriting the substantial costs of the Season Brochures for many years as has Redlands Federal Bank with the evening programs, joined this year by Pohl, Brown and Associates.

In 1975 the Music Association was most fortunate when James M. Boggess, Business Manager of the Beaver Clinic, was asked to join the Board and accepted. He was chairman of the Bowl Financial committee for 18 years Treasurer for five years and Chief Financial Officer for 2 years. During that time he gave unstinting of his many talents on the Bowl’s behalf. Even after being forced to take a medical retirement, he spent many hours every day in the Bowl office overseeing the multitude of concerns that manifested themselves daily. Although no longer active, he serves on the Financial Committee and his continuing interest and advice is most welcome.

From the Music Association’s inception, Grace Mullen was the program committee. She made countless trips to Los Angeles and other southern California cities to audition and interview potential artists. On occasion she went to New York to negotiate with artists’ managers. She was a very determined individual and proved to be very adept at obtaining much lower fees than asked. She was so universally loved and respected that many artists were quite willing to reduce their fees or appear at no charge.

In 1954 it became necessary to obtain help in the area of programming as Grace was no longer able to undertake all of the demands the job required. Again fortune smiled on the Music Association, and Charles (Chuck) D. Perlee, editor of the Cultural Arts pages of The San Bernardino Sun, undertook to supervise this function. He had formerly lived in Pasadena and had a remarkable rapport with many outstanding musicians and performers. Thanks to this and his dedication to admission-free concerts, the Association continued providing outstanding programs. He continued as Program Coordinator until 1972. At that time, Mrs. Florence Beeler, a member of the Board of Directors since 1960, was chosen by the Board to be the Program Director. To this day she continues in that capacity, and we believe that everyone who has attended performances in recent years would agree that she has done an outstanding job in bringing to the Bowl the quality of entertainment that would appeal to our audiences as well as maintain the quality that Grace Mullen had so determinedly espoused. It has not been easy, but in recent years she has been assisted by a committee drawn from members of the Board.

Two outstanding men who served as Chairmen of the Board of Directors were John Pike, 1950-53 and Superior Court Judge Joseph T. Ciano, 1954-62. Both entertained lavishly at their homes in an endeavor to attract notable individuals in the community to improve the image of the Bowl. Judge Ciano succeeded in convincing the city to add two rooms to the west side of the Procellis: one for use as the Bowl office (this has again been expanded to provide much-needed operating capacity) and for general storage and sound amplification equipment.

Don R. Yanke, formerly in the accounting department at Lockheed Propulsion, set up his own accounting business upon the dissolution of Lockheed in this area. He undertook to guide the Music Association through their office problems. In due course, he was keeping the books and filing tax returns (even though the Music Association was a 501 (c-3) non-profit corporation, it was still necessary to file returns; however, no taxes were assessed). He paid all the bills and was even in attendance on concert nights to write all the checks, sometimes over sixty, when an orchestra was involved. He was devoted to the Bowl and gave very generously of his time. He never presented a bill for all his time and labor. It was a sad day when he suddenly died. Above all, we miss his devotion to the cause of excellent music performance. Eventually, the Music Association had to turn to an accounting firm for most of these services.

Another dedicated member of the staff was Alice Gleitsman, who for countless years undertook to write the advance publicity for the coming programs. This was a thankless task, as artists are notoriously slow in providing pictures and text. She seldom received more than her expenses and a small honorarium for all of her work.

Many must remember Albert and Bertha Johnson from the University of Redlands Theater Department. Although Al was blind, that proved no handicap when directing plays. They produced Shakespeare’s play, "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," at least twice with Joan Baez playing Titania. They also produced Maeterlinck’s "Blue Bird" and many of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Their contribution was substantial.

In 1950 a new group was formed in Redlands designed to provide continuing support to the Music Association. Little did anyone know at that time how long the group would endure, how much they would grow, or how dependant the Music Association would become on their largess. Over the years they have been very successful in raising ever-increasing amounts of money to help offset the continuing rising costs of programs at the Bowl. Originally known as the Junior Associates of the Redlands Bowl, they later incorporated as the Associates of the Redlands Bowl, Inc. The first president was Mrs. Harold Dike and the first secretary was Mrs. Rex Cranmer. Mrs. Caroline Pike conceived the idea of having an all-out fundraising drive called "Bowl Day." The theme for this first endeavor was "Help make our Goal for the Redlands Bowl." Forty Boy Scouts and forty Girl Scouts offered their assistance to distribute concert schedules. Other volunteer workers of the community supplemented the Scouts and accepted all contributions offered. Workers donated their services for two-hour shifts. The list of participants read like a "Who’s Who" of Redlands society. Bowl Days subsequently featured antique autos with the ladies wearing large broad-brimmed hats. They still affect the "hats’ on their Bowl Day, which usually occurs about the third Friday in June, just prior to the opening of the season.

In addition to the major fundraising efforts, the Associates also staff the two information booths on concert nights and provide hospitality for the artists, consisting of punch, fancy food trays and lovely desserts—an experience that artists seldom have elsewhere. It is impossible for the Board of the Redlands Community Music Association or the Community of Redlands to properly express to these hard working, dedicated ladies of the "Associates" how much we are in their debt and how much of our success we owe to them.

The late James K. Guthrie became an institution at the Bowl. His first appearance was in the early 1930’s when he was still not twenty. He became a close friend of Grace and gave her tremendous support when she sorely need it. On one occasion, he almost singlehandedly worked to repel a dissident group that was trying to wrest control of the Music Association from Grace. He conducted many symphonies and staged countless operas. His lovely wife Jane McGowan played the lead in many of the operas. In 1997 KVCR produced a video tape extolling his accomplishments.

One of Mrs. Mullen’s friends once said, "Angels must watch over and protect Mrs. Mullen; otherwise, she could not be equal to the task she has set herself on behalf of the Redlands Bowl. If the people of Redlands do not relieve her of some of her duties, she will some day break. That would be a catastrophe that no city could afford." Unfortunately the friend’s words proved to be prophetic. It took the strain of founding Redlands Bowl in the face of ridicule and opposition, the bitter days of the Depression which quickly followed, the sudden, tragic death of her only son, a decade lived in constant fear of being taken from her Bowl, and talk of a major war to do it, but in October of 1938 even the iron-willed spirit of a Grace Mullen cracked, and she began an extended period of hospitalization. Many of her dearest friends were worried that she might never again be able to return to the helm of the Redlands Bowl, but even they still didn’t fully recognize the vast personal resources of this woman.

For the first time in its history the Music Association was without its strong, full-time leadership, but willing hands rose to the occasion and gave their very best to fill a big, big gap. Allan Whitney agreed to serve as acting president and board chairman. Mary Gowan McDonald, a former opera singer herself, became program director, and Frances Mort took on the duties of press agent and publicity chairman. Lacking the endless contacts which Grace had developed personally over the years, the new administration found itself depending heavily upon local talent. Fortunately there were a few programs which Grace had scheduled prior to her illness.

In this time of need, Mary McDonald asked the help of various service clubs in Redlands by suggesting that each be responsible for one evening’s program at the Bowl. The third program sponsored by a service club was given on August 22, 1939 truly a red letter day in Redlands Bowl history. The program was strictly one of home-talent variety, but on this day Grace Mullen made her first appearance of the summer on the Procellis stage, fully recovered from her illness and raring to go again. She received a heartfelt ovation from the throng present and paid justly deserved tribute to all those who had carried on during her nine months’ absence. Privately, however, Grace was very much concerned with the "popular element - jazz, amateurs, and horses, to name a few - which had won a toehold on the Procellis stage." With all her newfound might she devoted herself heart and soul to the immediate restoration of her former policies. Ever since that time, the Redlands Bowl has been devoted exclusively to the fine arts as they have been presented by the world’s greatest professional artists.

When the ‘Angel of Construction’ had finished his labors, Southern California was the last place to receive the finishing touch, and as he sat down on ‘Grayback’ to view the beauties that lay spread out before him, a smile came over his countenance, and with his finger he marked out the spot where Redlands now stands. He returned to his home and left man to beautify his work. The smile still remains, and Redlands is known as the most beautiful place in the world. The Redlands Daily Review, February 18, 1902.

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