OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

MEETING # 1556

4:00 P.M.

MAY 11, 1995


by Franklin D. Peele

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library


Franklin D. Peele was born in 1940, a native of North Carolina. Thirty years of his professional career were spent as a photo-grapher in the U. S. Navy; he retired from that service as a Commander in 1988. He earned Bachelor of Arts in Cinema and Master of Science in Film Education degrees from the University of Southern Cali-fornia. Since 1988 he and his wife Susan have made their home in Red-lands. They have two grown children and five grandchildren. Besides his service to Redlands Meals on Wheels, including six years on its board of directors and two years as president, he is active in the First United Methodist Church and the Noon Kiwanis Club. He has also served on the boards of the Kiwanis Scholarship Foundation and the San Bernardino County Museum Foundation.

He is the owner of Pacific Photographic, offering photographic and audio-visual support services in Redlands.


Redlands Meals on Wheels, Inc., celebrates its twenty fifth anniversary in 1995. The origins and early history of this all-volunteer service, together with some highlights of its quarter century of operation, are presented by Franklin D. Peele, a past president of the organization.


The year-was 1970. Richard Nixon was in the White House, Water-gate was not yet a household word, and the U.S. Gross National Product passed the trillion dollar mark for the first time. Nancy Reagan held her maiden press conference as California's first lady, declaring the governor's official residence "an embarrassment". IBM introduced a new medium to store computer data, which they called the floppy disk. Hank Aaron of Atlanta and Willie Mays of San Francisco each got their three thousandth hits in major league baseball, and Diane Crump became the first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby.

The Redlands Daily Facts was published Monday through Saturday and cost ten cents a copy, delivered at home for two dollars a month. Among the items of local interest the newspaper reported in 1970 was Art Miller's slide show for the Redlands Camera Club titled "New Gold in the Mother Lode". Conant Halsey was re-elected president of the Redlands Community Music Association, whose board that year also included Dick Wilkerson, Ken Ghormley and Mike Talbert. James Fallows was to give the Class Oration at Harvard University's graduation, and the University of Redlands named its new library in honor of retiring President and Mrs. George Armacost. Appearing in the Facts' pages were ads for Muntz eight-track car stereo players, while at Sage's, Valvoline motor oil could be bought for twenty-nine cents a quart and Folger's coffee for seventy-three cents a pound. .,

The Fortnightly Club quietly marked its seventy-fifth anniversary, with Ralph Hone and Wilbur Vroman serving terms as president. The club's rolls also included current Fortnightly members Don Anderson, Stan Blackburn, Elton Shell, and Bob Castle. (Doug Eadie had been in membership, but withdrew earlier due to his university schedule. He was voted back into the club in 1980.)

Around the nation in 1970 the Gray Panthers made their first appearances, and senior citizens began being recognized as not just older individuals but as a class having political clout. Locally, the County Association of Senior Affairs (CASA) had been formed to provide a link between various senior-interest groups in San Bernardino County, with Bill Edison as its staff director. Within the Redlands Area Community of Churches (RACC), a Senior Citizen Task Force had been formed in 1969. Among those active in this endeavor were Bill Simader, Gertrude Hagum and Rita Geiger. They were concerned about nutrition among the home-bound who were either physically or mentally unable to prepare adequate meals for themselves, and had learned of a program called Meals on Wheels in several cities around the country. Letters were written to those cities, and replies were followed up with Pasadena, the first program incorporated in California, and with Loma Linda, where Adventist Community Team Services (ACTS) had started the service.

Simader, Hagum and Geiger promoted their idea in the RACC Senior Citizen Task Force and formed a Meals on Wheels organizing comm-ittee. One of their earliest supporters was Father Henry Keane of Sacred Heart Parish and chairman of RACC, who donated a hundred dollars even before there was a checking account in which to deposit funds. Father Keane invited Gertrude Hagum, a Baptist, tc speak from his pulpit -- certainly unusual in a Catholic church twenty-five years ago -- and her talks at four masses raised seven hundred dollars as seed money.

With the concept of Meals on Wheels in Redlands firmly estab-lished, the challenge that remained was to put ideas into action. Many details had to be brought together, beginning with the ques-tion of where to base the operation. Several of RACC's member churches were approached, and each declined for its own reasons. The old Lincoln Elementary School had become Orangewood High School, and the kitchen there was not being used to prepare meals. That space was made available at no cost for use as the Meals on Wheels distribution center, and an agreement was reached with Griswold's restaurant to prepare the food.

Many issues were raised and answered: How large should portions be? Elow should delivery volunteers be identified so that clients would know who they were admitting into their homes? The organi-zing committee solicited local doctors and the Visiting Nurses Association for referrals of possible clients for the meals, and established guidelines for an Admissions Committee to determine who most needed the service. Decisions were made to incorporate Redlands Meals on Wheels as an entity separate from RACC, and independent of government funding with its red tape. The incor-poration process was off to a flying start when John Schessler, an attorney and member of Sacred Heart parish, agreed to complete and submit the paperwork at no cost.

Electric hot boxes were bought to transport the meals' hot por-tions, along with ice chests to hold the cold items. Volunteers were recruited and trained to staff the operation, and on Monday, July 20, meal deliveries began. Redlands Meals on Wheels. Inc., was now the second incorporated operation of its kind in the entire state of California. One of the delivery volunteers that first day was J. R. Hedrick, who is the 1994 - 95 president of the Redlands Meals on Wheels board.

Each weekday morning, volunteers would pick up steam-table trays of one meat entree and two vegetables, plus salad, bread and butter from Griswold's restaurant and transport it to Orangewood. There the day's individual meals were packaged in disposable serving containers, adding milk and a simple dessert. Then more volunteers loaded the hot boxes and cold chests, each with up to sixteen meals, into their personal vehicles and headed out in teams of two on their appointed rounds. There were two routes at first; a third was added in 1971 and the number of clients has grown since then to necessitate the four routes that are now in operation. It is likely that this trend will continue, with more routes to be added as needed.

Once Redlands Meals on Wheels became a going concern, it was time to consider meeting the needs of shut-ins on special diets. Negotiations with Redlands Community Hospital were successfully completed and, in October of 1970, the Special Diet route began operating six days each week. In this program each meal is pre-pared in the hospital's kitchens as prescribed by the individual client's physician or dietitian. For the first ten years, every special diet menu was prepared by Carrie Smith -- who also delivered meals regularly and substituted on holidays. Carrie didn't begin to slow down until she was eighty years old!

The organizers having studied far and wide before being able to establish Meals on Wheels in Redlands, it was natural to perform "missionary" service for the benefit of other interested groups in the area. In the early 1970's Gertrude Hagum and Bill Edison helped Yucaipa and Victorville begin Meals on Wheels service, and she and Bill Simader were instrumental in getting Upland and Corona's programs off the ground.

From the beginning, the Meals on Wheels experience was rewarding for the volunteers. For the clients, it often meant more than just a nutritious meal. In many cases, the friendly delivery teams were the only social contact the shut-ins had all day. In a few instances, the volunteers have been the first on the scene of potentially life-threatening situations and have summoned emer-gency aid that otherwise might have been too late. Larry Moore and Becky Burris were cited in a Redlands Daily Facts article of September 24, 1980, as saving the life of a woman they discovered unconscious in her back yard, with second degree burns and a body temperature of 106 degrees from severe sunstroke. The woman had not responded to her door when Moore and Burris arrived with her meal, and their diligence made an important difference that day.

Besides many wonderful individual volunteers, groups in Redlands have contributed to the effort over the years. The Evening Kiwanians, Soroptimists, and the Evening Auxiliary of the Contem-porary Club made it possible to begin Saturday deliveries on the regular diet routes in December of 1970 and for several years thereafter. Since 1988 the women of Bethany Reformed Church have furnished, prepared and delivered Thanksgiving day meals without charge to Meals on Wheels clients and their guests.

The guiding principles by which Redlands Meals on Wheels was established twenty-five years ago have changed very little, but that's not to say the program has escaped all change. When Gris-wold's restaurant served notice in 1983 of a $1.00 per meal cost increase,~the organization sought another supplier. First Presby-terian church was then the location of San Bernardino County's Nutrition for Seniors program, which became the food preparer for Meals on Wheels as well. That operation was moved on September 25, 1989, to the county Nutrition for Seniors kitchen in San Bernardino, which continues today to provide the regular diet meals under the capable direction of Elaine Moran. Because the county nutrition center included delivery of the food to Orange-wood in its service, the last day of food preparation at First Presbyterian church was also the last time for bulk food pickup by Redlands Meals on Wheels. The steam table trays of food were picked up on that last day by volunteer and Fortnightly member Ed Fisher, who was then a spry ninety-nine years old.

The distribution center from which the regular diet program operates has also changed twice: in 1989, Orangewood High School's cafeteria was scheduled to be renovated for school lunch preparation. Bob Denham, Orangewood's principal, enjoyed describing Orangewood as providing "womb to tomb" support. He was referring to a day-care center on the campus, with children as little as eight days old, at one end of the spectrum, the contin-uing education students in the middle, and Meals on Wheels fill-ing out the other end.

The program moved in 1989 to the Salvation Army corps on Alta Street, but conditions there were not conducive to receiving the food in bulk and packaging the individual meals. In the search for a solution, Gertrude Hagum learned that the county's Nutrition for Seniors program would pre-package the meals before delivery..The amazing thing about this was that it not only reduced the number of volunteers needed each day, it also lowered the cost per meal because the county operation was buying the serving containers in greater quantity and realizing economies of scale.

In 1990 the program moved again, to Joslyn Senior Center where it continues a very successful operation today. When the City of Redlands finally settled on a site to erect the new Senior Multi-Purpose Center, Meals on Wheels participated in a committee formed to optimize the center's design including space for the regular diet operation. By the time the building was finished, however, little of the accommodation planned for Meals on Wheels was included. As a result, and by mutual agreement with the city, the regular diet operation remains at Joslyn where it enjoys excellent support from Dan Rodriguez and his staff.

The program has served clients covering a wide range of ages over the last quarter-century, from a ten year old diabetic child to at least one centenarian. That latter client received a special cake on her hundredth birthday which, like the birthday cakes all Meals on Wheels clients are presented, was baked by Johnnie Mae Guest.

A primary objective of Meals on Wheels has been to keep meal prices as low as possible, starting in 1970 at $1.25 for both regular and special diet meals. Conservative fiscal policies and the all-volunteer operation have kept increases in the meal charges to very modest levels. By far the largest factor in ris-ing costs has been insurance premiums. In 1993 the carrier for Redlands Meals on Wheels' liability coverage stopped underwriting non-profit groups, and the organization's board of directors found itself temporarily unable to replace the liability protec-tion at any cost. After months of diligent work, a local agency was found that could put together a package of policies from several sources -- but at a cost of over $3,600 a year, which has to be passed along in the fees charged to clients. In spite of that, senior citizens today pay $2.00 for regular diet and $3.25 for special diet meals. (Because the county Nutrition for Seniors food preparation site receives government subsidies for recip-ients over sixty, non-seniors pay $3.50 for the regular meals.)

It's clear that much effort has been required to start and maintain this valuable service in Redlands. But there has also been humor along the way. Larry Moore recalls the day when he and his delivery partner, who shall here be nameless, had presented the Day's meal and shared a brief visit with a client. Preparing to leave, the partner opened a door in the client's living room and, looking aside to say goodbye rather than straight ahead, walked smartly into a closet. Most meal recipients are friendly and appreciative, but once a gentleman who had been wished an enjoy-able meal muttered "It would be the first time". The next day's volunteers, clued in to the man's previous remark, asked him if his meal had been any better. "How would I know", he retorted, "I can't taste anything anyway". Another time a delivery team of two elderly ladies from Plymouth Village was welcomed into a home where the client was busy painting a live -- and very nude --model. One of the lady volunteers, a retired medical doctor, wasn't flustered much by the unexpected flesh.

Redlands and its citizens have been enriched by this quarter century of service by the dedicated volunteers of Meals on Wheels. More than 1,750 clients have been served by over 1,000 volunteers; the count of meals delivered is now at a third of a million and rising. All of this may be just another example of the kind of spirit that makes Redlands a very special place to live. But it stands as a tribute to the commitment and determin-ation of the individuals who got out and made it happen. Some have been named here, but there are many others. All of them deserve the community's gratitude as Redlands Meals on Wheels celebrates its first quarter century of service.

A sound-slide show illustrating the Meals on Wheels experience
was now shown to the Fortnightly Club gathering.


1970 - 72 Gertrude Hagum
1972 - 73 William H. Edison
L973 - 74 Gertrude Hagum
1974 - 75 Darlene Bickle
1975 - 77 James Macintyre
1977 - 79 Don W. Hunter
1979 - 80 Gloria Curren/Marian Nelson
1980 - 81 Marian Nelson/Brigitta West
1981 - 83 Frances Hearn
1983 - 84 Emmogene Kruse
1984 - 86 Katharine VanDyke
1986 - 88 Larry Moore
1988 - 90 Martin Munz
1990 - 92 Curtis Carson
1992 - 94 Franklin D. Peele
1994 - 95 J. R. Hedrick


Most material for this paper is taken from the files of Redlands Meals on Wheels, Inc. Additional information was found in the Redlands Daily Facts, from various dates in 1970 and sub-sequent years. The assistance of many long-time Meals on Wheels volunteers is gratefully acknowledged, most particularly Bill Edison, Gertrude Hagum, Em Kruse, and Marjorie Lyon.

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