We revisit the same Kress store from a previous post, except we’re across the street at the Pasadena post office and the year is 1972. Instead of a civil rights protest, this is an anti-war protest. Robert O. Hahn is in the foreground, with other members of the Orange Grove Friends Meeting, in a silent vigil held in front of this post office by the Quaker group for, at the time, six years.
I think this scene took place in The Mecca Room (“Air Cooled!”) in Old Town, and is now part of Louise’s Restaurant, but I’m not certain. What is happening in the scene, though, is well-documented. The Pasadena chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union marched on local bars in an effort to stop the sale of liquor in town. They were met with indifference from bar patrons and staff, as this was 1947–many years after the constitutional amendment they championed banning the sale of liquor nationwide was repealed. Their leader was 86-year-old Australian-born Bessie Lee Cowie, who was active in the movement from 1887 until her death in 1950. This photo is from the April 26, 1947 LA Times, but the next month, LIFE magazine published an article about the protests. Here’s an excerpt:
These ladies have replaced the direct action of earlier days with persuasion. Like members of other dry organizations who are becoming active again, they are advocating measures short of an immediate campaign for outright prohibition. Using only prayer and petition, and guided, as they believe, by God, they paraded last week into barrooms of Pasadena, Calif. There they urged barkeepers to seek “more honorable” jobs. They pointed out possible law violations to proprietors. They pleaded with customers to sign no-drink pledges. At one bar they found a mother with her daughter, embraced the mother and prayed for her. Later the mother joined them in singing Onward Christian Soldiers.
Pasadena’s Centennial celebration at City Hall, June 20, 1986. The caption reads, “Now they are 100–Thousands of balloons rise past Pasadena’s City Hall in a celebration marking the city’s official 100th birthday. Church bells were rung in unison, an orchestra played and tap dancers performed in the event, a high point of festivities that began last week.”
I ran across some great images of Pasadena in the UCLA Library’s online archive. I’ve always been a fan of “Then and Now” photo books as far back as high school. So, when I saw these photos of long-forgotten activism, and immediately recognized where they were taken, I decided to compare what these locations look like today.
A nationwide boycott and picket of Kress department stores was launched in the spring of 1960 in reaction to the company’s refusal to serve blacks at their lunch counters. Most of this city block was razed in the late 70’s to make way for the Plaza Pasadena shopping mall, which, in turn, was demolished. The Paseo Colorado is now on the site. Several of the older buildings and facades are still visible down the street.
The building pictured at right may or may not be the structure seen at left. If not, it was most likely in the same block near Colorado and Rosemead Boulevards. The protesters are members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, marching 25 miles from Pasadena through Glendale to Hollywood in December 1948. They were protesting the draft and Universal Military Training. It doesn’t look like they’re stopping for Chicken Pie, though. As you can see from the signs, Long Beach is still 29 miles south. Now, though, the only person holding a sign on the street is at the corner waving an oversized placard to direct drivers to insurance office in the building.
On the first day of school at Pasadena High School in September 1965, students were greeted by teachers protesting on the sidewalk. A Spanish teacher named Jack Battaglia filed grievances against the school after his evaluation. He was then transferred to a position at MCKinley Junior High. This set off a firestorm of acrimony and recriminations between the American Federation of Teachers, School Board, and administrators. The teachers’ union stopped the picketing in November, and in January 1966, the district’s newly-formed grievance panel issued a favorable ruling for Battalia. The Board then voted to increase his salary. Patrons of the Saturday Pasadena Farmers’ Market will recognize the parking lot in the distance. It’s amazing what 44 years will do to trees.
When I first spotted this forlorn structure in a shopping center parking lot near Hastings Ranch, I thought it had seen better days. The photo on the left proves it. The caption in the December 19, 1966 LA Times read “Automated post office in Pasadena shopping center makes it possible for customers to weigh, stamp and mail packages and letters at all hours. Most varieties of stamps and change machines are available there.”