Happy Anniversary, Pasadena
Museum of History celebrates the city’s birthday and a long list of milestone anniversaries
Since 2011, the Weekly has been working with the Pasadena Museum of History in celebrating the city’s diverse origins.
It was Pasadena’s 125th birthday as a city, and for the occasion we devoted half of the 10-page feature section to separate stories about five periods in this uniquely wealthy and extraordinarily capable community’s rapid development into the world-class city it is today. The lower half of each page in the section belonged to the Museum of History, which used photographs and some text to illustrate each set of years being discussed.
In 2012, themes were a little more difficult to come by, so we broadened our horizons and turned our thoughts toward the events of the day, and the biggest event in those days was the Summer Olympics in London. Over the previous 100 years, Pasadena and Altadena have sent more than 60 athletes to the Games, beginning with V Olympiad in Stockholm. Among the stars that year was young George Patton Jr., who became the famed general of World War II and was the grandson of San Gabriel Valley patriarch Benjamin “Don Benito” Wilson, whose last name graces schools, streets and a mountain. A century ago in 1912, many future greats were born, among them one of Pasadena’s favorite daughters, Julia Child. One hundred years later, Erica Wu, a student at Westridge School, represented the United States in the table tennis competition.
In 2013, amidst much hoopla, the Colorado Street Bridge turned 100 years old. PW set its sights on exploring every aspect of the structures treasured history, much of it as stirring and inspiring as the span itself, but some of it tragic, mainly due to the number of people who have used it as a place to end their lives.
This year, the theme is anniversaries, in honor of all the institutions and businesses marking significant milestones in their histories. In this town, when someone says it or they have been around forever, they really mean it.
On Sunday, along with the museum’s celebration of Pasadena’s 128th birthday in conjunction with the city, the exhibition Crown City Jubilee highlights 11 of the community’s best-known institutions with displays of historic artifacts and clothing, photographs and ephemera. It may be difficult to believe, but the Pasadena public schools are 140 years old, as are Orange Grove Boulevard and the Salvation Army. The Pasadena Public Library turns 130, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses is 125, Vroman’s Bookstore is 120, Mount Wilson Observatory is 110, and the Rose Bowl Game marked its 100th playing this year, as the American Red Cross and San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter turned 100. The Langham Huntington, Pasadena and Westridge School also turned 100, while Pasadena City College, the Pasadena Playhouse and the Pasadena Museum of History celebrate 90 years.
Following are a number of other notable anniversaries this year:
Pasadena Public Library (130)
Church of the Angels (125)
Pashgian Brothers (125)
Friends In Deed (120)
Pasadena Humane Society (120)
Hahn & Hahn LLP (115)
Aurora Las Encinas Hospital (110)
Coleman Chamber Music Association (110)
The Little Church (105)
YWCA Pasadena-Foothill Valley (105)
Benedict & Benedict Plumbing (100)
Boy Scout Troop 1 of Altadena (100)
Daughters of the American Revolution, Martin Severance Chapter (100)
La Loma Bridge (100)
Tuesday Musicale (100)
The Huntington Library (95)
Sports Chalet (55)
Beckman Auditorium (50)
Fuller Theological Seminary’s
School of Psychology (50)
Pasadena Maple Leafs Hockey (50)
Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts (50)
Pasadena Arts Council (50)
Pasadena Pro Musica (50)
Ambassador Auditorium (40)
Jackie Robinson Community Center (40)
Parson’s Toastmaster Club (40)
Baja Ranch Market (35)
El Taquito Mexicano Taco Truck (35)
Green Street Restaurant (35)
Kidspace Children’s Museum (35)
Women at Work (35)
The Kitchen for Exploring Foods (30)
Parkway Grill (30)
Tirage Fine Art Gallery (30)
About… Productions (25)
Bungalow Heaven Landmark District (25)
Historic Resources Group (25)
Janas Associates (25)
Museums of the Arroyo (MOTA) Day (25)
Plaza Las Fuentes (25)
USS Pasadena Submarine (SSN-752) (25)
As it happens, the Pasadena Weekly turns 30 this year, but we’ll have plenty to say about that next month. In the meantime, Happy Anniversary, everyone!
Pasadena’s 128th Birthday Party is from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Pasadena Museum of History, 470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena. The Crown City Jubilee exhibition, which runs through Sept., 14, features a timeline and a video slideshow. Sunday’s event also features a cake cutting, entertainment, displays and activities for all ages. Admission is free. For more information, call (626) 577-1660, ext. 10, or visit pasadenahistory.org.
Inspiring the World
For 125 years, the Rose Parade has provided Pasadena’s most colorful memories
By Carl Kozlowski
If there is a single event that inspires millions of people to dream of living in California each year, it is the Rose Parade. Each year, roughly 700,000 people from all over the world cram the streets of Pasadena to see the parade live, while an estimated 70 million worldwide watch it in broadcasts to more than 100 countries.
This year’s floral extravaganza marked the 125th anniversary of the parade, which started under very different circumstances. Created as a promotional effort by Pasadena’s Valley Hunt Club as a way to promote the city as the “Mediterranean of the West,” members invited their former East Coast neighbors to a mid-winter holiday during which they could watch chariot races, foot races, jousting, polo and tug-of-war.
But with fresh flowers blooming everywhere in sight, the club’s leaders decided to create a parade that would precede the competition and cover their floats with flowers — thus creating the Rose Parade.
“In 1890, young men living in Pasadena competed in the aforementioned games from foot races and tugs of war to jousts and a tourney of rings in which mounted horsemen, each carrying a 12-foot lance, try to spear three rings hung about 30 feet apart while riding at top speed,” says Richard L. Chinen, president of the 2015 Tournament of Roses. “Since that start, it has only rained on the parade 10 times, and the only time it’s ever been canceled was due to World War II in 1943.”
Along the way, there have been some important firsts, such as the Monrovia Town Band becoming the first band in the parade in 1891, and Hallie Woods being named the first Rose Queen in 1905. The sideshow aspects of the parade and its surrounding events — known overall as the Tournament of Roses — expanded as well in its early years to include ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations and a race between a camel and an elephant.
Tragedy nearly struck in 1905, when Tournament president Ed Off competed in a chariot race and lost control of his chariot, causing the crowd to fear he would be crushed to death by other horses before he was saved from injury just in time by another horseman.
“Prior to the age of automobiles, Rose Parade floats were drawn by a number of animals such as horses, elephants, camels and even an ostrich,” says Chinen.
“And from 1953 through 2007, Clydesdale horses powered the city of St. Louis float in place of an engine.”
Nowadays, of course, most floats feature high-tech computerized animatronics and exotic natural materials, with most floats built by professional float-building companies that take nearly a year to design and construct. Despite the fact that any organization or company may submit an application to sponsor a float in the Rose Parade, all applications are reviewed by the Tournament of Roses executive committee and only 45 get picked to participate due to the time constraints imposed by television coverage.
“The annual Rose Parade is a unique event designed to bring people together from around the world to celebrate the joy and hope of the New Year,” says Chinen. “Along with the Rose Bowl Game, these two iconic events are unlike any others — mostly because of the 935 committed volunteers who give their time to ensure that spectators from around the world are entertained and are able to celebrate the beauty of Southern California on New Year’s Day.”
A city commemoration 90 years ago leads to the founding of the Pasadena Museum of History
By Rebecca Kuzins
In 1924, the city staged a yearlong Golden Jubilee to mark the 50th anniversary of the Indiana Colony’s founding — the perfect time for a Pasadena Chamber of Commerce committee to unveil its plan to create a historical society.
Committee Chairman Thomas D. Allin, a former city engineer and public works commissioner, proclaimed, “The object of the Society is to collect data from our past and to preserve and collect that which will be made today and in the days from now,” according to a document in the museum’s archives.
The Pasadena Historical Society was formally launched on Sep. 9, 1924, during a meeting at the Carmelita Park House (current site of the Norton Simon Museum), with 191 people signing up as charter members. At another meeting on Jan. 27, 1925, nine people were elected to the board of trustees, and Allin was elected president.
“At that time, the society would meet a few times a year, when people would bring in some old photos to show off, dress in period costumes and listen to lectures. The aim was to record and share the city’s history,” says Laura Verlaque, the museum’s director of collections.
The creation of the local historical society, she adds, was part of a national movement in the 1920s, when “a lot of cities were looking back at the past.”
In an effort to create a collection of historic artifacts, Allin called upon the city’s first settlers to donate relics from Pasadena’s early days. Over the years the society amassed books, maps, photographs, letters, documents, newspapers, costumes and jewelry. One of the more valuable items was a piano donated by Jennie Banbury Ford and her twin sister, Jessie Banbury Crank, who, according to “A Birthday Present to Pasadena,” a story appearing in the July 9, 2011, edition of the Pasadena Weekly, were the only pupils of Pasadena’s first school in 1874.
The collection grew so rapidly that the society needed space to store it. “By 1927, there was such a collection that a fireproof filing case was purchased, and in it were stored the most valuable articles. This was kept in Mr. Allin’s engineering office for want of a better place to put it,” states a museum archival document, which outlines the facility’s longtime search for exhibition and storage space.
After the Central Library opened in 1927, the society tried to persuade city officials to let the society use the old library, located at the southwest corner of North Raymond Avenue and Walnut Street. But after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, the cost of renovating the library and making it comply with earthquake standards was more than the society could afford. (The old library was demolished in 1955.)
The society’s collection of valuable relics was stored in private homes until 1932, when staff members began moving materials to the History Room in the newly built Civic Auditorium. In 1955, the city allocated funds from a bond issue to build a history room in the Central Library. On Jan. 26, 1958, 400 people attended the facility’s grand opening ceremony.
Society President Orrin Fox spent five years secretly arranging for the society to acquire a suitable headquarters with adequate storage space. As a result of his efforts, the Paloheimo/Curtin families donated the Fenyes Estate to the society in 1970. The estate comprised the 1906 Fenyes Mansion, along with its gardens, sauna and guest house; the adjacent 1915 Curtin House; and the mansion’s original furnishings, artwork and personal items. The mansion, located at 170 N. Orange Grove Blvd., is open for public tours, as is the former sauna, now the Finnish Folk Art Museum.
In 1993, construction of the current museum and research library at 470 W. Walnut St. was completed, and included storage areas for the museum’s collection. A gift shop, galleries, conference room and administrative offices were added to the building in 2000, and that year the society changed its name to the Pasadena Museum of History.
The sophisticated exhibits featured at the museum are a long way from the modest collections of artifacts initially organized by the society. Executive Director Jeannette O’Malley says the most-attended exhibit was last year’s two-part display of wedding dresses from 1850 to the present. The first part, which featured dresses from 1850 to 1950, showcased dresses from the museum’s holdings.
“Then we followed it with the second half, which was 1950 to the present day, and those dresses were all borrowed. So it brought in local and national designers and individuals who wanted to see the exhibit,” she says. “It married our collection with contemporary themes and that’s something that we want to show, how history continues. It is one of the most important traditions of our museum.”
True to Their Words
The Pasadena Public Library has Always adapted to meet the needs of its many patrons over the past 130 years
By Rebecca Kuzins
Long before Abbot Kinney developed the Venice of America, he conceived and created the Pasadena Public Library (PPL).
A Pasadena resident, Kinney, with the help of several of his friends, established the Pasadena Free Public Library and Village Improvement Society on Dec. 26, 1882. In 1884 — 130 years ago this year — the society opened a subscription library on Colorado Boulevard, and in 1886 this building was moved to 42 W. Dayton St., in what is now Old Pasadena.
The history of the library is recounted on its Web site and in a collection of materials compiled by librarian Dan McLaughlin, which has been posted on flickr. According to these sources, the society raised funds by selling stock and staging two citrus fairs, at which citizens paid to view exhibits of San Gabriel Valley-grown fruit. In addition, subscribers paid 25 cents a month for full library privileges, and other patrons who donated a book would receive free admission.
The library quickly ran out of space for its growing collection and the society sought to build a larger facility on the southeast corner of North Raymond Avenue and Walnut Street in what is now Memorial Park. However, the society “defaulted on the bonds it issued to pay for the library building,” McLaughlin explained in an email. The city of Pasadena “passed a bond issue to cover the debts of the society and took over its assets — the unfinished building and the collection.”
The new library, now operated by the city of Pasadena, opened on Sept. 9, 1890. At that time, children younger than 8 years old were not allowed to use the facility, as libraries in the late 19th century focused on providing books to adults who could not afford to buy them and on assimilating immigrants to American society.
Library Director Nellie Russ, however, believed the library should provide services to children, and in 1903 she lifted the age limit. The demand for juvenile services was so great that in 1922 the children’s department relocated to its own Boys and Girls Library in Memorial Park.
The city library flourished in the first decade of the 20th century; in the fiscal year ending on June 30, 1905, 120,603 books had been loaned to patrons, with an average of 500 books loaned every day. The library was now opening branches.
In 1905, the Washington Heights Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) opened a reading room for people in the community. Neighborhood residents sought to make this facility a branch of the library, and on Nov. 1, 1908, the library became the North Pasadena Branch, the precursor of the current La Pintoresca Branch.
The East Branch, now the Hill Avenue library, opened in February 1910; in 1925, this branch moved to its current location, a Spanish-style building designed by the Pasadena firm of Marston, Van Pelt and Maybury. A small Northeast Branch, now the Santa Catalina Branch, opened in 1913 in a dry goods store a block away from its current location.
The first Lamanda Park Branch opened in a room in the Emerson School in 1922. Five years later, PPL moved its Boys and Girls Library to its current location, where a new building would be constructed in 1967.
By 1923, the library boasted that its circulation was the greatest per capita of any public library in the United States and, once again, sought additional space to provide its services. On June 8, 1923, Pasadena voters approved a $3.5 million bond issue to finance the Civic Center Plan — the construction of the City Hall, Central Library and Civic Auditorium in the downtown area.
The Central Library was the first of the three to be built. Architect Myron Hunt designed the Spanish Colonial-style building and construction began in 1925. The facility would eventually cost $812,577 for land and construction — an amount McLaughlin estimates as $10.7 million in 2013 dollars. The Central Library opened with a dedication ceremony on Feb. 12, 1927, and was well received by citizens for the beauty of its design and accessibility of its services.
However, in the 1930s the Great Depression put an end to the building boom and forced PPL to reduce hours and services. The financial situation had improved by World War II, when patrons used the city’s libraries to obtain information about many war-related topics, including how to find substitutes for war-rationed commodities and how to perform various tasks at defense plants.
After the war Library Director Doris Hoyt proclaimed that no Pasadena resident should live more than one mile from a library, and the library embarked on another round of branch-building. In 1951 the Allandale Branch began operating in a reconverted isolation hospital. A 1956 bond issue financed construction of three more branches in suburban areas: Linda Vista and San Rafael, which opened in 1956, and Hastings in 1959. The Villa-Parke Community Center Library opened in 1992.
The library celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1982, and two years later library officials began an extensive six-year renovation of the Central Library. By the 1990s, a lack of city funding forced the library officials to reduce services and consider closing some branches. These financial difficulties were resolved by a special election on June 22, 1993, in which almost 80 percent of voters approved a library tax that would generate $1.3 million. Save Pasadena’s Library, a citizens’ group supporting the tax hike, spent a record amount of money — $160,116 — on the race, using direct mail, phone calls, and neighborhood canvassing to gain voters’ support. Pasadena residents voted to renew this tax in 1997 and 2007.
Alongside its financial difficulties, the rapid change in technology beginning in the 1980s resulted in additional challenges for the library. Many of the resources traditionally found in books were now offered in electronic format via computers. In 1984, the Public Access Library System made the first electronic databases available to patrons.
The need for computers would increase dramatically in the 1990s with the advent of the Internet. For the first time, patrons did not need librarians to help them answer many of their reference questions, and librarians used the World Wide Web to assist patrons who did request help. The library’s catalog and a broad range of information eventually became available on its Web site, enabling patrons to have remote access. The library had also offered computers and wireless Internet access at its facilities.
The city library has a long history of responding to the needs of its patrons, and by the 21st century it had adapted to the new technology as it had previously to a changing population, budget cutbacks, and patrons’ needs for more than a century.
For more information, see https://www.flickr.com/photos/50910702@N04/sets/72157639564227553/.
Games of the Century
Celebrating 100 years of college football, the Rose Bowl Game remains a major event in American sports
By André Coleman
The first Rose Bowl game in 1902, which pitted the Michigan Wolverines against the Stanford Cardinals, drew about 8,000 people. However, Michigan’s lopsided 49-0 victory that year in what was known then as the Tournament East-West Football Game led Pasadena city officials to forego football and instead hold chariot races, ostrich races and other events over the next 13 years.
After football returned to Pasadena on Jan. 1, 1916, something unexpected happened. Over the next six years attendance at the annual game swelled to a maximum of 40,000 people, and event organizers realized that the stands in the park near Caltech, where the contest was originally played, could not contain such a crowd.
Pasadena had to have its own stadium, so from 1921 to 1922 the Rose Bowl was built, based on designs created by famed architect Myron Hunt, who was influenced by the Yale Bowl stadium in New Haven, Conn. Shortly after construction was complete, the first game called the Rose Bowl Game was played. Originally built in a horseshoe shape, the stadium was expanded several times over the next few years, with the southern stands completed in 1928, giving the structure its bowl shape.
Over time, the Rose Bowl Game has become one of the best-known college football contests in the world, and it continues to pit two of the nation’s top football teams against each other on either New Year’s Day or Jan. 2, if Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday. Neither the Rose Bowl Game nor the Rose Parade is held on Sunday.
The historic game was once played outside of Pasadena. That was in 1942, less than a month after World War II had formally begun on Dec. 7, 1941, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In that contest, Duke University and Oregon State met at Duke in North Carolina after local officials threatened to cancel the game due to fears that a large gathering on the West Coast could provoke a strike by Japanese military forces. In fact, the only two times the game was not played by college teams were in 1918 and 1919, during and just after World War I, which saw military personnel suiting up to take the field. In 1918, the Marines beat Army 19-7, and the following year the Marines lost to Navy 17-0.
“The Rose Bowl represents history,” said Councilman Victor Gordo, who sits on the Rose Bowl Operating Co. board of directors and serves as the liaison between city government and the stadium.
Of the Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl, the Rose Bowl is the only game still played in its original stadium. It is also the oldest of the bowl games, earning it the moniker “Granddaddy of Them All.”
To date, USC has played in 33 Rose Bowl Games — more times than any other school. Michigan comes in second place with 20 appearances, followed by Ohio State, Stanford and University of Washington, each with 14 appearances. UCLA, which plays its home games in the Rose Bowl, has appeared in the New Year classic 12 times.
“The Rose Bowl just resonates all that is good about sports,” said Rose Bowl General Manager Darryl Dunn.
The Bowl Championship Series, or BCS, National Champion was decided in the Rose Bowl Games in 2002 and 2006. The BCS game was also played in the stadium on two other occasions, only not on Jan.1. The first time was in 2010, and the last BCS game was played this year.
The most infamous play in bowl history happened on Jan. 1, 1929, when the Cal Berkeley Golden Bears faced the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. About halfway through the second quarter, Cal’s Roy Riegels picked up a fumble and ran 69 yards in the wrong direction, earning him the nickname “Wrong Way” Riegels.
But as bad as that play was, recent moves by the NCAA could turn out even worse for the game.
For the next 12 years the Rose Bowl game will be a semifinal game of the College Football Playoff every three years, and that system could move the game off of its usual Jan. 1 date. Under the BCS system, which ended at the Rose Bowl shortly after the 100th Rose Bowl Game was played, the stadium hosted the championship game every four years. Now city officials will have to bid against other cities to host the championship game.
“It is a large part of Pasadena history,” Gordo said of the aging stadium. “The game is interwoven with the city and with the history, teamwork and pageantry of college football.”
An Intellectual Legacy
Pasadena’s public school system, now celebrating 140 years, was the envy of the nation
By Rebecca Waer
In September 1874, 18-year-old Jenny Clapp taught her first two students — twins Jessie and Jenny Banbury — in the home of her father, William, located on South Orange Grove Boulevard. The salary of Pasadena’s first teacher was a whopping $81 per month.
According to Laura Verlaque, director of collections for the Pasadena Museum of History, by the month’s end, the new school grew to 14 students — more than Jenny Clapp could handle. So the school closed and its fledgling school board built its first school — a roughly constructed board and batten building — on land donated by William Clapp on South Orange Grove and California boulevards. But, with a burgeoning population in Pasadena, the schoolhouse still wasn’t big enough for everyone.
In 1876, Benjamin “Don Benito” Wilson, who founded much of this portion of the San Gabriel Valley, including Pasadena, donated five acres of land on the southeast corner of Fair Oaks Avenue and Colorado Boulevard to the new school district, and the schoolhouse was moved there in 1877. A year and a half later, that building was replaced with an impressive two-story structure called Central School built on that same location, which remained from 1878 to 1886.
By 1886, Southern California land and student population boomed.
In the 1879-80 school year, Pasadena had 61 students. By the year the railroad arrived just seven years later (1887-88), the student population had swelled to 1,354 children from grades K-8. Due largely to earthquake damage, the city’s Victorian-style schoolhouses sadly no longer exist except in photographs, which are on display at the Pasadena Museum of History.
Verlaque says Pasadena has a strong intellectual legacy.
“Pasadena’s library and school district both predate the incorporation of the city. It shows an emphasis on education and literacy in a community struggling to incorporate and establish itself,” says Verlaque.
Known nationwide in the 19th century for its temperate, healthy climate, Pasadena also established an open air school in 1926 called the Pasadena Preventorium, a school for male students whom doctors believe needed fresh air to recuperate. These students had special activities and engaged in daily sun baths.
Also established that year was the Open Air Day School for students in grades one through six. This school for both male and female students who were considered to be “delicate of health and study.” The school was equipped with a classroom on a porch and had a modern kitchen and bathroom.
Because of the continued population boom, the school was outgrown within 10 years and Wilson School was built. Named for the community’s patriarch, Wilson School started with just six high school students in 1890, but was not yet a designated high school in its first year. In 1891, an additional building was added to the site, which was called Pasadena High School. By 1892, the high school had a new building and 123 students.
In 1924, Pasadena Junior College was built; then in 1928, Pasadena High School merged with Pasadena Junior College and operated as a four-year school from grades 11-14. This was known as the 6-4-4 system, which was unique to the Pasadena school system. Students would attend elementary school for six years through grade six, junior high for four years through grade 10, and high school for four years through grade 14. In 1954, Pasadena Junior College merged with John Muir College and was renamed Pasadena City College.
Lifelong Pasadena resident Sid Gally, 93, began attending Pasadena schools in 1925 as a kindergarten student and stayed through college. He attended during the 6-4-4 program, and was an Honor Society member, which he says helped prepare him to attend prestigious Caltech in Pasadena.
While he has several unique memories of his time as a Pasadena student, one especially fun memory involved the Rose Parade.
“I attended McKinley for junior high, where I played trumpet — we got to march in the 1933 Rose Parade. Not everyone got to do that — we were really lucky. We also got a free ticket to the [Rose] Bowl Game. It was great.”
Since Gally attended school during the 6-4-4 program, his last few years of school were on the campus of Pasadena Junior College where students attended grades 10-14. He attended Pasadena Junior College just after the Long Beach earthquake of 1933, which did significant damage to many Pasadena buildings, including its junior college.
“They had to tear down buildings after the earthquake. The first couple of years [at Pasadena Junior College] we were in tents. The parking lots were filled with wooden-floor tents. Some of them were in the gym, too. They pretty much stripped the buildings down to their framework and rebuilt them to what you see today,” said Gally.
While at Pasadena Junior College for grades 13-14, Gally majored in engineering. But he wasn’t too busy to attend a few school athletic games, where he saw a legend in action. “Jackie Robinson was our star football and basketball player. I saw him play in many football games. He was quite good,” he said.
Gally, who writes a column for the Pasadena Star-News, eventually went on to graduate with honors from Caltech with a degree in engineering, a feat he largely attributes to preparation he received in the Pasadena education system.
Helen Smith, also a lifelong Pasadena resident, started kindergarten in Pasadena in 1944 and recalls her favorite elementary school teacher.
“My third grade teacher, Ms. Taylor, got me hooked on the Southwest and taught us about Hopi Indians. Every summer she’d work on the reservation in Arizona, then return to us in the fall and shared with us what she’d learned while there. She taught the boys in our class how to design quivers and arrows, and the girls how to design a baby carrier. I loved it.”
During the 1960s and ’70s, desegregation gave Pasadena national recognition in another way. One of the first mandatory busing programs in the US put the school district on the map in 1968 when Pasadena students and parents filed a class action lawsuit against the school district for unconstitutional segregation. The US District Court found the school district in violation of the 14th Amendment, leading to mandatory busing beginning in early 1970. The goal was to create racial balance in schools. Thus, the Pasadena Plan was created by the school board, which adopted a racially neutral reassignment of students to schools throughout the district. According to the court, there was to be “no majority of any minority.” This also required annual readjustment of attendance zones, so as to remain compliant with the court’s judgment.
In 1974, the school board rejected this mandate and instead requested voluntary magnet schools to replace forced busing. The school board prevailed in 1976 when the US Supreme Court overturned the busing mandate, ruling that the District Court had overstepped its authority. The school district no longer mandated forced busing.
Today, Pasadena Unified School District is comprised of 15 diverse elementary schools, three K-8 schools, three middle schools, three high schools, and two 6-12 alternative schools (Marshall Fundamental Secondary School and Blair International Baccalaureate School).
PUSD Superintendent Jon R. Gundry, who began his term in July 2011, says he sees took the job initially because of the Link learning program, an initiative put in place by retired Superintendent Edwin Diaz.
“Link learning provides students with the opportunity to receive specialized classes directed toward a career in which they are interested, and provides them internship opportunities, as well.”
Gundry says he is proud of PUSD’s achievements this year, including three of its elementary schools — San Rafael, Webster, and Roosevelt — all named California Distinguished Schools.
“This is the first time the school district has had three schools given this distinction in one year,” says Gundry.
One of Gundry’s goals involves the School City Community Work Plan, created to build a supportive relationship between PUSD and the city of Pasadena.
“We are focusing on narrowing the achievement gap and improving the quality of life in Pasadena … one of my greatest legacies is the relationship between the school district and the city, which is tremendously improved. They are now our strongest partner.”
PUSD has seen many changes through the years. And to think, all of it started 140 years ago with just two students and their teacher, in the parlor of a house on Orange Grove Boulevard.