The 75th Weekend, March 25-26-27th at WVRC


Having waited until after the Saturday night finale, I’m now trying to put together the complete story – and the several events tend to merge together in my mind.  The entire weekend started when Pres. PETER rang the bell to start Thursday’s meeting.  And it is true that CLAWSON BLEAK started us off with the Pledge on Thursday.  Our two PP’s, DOWNIE and DAY, then led us in America – another good job.  JACK HARRIS came forward to provide an Invocation.  He suggested that unless we put Faith first, our lives will lead us nowhere – the Good Lord knows where we are, and that is what really matters.


I gave a status report on PP HOWARD SISKEL.  Since they placed him on the terminal list on Tuesday, he has continued to decline.  And of course, we all know now that he slipped away the next day, Friday, about 1:30.  JUDY WESSLING and PAT ANDERSON were with him when he stopped breathing.  Eloise was unable to be there, since she had fallen on the steps at her daughter, Lisa’s home Thursday evening.  She dislocated her shoulder, and once they got that back in place, it was discovered that she had broken her collarbone.  So she has been confined to bed since late Thursday – and the only possible good news about that is that the enforced rest may be helpful.  Eloise has been at HOWARD’S side every day and into the evening, and that has to be a tremendous strain.  We have now learned that the Memorial Service will be next Sunday, April 4th, 3 pm at Westwood United Methodist Church. We have all lost a great and good friend.


In that same sad vein, JIM BECHTEL is announcing a Celebration of Life Party for his daughter, Ellen.  She is fourteen, and her brain cancer has suddenly become very active, so she is slipping rapidly. They are planning the event on Saturday, April 10th – the day before Easter – at 2 pm at the BECHTEL’S home in Calabassas.  Please let JIM know if you are planning to attend, since he may have to notify you of any change of plans beforehand.  It’s their way of saying farewell to a very lovely and courageous young lady.  PP TED IHNEN read a message from JIM on the condition of Ellen.


And to complete this trilogy, I failed to announce that Esther McGinnis had died on Thursday, March 11th.  Esther had a serious stroke, and was in Intensive Care at UCLA for a period of time.  Finally, the family decided not to prolong her life any longer, so all life support was withdrawn, and she slipped away very quickly. The Memorial Service was in Santa Barbara on Monday, March 15th.  You can reach JOHN McGINNIS at 2665 Tallant Road, Santa Barbara 93105.  JOHN’S comment at the time was, “It isn’t supposed to work this way” and we all recognize how tough it will be for him without her strong and constant support.


There were no Visiting Rotarians, according to PP GEORGE DEA.  However, we did have guests – RUDY ALVAREZ brought Cathy Rezos, a former member, and she was with him Saturday evening also.  Shirley MORE was there, and she introduced Randy

Powell, who is PETER’S right hand man at the office.  The only problem any of us have here is that Randy and PETER sound EXACTLY the same on the telephone!  Randy, by the way, placed the part of J.R.’s Attorney on Dallas.  Shirley spoke briefly about the next Auxiliary Meeting, which will be Tuesday the 13th of April. There will be a tour of the Downtown Courthouse, meeting a couple of Judges, followed by a buffet lunch afterward – and this is limited to 25 participants, on a first-come, first-served basis.  Call Margie DOWNIE to make a reservation.


There were eight members of our Rotaract Club at the meeting.  MICHAEL GINTZ, Youth Chair, introduced their President, Colleen Yorke, who spoke for the group.  Some of them were among our members who participated in the Corazon Project, building a house in Tijuana in one day! There was footage showing them at work, and the site itself was quite challenging. Colleen gave an excellent overview of what they are doing, and they do grow in numbers at each meeting. Pres. PETER presented each of them with one of our WVRC shoulder bags, which were well received. They are a fine group of students, and Rotaract is known for volunteering as needed at many UCLA functions.


MICHAEL then introduced our Speaker.  Steve Sann is a UCLA alumnus, took his law there, and is one of the leading experts on the history of our campus.  Both his grandparents graduated from UCLA in 1930, which was the first class on the new campus. So he has combined his long-time interest in our University with his love of history, and is often consulted by the media in this regard. He is a member of the Westwood Historical Society, and we are fortunate to have him with us today.


Steve began by noting that by 1919 the Southern Branch of the University was located on what is now the site of Los Angeles City College, on north Vermont Avenue.   Originally called the State Normal School, it was a Teachers College, covering 25 acres.   In 1924, it was renamed UCLA, and became qualified to grant undergraduate degrees.  At this point, the Regents began searching for a new and larger site.


Also, in 1919, Arthur Letts had purchased 3296 acres of mostly raw land for two million dollars, then known as the Wolfskill Ranch.  This plot was bordered by Beverly Hills on the east, Sepulveda on the west, Sunset on the north and Pico on the south.  He died shortly after that, and his daughter, Gladys, married Harold Janss.  This is how the Janss brothers came to control this vast acreage.  Harold and Dr. Ed were planning a unique business district, in which all architecture would be Mediterranean in appearance, and plans had to be approved by Janss.  They selected over a dozen different architects to design the first buildings, and the signature structure was the domed building designed by Allison and Allison, in which they had their offices. This was in Romanesque style, and was followed by the Fox Theatre in 1931, Percy Lewis, Architect.  Paul Williams designed The Kelly Music Building (later called Alice’s Restaurant, and now Tatinos). The concept of mixed usage, with retail on the ground floor and residential space above, was first put into practice at their domed building, with UCLA male students residing on the second floor.  The Holmby Building, with its tower at the corner of Weyburn and Westwood, was the first women’s dorm – again, with retail space on the first floor. The latest student housing, by the way, will be for 1400 graduate students, in the apartments being built now along Veteran and Weyburn Avenues.


The Regents were interested in this area, but one of their primary conditions was that the land had to come to them at no cost!  To secure this site, the cities of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Venice floated a bond issue, which enabled them to purchase the original 383 acres, (since grown to 431) and then donated the entire parcel to the Regents. Construction on the first four buildings began in late 1927 – the Library, Royce Hall, and the Chemistry and Physics buildings, all facing the Quad.


In the Village itself, Desmonds was managed by our long-time member and PP, JOE VALENTINE.  In 1933 he came up with the idea of holding a Homecoming Parade.  In the movie footage on Saturday evening, you will recall seeing the Westwood Village Jewelry Store.  This was the original name for HOWIE HENKES and his Dad’s store, which opened TWO DAYS after Campbells Bookstore, in 1929. It’s pretty impressive that Westwood Village Rotary has a current member who retail roots go back to 1929!  Other early stores were Sears Roebuck (where Rite Aide now stands), J.C. Penny, and Fosters (crystal and silver) which blew up in 1971 because of a gas leak. The Village was the Place To Be – but this in turn caused the rents to skyrocket, and some tenants began to leave.  Parking has always been a problem – and this must be solved if the Village is to regain its primary position as a retail and entertainment center.


Westwood Village Rotary was really a moving concern – we met at several locations, and just before coming to the Hotel Bel Air we were at Mrs Grays’ Inn, which became Truman’s.  I remember giving my craft talk there, and there were THREE of us talkers – so I only got ten minutes!  However, to be fair, I think I have maybe caught up on time at the podium since then…Mrs Grays Inn had a Drive In, and their slogan was “Food with a College Education”.  The Tropical Gardens Ice Rink, often associated with Sonja Heine, could accommodate ten thousand spectators for Hockey, and one of its attractions was FIVE acres of free parking. We have always had more movie premiers than any other venue, and in the early days, The Exorcist ran at the National Theatre continuously for over a year.  We grew from three screens to seventeen – but at the same time we dropped from five grocery stores to zero.  Serious competition for movies came when the Westside Pavilion opened in 1985, and Century City added fourteen screens in 1987, with Santa Monica providing another dozen two years later – and free parking, to boot! Steve is a fountain of information, and let’s hope he can return, when we’ll have time for some Q&A.


LENNY FRIEDMAN spoke briefly about his career.  When he got out of the Air Force in 1946, he married Sunny, and they moved to LA.  He and two partners opened a jewelry store, but they had trouble getting merchandise since they had no prior sales record, and thus no quotas. He soon left the partnership, and opened Crescent Jewelers – and the first seven years were tough. He recalls Federated taking over Bullocks, and the B of A was the tenant before Rite Aide in what had been the Sears building.  Tom Crumplars and the Chatham were busy restaurants, and Potter’s Hardware was a going concern.  There were at least two barber shops – the Blue and Gold, and Oakley’s.  And so, our tour of the Village ended.




The wonderful hosts on Friday were the ANDERSONS, BRADFORDS, SALLY BRANT, COLLINS, DAYS, DOWNIES, GAULDS, McQUAYS, MULRYANS, HOMER NEWMANS, LEO TSENGS, WANGLINS and WOODWORTHS. There were thus eleven host families, and 101 guests.  This was very special for all of those who attended, and Pres. PETER wants to thank each of the hosts for their hospitality – and Rotary Spirit!


Pres. PETER got us settled at our tables shortly after 7 pm on Saturday, and the new Luxe facility was most attractive.  DAVE WHITEHEAD, assisted by film clips from DAN PRICE, had two screens going, and they were - there is no other word – splendid! GREGG ELLIOTT’S eight piece band was a big hit, and they provided a nice mix of music, both dreamy and faster-paced.  The two dancers were excellent, although some of us worried as Russell Adcock swung Cate Caplin overhead and all around.  DON NELSON did an amazing job of keeping track of who was coming, and we ended up with 180 places, all of which were filled. 


Pres. PETER started us off with a toast to all our members, present and past, and the Auxiliary, our constant supporters since 1937.  Next he introduced District Governor John Colville, PDG Len Wasserstein, and our own two PDG’s, BILL GOODWYN and ANDY ANDERSON, Assistant Governor Hal Quigley. Governor’s Aide Carmela Raack,

former Ambassadorial Scholars Diana Ross and Lee Broekman, and Dee Menzies, President of the Santa Monica club.  Next, BILL and ANDY asked three members to come forward – all were PP’s - HOWIE HENKES, JIM COLLINS, and JIM DOWNIE.

They were presented with the Rotary Hall of Fame Award for FIFTY years of membership in Rotary.


Jack Siegal of Santa Monica related the tale of the Founding of Westwood Village – (then called WLA Rotary).  Several of their members met with Angus Cavanaugh, Principal of University High School – who became our first President – and Santa Monica bankrolled our startup costs.  At this point, PP RON WANGLIN came forward to talk about the period 1930 to 1950.  RON’S dad, CHASE, was President of the Club in 1937-38 – and again, the visuals were terrific. Paul Harris, played by Jim Young, who is a PDG from Fullerton Rotary, made the first of several appearances, speaking of the founding of Rotary in Chicago in 1905, and the dance team did the Fox Trot.  Next up was PP JIM COLLINS, covering the 50’s to the 70’s.  More audio visual, and the dancers were jitterbugging. 


Dinner came next, and all agreed that the three entrees were excellent.  We were called upon to Exercise – that means, doing the Twist – and some of those in attendance pulled it off.  PP STEVE SCHERER covered the 70’s up to ’89 – and what else appeared but dessert in the form of BAKED ALASKA!  Paul Harris was still appearing, and PP STEVE DAY spoke about the 90’s up to the present, with our dancers doing the Salsa.


Pres. PETER wound it all up, thanking the many members who helped in what has to be our best party, ever!  It was One For The Book, and we all came away with fond memories – and great expectations for the future. PP RON LYSTER, you did it again, and all your hard work paid off.  PP DAVE WHITEHEAD was involved in everything – he was the Producer, and did himself and WVRC proud. And PETER, your guiding hand showed when needed, and you are to be congratulated by all of us who attended.  At least a dozen members, spouses and guests told me how much they enjoyed it – and the tributes were well deserved.

                                                                                                YOE, Ernie Wolfe