GRACE MULLEN AND THE
Describe briefly the fervency of spirit in Grace
Mullen that created Redlands Bowl. then her disappointment in not receiving tax funds for
her programs, but her fight to continue and third, the contribution of the Clarence G.
White family toward building the Prosellis.
In the Bowl's early years the City of Redlands
provided some financial assistance. Later a move prompted by then Mayor Allen Wheaton, and
others to seek municipal tax support. Subsequently on June 25,1926 Ordinance No. 680 was
submitted to the voters which provided for a levy not exceeding five cents per $100
assessed value. Unfortunately the necessary two thirds of the electorate required to adopt
the ordinance did not approve and the City was thus obliged to withdraw all support. Mrs.
Mullen refused to accept defeat and stated that "by the grace of God we'll
On May 29th 1929 a prominent citizen named Clarence
G. White approached Mrs. Mullen and unveiled his longstanding dream to make some kind of
substantial and worthwhile gift to the City of Redlands, He proposed to give a new and
more adequate band shell to the community.
In due course the Prosellis was conceived and
completed. Herbert J. Powell the designer of the beautiful chapel on the University of
Redlands campus had been chosen for the job. Powell and the Whites invented the completely
new word "prosellis" meaning' before the seats." A suitable inscription
suggested by Powel " Without Vision A People Perish." was placed above the arch.
Merrill Gage created the artistic cast stonework. A close inspection reveals three very
specific areas of symbolism.
This is one instance of a contribution by two
families to enrich our cultural heritage.
BIOGRAPHY OF THE AUTHOR,
CONANT K. HALSEY
SAN JOSE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
SAN JOSE STATE COLLEGE
NEW YORK INSTITUTE OF FINANCE
E.A. PIERCE & CO., SAN FRANCISCO, INVESTMENTS
SECURITIES TRADING CORP. RENO, NEVADA, OFFICE MANAGER
DEAN WITTER & CO. SAN FRANCISCO, ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE
HORNBLOWER & WEEKS' NEW YORK, ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE
GAMMACK & CO. NEW YORK, ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE
DEAN WITTER & CO. SAN BERNARDINO, ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE
WALSTON & CO. RIVERSIDE, MANAGER
DEAN WITTER REYNOLDS, S. B., ASSOC. VICE-PRESIDENT INVESTMENTS
PAST PRESIDENT REDLANDS KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE
PAST PRESIDENT TORCH CLUB
CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF BOARD OF VALLEY PREPARATORY SCHOOL 1957-66
MEMBER REDLANDS 1975 MASTER PARK STUDY PLAN COMMISSION
ELECTED TO BD, OF REDLANDS COMMUNITY MUSIC ASSN.
CHAIRMAN, FEB. 1967,
CHAIIRMAN AND PRESIDENT 1967. STILL PRESIDENT.
WORLD WAR II, U.S. NAVY AND U.S. MARITIME SERVICE.
3 DAUGHTERS, 2 SONS, 10 GRANDCHILDREN.
REDLANDS ROUND TABLE "GRAIL AWARD"
ROTARY CLUB CERTIFICATE OF APPRECIATION
COUNTY OF SAN BERNARDINO "RESOLUTION"
CITY OF REDLANDS "RESOLUTION OF APPRECIATION"
GRACE MULLEN AND THE
My purpose here is first to describe briefly the fervency of
spirit in Grace Mullen that created Redlands Bowl; then her disappointment in not
receiving tax funds for her programs; but her fight to continue and third, the
contribution of the Clarence G. White family toward building the Prosellis. Grace Stewart
Mullen was born in Sparta , Tennessee on October 2, 1875. Her mother was her only teacher
until she was 12 when the family, including ten brothers and sisters moved into Nashville
to give the children a better opportunity for education.
Grace eventually finished her college education and came west to
visit friends, She liked California so remained to teach school. Later after marrying
George Emmett Mullen they resided for a while in Los Angeles and then were attracted to
Redlands in 1916 and built a lovely home in the Garden Hill area. Grace lost little time
becoming involved in community activities. PTA, service to the communitys day
nursery, Contemporary Club activities, and charitable work related to World War I then in
progress. Her friendship with Mrs. Artie Mason Carter, founder of the Hollywood Bowl
inspired her to undertake a comparable endeavor in Redlands, which was ripe for such a
move as the city had long been considered a cultural community. Most of the residents of
the south side were not receptive to her ideas of free concerts for all, They did not
relish the thought of sharing musical evenings with their maids, butlers, chauffeurs and
gardeners. . Nevertheless Grace was determined that her "dream" must succeed.
She had many obstacles to overcome including the City Engineer George Hinckley, who, in
due course, was converted and became an avid supporter.
In the Bowls early years the City of Redlands provided some
financial assistance. The City Council voted $200 a month for four months and supplied
about $1000 for the purchase of a piano.
But Grace Mullen was not at all content to rest on her laurels.
Further evidence of the thinking which impelled her to start Redlands Bowl is reflected in
her reasoning that at one time there were no tax supported public schools, no free public
libraries in America. Neither was there any high caliber. free public music in the nation,
so she vowed to initiate it. This thinking. plus the pinching. financial shoe with which
the Redlands Bowl has always lived. prompted a move by then Mayor Allen Wheaton, other
friends of the Bowl. and the Association in 1926 to seek municipal tax support. The
minutes of an adjourned regular meeting of the Board of Trustees of the City of Redlands
(Messrs., Fowler, Kimball, Thornquest, and Wheaton together with the Clerk and Attorney)
held on May 10, 1926, records that "The first matter considered was the request of
the Community Music Association verbally presented at the last regular meeting and
referred to this date for consideration. Attorney Hartsell advised that a special election
could be held submitting the proposition to the voters and that it would require
two-thirds majority of the vote of the people to authorize the levy of a tax for such
purposes." " Bruce McDaniel and W.E. Howard, representing the Music Association,
requested the Board to call such an election at as early date as possible, thereby putting
the matter up to the voters as to whether they wish such a sum expended for such purposes.
President Wheaton and other members of the Board expressed themselves as being doubtful of
the voters authorizing such an expenditure. Representatives of the Music Association
suggested that they would supply the necessary officers for holding the election thus
relieving the City of that expense. After full discussion of the matter, upon motion, the
request of the Music Association for a levy not exceeding five cents on the $100.00
assessed value was granted."
On the subsequent June 25th the above matter formally
appeared on the ballot as indicated by the following excerpt from proposed Ordnance No.
"Shall Section 1 of Ordinance number 680 adopted on the 10th
day of May, 1926 and providing as follows:
"There is hereby levied upon all taxable property in the
City of Redlands, California, for the fiscal year 1926-27 and for each and every fiscal
year thereafter occurring, a special tax of not exceeding five cents ($.05) on each one
hundred dollars of the assessed valuation of such property for the purpose of providing
:(a) Such tax shall be expended under the supervision and control
of the Board of Trustees of said city in providing such music in said city as to whom it
may seem best.
"(b) Such tax shall be levied, assessed and collected at the
same time and in the same manner as city property taxes as assessed and collected in said
City of Redlands as provided by law, and such tax shall be in addition to all other taxes
now authorized by law to be collected, become effective in the City of Redlands."
Needless to say , this proposed ordinance became a controversial
issue and one that was widely discussed. Opponents were concerned about the added tax
burden, the basic importance of the Bowl, and also about the wisdom of setting a precedent
of this kind. The thinking of those in favor was articulately outlined in the following
editorial from The Redlands Daily Facts..
SHOULD THE CITY PARTICIPATE
"Redlands, as a municipality, has no recreation fund. The
city councilmen, in making the budget soon, probably will not provide for recreation,
publicity or entertainment funds unless there is a decided popular demonstration that such
provision for the coming year is desired.
"Cities of the sixth class, such as Redlands, are legally
permitted to expend for entertainment or publicity 5 percent of the general fund. In the
case of Redlands the amount would be in the neighborhood of $8500. or 5 percent of
$170,000. That, of course. is a maximum amount allowed from this fund and any lesser
percentage would be possible.
This city is best known throughout the West for its Bowl. A small
group of persons have been loyally carrying the burden of the weekly concerts, a small
group, who with high ideals have given the people of Redheads free opportunity to enjoy
the very highest talent without cost. The fame of these programs is so nationwide that no
argument here is necessary to call attention to their value as a community asset, For this
reason they should receive some municipal support, a proper procedure that is practiced
for much less worthy enterprises in many other cities.
"The rub comes from the fact that the city finds a use for
every penny in the general fund. Always there is the tight struggle to get through the
year within the budget. It is always used up and there is always a waiting list of things
that should be done other than entertainment.
"It is thought that every member of the city council
believes thoroughly in the worthiness of the Community Music Association, for instance,
and would vote any reasonable subsidy to it. However, there may still linger a doubt as to
the peoples attitude.
"These Bowl concerts are too important to be put in jeopardy
from lack of municipal or public support. They are continual pageants, peculiarly the
property of Redlands and her people. They should be fostered. But it is hardly to be
expected that the municipal government shall go to a large expense in connection therewith
in the absence of a direct authorization by the people. No large continuing expense is
justified on the part of any government, which provides for any activity outside that of
the government. The FACTS believes in our Bowl concerts as a feature that means growth and
progress and prosperity for us, and it is too much to expect that they shall forever
continue without some organization and permanent support behind them. That should be
provided. It should be encouraged by the city through modest and therefore justifiable
support. It should be provided in large sums only by direct authorization of the
As the voters marched to the polls on that fateful election day,
however, the first single moment of epochal crisis crept stealthily upon the unsuspecting
Grace Mullen. Ever the optimist , she went to the Bowl concert at the end of election day
without having any knowledge at all of how the voting had been going. Midway in the first
half of the concert, Mayor Wheaton came grimly to Graces side and told her that the
voters appeared to be rejecting the music proposal overwhelmingly - in a ratio of about
two to one, to be exact. (The final count was 532 for and 1184 against.) This meant he
told her, that regardless of his own personal feelings, he was now powerless to render the
Music Association anything more than moral support. By mandate of the people, municipal
financial support of any kind was permanently repudiated. This was a devastating blow,
because the city had appropriated about $2,000 for that season to help pay a part of the
expenses of the orchestra plus salaries for Prof. Kuehne, the conductor and also for the
concertmaster. All of this was now also gone.
As the gloomy word spread rapidly through the crowd, every
friend, every city father present, every member of her own family, including her own
fifteen year old son, begged and pleaded with her to stop and abandon forever this wild,
beneficent dream. They even urged her to halt the concert then in progress at intermission
and announce publicly that the jig was hopelessly up. But this Grace Mullen could not bear
to do. Instead, hurt and stunned, she arose quietly from her seat and moved slowly,
blindly, toward her favorite, great eucalyptus, her "meditating tree" to the
east of the bandstand. Leaning against it, with her eyes closed and the music still
playing, she again approached the Almighty, the only place left for her to turn in this
bleak hour. Calmly she talked things over with her Father, as she was wont to do, and
suddenly the answer emerged crystal clear. This was no defeat at all, not really! One
third of Redlands voters had supported her with their ballots! For them and their
continued support, she became more stubbornly determined than ever to go on with her
project - and to eventually convert the misguided two thirds.
At intermission Grace announced the unhappy news to the audience
and said that everyone was imploring her to give up immediately, but she also stated
simply, "I cant do that." She freely admitted disappointment and
discouragement but not to the point of giving up "by the grace of God, well
continue," she said. Then in all seriousness she stated, "I can truthfully say
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." With that, Grace
remembered for years that a titter raced through the crowd, and she responded quickly by
saying that she had "never said anything more sincerely in my life. If all of you had
understanding, you would have voted for it, too, recognizing the Bowl as a way of bringing
people together in a spirit of brotherhood, regardless of race, creed or politics,"
The earnest outpouring of her heart stopped the tittering instantly as she went on to
explain that she could no more give up than to disown her own child. Later on she
described the reassuring feeling of having been "sustained again by the infinite
spirit of God." In conclusion she pointed out that this was the third summer with all
bills to date paid in full and that there just was no reason to expect anything else in
After the concert a board member, who had been making a $100 gift
annually, told Grace that he was thoroughly disgusted, through with the board, and going
to make no more gifts. He still felt that the concerts should be abandoned, because the
people had shown such "an ungrateful attitude." The vice president of the board
stated flatly; "The directors think youre being very, very obstinate, Mrs.
Mullen. Youll have to go it alone now." To which she replied, "Others
around me dont know it, but I do know it - that we must go on . Something within me
tells me that we must." For a long time thereafter no board meeting was called, but
the concerts flourished, So it was that a critical crisis had passed, and again there was
no one able to alter her intent.
On May 29,1929 Grace attended church as usual and after the
services as she was leaving the sanctuary she was approached by Clarence G. White,
prominent Redlands citizen, inventor, and a member of the family of industrialists known
especially for White trucks and White sewing machines, among other things, He made
arrangements for another and more private meeting with Grace for that same afternoon. At
this meeting he broke the news to Grace of his longstanding dream to make some kind of a
substantial and worthwhile gift to the city of Redlands. He then indicated that he had
finally made up his mind to give a new and more adequate band shell to be built at
Redlands Bowl to replace the tiny, old Gregory bandstand which had served so long. Formal
announcement of this gift was made shortly thereafter by the city council, and, of course,
many glowing words in praise of the Whites were justifiably spoken and written.
Both Clarence and Florence White, the latter an accomplished
painter, had been watching with keen interest the fortunes of the Music Association from
its very beginning and had become deeply impressed with the need which it was creating for
new facilities. They also noted the vital role which the amphitheater was playing for
patriotic gatherings, civic meetings, and high school commencement exercises. Perhaps most
important of all, they were keenly aware of the fact that neither the Music Association,
the city management, nor the Chamber of Commerce - collectively or individually - were
able to finance such a project out of available funds. And everyone recalled so very well
the music tax defeat at the polls.
"When private citizens thus step forward with such a
material expression of appreciation for their home city and of the conviction that a
suitable equipment for the Redlands programs is desirable," The Daily Facts observed,
"it is a sign indeed that the community harbors residents much in love with their
neighborhood, dwellers of an order difficult to equal in all America." "There is
assurance that the gift will be a beautiful structure of lasting materials in keeping with
the architecture and motif of this colony of music lovers, and adequate for all demands
for many years. Mr. and Mrs. White probably feel that in the programs made possible
because of this convenience there will be reward enough. But the Redlands family, to judge
from expressions on every side, is deeply appreciative of the gift itself, and feels that
this gesture from the Whites is one of the best compliments ever tendered Redlands."
Long before the gift was officially announced, the Whites had
been working closely with architect Herbert J. Powell .He was born in Redlands, a graduate
of Redlands High School and a member of the 1920 graduating class at the University of
Redlands. He earned his masters degree at Harvard and did advanced study in Europe. Back
home in California. his very first building was the beautiful chapel on the University of
Redlands campus. After many discussions between the Whites and the architectural firm the
final present design was selected. In these same sessions they also spent much time trying
to agree on a suitable name for the new edifice, The word "proscenium" which in
Greek means "before the scene," kept bobbing up in their thinking, but it
didnt quite suit them. In our modern understanding a proscenium, by one definition,
is the stage of an ancient theater - usually Greek or Roman - but this was not the
connotation desired in this instance. The front area of a stage that is still visible to
the audience after the curtain is lowered may properly be called a proscenium and so may
the curtain itself when considered with an arch or other framework which holds it. By
these definitions the term became all the more unsuitable, because there were no
provisions in any plans under consideration for either a curtain or a potential device to
hold one at any time in the future.
Their thinking, however, did lead them "to one particular
word which is highly controversial as far as its true origin is concerned. Here is why.
The ancient Greeks built their temples around a sacred inner room which was the abode of
their deity and into which only authorized priests and priestesses were permitted to
enter. The Greek word for the seats in this holy room is spelled sigma epsilon lambda
alpha in the Greek alphabet, or using the first letters of each character, it becomes
"sela" in the anglicized version. Later the Romans adopted the holy inner room
of the Greek temples for their own structures. To describe the corresponding seats
therein, they used their word "sella" or "sellis" in the plural.
Therefore, you see, the word for seat in both the Greek and Latin had the first three
letters, S-E-L, in common; the Greek "pro" (pi rho omicron) and the Latin
"pro" also shared exactly the same definition "before." In any event,
Powell and the Whites invented the completely new word "prosellis" from this
rather jumbled background, meaning in either language, "before the seats."
Once this word idea was agreed upon, "The question arose
between the Whites and myself," Powell said, "as to the proper spelling of the
word. I appealed to Professor Jimmy Kyle, who was professor of Greek at the University of
Redlands, and he gave us the spelling of the word as it now is." Powell went on to
say, "Here is a case where it is both Latin and Greek. And I dont much care who
gets the honor."
Actual construction of the Prosellis required nearly eight months
and was under the direct supervision of C. W. Driver, a general contractor from Los
Angeles. The building was "inserted" into an already beautiful, natural setting
of greenery and required the removal of but two trees, one of which was later replaced
with a palm at the east end of the stage. This balanced the one at the west end which had
been left undisturbed. The Prosellis was specifically designed to harmonize with the style
of the nearby A. K. Smiley Library and to fit well into the general scheme of Smiley Park.
For this reason mission tile similar to that of the library was used on the Prosellis
Constructed of reinforced concrete, the central section of the
building is a symmetrical shell with curved, reinforced arcades extending out from each
side to form a background for the ample concrete stage. Both arcades are open and are
intended to provide a transition from the solidarity of the shell to the open air of the
park. Trees and shrubs are visible through these arches to enhance this transitional
effect. The arches and their roofs which form the arcades are actually extensions of the
shell proper and were originally envisioned as aids to dance productions and other
programs involving large casts. Time has, indeed borne out the wisdom of this thinking.
In the back of the shell is a great door which can be opened to
permit the moving of large sets into the storage area. These include two large rooms of
equal size for the storage of music stands, stage lights, props and any paraphernalia
needed from time to time. Back of these rooms are the dressing rooms, each provided with
make-up mirrors, lockers, costume racks and adjoining restroom. It isnt generally
known, but the shell was designed so that grills could be installed later in case it ever
became feasible to place an organ in the shell. Since the University of Redlands already
had one of the finest organs in all America, White didnt believe that another was
needed when the Prosellis was built, but he insisted on making these contingent provisions
anyhow. His feeling that the university organ would be sufficient for the needs of the
community for many years to come was well taken as no organ ever has been installed in the
shell to this day. Another of the many things that Powell and the Whites discussed
together was the matter of a suitable inscription for the front of the Prosellis. Only one
was ever suggested. Powell especially liked "Without vision a People Perish,"
and the Whites immediately agreed with his recommendation. Foreshortened from the
twenty-ninth chapter of Proverbs, verse eighteen, to fit the available space, these five
appropriate words have been the motto of the Music Association ever since they were
selected to adorn the Prosellis. The complete verse from the King James version of the
Bible reads, "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the
law, happy is he."
Powell commissioned Merrell Gage, professor of sculpture and head
of that department at the University of Southern California to create the artistic
stonework of the Prosellis. All of the masonry designing was actually done by Gage with
both suggestions and wholehearted approval from Powell, but Gage worked at his Santa
Monica studio entirely independent of the Whites or anyone else in Redlands,
All of the sculpturing on the Prosellis is in reality cast stone
that was manufactured at Gages studio and assembled later on the site at Redlands
Bowl. Once the drawings were completed, the entire design was modeled in clay, and then
this material, in turn, was cast in plaster waste moulds. Next step in the process was to
lift the waste moulds from the clay moulds and pour concrete into them. After thorough
hardening the plaster was stripped away - or wasted, in language of the trade - exposing
the finished product.
A careful inspection of the cast stone on the Prosellis will
reveal three very specific areas of symbolism. The featured central section depicts three
figures that are originals by Gage. As he said," They were selected to represent the
various activities which would take place in the Prosellis. They were kept in flat relief
as contrasted with the rich depth of the carving on the balance of the Tympanum, because
we wanted to keep the key block a strong conspicuous surface." In order to carry the
activity symbolism across the entire face of the Prosellis, there is a small carving at
the top of each column on both of the arcades. The second, largely unsuspected area of
specific symbolism is the pattern of three triangular shaped figures which are repeated at
close intervals clear across the full width of the Prosellis at the bottom of the deep
carving. These three triangles represent the three great mountains of the San Bernardino
Valley - Mt. San Jacinto, Mt. San Gorgonio, and Mt. San Bernardino. Closer examination of
the deep carving itself would very likely produce major surprises even for those Bowl fans
who have been coming to the concerts for years. The two areas on either side of the center
of interest include figures depicting much of the plant and animal life indigenous to the
area. In fact it is amazing what can be found up there. In a letter of 12 January 1992, to
Dr. Frederick Bromberger, Mr. Powell answered a question about the indigenous figures at
the edges of the tympanum: "... the little annuals and birds in the tympanum panels
and a lizard or two are the kind native to the Redlands area. The model shop that made the
plant forms in the panels did an exceptionally good jobthey worked from a scale
drawing I had made."
At the outer end of the east arcade there is a carved panel
containing four lovely lines of unidentified verse which relatively few visitors have ever
noticed in all probability. These lines read as follows:
"Work to keep us going,
Joy to match the sorrow,
Thought for a good sowing,
Hope for a fair tomorrow."
For years they have literally been "mystery lines,"
because their source was unknown to virtually everyone, including Grace, Powell, several
major libraries between Los Angeles and New York, and all Redlands residents queried -
except one. The lone exception was Mrs. Betty White Dittmar who graciously solved the
"mystery" with these words:
The four lines ...... were composed by my father, Clarence
Greenleaf White, and my mother, Florence Fisk White, to express their philosophy of life.
They wanted something of themselves on the Prosellis, and being modest people, did not
In a similar position on the west end of the building another
carving equal in size, quotes Whites opening remarks from the words he spoke when
the Prosellis was formally dedicated: " A thank offering for all who have made
Redlands a good place to live in." Even before the dedication, the city had already
made its response in the form of a bronze plaque which is to be found inside the western
arcade and which says, "In commemoration of the public spirit shown by Clarence and
Florence White in the gift to the city of Redlands of the Prosellis dedicated to the
highest expression of community life, this tablet is placed by the council of the city.
1930 A.D.." Not until twenty four years later was the counterpart of this bronze
plaque installed in the eastern arcade, however. It reads, Presented by the Redlands
Community Music Association in honor of Mrs. George Emmett Mullen, its founder and
president, for her untiring service and vision in providing a musical and cultural
heritage for the people of Redlands and Southern California. September 8, 1954."
Mayor Wheaton appointed a special committee to be responsible for
the official dedication exercises, and it included representatives from the Contemporary
Club, the Music Association, University of Redlands, A.K. Smiley Public Library, and the
public schools. Those who served were Kirke H. Field, chairman; Henry G. Clement, Victor
Duke, John P. Fiske, Mrs. George S. Hinckley, and Mrs. George E. Mullen. All of their
efforts were directed toward the dedication date of April 29, 1930, bearing in mind that
the Prosellis was to be more than a little theater, more than an ornamental shell, more
than a place from which messages were to be delivered to the people. As The Daily Facts
commented, "It is predicted that this place will become a shrine of music, to which
people will journey from far places." And what an accurate prediction that proved to
be! At the dedication Clarence White almost reverently delivered what Frank Moore, The
Daily Facts editor, likes to describe as the "Gettysburg Address of Redlands" -
brief, deeply heartfelt,. and straight to the point. In presenting the Prosellis to the
City of Redlands,, he said:
"We hope that each man, woman and child who has been
impelled to do more for this community than he has been compelled to do will feel that he
has contributed to the building of this Prosellis. We hope that such good citizens, if
they have not received a full recognition of work well done, will feel that here is
recognition, cooperation, and perhaps some reward. "No city lives by taxes alone, The
nearer it comes to that condition, the more drab and monotonous its existence is. Many of
us take for granted the immense amount of free personal service that goes into making a
town like Redlands. If this building emphasizes such service to you, and the need to help
keep Redlands at its best, Mrs. White and I will remember this occasion with full hearts.
"What this building is good for is just what you and I make
it good for. By itself it is only an ornament. If we citizen give it a meaning, it is a
challenge, and maybe a responsibility. Mayor Lelean, as the official head of the city, we
give you this bag of keys in belief that they will not only unlock the doors of this
building, but also the doors to a future richness in the flowering of civic life."
This is one instance of a contribution by two families to enrich
our cultural heritage. Our Town is unusually rich because of the zeal and sacrifice of
many who, out of nothing, created the Smiley Library, the University of Redlands, the
Lincoln Shrine and many beautiful churches, parks and gardens.
Credit to John Morthland for original research.