MEETING # 1556
MAY 11, 1995
A ROLLING REPAST
by Franklin D. Peele
Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public
BIOGRAPHY OF THE AUTHOR
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
A ROLLING REPAST
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
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
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
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.
PRESIDENTS OF REDLANDS MEALS ON WHEELS, INC.
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