"Another Patron Saint?, the life story of Gace
Stewart Mullen and her role in the deveopment of the Redlands Bowl. Beginning with the
award of the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, by the University of Redlands in
1961, the speaker outlined Mullen's life from the time of her birth in 1875 in a farmhouse
in White County, Tennessee, where she was born in a home called REALITY to pioneer parents
with college degrees.
Drawn to California and eventually to Redlands,
Grace Mullen plunged into the culturally oriented community where the philanthropy of
wealthy citizens, an early civic interest in music and the University of Redlands served
to precondition the city for a great adventure in culture. In 1922 in Los Angeles during
the first season of the Hollywood Bowl, Grace distributed 25 cent tickets to those persons
unable to afford even this modest price of admission. And it was not long after that she
wanted to provide the same quality entertainment without any admission price to the
citizens of Redlands. Opposition to this paln developed immediately. Many persons with a
long history of wealth, social standing and influence objected to attending fine concerts
with their maids, butlers, chauffeurs, and gardeners.
The rest is history and today we have the
internationally known Redlands Bowl, thanks to Grace Stewart Mullen.
BIOGRAPHY OF THE AUTHOR,
CONANT K. HALSEY EDUCATION:
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"
Another Patron Saint?
On the memorable Tuesday morning of April 25, 1961, before an
enthusiastic throng of 1600 persons gathered in the University of Redlands Chapel, Dr.
Leslie P. Spelman, director of the schools division of fine arts, formally presented
eighty-five year old Grace Stewart Mullen to Dr. George H. Armacost, president of the
university, for special recognition. He, in turn, presented an honorary degree, a
doctorate of humane letters, to her in a heartwarming service which reflected the loving
regard of Redlands, California, for one of its very own. In making the presentation, Dr.
Armacost said, "Mrs. Mullens life is a testimony of the power of love, the love
of people, of music, of God, of family. Her life is a demonstration of the ability to do
the impossible." The beautiful citation in its entirety reads as follows:
"In recognition of a cultural leadership in Redlands of such
unusual scope and quality as to make the community not only highly distinctive in
California but well-known throughout the nation.
"While in your native Tennessee, you prepared to be a
teacher of youth. You crossed the continent, and for three years presided over a Southern
California classroom, a life-work interrupted by your marriage. Interrupted, but not
ended, for after you had exerted active leadership in the Redlands Day Nursery, in the
Parent-Teacher Association and the Contemporary Club, you dared to dream a new and larger
dream, a schoolroom under the stars, wherein a whole community, old and young, indeed a
whole cluster of communities might experience, free from hindrance of any sort, the finest
of music, of drama, of dance.
As Founder-President of the Redlands Community Music Association,
you have shaped for nearly two score years a unique organization in which funds provide
programs to the public without financial barriers, programs in which the worlds
finest artists gladly appear, programs in which beginning artists are discovered and are
launched upon notable careers, programs in which a community is ennobled.
Therefore, upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the
authority given me by the Board of Trustees of the University of Redlands and by the laws
of the State of California, I confer upon you the honorary degree, DOCTOR OF HUMANE
LETTERS, with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto, in token of which I
cause you to be invested with the hood of the University of Redlands appropriate to your
degree and present to you this diploma."
This achievement was probably the most memorable one in a long
life that had been replete with many high points. The climb to this summit began on
October 2, 1875, when Grace was born in a farmhouse near Sparta in White County,
Tennessee, to Betty Smith and John Gillentine Stewart. It was the custom of the day and in
this particular area for families to name their dwellings, and Graces birthplace was
a home called REALITY.
Both Betty and John Stewart were college graduates who attached
great importance to the classics, to philosophical books and to things of culture even
though it was their lot to have been reared in the postwar "ashes of the South."
Both of Graces parents were truly pioneers in the strictest sense as well as
students of Latin and Greek. Her mother was a teacher and regarded as perhaps the best
Latin scholar in Tennessee. Her father was also a teacher as well as a farmer. Grace has
always remembered REALITY as a comfortable place where there was always enough to eat,
where cash money was always scarce, and where small lambs were frequently given special
care in the kitchen when circumstances demanded it.
Both sets of Graces grandparents had owned slaves in the
era prior to the Civil War. In fact, some of their ancestors had been very large
landowners for this part of the country. One great grandfather had owned thirty-six
thousand acres in one piece. Later her grandmother was to sell nine hundred acres at one
time for the then fantastic sum of $900.00 cash.
Graces mother was a very plain, dainty person who pursued a
simple life. She wore no earrings, no wedding ring, no jewelry at all except for a prized
cameo. She was possessed of a remarkable memory and it served her well as she was
Graces only teacher until her daughter reached the age of twelve.
On the other hand, Father Stewart was a strait-lace autocrat who
held rather firm opinions about most things, who brooked little nonsense, and who ruled
the home firmly but benignly. He was much interested in nearby Doyle College, and the
Stewart home frequently housed and entertained distinguished guests attracted to the
vicinity by the college. For a family which simply did not travel, this proved to be a
most effective means of literally bringing the world to them. John Stewart had a consuming
interest in education and helped provide scholarships for Negro and white schools alike.
As well as being the temporal head of the household, however,
Father Stewart was also the spiritual leader of REALITY. He was a God fearing, Bible
reading Christian who had great respect for the power and importance of spiritual matters.
Like so many patriarchs of his era, he often gathered his family together to read the
Scriptures to them and lead in searching discussions afterward. In spite of this obviously
religious base, the family was not particularly faithful about strict church or Sunday
school attendance. They deliberately cultivated a philosophy of non-denominationalism.
This was an attitude Grace was to carry with her throughout her long life, because she had
always felt that denominationalism was an unnecessarily limiting factor. Like her father
before her, she has always preferred to adopt and to use what she regards as the better
parts of all faiths and denominations, although her basic Christian faith has never, never
wavered. In later years she joined the Baptist Church, because that was the faith of her
husband. Two of the greatest sources of strength in her life to come were to be the words
of the Bible plus the words and example of Lincoln whom she early adopted as her special
In addition to being the product of a culturally and spiritually
oriented home that was always intellectually alive, Grace pointed with pride to the civic
minded spirit demonstrated by so many of her folks. Her own father, for example, spent
many active years in politics and was, at the time of his death, the chairman of his
county Democratic committee. Grandfather Stewart had served long and faithfully as a
trustee of both Doyle and Burritt Colleges. Her maternal grandfather, Henry P. Smith, was
an eminent physician whose inherent urge to heal placed service to mankind far above
monetary consideration for himself. He will always be remembered as the founder of the
very first public library in White County.
Dr. Henry, and his brother too, were especially important to John
and Betty Stewart, for it was they who delivered all eleven children born to this union.
Yes, Grace was number four of eleven.
Undoubtedly these eleven children were collectively the greatest
monument that could ever have been erected to honor their parents. Each one of them
completed his college education and went on to make a worthwhile mark in the world.
Perhaps no other one thing better reflects the autocratic influence of John Stewart on his
family than on his six daughters. He believed very strongly that some vocations - nursing,
to name one - simply were not "proper" for young ladies. To him only teaching
was sufficiently dignified work for his girls, and so, of course, all six of them became
teachers, successful educators from Tennessee through Texas, and on to California.
As a young girl, Grace longed to study music and dreamed of
becoming a student at some fine conservatory , but it never happened. She did receive
piano and voice lessons but never became outstandingly proficient. Above all else she
longed for the privilege of r ° ł at least being able to attend grand concerts which
then seemed completely unlikely for a young country girl.
Later in looking back across half a century to those years, Grace
always remembered two things with particular vividness. One was the last conversation
which she as a little girl not yet eleven years old was to have with her Grandfather Smith
only days before his death. He admonished her to "be something, to do something
notable." The humble philosophy which had guided his life so successfully , and which
was also to guide Grace to the end of her days, was simply that "its wonderful
to live fully, to serve others, and to always do your level best." For a young girl
this was, in Graces words, "a very stirring, very impressive experience" that became indelible.
Her other lasting memory was of an incident which occurred when
she was fifteen years old, when she had earned the highest grades in her school. J. N.
Huff, the school principal and Graces favorite teacher, presented her with a book in
recognition of her accomplishment, and in its pages he wrote, "Grace, Emerson says,
Hitch your wagon to a star." Ever so many years later the young girl
grown up was to tell a Redlands Bowl audience of this incident and remark, " I
didnt take Mr. Huffs advice and hitch my wagon to a star; I hitched my wagon
instead to a great number of stars."
As the Stewart family matured, the decision was made to move from
Sparta into Nashville, to leave country schools behind and seek more extensive educational
opportunities for the children. The simple fact of the matter was that the family could
not afford to send so many youngsters away to college, so they simply moved everyone into
a cultural center where advanced education was more accessible. Here it was that Grace,
and several of her brothers and sisters attended Peabody College. Interestingly in this
institution which was the gift of a Northerner, George Peabody of Massachusetts, Grace
prepared for her lifes role as a teacher. Here it was, also, that she realized her
long held dream of seeing grand opera performed by the leading stars of the day. Money was
scarcer than ever, but she husbanded her resources and walked across town to save carfare
in order to buy standing room at a performance of "The Marriage of Figaro," her
first opera. Soon after that she heard her first great, live concert - by the Thomas
Orchestra of Chicago. This was a routine that was to be repeated over and over again
during her college days; this was where she sharpened her appetite for the fine arts, an
appetite that fortunately for Redlands, was never to be fully satisfied.
By 1902 Graces work at Peabody had ended, and her mind was
made up to go visit friends and her many relatives in Southern California. On this, her
very first trip to the West, she liked the countryside so well that she decided to stay
permanently. Once this decision was made, she accepted an offer to teach in a little
country school near Fillmore in Ventura County. Here she stayed for just one year before
moving to Whittier where she taught in the public schools for two more years.
A case of homesickness, combined with a desire to visit the St.
Louis Fair of 1904, prompted Grace to travel back to her home and, quite unknowingly, to a
day of great importance in her life. Early during a week long stay in Dawsons Hot
Springs, Kentucky, one of Graces aunts with a sister of George Emmett Mullen,
arranged a meeting between George and Grace. The inevitable became quickly apparent, for
on the third night after their meeting, George proposed marriage. But his offer was not
accepted, and Grace was soon on her way back again to Whittier. In the ensuing year
letters traveled back and forth at a dizzy pace between Kentucky and California,
culminating in wedding bells for Grace Stewart and George Emmett Mullen on August 16,
1905, in Louisville, Kentucky.
George was born on May 11, 1872, in Whitesville, Kentucky, but
his was predominantly a family of well-to-do commercial-industrial people in contrast to
Graces family of educators. However, he was never really happy with his work in the
field of business. Grace had become a Californian at heart and longed to return. These
circumstances caused him to retire from active business in 1907, and they moved to Los
Angeles. Their daughter Frances was born on May 21, 1908 and son George on July 4, 1911,
both in Los Angeles.
It was during these years that the Mullen family paid its first
visit to Redlands when they came out to spend a day with friends. Grace was "immediately enchanted with the community," as she put it, and "nothing
would do but I must move here immediately." They proceeded at once to scour the area
and succeeded in picking out a suitable location, but just as they were about to buy it,
some Redlands people told them that "everybody here has tuberculosis." This
totally untrue story dissuaded them from buying the property they had chosen, but the
incident only served to delay temporarily the familys eventual move to Redlands. In
1916 the Mullens built a lovely home in the fashionable Garden Hill area and plunged
enthusiastically into the social and civic activities of the busy little town.
Almost from the beginning Redlands had been a culturally oriented
community. The Contemporary Club which Grace soon joined had its inception in 1894. The
Spinet organized the same year became very supportive of the Redlands Bowl. The
extraordinary philanthropy of wealthy citizens, the early civic interest in music, and the
University of Redlands, served to precondition Redlands and its people, to prepare an
atmosphere of receptivity for the great adventure in culture which was to bring
international renown to their unsuspecting city. As Frank Moore, editor of The Redlands
Daily Facts, so aptly put it, "Grace Mullen did not establish a beachhead on a barren
Although comfortably situated right from the beginning of her
days in Redlands, Grace was a searching, restlessly dissatisfied soul for a number of
years beginning in 1916. This was the period when she sought outlet for her energies in
PTA work, in service to the communitys day nursery, in Contemporary Club activities,
and in charitable civic work related to World War I then in progress. So great was her
diligence in the latter respect that she received a special certificate of recognition and
thanks from President Woodrow Wilson.
Partly as a result of her own independent thinking and partly as
a result of her heritage, Grace Mullen had long since oriented her life in a deep concern
for the promotion of universal brotherhood, for racial equality, for that which would help
to drive hate out of the world, to break down class distinctions, to encourage mutual love
among peoples, and most of all, to promote genuine and lasting peace. It seems rather
incongruous that such a fraternal attitude should ever have been born out of the black and
white animosities of the Deep South. Grace says that her "emergence" from the
South only strengthened her inherent feelings and pioneering spirit. Born in a stratified
culture, she sought to live on a non stratified basis.
Although a perfectly delightful place in which to live, Redlands
summers are often quite warm. Grace Mullen was one of those who was able to pack up the
children and head into the metropolitan Los Angeles area and its much balmier climate.
In the summer of 1922 this practice resulted in a totally
unplanned rendezvous with destiny for Grace, and although she still didnt even
suspect it yet herself, the die was cast for the rest of her life in that year. This was
the season when Mrs. Artie Mason Carter, literally a human dynamo of boundless energies,
founded and breathed life into what was to become the incomparable Hollywood Bowl. Music
lover that she had always been, it was only natural for Grace to gravitate toward this
tremendous new attraction which was taking form. During its first season in 1922 the
Mullen family scarcely ever missed an evening at the Bowl. In her eagerness to share this
enjoyment with others , Grace bought and distributed many twenty-five cent tickets to
those persons unable to even afford this modest admission. It was inevitable that in due
course there would be a meeting between Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Mullen. Immediately they
recognized each other as kindred souls. A beautiful intertwining of their lives began, a
merger of dreams, of work, of common desires to somehow make the worlds best music
available to greater masses of people. Arties goal was to bring the best of the fine
arts to the masses for a very low price; Grace wanted to provide the same quality
entertainment without any admission price at all. This idea had been born in her own soul,
and she regarded it as God given. She knew so well what music had done for her and knew it
could do the same for others.
In response to this, Grace returned to Redlands in the fall of
1923 and became instrumental in the formation of a community womens chorus, serving
it as treasurer. Dr. W. B. Olds from the University of Redlands was engaged to direct this
group, and their singing together brought much pleasure to all of the choristers. But
still the elusive satisfaction which Grace Mullen was so desperately seeking was beyond
her grasp. She remained obsessed with the idea that Redlands people should be provided
with the opportunity to see and hear fine concerts, but she continued to think in terms of
someone else making it possible.
Grace and the children set out in the spring of 1924 to seek a
house to rent for the summer near the Hollywood Bowl. Somehow or other, Grace had lost her
zest for house hunting and returned to Redlands. Thus developed the momentous situation
when Grace Mullen was forced at last to grapple head on with her pressing problem. For the
very first time she openly admitted to herself that if her dream was ever to come true, it
was up to her to see that it did. Up to this point, you see, Grace had confided her
thoughts to nobody. Her husband, her children, her closest friends, everyone in her big
family were completely oblivious of the inner struggle in which she was engaged. She
always had put great stock in what she called the "Law of Divine Secrecy." It
had been her sincere conviction that great decisions are properly a matter between a
person and his God, that prematurely revealed plans are all to often aborted, that they
are frequently taken away from their originator by other less scrupulous people in the
world who either destroy or materially diminish their potential effectiveness.
Finally the day arrived when the sands of time had run out, and a
moment of final decision was inescapable. Grace decided one evening that the proper
procedure was to place the matter once and for all before her God with the prayerful
understanding that when she awoke in the morning, she would know without doubt the future
course He expected her to take. With the dawn came the certain, positive conviction that
this effort was to become primary in her life. Once this decision was thus made there was
never again a shred of doubt in Graces mind that her dream was to come true.
"Its my work," she said and nothing could change it. Never was there to be
a single regret at her decision. She would do whatever she could, seven days a week, as
one individual, to implement the teachings of Jesus and the truths of the Bible through
the medium of great music. So it had been since 1924 that Grace felt divinely inspired and
compelled to fulfill her self imposed task.
Not so surprisingly, Graces new plans fell like a bombshell
on her family and friends alike. In fact, it caused some of both to begin dropping away
right from the start. Her husband was told of the decision first, just six weeks before
the first formal activity, and he was both shocked and dismayed. To the last man, woman
and child the family made every reasonable attempt to dissuade her from such a fantastic
idea. Little did any of them understand then the lives of hardship and sacrifices that lay
ahead. Emmett was perhaps the most deeply troubled of all, because he felt so strongly
that Grace could never be able to stand up under the intense summer heat and retain her
health, especially while working so feverishly. Soon enough it became apparent for all to
see that Graces decision was indeed irrevocable. Once resigned to the new facts of
life, however, Emmett never, never stood in the way of Graces ambitions. To his
everlasting credit, he rendered her project the staunchest of both moral and physical
support to the best of his ability, undergirding her with unwavering strength from his
inconspicuous, but ever present, position in her shadow.
In the earnest belief that music is an important, if not the most
important, medium for what she called "united understanding," she set out
determined that every possible person in and near Redlands, at least, should come under
its influence. "In music," she believed, "there could be no argument." Grace Mullen came to Redlands, a town rich with culture, but quickly observed that most of
it was strictly for the very few. The fact that it was largely for the leisured class was
contrary to her thinking, because she could not regard music as a social advantage.
Rather, she thought of it in terms of a universal language.
In this frame of mind one of the first things she did after
deciding to launch the Redlands Community Sing was to call two meetings in her home to
which she invited perhaps a dozen culturally minded friends. At these gatherings she
explained her plans and hopes to bring great music to the masses without admission charge.
Entirely without exception, not one other person was able to catch even a glimpse of the
vision which was so clear to her. Some of her guests ex-pressed outright opposition to the
whole idea; most conveyed an attitude- of detached indifference. Only a few proffered
anything so much as moral support. The meetings made no new friends; on the contrary, they
actually alienated permanently some whom she had regarded as friends. A little later she
did find a few sympathetic persons, and among them was Henry Hoffman who became the
projects first treasurer.
As word of her intentions fanned out more widely through the
community, some reactions could only be described as caustic, to say the least. There was
extremely strong resentment from some quarters to this radical idea of making the fine
arts available without cost as "something for nothing to the valleys cultural
nobodies." "Dont ex-expect me to come sit with the great
unwashed, " said one prominent person as she contemplated Graces
prospective audiences. Many people felt that her project, if fulfilled, would spoil
Redlands. The most bitter of her extremist detractors actually hurled the accusation that
she was a communist, this, mind you, in 1924. The wild charge was based on the theory that
was seeking to build a "classless society that would put everyone on a common
level. In a musical sense this was exactly what she proposed, but her efforts hardly
deserved the communist epithet with its political connotation. The fact is simply that
many persons with a long heritage of wealth, social standing, and influence found the idea
of joining with their maids, butlers, chauffeurs and gardeners to attend fine concerts an
extremely bitter pill to swallow. In all fairness it should be added that their attitude
was understandably so. In spite of them, she persisted on with her task of converting
dream to reality.
When it became abundantly clear that hers was to be a near solo
mission, at least at the beginning, Grace set out with Emmett to visit community sings
that had become popular in other Southern California communities. She first approached
Hugo Kirchofer who at that time was considered the most outstanding song leader in
Southern California. He later had the distinction of naming the Hollywood Bowl. However,
he very gruffly declined as he was than conducting fourteen weekly sings and was tired of
being asked to start such projects as it was his experience that nearly all were
predestined to fail. Rebuffed but still undaunted, Grace turned next to a very popular
song leader, Gage Christopher, and engaged him to be the first director of the Redlands
Community Sing. This she did for the very substantial fee of $25.00 per evening - with no
idea of from where the money would come. But the wheels were now really turning. Not only
did Christopher do a tremendous job as the first sing director, but he also knew people
who knew people and generously helped Grace to make some of her early, crucial contacts
among fine arts groups.
Tough problems seemed endless as the date for the first Sing
approached, but perhaps the most crucial one of all came to a head the very night before
the well publicized date of Wednesday, July 3. Several weeks earlier Grace had told city
engineer George Hinckley of her plans and asked that additional lights be installed among
the seats facing the little Gregory bandstand in Smiley Park. There were then all of
seven, bare, incandescent bulbs on the bandstand itself, but none at all for the benefit
of the audience. During the evening preceding the Sing, Grace stopped by to inspect the
new lighting but to her horror found that none had been installed. She immediately roused
Hinckley only to be told that he had done nothing, because he knew Grace had been out of
town and he "felt sure that the whole thing would blow over." Furthermore, he
was confident that nobody would ever come to such a program, and he simply couldnt
waste $100 of city money on anything so absurd.
Mrs. Mullen, on the contrary, was absolutely sure that people
would come. In fact, she said, "Mr. Hinckley, we will have an audience, and we must
have the lights that have been promised, because people cant see their song books in
the dark." At this point she went on sitdown strike and threatened to sit all night
and the next day, too, if necessary to get the wiring done. She also sent her youngsters
home to bring back some supper and otherwise dug in to make good her threat. Convinced by
then that he was fighting a losing battle, Engineer Hinckley said, "Mrs. Mullen,
Im sure youre foolish enough to do it, and I cant be responsible for
your staying in the park all night, so Ill throw the citys money away. But I
still say that only a few curiosity seekers will come." Grudgingly he installed
several posts with bare light bulbs mounted on them, and everything was finally in
readiness for the first Redlands Community Sing.
Optimistically, Grace had ordered four hundred song books for
the use of first nighters, and many were sold for twenty five cents each. No one was more
pleased and surprised on the first night than she, however, when some fifteen hundred
enthusiastic singers literally swamped Smiley Park. Who would ever has guessed then that
one of the worlds most unique fine arts festivals had been given birth? After two
short weeks of Sings even Hinckley was converted into a believer, and he willingly
continued to install more lights through the fourth week until it seemed to be adequate
for the growing audiences.
For many weeks before even the first Sing had been held, Grace
had been busily conceiving in her own minds eye - again unbeknownst to anyone else -
the second stage that her project was to eventually follow. She was dreaming of attracting
great artists to the amphitheater in Redlands to perform in an idyllic outdoor setting.
She would fulfill her dream guided by the "Spiritual Law of Giving and
Receiving," sometimes known also as the "Spiritual Law of Compensation."
This "law" states simply that when people are given something with no strings
attached, they will respond voluntarily with approximately equal compensation. To Grace
this included everything from rapt attention to large gifts of money. It was her hope to
begin with a highly talented but perhaps not so widely known artist. During a May, 1924,
party in Santa Monica she met Elinor Marlo, a star of the Chicago Civic Opera.
Arrangements for Elinors concert were completed that same evening. With this
commitment there arose another wave of opposition to Graces dreams, because many
people who had helped willingly to raise money for the Sings now felt that artists
concerts were utterly ridiculous and not feasible financially. One of the earliest
feathers in Grace Mullens cap was the appearance of Americas beloved
composer-pianist, Charles Wakefield Cadman, on August 29. The largest crowd ever to
assemble in Redlands, even greater than during President McKinleys visit filled the
seats, sat on the grass, and stood for his "Los Angeles Night." He was utterly
captivated with Redlands Bowl and with Grace and Emmett Mullen. His appearance in 1924 was
to be only the first of several, and his deep and abiding friendship for the Mullen family
and Redlands Bowl was strong until the day he died.
The true depths of his feelings are reflected in the following
letter written to Grace only two weeks after his first experience with the Bowl and just
five weeks after the very first artist concert.
"The work you are doing there is great and the results
you have obtained are but stepping stones to what you will yet do, and if your present
standard is maintained and you have the approval of the civic bodies as you should, I am
positive that Redlands will wake up some morning and find itself a thoroughly musical
place, and I say that without the least tinge of patronizing. Here is luck to
you." Happily, Cadman lived long enough to observe and repeatedly enjoy the reality
of his early prediction.
The typical 1924 audience was not musically educated, but the
very crux of Grace Mullens thinking was to raise her towns music appreciation
ability up to lofty levels rather than to bring her standards down to accommodate the
masses. From the very beginning she had always been under terrific pressure to downgrade
these standards, but she never yielded. Instead, she started at once to indoctrinate the
people to both accept and desire the highest possible quality. Her real aim was so much
more than just entertainment.
She began that year to fulfill her ambitious goal by
correcting another situation which had been bothering her greatly. Redlands schools at
that time simply did not include instrumental music instruction anywhere in their
curricula, and to Grace this was unforgivable. She therefore went to see the
superintendent of schools about the matter and persuaded him to engage a German musician
named Carl Kuehne, a man whom Grace recommended highly for the task of beginning
instrumental instruction in the public schools. In the fall of 1924 he initiated the
program of an orchestra in every Redlands school and soon became prominent in the first
orchestral offerings at the Bowl.
At the close of the 1924 season Grace Mullen realized more
fully than ever that it was going to be very much up to her if Redlands Bowl was ever to
become a truly permanent institution. She looked back then on a concert series that had
received woefully inadequate financial support from all sources - individuals, municipal,
business, industry. She also looked backward, and forward as well, to world famous artists
performing in a totally inadequate physical plant which lacked even the crudest of
dressing room facilities. There was no such thing as paid help, but all bills still unpaid
automatically became the personal responsibility of Grace and Emmett Mullen.
Instead of succumbing to such overwhelming odds, however,
Grace immediately sought to broaden the base of support for her work, and so it was that
the Redlands Community Music Association was formally created in November, 1924, to
supercede the Redlands Community Sing. This new name, incidentally, was one which she had
personally selected for her organization long before it was actually formed. Its first
executive board consisted of Grace Mullen, president; Halsey W. Allen, 1st vice
president; W. E. Howard, 2nd vice president; Miss Vera Van Loan, 3rd
vice president; E. A. Moore, secretary; Henry Hoffman, treasurer; and the following
directors: H. H. Garsten, T. H. Doan, Mrs. J. A. Steward, Mrs. J. H. Alder, Miss Vera Van
Loan, W. E. Howard, G. Nowell, Halsey W. Allen, and Grace Mullen. In this undertaking
Grace received the most important of both moral and professional support from Halsey Allen
who was a successful, local attorney, well versed in organizational matters of this kind.
Fortified in spirit with her new backing, Grace plunged with
renewed enthusiasm into a winter series of twice weekly concerts and sings. Here she found
the going even rougher, because she was more or less in competition with the Spinet, the
University of Redlands programs, and the Contemporary Club activities. Nevertheless, she
successfully presented a wide variety of programs, drawing heavily during the first season
on local and Southern California talent, but the crowds did not approximate those of the
summer series. After 1924, winter concerts at the Wyatt Theatre were offered only on a
once a week basis but with never an admission charge.
The year 1925 was not especially memorable for outstanding
artist concerts, but one program marked a very significant milestone. It was a sure sign
of progress as well as another omen for the future. On August 5 Miss Gwladys Pugh,
Redlands coloratura soprano, became the first singer in Bowl history to appear with a
symphony accompaniment, the Redlands Little Symphony Orchestra under the direction of
Prof. Carl Kuehne.
This second year of Redlands Bowl may have been most
significant of all as a period of digging in. In Grace Mullens mind, if in few
others, the Bowl was taking shape as a permanent institution, and financial implications
of this possibility were becoming more and more painfully evident to her. This was the
first of an unbelievably large number of years when there was scarcely any limit to the
distance Grace would walk, or drive if need be, to obtain a fifty cent or one dollar
donation to the Bowl. During the years which began in 1924, she tramped the streets of
Redlands from morning till night telling the Bowl story and seeking donations however
small; she was a familiar sight in orange packing houses on blistering hot days seeking
help from the low income laboring people she so earnestly sought to serve. Her daughter
Frances recalls that her mother sought support from everywhere. It was customary for her
to meet a stranger and ask a donation. Her actions were offensive to some, intriguing to
others, often embarrassing to those around her. But no matter what the circumstances, she
was always after a dollar or more, not in her own mind, as a beggar but as one selling an
idea. Her efforts frequently went unrewarded, but she never shirked a chance to win a
friend to her burning cause. In these years she literally wore out a Cadillac on Bowl
business, in addition to miles and miles of walking. And many were evenings when she could
show but fifty cents for all her trying. It is difficult for latter day audiences to
realize that this type of selfless dedication is the one and only reason why the Bowl ever
survived its crucial days of adolescence.
These were the exhausting, harrowing days which prompted Grace
to later remark during the intermission of a Bowl program, "Rudyard Kiplings
poem If is on my wall; now its in my heart." So great was the
strength which Grace received from both the Bible and "If" over the years that
no telling of the Redlands Bowl story can possibly be complete without reproducing
Kiplings immortal words.
If you can keep your head when people all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, dont deal in lies,
Or being hated, dont give way to hating,
And yet dont look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat these two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth youve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build em up with worn out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch and toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a work about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And to hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them:"·old on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
"If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything thats in it,
And - which is more - youll be a Man, my son!"
In one of the early years the Redlands city council voted $200 a
month for four months to the association. It supplied around $1000 for the purchase of a
piano. When the matter of public support for such projects was submitted to the people,
asking a special levy, amounting to five cents per $100 assessed valuation, the voters
turned it down. (The final count was 532 for and 1184 against.) Grace 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. 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
and the concertmaster. All of this was now also gone.
As the gloomy words 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 rose quietly from her seat and moved slowly 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 with 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, by 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 she
described the reassuring feeling of having been "sustained again by the infinite
spirit of God."
By the time the October 1926 - April 1927, winter season drew to
its close, Grace had already traveled widely throughout the West to audition relatively
unknown artists and to attend concerts featuring established performers. It always has
been her policy to try and hear artists elsewhere before engaging them to perform at the
Bowl in order to observe their personalities and to get the "feel" of their
abilities. To the consternation of many, Grace chose this time to announce her first East
Coast trip to further fulfill this same purpose. Without "Graces"
knowledge special festivities were arranged for the last program in April at the
Contemporary Club to commemorate her departure. It proved to be a gala evening of gifts,
speeches, and songs, a spontaneous outpouring of love and affection for Grace on the eve
of her trip. Grace had been told, "youll never get past the
receptionists." Grace went to New York anyhow - with faith as her only asset. She
talked her way past many a receptionist, met a great number of artists and their managers,
and laid precious groundwork for many future appearances in Redlands Bowl. Her system was
really quit simple. She just made an unannounced, early morning appearance at an
artists or agents office and then waited until she was given the opportunity
to speak her piece. Some of her waits lasted well into the evening hours, but sooner or
later the object of her attention would give up and talk to her.
Refreshed by her successes in the East, Grace then sailed from
New York for a visit with her daughter Frances in Europe before returning to California.
The San Bernardino Sun on June 28,1928 carried the following, human interest news item:
"Believing there is no woman in the West and probably in the
entire United States who has done more valuable community service than has Mrs. George E.
Mullen, organizer and president of the Redlands Community Music Association, the directors
of the Redlands Chamber of Commerce have voted unanimously to recommend her for the
Pictorial Reviews annual achievement award of $5,000.
"It is known not only in Redlands, but in all Southern
California cities, that Mrs. Mullen has accomplished more in building a real community
spirit than has any other individual or organization. Her work in bringing famous artists
to Redlands to perform in concerts to which the public - rich and poor - attend without
charge for admission has been the most valuable advertisement ever received by Redlands.
"The Chamber of Commerce is not jealous because one woman
has accomplished the aim of the chamber, but is wholeheartedly urging the judges in the
Pictorial Review competition to give careful consideration to the achievements
of the greatly admired Redlands Woman.
Grace didnt win the award, but her nomination to be
considered was new national recognition of the finest kind.
Meanwhile, another great publication, "The Womans Home
Companion" with its million or more subscribers, told its readers in the September,
1929, issue that "tucked away in the heart of the orange growing district of Redlands
is a Bowl from which people quaff a musical ambrosia each week, a draught made possible
through the super-citizenship of one individual, Mrs. George E. Mullen.
At the end of 1930 Grace Mullen received her very first official
citation from an organized Redlands group. Prof. L.E. Nelson of the University of Redlands
was president of the local Knights of the Round Table at the time. It was his idea to
create and present a "Grail Award," named in keeping with the King Arthur theme
and symbolism, as a thank you out of common courtesy to certain local citizens who had
done so many unselfish things for Redlands. Prof.
Nelson presented the first Grail Award to Grace with these words:
"Last April the Knights of the Redlands Round Table fared
forth upon what has proved to be an extremely pleasant quest. We knew that Redlands is a
most charming place to live in. We realized that this happy circumstance had not evolved
by chance; that the finer qualities of a community can be evoked only by much energetic,
unselfish labor, lovingly given, and by money, generously provided.
"We meditated much over these conditions, and finally
decided that we could render a distinct and valuable service, at least to ourselves, and
possibly to the community by placing before our members from time to time some of the
inspiring things done by men and women of Redlands. We determined, therefore, to select
each year some doer of unselfish deeds and to express in simple but sincere fashion our
. . . . . . . "Twenty five years ago there came to
California a women born in Tennessee. Fourteen years ago she came to Redlands. She had a
vision which seemed too daring for actuality. She dreamed of a community whose citizens
assembled to sing together under the white stars of God, a community where rich and poor
alike might feed their souls on musics magic voice.
"Six years ago she set out to make her vision a reality by
founding the Redlands Community Music Association. The struggle has been hard, but not in
vain. The community of which she dreamed is, with the help of others, evolving."
Deeply touched and with tears in her eyes, Grace responded
briefly to this gesture which she remembered vividly by saying, "All my life I have
held in my heart the idealism of King Arthur. Tonights recognition, I feel, is but a
commemoration of your own great service to the community. Without the understanding of
fellow citizens, it would have been impossible to realize the vision of which Mr. Nelson
"In deep humility I thank you for the spirit of loving
service which has been manifested and which we together have been able to give. A
community understanding, a spirit of universal brotherhood, has made it possible. Through
music, singing, and art, Christs message can be carried to all.
"The work in Redlands shall never die; I feel certain of
that. This scroll, I know, is a beautiful symbol, not personally to me, for I have but
been fortunate to lead in the great movement in this community, but to the purpose itself.
It is your tribute to the idealism for which we all have labored and will continue to