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Remembering our Past

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“ . . . . [Los Angeles, October 16, 1885] Around 9 p.m., vapors from a fuel oil spill were accidentally ignited in the basement of the Women's Christian Temperance Union Coffee House at 26 South Main Street. The flashing fire spread flames throughout the basement and they gnawed up into the first floor of the two-story brick building. Large buildings to the north and south were severely exposed.

The volunteers put aside their resentments and, true to their tradition, rushed to the scene, some if them from a performance in the nearby Grand Opera House. Flames were by now extending along the entire rear of the coffee house while large volumes of smoke gushed from the basement.

Original Thirty-Eights took a hydrant at the corner of Second and Main Streets while hosemen stretched two lines. With smoke chuffing from its boiler stack, the engine was quickly able to supply two streams. Volunteers used one of them while boring through the broken front windows and deluging the basement. The other line was laid through the net-door exposure, Hoyt's Second Hand Store, to begin attacking flames in the rear of the WCTU building.

Confidence volunteers suctioned off the First and Main Streets hydrant and tackled the front of the fire with two lines as black smoke belched from the engine's stack and the stoker shoveled in more coal and still more coal. Park Hose connected to the hydrant at First and Los Angeles Streets and, using hydrant pressure, took their line to the rear where they joined Original Thirty-Eights.

A quick second alarm was almost immediately followed by a general alarm calling out the city's entire volunteer force. Chief Engineer Day arrived. As he took command, a falling shard of window glass severely gashed his head. Drenched in blood, he continued to direct front and rear firefighting as the volunteers fought their way inside the smoke-clogged building after tying wet sponges over their noses; probably the first recorded use of breathing apparatus in Los Angeles' firefighting history.

The volunteers snaked their lines through the thick smoke and down the stairs to battle the basement fire while other firefighters, in a superb example of firefighting teamwork drove back the fire in the rear and knocked down the first floor fire: all of this in less than an hour. The incredible feat prompted the Times to observe, “The city of Los Angeles may thank its fire department that there was not a half million dollar blaze laying in ashes the entire row (of buildings) from Foster block north to and including the Grand Opera House. It looked at one time as though such a result was inevitable. Contending as they did with a blind (basement) fire, the firemen accomplished wonders. None of their efforts was misdirected.”

The WCTU fire was the volunteers' last hurrah. On December 11, 1885, close to two months later, Mayor Spense signed Ordinance No. 205 into law and created the Los Angeles Fire Department, effective January 12, 1886. . . .” 1

1. A Century of Service 1886 - 1986, The Centennial History of the Los Angeles Fire Department, (Library of Congress Catalog Number 85-082586), by Paul Ditzel, 1986, page 29 [provided by Box 15 Club of Los Angeles 2012 president, Charles Steele].


Temperance Temple


(L. A. WCTU Headquarters - 1889)

   The original WCTU Headquarters building was constructed on property located at 301 N. Broadway, Los Angeles and donated by Merrill IOGT. The donation was accepted in 1886 and on April 28, 1889, the building was dedicated.

This landmark building was featured in some early pictorial books on Los Angeles and in 1900 was the site of the National Education Association (NEA) Convention The Frances E. Willard Home For Girls was housed on the 4th floor from its inception in 1919 until 1933.

   In 1925, the City of Los Angeles took 10 feet of property from the Broadway side and in 1928, took another 12-1/2 feet from the Temple side. The 1933 Long Beach Earthquake damaged the building and consequently the two top floors were removed.

   The death knell of the once beautiful structure came in 1947 when the County of Los Angeles took the site by eminent domain and constructed a power plant where the venerable Temperance Temple once stood. When the Temple was razed in 1950, the corner stone was presented to the WCTU and now resides in front of the present Headquarters building (see Visitors Section).


1907 WCTU Home in So. California



On the back of this old picture was written: "Merry Christmas (with love from) Hester G. Griffith."

It is assumed that this is the WCTU of So. Calif., as Mrs. Griffith was the president.

L. A. WCTU Headquarters
(After 1933 earthquake modifictions.)

This 8 x 10 photo had the above news clipping on the back.
[Provided from Paul B. Scott's WCTU Collection.]

3rd HeadquartersHEADQUARTERS (1951)

   At the dedication of this, the 3rd State Headquarters Building, March 14, 1951, approximately 300 WCTU members and friends attended the ceremonies in which National WCTU President, Mrs. Leigh Colvin and other dignitaries presided. In 2001 & 2002, our Modified California Craftsman structure underwent extensive restoration. Besides housing the offices of the State organization, housing was provided for 2 seminary students. After several years, a live-in housekeeper replaced the seminary students.




WCTU Committee Meeting

Committee on Arangements for National W.C.T.U. Convention

(Standing:) Mrs. I. W. Gleason, Miss Gabrella Stickney, Mrs. Myrtle Belcher, Mrs. Julia D. Pheltz, Dr. M. Lenn Hutchins, Mrs. Mary M. Coleman & Mrs. Allie Simmons Wheeler.
(Seated:) Mrs. Stella B. Irvine, Mrs. Clara B. Sheldon, Miss Ada B. Cummings, Mrs. Eva C. Wheeler, Mrs. Anna B. Hale, Mrs. Lizzie Warren & Mrs. Hattie C. Young.

(Written on the back: "Return to WCTU, 301 No. Broadway, Los Angeles, Calif. The same photo is in the 1924 yearbook.)

Hill, Mills & Winbiglers


Four Generations

On the back of this Santa Ana, CA photo was written: "Great-grandmother Hill, grandmother ELIZABETH MILLS, Mande & Ernest Winbigler." Note that Elizabeth Mills, front right, is wearing
the White Ribbon Bow, emblem of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union




Eliz. Mills certificate


Temperance Crusade

This membership certificate from The Mothers and Daughters of the Temperance Crusade was presented to ELIZABETH H. MILLS who participated in the Temperance Crusade at Carthage, Mo.





This was our Southern California WCTU booth at the Los Angeles County Fair on September 13 - 29, 1963, Pomona, California.
Notice all the varieties of posters against alcohol, drugs and smoking.
[Can you count the number of posters against alcohol?]


Pasadena Rose Parade

1920-WCTU Rose Parade


1907_Rose Parade Float

(January 1, 1927)


WCTU Home for Women


  Constructed in 1927 to replace an earlier home in nearby Highland Park, the WCTU Home for Women was a spacious building with accomodations for 100 guests. Later a convalescent hospital wing was added.

   Located at 2235 Norwalk Ave., in the Eagle Rock area of Los Angeles, it served its patrons well for many years. However, with the passage of time, major earthquake and other safety refiting became necessary and the Home was closed and the building sold to GLAD, an agency for the deaf, in the early 1990's.



In 2004, officals of GLAD returned WCTU artifacts including plaques, book, and pictures. Stacey Holcomb here is shown presenting a historic wall plaque to Paul Scott and other members of the Board of Trustees. Left to right: Colleen Wilson, State President, Mary L. Clark, Alice Peterson, State Treasurer, Paul Scott, President Board of Trustees, and Dr. Lenoa Jones.

". . . . GLAD is headquartered in the old Woman's Christian Temperance Union building between Laverna and Norwalk Avenues. The four-story building, built in 1927, served as a women's residence for 65 years before closing in 1992. There was talk of razing the building, but the Eagle Rock Association filed a successful application with the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission to declare the building a historic monument. When GLAD purchased the property in 1994 (the agency's 25th anniversary), they set up offices in two single-story wings that had been added in the 1940s and 1960s and launched a fundraising campaign to renovate the building. After hosting a grand opening in September 1998 . . ."

(Note - June, 2010: Last paragraph excerts taken from: Boulevard Sentinel - Vol. VI, Issue 11, October 5, 2002, News and Views for Northeast Los Angeles, Don't Get Mad Just Leave GLAD, by Diane Russon & Deaf Community Says “GLAD” Not Listening by Tom Willard.)


So. California WCTU Visiting GLAD in 2012

Rachel (center) gave a fine tour of the once "WCTU Home for Women" in Eagle Rock.


Jeffrey Stewart was researching his marrital genealogy and submitted the items below on Eugenie S. Leete. He reported: "Eugenia's mother came to Cal by covered wagon in 1864. . . . The third husband produced Eugenia. He died in 1885. She was WCTU Treasurer in 1957 and Corresponding Secretary in 1965."

Eugenia merbership card


Fabulous Five

These "Fabulous Five" Southern California WCTU ladies
were active during the 1950's:
(Top Row, L-R) Zola Meek, Bea Jenison & Eugenie Leete;
(Front, L-R) Lydia Wood & Ruth Gates.



   Organized in 1909, many members in this suburb of Riverside,
were also members of the Arlington Christian Church
where the union met for many years.

WCTU Meeting at Mrs. Butterfields - 1947
(Arlington, Riverside Co., CA)

Arlington WCTU

[(Back, L to R) Unknown, unknown, Della Partridge, Mrs.Paulene Seaver & baby
(Middle) Mrs. Bridenstein, unknown, unknown, lady & baby, Mrs. Bertha McNicholl & Della Campbell;
(Front) Unknown boy, Mrs. Effie (?) Kirby, Mrs. Martha Ammerman?, unknown & Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson.]

[Can you help identify any of the above ladies?]

Identified in this picture is the union's Recording Secretary, Elizabeth Thompson, seated at the bottom right who is our State WCTU Office Manager's great-aunt.
Also Mrs. Bertha McNicholl was identified by her daughter (in MA) and her granddaughter, as well as a few other ladies.

In 1947, the Arlington WCTU (organized in 1909) membership was 59 and the officers were: President, Mrs. Katherine Goode; Vice-president, Dr. Estella Cone; Corresponding Secretary, Mrs. Bertha J. McNicholl; Recording Secretary, Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson and Treasurer, Mrs. Della Partridge.

Other 1947 positions named in the Arlington Union were: Literature - Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson; Publicity - Mrs. Margaret Chase; Legislation - Dr. Estella Cone; Child Welfare - Mrs. Huldah Nelson; Flower Mission & Relief - Mrs. Della Campbell; Health & Medical Temperance - Mrs. Effie Kirby; Parliamentary Usage - Mrs. Maude Lynn; Spriritual Life - Mrs. Lena Carlson and L. T. L. - Mrs. Della Partridge. [Reference: WCTU of Southern California Yearbook 1947, Riverside County: Arlington, pg. 133-134.]


"Arlington WCTU Cook Book

[Arlington, Calif. : W.C.T.U., 1935?]
Cooking > California > Arlington.
Cooking > West (U.S.)
International cooking.
Charity cookbooks > California > Arlington.
Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive.
Note: Cover title.
Recipes are attributed.
Portrait of Mrs. Jennie A. Wilkins, first president of Arlington W.C.T.U. on p. 3.
Advertisements throughout text.
"Dishes for large parties": p. 95-100; "Invalid dishes": p. 129-133.
Includes household hints; recipes for Italian, Mexican, Russian, German dishes. Sample recipes: Gelatin meat loaf, Hala-kahiki pie, Halloween candy balls, Chili beans (Mexican)."
Physical Description: 140 p. : ill., port. ; 17 cm.
Original Format: Book"



San Diego WCTU


This postcard was marked July 12, 1915 and mailed to Mrs. Clyde Colby in Pasadena, California
[Provided from Paul B. Scott's WCTU Collection.]


(JULY 22, 1924)

San Diego, California, CA 1917

WCTU Windows


Methodist Church, Glasco, Cloud County, Kansas: "Cloud County is designated as the "Stained Glass Capitol"
of Kansas. We host tours to see the windows in our four churches, as well as other examples in the community.
If we do have an unusual heritage with WCTU windows, that would be an important part of our heritage to share."
[The text & photo by Joan Nothern.]


A WCTU church window in Pittsburg, Kansas.
[Photo taken by Paul B. Scott, 2012.]

WCTU Christian Church Window in Glasco, KS
[Photo taken by Paul B. Scott, 2012.]

kern_co_wctu c_wctu

"The banner is from the Woman's (rather than the commonly stated "Womens") Christian Temperance Union and although it will be a lovely item for the [Kern] County Historical Society, I just wonder who dropped the ball in our organization as all records and other organization materials are to be turned over to the parent organization in cases where a local or county organization ceases to function.  I know that when I joined the WCTU in 1985, the County President in Kern was Addie Reneau who died shortly thereafter and the next and last to serve in that capacity was Lois Wright, later Lois Busch, of Delano.  When an item is in somebody's home, often the family assumes it belongs to them in those situations when somebody dies and apparently that is how the banner was sold."

Paul B. Scott
President Board of Trustees
So. Calif. WCTU


"This past weekend my husband and I went down to Bakersfield, CA for the day, and downtown they have been renovating the area so nicely and as we are driving I noticed this mural, I couldn't believe it, there was the WCTU, I attached pictures of it for you." (From Patti Haider to NWCTU President Sarah Ward.)

"A muralist and sign painter created signs for '
Jerry's Pizza'. The muralist visited the library and saw that's where Jerry's used to be -- an old bar. The photo he found had a person pouring out the liquor. So we decided to have the Christian Women's mural on the other side. The mural was also taken from an old photo in the library. The faces on the mural are of people from the muralist's church." (From Cathy - Bakersfield Downtown Business Association to Patti Haider.)


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