Posts filed under ‘richard’

Testimonial #3: Arthur H. Hawkins

Suffice to say that conditions in my life were such that I apparently had nothing to tie to. After leaving the corporation I went with one of the independent companies and was successful in each territory assigned me to the extent that I did not have sufficient work to keep me occupied. Again drink became my master to such a measure that in the latter part of September 1930 I walked out of my office with the intention of going on a `tear’ until my money was gone and after that,—it just didn’t seem to matter what became of me,—I didn’t care to live. I am praising God that He over-ruled and led me to the Mission.

God reached down His hand in gracious mercy and through the blood of His Son cleansed what would have otherwise been another dreg in the social gutter. Today my feet are implanted on the solid rock of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and to me has come the ineffable peace which can only come from communion through Him to our heavenly Father, and in my heart is a song of praise for the power of God that reaches men through His Son.

The Lord has blessed me and kept me from falling back into the old habits. Now that I have a source of secret strength on which to draw in time of trouble and temptation I have my feet on solid ground. I have not taken a drink or even smoked since the Lord reclaimed me.”

Excerpts from what others have said about him (Arthur H. Hawkins):

“His life was filled with a clear, ringing testimony for the Lord whom he loved and served. His personal daily contacts were a source of blessing to all within his reach. His faithful testimony pointed many to a saving knowledge of Christ, strengthened the faith of the saints, interested them in Bible study and support of the Lord’s work.”

XXXX

“Realizing his need of the Savior he attended a Mission service. When the invitation was given, he went to the altar and though much better dressed than the average business man, for he had earned a magnificent salary, there on his knees at the altar, brushing shoulders with the filthy, infested shambles of humanity from Main Street, he surrendered his heart and life to Christ. His clothing and the few possessions that he brought with him to Los Angeles were gladly shared with the Mission men until he was soon without sufficient clothing himself. He was a genuine conversion,—the Lord cleaned him up,—saved him to the uttermost, and filled him with the sweet fragrance of His love and made him a channel of blessing.”

XXXX

“He was in the steel business approximately 40 years, 35 of which were spent with the various subsidiaries of the U.S. Steel Corporation. He served 22 years in the Denver, Colorado office of American Sheet 7 Tin Plate Co. as Assistant Manager of Sales, where he received a silver service medal in 1927.

He was later connected with the Granite City Steel Co. where he served as Manager of Sales in both Memphis, Tenn. And Dallas, Tex.

Devoted four years to the URM.

Ten years ago became identified with the Los Angeles office of Columbia Steel Co., subsidiary of the U.S. Steel Corp., where he remained until the time of his death (Sept. 3, 1944).”

It is the story of Arthur Hawkins which is told in the film Of Scrap & Steel, which will be screened on the roof of the Union Rescue Mission on Thursday evening.

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October 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm Leave a comment

Mother Benton

“Mother” Benton-and this is the only name by which we know this remarkable lady, although she was neither a mother nor a Benton when she began- was converted by Dwight L. Moody in November of 1899, at a revival meeting in Kansas City. He had asked her,  “Daughter, wouldn’t you like to be a missionary?”

She was 24, and her answer was yes. Moody then gave her a scripture text which would be the star by which she steered: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the almighty” (Psalm 91).

Moody collapsed before the meeting ended, and was never well enough to preach again. He died the following month, and his crusade was carried on that night and in years to come by R.A. Torrey. Perhaps the injection of Torrey’s charisma as Mother Benton’s heart was coalescing around her true path is what brought her to Los Angeles. Many missionaries were then looking to the west.

Torrey himself would soon arrive in this city to be both a founding Dean of The Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA), and pastor of the non-denominational The Church of the Open Door, both housed in the Romanesque Revival church and auditorium at 6th and Hope, built in the image of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. While in Los Angeles, Torrey would also edit the 4-volume 1917 edition of the influential text The Fundamentals produced at the direction of BIOLA supporter Lyman Stewart.

Mother Benton’s arrival, while less auspicious, would have a lasting impact on the charitable face of the city. On the evening of October 7th, 1907, she arrived at the Union Rescue Mission (URM). There was no pianist that night, so she volunteered. She returned the next day and the next, and soon she was out on the corner of 2nd & Los Angeles with her tambourine and her newlywed husband, Arthur L. Benton, assistant superintendent of the URM. In her 37 years at the URM, Mother Benton passed up through the ranks as pianist, clerk, and finally house mother. She would serve under 32 superintendents.

Mother’s husband Arthur Benton was a cabaret pianist from Grand Rapids, MI, whose life had been ravaged by alcoholism. He had been converted by Melvin E. Trotter of Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, and had been sent out just a few years earlier to help Melvin’s brother William, who was then the URM’s superintendent.

A project which Mother Benton held particularly dear was the Women’s Auxiliary, organized in 1936. Gathering on the first and third Wednesdays, their meetings routinely attracted over 100 helpers for the mending of old clothes and linens for redistribution in the Mission and for the maintenance of the dormitories. In the late 1930s, the URM had 600 beds for the homeless. In 1946 alone, the Auxiliary produced almost 10,000 garments, nearly a third of the 33,000 items of clothing distributed to the needy at the URM.

In 1944, the aged Mother Benton stepped down from her supervisory responsibilities, but continued to be a consistent presence at the URM until 1952, when her declining health kept her close to home in Glendale. But when the URM’s 63rd anniversary celebration rolled around in 1954, Mother Benton could not stay away. She returned to Main Street in her old glory and rode on the famous Gospel Wagon, now a conversation piece, seated between Mayor Poulson and City Attorney Roger Arnebergh. Shoulder to shoulder, they sang “Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest Name I Know,” “Rock of Ages” and “Rescue the Perishing.”

When asked about her long career on Main Street, Mother Benton replied,”My husband and I used to sing those hymns on the street corner to gather a crowd. Then we’d bring the listeners back to the Mission aboard the Gospel Wagon. I love this dear old Mission,” she told the anniversary crowd. “I’m thinking today of the boys I’ve prayed with.”

One of the boys with whom she had prayed in the URM chapel was the notorious outlaw Billy Stiles. She was sitting with him in the chapel on the day in 1913, shortly after he wandered in from the sinner’s road that was Main Street, when he experienced his rebirth. The next day Stiles presented Mother Benton with a suitcase of nitroglycerine, a gift from a retired safe-cracker who was now on the straight and narrow.

Mother Benton, looking back on her half decade of service at the URM noted, “While this is a man’s Mission, scores of women and girls in distress have been helped and guided.” Perhaps she was remembering the voyage she made in February 1930, when she traveled to the State Penitentiary in Florence, Arizona to sit by the side of convicted murderess Eva Dugan as she awaited her death sentence. Mother Benton sat up all night with Mrs. Dugan on her last night on earth, and heard her testimonial that faith in Jesus Christ had saved her soul. The following morning, Mrs. Dugan went to the gallows, dying instantly when her head was severed from her neck and rolled down among the witnesses. There were five women present, and two fainted, but we do not know if Mother Benton was among that number.

Mother Benton died on October 4, 1956, at the age of 81.

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October 14, 2011 at 2:57 am Leave a comment

226 S Main-The Swanfeldt Building

The photo on the right shows the Swanfeldt Building as it appeared in the late 1920s, with its northern half still occupied by the Swanfeldt Awning & Tent Company. The southern section is home to the Union Rescue Mission (URM).

In 1926, the URM purchased the southern half of the Swanfeldt building for $100,000. The City’s seizure by eminent domain of the URM’s building at 145 N. Main forced them to make a quick move to new quarters. The structure demolished, the old 145 N. Main property is on what is now the southern lawn of City Hall.

The Swanfeldt family operated Catalina Island’s celebrated “Tent City” from 1895 to 1902, and were the canvas kings of Los Angeles. Even after the tent concession monopoly was relinquished to the Santa Catalina Island Company, the Swanfeldts continue to set the bar for tent manufacturing in the southland. It is of peripheral interest to note that in its earliest days (circa 1893) the Union Rescue Mission operated out of a massive tent on 2nd Street near Main.

By 1931, with the URM still occupying only the southern half of the three-story Swanfeldt Building, 300 to 400 people were fed daily, with the number swelling to well over 500 on Sundays. 100 men were bedded nightly in the third-floor dormitory. The dining room was in the basement of the structure, and could accommodate 325 people at a sitting. Meals were served each morning and evening, with breakfast provided to those who had spent the night. The clothing commissary, which offered donated items including suits, work clothes, hats, shoes, neck-ties and socks, was on the second floor. The laundry, which in 1931 was a very recent addition, was on the ground floor. The URM’s managers immediately made note of the savings in time and money that this new laundry facility provided.

As the depression proceeded and the first hints of war were heard, the URM felt the need of more space. In 1938, the URM purchased the northern half of the Swanfeldt Building, and the Swanfeldts moved their plant to North Figueroa Street. In early 1942, the URM purchased The Oddfellows Club Building just to the north of the Swanfeldt—note the the “IOOF” in the upper coursework— and it became the Victory Service Club, a social club and assistance center for young Christian servicemen and their friends, which will be the subject of several forthcoming blog posts.

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October 14, 2011 at 2:51 am Leave a comment

Transience: Outreach & Enforcement #1

 

In anticipation of the October 20 rooftop screening of the Union Rescue Mission’s 1949 film Of Scrap & Steel, in this post we’ll examine two stills from the film as a window to understanding how two mid-century Los Angeles County law enforcement agencies dealt with the task of enforcing statutes concerning transients.

The first of the two film stills on the left was shot on Main Street in front of the Fun Palace at 243 South Main. The second still was shot on 2nd Street, just east of Main.  

The first, Fun Palace still shows one of the notorious LAPD “Black Maria” vans, with an officer shuffling an old “rummy” into the back. This scenario was common at the time. Arrest was the primary tool used by the LAPD for dealing with transients within the borders of Skid Row. In future blog posts we will delve further into the history of vagrancy statutes in Los Angeles, the evolution of the City’s Public Policy on the topic, and the role of the LAPD as an enforcing agency.

It is the second still showing an officer in what appears to be a dark brown uniform which is of particular interest. The nitrate print of the film was so badly damaged that when it was digitized, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s traditional green uniform appears as dark brown, so it is unclear what type of officer is patrolling Skid Row in search of drunks to roust. Closer observation reveals the familiar LASD deputy’s badge on the left breast. But what are LASD deputies doing on East 6th Street, in an area clearly within the jurisdiction of the LAPD? 

What the film does not show is that just moments before the deputies pulled up to the curb and hustled the transient into their car, an LA County Health Department official issued this man with a vagrancy citation. Working in tandem with the Health Department, LASD deputies would sweep through Skid Row, arresting anyone who had received such a citation and lacked the capacity to immediately flee the scene. Interestingly, this is the same method which would be used on larger scale social control operations like the clearing of the residential community Chavez Ravine in the early 1960s.

While we now understand how it is that LASD deputies might make arrests along Skid Row, within the boundaries of the LAPD, the motivation for such arrests still needs clarification. 

When the Hall of Justice was opened in 1925, the LASD was put in charge of running the Hall’s jail. Because prisoners in the Hall of Justice were put to work on road crews and doing other County work, it was in the interest of the powers that be to maintain at all times a capacity population. The routine arrest captured in the second still was one of the ways in which that population was maintained. When this man sobered up, he would be put to work.

 

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September 21, 2011 at 5:10 am Leave a comment

Two Sides of the Street

In anticipation of this weekend’s free walking tour The Flâneur & The City: Victorian Los Angeles, and the October 20 free screening of the Union Rescue Mission’s film Of Scrap & Steel, in this post we explore the Union Rescue Mission’s Victory Service Club at 220 South Main, which opened in August of 1942 in the newly-purchased northern part of the Swanfeldt Building. The URM had purchased the southern portion of the Swanfeldt Building in 1926, after having their original 1896 headquarters seized by imminent domain for the construction of City Hall.

The top photo on the right, which is a still from Of Scrap & Steel, shows the Fun Palace at 243 South Main. The second photo, not a still from the film, shows the URM’s Victory Service Club, across the street at 220 South Main. The third photo, another still from the film, shows the Victory Café, which was just a few doors south of the Fun Palace on the west side of Main Street. At first glance, the missionary-run Victory Service Club could not be more different from the penny arcade and its neighboring café, but a closer look reveals how these longtime neighbors coexisted and were shaped by each other.

The Fun Palace, run by veteran showman and coin-machine operator Fred McKee, was incorporated under the name Victory Amusements, which suggests a business connection to the Victory Café. Research reveals that the Fun Palace played a vital role in the leisure time activity of servicemen on leave in Los Angeles during WWII. Men in uniform who were seen hanging around the machines without playing were quickly identified by staff and given 50¢ in pennies. This was a wise investment in good will, and the establishment received a healthy return on its investment. 

Soon after the war began, Fred McKee determined that servicemen up from their bases for a 24- or 48-hour “R&R” leave needed more than just a bright, clean place to test their skill and try their luck. They also needed somewhere to bed down for the night, and a welcoming place where they could fortify their souls in the face of the tremendous job ahead of them. To that end, Fred maintained a list of private homes and religious organizations which offered free accommodations to servicemen, and the Fun Palace became known as a destination for men on leave seeking direction in Los Angeles.

In March 1942, the URM’s Board of Directors allocated the necessary funds to purchase the northern half of the Swanfeldt Building and open a center whose objective would be “a day and night ministry seeking for the men in uniform that vital experience of Christian realities” which the URM described by the phrase “response.” This venue would stand in stark contrast to the bars, tattoo parlors, strip clubs and amusement arcades which provided more earthly amusements along Main Street.

In August 1942 the Victory Service Club opened its doors under the direction of Rev. Robert Bolin Hubert Mitchell. He brought in directly under him the young Rev. Don Spencer McCrossan.

Don McCrossan would shepherd the Victory Service Club through WWII, Korea and the Vietnam War. By his retirement in 1975, the club had played host to more than three million servicemen, and provided an unexpected oasis of comfort on Main Street which deserves to be remembered.

 

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September 21, 2011 at 5:01 am Leave a comment

The Union Rescue Mission Archive Project on inSROland

It begins simply enough: as part of the ongoing project to document the forgotten history of Downtown Los Angeles, our present aim is to blog about a series of previously-unknown documents from archives of the Union Rescue Mission (URM).

We will begin by sharing some of the testimonials of faith made by those “saved” by the mission’s outreach. Each of these testimonials tells the story of a life run off the rails then back on again, and offers insights into fascinating historic subcultures which are infrequently documented.

We will also be presenting photographic documentation of the early buildings which housed the URM. These now-demolished sites will be placed in their historic and present-day contexts, to fill in some of the gaps in the century-long history of Downtown Los Angeles as a zone of poverty, addiction, redemption and transformation.

Along the way, we will introduce some of the interesting individuals whose work at the URM contributed to its mission, and uncover aspects of forgotten social history which were documented, sometimes inadvertently, by URM staff.

The URM exists to rescue men and women who have been utterly abandoned and become discouraged and helpless. It seeks to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ into their hearts, which will lead them out of temptation and to salvation. Within this lofty intent sits the more earthly goal of feeding and clothing the poor in areas which historically have been blighted, and giving them tools by which they can improve themselves.

Very quickly we already have two distinct aims by which we can distinguish and give context: that of public policy and that of Faith. These two aims cleave the problem space neatly into two parts: 1) the finite, delineated by its limited resources, clothes, energy, food, land, and those in authority who can allocate them, and 2) the infinite, that small, intangible part in all of us which is the gatekeeper to something bigger, delineated by its resources without limit: love, charity, compassion, strength. Those in authority have absolutely no control over the quality, quantity or allocation of these infinite resources.

Attempted solutions for improving the hardships faced by the poor are manifold in Southern California. They range from the official Public Policy for the County and the City of Los Angeles, Upton Sinclair’s EPIC movement, Job Harriman‘s Llano del Rio commune, the URM, and Sister Aimee Semple McPherson‘s Four Square Gospel. Note that of the solutions just listed only the first two are political, one is an attempt at a utopia, and two others come out of a literal reading of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

While the notion of a solution straddling the two kingdoms – one which feeds the stomachs and the souls of the masses – may seem fanciful, those leaders who have been most effective over the past century have had their feet planted firmly in both.

To start our exploration of the URM and the significance of its work in Downtown Los Angeles, let me lay out some important milestones in the form of dates and locations which will be helpful in understanding the context as our work begins.

  • The first rented building, 2nd & Main (1896)

    Operating under the name Pacific Rescue Mission, Col. M.C. Mason, since 1894 the superintendent of the Mission, rents a building (address unknown) at 2nd & Main in which to continue their good works.

    Beginning in 1891, the Mission work had gone on under temporary canvas tents in the area, and on the iconic gospel wagon which traveled up and down Main and Los Angeles Streets, 1st and 2nd Streets, stopping at the many saloons along the way seeking penitent souls who wished to “go on the wagon” and dry out.

    The only director listed in both the 1891 annual report and in the report for 1896 is Lyman Stewart, founder and president of Union Oil. His influence will be felt over the URM for decades.

  • The second rented building, 145 N Main (1903)

    Under Col. Mason’s successor, Mr. Jeffreys, a hall is rented at 145 N. Main, on what is today the lawn of City Hall. It continues to operate under the name Pacific Rescue Mission.

  • Street mission, 2nd & Los Angeles Street (1907)

    The Mission’s core outreach with their gospel wagon is curbed, as city ordinances are passed prohibiting street oration for the areas around 2nd & Los Angeles, and all area speaking permits are rescinded by the LAPD as well. These rules reflect the city’s public policy to curb the activisim of the emerging labor movement, with an unexpected side effect of curtailing the Mission’s work in the saloon district.

  • The second rented building becomes the first purchased building, 145 N Main (1907)

    After almost a decade of operating the ground floor hall in this narrow, two-storey building sandwiched between two saloons on a street of pawn shops and electric photograph parlors featuring various racy entertainments, the Mission purchases outright the building at 145 N Main, demonstrating its commitment to continued outreach to the community.

  • A new name (1908)

    On January 23, 1908, The Union Rescue Mission is incorporated as a California Public Benefit Corporation. Union Oil’s Lyman Stewart sits on the board of directors.

  • Enter BIOLA (1908)

    On February 25, 1908, Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA) is founded, with Rev. T.C. Horton as President. Horton had been on salary at URM for two years as an assistant pastor in charge of bible teaching.

    Lyman Stewart of Union Oil will be BIOLA’s principal benefactor, giving the institution over a million dollars in his lifetime.

    In addition to being the principal financier of BIOLA’s 1914 Italian Revival auditorium and Bible college at 550 South Hope Street (behind the Central Library), Lyman and his brother Milton would at the same time sponsor, at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars, the publication of the 90-chapter volume of scriptural study “The Fundamentals,” sent free to Christian workers all over the world.

  • Exit 145 N Main Street (1926)

    The City of Los Angeles finalizes its seizure by imminent domain of 145 N Main in preparation for groundbreaking on the new City Hall. With just weeks remaining before the URM must vacate, new quarters are secured just to the south at 226 S Main, next door to the Cathedral of St. Vibiana (1876).

  • Public Policy and the Depression (1931)

    The City of Los Angeles passes a $5 Million bond measure to create a much-needed work relief program. Although 16,000 jobs were created, the program was seen as inadequate by critics.

    Los Angeles Supervisor John R. Quinn believed that there were 200,000-400,000 non-citizens living in California. If local governments could only get rid of those free-loaders, he believed unemployment would no longer be a serious issue, and crime rates would plummet. Charles P. Visel, Director of Unemployment Programs for the city began to explore the option of deportation as a solution to unemployment.

    The Los Angeles County Welfare Bureau used up its entire fiscal appropriation in April. Its director requested more funds, but was denied. Upon his announcing he has no choice but to to close the department, the Board of Supervisors comes up with $250,000 to keep it afloat.

    Meanwhile, the URM considers merging with BIOLA at the direction of some of BIOLA’s supporters, but ultimately the URM board resolved the issue by recognizing that the Mission is well adapted to its location on Main Street, and would best continue to serve its soul-saving purpose there.

  • Public Policy and the Depression (1932)

    It is estimated that 344,000 people are unemployed in metropolitan Los Angeles. The city has an $11 million deficit, and appears to be out of money and ideas. Civic leaders begin to warm to the notion that the destitute should be kept out of Southern California.

    City Council passes an ordinance forbidding begging on the streets of Los Angeles. The LAPD begins to meet incoming freight trains in the city’s rail yards. The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce recommends that the National Guard be stationed along the State’s borders to keep out undesirables.

    Statistics for the Union Rescue Mission from 1932:

    Meals served: 179,084
    Shelter beds provided: 37,725
    Baths given: 11,650
    Fumigated for vermin, &c.: 470
    Accounts of aid given to needy families: 225
    Worship services held: 2,038
    People attending the Mission’s worship services: 182,959
    Professed conversions: 3,070
    Gospels of John given out: 3,094
    Pieces of clothing given out: 5,988
    Pairs of shoes given out: 735
    Number of pieces washed in laundry: 48,415
    Men registered for work (Mission’s employment center): 3,314
    Men found jobs through the Mission’s employment services: 493
    From Oct. 10, 1932 to Jan. 23, 1933, sent 183 men to state work camps
    Motto still “No Creed but Christ”
    For every $7.10 spent by the Mission, a man came to Christ

    Total expense $21,816.41

     

    ***

     

    Independent of any particular location or points in time are two last important concepts: the notion of Skid Row itself as a neighborhood which has always had a rapidly changing demographic and numerous forces at work in its shaping, and the rise of Urban Redevelopment as public policy.

    It is estimated that only about 5% of the homeless in Los Angeles occupy the roughly 50 square blocks of what is now known as Central City East (Skid Row). It is that concentration in such a small area which helps create the area’s unique characteristics. Skid Row is demarcated to the east by Alameda, to the west by Main Street, to the north by 2nd, and to the south by Olympic.

    Post-1945, public policy in the City of Los Angeles changes dramatically. The creation of the Community Redevelopment Agency in 1949 will become the rock upon which Urban Redevelopment is built. This agency, an autonomous taxing authority, is charged with the dual—and conflicting—goals of commercial revitalization of blighted areas and the creation of affordable housing.

    The CRA will be the major force driving public policy in Skid Row from the 1950s through the present day. The policy of geographical containment of the disenfranchised, the formation of housing trusts, and the 1992 relocation of the URM to its current location at 6th & San Pedro, all are the work of the CRA.

    So get ready to discover the unwritten history of the Union Rescue Mission, Skid Row and Downtown Los Angeles. We’ve created a visual template to distinguish the posts which comes out of our work on the URM archives from other material presented on the In SRO Land time travel blog, and will be providing an RSS feed and a single link to the site to point interested visitors directly to the URM material.

    Finally, we must express our debt of gratitude and thanks to the staff of the Union Rescue Mission, particularly to Liz Mooradian, the self-selecting keeper of the archives, and to the Mission’s CEO, Rev. Andy Bales. It is due to their support of this project and belief in the historical value of the URM’s archives that we are able to share these extraordinary documents with you now.

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September 7, 2011 at 2:10 am Leave a comment


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