High Schools: Then and Now

This story comes from longtime staffer Jim McConnell, the man we call, “The King” around the office. He writes a weekly Then & Now column.

The power of the press.
Don’t laugh. History teaches us not to underestimate the role newspapers play in human events. Especially sporting events.
Many is the athlete whose very first non-parental recognition came via his hometown paper. There remains a certain magic over seeing your name in print – providing it isn’t at the top of an obit or in the crime log. Which brings us back to May 24, 1950. The place? The Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The occasion? The Pasadena Star-News Sports Jamboree.
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In an idea cooked up by longtime Star-News sports editor Rube Samuelson and Mannie Pineda, Samuelson’s man in charge of high school sports coverage, the paper that night feted the best athletes and coaches in the San Gabriel Valley.

But it was much more than that. Virtually every sports luminary in Southern California attended, along with some notables from Hollywoodland.

In the words from that night’s program, the event was held to “recognize Youth’s attainments, and to stimulate still greater effort toward `better living in a better place.”‘ Who could argue with that?

As the program notes, the Star-News in 1950 consisted of “the 300 men and women who build, and the 400 carriers who distribute” the newspaper. Automation, pagination and damnation have combined to thin our ranks in the 2lst century – but we’re still here.

But back to that balmy May night in 1950. Locals honored that evening included Mark Keppel High football coach Johnny Seixas and Keppel captain Wayne Johannsen; South Pasadena High football coach Frank Williamson and captain Bob Garrett; El Monte High basketball coach George Phelps and co-captains Warren Buoy and Mark Costello; Pasadena City College baseball coach John Thurman; Citrus College baseball coach Buzz Smyth; South Pasadena High tennis coach Harry Swart; and Pasadena City College gymnastics coach Dave McBride.

Also on the dias were PCC boxing coach Jim Worthington and PCC yachting coach Sheldon Messick. Yes, the college fielded (if that’s the right word) those teams in 1950. In fact, the boxing team was state and National Junior College Athletic Association regional champion and the yachting team was Pacific Coast Junior College titlists.

Long before Title IX, Samuelson and Pineda balanced out the awards by also including the area’s top female athletes. Comprising that group were Pearl Bailey from Muir, Catherine Duker from PCC, Doreen Middleton from Citrus JC, Sue Hunter from Citrus High, Ruth Shank from El Monte High, Marion Franco from Monrovia High, Bernice Stagis from Rosemead High and Sandie Cadwallader from South Pasadena High.

Selected as the top male athletes from area schools were Ken Hoffman and Auzzie Sheard from Muir, Dave Gorrie and Ray Almaguer from PCC, Ron Pruessing from Flintridge Prep, Ronnie Livingston from Alhambra, Dole Kelley from Citrus High, Dave Sommers from El Monte, Don Thompson from Keppel, Bob Bills from Monrovia, Don Cornett from Rosemead and Bob Garrett from South Pasadena.

Making the occasion doubly memorable for the above group was the presence of a remarkable array of star athletes and coaches as presenters.

That group included Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis, champion boxer Mickey Walker, tennis stars Nancy Chaffee and Ted Schroder, auto racing great Ralph De Palma, NFL great Earl “Dutch” Clark, USC football coach Jeff Cravath, UCLA football coach Red Sanders, Rams coach Joe Stydahar and UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. Also in attendance were former PCC and UCLA football coach Bert La Brucherie, former UCLA football coach Bill Spaulding, former USC baseball coach Sam Berry and former USC football star Jim Hardy.

Also on hand were Bill Schroeder, representing the Helms Athletic Hall of Fame, Pacific Coast Conference Commissioner Vic Schmidt, Loyola football coach Jordan Olivar, Caltech football coach Hal Musselman, former UCLA basketball coach Wilbur Johns, UCLA sports information director Vic Kelley and Rams publicity director Tex Maule.

Celebrities in attendance included actors Dick Powell, Charlotte Greenwood and William Demarest, singers John Raitt, Curt Massey and Martha Tilton, TV personality Jack Bailey and cowboy star Whip Wilson. Even Mary Ann Jackson, a former child star of Hal Roach’s “Our Gang” comedies, was in the auditorium.

One can only imagine what an autograph book from that night might fetch on eBay.


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