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1961: Lemon Grove Women: That's You All Over

News from the March, 1961 editions of the Lemon Grove Review.

A look back at Lemon Grove 52 years ago. 

They could bring home the bacon, cook it up in a pan, and never let him forget he's a guy.  How did they do it, those 'Grovian Gals who lacked equal pay for equal work, day care, entré to the Grant Grill at the U.S. Grant Hotel, admission to law school, their own cars and other self-evident truths we now take for granted? 

Garbed in shirtwaist dresses, high heels, hats and gloves, they put one foot in front of the other and did the job.  Take a typical class act, Ruth Pfister.

She Wrote the Book:  Ruth Pfister (1913 - 2008) was Director of Food Services for the Lemon Grove School District for 32 years.  She co-founded the California School Food Service Association (CSFSA) and wrote its Code of Ethics.  She wrote "Nutritional Guidelines for Schools" for the California State Office of Education that became the bible for nutritious lunch menus for decades. 

In March, 1961 Pfister organized one of her many school-related events, a state-wide conference of the CSFSA at the Hotel Del Coronado. Some 2,000 delegates heard speeches by state and national educators and politicians, and saw demonstrations in a "living kitchen" of "Meals in Minutes," "Food to Grow On," and "Tasty and Beautiful," all part of the conference theme, "The End Crowns the Work." 

That title informed Pfister's ceaseless efforts to improve the image of cafeteria workers, according to Audrey Hamm, who worked in food services from 1971 - 2000, starting as an assistant and ending as a manager. 

"We were required to take college courses in food management, school food safety, menu planning, and time and motion studies," said Hamm.  "She wanted us to dress well and be kind of the kids and staff.  Sandy Faucher, Natalia Alvarez and I came up under her strict and stern standards, but we loved it.  We learned a lot from her."

Hamm recalled her nervousness at her initial job interview when she had to draw a cake-slicing diagram for different size groups and execute the dreaded "penny test." 

"She would lay out a bunch of pennies on the desk and say, 'Show me how you would pick these up in a quick manner.'  She wanted to see if we would use both hands.  When we dished up each tray we had to do two things at once, like potatoes in one hand and bread in the other at the same time. 

"Actually, it was fun for the kids and adults to watch us do it.  They bet I was a great piano player, but I wasn't because on piano one hand does the rhythm and the other the melody, but when you're serving food, both hands moved at the same time, at the same speed." 

Hair nets, spotless white uniforms and polished white shoes were de rigueur for cafeteria workers.  Pfister conducted a morning inspection of uniforms, fingernails (clipped and clean) and surgically clean hands and work areas.   

Pfister and her staff cooked everything from scratch, using her approved recipes and working with surplus U.S. Navy restaurant equipment purchased at the Port of San Pedro after World War II.  High quality food on a budget ensured sound nutrition for generations of kiddies without breaking the bank. 

Her office was in the building at the front of the former Lemon Grove Junior High, facing School Lane, where all of the classes used to stand on the front steps by the three famous archways for annual photographs. 

(Historical Note:  The building was torn down in the 1970s, but the memory lingers on in the new Lemon Grove Library, which features those arches on windows facing School Lane and along Lincoln Street.) 

Pfister's recipe collection lives on in the archives of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, which plans to start publishing them in its quarterly newsletter. 

Pfister and another great 'Grove woman, the late council member Lois Heiserman -- the first woman to serve on the council -- cofounded the Lemon Grove Senior Center and Nutrition Program, which thrives today. 

And Audrey, Sandy and Natalia?  They are well and active in Lemon Grove, La Mesa and Lakeside.  Audrey is the chair of Special Events at the Lemon Grove Historical Society and a genius party planner at the Lemon Grove Senior Center. 

The Social Compact:  'Grove women built a sense of community, fostered education and promoted arts and culture one cupcake at a time when they were not running businesses and raising families. 

Mrs. Dwight Putnam (Rosemary), district representative for the American Field Service, brought three of her foreign exchange students to "Youth of the World," the Helix High School PTA in 1961. 

Dietmar Schudlich, Germany, Catherine Barrie, France, and Tone Sandea, Norway, related their experiences studying in area schools and staying in local homes. 

Mrs. Carl Brouillette, Mrs. R. Gutshall and Mrs. A. Long ran a fashion show, "Promenade in the Garden," to raise money for the Grossmont Concert Association's low-cost music series.  The Lemon Grove-Spring Valley Women's Trio provided the music at the fashion show. 

Famed Lemon Grove optometrist, Dr. Amorita Treganza, was named to the board of the San Diego Girls' Club, which provided after-school programs for girls, ages six to 16.  Treganza subsequently became the first women president of the organization.

Beatrice Garber approved plans for her new nursing and retirement home, Monte Vista Lodge, 2211 Massachusetts Avenue, a much-praised facility that thrives today.

Edith Denlinger and daughter, Linda, and Mesdames George Burch, Leroy Deise, and Willis Carr organized the annual Delta Zeta National Sorority fashion show and luncheon on Mar. 18 at the El Cortez Hotel to raise funds for hearing aids for children, scholarships for the study of deafness, and support for Gallaudet College for the Deaf. 

"The Skits and Mrs," the drama group of the Lemon Grove Women's Club Juniors, staged free puppet shows for kids and parents in the historic clubhouse, 2010 Main Street.  The women made their own clay and paper maché puppets for "Little Red Riding Hood" and also starred in and ran the show. 

Mrs. Robert Muggs and Mrs. Lee Roberts, leaders of Girl Scout Troop 207 at Monterey Heights School, organized a concert wherein the girls serenaded handicapped workers of Goodwill Industries and held up paper hearts, reading "We Love You." 

Lillian Collette and Mary Louise Brumbaugh ran the PTA at San Miguel School when not serving local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops.  In March, 1961 they organized flags for two troops and launched a series, "Keys to Cooperation," to promote interaction among school PTA groups. 

Dorothy Nottingham, chair of the Lemon Grove Coordinating Council, reported progress on establishing the new Green Spot Park (later Lemon Grove Park) on Washington Street on former orchard lands donated by Ernest and Edith Denlinger.  Nottingham also reported progress in the anti-litter campaign. 

Mrs. Mel Little co-owner of Best Buy Market, 7825 Broadway, prepared for their grand opening by stocking a "state of the art" frozen food and ice cream section. She was the store bookkeeper and advertising director.  The Littles lived in Lemon Grove and hired their staff locally. 

'Grove businesswomen launched a three-day sales event for Easter and St. Patrick's Day that involved every business in town.  Patricia Hutchinson of Patricia's Sportswear, Barbara Howell of CP Appliances, Helen Gauldin of Gauldin's Style Shop, Evelyn Wigton of Evelyn Wigton's Smart Apparel, and Vera Papagni of The Gift Shoppe masterminded gift certificates, two-for-one deals, raffles and door prizes (you could win three dozen eggs, a month's supply of potatoes, cleaning products and even an entire fence). 

The women's strategy in the Lemon Grove Merchants Association involved non-stop deals promoting Lemon Grove as a convenient, low cost, friendly source of everything a family needed to survive in style and health in 1961. 

Give Her the Keys:  California Highway Patrol Commissioner Bradford Crittenden said impatient drivers caused more right-of-way collisions than any other type of accident in 1960.  Interestingly, despite the "women driver" jokes prevalent at the time, he said, "Men cause most of these accidents because there are more of them behind the wheel."

Powder Puff Derby Heiress:  In our Dec. 3, 2012 column we showcased the Powder Puff Derby, the transcontinental flight competition for women aviators from 1929 - 1977, that featured notable Lemon Grove women like Isabelle McCrae.  Their legacy inspired a new generation, to wit: 

In March, 1961, Mt. Miguel High School junior, Kathleen Johnson, who had begun flying lessons at age 12, celebrated her 16th birthday at Gillespie Field taking her flight test for a solo flying license that would be awarded when she turned 17. 

The daring teen took her test in a Piper Tri-Pacer, wearing her school clothes and sans helmet, oxygen mask and parachute.  She passed.  Upon landing, her parents passed out candy to assembled onlookers and announced that Kathleen had been invited to join the Ninety-Niners, a women's flying group, and would later compete in the Powder Puff Derby. 

Our Hearts Belong to Daddy:  Kathleen's first flight instructor was her dad, a pilot.  He was not alone in taking pride in his little girl and ensuring that she had opportunities to shine in male-dominated fields.  Dads and husbands everywhere in Lemon Grove and beyond were proud of their womenfolk's achievements.  

In 1961 the "Greatest Generation," the one that emerged from the Great Depression and World War One to build a new America, included millions of couples who ran businesses, clubs and associations, raised families on an equal footing, volunteered in schools and youth groups, and were the glue that held the society together.  

 They are with us still, anchoring neighborhoods in their 80s and 90s.  Give them a wave and a smile of appreciation when you see them around town, dear readers.  

 About this column:  Compiled by Helen Ofield, president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, from newspapers archived at the H. Lee House Cultural Center.  Each week, we take a peek at the past with some news and advertising highlights from a randomly chosen edition of the Lemon Grove Review.  In 2012, Ofield was awarded second prize in non-daily reporting and writing by the Society of Professional Journalists for the column.

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