Memories of old South Pasadena Ward Building
by Judy Snyder Lyon (with [additional comments] from other SP Ward Alums…)

I could say I remember the old ward building like it was yesterday, but as I’ve thought about it lately, I find myself uncertain in a few areas. So I want to describe it to all of you tonight.

It was a cross between a Romanesque and Gothic style building, not unlike Notre Dame Cathedral, (but with less “gothic-ness”). Hmmm. Well, I can see it clearly. I’m trying to find a picture of it. We bought it from another church during World War II. We had saved enough money to build, but because of the war were not allowed to start building. The other church had started a new building and because it was already started they were allowed to finish, but needed more money. So we bought it and both churches met there until their building was finished. In those days we had Priesthood Mtg at 9:00 am and Sunday School at 10:30 am. Sacrament meeting was at 5:00 or 5:30 pm. So I don’t know how the dual meeting plan worked as I was not born yet. Originally it was El Sereno Ward and the first Bishop was Howard W. Hunter.

There were twin towers on the front with an arched façade between. The center portion had a stained glass picture of Christ and the Lambs that the Young Women had saved money to buy. (I understand a similar thing was done for the Alhambra ward.) It may have been that the original building had a “cross” shaped window there. Inside, the chapel had a high vaulted ceiling. The floor was slanted down toward the “stand” and benches were of dark wood. There were stained glass windows along both sides, not unlike Halava ward in Hawaii. I fact there were porches along both sides too. The side windows did not have pictures, but were of mottled yellow, green, blue etc. in small panes, perhaps 5”x 10”. The windows themselves reached up perhaps 12 ft. beginning at waist height. The podium and balustrade was dark wood also and choir seats upholstered with maroon velvet. Far above the choir seats was the Stained glass window of the Savior. I loved to look at it as a child. I imagine, it quieted more than one wriggly child.

There were two small rooms on each side of the choir seats. One was where the Sacrament was prepared and one was the library (I think). Looking toward the back from the stand you could see the maroon curtain that covered the large window opening to the Jr. Sunday School room which could be used as a “cry room” during meetings. (In the Jr. SS room the window was covered by a large double door). The pews were arranged with a large center section flanked by 2 aisles and side seating beyond that with an outside aisle between those pews and the windows. (Whoa, maybe it was 2 lg. portions of seating with a center aisle and side aisles. That would make more sense.) [No, it was definitely how you first described it–with large center section flanked by 2 aisles and side seating on both sides. The reason I am certain is because: a) our family always sat in the 2nd row ‘front-&-center pew’ and b) clear memories of passing the sacrament up and down the two aisles as a Deacon. Tres Tanner] There was a back bench that ran along the entire width of the back wall with a large entry aisle in front of it before the general seating.

Looking back you could also see the balcony! Fun, huh? It had a curved railing that wasn’t very high, about knee height – bit scary! The first row of wooden theatre style seats was right behind it. I don’t recall an aisle between. The seats folded up and they were arranged on stair steps with an aisle going all the way across after about 5 rows and then more rows above that, possibly 10 altogether. I don’t remember if the seats extended all the way to both sides. I always sat in the middle. Sometimes we could sit up there for church, but not usually.

At the top of the balcony were 3 classrooms. The center one housed a Gestetner duplicating machine. The stencils that we typed for it were made of a large sheet of blue waxed paper. When you typed on it, the wax was displaced leaving a stencil. The stencil was then wrapped around a drum and when it was turned ink went through the stencil to the paper. I remember typing stencils at home on our very old, upright black typewriter. A lot of our old legal sized copies of family history were made on that typewriter and copy machine. Understandably the doors to that room were often locked!

While we’re upstairs I’ll tell about the 2 large rooms on either side of the balcony and across the landing hall. They were used as Seminary rooms and that’s where I attended seminary. The rooms had windows on 2 sides and composed the back corners of the building. There were also a couple of small room opening off the landing which I recall as closet/library type rooms. Large open staircases with wooden balustrades led back down to the main foyer. That upstairs hall did not extend forward over the long porches.

If you entered the long porches from the front steps you came through an archway flanked by the chapel on one side and a tower entrance on the other. There was a room at the top of the tower where I attended Sunday school class with Sister Lyla Lawrence…. (Had oriental stuff in her house and wore a bun? She made us the original white paper rabbit mask from which I took inspiration for the ones I made in Malaysia.) (It seems like you could enter that room from the stairs next to the choir seats but I don’t remember. Were there 2 separate rooms? I don’t think so.) I don’t know what was in the other tower room and don’t remember ever going up there. [I went up there one or two times. This rarely-entered, dusty, musty storage room appeared to be used primarily for tents and flags belonging to the Boy Scout troop. Tres Tanner] There may have originally been bells in those towers. I don’t know.

Walking toward the foyer doors from the front entrance to either porch there were the stained glass windows of the chapel and on the other side columns with a view of either the side lawn and some flowers on the South, less-used side and on the North side, the parking lot. On that North side there was another stairway to the porch, near the main doors, leading up from the parking lot where we usually entered.

After entering the foyer on the north, the large stairway went up to the balcony, or you could walk straight ahead passing the women’s room, then the Ward Clerk’s office on the right and ending at the Bishop’s office. On Sundays the ward clerk placed a table across the doorway of the clerk’s office and sat there to receive tithing. [This stairway was a great place for rambunctious Primary boys to jump from upper stairs down to the main hallway floor. I believe I finally reached the point where I jumped all the way from the midway landing—about 12 steps up—down to the hallway. Tres Tanner]

Across the hall you could turn left into the Jr. Sunday School room. There were small chairs, I think, (benches???) facing South where there was a small “stand” with podium and piano. Along the back wall of the building and separated from the Jr. chapel with a newly built wall were about 4-5 small classrooms each having a door with a window in it. That let in some light from the outside. One of my jobs as a teen was playing the piano for Primary each Wednesday afternoon in that Jr. Chapel. (I can remember Primary also being held in the main Chapel when I was little. Mutual was held in the main Chapel on Tuesday nights.)

Coming up the South porch one entered a twin foyer with an open staircase going upstairs. Walking back along the Hall you passed the Men’s room and came to the a large Relief Society room which extended out into the side yard and had many windows and a windowed door which led out to the garden. (Was there another classroom between the Men’s room and RS room??) Relief Society was held on a weekday (Wed.?) The lesson was upstairs, but activities like quilting, crafts and the luncheon were all downstairs.

Beyond the Relief Society room was a door on the left to the nursery. As you entered the nursery there was a short corridor which was lined with chalkboard like a wainscoting. Children liked drawing with chalk. It then opened up into the main nursery room for play etc. If you walked straight to the end of the hall, you would pass a door to the Primary room and enter a small butler’s kitchen. (ie. Sink, some dishes, no stove, (refrigerator??). Wedding receptions were sometimes held in the Primary room and refreshments could be served from this kitchen. [This was also used periodically to serve refreshments for other occasions, as well. I recall sneaking back for more than my share 2nds, 3rds and 4ths of cookies & punch there. Tres Tanner] (That’s also where I learned to wipe a whole stack of plates. You hold the stack in the left hand and wipe the top and bottom. Then move the top plate to the bottom and keep wiping until they’re all dry. Judy)From there you could go outside through a door with stairs leading down into a play yard. The yard ran the entire width of the building and was paved so we could ride tricycles and swing on a swing set. At the north end was a gate to the parking lot.

Going back to the 2 foyers; just before and under the main stairways were 2 stairways leading to the basement. Here was a cement floor with a relatively low ceiling – 8 ft.? There were pillars throughout to support the building. The basement did not go under the chapel but extended the full size of the rest of the building. In the center, entered through a large open doorway, was the cultural hall (sorry no basketball) . On the north side along the entire side was a huge commercial kitchen. It had 2 very large commercial ranges with double ovens, etc. There was a small anteroom with refrigerators. [It was from the freezer compartments of these refrigerators where I and other Deacons/Teachers would sometimes sneak down during Sacrament Meeting to raid some ice cream left over from a previous Saturday evening event when assigned to sit ushering the back door of the chapel. . .Shameless. Tres Tanner] Running most of the length of the kitchen was an island for food preparation with shelves full of pots, etc. under it. Sinks lined north wall and windows looking out onto the surface of the parking lot. A door was at the end of that side which opened to a stairwell leading up to the parking lot. Between the kitchen and the cultural hall was a long cafeteria style window opening to a kitchen counter from which dinners could be served. This is where we formed the line for the “Dime a Dip” dinners.

On the south wall of the basement were 3 classrooms raised up about 6 inches from the cultural hall floor. Each one opened into the cultural hall with a curtain. The first two were often used as stages for variety shows, etc. The third one in the corner was usually filled with folding tables and chairs. (To the left of the classrooms and before the doorway to the south stairs was a huge fireplace. To my knowledge we never had a fire in it. Judy)
I believe there might have been some high basement style windows along the west wall from which you could see the play yard. The east wall was solid and faced under the chapel..

In the parking lot along the west side and about 100 ft. from the building was a cement platform that was used to stage outdoor programs and at the side of which was a barbeque pit for luaus. At the far north end of the parking lot, along Huntington Drive was a two story home owned by the church where a family (the Mays) lived and he was the custodian. [Midway between the cement platform and the custodial house on the west end of the parking lot was another small structure used for Boy Scout meetings, as well as for the Primary Blazers class. Tres Tanner] (Wow I don’t remember that at all. Judy) Then on the very north east corner was a drugstore, where kids used to sneak out to buy candy, etc. (I may still have a couple of LP records I bought there!)

So there it is – my memories of the old building. We had road shows, sang in the choir and I was in a singing quartet called the Pearltones and led by the organist and my piano teacher Pearl Collett. We had Bazaars held in the Primary room for which Mom let me help make felt scripture covers and yardstick holders. I have one in my garage here in Kansas. After the Bazaars we had big church dinners downstairs.