By Laura Foti Cohen
The Ebell celebrates her anniversary on Charter Day this month, her legacy preserved under the leadership of a series of strong and visionary Presidents. This month, Ebell Presidents dating back to 1978 reflect upon developments during their terms in office and the role of the Club in today’s Los Angeles.
Ivada Parker (1978-1980, 1992-1994) had served as First Vice President only three months when the President died. Because she hadn’t served a full term, she was eligible to be re-elected. [At the time Ebell by-laws otherwise prevented second terms.] During her second term, Club finances were tight, and Ivada initiated the rental of the clubhouse and theatre for filming, action which prevented a possible sale.
Ivada served on the 1994 Centennial Committee, which oversaw the redecorating of the clubhouse and, spearheaded by Gloria Droguett, was able to obtain federal, state, county and city Historic Landmark status for the building. Landmark certification was achieved for the Club’s centennial year.
Betty Jean Shea (1994-1996) entered office during the centennial year and remembers as a highlight of her term the Club’s participation in the Rose Parade of 1995. Betty Jean gives three reasons the Ebell’s entry was accepted: “Besides being our centennial year, the Ebell had been active in the early days of the Rose Parade, back in the days of the Valley Hunt Club. We were also able to provide a special kind of entry, not a float but an antique horse-drawn coach. The six ladies who rode wore wonderful costumes from our collection.”
Betty, an attorney, also notes that during her term the Ebell was established as a nonprofit corporation, saving “a fair amount of tax.” She adds, “I was pleased with those changes, which were appropriate at the time.”
Ann Bloxsom (1996-1998) grew up in Texas and now lives there again. After serving as chairman of the Radcliffe Club of Southern California and the DAR her first Ebell job was Scholarship chair. She says, “Because my mother taught me about investing, I doubled the portfolio, which allowed us to go from 45 to 90 students.”
After Scholarship, Ann’s next Ebell position was chairing Rest Cottage. “I reorganized the finances of that group so we had a good deal more money and we expanded the Rest Cottage gifts to include several shelters for battered women.” During Ann’s presidency, the Ebell had a monthly breakfast program geared to members who worked during the day.
Gloria Carroll (1998-2000) says, “I loved being President.” In part this is because Gloria’s presidency spanned two millennia, and she presided over the fabulous Millennium Ball that New Year’s Eve, a huge celebration that took place on all three floors of the building.
About her first term, current Ebell president Shirlee Taylor Haizlip (2000-2002) remembers, “During my tenure we made the decision to hire our own chef and the necessary supporting staff, then modernized and updated the kitchen to earn an A grade. We reconfigured the Directory by adding bios and pictures of members and replicated the Ebell’s first Consular Ball from 1927. We also applied for and obtained the Club’s first liquor license, adding significantly to our income. I invited the Wilshire Rotary to have its meeting at the Ebell, and as you know, they still do. I researched and retrieved the early Art Nouveau Ebell logo and incorporated it into my design of the Club’s first crimson red banners, flanking each corner of the building’s front side, eliminating it’s public anonymity. Finally, I was happy to have been the first Black Ebell President to be elected, marking a new era of diversity in the Club.”
Says Kay Balue (2002-2004), “I’m most proud of bringing in top management to run the facility, as well as professional staff and a Human Resources expert. Having a General Manager took away the Ebell’s everyday operations from a constantly changing Board, which stabilized the work environment for the staff. Up to that point, the Board made all decisions about hiring, firing, raises and so on, with no on-site expert on ever-changing employee laws.”
During Kay’s term the clubhouse received a bequest from the trust of Aura-Lee Pittenger and a donation from Jim Inman in memory of his wife. Kay says, “We hired a contractor to construct a handicapped restroom and proper handicapped access into the building, while beautifying the port-cochere entrance and parking lot.”