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St. Cross to host Historical Society Gala

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Rev. Richard Parker with the 1948 Confirmation Class in the old church.

by The St. Cross History Committee

The Hermosa Beach Historical Society has chosen St. Cross Episcopal Church, one of the most historic sites in Hermosa Beach, for its Saturday, November 4 “Dancing in the 1940s at the Hollywood Canteen” Gala. The City and St. Cross have grown up together.

In 1905, an Episcopal church service of singing and praise was held in the City’s first school, Ocean View, located on the sand dune at the head of 18th Street and Summit Avenue (later renamed Monterey Boulevard). But the school trustees decided that the school was not the place for religious services, so in 1906, the City’s first postmistress, Sarah Alice Beane, opened a freight room at the back of the post office for church services and  Christian education for children. At her death in 1935, Sarah Alice Beane was hailed as the “mother of the community and the mother of St. Cross.”

Within three years the congregation prevailed upon Hermosa Beach land developers Burbank and Baker to donate two lots for the building of the first St. Cross Church, at Fourteenth Street and Manhattan Avenue. It was dedicated in July 1909. By the mid-1940s the congregation had outgrown the small church and the City had outgrown one of its small schools. Under the community-oriented leadership of the Rev. Richard Parker, the current St. Cross was built, coincidentally at the original Ocean View School location where the first church service was held.  

One of the early teachers in Hermosa Beach, Edith Rodaway, was a daughter of the builder of many early Hermosa buildings, including the first church. Edith Rodaway Friendship Park, at the site of the previous Prospect School (Sixth Street and Prospect Avenue), was named in her honor in July 1988.

During the hippie era of the Sixties and Seventies, many young people found themselves in trouble and stranded at the beach. In 1971, St. Cross decided to dedicate 1736 House (next door to the church) as a place for teens to stay for a period of time, get counseling, and hopefully reunite with family. It continues to be a shelter for teenagers while expanded programs in other locations assist families and women in crisis. 1736 Projects has been successful all these years because the church and the City worked together to make it happen.  

Over the years, St. Cross with the City’s support or collaboration has been instrumental in establishing the South Bay Hospital (now the Beach Cities Health District), senior-citizen housing, and the Community Garden. It has donated meeting space for Scouting, AA, Alanon, Sandpipers, Beach Cities Health District, and the Hermosa Beach Historical Society. For the past 12 years, it has shared facilities with Temple Shalom of the South Bay for Hebrew School and services. St. Cross rector, the Rev. Dr. Rachel Nyback, is a chaplain for the Hermosa Beach Police Department.

Hermosa Beach Historical Society board member Dorothy Courtney and Rev. Nyback have been working together on the Hermosa Beach Historical Society’s 3rd annual “Dancing through the Decades Gala.” The theme is the 1940s. Think: WWII, the USO Hollywood Canteen, Rosie the Riveter, Sinatra, Casablanca, swing, women’s hats, homburgs, sailor suits, telegrams, jazz, Hemingway, Betty Grable, Clark Gable, Carmen Miranda.

For information and/or tickets call the Hermosa Beach Historical Museum at (310) 318-9421

or go to HermosaBeachHistorialSociety.org.

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