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Once Upon a Time ... 1937-2013

by SJV Town Hall Past-President Carol Cowin

The year was 1937... A full-scale war began between Japan and China. Civil war raged in Spain. British Prime Minister Chamberlain hoped to appease Hitler’s Nazi Germany even as war clouds thickened. In the U.S. the depression continued while isolationist fervor grew. FDR had begun his second term, having been re-elected by a sweeping majority vote.

Less than sixty thousand people lived in the City of Fresno’s ten square miles. Fulton Street was the center of business. Electrically powered streetcars ran down the middle of the city’s major streets. Fresno’s Memorial Auditorium and the County Hall of Records, both W.P.A. projects, were completed. Fresno State Teacher’s College was permitted to drop the “Teacher” from its name. And in the neighboring town of Hanford, a woman of letters hoped to make an addition to our valley’s intellectual and cultural life by providing a venue for thinking adults to become better informed.

That woman was Clio Lee Aydelott. She was one of the founders of the San Joaquin Chapter of the League of Western Writers and in that capacity made frequent trips to San Francisco. While visiting “The City,” Clio became familiar with the lecture series that Dr. Alan Rappaport had established. Believing that our valley needed what she called this unique medium, Clio invited Dr. Rappaport to a meeting of the League of Western Writers. Clio and her colleagues convinced him to bring his lecture series to Fresno. On January 10, 1938, the first lecture of the Fresno Town Hall Forum was presented in the Hardy Theater. The series, which consisted of seven morning and six evening lectures, was so well received that a second season was booked for the fall of the year. Thus, this is Town Hall’s 78th year, but it is our 79th season.

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