Bill Russell has fond memories of his years at Hoover High School. As a member of the school band, Russell and his fellow players marched down Main Street at the just-opened Disneyland, performed for the audience at the annual Hoover vs. Glendale game at the Rose Bowl and marched in Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade.
Russell grew up at 326 Concord St. and attended Columbus Elementary. His grandmother Jessie Russell, one of the founders of Glendale’s PTA, served as president of that organization from 1910 to 1913. His mother, Ruth, continuing the volunteer activity modeled by her mother-in-law, signed up as assistant hospitality chair at Columbus, as noted in a 1950-’51 PTA directory kept by the Russell family. (This was back in the days when that school’s PTA membership stood at 445 members.)
He still remembers the big pickles they bought from a market across from Columbus.
“They were dill pickles and came out of a jar,” he said. “They cost a nickel in those days. The market is still there.”
Sometimes, he and his friends walked to another store, a little white house on Pacific Avenue at Lexington Drive, to buy candy.
1949 was a very cold winter, he recalled. So cold that water puddles on the playground turned to ice.
“We would run and skate on them. It snowed here that year. It never snows here in Glendale, but we had to go to school anyway,” he remembered.
Russell began his musical education in the fourth grade when he joined the chorus. When he entered Toll (riding his bike up Concord to the school) he took up the flute and played that instrument all three years.
Russell joined the band as soon as he got to Hoover and vividly recalled playing at the Hoover vs. Glendale game in the Rose Bowl.
“It seemed like half the town turned out for the games,” he said. “We played ‘Rock Around the Clock.’ “
The cross-town rivals played at the Rose Bowl for more than 30 years, from 1933 to 1966, according to an article in the Glendale High student newspaper Explosion, Nov. 14, 2008.
“Crowds usually numbered 15,000 to 20,000, but in the 1930s some games drew more than 30,000 spectators,” Russell said.
Every year that he attended the Hoover vs. Glendale game, Russell tried to figure out how to beat the crowd back to Bob’s Big Boy in Glendale. One year, he said, he had his mother’s car and tried a new route, driving back on Linda Vista Road. “Everyone went to Bob’s after the game.”
Russell was in the band on New Year’s Day, 1956 when, after many hours of planning and practice, the band marched down the parade route. Smartly attired in their brand-new purple-and-white uniforms, they were “a sight that will long remain in the hearts of the students,” according to the 1956 Scroll yearbook.
In March of that same year, Russell said, the band played on Main Street in Disneyland.
“This was a year after the park opened and several bands were there. Maybe 10 or more. We took a school bus down.”
Since their uniforms were brand new, the students were cautioned to keep them clean as they toured the park after the performance.
Looking back on those years, he said, “I didn¹t appreciate playing in all those venues during high school until much later in life.”
Russell graduated from Hoover in 1958 and then attended Glendale Community College. He also joined the Elks Choraliers, sponsored by Elks Lodge #1289.
“My grandfather was a founding member of that group.” He enlisted in the Navy, serving from 1962 to 64. “J.F. Kennedy came to review us on the USS Kitty Hawk a month before he was killed.”
Russell and Wanda Dray were married in 1967. Their son, Scott, graduated from Hoover in 1994 and his daughter, Hannah Rejana, just graduated this year, marking three generations of Russell family members at Hoover.
“ON TV, from its birth in 1977 and until its end in 1989, was located in Glendale on Grand Central Avenue,” Marc Cushman writes. “The Channel 52 studios (ON TV’s affiliate in L.A.) were there, as well. And Channel K was produced there. If you lived in L.A. back then, I’m sure you remember ON. It was quite the rage, and for good reason — there was no cable TV in L.A. (or the Valleys, or even Orange County) — only in the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills (Theta Cable, which aired Z Channel). So Oak Industries, which owned ON TV, devised a way to scramble a TV signal, beam it across L.A., then decode the signal in a converter box in each customer’s home.
“And each of the boxes, like today’s cable boxes, was triggered individually, allowing ON to do the first pay-per-view events (music specials, sports specials, boxing events). And this all came out of Glendale.”