For many years, the lack of knowledge and interest in our Festival of
Arts and Pageant of the Masters by our local “live here” citizens has
completely amazed me. What the Festival has done in and for the city of
Laguna Beach, with little praise of recognition, approaches a modern
In 1954, as I was completing a term on the local board of education,
two artist friends asked me if I would consider my appointment to fill a
vacancy on the Festival board. Joe Johraus, then owner of Laguna Lumber,
told me it would be a great way to get to know the real Laguna. I
accepted the appointment and thus generated a 46-year career that, next
to my family, became my greatest lifetime experience.
The deserved pride of the Festival workers is something to marvel at
-- then and now. At the time of my appointment the full-time, paid
employees numbered three. Verner Beck manned the office, Carl Callaway
did everything on the stage, and John Callan was the director/producer of
Back then the Irvine Bowl was grass and cinders with wood park benches
for seating, and the stage was a green wooden structure much resembling a
barn. The exhibit area was covered with about four inches of shavings
(courtesy of Joey Johraus) and each artist designed and built their own
booth. This, like the present sawdust, did generate quite a bit of
The bowl was the first major improvement with a concrete floor and
steps. This was done “in house” with my company doing the work “at cost.”
Shortly thereafter Don Williamson was employed to design a stage
structure, which Earl Grandy built. This new facility made posible an
entirely new era for the Pageant.
Williamson liked the stage building so much he gave up his
architectural practice to become producer/director of the Pageant for the
next 16 years, and he truly did a wonderful job -- many new innovations.
After Williamson did such a great job with the stage, he was given the
job of designing an administration building for our large staff of 10.
The building was built by Chas Benton and the Festival became a real
Around then Bill Blurock was hired to design the permanent site layout
for the exhibit area and structures. Next Williamson was called upon to
prepare plans for the Tivoli Terrace and Forum Theater. These were
started by Ralph Kinney and finished by my company.
While all these structures and improvements are showing their age,
they are well-designed, structurally sound and serve their purpose well.
All buildings and facilities on the grounds were designed, built and paid
for by the Festival.
In addition, the Festival has given the city of Laguna millions in
rent payments, millions in art promotion grants, millions in tourist
promotion, millions in scholarships and the Main Beach.
While I know our city administration must serve many masters, I still
have faith in the hope that they will not disappoint our 500 faithful
volunteers and loyal staff in their prayers for a fair and equitable
lease -- soon!