Betty Sandford

I title this the Sandford Family, not Betty Sandford nor the Zelkowitz Family, because that's what it was--even though my parents and I were involved. My newly married parents had started Jack’s Quality Shoe Store in downtown Monrovia in 1925, and were active and devoted members of the community. Although my mother (Marion), as president of the Wildrose PTA, created the first free lunch program and many remember my dad as one who provided kindness and funding to individuals in need, I have no recollection that their efforts were aimed at persons of color or those suffering from bigotry.

We all experienced some anti-Semitism -- sometimes  overt, sometimes thoughtless but to the Sandfords at least it served as a prod to our involvement in fighting all bigotry and segregation.

 

As a youngster, I was aware that people of color were segregated in the schools, swimming pool and housing. I suffered my own stress at being expected to sing Christian religious songs in school and was aware that my parents and I were limited in our social life and organizations we could join. I lost male Christian friends as I became an attractive teenager, and I remember Monrovia’s Japanese families being sent off to camps. Nevertheless, my first real recognition of bigotry and my need to respond came through a meeting of the Coordinating Council in the 1950s.

By that time, I was married and the mother of two, my parents having moved us to Los Angeles in the early 40s, so that my sister Charlotte and I might have the opportunity to date and eventually marry. Back in Monrovia, and now a college graduate, I had been recruited by such organizations as League of Women Voters of Monrovia and B’nai Brith, and represented them in the Coordinating Council. In the late 1950s, a Black commissioner from the LA County Human

Relations Commission spoke to Coordinating Council members of local Black-White issues and encouraged the development of a Monrovia Human Relations Committee. Allie Romney and I were among those volunteering for such a committee-with Allie (Principal of Huntington School) as President, I as secretary and a few Black and White men as members. Because they were afraid to speak directly to us, Allie recorded several Black young people, who voiced their concerns - including the fact that Black women couldn't try clothes on before purchase at McBratney's Department Store on Myrtle Ave. We next used the development of a new library in Monrovia, Liberia (Africa) to develop a program of Black-White book collection in our own Monrovia. During this period, Jules started law school, graduating in 1960, the year our third child was born. In 1961 he joined Emmet Patten as a partner and they soon developed the law firm known as Patten, Faith and Sandford.

Soon, a much larger and more focused Human Relations Committee was formed by a Black man -- Bill Brooks, and I was one of those who joined. And, with Arcadia and Duarte forming their own high schools, Monrovia combined our elementary and high school districts to form MUSD. But other things did not change. When a white Christian real estate salesman working for my father sold a house to a light-skinned Negro couple in a "White neighborhood,” Monrovians harassed my Jewish father until he attempted suicide. My oldest child entered public school and found it necessary to ask me to tell her teacher not to expect her to sing Christian religious songs. But the thing that awakened the public was the creation of the first Monrovia Unified School District budget. Although developed by a large bi-partisan group and advocated by three members who chose to run for school board, both the budget and the candidates were strongly beaten by three John Birch Society candidates.

Immediately, the Alliance for a Better Community (ABC) was formed. It was led by Caltech-schooled retired scientists Roland Hawes and Peter Lippman, with the Sandfords, Maruggs, Bill Brooks and other community leaders who joined with school leaders and personnel to fight the majority on the School Board and to ensure sufficient funds to run the District. Although the issues were not voiced as pro and con integration, integration was now a goal of the District and

integration obviously demanded increased funding.

 

Although school personnel were threatened over the telephone and although ABC was unsuccessful in a recall, the recruitment of Monrovians to attend School Board meetings reached 500 at one Board Meeting. The obvious disagreement of the audience with the Board majority, eventually ended with the retirement of all three Birchers, the election of a new majority, sufficient funding and integration.

Involved in this solution with ABC were the NAACP, Bill Brook's Human Relations Committee, various churches and the League of Women Voters of Monrovia. The latter, with me as President and Pat Ray as study chair conducted a thorough study of Black-White issues in our community. Later Pat developed a Head Start program in the community and recruited me and others to manage it.

In the meantime, some high school students - the U.N. Gang, my daughters (Randy and Leslie who had both suffered from verbal anti-Semitism) and others - were researching the issue of segregation in the schools, making a video to tell the story, and helping to elect Mimi Mency as the first Black member of the School Board. I had been involved in preparing parents for school integration and co-chaired a biracial group of parents who prevented a post-integration riot in the

high school. Once the school issue was solved, ABC devoted its attention to the City. A coalition of three candidates was put together – a youth, a woman and a Black - and thanks in part to an outstanding public relations campaign initiated by Pete Lippman, the three (Eric Faith, Pat Ostrye and Bob Bartlett) achieved an overwhelming victory and retained their seats for years. My husband Jules and I were strongly involved in the election and Jules served as advisor to Bob Bartlett and the others.

 

Simultaneously, with my efforts in Monrovia, I devoted time to foreign policy issues through the United Nations Association, the US Committee for UNICEF and the Bilateral Nuclear Freeze Campaign. Trips to Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Israel, Guatemala and Mexico expanded my understanding of poverty and how to help those suffering from neglect. My Monrovia-related social concerns for the next several years focused on children and youth, and especially early education for low-income and minority youngsters. Starting with Unity Center and Centennial-advocated child care issues, I culminated these concerns with six years on the School Board.

Those of us who were considered inappropriate for membership in the Tennis Club (at that time the social center of the community) considered starting our own club.

We never did, but a member of an old family who had been snubbed for marrying a Mexican

woman became President of the John Birch Society and the Jewish Sandfords gave their time and energy to fighting bigotry and segregation.

 

In the 1970s, Jules and I were invited to join the Tennis Club. Our answer was, “Thanks, but no thanks. You should have asked Jack and Marion (my parents).” I doubt if that segregated organization still plays a role in the social hierarchy of Monrovia. After my years as Chair of the Monrovia Centennial activities, the City honored me “for bringing people and cultures together as a community.” In the late 80s and early 90s, I devoted several years to electing and retaining Bob Bartlett as a strong and effective mayor for the City of Monrovia. I also conducted an essentially one-person campaign to keep community prayers from reflecting only one religion. While my early human relations efforts were focused on Black-White issues, during my years on the School Board I became aware of Hispanic-related issues and focused on making parent education available to Hispanic parents. After I left the School Board, I chaired a Dropout Prevention Study

for the Pasadena-area LWV and found myself involved in another predominantly Hispanic issue. Jules continued as an advisor to community leaders for the remainder of his life. In my late 80’s I initiated the ChangeMakers project to celebrate the ongoing struggle of people of all genders, colors, ethnicities and religions against bigotry. The Sandford family has continued this struggle throughout their lives.

[To learn more about Betty's life and family, see the Monrovia Historical Society's online collection and read her memoir here.]