Month 2: Grace Mullen
The woman who founded the Bowl
By Toni Momberger
Grace Stewart Mullen was a troublemaker and a fighter.
Following the Spirit of Redlands established by the Smiley Brothers, which mandated that culture, arts, literature, education and opportunity be accessible to everyone, she established what would become the longest running amphitheater in the world where no admission is charged.
It’s the Redlands Bowl, and it’s the result of her obstinance.
People thought it was a bad idea to ask people to pay whatever they were able to give. She didn’t care.
The first event was to be a Community Sing on a nice 1924 summer evening, and without she staged a one-man sit-in, the figurative curtain would not have risen.
What was then a wooden bandstand was built with only seven bare incandescent bulbs, and there were no lights for the audience to read their song books.
On the evening before the sing, Grace stopped by to inspect what she thought would be new lighting, because it had been promised by the city engineer.
But that engineer’s pants were figuratively on fire.
She marched down to rouse him and learned he hadn’t kept his word because he felt nobody would ever come to such a program.
He had picked the wrong woman to dismiss.
She huffed over to that wooden bandstand, parked herself with her arms crossed and said she’d sit until the lights were installed.
The engineer, with visions of his name on the fallout of her spending the night alone in the park, acquiesced.
The next night, under new posts of lights, 1,500 people showed up to sing the first Bowl concert, and 92 years later the Redlands Community Music Association looks back at that night as its launching.
Grace was born in Tennessee in 1875 and died in Redlands in 1967.