Veteran NBC4 newscaster Patrick Healy, now retired, did his best to stump Palisades Optimist Club members with his historical presentation, “Pacific Palisades, Then and Now,” at their July 18 meeting in Janes Hall.
The Optimists, some of whom have lived in the Palisades since the 1950s, were a tough crowd, knew their history and were only too happy to shout out answers during the presentation.
But, Healy, a Pacific Palisades Historical Society board member who produced a 2022 documentary about the town’s history and the vital role played by the Methodist Church, finally stumped the group with the story of a church bell.
A bell that had been initially sent from a Massachusetts foundry to the Pasadena Methodist Church in the mid-19th century was the call to worship for the Chautauquas in Temescal Canyon in the 1920s.
How did that Pasadena bell wind up in Pacific Palisades?
Healy explained that December 10, 1891, windstorm toppled the Pasadena church steeple, which held the bell, and it fell onto the church roof. (According to a Star-News article, that same windstorm sent the Pasadena Presbyterian Church’s steeple onto Colorado Boulevard.)
In 1921, the Methodists purchased land in and around Temescal Canyon with the intention of building the greatest Chautauqua site in the country.
Pacific Palisades was subsequently founded in January 1922. By July, the founders had constructed a massive wooden auditorium, a cafeteria (still in use today), an outdoor amphitheater, 35 small cabins and at least 200 tent frames, so that visitors could be accommodated during a two-week Chautauqua.
“The Pasadena Methodist Church was a driving force in establishing the Chautauqua site in Temescal Canyon,” Healy noted.
According to local historian Randy Young, the newly-constructed auditorium held about 1,200 people. The Pasadena church bell and a bell tower were in place for that first Chautauqua.
Young said that during the 1960s, the auditorium and bell tower were razed, and that is most likely when the bell went back to Pasadena. The Methodist church had been rebuilt and reopened with a new sanctuary in 1924.
The bell is now back at the courtyard of that church on Colorado Avenue and is rung by hand every Sunday morning.
Healy, a highly entertaining speaker and long-time Palisadian, won several honors for his exceptional television reporting. He was honored by the Radio and Television News Reporting Association (RTNA) with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2015, he was part of an NBC4 team that won a Los Angeles Area Emmy for “50 Watts,” a special about the historic riots of 1965. He was also part of an NBC4 team that won the 2012 Golden Mike Award from RTNA for best spot news reporting.
Last year, to help mark the town’s 100th anniversary as well as the Community United Methodist Church’s centennial, Healy researched, wrote and produced a 42-minute video history, “The Church That Started a Town.” There’s a link to this video at the PPHS website: www.pacificpalisadeshistory.org.