Burbank Historical Society Celebrates 50th Anniversary Year With Member Appreciation Day

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This Moreland bus, which is housed at the museum, was built here in Burbank in 1923. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The Burbank Historical Society hosted its annual Member Appreciation BBQ on Saturday, July 15, at the Gordon R. Howard Museum and Mentzer House patio.

Nearly 250 BHS members and nonmembers assembled to honor contributors to the society. Barbecue foods from Handy Market and Mexican recipes courtesy of Barragan’s were served at the Western-themed community hoedown event.

Inside the museum, a crowd of attendees was entertained by a charming marionette show conducted by Daisy Hernandez of Bob Baker Marionette Theater. Additionally, the Valley Boys band sang a variety of ‘60s tunes for an audience by the Mentzer House. 

The sponsors of the luncheon were Cusumano Real Estate Group, Barragan’s, Handy Market, City of Burbank, Community Chevrolet, the Augustine family, Susie Aprahamian, the Road Kings Car Club, Tilley’s Sinclair gas station, Burbank Water and Power and Premier America Credit Union.

The ceremony celebrated supporters of the BHS amid its 50th anniversary year. In 1973, Mary Jane Strickland, along with a small team of others, initiated the society in order to conserve and share Burbank’s abundant history. With this milestone observance taking place, Burbank Historical Society President Don Baldaseroni reflected on the significance of 2023’s Member Appreciation BBQ.  

“The Burbank Historical Society hosts a member BBQ every summer, but this year is different,” Don said. “As an organization that is not-for-profit and entirely operated by volunteers, the fact that the society and museum have existed for 50 years is a testament to the importance of our organization to our community. There are hundreds of members and a dedicated group of volunteers who, over the years, have enabled us to remain open. Our mission to preserve and celebrate our history is a message that still resonates with many in the community. Therefore, gathering for this year’s BBQ is more of a celebration rather than a simple thank you to our members and supporters.”

Burbank resident and Senator Anthony Portantino, as well as Jim Roy, a representative of Senator Caroline Menjivar, were in attendance and delivered two documents: a proclamation and a State Senate Certificate of Recognition commemorating the BHS’s 50th anniversary year.

“I love this place, and I love living in Burbank,” Portantino said while offering Don the certificate. He added, “It is so cool to capture your history and your heritage so young people can appreciate it.”

Currently, there are over 300 Burbank Historical Society members. For a fee of $20 per family, participants gain access to annual events such as the Membership Appreciation BBQ, a Spring Tea reception, the December Docent Luncheon, and Memorial Day and Halloween programs. In addition, those who join can witness talks from guest speakers who make appearances at the museum throughout the year. Other gatherings also take place when the BHS teams up with fellow Los Angeles County historical societies for member get-togethers. 

The museum complex consists of two structures: the Gordon R. Howard Museum, which was named after a cherished donor, and the Mentzer House, a Victorian home that sits on Olive Avenue. Most items are available for viewing in the 20,000-square-foot museum. Altogether, the trove has amounted to “thousands upon thousands of artifacts, documents, and memorabilia,” Don says. 

The endless eye-catching displays at the location include tributes to Walt Disney and Warner Bros., a Magnolia Theatre ticket booth, memorabilia from NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” an area highlighting former Burbank resident Debbie Reynolds, a Road Kings Car Club showcase, and more. 

The individuals who stopped by the site on Saturday took note of the society’s extensive collection of fascinating Burbank relics. 

“This place is absolutely fabulous,” BHS member and Road Kings President Karen Arellano said. “It has got so much Burbank history in it, and this event they put on is just really great.”

Don and BHS Executive Board Members Sue Baldaseroni, Barbara Bartman, Carey Briggs, and Gary Sutliff organized the Member Appreciation BBQ over a months-long process. While visitors socialized, enjoyed their meals, and explored the museum, the society gained around 50 or 60 new members. 

“They came just for the luncheon, and they loved the museum,” Sue said of the new members.

At the close of another successful member appreciation function, the Burbank Historical Society team member noted the fruitful results of the group’s laborious efforts. 

“It’s amazing,” Sue said of seeing the event come together. “It’s like a kid going to Disneyland.”

In October, the society’s five decades of preserving Burbank’s past will again be acknowledged through a museum gala dinner. Not only will the gala recognize this anniversary year, but it also marks the very month of the society’s founding. This festivity is to be held for the “members, contributors, and benefactors” who have assisted the society and will be “one of the most important social events to attend in Burbank,” Don stated.

Moreover, the BHS president touched upon the importance of community members continuing to show encouragement for the ongoing mission of the society.

“The community needs to support our efforts because our efforts are not about buildings or artifacts but preserving the voices from the past,” Don said. He added, “We have always been focused on helping future generations of Burbank citizens understand their collective heritage. For those of us who volunteer our time, working with like-minded people on preservation initiatives, whether it be the restoration of a truck made in Burbank 80 years ago, or the organization of historical documents donated by a member, it can be empowering and deeply satisfying, to part of an effort that is bigger than your day-to-day life.”

Anyone interested in becoming a Burbank Historical Society docent or donating to the museum can email info@historyofburbank.com or call (818) 841-6333. 

Learn more about the Burbank Historical Society here.

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