Burbank Historical Society Commemorates 50 Years With Champagne Reception

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

The Burbank Historical Society held a successful champagne reception to celebrate its 50th anniversary year on Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Gordon R. Howard Museum. 

Acclaimed vocalist Rat Pack Ricky Medlin sang a variety of tunes while guests mingled, browsed around the first and second floors of the museum, and ate from tables of appetizing food provided by charcuterie and cheese board company Charqute.

Around 200 people were in attendance, including Burbank Mayor Konstantine Anthony, Vice Mayor Nick Schultz, Burbank City Councilmembers Zizette Mullins and Nikki Perez, Senator Anthony Portantino, former Burbank Mayors Bob Frutos and Tim Murphy, Burbank Parks & Recreation Director Marisa Garcia, and city of Burbank Community Development Director Patrick Prescott. 

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

The leaders behind the gathering were Event Chair Theodore X. Garcia and BHS board members Sue Baldaseroni, Barbara Bartman, and Mike Thomas.

Mary Jane Strickland initiated the Burbank Historical Society alongside a small group of contributors in 1973, and Gordon R. Howard served as a prominent benefactor of the BHS. Howard’s namesake museum is a 20,000-square-foot building filled with fascinating Burbank memorabilia. The Mentzer House, a restored Victorian home that was constructed in 1887, sits nearby and is the second building of the museum complex. The two facilities are managed by BHS participants on a voluntary basis.

Throughout its five decades of operation, the BHS has kept Burbank’s vibrant history alive with a variety of museum displays, including sections highlighting Warner Bros. Cartoons, Walt Disney Animation Studios, NBC, the Burbank Road Kings, Lockheed Corporation, Pickwick Bowl, former Burbank resident Debbie Reynolds, and much more. BHS President Don Baldaseroni states that more than 150,000 historical documents and objects are housed in the museum complex, all of which have been offered by donors over the years. 

“I’m extremely proud of the accomplishments made by all past and present board members and our docents,” Don said. “We have formed a great relationship with our city leaders, and to think it started with Mary Jane Strickland who had a dream — still going today.”

During the festivity, a group of students was awarded for essays they wrote based on the prompt of where Burbank may be in 50 year’s time. The scholarship program recipients were Aneeth Nangunoori of Bret Harte Elementary School, Siddharta Reynolds of Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary School, Charlie Bunje of Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School, Fiona Knappmiller and Audrey Lynch of Luther Burbank Middle School, Gwendolynn Hager and Adara Chi of John Burroughs High School, and Alyssa M. Viviano of Dolores Huerta Middle School. These scholars were each presented with a certificate and a $750 check by Burbank Unified School District Board of Education Clerk Dr. Armond Aghakhanian, as well as Don, Schultz, and Perez.

While delivering a speech, Don thanked BHS Vice President Mari Pititto, Operations Managers Carey and Dianna Briggs, BHS IT professional Joseph Rangel, and board members Gary Sutliff, Tony Rivera, Maggie Brum Thomas, Susie and Peter Hodgson, Elaine Rosenberg, Ken Smith, Craig Bullock, and Mickey DePalo, among others. 

The city of Burbank, Community Chevrolet, Barragan’s, Handy Market, Burbank Water and Power, the Road Kings, Mike Thomas, the Augustine family, the Hodgsons, Gain Federal Credit Union, the Kiwanis Club of Burbank, Susie Aprahamian, Tilley Burbank Sinclair, and Premier America Credit Union were named as donors. 

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

This gathering marks the third event of 2023 for the BHS. Earlier in the year, the organization hosted a tea party and a membership appreciation BBQ. Don says the tea party saw a turnout of more than 100 guests, and the BBQ attracted over 250 attendees.

As the BHS is closing out half a century of honoring the history of Burbank, Don shared his optimism for the next generation of community members.  

“I hope we are able to teach and instill history into the future generations so they want to become involved and eventually take over when we are no longer here, and to instill how important history is to all communities and citizens,” he said. 

The BHS president additionally stated, “…We have one goal in mind: to collect and preserve the history of Burbank for future generations. We are able to show the kids what their history is by touring school classes every year. I love our city, and without the society and museum, our children and new citizens to our community would not know of the wonderful town they live in.”
Learn more about the Burbank Historical Society here.

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