Holiday gatherings are a PVA tradition
In the spirit of the holidays — and in my continuing quest for historical knowledge of all things related to Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) — I recently came across an article I wanted to share with you.
This article was among an archive treasure trove belonging to the PVA California Chapter that was dug up on my trip to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Long Beach Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Center in California in January 2020.
Titled VAL Will Entertain Veterans, the article was written circa 1958 by Cholly Angeleno, otherwise known as Lynn Spencer, a society writer and columnist for the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.
In it, Angeleno reprints a letter he received from former newspaper columnist Lloyd A. Pantages, who incidentally was a PVA Speedy Award winner (non-member) in 1968. Pantages references Angeleno’s complaint that all the Christmas parties he’s attended are the same and proceeds to inform him of the annual holiday party put on by the Veterans Assistance League at the Long Beach Veterans Hospital.
An excerpt from the article reads as follows:
“As you know, our group has been putting these shindigs on for the last eight years in Long Beach and before that for about seven years at the old Birmingham Hospital in the Valley.
“We call our little deal a reception with music. We serve scrumptious food, have a wonderful orchestra, and anyone with talent who wants to get up and sing and dance we are happy to have.
“All this starts at 2 p.m., culminating with a motion picture. This year, courtesy of MGM, ‘The Wonders of Aladdin’ will be shown.
“Part of the dazzling array of socialites take off by bus from the Sunset Towers at 11:30 a.m., each armed with cookies, and hard boiled eggs to augment the turkey, ham, etc., that is always served.
“The bus (kindly donated by Western Greyhound Lines) accommodates 41 happy, laughing people, dressed to the teeth, taking off to spend the entire day and evening pushing beds, feeding the boys, with everyone contributing fun, laughter and yak-yak.
“So if you have nothing better to do Monday, Dec. 18, bake four dozen cookies, hard boil two dozen eggs, and jump aboard. We’ll be happy to have you.”
Angeleno then comments that the buffet would be catered by Everett Boyette and his staff of the Apple Valley Inn, which was a popular vacation destination for Hollywood celebrities during the 1940s-’60s. Entertainment was to be provided by Sammy Weiss’ orchestra and the event emceed by Buddy Rogers.
He adds that “Lloyd also neglected (doubtless because he’s out of practice in writing articles for newspapers) to include that in addition to the Christmas season program, the VAL carries on numerous recreation and rehabilitation projects for disabled vets. Each Monday throughout the year, they meet at the hospital to distribute refreshments in the paraplegic and polio wards and push beds and wheelchairs to the hospital theater for the weekly movie which is provided by the league.”
Angeleno concludes his column by saying, “It’s pleasant to know that there are others than the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, United Voluntary Services and a few more who haven’t forgotten our disabled vets.”
It’s also nice to know that PVA continues to hold similar parties at VA spinal-cord injury and disease centers.
As the country continues to emerge from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, my hope is that this tradition of holiday gatherings at VA hospitals across the nation can resume. This time of year can be hard for veterans with spinal-cord injury and disease who are stuck in the hospital and unable to spend time with family and friends, and these parties offer a welcome distraction.
The holidays are a busy time for everyone, but let’s try to help our fellow veterans with disabilities in any way we can.