Our History

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The History of the Hawthorne Seventh-day Adventist Church





The year was 1921. Three or four Sabbath-keeping families moved into Lawndale and after learning their common faith a Sabbath School was formed. Interest grew and Elder J.W. Rich came to Hawthorne for a series of tent meetings near the Hawthorne water tower. The interest created from these meetings formed the nucleus of the Hawthorne Church which was organized by W.M. Adams on December 10, 1921, with 11 charter members. (Los Angeles Airport was established in 1928.)

After meeting in an old store building for several months, a lot was purchased on Plaza Square and before the close of 1922, services were held in the new building. The membership was now at 46.

Shortly thereafter the building was moved to a new location on Menlo Avenue were a two-room school was also erected. This plant was dedicated on December 31, 1927.

In 1932, under the leadership of Elder Earl Reynolds and with a membership of 189, a need was felt for a church in Inglewood. And so a new church was built in Inglewood with its first meeting on August 18, 1934. Nearly all of the members at Hawthorne then transferred to Inglewood. At a Wednesday night meeting it was voted to close the Hawthorne Church, but on the following Sabbath the vote was rescinded.

The Hawthorne Church, with a much smaller membership, continued at the Menlo Avenue location until 1952 when a badly needed remodeling program was begun by the 82 members under the leadership of Elder Don Reynolds. This $20,000 project resulted in a new modern structure which was dedicated on March 13, 1954.

Within a year, additional Sabbath School rooms and church space were needed. The Lord led in securing the land at the present location on the corner of Compton (Marine) Avenue and Prairie Avenue. Part of the land to the west of the church was sold to finance the building of the sanctuary on which construction started in April, 1956. (Chuckie Salazar, a young boy, lost a finger in the concrete mixer, and it still is in the foundation because the same foundation was used after the fire.)

On November 17, 1956, the first services were held in the sanctuary and on March 22, 1958, dedication services were held. This was the last Sabbath that Elder Don Reynolds pastored the Hawthorne Church, and in appreciation of his leadership, the youth chapel was named “Reynolds Chapel.” During his tenure, Elder Don Reynolds also held Sunday services for the growing neighborhood.

Elder Erling Calkins served as pastor from April 1958 to 1964, and during his ministry, not only did the membership continue to grow but the youth department became one of the finest in the area. The youth, under the leadership of David Bostrom, Dulcie Betham, Bonnie Biernart, Don Fisk and Bill Van Deursen, put on plays such as “The Day the Plagues Fell,” throughout California. They still continue to stay in touch and meet. The Sabbath School flourished, and a pre-school operated under the leadership of Helen Hickok during the week. Pathfinders Club flourished under the leadership of Yolanda and Elmer Kohl, followed by able leadership of Floy Hickerson. Camp Meetings were held at Lynwood Academy. Youth would spend New Years Eve skating at Lynwood Academy, then take metal folding chairs from the church to Glendale, set them up along the curbs, to await the Rose Parade. Ingathering in the Fall was a fun occasion. Hawthorne’s territory included south Inglewood and Westchester, which was mainly Jewish then, and several cars were set up with speakers blaring out Hannukah music while money for missions was collected. Hot chocolate and hot soup were awaiting in the Fellowship Hall upon return, and a general party atmosphere prevailed.

Elder Floyd Hilliard assumed leadership of the growing congregation in 1965, and during the following years the South Bay Junior Academy was begun as a joint project of the seven area churches, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Westchester, Redondo Beach, Gardena, Torrance and Rolling Hills. Pathfinders were led by Glen McDonald and Quenton Christy. Church membership was 330 and pews were filled. (How many of you were baptized here?) Harold Van Douris led the large choir. Mrs. Florence Bailey led an active Dorcas Society. Mrs. Neva Fritz donated baskets and runners for the many weddings. (How many of you were married in the Hawthorne Church?) Many babies were dedicated. (How many of you were dedicated or had your babies dedicated here?

Tragedy struck on March 22, 1969, eleven years to the day after its dedication, when the sanctuary was completely destroyed by fire. A mentally disturbed man was bent on burning down churches before Easter. Hawthorne Church was the first of four he set on fire before being caught. For the next 21 months while rebuilding, the congregation worshiped at a neighboring church, the Alondra First Methodist Church. The renting Korean Sunday-keeping church met under a tent in the courtyard each Sunday. On November 20, 1971, the completed present-day structure was dedicated.

In July, 1972, Elder James Wolter came to pastor and work continued on the church plant as construction began on the Fellowship Hall in August 26, 1973. Because of the Adventist’s emphasis on health, cooking classes were held in the new Fellowship Hall and several Stop-smoking clinics were conducted in the Reynolds Chapel. The Pathfinders flourished under the leadership of Ken Long.

The new Fellowship Hall gave opportunities for extra rooms for a Food Bank which operated in conjunction with Redondo Beach sister church for seven years distributing food and clothing to neighborhood needy. Also Fellowship luncheons and other activities such as weddings and showers were held. A school for exceptional children ran for several years. The Korean congregation outgrew our church and established their own mega facility in Torrance. The Tongan ministry, starting in the Reynolds Chapel, flourished and grew. The Pohiva family and Siupeli Lolie and family were of the first.

Under the leadership of Elder Edward Johnson and Elder Ole Olesen the financial footing of the church was strengthened. The parsonage to the east of the church, originally purchased to be used as a nursery school, was sold to re-roof the church.

Pastor Benjamin Del Pozo and Roger Beltran, following was Pete Knudson, John Piroski, Keith Hassinger, during their time mission trips to Fiji, Belize and Tonga took place. After Keith Hassinger retired, Pastor Moo, Pastor James, and now Keith Hassinger

....and the story continues...