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Osteopath was first president of council PTA

February 18, 2011|By Katherine Yamada

Hal Russell must have been under a lot of pressure to behave, growing up as the only child of a dynamic and energetic woman who earned a teaching credential, and later became an osteopath, then organized Glendale’s PTA Council.

His mother, Jessie Russell, earned a teaching credential from Illinois State Normal School and, in 1898, married Ira H. Russell, an attorney. Their son, Harold, known as Hal, was born in 1901 and the next year, Jessie Russell enrolled in a three-year course in osteopathy and surgery in Iowa.

The family soon moved West where she opened a practice in Los Angeles and also in Long Beach. When ill health forced her to retire from medicine, she turned her energies elsewhere.

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The Russells purchased a large, two-story home on South Maryland Avenue in Glendale and enrolled their son in the local school. Concerned about her son’s education in the newly incorporated city, she was soon elected president of a parent group at Sixth Street School, later renamed Colorado Street School, according to Ellen Perry, writing in an undated Glendale News-Press article provided by Jessie Russell’s grandson, Bill.

In early 1910, Russell and other school representatives formed a council and in February 1910, the Glendale Federation of Parents-Teachers Association was born. Russell was the first president, serving a three-year term, Perry noted.

Growing up in a small town in the early 1900s, Hal Russell, like other children his age, had plenty of freedom. One family story has him climbing up in the hills above what is now Glendale Community College to pick oranges.

“He put them in his little red wagon and walked all the way to Broadway and Brand Boulevard to sell the oranges. This was before 1910, when he was less than 10 years old,” his son Bill Russell said.

After Hal Russell graduated from Union High School, he went to work for the Los Angeles County Flood Control, formed shortly after the flood of 1914. He estimated the cost of fencing along the Los Angeles River, “before calculators came into use,” Bill Russell noted.

Hal and his wife, Ruth, bought a house on Concord Street when their son Bill was born at Queen of Angels Hospital.

“The house cost $2,000 and had a very low interest rate, but they thought they would never pay it off,” he said. “It had a large yard, with lots of fruit trees, apricots, oranges and plums.”

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