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Verdugo Views: Three cheers for soda fountains and bingo

September 13, 2011|By Katherine Yamada
  • Harry Pryor was in charge of the bingo nights at the Verdugo Club for many years. (Couresy of theSpecial Collections Room, Glendale Public Library)
Harry Pryor was in charge of the bingo nights at the Verdugo…

Harry Pryor was an enthusiastic cheerleader for any group he supported, so when he joined the Verdugo Club it seemed natural for him to take charge of choosing callers for the monthly bingo games.

Pryor began developing his leadership skills when he was just 9 years old. That’s when he started delivering papers for the San Bernardino Sun.

While in high school, his principal asked him to plan a daylong event for members of the orchestras, oratorical societies and sports teams of all five high schools in the San Bernardino area. He visited each of the schools to drum up interest and later reported excellent attendance at the event.

Pryor put himself through college at the University of Southern California, majoring in business administration in the days when tuition was $250 per year, he told Glendale News-Press columnist Wanda Owen, June 23, 1992. One of his first jobs was as a soda jerk at the Broadway Department Store in downtown Los Angeles.

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Meanwhile, on campus, he was making history as one of the university’s first yell leaders and was creating the first card stunts to ever be performed at a collegiate football game. Not only is he credited with starting the halftime card stunts, he was one of three founders of the Trojan Knights, which began in 1921. The Knights have since become a symbol of the school’s spirit, according to the Trojan Knights website.

Pryor graduated in 1925, married fellow student Alys Maxfield in 1927, and went into the then-new field of mechanical refrigeration, selling the first mechanical soda fountain to his former employer, the Broadway Department Store.

He began working for a large dry goods company, but soon bought them out and formed his own company. This was in 1929, the year the Great Depression began, but, he told Owen, “I was too busy to be bothered and besides my company was too small to be affected, so I just kept moving ahead.’’

The Pryors moved to Glendale in 1930. As their business grew, they did a great deal of entertaining in their home and at various clubs, including the Jonathan Club and the Oakmont Country Club. They also joined the Verdugo Club, where Pryor’s claim to fame was organizing the bingo games.

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