Tuesday, November 27, 2007

From Sailors' Rest to Beacon Light Mission

"Soup, Soap, and Salvation" is the motto. This picture is from a March 1967 Los Angeles Times story about San Pedro's Skid Row.

Lots of comedians--David Steinberg comes to mind--made the joke linking the "Jesus Saves" sign to a fiscal institution. However, this Jesus Saves sign is on the Beacon Light Mission.

The Beacon Light Mission started out in San Pedro in 1902, when Capt. Charles Farr conducted revival meetings on an abandoned tugboat in the bay. In 1905 he moved his "Sailors' Rest Mission" to a facility on Beacon Street.

In 1911, Captain Charles H. Stanley, the "Converted Comedian," evangelized frequently at the Mission on Beacon Street, which was smack in the middle of the harbor's Skid Row. In 1927, according to an L.A. Times story, it conducted over 600 services around the harbor area, to about 22,000 men.

For fifty years, Gene McCann was a fixture at the Mission. He came on board as a cook in 1946, became Director in 1964, retired in 1996, and died in 2001.

In 1969, he said of the men served by the Mission: “A sailor had nothing to be ashamed about if, after a long voyage, he lost his pay while ashore and came to a mission for help. Everyone knew he would ship out again so he wasn’t considered a welfare case.”

At that time, McCann estimated that 1/3 of the men were truly transients--the rest were simply between jobs.

The Sailors' Rest changed its name to Beacon Light Mission in 1945. The San Pedro location fell victim to Community Redevelopment, and the mission--sign and all--moved to at 525 Broad Avenue in Wilmington in 1972.

There are 22 twin beds in one room, and in another, 30-60 meals are served daily. All this is done without accepting federal or state money, because of the many strings attached to such funds.

Thanks to a large donation, the Beacon Light Mission is ready to start building a women's shelter next door--and thus the Mission became the subject of a story in the local newspapers.

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