Two weeks ago I set the stage for a showdown between the left-wing Hugh Hardyman and the right-wing American Legion members in an early conflict of what was later known as the McCarthy Era. Hardyman was somewhat of a political oddball in the very staid, conservative Crescenta Valley. The newspapers of that time jumped on the largely symbolic face-off, and nearly all of my info comes from the archives of the CV Ledger and the L.A Times.
Hardyman hosted political meetings at his house in the 2300 block of El Moreno Street, a quiet street of beautiful homes, just off Briggs above Foothill. On Nov. 14, 1947, a regular meeting of the Crescenta-Cañada Democratic Club was in progress at the Hardyman home. A small group of local Democrats sat in Hardyman’s living room discussing club business. Their guest that evening, David Leff, a UN aide just returned from a food distribution mission to Yugoslavia, was to discuss aspects of the Marshall Plan.
Suddenly, 20 men, most of them wearing American Legion caps, entered the room and quickly dispersed themselves through the house, covering every window and door. The air was tense, as Hardyman invited his new uninvited guests to find a seat. Leff, visibly nervous, asked if the American Legion often took over meetings.
Two reporters were on the scene and cameras started flashing immediately. One had come with the invaders, while a Ledger reporter happened to be on-scene covering the Democrat meeting. His photos are the most interesting, featuring uneasy glares from the invaders, and their hands trying to block the lens of the photographer.
Hardyman stated that he was shoved from the front of the assembled group, as a leader of the invaders began to read from a prepared statement. The leader addressed the group as members of the Progressive Citizens of America, to which Hardyman objected, stating that although he was a PCA member, this was a meeting of the Democratic Club (the PCA was a strong political group of that era that advocated post-war negotiations with the USSR, and a slowdown to the Cold War military buildup). The leader of the invaders refuted that and continued to address the crowd as the PCA, and proceeded with his edict.
He identified his group as veterans of WWI and WWII, and members of the Americanization Committee for Community Betterment. He first told the assembled Democrats that this was not a raid, and that no one would be hurt. He told the group their activities had been monitored, and that the PCA was attempting to destroy our form of government. He then warned the group that the PCA would not be tolerated in this area. “We will give you just 10 minutes to forget this meeting and go back to your own homes and thank God that you live in the United States. And we will not warn you again!”
There was next a shouted order to “Proceed according to the plan!” and the invaders all left the house. A few of the Democrats, not bargaining for this kind of conflict, followed the edict and left. The Sheriff was immediately called, and two patrol cars arrived. By then the invaders had melted away, no arrests were made, and the meeting continued.
UN aide Leff regained his composure and continued with the program, speaking to the remaining group about the political aspects of relief efforts in Yugoslavia.
It’s fairly obvious in retrospect that this event was somewhat of a comedy of errors. The group of Legionnaires, certainly thinking they were doing their patriotic duty, was clearly way off the mark, and was just beginning a national pastime that would consume much of the ‘50s of looking for “a Red under every bed.”
Hardyman, however, always ready to take up a cause, would have none of the idea that this was a mistake, and the real battle was now on with the full weight of Hardyman’s significant influence.
The bloodless “Battle of El Moreno” was about to get bloody!