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Ralph Putzker
(1921-2006)
Art assistant at the Beach Chalet

From an interview of Ralph W. Putzker, Ed.D., a Beach Chalet art assistant in 1936 and later a professor of art education at San Francisco State University (appointed 1959; emeritus since 1991).

Early Years
Ralph had a bit part as a child in the 1932 movie The Sign of the Cross, with Claudette Colbert, Fredrick March and Charles Laughton. In the movie, Ralph wore a toga and was fed to the lions. He received $35 a day and a box lunch. “It was considerably more than what my father was making,” Ralph said. “A dollar an hour was an incredibly good wage. In the late ’30s, the average wage was $25 a week.” He was trained as a concert pianist.

Ford Tri-motor“We were living in Glendale, and in the afternoon at about three o’clock the Transcontinental Western Air, which is now TWA , would take off from Burbank — with those beautiful great big Ford tri-motors (known as the Tin Goose). They were painted red and would fly over our house.

“All of my life I have made images. My earliest memories are those of getting wailed on by my parents because somebody had given me a new box of crayons and I was redecorating the living room. My father used to bring home legal memo pads from the office and I would totally fill those with drawings. I made images and made images and made images. All of the jobs I’ve ever held have been basically toward that idea of making images.”

Public Art
Ralph described how in 1936, during the administration of Mexican president Lazaro Cardenas (1934-40), a political decision was made to do public art. “It was decided that no public building shall be built without the architect and the muralist in constant communication. And that the muralist shall be an integral part of the building design.

“Well, this fit in rather nicely with depression thoughts,” he said. “And starting in 1930 the U.S. started incorporating murals in all of our public works projects.

“I went down and beat on the door of the Beach Chalet,” he said. “I was young and not that good. I was interested and had the time and enthusiasm. To a certain extent I had the ability. I had the fingers that would work. And I was picked up as an assistant at the Beach Chalet.

“Lucian Labaudt was the boss. Then he had a couple of good people working with him. At Beach Chalet I was paid about $12 a week. I also got chits that were useful for art supplies, brushes and stuff. And I could take the chits and change them for art supplies at Flax, and other stores.”

In 1937, when Ralph was 19, he was a student San Francisco Junior College. He lived at 39th Avenue and Geary Blvd. and worked for Eastman Kodak and Loeber’s Camera at 2110 Fillmore. His father was office worker for Associated Oil. Previously his family had been living in Los Angeles.

“I think some of the stuff that Labaudt did, like the Indian with the bow and arrow pointing to the men’s room is as corny as hell — but it’s fun. The murals were done with enthusiasm and and degree of naivete.

“I liked him (Labaudt). He was gentle. His wife, Madame Labaudt, was the apparelist. It was his business but she was the brains. She was an extraordinarily interesting woman.”

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