Professional Children’s School

It started as Professional Children’s School, Hollywood

With the Hollywood Conservatory of Music and Arts (the Hollywood Professional School) slowly transitioning from a music school to more of an academic institution in the early 1920’s, a dynamic woman arrived with her family from New York: Mrs. Viola Foss Lawlor. She and her husband — who became Freight and Passenger Representative (Agent) for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Los Angeles — brought their daughter Muriel and established their residence at 823 N. Laurel Avenue.

By 1929, the Los Angeles City Directory shows that Viola F. Lawlor was the Superintendent of the Professional Children’s School located at 5402 Hollywood Boulevard. This school, although using the same name, had no connection with the Professional Children’s School operating in New York. However, it catered to the same clientele, utilizing the same type of schedule as both the New York School and the Hollywood Conservancy of Music and Arts, which appears to be at virtually the same address (5400 vs. 5402 Hollywood Blvd.). Both addresses are at the corner of Serrano and in the same two-story building that occupied the site. Your writer has been unable to find any connection between the two schools, nor between Mrs. Littell and Mrs. Lawlor, although undoubtedly they knew one another. If anyone has a clue to this mystery, I would love to know it.

We do know through an interview of Mrs. Lawlor conducted by Rockwell D. Hunt, and published in 1930 in “California and Californians” (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Vol. 4, p. 162) that Mrs. Lawlor wanted to give her musician daughter the kind of education that she later provided in the Professional Children’s School, but was not able to locate a school that met her expectations at a “reasonable figure.” “Finally she opened her present school in order to give her daughter the advantages she wished her to have, and to give to other people’s children the same opportunities,” Dr. Hunt writes.

Dr. Hunt continues:

Mrs. Lawlor has long been interested in the stage and has a wide acquaintance and friendship with stage people, and it was her knowledge of the problem that led her to give stage children a school where they could secure an education and yet have the time to carry on their artistic work, whether it was music, dancing, motion pictures or other diversions. She also realized that each child should be treated as an entity, not en masse, so, while her school meets the requirements of the educational laws of the state, the pupils have more freedom in mental and physical development. She trains her pupils from first grade through high school work, and she has an enrollment of nearly three hundred, all that she can accommodate, but she is already making arrangements for expansion. As rapidly as the child is capable of receiving it, she gives intensive individual training.

It is likely that Mrs. Lawlor’s concept of the school she had in mind originated at the New York School whose name she used, as she had recently come from there. Whether she had any direct connection to the New York institution your writer has been unable to discover so far.

We do know that after the school was opened, her daughter Muriel did attend. Muriel later changed her name to Elaine Hammond (not sure if that is a married name) and performed professionally as the Banjo Girl.

Next, A Name Change to Lawlor Professionals’ School.