Mystery History – Solved!

To paraphrase the Pasadena PIO: “I stumped everybody this week, although there were some not so very cleaver & creative guesses!” 

And I would add: Lucky Me. Cuz I’m the prize giver while Ann is resting in the hospital! Neither do I have the vast resources of the city to call upon. But once she leaves the hospital I fully expect her to continue her Mystery History series from home!





For some unfathomable reason, actors seemed to be the popular guess to this photo from y’all.

But truth be told, pictured above on the right is Pasadena Unified (PUSD) & John Muir High School (Muir) teacher Paul Finot. On the left he is joined by fellow teacher Ken Miedema of Monrovia. Finot was attending an L.A Superior Court hearing in 1963 in a somewhat hairy problem he had with the PUSD. Miedema came along to lend moral support.

The problem arose during the 1963-1964 school year when Finot came back to teach after summer recess with a beard! (Looks like a Van Dyke to me.)  Muir Principal John Venable informed him it was against school & district policy to wear such facial hair.

The Teacher Handbook stated that teachers should practice acceptable dress, grooming, be an example of cleanliness, neatness, good taste, and good grooming. Follow, “common social amenities.”  And the Student Handbook said very long hair, moustaches, and beards weren’t acceptable behavior from male students, believe it or not!

Furthermore, it was felt to allow such behavior would encourage the more cosmopolitan & heterogeneous Muir students in particular, not so much Pasadena High, to grow their own facial hair.

Believe It or Not!, teacher Finot refused to shave off that Van Dyke!  Unconstitutional he claimed. Miedema supported his besieged fellow teacher not only by attending this court hearing but also by growing his own face of hair (and pompadour)!

In response, Muir & PUSD reassigned Finot away from the school and into home teaching, “because he insisted on wearing, while teaching, a freshly grown beard.”

This dispute, of course, headed to court. The Superior Court sided with the PUSD/Muir. Without seeing any constitutional infringement, they basically swallowed whole the professional judgment & experience of Muir’s principal argument as being reasonable and sufficient grounds for the policy decision.  Thus, wearing a beard is was “not the practice of a common social amenity and is not acceptable grooming for classroom teachers!”

Of course, in our attorney full-employment environment this next headed to the California Court of Appeals. The Appellate court focus on these key questions:

Does Finot have any constitutional right to wear a beard while teaching in the classroom? Or, was he simply enjoying a privilege.  The court felt only that the due process clauses of the law in respect to his personal liberty were violated.

Second, if Finot does have a constitutional right to wear his Van Dyke while teaching children in a school classroom, “to what degree is this constitutional right of personal liberty entitled?”  There are several tests the court applies to determine this and they felt in this particular case they sided with Finot. PUSD/Muir had constituted an unconstitutional condition for public employment. Beards without regard to their appearance, neatness, cleanliness, can’t be constitutionally banned from school.

Lastly, was it detrimental to Finot to be transferred to home teaching instead of in a school classroom, and if so was there a legal remedy available to him? The Court of Appeals believed so & sided with Finot.

Therefore, teacher Paul Finot lived to wear his beard while teaching in a school classroom.  Now whenever you see a teacher in PUSD with facial hair, male or female, you can think of this mysterious history behind it all.

A couple of funny experiences in this process: When he was initially told by Muir H.S. to shave off his Van Dyke, Finot pointed to the bust of John Muir at the school named in his honor. The bust showed a bearded Muir!  Still, school officials didn’t get the point.  And in the Superior Court hearing, he was asked if his beard was “an outgrowth” of his “radicalism,” to which he replied that it was “an outgrowth of my six-week fishing trip!”

Well that was my legalese from this non-legal eagle. Hopefully was as easily understandable as a real, legal, attorney.

Finot was also a Pasadena resident for some two dozen years. He taught history & political science not only at Muir but also Pasadena H.S. and was with the district until 1980. In 2007 at the age of 84 he died.



Thanks to the Pasadena Star News, and also this link where you can read a much larger legal recap of the case: Finot v. Pasadena City Board of Education.



Extra History!

PS: The great mystery/crime writer of L.A. – Raymond Chandler – was born on this day.

RIP: The great young pop/jazz/soul singer from England – Any Winehouse – was found dead today.



Gotta Wonder. Stay Thirsty My Friends



5 responses to “Mystery History – Solved!

    • I don’t know. Lettuce just say it’s a mystery, IN.
      Brilliant, great, amazing?? Y’all are much to generous. My first word after getting through this 1st week of MH is…Relieved!

  1. Great story! I missed the contest but I would’ve guessed actors too. It’s hard to fill Ann’s shoes, but you’ve done an excellent job with this post. Kudos!