George Weston and Alta Belle Harmer Meldrum
1909 - 1999 1909 - 2002
George and Alta Meldrum were educators in the public and Seventh-day Adventist school systems. Both were also musicians who were also active in evangelism in the 1930s and 1940s, he as an amateur singer and chorister and she as an accomplished professional pianist who would also later accompany some of the most notable musicians of the mid-20th century.
George was born in Sacramento, California, on November 30, 1907, the son of Walter James and Blanche E. Benson Meldrum. His father died when he was eleven, and he and his mother lived with his uncle, Claude E. Cooper, until he left home to attend Walla Walla College, where he majored in history and was active in music groups.
He met Alta Belle Harmer, a music student, while at WWC. Alta had been born in Moscow, Idaho, on September 6, 1909, the younger of two daughters of James W. and Bertha Ethel Squier Harmer. After she completed a piano teacher's diploma at the WWC music conservatory, she and George married on June 26, 1930. She continued her study in music, accompanied, and gave piano lessons at the college while he finished his degree. During this time, they also assisted in evangelism and at special church meetings. In the fall of 1932, they accepted positions at Mount Ellis Academy in Montana, she to serve as girls’ dean and teach music and he to teach English and history.
Following two years there, George taught at Walla Walla Academy while Alta assisted in accompanying in the WWC music department, continued music study at WWC, and took lessons at the music conservatory at nearby Whitman College. She graduated in 1935, receiving the first music degree awarded by WWC, and that fall began teaching music at Auburn Academy, while he continued his studies in nearby Seattle. She would later continue her education at the University of Washington, Willamette University in Oregon, and San Jose State University.
In 1938 they were hired to teach at Yakima Valley Academy. After three years there they accepted positions at Hawaiian Mission Academy, beginning in the summer of 1941, where he taught history and conducted the chorus and she taught English and music. The surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, led to a huge influx of U.S. soldiers and special programs for them, including a Christmas Eve program that year in Honolulu for over 5,000 servicemen featuring Marian Anderson, world famous African-American singer who helped break the color barrier, accompanied by Alta.
The Meldrums moved back to the mainland in July 1943, where he pursued graduate study first at the University of California and later Stanford University and she taught music. In 1945 as he was completing a doctorate at Stanford, Pacific Union College hired him as an instructor in history. He completed his Ph.D. in June 1948 and continued to teach as a professor at PUC until 1954. He then taught at Napa College, where he later served as Dean of Students until his retirement.
Alta taught fifth grade and chorus in the St. Helena elementary school in the 1960s and 1970s and served as an administrator at the elementary and high school levels for thirty years. She also continued as an active musician. She was a rehearsal accompanist for two years for Yehudi Menuhin, famous 20th century violinist, and accompanied several professional artists at one point for two seasons as they toured.
The Meldrums were living in Saint Helena, when George died on July 4, 1999, at age 91. Alta died three years later, on August 8, 2002, at age 92.
Sources: 1910, 1920, and 1930 U.S. Federal Census Records, and MM Family Tree 2013, George Weston Meldrum – Facts, Ancestry.com; Alta Harmer obituary, Napa Valley Register, August 14, 2002; Bertha Squier-Harmer obituary, North Pacific Union Gleaner, September 11, 1945, 7; G.A. Thompson, “Wedding Bells,” North Pacific Gleaner, July 15, 1930, 8; Washington Marriage Records (14817), 1854-2013, Ancestry.com; R.J. Kegley,“Pendleton, Oregon,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, March 2, 1937, 4; “News Notes,” NPUG, June 4, 1940, 1 ; H. J. Bass, “Mt. Ellis Academy,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, July 12, 1932, 3; “Montana Items,” NPUG, June 19, 1934, 5; biographical letter from Alta Meldrum to Dan Shultz, December 16, 1988; North Pacific Union Gleaner, September 3, 1935, 6; “Auburn Academy News Items,” NPUG, September 24, 1935, 4; Yakima Valley Academy 1939 yearbook Pitcanook, 41; C. A. Schutt, “Yakima Valley Academy,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, April 12, 1938, 6; see also the Yakima Valley 1939 yearbook, the Pitcanook; George Taylor, “Hawaiian News Notes,” Pacific Union Recorder, July 30, 5; F E. Rice, ‘Hawaiian Mission Academy,” PUR, September 24, 1941, 12; Nicolas Slonimsky, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary, Eighth Edition, (New York, Schirmer Books, 1992), 38 , 11, 98and ; Geo. E. Taylor, “Hawaiian Mission News” Pacific Union Recorder, August 18, 1943, 5; “Pacific Union College,” Pacific Union Recorder, June 27, 1945, 5; Pacific Union College yearbook Diogenes Lantern, Faculty Directory, 286; U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, Ancestry.com.