A lot used to be different. Sunset Hall was full and thriving as recently as three decades ago.
There was a waiting list. Many residents were recently retired, in their 60s and 70s, still with sharp minds. They included blacklisted screenwriters, editors of communist newspapers and confidants of Upton Sinclair, the socialist writer who in 1934 almost became governor of California.
By the 1980s, though, it all had begun to fade. The neighborhood around Sunset Hall grew dangerous. The nearby First Unitarian Church was struggling, and fewer of its members moved in.
Worse, for the fate of Sunset Hall, a generation of radicals that made some Americans fear the “Red Menace” were dying off.
“There’s no denying it,” says Larry Abbott, a retired teacher who is president of Sunset Hall’s board. “The dissolution of the left, that’s taken its toll.”
By the early 1990s, when only 18 residents remained after four died in two months, the board tried to sell the property. Only a last-gasp push by supporters and angry residents, along with the judge’s restraining order that held off a sale until the membership could vote on it, prevented Sunset Hall from closing.
Looking to fill its rooms, which cost about $1,800 a month, the home began courting elders who cared little for politics. It didn’t help.
In February, after reviewing a $300,000 deficit and an operation running largely on gifts and loans, the board once again recommended putting Sunset Hall on the market.
Caputo, the director, has spent recent days breaking the bad news. Most of the residents can’t grasp what is going on, she says. “It shocks them. Then it just fades away.”
Sort of like being airbrushed out of history, I guess.
The closing paragraph is priceless:
“We tried,” Manpearl replies, leaning back. “Things didn’t exactly turn out the way we wanted. But we did do some good. The eight-hour workday. Women’s rights. Things like that