Thomas D. Murphy.

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appointments are up to the famous California standard at such resorts.

Hollywood is now continuous with the city, but it has lost none of
that tropical beauty that has long made it famous. Embowered in flowers
and palms, with an occasional lemon grove, its cozy and in some cases
palatial homes never fail to charm the newcomer. Once it was known as
the home of Paul de Longpre, the flower painter, whose Moorish-looking
villa was the goal of the tourist and whose gorgeous creations were a
never-failing wonder to the rural art critic. Alas, the once popular
artist is dead and his art has been discredited by the wiseacres; he was
"photographic"—indeed, they accuse him of producing colored photographs
as original compositions. But peace be to the painter's ashes—whether
the charge of his detractors be true or not, he delighted thousands with
his highly colored representations of the blooms of the Golden State.
His home and gardens have undergone extensive changes and improvements
and it is still one of the show places of the town.

The Hollywood school buildings are typical of the substantial and
handsome structures one sees everywhere in California; in equipment
and advanced methods her schools are not surpassed by any state in the
Union.

No stretch of road in California—and that is almost saying in all the
world—is more tempting to the motorist than the twenty miles between
Los Angeles and Long Beach. Broad, nearly level, and almost straight
away, with perfect surface and not a depression to jolt or jar a swiftly
speeding car, Long Beach Boulevard would put even a five-year-old model
on its mettle. It is only the knowledge of frequent arrests and heavy
fines that keeps one in reasonable bounds on such an ideal speedway
and gives leisure to contemplate the prosperous farming lands on either
side. Sugar beets, beans, and small grains are all green and thriving,
for most of the fields are irrigated. There is an occasional walnut
grove along the way and in places the road is bordered with ranks of
tall eucalyptus trees, stately and fragrant. Several fine suburban homes
adjoin the boulevard and it is doubtless destined to be solidly bordered
with such.

Long Beach is the largest of the suburban seaside towns—the new census
gives it a population of over 55,000—and is more a place of homes than
its neighbor, Venice. Its beach and amusement concomitants are not its
chief end of existence; it is a thriving city of pretty—though in the
main unpretentious—homes bordering upon broad, well-paved streets, and
it has a substantial and handsome business center. You will especially
note its churches, some of them imposing stone structures that would
do credit to the metropolis. Religious and moral sentiment is strong
in Long Beach; it was a "dry" town, having abolished saloons by an
overwhelming vote, long before prohibition became the law of the
land. The town is pre-eminently the haven of a large number of eastern
people who come to California for a considerable stay—as cheaply as it
can possibly be done—and there are many lodging-houses and cottages
to supply this demand. And it is surprising how economically and
comfortably many of these people pass the winter months in the town
and how regularly they return year after year. Many others have become
permanent residents and among them you will find the most enthusiastic
and uncompromising "boosters" for the town—and California. And, indeed,
Long Beach is an ideal place for one to retire and take life easy; the
climate is even more equable than that of Los Angeles; frost is almost
unknown and the summer heat is tempered by the sea. The church and
social activities appeal to many and the seaside amusement features are
a good antidote for ennui. There are not a few old fellows who fall into
a mild dissipation of some sort at one or the other of the catch-penny
affairs along the promenade. I was amused at one of these—a grizzled
old veteran, who confessed to being upwards of seventy—who could not
resist the fascination of the shooting galleries; and I knew another
well over eighty who was a regular bather in the surf all through the
winter months.

A little to the east of Long Beach is Naples, another of the seaside
towns, which has recently been connected with Long Beach by a fine
boulevard. It gives promise of becoming a very pretty place, though at
present it does not seem much frequented by tourists. About equally
distant to the westward is San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles, and
really a part of the city, a narrow strip some two miles wide connecting
the village and metropolis. This was done to make Los Angeles an
actual seaport and to encourage the improvement of San Pedro Harbor.
The harbor is largely artificial, being enclosed by a stone breakwater
built jointly by Government appropriations and by bond issues of the
citizens of Los Angeles. The ocean is cut off by Catalina Island, which
shelters San Pedro to some extent from the effects of heavy storms and
makes the breakwater practicable. It is built of solid granite blocks of
immense size, some of them weighing as much as forty tons each. It is a
little more than two miles long and the water is forty-five feet deep
at the outer end where the U. S. Lighthouse stands. There is no bar,
and ocean-going vessels can go to anchor under their own steam. There
are at present about eight miles of concrete wharfage and space permits
increasing this to thirty miles as traffic may require. Improvements
completed and under way represent an investment of more than twenty
million dollars. The World War put San Pedro on the map as a great
ship-building point; there are two large yards for construction of steel
ships and one for wooden vessels. These will be of great interest to the
tourist from inland states. A dry dock of sufficient capacity for the
largest ocean-going steamers is under construction and will afford every
facility for repairing and overhauling warships and merchant vessels.
All of which indicates that Los Angeles' claim as an ocean port of first
magnitude has a substantial foundation and that its early fulfillment
is well assured. A broad boulevard now joins the widely separated parts
of the city and a large proportion of the freight traffic goes over this
in motor trucks, which, I am told, give cheaper and quicker service than
the steam railroad.

Aside from the shipyards, San Pedro has not much to interest the
tourist; there is a pretty park at Point Fermin from which one may view
some magnificent coast scenery. A steep descent near at hand takes one
down to an ancient Spanish ranch house curiously situated on the water's
edge and hidden in a jungle of neglected palms and shrubbery. On an
eminence overlooking the town and harbor is located Fort McArthur with
several disappearing guns of immense caliber. There are also extensive
naval barracks and storehouses on the wharf and usually several United
States warships are riding at anchor in the harbor.

The new boulevard from San Pedro to Redondo, however, has quite enough
of beauty to atone for any lack of it on the way to the harbor town from
the city, especially if one is fortunate in the day. In springtime the
low rounded hills on either side are covered with verdure—meadows and
grain fields—and these are spangled with great dashes of blue flowers,
which in some places have almost gained the mastery. The perfect road
sweeps along the hillsides in wide curves and easy grades and there is
little to hinder one from giving rein to the motor if he so elects. But
we prefer an easy jog, pausing to gather a handful of the violet-blue
flowers and to contemplate the glorious panorama which spreads out
before us. Beyond a wide plain lie the mountain ranges, softened by
a thin blue haze through which snow-capped summits gleam in the low
afternoon sun. As we come over the hill just before reaching Redondo,
the Pacific breaks into view—deep violet near the shore and shimmering
blue out toward the horizon.

We enter the town by the main street, which follows the shore high
above the sea and is bordered by many pleasant cottages almost hidden in
flowers. It is one of the most beautifully situated of the coast towns,
occupying a sharply rising hill which slopes down to a fine beach.
On the bluff we pass a handsome park—its banks ablaze with amethyst
sea moss—and the grounds of Hotel Redondo, (since closed and falling
into decay) elaborately laid out and filled with semi-tropical plants
and flowers, favored by the frostless climate. The air is redolent
with fragrance, borne to us on the fresh sea-breeze and, altogether,
our first impressions of Redondo are favorable indeed—nor has further
acquaintance reversed our judgment.

There are the customary resort features, though these are not so
numerous or extensive as at Venice. Still, Redondo is not free from
the passion for the superlative everywhere prevalent in California, and
proudly boasts of the "largest warm salt-water plunge on earth and the
biggest dancing pavilion in the state." There is a good deal of fishing
off shore, red deep-sea bass being the principal catch. Moonstones
and variegated pebbles are common on the beach and there are shops for
polishing and setting these in inexpensive styles. If you are not so
fortunate as to pick up a stone yourself, you will be eagerly supplied
with any quantity by numerous small urchins, for a slight consideration.

Redondo is not without commercial interest, for it is an important
lumber port and a supply station for the oil trade. There are car shops
and mills of various kinds. Another industry which partakes quite as
much of the aesthetic as the practical is evidenced by the acres of
sweet peas and carnations which bloom profusely about the town.

In returning from Redondo to the city we went oftenest over the new
boulevard by the way of Inglewood, though we sometimes followed the
coast road to Venice, entering by Washington Street. These roads were
not as yet improved, though they were good in summer time. Along the
coast between Redondo and Venice one passes Hermosa and Manhattan
Beaches and Playa del Rey, three of the less frequented resorts. They
are evidently building on expectations rather than any great present
popularity; a few seaside cottages perched on the shifting sands are
about all there is to be seen and the streets are mere sandy trails
whose existence in some cases you would never suspect were it not
for the signboards. We stuck closely to the main streets of the towns
which, in Manhattan, at least, was pretty hard going. It is a trip that
under present conditions we would not care to repeat, but when a good
boulevard skirts the ocean for the dozen miles between these points, it
will no doubt be one of the popular runs. (The boulevard has since been
built, enabling one to follow the sea from El Segundo to Redondo with
perfect ease and comfort.)

I have written chiefly of the better-known coast towns, but there are
many retired resorts which are practically deserted except for the
summer season. One may often find a pleasant diversion in one of these
places on a fine spring day before the rush comes—and if he goes by
motor, he can leave at his good pleasure, should he grow weary, in
sublime indifference to railroad or stage time-tables. A Los Angeles
friend who has a decided penchant for these retired spots proposed that
we go to Newport Beach one Saturday afternoon and we gladly accepted
this guidance, having no very clear idea ourselves of the whereabouts
of Newport Beach.

We followed him out Stevenson Boulevard into Whittier Road, a newly
built highway running through a fertile truck-gardening country to the
pleasant village founded by a community of Quakers who named it in honor
of their beloved poet. One can not help thinking how Whittier himself
would have shrunk from such notoriety, but he would have no reason to be
ashamed of his namesake could he see it to-day—a thriving, well-paved
town of some eight thousand people. It stands in the edge of a famous
orange-growing section, which extends along the highway for twenty
miles or more and which produces some of the finest citrus fruit in
California. Lemon and walnut groves are also common and occasional fig
and olive trees may be seen. The bronze-green trees, with their golden
globes and sweet blossoms, crowd up to the very edge of the highway for
miles—with here and there a comfortable ranch-house.

We asked permission to eat our picnic dinner on the lawn in front of one
of these, and the mistress not only gladly accorded the privilege, but
brought out rugs for us to sit upon. A huge pepper tree screened the
rays of the sun; an irrigating hydrant supplied us with cool crystal
water; and the contents of our lunch-baskets, with hot coffee from our
thermos bottles, afforded a banquet that no hotel or restaurant could
equal.

Further conversation with the mistress of the ranch developed the fact
that she had come from our home state, and we even unearthed mutual
acquaintances. We must, of course, inspect the fine grove of seven
acres of Valencias loaded with fruit about ready for the market. It was
a beautiful grove of large trees in prime condition and no doubt worth
five or six thousand dollars per acre. The crop, with the high prices
that prevailed at that time, must have equaled from one-third to half
the value of the land itself. Such a ranch, on the broad, well-improved
highway, certainly attains very nearly the ideal of fruit-farming
and makes one forget the other side of the story—and we must confess
that there is another side to the story of citrus fruit-farming in
California.

The fine road ended abruptly when we entered Orange County, a few miles
beyond Whittier, for Orange County had done little as yet to improve
her highways, and we ran for some miles on an old oiled road which for
genuine discomfort has few equals. One time it was thought that the
problem of a cheap and easily built road was solved in California—simply
sprinkle the sandy surface with crude oil and let it pack down under
traffic. This worked very well for a short time until the surface began
to break into holes, which daily grew larger and more numerous until no
one could drive a motor car over them without an unmerciful jolting. And
such was the road from Fullerton to Santa Ana when we traversed it, but
such it will not long remain, for Orange County has voted a million and
a quarter to improve her roads and she will get her share of the new
state highway system as well. (All of which, I may interject here, has
since come to pass and the fortunate tourist may now traverse every part
of the county over roads that will comfortably admit of all the speed
the law allows).

Santa Ana is a quiet town of fifteen thousand, depending on the
fruit-raising and farming country that surrounds it. It is a cozy
place, its wide avenues shaded by long rows of peppers and sycamores
and its homes embowered by palms and flowers. Almost adjoining it to
the northeast is the beautiful village of Orange—rightly named, for
it is nearly surrounded by a solid mass of orange and lemon groves. In
the center of its business section is a park, gorgeous with palms and
flowers. The country about must be somewhat sheltered, for it escaped
the freeze of 1913 and was reveling in prosperity with a great orange
and lemon crop that year.

Just beyond the mountain range to the east is Orange County Park,
which we visited on another occasion. It is a fine example of the civic
progress of these California communities in providing pleasure grounds
where all classes of people may have inexpensive and delightful country
outings. It is a virgin valley, shaded by great oaks and sycamores and
watered by a clear little river, the only departure from nature being
the winding roads and picnic conveniences. There are many beautiful
camping sites, which are always occupied during the summer. Beyond
the park the road runs up Silverado Canyon, following the course of
the stream, which we forded many times. It proved rough and stony
but this was atoned for many times over by the sylvan beauty of the
scenes through which we passed. The road winds through the trees, which
overarch it at times, and often comes out into open glades which afford
views of the rugged hills on either hand. We had little difficulty
in finding our way, for at frequent intervals we noted signs, "To
Modjeska's Ranch," for the great Polish actress once had a country
home deep in the hills and owned a thousand-acre ranch at the head
of Silverado Canyon. Here about thirty years ago she used to come for
rest and recreation, but shortly before her death sold the ranch to the
present owners, the "Modjeska Country Club." It is being exploited as
a summer resort and is open to the public generally. A private drive
leads some three or four miles from the public road to the house, which
is sheltered under a clifflike hill and surrounded by a park ornamented
with a great variety of trees and shrubs. This was one of Modjeska's
fads and her friends sent her trees and plants from every part of
the world, one of the most interesting being a Jerusalem thorn, which
appears to thrive in its new habitat. The house was designed by Stanford
White—an East-Indian bungalow, we were told, but it impresses one as a
crotchety and not very comfortable domicile. The actress entertained
many distinguished people at the Forest of Arden, as she styled her
home, among them the author of "Quo Vadis," who, it is said, wrote most
of that famous story here. The place is worth visiting for the beauty
of its surroundings as well as its associations. A great many summer
cottages are being built in the vicinity and in time it will no doubt
become a popular resort, and, with a little improvement in the canyon
road, a favorite run for motorists.

Leaving "Arden," we crossed the hills to the east, coming into the coast
highway at El Toro, a rather strenuous climb that was well rewarded
by the magnificent scenes that greeted us from the summit. The wooded
canyon lay far beneath us, diversified by a few widely separated
ranch-houses and cultivated fields, with the soft silver-gray blur of
a great olive grove in the center. It was shut in on either side by
the rugged hill ranges, which gradually faded into the purple haze of
distance. The descent was an easy glide over a moderate grade, the road
having been recently improved. At the foot of the grade we noticed a
road winding away among the hills, and a sign, "To the silver mines,"
where we were told silver is still mined on a considerable scale.

I have departed quite a little from the story of our run to Newport
Beach, but I hope the digression was worth while. From Santa Ana a
poor road—it is splendid concrete now—running nearly south took us
to our destination. It was deserted save for a few shopkeepers and
boarding-house people who stick to their posts the year round. There was
a cheap-looking hotel with a number of single-room cottages near by. We
preferred the latter and found them clean and comfortable, though very
simply furnished. The meals served at the hotel, however, were hardly
such as to create an intense desire to stay indefinitely and after
our second experience we were happy to think that we had a well-filled
lunch-basket with us. The beach at Newport is one of the finest to be
found anywhere—a stretch of smooth, hard sand miles long and quite free
from the debris which disfigures the more frequented places. We were
greeted by a wide sweep of quiet ocean, with the dim blue outlines of
Santa Catalina just visible in the distance. To the rear of the beach
lies the lagoon-like bay, extending some miles inland and surrounding
one or two small islands covered with summer cottages. Eastward is
Balboa Beach and above this rise the rugged heights of Corona Del Mar.
A motor boat runs between this point and Newport, some five or six miles
over the green, shallow waters of the bay. We proved the sole passengers
for the day and after a stiff climb to the heights found ourselves on a
rugged and picturesque bit of coast. Here and there were great detached
masses of rock, surrounded by smooth sand when the tide was out, and
pierced in places by caves. We scrambled down to the sand and found a
quiet, sheltered nook for our picnic dinner—which was doubly enjoyable
after the climb over the rocks and our partial fast at the hotel. Late
in the afternoon we found our boat waiting at the wharf at Corona and
returned to Newport in time to drive to Los Angeles before nightfall.

Newport is only typical of several retired seaside resorts—Huntington
Beach, Bay City, Court Royal, Clifton, Hermosa, Playa del Rey, and
others, nearly all of which may be easily reached by motor and which
will afford many pleasant week-end trips similar to the little jaunt to
Newport which I have sketched.

And one must not forget Avalon—in some respects the most unique and
charming of all, though its position on Santa Catalina, beyond twenty
miles of blue billows, might logically exclude it from a motor-travel
book. There are only twenty-five miles of road in the island—hardly
enough to warrant the transport of a motor, though I believe it has been
done. But no book professing to deal with Southern California could
omit Avalon and Catalina—and the motor played some part, after all,
for we drove from Los Angeles to San Pedro and left the car in a garage
while we boarded the Cabrillo for the enchanted isle. We were well in
advance of the "season," which invariably fills Avalon to overflowing,
and were established in comfortable quarters soon after our arrival. The
town is made up largely of cottages and lodging-houses, with a mammoth
hotel on the sea front. It is situated on the crescent-shaped shore of
a beautiful little bay and climbs the sharply rising hill to the rear
in flower-covered terraces.

There is not much to detain the casual visitor in the village itself,
especially in the dull season; no doubt there is more going on in
the summer, when vacationists from Los Angeles throng the place. The
deserted "tent city"—minus the tents—the empty pavilion, the silent
dance hall and skating-rink, all mutely testify of livelier things than
we are witnessing as we saunter about the place.

But there is one diversion for which Catalina is famous and which is not
limited to the tourist season—here is the greatest game fishing-"ground"
in the world, where even the novice, under favorable conditions, is sure
of a catch of which he can boast all the rest of his life. Our friend
who accompanied us was experienced in the gentle art of Ike Walton as
practiced about the Isle of Summer, and before long had engaged a launch
from one of the numerous "skippers" who were lounging about the pier.
We were away early in the morning for Ship Island, near the isthmus,
where the great kelp beds form a habitat for yellowtail and bass, which
our skipper assured us were being caught daily in considerable numbers.
Tuna, he said, were not running—and he really made few promises for a
fisherman. Our boat was a trim, well-kept little craft, freshly painted
and scoured and quite free from the numerous smells that so often cling
about such craft and assist in bringing on the dreaded mal de mer.
Fortunately, we escaped this distressing malady; by hugging the shore
we had comparatively still water and when we reached our destination we
found the sea quiet and glassy—a glorious day—and our skipper declared
the conditions ideal for a big catch. Our hooks were baited with silvery
sardines—not the tiny creatures such as we get in tins, but some six
or eight inches in length—and we began to circle slowly above the kelp
beds near Ship Rock. Before long one of the party excitedly cried, "A
strike!" and the boat headed for the open water, since a fish would
speedily become entangled in the kelp and lost.

There are few more exciting sports than bringing a big yellowtail to
gaff, for he is one of the gamest of sea fighters, considering his size.
At first he is seized with a wild desire to run away and it means barked
knuckles and scorched fingers to the unwary fisherman who lets his
reel get out of control. Then begin a long struggle—a sort of see-saw
play—in which you gain a few yards on your catch only to lose it again
and again. Suddenly your quarry seems "all in," and he lets you haul
him up until you get a glimpse of his shining sides like a great opal
in the pale green water. The skipper seizes his gaff and you consider
the victory won at last—you are even formulating the tale you are going



Online LibraryThomas D. MurphyOn Sunset Highways → online text (page 3 of 25)