Thomas D. Murphy.

On Sunset Highways online

. (page 8 of 25)
Online LibraryThomas D. MurphyOn Sunset Highways → online text (page 8 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

We would go to Pala and perchance get baskets at first hand at figures
more in keeping with our purse.

Beyond Temecula the road enters the hills and winds through a maze of
trees and shrubbery. We passed under mighty oaks and here and there
around huge granite boulders, which at some time had plunged down from
the heights. In the shadow of one of these—a huge block of red granite
fifty feet in diameter—we paused for our luncheon, a very simple repast
with the plebeian sandwich as the principal course, but the delightful
surroundings and a sharp appetite made it seem a banquet fit for a king!
A famished dog and two hungry-looking children stole out of a cabin a
few rods distant to investigate and there was plenty left to make them
happy, too.

From this point we began the ascent of Red Mountain grade over a new
county road which flings itself around the giant hills in graceful
curves and easy gradients. There were wonderful views as we ascended,
of deep yawning canyons and wooded hill ranges tinged with the pale
violet of the mountain lilac, and fading away into the purple shadows
of the distance. At the crest of the hills we passed through the great
olive groves of Red Mountain Ranch. There are several thousand fine
trees which crowd closely to the roadside for perhaps a mile. A real
estate placard declared this region to be "frostless," and it seems
to have vindicated this claim very well, for it showed no trace of the
disastrous freeze of 1913, which sadly blighted much of the surrounding

Gliding down the long smooth descent for several miles, we came to
Bonsal—the existence of which we should never have discovered had it not
been for the signboard—where we left the main road for Pala. For a dozen
miles we followed a sinuous road along the San Luis Rey River, bordered
by trees and shrubbery in endless variety, until we found ourselves
in the streets of the queer little Indian town. Before us rose the
whitewashed walls and quaint bell-tower of the much-restored mission,
surrounded by the wooden huts, each very much like every other. Each had
its tiny garden patch, showing in most cases infinite care, and, as we
learned, requiring infinite labor, for all the water had to be pumped
or carried from the river for irrigation. We were told, however, that
the government was building a pipe line and that on its completion in
a few months Pala would speedily spring into verdure.

While we were getting our bearings the ladies of our party made a
hurried round of several of the cottages, fully expecting to find
Pala baskets in unlimited quantities at bargain prices. It was with
considerable chagrin that they reported not a basket to be found in the
town; an old Indian declared that no baskets were now made—the women
and girls of the village were learning lace-making, which they hoped
would be easier and more remunerative. Indeed, from all we could learn,
basket-making is becoming a lost art among the California Indians.
Contact with civilization seems to have killed the infinite care and
patience necessary to produce the finer examples of this work, which is
now done in a very small way by the older women.

A year later we came to Pala again and hardly recognized the place,
so great was the improvement wrought by the completion of the water
supply work. The cottages were surrounded by flowers and the little
garden patches looked green and thriving. The government schoolhouse
had been completed and we saw a score or more of well-mannered and
intelligent-looking children at their studies. The lace-making school
was also in this building and the authority of our party declared the
work really fine and the prices very low. We felt the more willing to
make a small purchase of the laces when the matron assured us that every
sale was of material help to the poor people of the community. The women
and girls are willing to work diligently if they can earn only a few
cents a day, but they have the greatest difficulty in disposing of their

We found the mission in charge of Father Doyle, a kindly and courteous
gentleman and a fellow-motorist, since he visits his few charges by
means of his trusty Ford. He lives in the old mission building in very
plain—even primitive—quarters; clearly, his work is a labor of love and
faith, since what else could induce a young and vigorous man to lead
such a comfortless and exacting life? He told us the history of the
mission—how Pala was founded about a hundred years ago by Padre Peyri as
an "assistancia" to San Luis Rey, about twenty miles away. It prospered
at the start, its conversions numbering over a thousand in two years.
The chapel was built shortly after—a long, narrow adobe twenty-seven
by one hundred and forty-four feet, with roof of characteristic mission
tiles. As a result of the secularization by the Mexican government, Pala
rapidly declined and when it came into the possession of the Americans,
it was already falling into ruin. It was finally deeded to the Landmarks
Club, which agreed that it should revert to its proper ownership,
meaning, doubtless, the Catholic Church. When Father Doyle came here,
it was in a sad state of decay, but with untiring zeal and energy he
has restored the chapel and rebuilt the quaint campanile or bell-tower.
Father Doyle pointed out his work on the chapel—the restoration of
the walls and old tile roof—but little has been done to the interior,
which still has its original floor of square tiles and rude, unhewn
beams supporting the roof. The priest who preceded him for a short time
evidently had little sentiment, for he had ruthlessly covered up the
ancient Indian decorations with a coat of whitewash. Father Doyle had
removed it carefully in places, exposing the old frescoes, and hoped it
might be possible to complete this work some time. In the chapel are two
odd wooden statues from Spain, gaudily colored and gilded, of the Virgin
and San Luis Rey, which the father declared were highly venerated by his
Indian parishioners. He also showed us with much pride a few vestments
used by the early padres, and a fine collection of baskets—mostly given
him by the makers—of the different tribes among which he had worked.

From Photograph by Putnam & Valentine]

The most distinctive and picturesque feature of Pala Mission is the
quaint campanile, of which our picture will be far more descriptive
than any words. The present structure is largely a restoration by Father
Doyle, who also rescued and hung the two large bronze bells now in the
niches of the tower. The dormitory building is quite ruinous—with the
exception of the priest's quarters and a portion occupied by a small
general store, it has almost vanished.

The Indians now living in Pala are not the descendants of the original
inhabitants of the village when the mission was founded. These were
ousted after the American occupation and scattered in the surrounding
hills, having now practically disappeared. The present population is
made up of the Palatingwa tribe, which was evicted from Warner's Ranch
some twenty miles away and given a home here by the Government. An
effort is now being made to improve their condition and it is to be
hoped that tardy justice will make some amends for all that the red men
about Pala have suffered at the hands of their white brothers.

We inquire the road to Escondido and Father Doyle tells us that the
shortest route is to cross the river and strike over the hills to Lilac
and Valley Center. It may be the shortest route, but a rougher, steeper,
stonier byroad is not common, even in California. It winds along the
hill-crests with sharp little pitches and short turns that will compel
any driver to attend carefully to business. It would have been better to
follow the river to the junction with the main road, though the distance
is a few miles farther. At Valley Center—which is only a ranch-house—we
came into a fairly good highway which steadily improved as we approached
Escondido. It was on this fine road that we spied a huge rattlesnake
basking in the afternoon sun, too lazy or too defiant to make much
effort to get out of the way of our wheels, which passed over him. A
blow from a rock finished him, and his twelve-jointed rattle was added
to our trophies. It seemed a pity to leave his beautifully marked
sepia-brown skin, but we had no facilities for removing and caring for

Escondido means "hidden," a name probably suggested by the location of
the little town deep in the mammoth hills. It is, however, the best
town on the inland route between Riverside and San Diego, and though
small, it is apparently an energetic community. The main street was
being macadamized and improved for some distance out of the town, and
a large hotel and handsome schoolhouse testified to its enterprise.
For some miles to the south of the town the road is straight and level;
then we re-enter the hills and begin the ascent of the finely engineered
Poway grade. The road swings up the giant hills in long, easy loops and
as we near the summit the whole grade lies before our eyes as we look
backward down the canyon. From the crest there is another wonderful view
of hills touched with the declining sun and wooded canyons shrouded in
the amethystine haze of evening. To the right a road cuts across the
hills to La Jolla by the sea and we followed this on one occasion. It
is a narrow, little-used road running along the hill-crests or clinging
precariously to their sides, but it proved smoother and easier than we
anticipated. It passes through Miramar—the great country estate of a
millionaire newspaper man—comprising many thousands of acres. Some of
the land was cultivated, but the great bulk of it is in cattle ranges.
For miles we saw no human habitation and had some difficulty in keeping
the right road. We came into the main coast road a few miles north of
La Jolla and hastened to Del Mar—of which more anon—where we preferred
to pass the night rather than at San Diego.

On our first trip, however, we continued on our way to the city and
gliding down Poway grade we came to a fork in the road with a sign
informing us that one branch led to San Diego by Murphy Canyon and the
other by Murray Canyon. We chose the former, believing, for obvious
reasons, that it must be the best, and soon came into the new-old
town on the quiet, land-locked harbor, where the white man's work in
California had its beginnings.



If one wishes to stop within the city of San Diego, he will find the
U. S. Grant Hotel equal to the best metropolitan hostelries and when
he comes to settle his bill, will also learn that the best metropolitan
establishments "have nothing on" the Grant in the way of stiff charges.
It is a huge, concrete structure—"absolutely fire-proof," of course—and
its interior appointments and furnishings are in keeping with its
imposing exterior. It is justly the pride of San Diego and, despite the
marvelous growth of the town, it will be long before it outgrows this
magnificent hotel.

There is much for the tourist stranger to see about San Diego—the
oldest settlement of the white man in California. The motor car affords
ideal means for covering the surrounding country in the shortest time
and with the assistance of the excellent maps of the Auto Club of
Southern California, one can easily locate the points of interest in
the immediate vicinity outside the limits of the city.

[Illustration: SAN DIEGO MISSION
From Photograph by Harold Taylor]

The old mission will usually be the first objective, and more especially
it appeals to ourselves, who have already determined to traverse
the entire length of the King's Highway to visit all the decaying
monuments to the work of the zealous Franciscan padres. It has a special
significance as the earliest Spanish settlement in California and as
the beginning of a movement that has widely influenced the history and
architecture of the state. The story of its founding I have already told
in brief; its history in a general way was much the same as that of San
Gabriel. Our outline of the mission play in a preceding chapter gives
a true conception of its earliest days; owing to the distrust of the
natives it was long before converts were made in considerable numbers.
The region about was well peopled, but only seventy-one converts had
been secured by 1774, six years after Serra's landing. A year later the
mission was attacked by a horde of savages, variously estimated at from
five to eight hundred, who burned the rude brush-roofed building to the
ground and murdered Father Jayme, one of the priests. When news of the
disaster reached Father Serra, who had gone northward to Monterey, he
rejoiced in the martyrdom of his friend. "God be praised!" he cried.
"The soil is now watered," thus accepting the calamity as a presage of
victory to come. The troubles with the natives continued until 1779,
when they were pacified by some of their number being made officials
in the society, Alcades and Regidores, as they were styled. These
dignitaries administered justice to their own people under the direction
of the padres and from this time the progress of the mission was
rapid. In 1800 it was the most populous of the missions, its neophytes
numbering fifteen hundred and twenty-three. More substantial buildings
had been erected and an extensive scheme of irrigation had been begun,
remains of which astonish the beholder to-day. The great dam is in a
gorge about three miles above the mission. It was built of gray granite
twelve feet thick and stands as firm and solid as ever, though it is
now nearly filled with sand.

The mission's prosperity continued, with occasional interruptions on
account of differences with the natives, until the secularization in
1833. After this the Indians were gradually scattered and were decimated
in frequent clashes with the Spanish soldiers. Eleven years later
an official report showed but one hundred natives connected with the
mission as against more than fifteen hundred in its palmy days—a fact
which needs no elucidation to show the results of Mexican confiscation.
The buildings were reported by a United States officer to be "in good
preservation" in 1852, and were then occupied by American troops.

To-day only the "fachada" of the old church remains. It stands on
a hillside about five miles northeast of the city and overlooks the
beautiful valley of the San Diego River. The avenue leading to it from
the main road passes between long rows of eucalyptus trees and the
ruin itself presents a picturesque effect in its setting of palms and
black and silver-gray olives. A large dormitory near by houses several
priests, who courteously receive the visitor and tell him the story of
the mission. There is little to show, but one who is interested in the
romantic history of the Golden State will find himself loath to leave
the time-mellowed fragment of, perhaps, her most historic building.
And his reveries will be saddened by the thought that the precious old
structure is rapidly falling into decay, which will mean its ultimate
extinction unless energetic measures are adopted to restore and protect
it. Surely the earliest relic of the beginning of civilization on our
great Pacific Coast is deserving of loving and conscientious care.

On our return to the city we left the main highway a short distance
from the mission and pursued a mountain road to Lakeside Inn, then
a much-advertised resort. This road—a mere shelf cut in the side of
the hills—closely follows the course of the San Diego River, usually
far above it, with a cliff-like declivity at the side. It is quite
narrow in places and there are many sharp turns around abrupt corners—a
road not altogether conducive to peace of mind in nervous people. The
scenery, however, makes the trip worth while—the river boiling over its
boulder-strewn bed and the wooded hills on every hand combining to make
a wild but inspiring picture.

The inn was an immense wooden structure, since destroyed by fire.
Handsome grounds did much to make up for the rather shabby appearance
of the building. The lake was an artificial pond—about the only kind of
lake to be found in the vicinity of San Diego. The excellent dinner was
the strong point in the Lakeside's favor, and this was doubtless the
attraction which brought several cars besides our own, as nearly all
left shortly after the meal. We lounged about the grounds for awhile
and then followed suit, taking a different road—by the way of El Cajon
and La Mesa—an easier though less spectacular route than that by which
we came.

This passes Grosmont, a great conical hill some twelve hundred feet
high, and a well-engineered roadway leads to the summit. Of course we
must make the ascent, though the steep appearance of the grades caused
the occupants of the rear seat some uneasiness. The ascent did not prove
so difficult as we anticipated at first glance, though the pitch just
before one comes to the summit is enough to worry any careful driver a
little. The view from the hill is advertised as "the grandest panorama
in the world; one that simply beggars description," and "Fighting Bob"
Evans is quoted as having said, "Of all the beautiful views in the
world, give me Grosmont; nothing that I have ever seen can beat it." It
may have been that the bluff admiral climbed Grosmont after an extended
voyage at sea and any land was bound to look good to him. Lillian
Russell, the actress, is quoted by the guide-book in a similar strain,
but while Lillian is an accepted authority on personal pulchritude,
I do not know that she can claim the same distinction with reference
to scenic beauty. In any event, while the view from Grosmont is truly
grand and inspiring, I am very sure that we saw many nobler ones from
California mountain peaks. Indeed, we saw one still more glorious the
next day—of which more anon. The view, however, is well worth the climb
to anyone fond of panoramas and free from nervous qualms on mountain

Of course everyone who comes to San Diego must see the Coronado, whose
pointed red towers have become familiar everywhere through extensive
advertising and whose claim as the "largest resort hotel in the world"
has not been disputed, so far as I know. It is situated on the northern
point of the long strip of sand that shuts in the waters of San Diego
Bay and which widens to several hundred yards, affording extensive
grounds for the hotel as well as sites for numerous private residences
and a small village. It may be reached by ferry from the city or one
may drive around the bay—a distance of twenty-one miles, and when we
undertook it a very rough road for the greater part of the way. The
drive is not very interesting; the shore is flat, and there is little
opportunity to get a view of the bay. It is the kind of trip that one
cares to make but once, and on subsequent visits to Coronado we crossed
by the ferry, which carried our car cheaply and satisfactorily.

The "season" having passed, we experienced no difficulty in getting
accommodations at the Coronado, not always easy to do "off hand" in the
winter months. The rates glibly quoted by the genial clerk jarred us a
little but we consoled ourselves with the reflection that we wouldn't
pay them for a very lengthy period. That was before the war, however,
and in retrospect the figures do not loom so large by any means!

Our rooms were worth the money, however; they were large and airy;
the big casement windows opened on one side upon the sunset sweep of
the Pacific, and on the other we came into a corridor overlooking the
tropic beauty of the great court. The Coronado is on such a vast scale
that it takes one some time to get his bearings, and though the hotel
can accommodate upwards of a thousand guests at a time, the public
rooms and grounds never seem crowded. Its most distinctive interior
feature is the great circular ball-room, perhaps two hundred feet in
diameter, and covered by an open-beamed pavilion roof. But the interior
is of less consequence to the average Eastern guest than the outside
surroundings—the climate of eternal unchanging summer, the tropical
foliage and flowers, and the never-ending roll of the blue ocean on the
long sandy beach. Here is the most equable temperature in the United
States, if not in the world, the winter mean being fifty-six degrees
and the summer sixty-eight. Frost has never been known on the little
peninsula; even the freeze of 1913 did not touch it. It is not strange,
then, that it glows with the brilliant color of numberless flower-beds
and that almost every variety of these is shown in the collection
of many hundreds in the Coronado court. Here, too, is one of those
delightful features of Southern California, an open-air aviary, where
hundreds of songsters and birds of brilliant plumage are given practical
freedom in a great cage. There are several miles of fine driveways about
the hotel and village, and one can explore the place in a short time by
motor. He will learn a fact that many people do not know—that the hotel
is not all of Coronado, by any means. Here is a good-sized village with
many handsome residences. There are also several cheaper lodging-houses
and one can live as economically as he chooses in the "tent city" during
the season.

Coronado would never appeal to such nomads as ourselves as a place
to stay for any length of time—even forgetting the "freight," if we
were able to be so happily oblivious to a matter of such moment to
us. After a saunter about the grounds, indescribably glorious in the
tempered sunlight, and a drive about the village, we were ready for the
road again. Like nearly every stranger who comes to San Diego, we were
hankering for an excursion into Old Mexico—just to be able to declare
we had been there—and the short jaunt to Tia Juana served this very
useful purpose. The trip was doubly sensational since Tia Juana had
recently been the seat of genuine war, and you could see bullet holes
in the wretched little hovels. It was even guarded by a "fort," which
chanced to be deserted at the time of our incursion. The village lies
only two or three miles across the border-line, beyond which the road
was simply execrable. It meandered in an aimless fashion across the
wide plain and was deep with dust and full of chuck-holes that wrenched
the car unmercifully. And after we arrived we found nothing but a
scattered hamlet made up of souvenir stores, saloons, and a few poor
little cottages. Evidently the place depends for its existence on the
troops of tourists from across the border, and Tia Juana—which, being
interpreted, means "Aunt Jane"—welcomes them as cordially as her limited
means permit.

While the ladies ransacked the counters of the souvenir store for
bargains—principally, no doubt, for the satisfaction of carrying a
little "contraband" over the border—we endeavored to interview some of
the native loafers on the status of the revolution, but got only a "No
sabe" for our pains. A few minutes of Tia Juana will generally satisfy
the most ardent tourist and we were not long in turning the "Forty" U.
S.-ward. The customs official waved us a nonchalant salute—he did not
even give us the courtesy of a cursory glance into the car; evidently
he knew that one would find nothing in Tia Juana worth smuggling into
the country. We bade farewell to the land of the greaser with a feeling
of double satisfaction; we had been in Mexico—quite as far as we cared
to go under conditions then existing—and we were glad to get off the
abominable road.

A vast change has come over the once stupid and harmless Tia Juana since
the advent of the prohibition laws. As might be expected, it affords an
easily reached and very welcome oasis for bibulously inclined tourists
from the United States, hundreds of whom daily cross the border to
enjoy their "personal freedom" in the now lively town. Not only does
liquor flow freely there, but gambling, race-track betting and other
still worse vices flourish unchecked. A vigorous agitation is being
made in San Diego—which is used as a rendezvous by a host of undesirable
individuals connected with the Tia Juana resorts—to restrict greatly the
issuing of passports, without which one can not cross the border. The
new Mexican government has also promised to make an effort to suppress
the rampant vice in the town, but little in this direction has been
accomplished at the present writing.

No one will wish to leave San Diego without a visit to the Old Town,

Online LibraryThomas D. MurphyOn Sunset Highways → online text (page 8 of 25)