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Way Back When in Santa Barbara, Mesa Memories, & Silent Movies Made in Montecito

"WAY BACK WHEN" WEDNESDAY - 100 years ago this month

Damaged Goods

In October 1919, Santa Barbara's "Flying A" studio re-released this film about sexually transmitted disease in 1914, and it caused quite a stir in an era when people only talked about such matters in hushed tones.

 

A "nice" young man from a good family royally screws up his life when he goes out drinking with friends, sleeps with a prostitute, and contracts syphilis. A century ago, the treatment for this disease took two years. The young man, however, marries before his treatment is complete. When the couple's child is born with syphilis and is mentally retarded, his wife walks out. And as the movie ends, the young man walks into the sea.

 

One theater owner said, "Had to call police to handle the crowds trying to get into the theater last night. There were 300 people waiting in line when the theater opened in the morning." (Image: Moving Picture World, January 27, 1917)

All the "Way Back When" Wednesday posts from this year are part of the many items in my latest book Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1919. Available in Santa Barbara bookstores and at Amazon.com beginning in November 2019.

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"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY

The Olivers of Oliver Road - part 2

 

The Olivers spent several years in northern California before settling in Santa Barbara. They worked hard, saved their money, and looked around for a good spot to settle down. They liked the Mesa. On October 28, 1868, L.G. handed $2,035 in gold coins to Jonathan Mayhew, a Mesa farmer, in exchange for 101+ acres of land west of the Mesa lighthouse. (The lighthouse, which stood near La Mesa Park, was destroyed in the 1925 earthquake.) L.G. and his family lived and farmed on the Mesa for the next 32 years.

Over the years, the Olivers grew hay and corn (1500 bushels one year). The 1880 farm census showed that they owned six oxen (probably to pull the plow), and were raising 90 chickens and 90 pigs. The pigs were used for producing lard and hams. The family also had a windmill, probably to draw water from a well. In 1869, records show that the family (probably Kate) produced 500 pounds of butter. Their home was most likely on or near the ocean side of Mesa Road, now called Cliff Drive, west of Meigs Road.

When L.G. died in 1900, he was described as "one of the best known of the older residents of Santa Barbara." After his death, Kate moved to Chico to live with her son. She died in 1905. Both of the Oliver brothers died in 1940. But the name of the Olivers' Mesa farm lives on in Oliver Road, which was named in the mid-1920s and is still here today.

(The Olivers, and other early Mesa families, are covered in MESApedia - the early years of Santa Barbara's Mesa.)

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"WAY BACK WHEN" WEDNESDAY - 100 years ago this month

Great Guns!

Back in October 1919, some of the soldiers returning from the war in Europe brought back souvenirs from the battlefield such as German helmets or other items. But no one in Santa Barbara had anything quite as spectacular as the German cannon that was gifted to the city for raising money to help pay off the war debt in record time. "The first week of the campaign, Santa Barbara had secured over half of her quota of the loan which showed a fine spirit of patriotism."

 

It was described as a 108-millimeter 1918 German cannon. "The cannon will be mounted in front of the Federal Building [the Post Office; now the Santa Barbara Museum of Art].

 

The cannon is visible at the left of the building. (Image: courtesy of John Woodward)

 

All the "Way Back When" Wednesday posts from this year are part of the many items in my latest book Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1919. Available in Santa Barbara bookstores and at Amazon.com beginning in November 2019.

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"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY

The Olivers of Oliver Road - part 1

Lately, I've posted about street names on the Mesa that come from Spanish. Here's one street that is named for an American family.

 

They loaded up their covered wagon, gathered their cattle and children, said good-by to Iowa, and headed to California with a prayer on their lips and hope in their hearts. It was April 10, 1861. The Oliver family was headed by L.G. Oliver and his wife Kate. L.G., whose full name was Ludwell Gains, was 35. Kate (Catherine) was 30. They had two children — daughter Lydia E. was eight; son C.A. (Cassius Adolphus) was six. (Their son John Blair would be born later in California in 1864.)

 

They spent more than five months on the trail before they arrived in San Francisco on September 24. Along the way, they traversed mud holes, ferried across rivers, and endured windstorms and encounters with Native Americans. Once, while crossing a primitive bridge, their wagon fell into a stream. Kate feared her children would perish. "My pencil fails to portray my feeling during the moments of suspense and agony," she wrote in her diary. Fortunately, the children survived, but the family's possessions were soaked.

 

Next week, in part 2, I'll post about their arrival in Santa Barbara.

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"WAY BACK WHEN" WEDNESDAY - 100 years ago this week

LA Company Filming in Santa Barbara

A group of actors and a film crew from Los Angeles were in SB in October 1919 making a movie called "Peddler of Lies." The film starred Dagmar Godowsky, an actress known for playing a temptress on screen.

Apparently, her off-screen life was not much different. Later in her life when she was asked about the number of husbands she had had, she answered, "Two of my own, my dear, and several of my friends." (Image: Photoplay Journal, June, 1920)

 

All the "Way Back When" Wednesday posts from this year are part of the many items in my latest book Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1919. Available in Santa Barbara bookstores and at Amazon.com beginning in November 2019.

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"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY

Spanish Street Names - Part 5

Miramesa Drive – (MEER-ah-MAY-sah) Similar to Miracañón Lane mentioned in last week's post, but this street has a view of the Mesa, not the canyon.

Miramonte Drive – (MEER-ah-MUN-tay) And the third one in the Mira- series, Miramonte means view of the mountain. It is also a surname. Miramonte Drive did not connect to Carrillo Street until the 1970s when the Santa Barbara Highlands Condominium complex was built.

Océano Avenue – (oh-SAY-ah-no) Using the Spanish pronunciation for this street will get you a lot of confused looks.

Payeras Street – (pie-YEAH-ruhs) Payeras is a surname and doesn't have any other usage. There is some evidence that a Padre Payeras is buried at the Mission in Santa Barbara, so that may explain the origin of this street name.

Ricardo Avenue – (ree-CAR-doe) a man's name.

Salida del Sol – (sah-LEE-duh-dell-SOLE) The name means sunrise.

San Clemente Street – (SAHN-CLAY-men-tay) Clemente means mild, and is a popular name. There are several cities around the world named San Clemente, and San Clemente Island is the southernmost of the Channel Islands of California. Saint Clement lived in Rome in the first century A.D., and is the patron saint of metalworkers and blacksmiths. This is one of many streets on the Mesa that are named for saints.

 

That's all the info I have on the Spanish street names of the Mesa. Next week's post will cover the story behind Oliver Road.

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"WAY BACK WHEN" WEDNESDAY - 100 years ago this month

"The Frog Has Spoken"Animal weirdness goes way back in Santa Barbara. When it comes to forecasting rain, some people watched to see if the ground squirrels were heading for the hills. But one judge in Santa Barbara in October 1919 listened for frog sounds.

It wasn't just any frog, mind you. He had a tame bullfrog which he claimed to have trained to be a weather prophet. "For several years past, this educated frog has given the judge warning of approaching storms. For some reason, the frog has been conspicuous by his silence, and indeed by his absence from the judge's doorstep during the past summer; but he has come out of his retreat, and yesterday gave the judge his usual signal of an approaching storm."

The paper didn't elaborate on what exactly this signal was. (Perhaps the frog showed up holding a mushroom as an umbrella?)

The article continued, "So ye who have ears to hear, hear and be warned. Clean out your rain barrels, mend that leaking roof, for lo, the frog has spoken; the oracle has oracled, and it will surely storm." (Image: New York Public Library)

 

All the "Way Back When" Wednesday posts from this year are part of the many items in my latest book Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1919. Available in Santa Barbara bookstores and at Amazon.com beginning in November 2019.

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"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY

Spanish Street Names - Part 4
Linda Road – (LEAN-dah) In addition to being a woman's name (like Dolores Avenue), linda means pretty, cute, or nice.
Loma Alta Drive – (LOW-mah AL-tah) Loma means hill, and alta means high. Before Meigs Road and Carillo Road were connected, this was one of the main routes into Santa Barbara for Mesa residents.
Los Álamos Avenue – (lows AH-lah-mose) I bet most people don't know that álamos means poplar trees or poplar wood. Of course, many people are familiar with the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, made popular by Disney's 1955 movie with Fess Parker. Former Mesa resident artist Edward Borein lived in a pueblo-style home that local kids called "The Alamo." Borein, however, called his home "Barranca," and today's street by that name honors the memory of the Borein's home, which no longer stands, but a lintel from the home is now in the Borein section of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.
Loyola Drive – (loy-OH-lah) This can be a surname, and is also the name of Saint Ignatius of Loyola who founded the Jesuit order of priests in the 1500s.
Luneta Plaza – (loo-NAY-tah) Luneta can mean window or the lens in eyeglasses. Before M&Ms arrived in Mexico, this type of candy was called lunetas.
Mesa Lane – Mesa means table or desk, or a tableland. In geographic terms, a tableland or mesa is elevated flat land surrounded by ravines or barrancas. In the 1800s, the present Cliff Drive was called Mesa Road.
Miracañón Lane – (MEER-ah-cahn-YUN) Here's a street name that accurately describes the street, off Miramonte Drive, which has a view of the canyon in Honda Valley Park. This park is an undeveloped park owned by the city of Santa Barbara.
(If you missed the previous parts of this post, you can find them further down on this page.)

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"Way Back When" Wednesday - 100 years ago this month

"Way Back When" Wednesday - A Visit from Royalty

This was definitely the highlight of the year for Santa Barbara in October 1919. King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium were on a goodwill tour of the United States to give their thanks for our support during the World War in Europe, and Santa Barbara was one of their stops.

The royal visitors had a busy schedule during their stay here. When they visited the Santa Barbara Mission, the king planted a cypress tree and an orange tree. They also visited the gardens of the Piranhurst estate in Montecito, belonging to Henry E. Bothin, where the queen was intrigued by his outdoor theater.

The garden theater was used as a location for several films. This is a scene from "The Quest," a 1915 film produced by Santa Barbara's "Flying A" film studio that I discovered while working on a book about silent movies made in Montecito. (Image: Reel Life, March 13, 1915)

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