instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

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

"WAY BACK WHEN" WEDNESDAY

Celebrating July 4 in 1915

 

In addition to the usual fireworks and parade, everyone in Santa Barbara gathered at the racetrack in the afternoon to watch the rodeo. There was a 3/4-mile dash, a "standing Roman race" (the rider stands on the backs of two horses), and a cowboy tug-of-war."

 

You can see the location of the racetrack on this 1897 map drawn by Alfred Poett. This area usually flooded in the winter, but was dry all summer long. It was used for races and circuses, and even as an airplane runway in 1919. This location is now the El Estero Water Resource Center. Somehow that just doesn't have the same pizazz.

Be the first to comment

"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY

Image: Beyond the Rockies by Charles Augustus Stoddard, 1894

The Haunted Rock at Santa Barbara

 

In the course of doing research for MESApedia, I discovered a fictional tale from the 1800s that was set on the Mesa! The story was written by a local newspaper woman and published in The Overland Monthly magazine in 1873. The "lofty and rugged group of rocks" mentioned in the tale refers to the Castle Rock outcropping which was located near the base of the harbor breakwater. The "ancient ruin" in the story was inspired by a small Spanish fort located where Santa Barbara City College is today.

 

Here's the beginning, you can read the complete story at: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.b4073287&view=1up&seq=427&q1=%22santa%20barbara%22

 

The Haunted Rock at Santa Barbara

By V. Forward Russell

 

"Immediately on the western limit of the town of Santa Barbara, a high, green tableland, or Mesa, rises from the ocean beach and extends for several miles up the coast. At one point at its foot, near the town, rises a lofty and rugged group of rocks, projecting huge masses into the ocean. Seabirds flit and call about their summits. At their base, the waves surge a perpetual harmony that rolls in heavy cadence, and, like a chorus of receding music, fades slowly away. The sea breeze blows over them, cool and invigorating, and beyond them, in infinite grandeur, stretches the boundless sea.

"The point of the tableland projecting seaward, and below which is piled the group of rocks, is the site of an ancient ruin; but after the rainy season, the land is covered with tall weeds, and visitor passes the spot many times without suspecting that the solitude of the place has ever been broken save by the steps of some wandering traveler like himself, or the call of the seabird, or the chirp of the rabbits and squirrels that now dart through the long grasses and burrow in the foundation of the ancient walls.

 

"I Meet an Old Man and Hear a Tale

"During one of my rambles many years ago, I was surprised at the appearance here of a very old man. He stood silent and motionless, and his gaze was fixed on what I now, for the first time, observed to be a circular rise of land, evidently the remains of a former wall or tower. He was dressed in the Spanish garb — tight breeches fastened with buttons of silver from the ankle to the loins, a scarf crossed over the bosom, and a black silk kerchief bound about the forehead. His hair fell in long white locks upon his shoulders, his form was tall but bent and, except that his eye was bright, I knew him to be very old. I advanced toward him, but he did not move. I accosted him, but he was silent, and I saw that his face wore an expression of deep and absorbing grief."

Be the first to comment

SILENT MOVIES MADE IN MONTECITO

Image: Film Daily, September 7, 1923

Ashes of Vengeance

 

The so-called "silent movies" weren't really silent – music was generally played when the films were shown in theaters. And music was often played during the filming. Mournful music might be played to help the actors produce tears, ragtime music was played during lively party scenes, or period music might be played for historical dramas.

 

For example, while Ashes of Vengeance, a film set in 16th-century France, was being filmed at a Montecito estate, "only music of the time of Charles IX or his predecessors" was played, according to American Cinematographer [Los Angeles, California], 1923

 

Be the first to comment

"WAY BACK WHEN" WEDNESDAY

A Movie Dog Misbehaves

 

Although some folks are unhappy that there will be no fireworks this July 4, the dogs of Santa Barbara are jumping for joy. Which brings to mind a movie dog named Peter who was jumping around in Santa Barbara back in 1914. He jumped into the lake, during the filming of a "Flying A" movie at Laguna Blanca in Hope Ranch, when he wasn't supposed to.

 

As part of the action in the film, an actor, who was Peter's owner and trainer in real life, was thrown into the lake. Pe­ter, who, like some people, had trouble differentiating between Real Life and Art (or Real Life and Reel Life) jumped into the lake and "rescued" his owner, thereby spoiling the take. Oops! Bad dog! (Peter is on the left.)

Be the first to comment

"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY

The 1925 Quake on the Mesa

 

Today, June 29th, 2020 is the 95th anniversary of the disastrous earthquake that rocked the city of Santa Barbara. There was extensive damage on State Street, but the earthquake was also felt here on the Mesa as well.

 

At 1101 Luneta Plaza, Santa Barbara City Manager Herbert Nunn was just waking up when the big one hit at 6:42 a.m. His gripping on-the-spot report of the temblor later appeared in The Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

 

"At the moment of the shock I was sitting on the edge of the bed, … and was thrown upon my back. Preceding the shock there was a heavy rumbling sound similar to that of thunder, which apparently came from directly underneath. There was a barely perceptible interval between the rumbling sound and the shock. ... The [first] violent shock was followed instantaneously by a rapid vertical vibration, which I vividly remember.

 

"I immediately ran from my bedroom to the front lawn. ... As I stepped from the front porch …, I was thrown violently. ... My wife and the gardener, … stepping from a tiled porch to the grass ... both were thrown violently down. ... The roof was vibrating with sufficient force to break the tiles."

 

The Mesa lighthouse tower, built of granite, nearly collapsed on the lighthouse keeper and her family. The Morning Press wrote, "she rushed out with her family just in time to hear the light tower crash through the roof of the rooms they had left." (Our lighthouse was later replaced with a beacon.)

 

A couple of other Mesa residences were also severely damaged. One was the home of cowboy artist Ed Borein. His home, called La Barranca, had been built to resemble a Southwestern Pueblo. The Morning Press called it "one of the show places of the west side." It was completely destroyed. (Borein later built a frame house of a similar design, which Mesa Rats of the 1950s dubbed The Alamo.)

 

The largest and most spectacular home on the Mesa was severely damaged and later demolished. The 1880's home called Punta del Castillo was designed by premier Santa Barbara architect Peter J. Barber for Thomas B. Dibblee. Commonly known as "Dibblee's Castle," it had been Santa Barbara's very first estate in the modified Tuscan-villa style, according to the book Material Dreams.

 

The Mesa landscape was also changed forever. Castle Rock, a huge chunk of rock on the beach, which was once one of the most popular tourist destinations in Santa Barbara, had its profile greatly altered. Near the lighthouse, the quake shook loose a large piece of the cliff which crashed into the ocean. A set of stairs known as "Lovers' Nook" that led down to the beach, perhaps at Santa Cruz Boulevard, was filled with rocks. The Morning Press joked that "something must be done about it right away to guarantee the happiness of the young and amorous generation."

Be the first to comment

SILENT MOVIES MADE IN MONTECITO

Image: Cinema News and Property Gazette, January 15, 1913

The Law of God

 

This 1912 one-reel movie is the third religious one made in Montecito. Jim, an atheist, falls in love with a minister's daughter. (You can see where this story is headed.) She and her father give him the heave-ho, so he joins a gang of robbers, which pretty much confirms their assessment of his character, I'd say.

 

The gang of robbers is apprehended, and they all do time. When Jim gets out of the slammer, he visits the girl and her dad, tells them he is reformed, and all is forgiven. (This is the third movie made in Montecito, and the third with a religious theme.)

Be the first to comment

"WAY BACK WHEN" WEDNESDAY

Image: from "Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1917," photo courtesy of Motion Picture News, January 12, 1918

Mermaids on Santa Cruz Island

 

In June 1917, out on Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Santa Barbara, a cast of 66 actors and actresses was filming Sirens of the Sea, featuring a bevy of beau­ties adorned with shreds of seaweed and not much else (remember, we were still in the days before movie cen­sorship).

 

In the words of one movie poster advertising this film, "As long as men love women, the posters of Sirens of the Sea will crowd your theatre. The female form in all its divinity enhanced by marvelous natural scenery." Another ad gushed, "Sirens of the Sea is the most allur­ing, seductive, eye-feasting picture of beautiful women ever put on any screen."

Be the first to comment

"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY

Image: 1877 bird's-eye view by Eli Sheldon Glover

Cliff Drive in 1874

 

In 1874, a local reporter drove up to the Mesa with a horse and carriage to give his readers a "you are there" description of what the Mesa looked like. He traveled along what is now Cliff Drive. At that time, the road was called the Mesa Road, and only went about as far west as the present-day Monroe Elementary School:

 

"The older residents, we presume, know all about the beauties and pleasure of such a drive, but there may be others here who do not. The road is flanked by a range of hills on the one hand, so regular in their outline as to look like artificial mounds and stretching away on the other side are green fields, and the blue ocean beyond, with its mountains and islands arising therefrom. We enjoyed the ride so much that we were sorry when we came to a fence which compelled us to turn and retrace our way back to town. Still, we found almost as much enjoyment viewing the same scenes a second time. If you desire to spend an hour or two pleasantly, select a clear day and take a drive on the Mesa Road."

Be the first to comment

SILENT MOVIES MADE IN MONTECITO

Image: scene from The New Faith

The New Faith

 

In this 1911 one-reel movie, a Roman patrician is intrigued by a slave girl who is a Christian, which is what the New Faith is all about. When she saves his life by pulling a tarantula off his neck, he falls for her – and her religion.

 

So, he invites her to shack up with him. She admits she loves him, but declines his kind offer of an extramarital relationship: "Over my dead body!" Somehow, that makes him love her even more.

 

This is the second movie filmed in Montecito, and the second with a religious theme.

Be the first to comment

"WAY BACK WHEN" WEDNESDAY

Image: courtesy of teachhistory.com

"We Regret to Inform You . . . "

 

In addition to families receiving the dreaded telegram about young men killed on the battlefields of Europe in 1918, Santa Barbara families were also receiving telegrams about enlisted men who died of the Spanish flu in army camps shortly after leaving home.

 

In November 1918, the families of William P. Fasioli and Dennison Ernest Christensen learned that their sons had died in camps in California.

Be the first to comment