"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY - La Mesa Park History
The history of this city park goes back to 1856 when the United States government purchased 28 acres, and built a lighthouse. Some of the grounds around the lighthouse were used by the lighthouse keepers and their family as vegetable gardens in this (then) remote location. (Shoreline Drive would not be built for almost 100 years, and Meigs Road did not connect to Carrillo Street, so it was a long round-about trip into town.) The original lighthouse was destroyed in the 1925 earthquake, and another was later built. The lighthouse was accessed by a road leading down from Cliff Drive. People who lived on the Mesa in the 1960s remember when Meigs Road only went as far south as Elise Way, the road on the south side of the Mesa Village Shops.
In the 1950s, the city acquired 6.8 acres to be used for the park, and 8.2 more acres became the site of Washington School. La Mesa Park was formally dedicated in 1957. Older residents remember going to the summer camp that was held at the park, or swinging over the creek on ropes that hung from the large trees. (Photo: Betsy J. Green)
Way Back When in Santa Barbara & Mesa Memories
"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY - La Mesa Park History
"WAY BACK WHEN" WEDNESDAY - 100 YEARS AGO THIS MONTH: The Astra Films folks were filming a feature-length movie on the George Owen Knapp's "Arcady" estate in Montecito in July 1919. The movie was called "Our Better Selves."
According to one reviewer, "The story is of a wealthy Parisian beauty who basks in an atmosphere of luxury and romance ... and a young American aristocrat, an aimless drifter and idler. These two have met and loved – she rich and he almost penniless. Then comes the time when his better self prevails and he goes forth to play a man's part in the world of men." – "The Gazette" (Montreal, Canada), August 12, 1919.
(Image: Exhibitors Herald, August 16, 1919)
(I found this item when I was researching my book about silent movies made in Montecito.)
MESA MEMORIES MONDAY - Vertical Parks History
Two unusual city parks provide beach access on the Mesa – Mesa Lane Steps and Thousand Steps. Mesa Lane Steps, at the south end of Mesa Lane, were built in the early 1980s on the site of an informal trail to the beach that local surfers had used for decades. Originally built of wood, the steps have been upgraded and repaired several times. (Photo of Mesa Lane Steps by Betsy J. Green)
Thousand Steps, at the south end of Santa Cruz Boulevard, were first built in 1923, making them one of the earliest parks on the Mesa. They have also been rebuilt several times.
TREASURE HUNT UPDATE – Well, it's been 24+ hours since I placed a copy of my "Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1918" in a Little Free Library. I checked the little library, and my book is gone, so someone got lucky. I had hoped to receive a photo of the lucky person who found the treasure (my book), as other treasure finders have done. Oh well. I hope whoever it was enjoys the book. I certainly had fun writing it. And I'm not discouraged. I'll play the Treasure Hunt game again some time, and keep you posted.
(Some people have asked about the location. This Little Free Library is in front of TVSB at 329 South Salinas Street.)
Ahoy, book lovers! It's the 13th of the month today, but it will be a lucky day for someone in Santa Barbara. There's another TREASURE HUNT happening today! This year marks the 10th anniversary of the first Little Free Library in 2009.*
To celebrate, I put my "Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1918" book in THIS Little Free Library earlier today – SOMEWHERE in the Santa Barbara area. I'm not saying WHERE in Santa Barbara. That's the treasure hunt part. I also put a note in the book asking the clever person who finds my book (the treasure, of course) to send me a photo of himself/herself with the book and, if that happens, I'll post it here.
Why write about Santa Barbara in 1918? 1918 was the year of: wild storms hit our city, the Montecito Country Club opened, "Flying A" made more movies here, the Lockheeds flew planes off West Beach, sauerkraut became "Liberty Cabbage," the circus arrived, the El Encanto Hotel opened, there was a solar eclipse, a car drove into the Gibraltar Reservoir, the Spanish Flu hit Santa Barbara, there were Victory Gardens all over town, SB pelicans were in the news, and much more.
*If you're not familiar with the Little Free Library concept, check out their website. The organization's slogan is, "Take a book. Share a book."
"WAY BACK WHEN" WEDNESDAY - 100 YEARS AGO THIS MONTH: Watch Out for Tarantulas! A Santa Barbara merchant got a spider surprise when stocking his shelves with bananas one morning in July 1919. The local paper reported, "The tarantula, with every tentacle popping, crawled out of the sack and extended fraternal greetings. Hopping back [he] … grabbed a wicked pruning knife and was about to carve the unwelcome visitor, when he decided that he would place the bug on exhibition."
He placed the spider in a glass jar and put it on display for all to see. "The tarantula was the largest that has ever been seen locally. Each tentacle [leg] measured six inches." (Image: New York Public Library)
MESA MEMORIES MONDAY - Shoreline Park History
This area was used as farmland until the 1920s. After the oil boom ended in the 1930s, the area was littered with discarded oil drilling equipment that lay among fallen eucalyptus trees, weeds, as well as a field of oats. In the early 1950s, the Marine Terrace subdivision sprang up.
In 1967, the city of Santa Barbara bought the 15-acre site to be used as a park. There was a contest to name the new park, and "Shoreline Park" was the winner. The park was formally opened in 1968. Some older residents recall several Army helicopters landing here during a big storm. Several landslides have occurred at the park's edge in the 1980s, in 1995, 1998, and 2008. (Image: Betsy J. Green)
"WAY BACK WHEN" WEDNESDAY - 100 YEARS AGO THIS MONTH: The statewide ban on the sale of alcohol began on July 1, 1919. California had ratified the 18th Amendment in January. [Spoiler alert - The entire nation would go dry in January, 1920.]
"All liquor stores closed in Santa Barbara at 10 o'clock last night. Beverages containing more than ½ of one percent alcohol are not to be sold or carried in interstate traffic. You may have wine, beer or whiskey in your home … last night at 10 o'clock … the windswept hulk of the old ship 'Booze' sank beneath the mountainous waves of public opinion." (Image: After the Town Goes Dry, Henry C. Taylor, 1919)
MESA MEMORIES MONDAY - Elings Park History
The proverb "one man's trash is another man's treasure" could easily be applied to what is now Elings Park (pronounced EEL-ings). In 1942, this area became a "sanitary fill site." In other words, it was a dump. Longtime residents Gerry and Jim Turner recall that the city burned garbage here, and Mesa residents suffered on the days when the smelly smoke drifted over the area.
Other people remember the park as the place where motorcycle biker guys used to ride, and others remember that somebody farmed for a while on the Jesuit property. This continued for more than 20 years until Jerry Harwin, the chairman of the Santa Barbara Recreational Commission, and other community leaders decided that a park would be a better neighbor than a garbage dump.
Beginning with six tennis courts in 1972, the park grew in stages until it now calls itself, "the largest privately funded public park in America." The park opened as Las Positas Park in 1985. In 1994, the park purchased some 130 acres on the south side of the site from the Jesuit order called the Novitiate of Los Gatos. In 1999, Virgil Elings donated $1.5 million to the park, and in appreciation, the park was given its present name. The Elings family has since doubled that original sum. Harwin is remembered in the name of the road leading into the park.
The City of Santa Barbara owns the tennis courts at 1002 Las Positas Road, but the rest of this public park is privately owned. Facilities here include a BMX course, baseball fields, soccer fields, hiking and biking trails, and paragliding. (Image: Betsy J. Green)
"WAY BACK WHEN" WEDNESDAY - 100 years ago this week, this cartoon appeared in "Life" magazine, and will appear in the June chapter of my next book "Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1919."
The caption is: "Matilda, I'm in a deuce of a fix. I've mislaid part of my article on efficiency." (Image: Life, June 26, 1919)