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Way Back When in Santa Barbara & Mesa Memories

LITTLE FREE LIBRARY TREASURE HUNT

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."

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

"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)

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"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY -

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)

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

"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)

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"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY

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)

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

"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)

 

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"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY

MESA MEMORIES MONDAY - Arroyo Burro Beach Park History

         This is the only county park on the Mesa. Its official name has been Arroyo Burro Beach since 1949, but many Mesa residents still call it "Hendry's Beach." And longtime Mesa residents used to call it "Henry's Beach" or simply "the pit." A pair of young Scottish immigrants — William and Ann Hendry — arrived here in the early 1870s, and had a ranch near the beach. It's not known if their ranch was a financial success, but the union of William and Ann certainly was — they had 12 children (nine boys and three girls). William died in 1924, and Ann died in 1940.

         Much of the area now covered by the two parking lots was originally wetlands that were filled in during the 1940s and 1950s. Although some people believe that there was a Chumash village on this site, a 1989 archaeological survey found only a few artifacts.

         Residents of the Mesa in the 1950s recall a simple shack here that served food to hungry surfers. During summer vacations, it was a place where your mom would drop you off in the morning, and pick you up on her way home from work. The shack eventually burned down. For many years, the Brown Pelican restaurant served hungry beachgoers. Today the Boathouse restaurant occupies the site. (Image: Wikimedia)

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

WAY BACK WHEN WEDNESDAY - 100 years ago this week, the Goldwyn Studio was filming at a Montecito estate. Most Santa Barbara folks were pretty much used to seeing "Flying A" film crews working in our area, but it must have caused quite a stir when a director, along with actors, actresses, and film crew spent six days filming here. The Goldwyn people were in Montecito getting exterior scenes for "Bonds of Love," which is supposed to take place on Long Island.

This is one of about 55 movies filmed in Montecito that I discovered while working on a book about silent movies made in Montecito. (Image: Motion Picture News, August 23, 1919)

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MESA MEMORIES MONDAY - 6-17-2019

MESA MEMORIES MONDAY - Douglas Family Preserve, Part 2
     Today almost no one remembers Medzikhovsky, the Russian with his carefully waxed moustache and military bearing, but longtime Mesa residents remember the Wilcox nursery property (1949-1972) as an area of fields where cows grazed during the day, and teenagers held parties at night.
     From 1972 until 1996, there was a 25-year-long tug-of-war between developers who proposed several different projects for the land, and Santa Barbara residents who wanted to preserve "the last wild piece of coast in Santa Barbara." Finally, in January, 1996, preservation groups were given a deadline of just six weeks in which to raise $3.5 million to save the open land. Former Mesa resident, Susan Belloni, ad hoc coordinator for the Friends of the Douglas Family Preserve, said, "We had backyard English tea fundraisers, jog-a-thons, art sales, music fundraisers, butterfly tours, we handed out pledge cards at Las Positas and Cliff Drive during rush hour, sold red tropical flowers there, too, for Valentine's Day; children sold $10 glasses of juice, a huge banner went up on the freeway overpass with a pledge phone number to call, there were penny jars at stores all over town, and I even remember counting some of them at Sue and Jim Higman's, who were the real backbone of SWAP [Small Wilderness Area Preserve] and without whom, perhaps none of it would have happened. It was a huge Santa Barbara community effort and it succeeded."
     In the end, the preservationists won by sheer persistence, and a public who supported them with pennies, dollars, and a large check from actor Michael Douglas. The park became an off-leash area for dogs in 2004. (Image: Betsy J. Green)

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MESA MEMORIES MONDAY

MESA MEMORIES MONDAY - Douglas Family Preserve - The park that was almost home to Russian royalty
This Santa Barbara City park, with its dramatic vistas, has been eyed by developers at least as far back as 1919 when a high-ranking member of the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. bought this almost 60-acre site. "Slav Nobility to Live Here . . . Members of Royal Family May Join Unique Colony" ran the headline in the Los Angeles Times on April 16, 1919. In addition to Santa Barbara's salubrious climate, the Russian aristocrats were hoping that the United States would be safe from revolutions such as the 1917 uprising in their country.
The Santa Barbara newspaper, The Daily News and The Independent wrote that "an attractive oak grove beautifies the Russian embassy lands and there are numerous fine building sites on the property." The Russian aristocrats apparently settled elsewhere, but Count Constantin J. Medzikhovsky (see photo), the commercial attaché who bought the property, lived there on what was called Medcliff Ranch, for 13 years until his death in 1932. He and his American wife Countess Bessie lived in the big yellow house at 2601 Mesa School Lane. She died in 1958. (Image: Library of Congress)

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