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


The 1913 silent film "In the Days of Trajan" is one of at least 60 silent movies made in Montecito, California. The film received favorable reviews in newspapers and magazines near and far.


"Vivid scenes of the dungeons and the arenas of Rome in the early Christian days." – "Bioscope" [London, England], November 13, 1913


(This film is one of many that I have discovered in my ongoing research for a book about silent movies made in Montecito.)


(Image: Motion Picture News, October 25, 1913)

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

(Image: courtesy of Neal Graffy)

January 1914 ended with a torrent that people talked about for decades. Sunday afternoon and evening, January 25, the skies opened up and deluged our city with 9.41 inches of rain.

"Houses Carried Away; Bridges Torn Out; Boulevards Wrecked. … Three bridges along Mission Creek were carried out by the flood and two bridges on the east side were destroyed. A number of houses along the creek were also floated away."

Ocean waves swept over what is now Cabrillo Boulevard and carried away three sections of pavement 75 to 150 feet long. The beach was covered with sodden belongings, furniture, and even wagons that had been swept along by the wall of water that roared down Mission Creek. Witnesses said it sounded like a freight train.

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You don't know beans!


Did you know that lima beans have a Mesa history? Mesa farmer Jonathan Mayhew is said to have introduced lima beans to Santa Barbara in 1867. He had grown them in the Bay Area and brought some with him when he moved to the Mesa. He gave some to a Mesa neighbor to plant, but the neighbor liked them so much, he cooked them and ate them all.


Although pronounced LIME-uh beans today, the beans were named for LEEM-uh (Lima), Peru. Lima beans are native to Central America and northern South America.


(The above is an excerpt from MESApedia - The Early Years of Santa Barbara's Mesa.)

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

Did Santa bring you what you wanted? Here are some things on people's wishlists in Santa Barbara way back when in 1919.

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Ed Borein's Home (part 2)


The Borein's home "La Barranca" was built of adobe bricks in a style that resembled the Native American pueblos of the Southwest. The interior was decorated with their fabulous basket collection. The Boreins loved to have guests and among them were celebrities of the day such as entertainer Will Rogers, and Western artists Charles Russell and Carl Oscar Borg. The 1925 earthquake rendered the home unlivable, but the Boreins rebuilt, and Lucille stayed on in the home for many years after her husband died in 1945.


In the 1950s and 1960s, Mesa kids called the house "The Alamo." It was a surfer hangout in the early 1960s. Well-known names in the surfing culture such as cinematographer Dale Davis used to hang out there. One of the residents even made "Alamo Ale" on the property.


The Borein house lives on in people's memories, and the Santa Barbara Historical Museum now has a Borein gallery that holds numerous sketches done by the artist as well as the famous lintel from the home that reads "La Barranca."

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

An Eye in the Sky


One hundred years ago, Santa Barbara had the Lockheed seaplanes taking off from the beach here, so it's not surprising that we had an aerial camera. This camera took still photos, not moving images. It was developed by a cameraman at the "Flying A" and took 8 x 10" negatives. When King Albert of Belgium visited Santa Barbara in October, he asked to examine this cutting-edge piece of photographic equipment. (Image: Motion Picture News, December 13, 1919)


(These "Way Back When" Wednesday posts are excerpts from the newly released book "Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1919." Available at and Santa Barbara bookstores.)

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Ed Borein's Home (part 1)

La Barranca is just a street name in the Mesa neighborhood of Santa Barbara now, but for almost 50 years, it was the Southwestern-style home of the famous cowboy artist Ed Borein (1872 – 1945), one of the early Mesa artists.

Born in San Leandro, California, Borein worked as a cowboy in California and Mexico in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the last decades of the Old West. At night, he would sit in the bunkhouse and sketch what he had seen during the day. In 1900, the "San Francisco Call" newspaper began purchasing some of his sketches and stories, and eventually Borein decided to hang up his boots and spurs and take up a sketch pad and pencil instead.

He studied in New York for a while and then moved back West in 1921 and settled in Santa Barbara. He had a studio/shop on the Street in Spain on East De la Guerra Street next to the Casa de la Guerra adobe. In 1923, he and his wife Lucille built their dream home on the edge of the cliff on the Mesa. The building permit for the home showed an estimated cost of $3,000. A small canyon or barranca ran through the property, so they baptized their home "La Barranca."

(More about the home next week.)

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

The End of the World – or Not 

A century ago, Professor Albert Porta of San Francisco was described as "an Italian gentleman, architect, mathematician, astronomer and meteorological and seismological prophet," according to the "Oakland Tribune." And he certainly made waves nationwide in December 1919 when he predicted an earthshaking disaster on December 17, based on his reading of sun spots.


"According to Professor Albert F. Porta, we are to have on December 17, the greatest sun spot of all history; one that will fairly cause this old earth to reel into the greatest weather cataclysm ever known. There will be hurricanes, earthquakes, rains, storms and volcanic disturbances, the like of which were never known," warned "The Missoulian" newspaper of Montana. The Santa Barbara paper added, "Throughout the country, the prediction has been circulating, and is causing fear and trepidation." Ministers of Santa Barbara churches discussed the dire prediction in their sermons.


However, December 17 came and went, and the world moved on to the next day in the calendar. "All arrangements for family gatherings and festivities on Christmas Day will be made with perfect safety," the local paper reported, "as there was no shakeup of the planets yesterday." Whew! (Image: Asheville Citizen-Times, Asheville, North Carolina, December 18, 1919)


These "Way Back When" Wednesday posts are excerpts from the newly released book "Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1919 - The Best Stories of the Year."



First-ever tailgate book signing event - I'll be parked near Chaucers bookstore on Saturday, Dec. 14 from 2 to 3:30. You can buy one or more of my books at Chaucers, and I will be happy to sign the, pose for a selfie, etc


I will also be signing my books at the Santa Barbara Arts gift shop in La Arcada on Sunday, Dec. 15 from noon-2 p.m. Stop by and say "hi" to me and the La Arcada Christmas turtles Prancer, Dancer, and Vixen.

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Weldon of Weldon Road (part 2)

The Reverend S.R. Weldon was 49 years old when he arrived here in 1872. He had been a minister at a church in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, a tiny community on a small island in Lake Erie, north of the United States mainland from 1867 until 1872. He came to California for health reasons.


He wasted no time in establishing himself as the local expert in the field of science, especially astronomy. On November 13, 1872, he purchased 140 acres on the Mesa, and on December 14, the Santa Barbara "Times" reported that he would be giving a lecture on the moon, and said that he "has made a specialty of the study of Astronomy."


In 1877, another Santa Barbara paper, the "Weekly Press," called his residence "a model home," that was "one of the prettiest suburban homes in town … It is situated on the brow of the Mesa and commands a magnificent view of both the valley and the ocean. The house stands in its own grounds and is approached by a winding road and carriage drive. It is surrounded by a young plantation of shade trees, and on the slope down towards the valley, a pine plantation gives a beautiful effect to the whole picture." (The home is no longer here.)


Weldon died in 1887 at the age of 63. The "Morning Press" wrote, "He was a well-known and highly respected citizen and his loss will be severely felt." Today, the Mesa's astronomer is remembered by Weldon Road, a curving street that connects Cliff Drive and Loma Alta Drive.


Weldon is one of many of the Mesa's early residents who are profiled in MESApedia, written by yours truly. MESApedia is available in Santa Barbara bookstores and gift shops, and at


(Image: courtesy of NASA)

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

A Stormy Date for Santa Barbara

Guess what! We had the same stormy weather here a century ago today. December 4, 1919 was a day that made a lot of sailors unhappy in the Santa Barbara Channel. "The ocean was running rough yesterday morning, and during the afternoon the wind was from the southeast which may indicate a storm that will endanger the safety of the small fishing boats that are in the harbor."


Coincidentally, it had also been stormy on December 4, 1602 when Sebastian Vizcaino sailed past our area. His ship weathered the storm safely, and he decided that Saint Barbara, whose name was on the Christian calendar for that date, had saved his ship so he gave her name to our area. (Image: Wikimedia)


This story and more than 200 others from 1919 are yours to keep and enjoy in my newly published Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1919 - The Best Stories of the Year - available in Santa Barbara bookstores and gift stores (and at if you live outside the area).

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