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Way Back When

Santa Barbara in May 1914
updated: May 17, 2014, 11:00 AM

By Betsy J. Green

It was another happenin' month in our town 100 years ago this month. Here's the news straight from the pages of the May 1914 editions of Santa Barbara's "Daily News & Independent" and "Morning Press" to your computer, laptop, smart phone, or other new-fangled thingamajig.

Real Men - Bowl in Their Underwear? Was this fellow on a coed team? Or was it come-as-you- are night for the guys? Union suits, so named because they united undershirts and underpants in one piece, were first patented in 1868. Normally union suits (also called long johns) had a back flap to make for faster "pit stops," so I'm not sure why a closed crotch was a selling point. How did guys, um, … oh never mind.

The name Richmond was used because these undies were patented by the Richmond Underwear Company in Richmond, Indiana. In 1915, the company was bought by the Atlas Underwear Company which stayed in business long enough to manufacture "hi-tech metabolism-sensing long johns" used in Apollo missions' space suits.

The Atlas Underwear Company also owned the BVD company. BVD stands for Bradley, Voorhees & Day, an underwear company in New York. But you knew that, right? Atlas is no longer in business. Richmond, Indiana is still in business and is sometimes called the "cradle of recorded jazz" because some early jazz records were made there. I guess that sounds better than "cradle of closed crotch skivvies." Now, say that fast three times!

Memorial Day or Decoration Day? Both names were used for the May 30th ceremony that was held in the Santa Barbara cemetery to honor those who died in the armed forces. Ladies from the local veterans' support group went to the wharf and threw flowers into the water in remembrance of sailors who died at sea.

The holiday was originally called "Decoration Day" because people went to the cemeteries to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. By 1914, the papers here used both "Decoration Day" and "Memorial Day." May 30th was chosen because it was a time when many flowers were blooming. In 1967, the U.S. Government changed the name of the holiday to "Memorial Day." In 1971, the date of the holiday was changed to the last Monday in May.

Bungalow in the News. A local paper announced that a bungalow in Montecito designed by prominent local architect Francis T. Underhill was featured in the May issue of the magazine "Country Life in America." The home, known as "La Chiquita" is now part of the Four Seasons Resort. You can read more about Underhill in Hattie Beresford's article at www.digital editiononline.com (Photo: Francis T. Underhill papers, Art Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara)

Remember S&H Green Stamps? An ad for Krug Bros. Co. (431 State Street, phone Pacific 172), advertised Kentucky whiskey for $1 a quart and included S&H Green Stamps with each purchase. Krug Bros. also offered "Prompt Delivery," so if you ran out of hooch at an inopportune moment, you had only to pick up the phone.

The Krug Brothers wine and liquor store was here during the 19-teens. They were in competition with nine other liquor stores. (The brothers, Albert and Charles L. Krug, were not related to Charles Krug, founder of one of the first wineries in the Napa Valley in 1861.)

Okay, so what did S&H stand for? I sure didn't know, although I vaguely remember the little green stamps and the booklets you could trade in for stuff. The Sperry & Hutchinson Company began offering stamps to retailers back in 1896. They were popular through the 1960s, but are no longer used. There is still a S&H Green Stamps sign at the Santa Cruz Market in Goleta. (Photo: Betsy J. Green) The stamps were mentioned in a number of films and songs, most notably Pat Boone's 1962 hit "Speedy Gonzales" in which Speedy Gonzales (voiced by Mel Blanc) says, "Hey Rosita, come quick. Down at the cantina, they're giving green stamps with tequila." Did the lyricist get the idea from our very own Krug Bros? Hmmm…. Anyway, here's the song on Youtube:

Why is this dude smiling? What are you thinking that he wants? Hmmm… No, it wasn't that. And it wasn't a hug either. He's thinking about buying a spiffy new Panama hat, according to this ad from The Great Wardrobe. That store, located at 833 State Street, opened in 1886 and was one of the premier clothing stores in Santa Barbara through the 1940s.

Panama hats don't come really come from Panama - they are made in Ecuador. Why the name Panama? The hats are sent to Panama and shipped from there and, of course, once the Panama Canal opened, they must have been popular souvenirs. (Spoiler alert! The canal was finished in August 1914.)

The opening of the canal, nicknamed "the Big Ditch," was eagerly awaited by all the cities on the California coast who realized it would mean more tourists and more business. The editorial in one of our papers enthused in especially awkward phraseology, "It will give the pleasure-seeker and those that in summer flee the heat-stricken Atlantic Coast, a delightful route to this land of delight, and … there doubtless will be many visitors to California, who never before would come in the summer, for dread of the long and uncomfortable journey overland."

He Took the Money and Ran, but first he stopped to write an insulting note to his victim. Mrs. Sophia Parma of 912 Chapala Street returned home one day to find her house had been ransacked and $15 was stolen. The robber wrote, "Thanks for the ‘dough.' Better keep your front door closed." (The home at 912 Chapala Street would be under the garage of Paseo Nuevo today.)

"Mrs. Parma admits that the front door of her house was left open this morning, and that the advice of the burglar is valuable," wrote the paper. It was not mentioned if the police used their new fingerprinting equipment to finger the miscreant.

Celebrity Sightings - two of the largest actors from the Keystone Movie Company appeared in an exhibition baseball game in Santa Barbara. Marie Dressler was umpire, and Fatty Arbuckle, aka the "Human Roundhouse," played shortstop. (Photo: Library of Congress)

If it's Good for Your Horse… An ad for Snow Liniment claimed that it is "a healing remedy for all ailments of the flesh of man and beast." It was said to benefit two-legged creatures suffering from lacerated flesh, rheumatic pains, neuralgia, and sciatica. And it healed the sores and wounds of four- footed sufferers as well. An investigation of the product found that it contained turpentine and oil of horseradish.

Judy Pearce, lifelong horsewoman, told me that it is quite common for people and horses to use the same product. She recalls a liniment that worked for her. "I remember using it on my horse when I was a kid, and when I had a sprained ankle I used it. … About 30 or so years ago, there was a product used on race horses, for their legs I believe, and some old man discovered rubbing it on the horse made the arthritis in his hands much better; well, that became a big deal and everyone wanted it." Pearce added that hair products are also used across species. "I remember when we realized cream conditioner used for horse's manes and tails would no doubt work for us too; we'd go to Jedlickas to buy it, now it's sold in the grocery store with other hair products."

Things Your Grandparents Never Told You! Female impersonators were hot in 1914 vaudeville shows in Santa Barbara. A Mr. Finch wowed an audience of more than 700 people at the Mission Theatre on State Street one night. "Mr. Finch has a beautiful wardrobe and sings just like a woman," wrote one paper. The paper then announced that he/she would appear in drag the next day at a local store to see if anyone could tell who she/he was.

Well, dear readers, I know you just CAN'T WAIT to learn if he/she was outed or not. So I won't keep you in suspense. Mr. Finch was detected, in spite of his/her excellent gender disguise and the woman - the genuine article, that is - who outed him received a $5 gift certificate. However, several other genuine specimens of the female persuasion present in the store were falsely accused of being imitations. Oh, the embarrassment! According to the paper, everyone "had a jolly time," but I imagine the falsely accused women went straight to the hat department and bought themselves a new chapeau to console their wounded pride. And who could blame them, darling?

"Sun in Eclipse. "The Guadalupe ‘Sun' [newspaper]… has ceased to shine, according to reports. The publication was formerly known as the ‘Moon,' but in the hope things might look a bit more brighter, the name was recently changed to the ‘Sun,'" wrote one local journalist who must have slept through English class. More brighter? Hello? He/she would have been a more successfuller writer if he/she had used betterer grammar. (Apologies to English teachers everywhere!)

Bombs Away! Far Away, Please! Last month, I wrote about U.S. troop trains and warships passing through Santa Barbara on their way to the civil war in Mexico. This month, there was another local connection to the hostilities in the south. The front page of one of our papers held a photo of the French pilot Didier Masson who had dropped bombs over several cities in Mexico. (Masson was a mercenary working for the rebel side.) Many Santa Barbarans would remember that Masson had landed his plane on the front lawn of the Potter Hotel on New Year's Day in 1911. (The hotel was located in the West Beach area.) Fortunately Masson did not drop any bombs while he visited Santa Barbara, but perhaps if someone had paid him to do so, he might have.

Counting Down. There were a number of articles (pardon the pun) about numbers in May 1914:

The population of Santa Barbara reached an estimated 17,145 - an amazing increase of 50 percent since the census was taken in 1910. "The building permits show that a new home is going up almost every day, while many industrial and social buildings are in progress of construction," wrote one local paper. (Today the estimated population is 89,082 according to the city's website.)

The "Fair View Ranch" containing more than 400 acres was being subdivided into nine ranches that contained 30 to 80 acres each. The land, near present-day Fairview Avenue, had been owned and farmed by Edgar Augustus Hollister. His father had owned the land since 1872.

One of the largest classes ever to graduate from Santa Barbara High School thus far was expected to number 53. (This year, the high school is predicting that 460 students will do the "Pomp and Circumstance" promenade.)

And last, but by no means least, The Hotel Neal at 217 State Street was requesting a permit that would allow the two-story building (shown in photo) to be increased by an additional floor. For more information about The Hotel Neal, I asked - who else? - Neal Graffy. He told me that the hotel was named for its first owner Neal Callahan. This hotel opened in 1906, and contained a restaurant and 29 rooms - some with a private bathroom; some not. It was located near the train station, and was an economical alternative to the pricier Potter Hotel on the other side of the tracks. The hotel did add a third floor in 1914. But due to extensive renovations after the 1925 earthquake, the present building looks quite different from the original. (Photo: Neal Graffy of http://www.elbarbareno.com/)

Get Ready! The End is Near! Okay, California doesn't have all the loonies in the world, but we do seem to have a healthy helping of crazies - now, and in the past. "Cultists Predict Destruction of Los Angeles; Flee by Boat" read the headline in the local paper. "Spurred by the belief that the southern metropolis is to be engulfed by destruction, a party of 147 ‘Holy Lifers'" stopped off at the wharf in Santa Barbara on their exodus to the north. One member of the "motley gathering" told the paper, "These are mighty days. There are wars and rumors of wars. The prophecies are about to be fulfilled. The last seal is about to be broken. Destruction faces the world, and not only Los Angeles." The group then got back on the boat and continued north in search of who knows what.

# # #

Santa Barbara author Betsy J. Green is also in search of who knows what, but is enjoying the journey nonetheless. She writes a history column for "The Mesa Paper," a garden column for the "Living-Mission Gazette," and is working on a book about the history of the Mesa, and another based on these 1914 Edhat columns. To see her previous Edhat columns, click here.

 

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