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Way Back When – July 1914
updated: Jul 12, 2014, 1:00 PM

By Betsy J. Green

July started off with a bang here in Santa Barbara in 1914, according to Santa Barbara's "Morning Press" and "Daily News and Independent." Who needs fireworks when you have dynamite and gasoline? Buildings went up; buildings came down. Dogs and mountain lions were doing what comes naturally.

July 4th Celebration a Big Success (unlike the oopsie! we experienced at the Santa Barbara fireworks in 2014.) Granted, they did things a little differently 100 years ago when there were fewer lawyers in California. A raft was moored about a mile offshore with a 10-pound charge of dynamite and a container of gasoline which was set ablaze. (Who volunteered for that job?) "When the oil had burnt its way down to the dynamite, there ensued an explosion that made one big commotion that carried joy to the ears of those who dote on a noise for the Fourth of July." You can't go wrong with dynamite and gasoline, I always say! They really knew how to party back then. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Tightest Jeans Award? The morning parade featured a $50 prize for the "best-equipped cowboy." (Double entendre probably not intended back in 1914.) Another eyebrow-raising item in the paper was an ad for the Climax Grocery Store at 1037 State Street. Today, that approximate address is occupied by the Business First Bank. Hmmm. Business first? What's second? Pleasure?

The dynamite display in the channel would have made a great show for the people who were spending the evening at the Japanese Roof Garden restaurant on the corner of Cabrillo Boulevard and Castillo Street: "Where the Cooling Breezes Blow." In true melting-pot fashion, you could watch U.S. Independence Day activities from a Japanese-décor restaurant in a Mission-style building "near the Plaza de Mar." (Postcard courtesy of Neal Graffy)

There was also a parade of 500 automobiles decorated with lanterns that drove from the Arlington Hotel at State and Victoria streets down to the beach. An estimated 15,000 people enjoyed the festivities that day. Some 2,500 had arrived from Ventura on two special trains. The morning parade included a few - a very few - veterans of the Civil War that had ended almost 50 years earlier. "Most of the veterans refused to ride and sturdily marched, while those who could not, occupied three prettily decorated automobiles." The paper added morbidly, "This is probably the last time the G.A.R. [Grand Army of the Republic -Civil War veterans of the Union Army] will take such a conspicuous part in any celebration here," and predicted that many of them would not be around for the next July 4th celebration. Gee thanks! I hope these poor guys were too old to read that story in the newspaper.

Other examples of plain speaking in the papers in 1914 included an item titled, "W.R. Tompkins Seriously Ill. … He is not expected to live." And how about this one? "Henry Lyman and son Edgar … have returned home. Edgar, who has been afflicted recently with carbuncles [boils], is greatly improved." Ewww! TMI!

First X-rated Movie in Santa Barbara? Perhaps. The Hollywood rating system had not been invented, but the Mission Theater on State Street was not allowing unaccompanied minors to view the four-reel movie "Sapho." (Among other things, the main character has a child out of wedlock.) This restriction was in spite of the fact that the paper noted that "the censorship board has eliminated all objectionable features … there is nothing of the objectionable character in the play. Many of Santa Barbara's leading citizens saw the play last night and no one was heard to criticize it." The movie starred Pauline Frederick, below. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Bad Dog! Peter the movie dog (shown below) did a naughty thing during the Flying A's filming of "Suspended Ceremony." No, not the kind of naughty thing that necessitates a 15-minute cleanup and half a roll of paper towels. No, Peter actually followed his instincts, and he thought he was being a Good Dog! As part of the action in the film, the 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. Oops! CUT! (Photo: courtesy of Dana Driskel)

Another Adobe Bites the Dust. (Pun intended!) "Adobe to Make Way for Garage," read the headline. Now if that doesn't spell Progress, I don't know what does. Pretty close to "pave paradise and put up a parking lot" eh? "Another old adobe landmark is about to disappear and make room for a modern structure," noted the local paper. "The building will be one story, of brick, with a frontage of 40 feet and extending about 100 feet back." The paper added that the adobe was, well, old. "The old adobe now on the property was probably erected about the same time as the De la Guerra mansion, when Santa Barbara was little more than Presidio. For many years, it has been used for storage purposes, and its exterior has served somewhat as a billboard, so there will probably be no hue and cry about its destruction." (Photo: courtesy of John Woodward)

Oh, Pearl Chase! Where were you when we needed you? Actually, she was here, but had not yet started her campaign to improve Santa Barbara, according to Cheri Rae, author of the book "Pearl Chase: First Lady of Santa Barbara."

Neal Graffy (who is always there when we need him) is very familiar with this building. "That shop … was at 18 E. Ortega Street and was run by Horace A. Sexton and C. Phillip Reynolds. By 1921, Reynolds was gone … and it was Sexton's Garage. The following year … the business was Sexton and Simpson until 1938 when it became H. C. Simpson's garage, and it closed in 1942ish. There is currently a nice old brick building at 18 E. Ortega doing business as Dargan's Irish Pub. Undoubtedly the same place. I'm sure there's a joke in here somewhere about automobiles and alcohol - from lubing cars to lubing patrons?

An ad for a livery business caught my eye in a July 1914 paper. Today, the word "livery" is seen on limo license plates, but few other places. Liveries, usually called livery stables, were places that boarded and rented horses and carriages. The Overland Livery, at 114 East Carrillo Street in the ad I noticed, rented hearses! and carriages as well as "gentle horses for ladies and children, for either riding or driving." That got me wondering - how long were there livery stables in downtown Santa Barbara? I let my fingers do the walking through the old city directories in the public library, and discovered that there were nine livery stables in the business listings in 1914, only three in the 1929-30 directory, and only one in 1938 - the last year that "Livery and Boarding Stables" was a category in the business listings.

It's not surprising that horseless carriages eventually replaced the horse-powered variety. What WAS surprising, however, was that the man who was listed as having the last livery stable Santa Barbara in 1938, had also been listed in the 1914 directory - 24 years earlier! His name was Frank Reasons. In his long obituary in 1954, the paper noted that, "No one in Santa Barbara was better qualified to supply horses … in this city … His influence in the riding game in Santa Barbara history was considered far-reaching."

Four years after Reasons' death, the city declared his livery stable a fire hazard. His widow, and other people such as Lutah Maria Riggs, tried to save it as the bulldozers closed in for the kill, but I could find no record of it being saved. Reasons' livery barn was located at 518 Anacapa Street, between Haley and Cota streets. Today, that address is home to an auto body and paint business. From a horse barn to an auto body shop - sic transit gloria mundi!

From Rattlesnakes to Mountain Lions. Faithful readers of this column (you know who you are), especially those who can remember stuff from one month to the next, will recall that for my June 1914 Way Back When column, I had a story about hikers killing rattlers. Well, in July 1914, mountain lions were in the crosshairs. The lions were said to be "ravaging the corrals" in Toro Canyon. A $25 bounty was offered. "The residents of the canyon will be pleased to witness the slaughter of the marauders," commented the paper. (Image: Library of Congress)

Today the California Department of Fish and Game's website states that: "With the passage of Proposition 117 in 1990, mountain lions became a ‘specially protected species,' making mountain lion hunting illegal in California. … It is illegal to take, injure, possess, transport, import, or sell any mountain lion or part of a mountain lion. Mountain lions may be killed only 1) if a depredation permit is issued to take a specific lion killing livestock or pets; 2) to preserve public safety; or 3) to protect listed bighorn sheep."

Clubbing Around Town. Two buildings that were newly constructed in 1914 are still with us today. "Polo Club to Have Attractive Montecito Home," ran the headline announcing the beginning stages of construction of the clubhouse. I asked Hattie Beresford, historian and writer, about this. "The article is referring to the Bartlett Polo Field which once took up a significant number of lots in the Montecito Land Company's subdivision surrounding Middle Road … It was built by William Bartlett. The clubhouse was designed by Underhill. After the polo club closed, the clubhouse became a home. It still exists today, but has been heavily remodeled into a modern home."

The newly constructed Recreation Center on Carrillo and Anacapa streets was getting ready to open its 850-seat auditorium. The seating seemed to be the star of the show, according to one article. "The chairs are roomy and do not shake or collapse … Neither do the chairs squeak, and they are tasteful." The Recreation Center was indeed well built. It would survive the 1925 earthquake and moreover served as an emergency shelter in the quake's aftermath. (Photo: courtesy of Neal Graffy)

An ad for Campbell's soups caught my eye. Among the 15 varieties listed was "Printanier." That was a new one for me, so I asked my French friend Danielle Levy-Alvares. She had heard of the soup whose name refers to spring - "it is a vegetable soup, but light and with spring veggies … the ingredients would be peas, baby carrots, celery and maybe zucchinis." But she did not recall ever seeing it on a menu and could find no recipe for it in her big French cookbook. "Not a good sign," she said. Ah well, it was probably too hard to spell.

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Santa Barbara author Betsy J. Green, who still remembers stuff from one month to the next, 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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