by Paul R. Spitzzeri
The weather was really pretty outstanding; a little blustery on Saturday, but with temperatures in the mid-70s, the weekend was very comfortable and conductive to an outstanding background to this year’s Ticket to the Twenties festival. We had a good turnout, a diverse range of program offerings, entertaining and informative presenters, and, all in all, made for a smooth, enjoyable event.
Music is obviously a core component of Ticket to the Twenties and The Night Blooming Jazzmen, Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys, and Dean Mora and His California Poppies performing to large, appreciative audiences with a mix of jazz and pop tunes from the decade provided the perfect soundtrack to the weekend. The Hollywood Hotshots were also on hand to give dance demonstrations and lessons and ukulele instruction and sing-a-longs added to the strong component of music and dance.
There were many other returning favorites to the festival, including vintage fashion shows by the Art Deco Society, including a visitor costume contest, and lectures by Ian Whitcomb, a long-time Homestead favorite, who talked about pop music in his native Britain in the 1920s. Of course, it’s always a treat for visitors to see Steven and Shaun Thomas roam the grounds in their amazing selection of historic bicycles, to hear authentic 1920s 78 rpm records spun by two local enthusiasts, and to see (and hear, when the engines were started up) a fine array of period automobiles by members of local car clubs.
Another tradition that always draws crowds are the screening of silent films with live musical accompaniment by the incomparable Michael Mortilla, and it was great to hear the roar of laughter from the audience, especially during the playing of a comedy by the legendary Charlie Chaplin while Michael tickled the ivories as The Tramp tickled the funnybones of the audience.
The amazing and very popular magician Harry Houdini was the topic of some absorbing talks given by John Cox (obviously not the Republican candidate for governor, who’ll have to come up with his own magic to win the election next month!) with John highlighting Houdini’s dogged efforts to expose so-called spiritualists over many years up until his untimely death on (yup!) Halloween 1926.
Another new element to Ticket to the Twenties were performances of The Curious Hilarious Stage Show, mounted by the Animal Cracker Conspiracy troupe with kids and big kids treated to a rollicking high-energy performance with imaginative costuming, animated presentations and comedy, including pratfalls galore.
An offering strictly for our guests over 21 was a fascinating presentation given by Rich Otsuka about cocktails and the situation involving imbibing during Prohibition, which lasted from 1919 to 1933 (and was well-honored in the breach, including by the Temple family when they lived at the Homestead.) Rich, general manager of The Cellar restaurant in Fullerton, is a wealth of knowledge about the history of cocktails, including the broader context that adds to the perspective about the subject.
Also added to the schedule were performances by the Dancing Lobos of William Workman High School, one of only two schools located in the City of Industry, the Homestead’s owner and founder, and with which we have developed a stronger relationship with over the last couple of years. This has included programming at the museum with the school’s music, dance and drama departments.
Crafts in the Workman House courtyard, where mahjong, a Chinese game using dominoes that was immensely popular in 1920s America, was also played, and table tennis (ping-pong) are also recurring features of Ticket to the Twenties. Naturally, so, are self-guided tours (with short introductions) of the Workman House and La Casa Nueva, in which there were displays about the 1920s.
Specifically, the former had an exhibit about the growth of greater Los Angeles during that decade, when resources, space and possibility seemed nearly unlimited, while the latter asked a “What If?” questions concerning how things might changed for the Temple family, had Laura Gonzalez Temple not died during the first year of construction. Obviously, there is no way to know, but the loss of Laura did have obvious consequences for the bereaved family, especially as it confronted financial problems that led to the loss of the Homestead in 1932, during the darkest days of the Great Depression.
Festivals of this scale require the dedication of so many people, including vendors, performers, organizations and others, dozens of Homestead and community volunteers offering their time in a variety of ways, and my remarkable colleagues who utilize their talents and expertise to organize and carry out a fun and engaging program. Lastly, without the support of the City of Industry, which has funded the museum now for nearly four decades, we couldn’t do the types of wonderful events of which this event, though the biggest, is one of many examples.
So, we had such a great weekend that we’ll just have to do Ticket to the Twenties again next year!