by Paul R. Spitzzeri
This next part of a post on several entries in a summer journal kept by Thomas W. Temple II in 1924 when home at the “Workman Homestead Rancho” on break from Santa Clara University takes us to the end of July and early August. Much of these breaks included seeing friends and traveling throughout greater Los Angeles, so it is no surprise that the entry for 30 July begins with his statement that “for the last 3 days we have been preparing for a trip to Santa Catalina Island—just over the weekend.”
Going with the Temple family was Walter, Sr.’s lifelong friend David Carson, whose family not only is the namesake for the South Bay city of that name but also includes the Dominguez family from Rancho San Pedro. Thomas added that “I haven’t been to the island now for a year since the last K of C [Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic organization] picnic.”
Thomas was likely unaware of some of his family history involving the island. His grandfather, F.P.F. Temple, and grandfather, William Workman, had mining claims on the remote southeast part of the island back in the 1860s, though nothing appears to have come from them. F.P.F. Temple, in particular, had avid interests in mining, owning claims in the mountains of Ventura County and Inyo County in eastern California, as well as property of several types (grazing lands, slaughterhouses, and butcher shops) in the Tuolumne County mining town of Sonora and Columbia (two buildings in the latter, which is now a state historic park, still stand.)
He then wrote of some family members, descendants of his aunt Margarita Temple Rowland, and others he knew, before stating that “I saw Mama Luz this morning,” this being his late mother’s sister, Luz Gonzalez Vigare, a resident of San Gabriel. In the 1930s, after the Temple family fortune petered out, Thomas lived with his aunt and her family in the historic adobe house that still stands just south of the mission. He added, “I took the children to see her and incidentally to get their hair cut,” though he found that “Victor Torres, the family barber these 8 or 9 years was on vacation to Catalina.”
In 1937, Torres and his son Jerry acted on an idea said to have been floated by John Steven McGroarty, journalist, California poet laureate and author of the well-known “Mission Play,” performed near the Mission San Gabriel for many years. McGroarty was, the story went, sitting in Victor Torres’ barber shop and said that he should open a restaurant featuring the excellent home cooking of Torres’ wife, Rosa. The restaurant grew to be quite a success over the years, though it has long since closed.
When La Casa Nueva was completed three years after this journal entry, the home included a small barber shop. Walter P. Temple, Jr., Thomas’ younger brother, remembered that Torres would drive out from San Gabriel, bringing food cooked by his wife and eat dinner with the Temples before repairing to the barber shop to cut the family’s hair. It may have been an embellishment, but Walter, Jr. recalled that there was some drinking (and we’re not talking root beer or ginger ale) during dinner, so he and his brothers would roll dice, he added with a twinkle in his eye, to see who had to go first!
Speaking of the house, Thomas’ entry concluded with a note that “Mr. Roy Price, our new architect, was out today and staid [sic] for dinner as also the fixture man who had some lovely things.” It was not explained what was meant by “fixtures,” whether this was lighting or hardware. In any case, Thomas ended by observing “He [Price] is getting right after the job and should make some beautiful place out of our new home.” Of course, it would hardly be expected that it would take until late 1927 to finish the house.
On 4 August, Thomas wrote his next entry, starting with the statement that he and his family had “just returned from a very enjoyable trip to the Santa Catalina Island.” The family took a boat from Wilmington and traveled two hours “rough in places,” though it couldn’t have been that bad for the most part, because he added that “we danced most of the way.”
Notably, in stating that David Carson and his family was meeting the Temples at the dock, he added “on the way over we saw a gusher come in on their property.” That was a phenomenon enjoyed by the Temples on their Montebello lease on several occasions and the Carsons, with their ownership of land in the Dominguez oil field, enjoyed success, as well.
Thomas also wrote that “they still have the old adobe ranch house and it is very well preserved.” This is the Dominguez Rancho Adobe and which was built in 1826 by Manuel Dominguez, a prominent figure in 19th century Los Angeles, serving as alcalde (roughly, a mayor) of the pueblo and one of the delegates to the constitutional convention of 1849 (where, however, his dark skin made him an object of scorn of some whites present).
One of Dominguez’ daughters, Victoria, married George Carson and David was one of their children raised at the adobe. Near the house, in early 1910, the first aviation meet in the United States took place. Just a couple of years before Thomas’ entry, land, including the adobe, was given to the Claretian Missionaries order of the Roman Catholic Church. The house, at 18127 Alameda Street in Carson, is a state historic landmark and open to the public on Wednesdays and Sunday at 1, 2, and 3 o’clock. After writing that he intended to visit the Dominguez adobe some day, he added that he would “also [go to] the old Graham place at Downey, where Dad remembers that his older brothers used to spent weekends.”
Returning to Catalina, Thomas recorded that on Friday “we reached the island at noon and were taken to the St. Catherine Hotel, built on the sight [sic] of one of the Banning residences.” This is at Descanso Bay, just west of Avalon, and the Banning family, owner of the island until it was sold to Chicago chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. in 1919, had a large home there. Thomas also wrote that “the other [Banning residence] is still standing and overlooks Catalina Bay at the Isthmus.” This is the Banning House Lodge, which offers accommodations to visitors today.
After a good lunch, the Temples and Carsons “took to the water” and that first evening “after dinner we danced at the Casino,” this being the predecessor to the magnificent building completed in 1929 and recently the subject of an entry on this blog. The following day, the party took a steamer trip around the island, though rough waters caused several of them to feel sick before a landing at the Isthmus where lunch was had. The group walked the half-mile across the isthmus and Thomas wrote that they saw the a pirate ship called the “Ning Po.” Another three hours brought the group back to Avalon.
That evening, the account continued, “E.L. Doheny, oil magnet [sic] gave the annual outing and dinner to the employees of the Pan-American Petroleum Co.” Doheny made his mark by discovering, in partnership with Charles Canfield, the Los Angeles oil field in the early 1890s, followed a few years later by Orange County’s first oil field at Olinda in modern Brea.
From there, Doheny became a powerful figure in the industry, but, about the time of this entry, his involvement with Albert Fall, Secretary of the Interior under President Warren Harding, tarnished his reputation. Doheny, though, was a devout Roman Catholic and a major benefactor to the Church. At this dinner, Thomas noted, Bishop Joseph Glass of Salt Lake City and Father Francis M. Harvey of Menlo Park, near San Jose, wee in attendance.
Thomas wrote that “Dad used to go to school with the Bishop and the two talked over many good times spent at St. Vincent’s L.A.,” this being St. Vincent’s College, founded in 1865, and the forerunner of today’s Loyola Marymount University. Walter Temple attended the school during much of the 1880s with Glass, a native of Illinois. After dinner, the party danced until they returned to their hotel after a long day.
After the busy Saturday, the group “rested about the hotel” on Sunday morning, before going swimming and taking a night-time boat ride to see the “gardens” of the flying fish, an excursion that remains popular today. The evening ended with the party seeing “a show at the Band Box, an open-air theatre.” After writing that the yachts of Doheny, Los Angeles-based Cadillac auto dealer and KHJ radio station owner Don Lee, and the Bannings were sighted in the harbor, Thomas noted “Dad says that we’ll soon have one,” though this did not happen.
He ended his entry by writing that “today we are home again, glad to get here as only a few weeks are left until we get to school,” though he continued that “I feel undecided whether to return to Santa Clara or not.” Thomas did return and completed his undergraduate work in 1926 before moving east to attend Harvard Law School, where he earned his law degree three years later.
Thomas finished by saying that “Catalina is a great place” and then joked “even if they have gum trees” before saying “next year we’ll spend a month there.” They did return to visit an old school friend from the Pasadena Military Academy, one of the sons of famed writer Zane Grey, whose home was profiled here not long ago.
We’ll return in a couple of days with more journal entries, so check back then!