by Paul R. Spitzzeri
This final part of a post on a series of journal entries made by Thomas W. Temple II in late July and early August 1924 while he was at the Homestead during summer vacation, takes us to the last of those entries made on 9 August.
Thomas started off by observing, “Today we had some friends over for an old California Dinner served in the lower hall. Mr. and Mrs. John Shepek, Mr. and Mrs. Walls, Mr. Louis.” Presumably, the “old California Dinner,” meant a traditional barbecue with beef, beans, tortillas, salsa and other components that were served, it appears, by Joe Romero, the Barbecue King highlighted on this blog before. The Shepeks, then living in Puente, were mentioned in an earlier entry.
Also interesting is the reference to “the lower hall,” which seems to indicate one of the three brick winery buildings erected in the 1860s by the Workman family and which was converted by the Temples around 1920 into something of a cafeteria with a full kitchen and many tables and chairs. Then, the entry gets very compelling for us at the Homestead.
This is because Thomas mentions the presence of a Mr. “Jocum” [the spelling is tough to make out, as can often be the case with handwritten documents], “a real old Timer.” He went on that “Dad knew there was a surprise in store for him and when Mr. Jocum was introduced, he immediately recognized him as an old friend of the family.” Thomas then recorded that:
The last visit this man made to the La Puente Rancho was in 1876, 48 years ago, 4 months [January, apparently] before great-grandfather died. He remembers the old Englishman well, loving to talk of dear old England, and wearing the high English Collar and a “mascada” for a cravat. It was also during that time that the wings were added to the adobe house an Mr. Jocum says that Mr. Workman did not leave his room while the work was going on. He had set ideas and nothing could change them.
After this remarkable anecdote, Thomas went on to state that “dinner was served. Tamales from Romero’s, home-made 7% beer [another reference in these entries to the local consumption of alcohol during Prohibition], frijoles con queso, carne asada, 4 otras casas [other things], de buen savor [of good flavor].” Moreover, “toasts to the old days of California were made, one by myself, to commemorate the hospitality, that has ever been known of the Puente rancho, welcome old friends anew.”
Additionally, “the afternoon was spent in retelling old tale of color and humor.” One of these involved Walter P. Temple, Sr. and Yocum during a major period of flooding along the San Gabriel River. The pair rented a team of horses from Los Angeles and drove to Alhambra where they stayed the night. “Later they came to the rancho at Old Mission,” where Walter, Sr. told the group, “I drove it myself, you know,” presumably he was a young man.
Thomas added that “we also took some pictures which I hope to add to a collection, also a new scrapbook that I am keeping with all the old time things that I can get a hold of.” This reveals the 19-year old’s developing interest in history, which became an avocation later.
Noting that dinner came and went and the guests began to leave, Thomas, almost as an afterthought, recorded that “while the guests were having their wine in the lower hall, Mr. Jake Shollin, a decorator who is to do the work in the interior of the new house, happened in.” Upon Shollin’s arrival, “immediately Dad invited him in for some beer. He stayed until his wife and daughter should come for him. When they came, Dad offered them his wine and took them among his guests.”
While Thomas was unsure about whether the Shollins should be included in the party, his father “with his big heart, welcomed the opportunity to serve these people. That is the old California tradition, may we keep it up as I have promised to do.”
Thomas then went into a digression about changing times, writing that, when it came to “old California families (Spanish),” note the parenthetical Spanish instead of Mexican, “it is a shame that they did not keep their vast holdings either through sale, loss, through fraud, or carelessness.” Among the families mentioned were “the Oreñas—the richest of today’s old families—the negro Sepulvedas, Domingueses, and a few others are the only ones that have anything today.” His reference to dark-skinned Latinos is very notable as a distinction to the light-skinned part-Anglo Temples who put so many references of Mexican and Spanish California, along with English and American ones, into their new home.
As for the Temples, Thomas continued, “we as one of the first of the American families in L.A. manage to keep up the good name,” though there was a period of forty years between the Temple and Workman bank failure in 1876 and the stunning discovery of oil on the Temple lease in 1917 during which the family was often in difficult financial straits.
Thomas noted “tomorrow is Meema’s [his late mother, Laura Gonzalez Temple] birthday,” but sadly noted, “how soon we are forgetting her in this wild workaday world, not a thought for her, or her noble ideals.” He added “we had decided last Dec. 28, 1st anniversary of her death that tomorrow would be the proper time to celebrate her death in a Requiem High Mass, soon we will have it for she must be longing for it.”
That reference was to the dedication of La Casa Nueva at the end of 1923 that included the installation and blessing of a plaque next to the front entrance in a ceremony led by Roman Catholic Bishop John J. Cantwell. The plaque was moved to the northeastern corner of the building when new architect, Roy Seldon Price, hired in summer 1924 to complete the house had the idea to install a beautiful ornamental plaster surround at the entrance.
Thomas then wrote, “I promise while I am at school that the 28th day of every month I shall have a mass said for her,” concluding by reporting that “in another week I’ll be getting ready to leave for Santa Clara.” Whether he did follow through on the monthly masses, the raw wounds of his mother’s death clearly had not gone very far in healing.
Thomas did return for his junior year studying at Santa Clara University and, unfortunately, these few journal entries are the only of their type that we know of. They provide a fascinating look at the summer vacation of 1924 as the Temples were transitioning to a new architect, Roy Seldon Price, for what was anticipated as the quick completion of La Casa Nueva (that didn’t happen for three long years) and still adjusting to the death of Laura Temple a year-and-a-half prior.