The California Legend


WHEN you cross the invisible line which separates Southern California from the remainder of the state — and from the universe, for that matter — you find yourself in a foreign country with strange and amusing folk ways, more like the world Alice discovered behind the looking-glass than a part of this somewhat matter-of-fact and unimaginative United States. The traits which surprise the visitor must be acquired traits, for the inhabitants are after all Americans at heart like the rest of us, coming mostly from plain and unadventurous states such as Iowa or Illinois. In their original habitat they never exhibited such initiative, imagination, solidarity, and loyalty. Something in their new environment— sun, soil, climate, the scarcity of water, the cheapness of food, the imminence of Hollywood, or possibly merely the exhortations of the most earnest chambers of commerce in the world — has given them all a complacent patriotism for their adopted country, a serene myopia to its shortcomings, and a calculated but agreeable courtesy toward visitors from less favored spots that almost disarms the latent suspicion with which we all approach California for the first time.

You enter the country in your car, perhaps. At once the entire population springs to your assistance. Do you hesitate a moment at a fork, a passer-by comes quickly to the side of the car to ask if you want to ask anything.

And the information is always forthcoming, eager and sympathetic. And it is given with a certain smiling pride in being a citizen of the country about which you inquire. Every inhabitant has taken an oath that no visitor shall be repulsed. Noblesse oblige. To be a Californian imposes its code. Hospitality is a civic cult.

Automobile clubs and chambers of commerce await you with rows of smiling girls to answer your questions and supply your wants. Every golf club in the neighborhood of San Diego is at the disposal of the visitor. You apply to the chamber of commerce and the cards of introduction are forthcoming with none of the red tape which discourages such offers elsewhere. Even beautiful Chula Vista, said to be the best course in Southern California, is open to you. The hotel keepers fill your rooms with flowers and fruit. Bankers, taxi drivers, conductors, and policemen are at your beck and call. I stood in front of the Santa Fe ticket wicket at Pasadena and lamented to my wife that, owing to a misunderstanding of time of arrival in Chicago, I was under the necessity of sending a number of telegrams to change appointments. The ticket agent reached out, swung a typewriter in front of him, and said: ‘Tell me what you want to say, and I’ll write them for you.’ And he did. Can you imagine such a thing happening in any Eastern railroad station?

The dénouement to the siege of civic kindness came after we had left Southern California. We were driving up that long, straight, rather dull, but magnificently paved road which leads from Los Angeles to San Francisco, romantically called El Camino Real, and as conditions were favorable Martin was tooling the car along at the rate of about fifty-five miles an hour.

After a while we began to be vaguely disturbed by a car behind us signaling to pass. Martin drew aside, but held to his speed. He could see in his mirror that it was a Ford coupé — ’I was n’t going to let a Ford pass us,’ he said afterward.

Drawing aside did not answer. The car clung, but did not pass, and the signals became so peremptory that Martin finally stopped his car.

The Ford drew up behind us and out of it stepped a traffic officer in full panoply, like Cinderella out of her pumpkin, and with the utmost courtesy gave my driver a summons returnable at Salinas, the next town, to which he proceeded to follow us.

In his testimony before the justice the policeman was most considerate. He had trailed us through two villages. My driver slowed properly for traffic, he said, and exercised great discretion in overtaking, and in short the only charge was driving at a speed of fiftyfive miles an hour. The justice said that since we were visitors the fine would be half the customary amount, and we contributed seven dollars and a half to the treasury of California. The very next day in the state legislature the member from Los Angeles, speaking on the new motor law, vigorously attacked the practice of police patroling roads disguised by Ford coupés as taking unfair advantage of visitors, and had it written into the new law that hereafter such cars must be painted a distinguishing color and plainly marked ‘Traffic Police.’ And that was that.

This civic hospitality, whether it has been inculcated by chambers of commerce or is merely the effect of sunshine and blue skies mingled with a burning local pride, makes things pleasant for visitors, and is perhaps the reason why so many who go to scoff remain to stay. I am especially susceptible to such amiability because of my deafness. I require patience and consideration in pursuit of direction. Long experience in extracting information from curt and bored bank tellers, policemen, information clerks, and ticket agents has taught me to appreciate a people willing to take the time to wait for my slow audition. I have found the same cheerful and sympathetic helpfulness in Italy, so perhaps the climate has something to do with it.

Another worth-while result of the coöperative spirit of Southern Californians is its solution of motor congestion. Everyone is his own traffic officer. Traffic is controlled, not by policemen or signal lights, though they have both, but by what can only be defined as the forbearance and unselfishness of each individual motorist. A car approaching a crossing comes to a full stop. A car approaching it at right angles also comes to a full stop. The car that stopped first starts first.

And thus the traffic flows on all day long, controlled by an ‘After you, Gaston’ spirit which is stronger than law and has its roots in that instinct firmly planted in the heart of every Californian to coöperate in everything that has the good of California for its purpose.

To be sure, there is at each intersection in cities a red stone in the middle of the street bearing the injunction ‘Stop,’ but the instinct is stronger than the injunction, and the practice obtains even in the open country. So pervasive is the influence that my chauffeur adopted it as a matter of course after a few days. It is true that the streets and roads are wider and more numerous, which of course helps to make this spontaneous solution more effective. Nor should it be forgotten that roads and streets have been built since it was really understood what the motor car means to modern civilization. The Californians began the art of living where we leave off. And so favorable are motoring conditions that car ownership in Los Angeles is ten times greater per capita than in New York City.


The capital of this country which proves itself as worthy of exploration as Brittany or Etruria, and for similar reasons, is a city covering more than a thousand square miles. It has no corporate name, but the built-up section extends from Altadena on the north to San Pedro on the south, and from Monrovia on the east to Santa Monica on the west. Its nucleus is Los Angeles, and numerous suburbs and dependencies, such as Glendale, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Pasadena, Inglewood, Redondo, Palos Verdes, Long Beach, — seventy-nine in all, — are set closely together and constitute one integral city. It is not densely built, however. There is something spacious and airy about it, partly because the buildings are low, but also because of the many wide streets which cross the aggregate in both directions from one end to the other, making it without doubt the most motorable city in the world.

When Baron Haussmann, at the command of Napoleon, revised the city of Paris and drove his wide boulevards through the congeries of narrow mediæval streets, and thus prepared the way for the motor car long before motor cars were dreamed of, he evolved the rudiments of a city plan which has been adopted by Los Angeles and improved upon so that it is possible to drive with speed and certainty to the most obscure address in any of the 11,500 streets of this huge, sprawling, conglomerate city. The greater city is gridironed with broad boulevards, ten lanes wide, cutting it into blocks many times the size of ordinary city blocks, and these large blocks are subdivided by the lesser streets into anywhere from three to twenty smaller blocks. These islands have necessarily no designed relation to the boulevards. In some cases they suggest an independent development which has been later tied up with the main plan by the boulevard. In this way even golf links have been included in the built-up district and exist as oases of recreation. Whatever the method, the plan is admirable and should furnish the model for all future cities able to start from scratch.

The fact that the roads and streets in Southern California are so good, and in the built-up parts wider and more numerous than in older sections of the country, is due partly to a climate which is kinder to concrete roads than our Northern winters, and partly, I believe, to an unusual spirit of coöperation, which seems to move inhabitants to boost improvements that will justify this country in pluming itself in its advertising, and bring it nearer its goal, which seems to be more and still more inhabitants. It is remarkable how the towms and cities of this country are obsessed by size, how highly they prize mere population. To some of us this seems to be the worst feature of most big cities. But in this case, while we have little sympathy with the ambition of Los Angeles to be larger than San Francisco, we acknowledge that some of the means to that end have produced satisfactory results.

The underlying cause behind the marked disposition to concerted action which has affected Southern California in so many novel and amusing ways is probably scarcity of water, and the coöperation necessary to ensure a sufficient supply to transform the country from a desert into the truck garden of the nation. There may be a lingering trace of the old pioneer spirit, the getting together to enforce law and order in a new country, vigilantes and informal courts by which horse thieves were tried and executed, but most of the present inhabitants are too new to have any recollection of that self-helpful period. Coöperation is necessary, however, to secure water. Southern California has more acres under irrigation than any other state in the Union, and the United States has more than any country except India. Expressions such as ‘acre foot’ and ‘second foot’ puzzle the visitor. An acre foot is the amount of water that will cover an acre a foot deep, while a second foot is a cubic foot passing through a sluice gate in a second. All water used by each inhabitant is measured and paid for. Gardens and fruit farms respond to the exactitude with which water can be applied without waste or drought.

This fantastic, colorful, light-hearted civilization depends for its very existence on irrigation ditches. Like Keats’s, its name is writ in water. And water is the civic tie that binds. To get water, distribute it properly, and collect rates to pay for it demands coöperation of a farsighted character; and Californians, having learned the lesson of acting together, have proceeded to apply it to other operations of living with surprising and satisfactory results.

One of the entertaining features of storing water for future use is the temporary employment of it as a municipal plunge or public bathing pool.

These are found in every community. They are as inevitable as the cogged wheel of the Rotary Club hung at the gate of every city inviting motoring Rotarians to come and share the weekly communal feast. Impounding water for irrigation purposes creates large reservoirs, and it is the custom to use these cisterns for recreation in the form of bathing and swimming. The climate admits of their use the year round and they are seldom idle. The water, having served this purpose, goes on its way to irrigate the land and nourish the oranges, lemons, grapes, celery, and asparagus that grow so abundantly in what was once a desert.

The genius for teamwork is exhibited in the marketing of these crops. California is famous for its coöperative advertising and selling. Oranges, lemons, raisins, grapefruit, nuts, lumber, and other native products, produced in small units, are pooled, graded, trade-marked, and advertised with profitable results, and these methods could and should be imitated by farmers everywhere. California agriculturists, truck gardeners, and fruit farmers enjoy the advantages of trade-unionism because they are all nourished from the same fount. There is something about this dependence on one source for water, the controlled use of it, and the amazing results it produces, so superior to nature’s reckless and haphazard methods, that engenders an enlightened selfishness which places the common good ahead of the individual good.

It also explains the excitement occasioned by such projects as the Boulder Dam irrigation scheme. In the East this is merely another engineering or political problem. In the West it has started an orgy of speculation. San Diego and Los Angeles swarm with agents selling land with water rights, bought by thousands in spite of government warnings that there are no such lands yet for sale.

Water is the staff of life, and those who have seen with their own eyes the miraculous transformation of Imperial Valley from a desert to a vast truck garden are condescending about the story of Moses smiting the rock in the desert of Zin.


But coöperation alone, though carried to great, lengths and affecting the thinking of a whole community, would not produce such striking and novel results in the way of behavior, dress, landscape, architecture, and advertising unless backed up by an unusual originality. The Californians have civic imagination, just as they have civic courtesy and civic collectivity.

There are even the rudiments of a national costume, taking the form of aprons. Aprons have a profound sociological significance, according to the learned Herr Teufelsdröckh, — if anyone reads Sartor Resartus these days, — but in Greater Los Angeles they have something the character of the liveries of the ancient English guilds.

I first saw one on a doctor. My wife had occasion to visit a specialist, and the doctor practised his specialty in a trim white apron. It is no new thing for a physician to wear an apron, but this apron was different. I noticed it with especial attention because I am interested in aprons, my hobby being that of a gentleman carpenter and joiner. It had no buttons, but two long straps crossed in front, one going through a slit in the side, and tied in the back — a neat and picturesque costume.

Next I had my hair cut and noticed that the barber wore an apron identical with the doctor’s except that the color was brown. I visited an oculist to have my glasses repaired and the oculist’s apron was blue of the same nifty cut. In one of the largest and by far one of the most attractive grocery stores I have ever seen, which I visited in the spirit in which one would visit the Cathedral of Canterbury, I found all the salespeople wearing the national apron, the color being a light apple green.

Thus costume added its picturesqueness to a variegated scene and enhanced the impression one had of visiting a foreign country. I was on the trail of an intriguing sociological discovery. I traced the apron to its source, helped by answers to questions discreetly asked, and learned that it was the invention of a woman who is busily engaged in putting the entire populace into appropriate aprons. I bought two myself, partly as authentic souvenirs of the country, as one buys sabots or bonnets in Plougastel, but mainly because they seemed to be a real achievement in occupational aprons and would be handy to keep the sawdust off my clothes.

Outdoor advertising takes strange forms. Instead of the two-dimensional poster we have in the East, there is three-dimensional advertising; in other words, statuary of a kind. A wayside refreshment stand specializing in chicken dinners has a huge hen fifteen feet tall surrounded by a brood of gigantic chicks worked out in staff or some plastic material, like a scene in Chanticleer. ‘Hokey-pokey’ is sold from conical structures shaped and painted to look like ice-cream cones, and orange drinks are dispensed from huge oranges looking for all the world like the house of Peter Pumpkin-Eater in the nursery book. The retail shops of a chain of bakeries are miniature flour mills with great Dutch sails which revolve slowly all day and by night are outlined in colored electric lights. A dairy is advertised by a group — cow, milkmaid with pail and stool, and a small child waiting for a drink — the style and color of which remind one irresistibly of a Rogers group magnified a thousand diameters. A racing automobile advertises gasoline, a page in buttons a hotel; and a lifesize plaster elephant with gorgeous Eastern trappings is the sculptureposter of a silk house. And ‘hot dogs’ are sold from the interior of a Brobdingnagian puppy; but in movingpictureland the popular roadside snack seems to be a ‘grilled Hamburger.’ On the aviation field at San Diego is a heroic statue of Lindbergh — heroic in size only — with the legend, ‘Here is where he started.’ What the effect would be if the work were artistic it is hard to say, but. one feels like quoting, ‘Even if it was good, I would n’t like it.’

In the designing of hotels we find many dramatic gestures. In the East we conceive of a hotel as one building; in California the hotel becomes a small village of cottages with the central building but slightly larger — the houses and grounds treated with all of the transitory picturesqueness of a World’s Fair setting. The Garden of Alla on the famous Sunset Drive near Hollywood is an amusing instance. This was formerly the estate of Alla Nazimova — hence the name. Its numerous bungalows surround an immense pool, and are dolls’ houses completely equipped, even for light housekeeping, though there is a common dining room in the central building. As with most houses in this region, the heating is electric and turned on and off by switches like those of the lights. Another hotel is a Norman village, its half-timbered cottages clinging to a steep hillside, with gateways and clock towers, like a picture postcard.

The top of the highest hill in Flintridge, joining Pasadena, is capped by the Biltmore Flintridge, a rambling group of Spanish buildings not more than two stories high at the most, whose red roofs and oyster-colored walls seen from the valley below are about as good a bit of the scene painter’s craft as anything you will see. The hotel is reached by admirable roads, curving and zigzagging. Where the hill juts out into a shoulder a small spur runs to a turnout for the purpose of inspecting the view. In cleverly created atmosphere this hotel surpasses anything I have seen in this country. The unexpected irregularity of it on the inside, as it runs up and down the hill, with rooms of unusual shapes in the most surprising places, keeps one chuckling with amusement, and it is hard to convince one’s self that this is a serious hotel, it so expresses the playtime, holiday, theatrical spirit.

While this hotel bears the name given to one of our enterprising hotel chains, this simply means that it has been recently acquired by the Biltmore interests. One could hardly imagine hotel builders of the Eastern type conceiving, much less producing, a hotel like a page out of the Blue Fairy Book. It was built by a man named Flint, and sold to the Biltmore interests after he died. He was a California spirit imbued with the drama and color of this strange playland, and created his hotel with something of the freedom and imagination with which an artist makes a picturesque sketch upon a canvas.

Up at Santa Barbara they have taken a page from Omar Khayyám and the hotel is a Persian garden. The gardens drop in terraces from the small Oriental main building, with pools and waterfalls and carp and goldfish, and myriads of flowers, and colored lights that play upon the building at night. The dining room on the top floor is a balcony overhanging the gardens, with striped marquee and waitresses in Spanish peasant costumes. The bedrooms are in arms of the building which flank the garden on both sides. The vista spans the gardens, a circular pool with flotillas of stately swans, an oval bowling green encircled by a high hedge, and climaxes in a serene, inscrutable bronze Buddha with hands demurely crossed palm up to receive pennies deposited by tourists as harbingers of good fortune. As one walks these terraces in plus fours he feels like an anachronism, as though he should be attired in burnoose and turban, or like a man who has gone to a masquerade in a dinner jacket. Here is the perfect moving-picture spirit, and the hotel is often used by the producers at Hollywood as a setting for their films, for it has beaten them at their own game.

Vista del Arroyo, Pasadena’s most picturesque hotel, has its dependencies hanging like swallows’ nests to the side of the deep canyon which divides Pasadena from Los Angeles. Close at hand is the graceful bridge which spans the canyon and carries California Boulevard, the road from Pasadena to Los Angeles. The golf links are on the bottom of the canyon, and opposite is one of those characteristic developments which are dotting the Los Angelic plain with a new kind of hill town. Broad, perfectly graded roads sweep up the hill in masterful curves, and along these roads are being erected low red-roofed houses, the gables of one on a level with the doorstep of the next above it. While nearly all have one architectural motive, their variety is amazing. The contour of the ground suggests new stunts in layout and landscaping, and every opportunity is daringly seized.

Each of these houses has its own eye-opening view across the level plain of Los Angeles, west to the sea or north to the mountains that serve as a backstop for sunshine and give Pasadena its salubrious climate. And all the time you are in a city — not in the country. Miles of built-up streets radiate in every direction. It is certainly rus in urbe to a degree few places can equal.

One has the illusion of beholding whole towns created while one waits. San Clemente, Palos Verdes, — cities imagined by an artist collaborating with an engineer, sketched out on the hills overlooking the sea, and being rapidly filled in with buildings conforming to the artist’s plan, — show a freedom from preconceived conventions as refreshing as it is sometimes astonishing.

Speculative builders create houses of the most elaborate character, miles of them, with landscaped gardens, fountains playing, electric refrigerators installed, before a single one is sold. The unfettered imagination is equaled only by the sublime self-confidence, and these houses, surprising as it may seem, are most of them attractive and individual, with the kind of individuality which in the East is put into a house only when built by its owner. No speculative builder or real-estate man in the East dares dream such dreams as his brothers on the Pacific Coast not only dream but execute. While much of it is new and, therefore, still a little raw, the rawness is less evident than it would be in a development on so large a scale in the East. This is because the promoters seem to be willing to spend their money in advance of sales, before there is any income from purchasers, shaping the thing, giving it form, color, and life. And green things grow so fast with unlimited sunshine and judiciously rationed water. The builders have to have the whole scene in which to stage their play, always in the spirit of the moving-picture producer.


If you seek a reason for the goodnaturedness of the Californian you will probably find it in his environment. A gentle climate, mild but not enervating; sunshine all the time and artificial rain when needed, with their concomitants of abundant flowers and fruit; leisure and freedom from worry, since California is the last resort of many who have acquired the means of living — these are no doubt responsible for the complacent attitude toward the state itself and the amicable disposition toward visitors who come to view it.

The concerted action, the community frame of mind, are the offspring of the superior kind of coöperation necessary to provide a sure and sufficient supply of water; but the originality, the imagination, the unconventional reaction to the old problems presented by community living, must be due to the near presence of Hollywood, with its stage effects and make-believe world.

In older cities development and improvement must follow lines already set. And living follows the lines of physical environment. Most of our modem cities, even when reconstructed by town planners, are still in the traditional manner. They are the same old cities improved. But in the metropolis of Southern California and its neighbor on the south, San Diego, the builders have cast aside the old rules and fetishes and created cities in the sanguine and colorful spirit in which a producer plans a setting for a new film drama. It must be because invention of scenic background has been so perfected on the lots of Hollywood, Culver City, and Universal City that not only Los Angeles but the whole of Southern California appears to be designed in the spirit of a theatrical setting. There is the same dash and picturesqueness; there is also the same air of unreality and transitoriness.

The producers learned first for their imitation worlds to construct a mediæval walled town or a Roman hippodrome or a Persian garden, perfect in effect and atmosphere, and then the builders began erecting cities and villas and gardens and hotels in the same high spirits. Real-estate promoters have covered the hills with monoliths — that is, poured houses, touched up with troweled stucco, — pink, red, brown, blue, yellow,every color and all schools, including the primary, but mainly Spanish, — with red-tiled roofs and wrought-iron balconies, grounds landscaped and terraced, combed and kempt, with fountains and flowers, that somehow do not quite escape the transitory effect of the scene painter’s brush. The vigor of their imagination, the plasticity of their materials, and the facility with which they work in new forms and discard old traditions, together with the natural beauty of the setting, have conspired to evolve a California style, sometimes fantastic, quaint, or sensational, but on the whole stimulating, exciting, and beautiful. The audacity of the Hollywood stage managers is the moving spirit of the real-estate promoter.

Never have I seen projects so imbued with imagination and hope. Indeed, imagination and hope and the bare but beautiful hillsides and the omnipresent sunshine are all many of them have at present. Driving to the mountains from San Diego, you pass first through an extensive suburb of miles and miles of one-story bungalows, — the car in one half, the family in the other, — lining wide, smooth, numerous streets, christened University City. Beyond the next low mountain you enter a beautiful green valley empty of everything made by man but rows of neat yellow-and-black location signs, marking the scene of a new town. ‘You are now entering Chesterfield,’ the first sign announces. Various markers call attention to the golf club, chamber of commerce, theatre, community centre, Elks Club, and, of course, the community plunge, — all the structures and institutions necessary to compose a large and flourishing modem city, — and there is not a single building in the whole valley. The project imposes something of the strain on one’s imagination of the emperor’s new clothes in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Not to see the city so vivid in the minds of its creators proves one stupid or unfit for what office he may hold, even that of casual tourist. The last jubilant bulletin gives the finishing touch: ‘University City looked like this ten years ago.’ You think back on the immense suburb you have just left and realize that only in a moving-picture world could a city so complete be sketched out on the vast drawing board of nature’s green hills and its completion be so confidently anticipated. This spirit gives the whole country its air of unreality. It is stage effect.

It is astonishing what a difference the absence of cold weather makes. Gardens can be laid out which do not suffer from frost in winter or from deluges of rain to wash them out in summer. Delicate effects can be attempted which become permanent. The domestic heating plant, bulking so large in our cellars and in our building and upkeep budget, is casual and incidental, an incredibly small unit tucked away in some convenient corner or spare closet or recess on the basement stairs. Large country clubs are warm with two small electric heaters of the kind we turn on in our bathrooms before the big heater has begun its ministrations.

It is this that makes possible the spread-out effect of the buildings. The Andalusian motive, with its long wings surrounding a patio, is historically justified by the fact that this country was settled by the Spanish and that its climate is reminiscent of Lusitanian summers. It is an architecture peculiarly fitted to warm countries, and the small amount of heat needed makes it unnecessary to pile houses on top of one another. I imagine fear of earthquakes plays a small part in the height of buildings.

Fruit and flower stands give the streets an air of colorful gayety the year round. The flower markets extend half a block, one unbroken band of color. Oranges in up-ended boxes add their positive hue to the wayside spectrum. Deep red apples in high pyramids on roadside carts are part of the kaleidoscope. Grocery stores are a surprise to the Eastern eye. They have no fronts, but are open to the weather like a stage setting — one great show window, the packaged goods in serried and checkered patterns on shelves at the back, and the green vegetables and fruits, spotlessly clean and invitingly fresh, adding a decorative touch in front. These markets are set back from the road with a crescent-shaped parking space in front. You drive the nose of your car right up to the counter.

Showmanship and salesmanship have become fine arts with these people. They sell everything from oranges at five cents a dozen to hilltop Spanish villas at fifty thousand dollars apiece with a dramatic unction that is Oriental in its origin and French in its decorativeness, except for the scale on which it functions. It is all so fresh, so modern, so new, as if made yesterday — as, indeed, it was. A map two years old is obsolete, as I learned to my cost when I tried to find the public library. And the library appealed to me because of its outdoor reading room. Even the banks are amusing.

Everybody has a car. I went to a moving picture in a theatre that looks like something by Maxfield Parrish. Two thousand people were in the house and everyone came by auto. The parked cars radiated in all directions, as at the Army game in the Yale Bowl. And there was plenty of room to park them. When we drove back from Hollywood to Pasadena the roadway was full of cars, but the sidewalks were empty — a vision of the future city, when pedestrians have become extinct. In San Diego street names are lettered on the curbstones instead of on the lamp-posts, so that you do not have to lie down on the floor to read them. The automobile salesrooms are of a New York grandeur. But, despite the pervasiveness of the motor car, the Californians use the airplane as freely and casually as we in the East hop on to a trolley car. And there is always a flock of planes over your head as you play golf on the bottoms of the canyons.

Agua Caliente, the American Monte Carlo, is just across the Mexican border. A hotel and casino are set down in a green valley three miles from Tia Juana, done in Spanish style. The buildings are fashioned of concrete and stucco, gorgeously colored, with imitation antique ironwork; they are surmounted by mission bell towers and surrounded by gardens, golf links, landing fields, swimming pools, and restaurants. The laborers about the grounds are dressed as peons with enormous straw hats, and the bellboys as caballeros with wide yellow sashes, slashed trousers, and patent-leather hats. The ceilings are beamed and painted in scarlet and gold, the bedrooms surround the patio which will be a garden some day soon, and the whole effect is as ‘arty’ and intriguing as an Alice Foote MacDougall restaurant. It is still in the making, the links and landing fields newly turned red clay, but already it gives the impression of a dream place, fantastic, colorful, dramatic. It is right off the picture producer’s lot.

They are strange people, these Californians. They seem to like to ‘kid’ themselves. Just as they substitute a dream architecture for the stern realities of the East, they hope to dispel facts by the use of words. They insist on calling an earthquake a fire, and grow angry if visitors do not adopt their locution. By calling it a fire they make themselves believe that the earthquake never happened. This is the art of imbuing a whole community with a manner of thinking which makes things what they seem. There is the best authority for it, too. Ever since Plato, scientists have been toying with the idea that the physical world has no existence outside the mind. The Southern Californians are well within their scientific rights in imagining a world as they would like to have it and stoutly maintaining that it is there. The visitor who crosses the invisible barrier is soon affected by the California state of mind. To him the emperor is fully clad. He sees the clothes and so helps to create them. I had not been there two weeks before I was explaining to a late comer in the veritable California manner that the cold snap we were having was unusual, and quoting the mean-temperature tables that hang in every real-estate office.

The country is a sort of vast civic laboratory where experiments in living are tried out under favorable conditions. The Californians begin with now, with nothing to undo, and have an opportunity to solve our problems of the built-up East on a clean slate without erasing the old examples that came out wrong. Their experiments are shrewd, original, and sometimes amusing. They receive people from other states, submit them to the influence of sun, blue sky, easy living conditions, abundant flowers and fruit, plenty of light and air, cheap food, and low building costs, and soon engender in them the same enthusiastic loyalty and patriotism that the older inhabitants have, and find them ready to accept the entire California code and join in all the movements to put the state over, just as though they had not grown up in colder and more selfish communities.

You may deplore the Californian’s attitude; you may think that he boasts too much, that he talks like a prospectus; but you must admit that he has the goods.