California – Tourist Towns Of The Orange Belt

The tourist towns of the orange belt are Redlands, Riverside and Pasadena. Of these, Redlands is the smallest, but it has a special charm from its sylvan character. The better class of residences—and most of them are of the better class, for it is a place of much wealth—are fairly embedded in shrubbery and orange groves, and the murmur of hidden waters in the irrigating ditches is Redlands’ characteristic music. Magnificent rows of palms, grevilleas and peppers, miles of them, line and often overarch the streets and make a grateful shade in summer days when the heat of the desert just around the corner lays its hand on Redlands, and most residents who can, make holiday flittings to cooler places. The proximity of the desert, indeed, is at the bottom of the marvel of Redlands which, perhaps more strikingly than any other California town, illustrates the transforming power of water when directed by man’s intelligence and taste in an arid land. Of all the riotous growth of trees and shrubs that makes the Red-lands of to-day the paradisaical garden that it is, not one is indigenous; all have been planted by the Pauls and watered by the Apolloses of the last quarter century. At Smiley Heights, to whose beauties every visitor to Redlands is hurried at the first opportunity, this fact is patent with especial force; for here, just across the line which marks the high tide of cultivation, the parched, treeless slopes of the desert borders lie as if in wait for man’s care to be withdrawn, when the desert will sweep in again and claim its own. It is an eloquent contrast—on one side of a plough’s furrow these wastes whose only cover is scattering sage-brush and wild buck-wheat, and on the other this artificial wildwood of eucalyptus, deodars, pines, palms, peppers, acacias, olives, oranges, bamboos and a perfect wilderness of roses. That is the story of all Southern California; but nowhere is it told so plainly to him who runs as at Redlands.

In all the world there are few more lovely bowers of man’s building than this smiling park of the Cañon’s Crest, with its outlook over the roofs of Redlands, peeping out here and there amid the tree tops, and across the San Bernardino Valley to the great snow-capped mountain wall that shuts in California’s tourist country on the east. Set every-where about the park are little rustic kiosks with thatched roofs of palm-leaf, inviting to far niente and dreams. Here, dreaming, I was brought to earth one day by the voice of a stranger youth who stood at my elbow.

“Bully scenery, all right, ain’t it?” he remarked. He was a sturdy young fellow in a corduroy suit and a cow-boyish sort of hat, and his gaze was directed toward the San Bernardino mountains.

I assented, and to keep the ball rolling, asked if he was a stranger in Redlands.

“I’m working in a restaurant for two months now, but the old man’s gone to Los Angeles to-day, and he said shut the shebang till he gets back ; so I’m having a holiday and seeing the burg. Say, which is the mountain they call Grayback ?”

I pointed it out.

“And the desert is just beyond, and the Morongo country, ain’t it?”

I thought so. Did he want to go there?

“Well, mebbe,” he answered; “a friend of mine knows where there’s some good prospects in them Morongos, and we may hit the trail this summer. The restaurant will be shut down then.”

“Summer is a pretty dangerous time to be on the desert,” I cautioned, knowing the heedlessness of youth.

“You bet you,” he said, “or any other time. I lived on it six years before I come inside, and I swore I’d never go back.”

I took another look at him and saw lines in his face that showed him to be older than I had at first taken him to be. And there were streaks of gray in his hair, yet he could not have been thirty.

“Prospecting?” I asked.

“Huh-huh,” he grunted, as he pulled at a plug of tobacco. “There’s not bad money in that; but not on your own hook. There’s most by working for a company; me for that.`

“Why, you see,” he went on, in response to my request for further enlightenment on this branch of the business which was new to me, “there are big mining companies will hire men nowadays to go out in the desert to prospect for them. They grub-stake the fellows and pay seventy-five to two hundred dollars a month wages, besides a percentage in claims they locate that pan out. All the prospector has to put up is his own burros. It’s a bet-ter proposition in the long run, I think, than running your own game; for you can’t go broke; but you’ve got to be good keep sober, play fair and deliver some goods or nobody’ll hire you.

“Yes, sir”-he was dreamily gazing beyond the beautiful little city of homes nestled in orange groves at our feet, away to the grim mountains that looked down on the lava beds, the drifting sands, the alkali sinks and devil’s half-acres of the Morongo country that filled his mind’s eye—”yes, sir, once I swore I’d never go back to the desert again. It was this way : Me and my pardner, Johnny Ryan—he was a big six-foot-four Irishman and weighed two hundred and eighty pounds—we got lost somehow and missed a tank we knew of. So we had to let the burros go and light out for water wherever it was. Johnny strapped seventy-five pounds of stuff on his back and I packed thirty on mine—I was kind of weak and off my feed, anyhow—and we hoofed it across the desert for four days straight, twenty-eight or thirty miles a day, looking for water and the way in. We each had a little in our canteens; but we daren’t any more than just wet our lips with it, and just as it was all about gone and me and Johnny was all in, we struck a waterhole. That cured me of the desert for a while, and I vowed I’d never set foot on the place again; but I dunno, seems to be looking good again. Oranges is all right and sure pretty; but, somehow, they don’t look good like sagebrush.”

So does the desert hold its own.

Your Redlands friends will probably not lend much encouragement to any plans you have for visiting Riverside; for, after Redlands, Riverside seems to them skimmed milk. Nevertheless go, if for no other reason than to see how the Mission note has been incorporated in a hotel by that prince of modern Bonifaces, the master of Riverside’s Glenwood Mission Inn. That, indeed, is Riverside to the average tourist. Like the Coronado, it is a little world in itself, but unique in its reincarnation of the material features of the California of a century or more agone, when the Franciscan Missions were practically the whole of its civilization and the recognized stopping places for travelers. The arched corridors, facing a sunny patio where one may sip one’s afternoon tea among roses and under the pleasant shade of tropic trees; the campanario, with its sweet-toned bells that chime out old hymns at noon and eventide; the cloistered music-room, with its pipe organ, and atmosphere so chapel-like that one talks there in whispers; the shadowy walls, where old banners hang and ancient armor and pictures of saints and kings; the cloister walk with mural pictures of the Missions and images of saints in lighted niches; the monkish refectory with its old Spanish kitchen in one corner; the roof-garden of the bells, where quaint and ancient samples of the founder’s art the world over are suspended; the churchly books and illuminated manuscripts on vellum that lie to the hand upon tables and window-seats everywhere,—is there such another hotel in all the modern world as this Mission Inn at Riverside, Looking deeper than to the mere creature comfort that most hotels are content to strive for, it touches a man’s spirit, if his soul be not dead to the appeal of beauty and romance and high purpose; and so in a very real sense, it is a mission, as well as an inn. And then there is Joseph, the dignified macaw with coat of many col-ors, who has the freedom of the entire hotel and its grounds, his wings being clipped, and is the pet of every guest. Why, it is worth the price of a day’s lodging to sit in an easy chair by St. Catherine’s well and watch Joseph go his leisurely round. He perches on the wrists of such as he approves of; climbs over their shoulders and down their backs; sidles up tree-limbs, cocking his eye the while like Bunsby’s on the coast of Greenland; stands care-fully on his head at the top of a pole ; is photo-graphed a hundred times a day; takes a bath under the hydrant; meditates profoundly on chair backs, and other things conformable to claws; ogles the pretty girls in golf and tennis outfits, as they come and go ; till finally when the day is done and the vesper chimes have sounded and electric lights replace the sun, he is carried off to his perch in a special niche in the wall reserved for him and blanketed in from the night chill.

To stop at an inn so steeped as this in the spirit of the Mission days is a fitting prelude to another unique experience which, at Easter, Riverside offers to the traveler the Sunrise Pilgrimage to the summit of Rubidoux Mountain. This round knob of barrenness in a plain on the outskirts of River-side has in recent years been provided with a broad, winding roadway of easy grade, leading to the summit where a great wooden cross has been erected to the memory of the Franciscan Father, Junipero Serra. Hither, on every Easter Sunday at dawn, afoot and by automobile, come crowds of Riversidians together with the strangers within their gates, and gathering about the cross, await the sun. As it appears above the snowy crest of the San Bernardino Sierra, the people bare their heads and unite in a brief religious service, the or-der of it being printed upon a sheet and copies previously distributed among the throng. As one stands in this reverent assembly upon a mountain-top beneath the sky, one’s heart is hard indeed if it is not made tender by the spirit of this simple offering of praise and adoration to the risen Lord of Life. Serra, as he lay dying, told his followers that he would “use his influence with God” before whom his spirit was soon to appear, to prosper the Missions of their Father Francis. Such an unseotarian gathering as this annually on Rubidoux, owing its inspiration to Serra’s selfless work on behalf of one little fragment of the human race, would seem to show that in a larger way than he thought the Franciscan’s prayer is being answered.

While not every tourist finds it convenient to visit Riverside or Redlands, few fail to see Pasadena, which occupies at the western end of the orange belt a superb situation on an elevated bench of land at the foot of high mountains, a situation very similar to that occupied by Redlands. The magnet of wealth probably has a good deal to do with this influx of visitors; for the fame of Pasadena’s millionaire residents, whose sumptuous homes line Orange Grove Boulevard for a mile and a half and dot hundreds of acres at Oak Knoll, is nation-wide. Popular report credits the little city with being the richest per capita in California; but I do not find that this is quite the truth,, though its average in this not very important matter is, owing to the presence of the aforesaid men of millions, unquestionably high. In point of fact, besides a considerable number of business men and wage-earners going daily to their vocations in Los Angeles, its citizenship includes a large leisure and semi-leisure class of very moderate means, who, by economy and thrift, manage to live well on modest incomes in a climate of rare excellence—retired farmerfolk from the Middle West, semi-invalided merchants from the Eastern Coast States, pensioned college professors and school teachers from everywhere, who have come hither in the afternoon of life to “crown a youth of labor with an age of ease.”

More potent than millionaires, however, who nowadays are too common to be of the prominence they once were, is Pasadena’s other specialty, the New Year’s open-air fête, known as the Tournament of Roses. This really fine pageant has, for over twenty years, been an annual feature in Pasadena and draws thither on New Year’s Day perhaps a hundred thousand people from all over California and the East every year. It was never, in any sense, a real-estate advertising scheme, though this has been often said of it; but was the disinterested suggestion of Dr. C. F. Holder, whose account of its history is authority for the facts here given. Its first presentation was in 1888, under the au-spices of the Valley Hunt Club, the pioneer social organization of Pasadena, and was given “as a poetic and artistic celebration of the most important event in California at the time—the ripening of the orange. It was a greeting of Flora to the fruits.” The date was fixed as January first, because that was the nearest general holiday to the time when oranges began to be picked. At the suggestion of a member who had seen the Battle of the Roses in Rome, that feature was originally introduced, giving the title to the fiesta, which title still holds, though the feature itself has, for many years, been given up. As at present given, the Tournament of Roses is a whole day’s affair. In the morning is a street parade of fine saddle-horses, carriages and automobiles, lavishly decorated with flowers and greenery; cleverly devised floats, historical or representative of contemporary features of California; and marching clubs, the dominant feature in all being the display of flowers blooming in the open in California at a time when the rest of the country is largely snow-bound. The afternoon is given over to sports of various kinds at a large concourse known as Tournament Park. The principal event among these has, for many years, been a series of chariot-races, each chariot drawn by four horses abreast. As these chariots, which are models of the famous quadriga of the old Romans, tear around the course, their drivers urging on the madly flying steeds amid clouds of swirling dust, the twentieth century crowd arises and cheers as enthusiastically as did ever one in Rome’s old Coliseum in the days of the Caesars.

One needs to live in Pasadena to realize how closely this Tournament of Roses is bound up in the life of the people. When autumn is well under way and the tourists begin to drop in, the Tournament Committee gets down to work, arranging the de-tails of the programme and giving out contracts. Delinquent members of the Association are drummed for their dues. Tournament squibs and paragraphs, inciting to civic pride in the coming event, pop at you every day or two from the local newspapers. Residents are urged. to be diligent to protect their flowers from untimely frosts or the yearly “Santa Ana” which has a way of swooping down from the desert for a night’s demoniac blow just before the winter rains set in. In December, the Weather Man becomes the most pampered of citizens. He must be kept in good humor at all hazards. First, he is coaxed to send a gentle preliminary storm to freshen up the gardens; then, about Christmas, he is daily cajoled to keep the skies clear till the day after New Year’s at least. The last few days before the Tournament are nerve-racking to a degree, on account of weather possibilities ; for a wet New Year’s Day, of course, means complete collapse of this fête. It is remark-able that, in all the twenty-odd years of its holding, not once has there had to be a postponement on ac-count of weather. In 1910, indeed, failure did seem imminent. A heavy rainstorm set in during the last days of December and continued during the thirty-first without signs of passing. Flowers had been gathered between showers and in the rain and were abundant enough; but, if the rain should continue into the next day, there could be no parade, for the delicate vestments of participants and the gauzy draperies of many of the floats could not stand it—to say nothing of the lack of spectators. Moreover, the railroads had arranged for excursions from various points, and must know absolutely the night before if the Tournament was to be held or not. If not; they must notify their patrons at once.

The Weather Man had no hope to offer. The Committee met for decision in the early evening—the rain still falling—and their sporting blood was up. There was but one view—the Tournament, rain or shine; and the news was flashed instantly in every house in Pasadena by the dipping of the electric lights, according to a prearranged signal announced in the evening papers. The decoration of the entries went on all night in garages, barns and back-kitchens, to a very devil’s tattoo of descending torrents ; and when morning broke, the storm still hovered over the city. Before nine o’clock, however, the rain held, and when the heralds sounded their trumpets for the march to begin, the sun was shining, though fitfully. The Tournament was held, Pasadena New Year’s record was saved unbroken, and at nightfall—the storm set in again !