Topanga Before Today

Compiled by Pablo Capra, Topanga Historical Society Archivist
The Canyon ChronicleBy The Canyon Chronicle      December 24, 2020

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Topanga Before Today
When Pablo Capra, The Canyon Chronicle’s (and Topanga’s) intrepid researcher of Topanga history, began reading newspapers, he discovered numerous vignettes that caught his attention but weren’t relevant to the books and articles he was writing. Too small to publish on their own, we found them interesting and amusing enough to present them as ongoing glimpses into our local history and start with these. Pablo encourages you to support the Topanga Historical Society by becoming a member or buying a book at
“Two Methods of Publicity Described”
By S. M. Booster
January 3, 1916, Santa Monica Outlook—‘‘Whenever Postmaster Jim Craig of Topanga decides the canyon needs a little publicity, he goes out in the back yard, digs up some bones buried by his dog which gives use to big stories about discovering Indian bones,” said a Santa Monica booster after reading a story in the Outlook in which John N. P. Cramer praised the standard of citizenship of Topanga.

Now when Santa Monica canyon needs a little publicity, Frank E. Bundy proceeds to build a few bath houses and amusement piers and yet they talk about the progressive spirit of Topanga—makes me tired.
“Why what did Topanga ever do for its country anyway? There is one good big road running through the canyon, but shucks, we have 57 varieties of roads in Santa Monica canyon. Every time you turn around in Topanga canyon you face a sign, “No picnicking here.” In Santa Monica canyon free picnic grounds are provided with fireplaces and all conveniences to make picnicking less barbaric than is the usual custom.

“Now, in case it be thought I have some lots to sell, I’ll say that if any primitive man of Topanga wants to come here to civilization and argue just how far Topanga’s spirit of citizenship is ahead of Santa Monica’s, let him come and I’ll convince him that Santa Monica canyon’s high spirit has got the other two communities backed off the map. I’ll say further that this will be a winner-take-all proposition, including blood, black eyes and bleeding noses.”

Society and Woman’s World”
August 29, 1910, The Daily Outlook—Whether “swallowtails” shall supercede outing shirts is the burning question that is dividing the summer residents of Topanga canyon into opposing factions of growing dimensions...

Guests from the vicinity of “Boot Rock,” a former rendezvous of Vasquez, the notorious highwayman and bandit, journeyed by moonlight to participate in the function. So likewise did others from the “Y-U” bend and from “Four Oaks,” which is the joint property of Col. T. J. Cochrane, governor of the Soldiers’ Home; Surgeon McNary, official physician of the institution; Thomas H. James, city engineer of Santa Monica; and Dr. H. E. Hasse, a retired man of medicine.

To the amazement of many, and the awe of a few, Mr. [Templer] Allen, who is a former British officer, appeared costumed in a regulation “swallowtail” evening suit. According to one of those present, the sight almost created a panic. Certain it is that many of the ranchers and campers felt a deal of embarrassment at the contrast presented by their own modest apparel. At the close of the evening the epoch-marking event became the subject of liberal discussion. A number of the guests announced their intention of abandoning the weekly soirees completely. Others declared their independence of convention, and stoutly asserted their rights to dance in whatever clothing they pleased.

Meanwhile, Templer Allen, cool and collected amid the tempest he had unwittingly created, suavely remarked to his nearest friends that the time had come to put a little more tone into the weekly social gatherings, to which many nods of approval gave endorsement.

“Gossip from Movie World”
December 3, 1920, Star Gazette (Elmira, NY)—For the scenes taken in Topango Canyon, California, for Buried Treasure, in which Marion Davies will be seen, Andalusian ponies of the highest breeds attainable are used as well as burros. The saddlery for the riding animals is said to be a gorgeous medley of tooled leather, metals, and semi-precious stones.

“Decision Due on Topanga Club”
September 10, 1965, The Malibu Times—Whether or not dancing will be allowed at the Canyon Club at 20241 Callon Drive in Topanga will be decided by Judge John J. Merrick in Malibu Justice Court next Wednesday [Sept. 15].

The legal troubles of the Canyon Club began in May, 1964, wh en the county’s Public Welfare Commission revoked the club’s dancing license when sheriffs’ deputies testified that “males were dancing with males.” Philip B. Ewing, owner of the club, argued through his attorney, that the club was a private swim club and the dancing was only incidental.
There have been several court hearings on the case, the last a hearing before Judge Merrick on July 15.

“Malibu-Topanga News Briefs”
October 1967, Santa Monica Evening Outlook—A film on the drug LSD will be shown Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Topanga Community House, 1440 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd. Speaker of the evening will be Mrs. Marvin Gildersleeve, vice chairman of the narcotics and dangerous drugs educational committee of Los Angeles County. Parents are urged to bring their children to the event, sponsored by several Topanga organizations. Further information may be obtained by calling 455-1732.

The Canyon Chronicle
      December 24, 2020

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