Topanga Before Today

Pablo CapraBy Pablo Capra      February 19, 2021

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Compiled by Pablo Capra, Topanga Historical Society Archivist Historical accounts abound and stay hidden for decades or centuries. In his role as archivist and his avid interest in Topanga history, Pablo Capra has ferreted out enticing vignettes from local newspaper archives that allow us a glimpse of what went before. Social gatherings, World War II, the environment, and Topanga’s first $1.5 million real estate sale, by Ian Brodie, Publisher of the Topanga Messenger. It’s good to hear his voice again grace the pages here.
Many Comical Costumes at Hard Times Dance
November 8, 1907, Santa Monica Outlook— Unique in every respect and altogether one of the most enjoyable social functions of many weeks was the Hard Times party which took place at the Topanga Tavern Saturday evening. Fifty guests from the beach and the canyons enjoyed the affair, the entire informality of which was its chief charm. Three times during the day the automobile stage, the large and comfortable conveyance, which makes the twelve-mile trip one of unusual pleasure, was filled to its capacity with guests.

Perhaps the most fortunate of the three groups was the last, which left the beach at 7:30 and arrived at the Tavern an hour and a half later after a marvelous ride in the moonlight. Everyone knows how beautiful the ride along the beach is by moonlight, but few realize how wonderful the mountains are in the magic glamor of the “Night Sun.” Fascinating shadows were spread over the mountain sides by the white rays and the shady nooks were turned into fairy glens but most glorious of all was the superb view attained from the top of the grade when miles of hills and valley yielded up their hidden beauties to the enraptured travelers.

At the Tavern gayety reigned supreme until a late hour. The guests had all entered into the spirit of the occasion, coming in the most ridiculous of costumes. Mrs. W. H. Lynch, the gracious hostess, received her guests in a silken gown, which revealed the glory of the past in its threadbare fineness. With it was worn a gorgeous motor bonnet. Mrs. Jack Woods, whose costume took the first prize, wore a wonderfully fashioned creation of red and white, with a crownless straw hat, loaded with faded flowers and feathers. The second prize was awarded to Mrs. E. J. Vawter, Sr., of Ocean Park. In an old-fashioned schoolgirl’s dress of gorgeously colored calico, she demurely posed as the belle of the ball. It is certain that many of manly knees were bent before that towering headgear. Upon a basis of green straw, a marvelous arrangement of queer little feathers and flowerets were built. Mr. Lynch wore a rough and ready mountain rig, the poverty of which could not be disguised, and both of the gentlemen winning prizes were ridiculously attired. Duane Wagar was in a wonderful make up, even his expression carrying out the woebegone brilliance of his tattered finery. Mr. W. S. Ferguson also of Ocean Park, cavorted about beneath a huge sun bonnet in a comical get up and there were numerous other appropriate costumes worn.

During the evening refreshments were served and the general idea of tackiness was carried out in the decorations and all appointments. The dining room, in which the dance took place, is light and cool and so open that it is practically the same as dancing out of doors.

Among those who enjoyed the hospitality of the occasion were Mrs. T. H. James, Miss Grace James, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Townsend, Miss Martha Relyea, Miss Gamar, Mr. and Mrs. H. F. Goehring and family, Mrs. E. J. Vawter, Sr., Misses Charlotte and Ida Belle Vawter, Mrs. A. F. Webster, Miss Hazel Webster, Miss Nina Deeg, Mrs. M. E. Crawford, Miss Elizabeth Crawford, Mrs. T. M. Meldrum, Miss Mearl Hemingway, W. S. Ferguson, W. T. Gage, H. W. Taft, Ira Wheeler, Duane Wagar, from the beach, Miss Mabel Herman and Miss Helen High of Pasadena, Miss Felita Smith of Fresno, Louis Bard of New York City, Mr. and Mrs. Lynch and from the canyon, J. L. Wood, Madge Wood, H. N. Waller and wife, Dorothy and Jean Reynolds, T. W. Reynolds, L. C. Reynolds, George Cheney, Mr. M. Trujio, D. S. Trujio, and Aurelia Mendibles.
Hart and Company in Topanga Canyon
February 25, 1916, Santa Monica Outlook— William S. Hart and a large company under the direction of Charles Swickard are encamped, this week, in Topanga canyon; several miles from Inceville, where they are filming some spectacular exterior scenes for the current Triangle-Kay-Bee features in which Hart is to be starred. During their absence, sculptors, carpenters and property men are working like beavers getting ready the divers pieces of equipment to be used in the interior settings.

The story, written by Monte M. Katterjohn, concerns the exploits of a Castilian lad, who, during the sixteenth century, is cast upon the shores of America and is adopted by the native tribes people. Enid Markey and Dorothy Dalton are the other principal members of the cast.

"The Stepping Stone” will be the title of the next Triangle-Kay-Bee feature in which Frank Keenan will be presented as star by Thomas H, Ince. This production was made just before Keenan left Inceville for a vacation, since which time it has been in the hands of the cutters. Mary Boland appears as co-star with Keenan, while Robert McKim completes the cast.

Before there was Topanga Days, there was “Hobo Days.” I’m fascinated by the politically incorrect phenomenon of the Hobo or Hard Times parties. I’ve encountered it in newspapers going back to the teens but haven’t been able to find an explanation for it.
—Pablo Capra
PTA Festival Hobo Days at School Sat.
October 16, 1958, Topanga Journal—Topanga PTA Festival and Hobo Day will be held at the school on Saturday October 18 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Food will be served from noon to the close of the festivities. There will be 12 fun filled booths [and] a real live Indian Show with Medicine Bear and his braves at 1 and 2:30 p.m. There will be games of skill and prizes, Grab bag, etc. Come one, Come all. Everyone welcome, according to Mrs. Fent Heim, PTA president.
Annual Hobo Dinner
April 16, 1959, Topanga Journal—The Annual Hobo Dinner, sponsored by the Topanga Auxiliary Unit last Saturday evening at Prier Legion Hall, drew a record crowd of Topangans as well as a large turnout of Legionnaires and their wives from West Hollywood. The main dish of the repast—the hobo stew—was prepared by Nell Upham and Evelyn Hickman, assisted by Eunice Piper and Verna Morand. John Stowe was acclaimed best dressed hobo while Jim Buerckel drew second place. Mrs. Audrey Raymond walked off with first prize in the ladies Fashion Parade with Lynn Taylor winning second.
Midnight Munchies
Opening September 28. We Deliver in Topanga! Or, pick up at the Topanga Corral, 2034 Topanga Canyon Blvd.

July 19, 1979, Topanga Messenger—By the time this hot edition hits the streets of Topanga, an exciting new culinary enterprise will have blasted off the drawing boards and become reality. From now on, should you perchance be too tired after a day’s work in the city to rustle up your own grub, too spaced out on your favorite mood elevator, or simply on an average bummer evening, MIDNIGHT MUNCHIES call fill your tummy with a maximum of ease. Midnight Munchies—an outgrowth of the Killer Tomatoes—has a whole roster of tasty food that can be delivered to your door from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. every evening, simply by making a phone call. The menu includes sushi, sandwiches, salads, various entrees, burritos. miscellaneous goodies and more. 455-3136.
Be Ready
December 4, 1942, Topanga Journal—Don’t let coffee and gas rationing divert your mind from the grim fact that we are at war. These things are but bouncing corks on the deep, dangerous waters of war. We are living near the shore of the Pacific Ocean which is one of the principal theatres of this global conflict. We are fighting a cruel, crafty and courageous foe. It is only a matter of time until the Japs will attempt to invade California. That attempt might be made at Topanga Beach.

Why do you think thousands of Japanese army and navy reservists lived and worked in California? Because they liked our climate? Because they loved us? Climate means nothing to them and they hate us. They want California and the United States. It is as simple as that. The Japs have been planning for years to take our Country by force. That’s why these spies lived among us. They were learning how and where to invade the United States.

The Japs know, as does anybody, that to win a war you, must conquer your enemy. The only way you can conquer, your enemy is to invade his country.

Next Monday, the 7th of December, is the first anniversary of the Japs’ first attempt to invade the United States. Soon or late they will attempt it again, and again, and again. They may strike anytime. They may come before the ink on this warning is dry. They may come tomorrow, or next week, or next month. But they will come. When they do, you will wonder why you ever wasted a thought on coffee and gas rationing. You will be unable to understand why you didn’t work harder in Civilian Defense preparedness. You will be ashamed that you allowed petty fault-finding to detract your mind from doing your duty, yes more than your duty. Do you think an extra gallon of gasoline now is going to help you if you were to open your door to find a bayonet pointed at your vitals?

Are you prepared mentally and physically to kill or be killed? Can we learn the lesson of preparedness from the tragedy of Pearl Harbor? Are you ready?
Topanga General Store: DDT
September 21, 1945, Topanga Journal—We are proud to announce that we have been appointed agent of the Pacific Chemical Company for the sale of the sensational new insecticide DDT for the entire Malibu Mountain district, including Topanga, Malibu Road, Cornell, and Seminole Hot Springs. We now have in stock DDT Insect Spray and DDT Insect Powder. We will soon have DDT Mothproofing Spray in stock.
Retreat from Smog
September 8, 1955, Topanga Journal—Amy Walls, Greg and Margaret, with Harriet Swenson and her family, set off for the beach Thursday morning only to be forced back into the canyon by the smog that drifted over the beach. The children were beset by coughing spasms, and both children and grown-ups were thoroughly miserable. It was a real relief to be back in Topanga.
Radio-Active Fallout Almost Disappears
November 27, 1958, Topanga Journal—Radioactive fallout over Los Angeles has dropped to 5% of the maximum allowable concentration, Dr. George M. Uhl, city health officer, reported today. He said he expected it to continue to drop to its normal of 1.5%. Fallout reached a record 92% on October 30 following a series of atomic-weapons tests in Las Vegas. That day Mayor Poulson telephoned the White House and the Atomic Energy Commission about the increase caused here by winds from Las Vegas. The last test shot scheduled in Nevada for October 30 was called off. Dr. Uhl said the average daily fallout during the entire month of October was 8%, which he said was “well within safe limits.’’
Pablo Capra

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February 19, 2021

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