A Visit to Old Los Angeles and Environs

19. Ocean Park, Redondo Beach, and the Oilfields.


Brent C. Dickerson

Copyright © Brent C. Dickerson

Index to Episodes (click here).

A visit to Ocean Park, Redondo Beach, and the Oilfields.

• The pleasures of Venice made some of us hungry for a taste of the other beach towns. While—as we'll see—some of the other "folk" went another direction, Anna, young Frederick Johan, and I took the trolley to Ocean Park—the beach town we had seen the previous day from Venice.

• The trolley was on a sightseeing route called the "Balloon Route." Young Frederick Johan was disappointed when he found out that it did not include anything aeronautical but rather was simply named for the shape the route took. "Well," he said to anyone who would listen as we zipped along in the trolley, "all this would look much better from a quarter-mile up!" An elderly man stopped him short by saying, "I think we'll get enough of looking down from the clouds when we're dead, young man."

• Young Frederick Johan stifled a yawn once we arrived. "Just any town with an ocean in front of it," said he. "Well," said Anna, pursing her lips, "it appears that the people are rather resolute in their normalcy."

• We walked a few blocks to the business section of town, then started walking down Pier Avenue towards the ocean.

• "There is a certain something in the air," pondered Anna. "Well, the horses, you know," I said. "It's the fresh air, straight off the ocean," exclaimed young Frederick Johan, several steps ahead of us.

• "In fact," continued Anna, as we walked along, "one could say that it's positively revivifying." "You're sounding 'positively' Minnie-ish, dear sister," said I. "These things happen," said she, as we turned to look back up the street for a moment.

• There was even more to look at around the corner to the north. Young Frederick Johan was ricocheting between the two sides of the street so as not to miss anything.

• We continued walking. "There are perhaps points," said I, "when at least the architecture departs somewhat from the normal."

• Anna stopped and looked at me. "To what could you be referring, dear brother?" asked she.

• "—Just a small notion I had," said I. We came to the end of the street, where it met the beach and the pier. Young Frederick Johan was in the crowd in front of the band shell. As he told us later, "Many of the notes they played were correct." Anna praised his generosity.

• Anna and I walked out onto the pier a piece. The waves rhythmically washed past the pier supports below us. Playing children squealed on the beach, and in the water. Sounds from the band—especially the bass drum—followed us, and hovered in the air. "I should not have wanted to miss this," said Anna, peering over the ocean's vastness. "It is a pip," said I, looking the other way.

• Just then young Frederick Johan ran up—dressed in a bathing-suit, much to our surprise. "FJ," said I, "you know it really isn't done to take people's clothing from them and put it on, particularly if they were wearing it at the time." "Rent a suit at the Bath House," he said, as if he had done so every day of his life; "I'll watch for you at the foot of the pier!", he shouted, running down the pier then onto the sand. "The Bath House?", asked Anna. "I believe it's that humble construction over there," I said, pointing.

• "I don't believe that it would be very hilarious riding home on the trolley encrusted in salt," said Anna; "I might be mistaken for Lot's wife." I allowed as splashing around in the water didn't much appeal to me, either. "FJ," I shouted, "we are charging you with the responsibility of frolicking for all three of us." And so we spent an hour watching him play in very shallow water indeed. "And why not?", protested FJ later, when we teased him about it; "the saturation point can be achieved as thoroughly in an inch of water as in a mile of it." "As you demonstrated," noted Anna.

• We could see Venice with its amusements in the distance.

• As young Frederick Johan was changing back into his street clothes in the regal splendor of the Bath House, Anna and I began to ponder the question of lunch while we leaned against the pier-railing. As you know, dear, I am very practical and thought that something quick at one of the stands along the beach-side would allow more time for sight-seeing. Anna on the other hand was getting that far-away look in her eyes, and suggested that it might be pleasant to find a meal "away from all the hurley-burley." At that, a short gentleman wearing a straw hat with a very bright band around the brim cleared his throat, excused himself that he couldn't help but overhear our "di-leema," and said, "It's much quieter in Redondo, just down the line"—the trolley-line, he meant—"and you can eat next to the theater. In fact," he added—a bit unnecessarily, as I thought—" 'theater' very nearly spells 'the eater'," at which declaration he cast smiling eyes on Anna. "It would seem to be kismet," quoth Anna, as a newly-showered and pomaded Frederick Johan joined us ("a lady in a 'gentlemen's toiletries' booth used my head as a demonstration," said FJ in response to my question concerning the sudden and alarming oily condition of his scalp). We all walked the couple of blocks to the trolley tracks while the short gentleman was busily chatting up Anna the whole way. To my astonishment, she asked him if perhaps he would like to join us for lunch—he said, "yes"—and so it was that he and Anna sat together on one side of the trolley, and FJ and I on the other as we all rode towards Redondo Beach.

• There is certainly no shortage of little waterside places of amusement! We had a short stop at one called Playa del Rey, rather more sedate than the others we had seen.

• I was beginning to wonder just how far away this place was when we rolled into the Redondo Beach station.

• The short gentleman—afterwards, I always called him "The Eater," but Anna insisted that his real name was "Morrie"—very assiduously pointed out to Anna every bench and tree along the way. Young Frederick Johan and I contented ourselves on reflecting on the contagiousness of the "warm climate disease" which had already been noted by Mother in Charley and Minnie. After exhausting the subjects of public furniture and landscaping, The Eater asked Anna how her travels had been going. "We've seen some interesting things," she replied; "For instance, just yesterday we saw cantaloupes singing as they piked along in their canoes." The Eater blinked a few times, and said, "—Did you, now?". "Oh, yes. And then we didn't see some skimpily-clad entertainers." "You didn't see them?" Anna shook her head and sighed, "No, not at all. We had some ice cream." The Eater gave me a questioning look. "Don't look at me," I informed him, "I need the essence of pickled beets." Now The Eater turned to young FJ, who said, "And just the other day I didn't find any dead bodies in Los Angeles. Later, I was in a big cage." The Eater took on a contemplative look, and—for a few moments, at least—we walked on in silence.

• As step succeeded step, he seemed to be undergoing a struggle within. He took a deep breath, bit his lip, and then took another deep breath and said, "It, um, there seem to be so many people about, wouldn't you say? It's positively oppressive at times, um, times such as right about now—wouldn't you say?", directing these questions to Anna, who would nod weakly. As we approached a door, he continued, "Perhaps we might have a little privacy in here," he proposed, throwing open the door.

• "—Or, um, perhaps not," he decided, backing out again. He then directed us towards the rather cozy lunch room. "I should like to sit at the counter!" declared young Frederick Johan the moment we stepped in; and he asked me to join him there, as Anna and The Eater took a small table at the window. I asked FJ about this sudden preference for counter-dining. He pulled a corner of a dollar bill out of his pocket and stated that he was "honorably fulfilling the terms of a recent contract" into which he had entered. As I returned his wink, he quietly continued, "And as this appeared to be a large part of what the gent had in his wallet, I bet we have rather a better lunch than will the window-dwellers." "As far as food, yes," said I, glancing at Anna and The Eater via the mirror on the wall. Afterwards, The Eater squired us along the beach, and displayed his abilities concerning sea-shells. "I must say that his accuracy is outstanding," stated FJ, who himself had quite an interest in the subject. I had mentioned to The Eater that the family's plans were to take us to Long Beach and San Pedro in a few days; as we stood on the beach, he pointed southward to some hills, and said, "San Pedro is to the left of those hills, and Long Beach lefter yet," which gave me a chance to add to my vocabulary. At length, after a good deal of languid beach-walking, I pointed out that the day was growing long and the time short to return homewards; and—after The Eater had pressed into Anna's hand a note containing his address, meantime stating "It's not so far down the line, either way, of course"—we three stepped onto the trolley and left him on the platform tipping his hat to us as the trolley pulled away.

• The route back home looped through the oilfields. Young Frederick Johan—who was still shaking sand out of his ears—surveyed the passing scenes minutely, while Anna's mind seemed elsewhere. "He has kind, thoughtful eyes," she said, evidently out the window, "just like an otter, or perhaps a young wolverine." As animal eyes happened to be Anna's specialty and not mine, I turned my attention elsewhere.

• The trolley was one of those in which the seats are arranged to face each other row by row—uncomfortably chummy, I think; the oddest people always end up sitting right opposite you. As Anna gazed off into space, and young FJ flitted back and forth, a sharp-eyed little man appeared out of nowhere and sat down facing me. "Enjoying your trip?", says he, with a little goat-like grin. Well, I suppose what with our gawking, we looked like tourists; but I thought he might at least have introduced himself before further ado. "Good afternoon," quoth I, a bit coldly, answering his question with a "Yes, very much, thank you." My thoughts must have been written all over my face, as then he says, "Oh, yes, good afternoon, sir—might I introduce myself?—you can call me Dr. Nicholas." So, just to be courteous, I introduced myself and tried to make a little small-talk. "Well, doctor," said I, how does it come to be that you're riding the trolley in the middle of the day?" "Oh, busy . . . busy . . . " said he, with a little wave of his hand; "no rest for—no rest for doctors, of course." "Of course," said I; "people do foolish things, then they pay for it." "Quite so," he said, with a certain satisfaction, it seemed to me; "but, tell me, do you think that sickness, accidents, illness—that sort of thing—come from a person being foolish?" "Well," quoth I, "say you're chopping wood, and you decide to put your foot between the ax and the log you're chopping..." "Yes, yes—of course—naturally," he said, with a sudden air of impatience, "but I mean moral foolishness—spiritual failings, and so on and so forth."

• I wished that Charley were by to take over at this point, as he can go on about such things as if he knew what he was talking about—such are the benefits of a college education—but I was reaching a point of severe flummoxation. "I suppose," said I, with a studied air of contemplation, "I suppose that sickness, accidents, and, um, whatever, could arise as a punishment for foolishness..." "Or sin?", the doctor asked, with a penetrating look; "Do you really think that the heavens above—so to speak—would send you the piles, or a broken arm, because, say, you didn't go to church one Sunday?—or told a little white lie—or even a lie that was a bit duskier? When a patient comes to me with the sniffles, should I begin by asking him if he were entertaining irreligious thoughts just before coming down with the affliction? Bah!", he exclaimed. I nearly jumped out of my seat, but maintained my poise and said, "I take it that you feel otherwise..?" "Bah!," he said again, "Bah! Baaaah!" Well, Estelle, I was beginning to think I was back in our barnyard; but after he finished baa-ing, he continued, "You live, you suffer—take it from a doctor, my boy—germs and mishaps don't sit around studying your moral fiber before lighting into you—the good are tossed in with the bad—we're the sport of things that don't even care about the sport—if there's a sin involved when catastrophe comes calling, the only sin is getting born in the first place. Bah!" Isn't this the doctor you'd like to have at your bed-side, dear, as you're clinging to life?!? "But . . . but we see such beauty in life, too," I objected, turning to gaze out the window, hoping he'd take the hint. "Seen it all, perhaps?," he continued, calmer, and looking me in the eye, indeed with a devilish little grin which somehow irked me just to see it; "perhaps you've seen the elephant, as they say?". In truth, this began to amuse me a little, dear, as of course you and I both "saw the elephant" the day I left. "Why, Dr. Nicholas, I've seen a whole line of 'em, and not so long ago!" I laughed, and he laughed right back, rather aggressively, tapping his index finger on my sternum, and saying, between laughs, "Yes, yes, I guess you have! Hahahaha...and you're not the only one!" "There's something new around every corner here," I offered, figuring a little banal wisdom wouldn't hurt. "Right you are," he said, now touching his finger to the tip of his nose and winking, adding, after a moment, "Just like in Life, no? New and unexpected—hahahaha!—a new elephant around every corner!". My assessment at this point was that my fine companion Dr. Nicholas was either drunk or worse, and that I would do well to take refuge in that safest topic, the weather. "Beautiful sunny weather!" I exclaimed, looking out the window and gesturing towards the lovely scene.

• "Sunny? Not for long!," said Frederick Johan from behind me, as we went over the crest of a knoll and came upon an inferno which we could only glimpse for a moment until we were enveloped by smoke. To my relief, my odd companion had disappeared by the time I looked around again. Easy come, easy go! We were coughing until the trolley deposited us once again in good old familiar downtown Los Angeles.

• When we walked into Aunt Sigrid's, I found Mother at the table preparing this postcard to send to her sister Myrtha in Missouri.

Return to Hollywood and Venice; or on to San Gabriel, Eagle Rock, and Casa Verdugo.

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