Letter from Laguna – A Favorite Sea Side Resort – Its Superiority over other Watering Places – How the Time is Passed

(Anaheim Daily Gazette, July 18, 1877)

At the Sea Side, July 16th, 1877.

For nearly two weeks past I have been “tenting on the old camp ground;” and in the intervals of eating and sleeping, I have been lazily lying on the soft side of a rock, watching the swelling bosom of the vast expanse of waters before me. Not very ennobling pursuits, I admit – eating, sleeping, and watching swelling bosoms – but as I came here for the express purpose of doing “nothing at all,” I am religiously adhering to my determination.

A more pleasant custom than that of making a few weeks of the summer months a season of recreation and rest, does not obtain. Both in the Old and New World this custom prevails, and if I mistake not, it is even more in vogue in Europe than in this country. And it is a custom, too, that is not likely to come into disfavor, because when once the pleasures of a trip of this kind are experienced the desire for an annual repetition of the holiday is unconquerable. Even if the recreation is taken at a great pecuniary sacrifice, the increased physical and mental vigor experienced on returning to the regular routine of business fully recompenses one. I mind me that in my boyhood a month’s “scowth” among the heather-covered hills of bonny Scotland, or a trip “doon the water” to Rothsay, or pretty Dunoon, was always followed by an increased but sometimes misdirected energy and activity – as for instance, when, after a trip of this kind, the super-abundance of vitality imbibed among the heather, vented itself in a desperate but unsuccessful attempt to bulldoze a schoolmistress. The memory of this incident always awakens painful recollections, and even at this late day the old feeling of profound respect for the stalwart right arm of that schoolma’m is not entirely eradicated from my heart of hearts.


This seaside resort seems to be a very popular one, and the sojourners are quite numerous. As the readers of the Gazette are doubtless aware, it is situated on the San Joaquin rancho. It is about thirty miles from Anaheim, and is reached by a road which may be safely ranked as very good. There are some steep hills along the route, which it is well to drive over during daylight. But the most ordinary driver will find no difficulty in making the journey in safety.

There are three other seaside resorts in the southern end of Los Angeles County – Anaheim Landing, Bolsa Chica, and Nahant; but as before stated the Laguna is infinitely the most popular. The chief objection to the three first named places is that the dreaded and repulsive “stingaree” abounds in great numbers, rendering bathing an extremely dangerous pleasure. Nahant, which Dr. Haywood so thoroughly wrote up in the Gazette last year, has the additional disadvantage of being nearly inaccessible, the road leading to it, in fact, being no road at all.

This place, however, is entirely free from stingarees, and a bath in the briny is a pleasure without alloy. The beach, or beaches (for there are a dozen of them) have just the requisite slope to make it pleasant for bathers; and the surf, except at certain stages of the moon, breaks smooth and gently on the sandy shore. The undertow is but slight. But there are, alas!


The surf was heavy the other morning, and the undertow was correspondingly strong. At least so it appeared to me as I was violently and rapidly taken off my feet and carried far into the deep. I have not even time to say “Now I lay me,” etc., ere an enormous breaker caught my almost inanimate form and tossed me back on the beach again, in my mad career butting a tall, stout man in the abdomen, doubling him up like a jack-knife, and finally anchoring violently in the ample bosom of a muscular lady in blue pants and jacket. I went in like a rocket, and out very much like a stick. And the worst part of the whole proceeding was that everybody seemed to consider it a huge joke, and one which called for a great deal of laughter and hilarity.

The accepted hour for bathing is between 10 and 11 o’clock in the forenoon. Most people consider one dip a day sufficient, but others prefer an afternoon dip as well. This is generally taken between three and four o’clock.


There are always present at such places as this people who, from bodily infirmity or a natural aversion to water, do not partake in the pleasure of bathing. Even to such, however, the place is not without attractions. One must indeed by blase who can wander in the wilderness of rocks and not become interested in the thousands of curious sea animalculæ which abound in every crevice. Sea shells of every variety are found; and I, without being guilty of any extraordinary exertion, have gathered several rare and beautiful shells. The abalone shell is quite plentiful but unfortunately they are unusually small in size. The very large and the very small size of this variety of shell are about equally prized. I have seen some as large as a dinner plate and others as small as a pea.

Then there is the Coffee Shell, very rare and very pretty. They are greatly sought after for the purpose of making shirt studs and sleeve buttons – and very handsome they look when mounted. Sea urchins are as plentiful as they are pretty. “Californians” are really the handsomest shell, but they are very rare. There are a thousand other varieties of shells, big and little, which are very pleasing to the eye. In fact, to nine-tenths of the people here the search for shells is the most pleasurable experience they have, notwithstanding the fatigue which is inseparable from the pursuit.


Of as handsome and various textures as the most exacting could ask for, rewards the search of those who woo not “the balmy” in the early morn. It is thrown on the beach and upon the rocks during the night, and a search about four or five in the morning rarely results in a failure to obtain quite a supply. (My stock of mosses is not very extensive, and what I have is the result of a negotiation with a youth who prefers a depreciated silver currency to his morning’s nap.)

I have just returned from a visit to Mrs. Lockhart’s tent, and have been treated to an inspection of some moss which has been pressed in fantastic shapes by that lady. It is difficult to imagine the very beautiful effect produced by artistically pressed moss; and lest any of my fair readers are ignorant of the method pursued, I append Mrs. Lockhart’s mode; First, get the moss; (highly important); take a large, shallow pan and fill it half-full of water; float the piece of moss you wish to manipulate on this water; the card-board on which the moss it to be pressed having been cut to the required size, is placed on a piece of tin a trifle larger than the paper; slip this under the moss as it floats on the water and with a long needle place the delicate tendrils and stems of the moss in the position you desire them on the card-board. When this is done raise the card-board out of the water and subject it to a strong pressure, between the leaves of a book, if you have nothing better. Mrs. Lockhart has a very simple and effective contrivance for pressing the moss. It is simply two smooth boards, between which, in layers of cloth, is placed the moss, and the necessary pressure is supplied by two small iron clasps, which can be purchased for a trifle at almost any store.


There are many other interesting features which help to pass away the time quite pleasantly. Only a few minutes ago I was called out of my tent by the cry, “There she blows,” and found that the cause of the cry was a whale which was blowing and spouting at no great distance from the shore. These leviathans of the deep (patent applied for this phrase) not unfrequently treat the campers to a sight of their huge proportions. Seal Rock, less than a quarter of a mile from the camp-ground, is a favorite resort for sea-lions, and is continually covered with them. Quite frequently a seal will make its appearance on the beach close to camp – sometimes with disastrous consequences to his sealship. One made this manoeuvre the other day, and now he is in the happy land of Canaa, sent thither by a rifle ball.

I cannot truthfully say the fishing is good, although the patient sportsman will not fail to bag one or two of the finny tribe if he angles long enough. There is the usual game in the hills adjoing camp, and not unfrequently the lucky Nimrod gets a shot at a deer.

This, I believe, is a very fair list of the attractions offered at the Laguna – and no mean list it is, either. There is enough interesting diversion to keep on busy the live-long day, if, like Sarey Gamp, his is “so disposed.”


There are, of course, some disadvantages to this otherwise perfect Elysium, and very serious and annoying drawbacks they are, too. The chief objection is the lack of water – fresh water, I mean. In the words of ye ancient mariner, there is “water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” For drinking purposes it has to be obtained at a spring three miles from camp; but horses can be watered at a spring a little over a mile distant. The difficulty in obtaining the precious fluid leads many to make shifts, and it is really wonderful to see how little water one can get along with – if he only tries and has a keg of beer with him. Washing the face with fresh water is a capital offense. Potatoes, with the jackets on, are boiled in salt water. The fresh article is only used for cooking and drinking purposes. Mr. G.H. Kellogg (who, you know, has built quite a large summer house here) is thinking seriously of getting the necessary apparatus for condensing the sea water. The only drawback to this project would be the cost of the fuel, which wood (forgive me!) have to be hauled a considerable distance and would make condensing a costly operation.

I suppose that in ordinary seasons there is plenty of feed for stock in the adjacent hills; but this year they are brown and are necessitating the transportation of hay and grain for stock. If one contemplates a stay of three or four weeks, it is impossible to carry along a sufficiency of hay, and an extra trip of twenty miles or so is the result.


Since I have been here, there has fortunately been a very genial, jolly lot of people in camp, who look and act as if they had come here to “drive dull care away.” The evenings, which perhaps would otherwise be likely to drag, are enlivened by impromptu musical entertainments, to which every one contributes his or her talents. Mrs. C.E. French, who has a very commodious tent, is indefatigable in providing amusement for the small community.

In conclusion, I may be permitted to give my testimony in favor of the physical advantages to be derived from a week or two’s recreation at the seaside. The perfect rest, the invigorating sea-breeze, the daily surf bath, the genial companionship, all tend to restore and build up a debilitated constitution. And it is wonderful what an appetite one gets. If a fellow has half a dozen ailments, they all seem to merge together and run into Appetite. An insatiable appetite is now the one bane of my existence. I had intended to write of many other things, but I must defer it. The pangs of hunger assail me. I must eat.