Laguna Beach, ca 1915 (Courtesy the Orange County Archives).

Laguna Beach, ca 1915 (Courtesy the Orange County Archives).

Pioneer Resident Tells of Early Days in Laguna - by Joseph Thurston

Laguna Beach South Coast News, 1935-36

[Click here to learn more about Joe Thurston]

(Introduction, Feb. 8, 1935)

The South Coast News has asked me, as the oldest resident of the south coast, to record some of the happenings during the early days which not only might be of interest to present residents of Laguna Beach but which, if they are not set down now, might soon be beyond the point where they could be set down at all.

With this thought in mind, I will relate experiences that befell my own family, the first one to make a home in this vicinity.

(Indians, Feb. 22, 1935)

Long before the white man made his home on this coast there were Indians living here. I do not think there is any record of when they left nor what reasons they might have had for leaving but to all outward appearances it had been many years since there had been any of them living on the coast before we came.

On a little knoll a short distance north of Aliso beach there was evidence of there having been a village that had been occupied for many years. There were quantities of shells, mostly of the abalone and mussel variety, the kind that are used very much for food. These shells had no doubt been brought up by the Indians for food and when the food part had been used the shells were thrown away and they had lain on the ground so long that they had disintegrated to such an extent that they could easily be ground into powder by the hands, showing that they had been lying there for many years. There were no fresh ones.

These shells, when they disintegrate, are found to be formed in thin flakes and the people used to break them up and use the thin bright parts in shell work that became quite popular for a while. There were many rocks that the Indians had used in preparing their food, such as mortars and pestles. Then there were some large flat rocks that looked like they might have been used for rolling things on and I found one rock that looked like it had been used for the same purpose for which we use a rolling pin. There were many small flat rocks that might have been used for playing games or for some other purpose and several rocks have been round on the coast made after the pattern of a sprocket wheel.

Mr. Goff found a mortar that had been inlaid all around the top with abalone shells and years later I found a pestle that was long and pointed at one end, with a knob at the other, and back of the knob was inset what appeared to be small sections of bone that might have been taken out of a rabbit’s leg. There were several rows of them and most of them were still in place. It would be very interesting if these relics which have been found on this coast could have been kept together where they might be exhibited as the early products of Laguna Beach, but they have been scattered, people not realizing the value that they might have if kept as a collection. There is, however, a very rare collection of Indian relics which has been gathered from various places over the United States and many of the things which have been found on the Laguna coast are included in this collection. J.M. Murphy of 290 Ocean avenue is the man who is responsible for getting this collection together and, though it may not be very widely known, he has a very interesting exhibit of Indian relics which I presume he would be glad to show to anyone who might be interested. As Mr. Murphy has some of the things that I found myself and which I have spoke of in this article, I hope he will pardon me if he is annoyed by many visitors, but inasmuch as I let him put them in with his collection because more people would have a chance to see them than if I kept them at my home, coupled with the fact that it is more interesting to see these things in connection with things that are found in other parts of the country, I believe he will be glad that his collection is more widely known, and that he will be pleased to show it to anyone who wishes to see them.

(Schools, Mar. 15, 1935)

It was not long after the country in and around Laguna Beach was settled up before there was a demand for a school. As most of the settlers had families, it was not long before there were enough children here to justify a school, but there was no schoolhouse, and building a schoolhouse those days was not so easy as it is today. Voting bonds and paying taxes were not so popular as they are today, so the first school was held in a private dwelling.

It is my understanding that the first school was held in a room of the home of Henry Goff, his place being centrally located and no doubt wit a room best suited for this purpose. The first teacher was a man by the name of Twombley. He was about six feet tall who weighed around 160 pounds. He had a small beard maybe three inches long and his hair and beard were of a sandy color. I saw him once when he came down to our place but had never been in Laguna at that time and am not sure whether he taught more than one term or not but later there was a one-room school building erected on the ground that is now occupied by the high school and there was a young man by the name of Taylor, who, if my memory serves me right, was the first teacher to use this building. He told me that he walked ten miles to go to school, though I did not ask whether this was a regular thing or not.

He was conspicuous in the neighborhood from the fact that he was always neat and well-dressed. I had the privilege of visiting the school while he was teaching, though it was only for a half day. I had to walk all the distance alone each way but didn’t mind that for I was glad of the chance to visit the school. There was a young fellow in the class by the name of Jimmy Vinard who was 23 years old and during the recital the word “nothing” was used and the teacher asked him what nothing was and he did not seem to be able to give a satisfactory answer so the teacher asked him which he would rather have, one nothing or four nothings. He answered that he would rather have four nothings and the teacher said he would prefer to have one nothing because it would be easier to get rid of. I heard later that Jimmy was studying for the ministry. There is one other thing that stands out in my memory of that day and that is that I didn’t think I would have the patience to teach school even if I had the necessary learning.

This building served the neighborhood for many years and the children came from below Aliso to three miles up Laguna canyon, though none of the Thurston family was allowed to come. Finally there was some dissension, as there were quite a number of children coming from up the canyon and the people up there thought their children were coming too far and they wanted to divide the district and build a building of their own so they had an election and voted bonds to build themselves a schoolhouse. This was built on the ground that is just south of what is called the Green Goose ranch and was on land belonging to Mr. Hemenway. It was not many years before some of the larger families moved out of the canyon and they were confronted with the fact that there were not enough children in the new district to maintain a school and they were forced to consolidate with the old school again. They sold the building to Mr. Yoch, who used it for many years for a Catholic church, and it is now known as the Little White church and is still filling a very useful place in the life of Laguna Beach.

(Mar. 22, 1935) In continuing the story of the early schools in Laguna it becomes necessary to explain that when the school district which had been formed in Laguna canyon was abandoned and the building sold, the two districts were consolidated and made into one, as it was in the beginning, but the little, old, one-room building that had served for many years was now too small to serve the one larger district and it was necessary to build a larger building. The people, however, were not in agreement as to what kind of building would be best. Some wanted to put up a two-room building and others thought that such a large structure would be a waste of money, as one room would take care of the needs of the village for some time to come.

By this time Elmer Jahraus, who had come here as a cigar maker and had plied his trade in the basement of the old hotel for a number of years, had become enthused with the place and with the possibilities of building up a large community and had gone into the real estate business. He led the campaign for a two-room school and won out. The little, old building that had served from the beginning was sold to W.H. Brooks, who paid $50 for it and moved it to the place where the little laundry stands, across the street from the church, where he lived for many years. There is no doubt that the original lumber is incorporated in the buildings as they now stand.

It was a number of years before the second room of the building was brought into use but finally, about 14 years ago, the town began to grow and more permanent residents began to locate here, which increased the school population. Instead of everyone leaving the place as soon as school time came, it was not long till it was found that there was a new unit required each year to keep up with the growing population and finally bonds were voted for a $124,000 class A building, which now has been converted into a high school, and only yesterday ground was broken for the erection of a new grammar school building.

The two-room building spoken of was sold to the American Legion and is serving now as the Legion hall. I do not know the status of the land when the first schoolhouse was build because L.N. Brooks, who donated an acre of land to belong to the school as long as it was used for school purposes, did not acquire the land till the building had been there for many years and I do not know how this could have been done, unless it was that the first building was on the land only under a verbal agreement.

As this brings the school proposition up to date and I am not quite through I will have to tell a little about geese. While there may not be any particular connection between school children and geese, when the first little schoolhouse was built here there was a great migration of geese going up and down along this coast every year. They would go south in the fall and north in the spring. I have seen many a flock that must have contained at least a thousand of the great birds and they would carry on a strenuous conversation with each other as they winged their way along high in the air above the shore line. Whether their conversation was more important than the ones we hear on the school ground I do not know but I presume it was more important to the geese, especially if they were taking about their future welfare.

(Early Vacationers, Apr. 12, 1935)

About the year 1880 there began to be quite a number of people who came to Laguna in the summer time. They came mostly from Santa Ana and Riverside and would pitch their tents along where the front row of houses are on the edge of the sand. Many of them would come in relays, that is, some members of a family would come down and spend their vacations and then would go back and leave the tent and let the balance of the family come down and have their vacation. Finally there were enough people so it was made worthwhile to have a store during the camping season. This was also done in a tent and I think that Ammon Goff was the first one to start a small store in this way.

There were a number of people who came to our beach at Aliso but they came mostly from the country around Downey. The most people came to Laguna because it was so much easier to get to. There were a good many people came down to Aliso from Laguna during the season just to see the country and have a picnic lunch under the trees. We had lots of figs that were going to waste so would let them have all they wanted when they came down, but one time someone wanted to buy some and we gave them a large water pail full for 25 cents. This establi8shed a price on them and we frequently sold a pail full.

In the early eighties I raised a small patch of watermelons and one day I brought a load in a spring wagon over to Laguna. I found a solid row of tents from where Laguna avenue is down to about where Ocean avenue reaches the beach. Someone yelled watermelons and they began to crowd around the wagon. I found they were not so free with their money, though. I presume they had plenty at home and were not used to buying them and about 15 cents was as much as I could get for a good, big one. However, I did not believe in fussing with my customers and soon sold out the load and started on my way back with $4.50 in my pocket and left a lot of satisfied customers that wanted to see me back again.

I made about $40 out of the melons that season and out of this came the first suit of clothes that I ever had that really amounted to anything. As the melons were raised on a piece of land that I had cleared for the use of it this money was mine, but money received for any other produce was turned over to father. One day I was turning around on the edge of the hill where the hotel stands now and the weight of the wagon came on one wheel and it caved in and let us down. I had to go home with the horses and get the lumber wagon and father came back with me and we dragged it home on a pole. I had sold everything but some eggs and of course they got the benefit of the fall.

As the camp continued to grow each year the tent that housed the store would also grow and each year it would be a little larger. Then a saloon tent would come in and ply its trade but about this time local option was introduced and it was decreed that the saloon was not necessary to the welfare of the place and it was banned and did not make its appearance any more until the eighteenth amendment was repealed.

(Apr. 19, 1935) As more people came into the country and as they became better established and markets for produce improved there were more people who could come to Laguna Beach to spend the summer, but the people from Riverside were inclined to clan together more or less and the same thing was true of the ones who came from Santa Ana and vicinity. This was natural, because they were better acquainted with each other and were used to going together so finally the two groups conceived the idea of establishing two separate camps. The Riverside people took the sandy beach north of where the Hotel Laguna now stands, which belonged to Henry Goff, and the Santa Ana group went farther up the coast and made their principal camp on the west side of Boat canyon. This land all belonged to the Irvine ranch at the time but they were doing nothing with it and there was no objection to its being used in this way. This became known as the Santa Ana camp while the other was known as the Riverside camp. There was a very fine boat landing at the Santa Ana camp, as well as fine bathing, and I think they had more real enjoyment than any other group that I ever knew, or even heard of. They simply believed in having a good time and enjoyed themselves to the fullest extent.

(The Artists’ Colony, July 12, 1935)

Someone remarked to me one day that the artists made Laguna Beach. My reply was that the artists did not make Laguna Beach; that Laguna Beach was here before the artists came and that is the reason the artists came here. There is no doubt that the artists have contributed much toward the fame of Laguna Beach but the Greatest Artist of all had left the imprint of His handiwork on this bit of coast long before the white man was permitted to gaze upon it. With all the meandering lines of the coast, and all the little mesa that lies back of it, and all of the little range of hills that rise up still back of the little mesa, who could conceive of a more artistic place in which to live?

Along the eight miles or so of coast that is included in this description there is hardly an acre of land that is not livable. There is hardly a place where someone cannot make a home and feel that he is living in the finest place in the world. Consider the elements that enter into the making of the climate that we are privileged to enjoy here and the picture is complete. The Artist did a good job. It is no wonder that painters come here.

There has been a good deal of discussion as to who was the first artist that came here and I want to settle this argument for all time, for the first artist to come here was our venerable and well-beloved Isaac J. Frazee of Lombardy Lane. Though he did not establish a home he made a little rough sketch of the Laguna coast which he still has as evidence and if it is possible we will have a cut ready to go with this article. At the time of writing I have made two trips to his place for this purpose but he was not a home and was no doubt visiting with some of his children. This sketch, he says, was made when he came down here on a short trip in the summer of 1878.

The first artist that I ever got intimately acquainted with was George Gardner Symons. I think he came in the late nineties. At first he rented a place and afterward bought a place and built a home which is now owned by his brother, Robert. Perhaps it is fair to say that he paid $2 per foot for 350 feet of land on the ocean front. Some of his best work at that time was of California poppies. He had a style of his own in handling the poppies and did some beautiful work with them. I think he learned to paint marines while he was living at Arch Beach and he did a good job of that. He painted a picture of the brown hills near where he lived and I asked him what he expected to get for it and he said his price was $400 and I told him I knew now what these dry hills were made for as he could have bought the hills at that time for less than he wanted for his painting. He was a very pleasant chap to talk with and used to tell me of some of the discouraging times he had as a young artist trying to make a name for himself. He told me of some of his camping trips with William Wendt and once was telling how Wendt had been a help to him. He hesitated a little as if thinking of the right thing to say and then he said, “He made me honest.”

 Mr. Wachtal used to come here and was among the first to paint here. He was a rapid-fire artist and I saw him complete a fairly large picture at one time and I do not think he was over half an hour on it. There was a deaf and dumb artist here once. He was stopping at the hotel and came out to the wagon to get something and I offered him some corn and he pointed to the team and shook his head, evidently meaning that corn is just horse feed.

Conway Griffith was the first artist to come here, I believe, who made Laguna his permanent home. He was a genial fellow and everybody liked him. He used both water colors and oil and, like other artists, would take a trip out to the desert once in a while and bring back some desert scenes to show us what can be found in the dry, hot places of the earth and why people are lured there. He lived all along. There is but one thing that could be said against him. He liked his bottle. Were it not for this the chances are favorable that he might still be with us.

(Nov. 15, 1935) Having gleaned a little information from Mrs. St. Clair I find some things that might be of interest concerning the beginning of events that made Laguna become known as an art colony. I find that Mr. [Norman] St. Clair came to the coast in the year 1899 but stopped at Dana Point and the next year he came to Laguna Beach. When he landed at El Toro, which was the nearest point of contact with the railroad, there was no stage running, and the man at the station volunteered to drive down to Laguna with him. This must have been between seasons for I do not think there was a time during the summer months that there was not some kind of a stage which carried passengers, and the old stage coach that was owned by Mr. Farman was still in evidence. This was the old rockaway stage that had leather in the place of steel springs which was common in those days on the long mail routes. It was later taken by the movies and I think is now in a museum somewhere.

When he reached Laguna he got a room at the old hotel from Mr. Isch, who was taking care of it at the time, and when it came to getting something to eat Mrs. Isch was prevailed upon to furnish this necessity as it would not be nice to let anyone starve or leave town just because he could not get anything to eat. Then Mr. Isch had the only grocery store in town and he could make a little profit on all the extra groceries he sold to himself so Mr. St. Clair was made to feel at home and he had nothing else to do but to paint and so he painted a lot of pictures and when he left Laguna he went to San Francisco and put on an exhibition. There must have been something attractive about these pictures for there were a number of artists who came down here to see the place which had furnished the subjects for the paintings. This included such well-known artists as William Swift Daniell, Mr. Wachtal and the deaf and dumb artist spoken of before who did not like corn, and perhaps this is the reason why Edgar Payne came when he did. It was also about this time that Gardner Symons came to Laguna.

During these years Laguna was at a very low ebb, the country not having recovered from the collapse of the boom. All of the part of Forest avenue that is now covered with business was occupied by a grove of large eucalyptus trees through which a narrow road had been cut, and people used to camp among the trees and there is no doubt that the street took its name from these trees. There was a large red barn on the lot just east of the post office which was still used as a livery barn and was owned by a man named Dan Ponder. This barn was torn down about 1921. There was also a barn that stood just about where the Lynn Theater now stands. This was owned by L.N. Brooks and the surrounding land was covered by his corrals. There was a tank that furnished water for the horses and all the old timers will remember the beautiful sight that was sometimes furnished by the icicles that would hang from this leaky tank on cold mornings. There was a little wooden bridge which was none too safe that spanned the mudhole that crossed the road nearby and people who used to venture out after dark carried lanterns that were made by taking a small piece of board and driving a few nails in it so that it would support a lamp chimney. Then there would be a small piece of lighted candle placed inside the chimney and a string to carry it by and with this they were safe to go about by night. Finally someone got ambitious and three lights were placed at strategic places. These lights were about the size of five gallon coal oil cans with glass in each side and a lamp of some kind inside and when they were installed on posts of suitable height, so they could be easily lighted, they were quite an improvement and could be seen for some distance if it was not foggy. They served until the Edison company installed a gasoline engine near Tent City, which generated enough power so that there was a pretty fair number of electric lights in use. Then a few years later a high power line was brought in along the coast and the engine was taken away, but I believe the foundation is still in place.

(Nov. 22, 1935) Mrs. St. Clair came to Laguna in 1903 with her family and spent the summer. The youngest of the boys was quite small but the rest were large enough to enjoy going barefoot. By the way, I do not think that any boy has a fair chance in life unless he has to go barefoot either from necessity or from choice and necessity is by far the better reason of the two. Anyway, everyone who knows these boys will have to at least give them credit for making good. They used to like watermelons and I am told that they used to take a great deal of interest in the little colt that would put an exhibition on once in a while by putting her feet up over her master’s shoulders. We are glad that they finally came back to live in Laguna Beach.

Nick Isch and his grocery store do not need any introduction because that was the only place where there was any activity in the village for about nine months of the year, as it was both post office and store combined. The only trouble was when the mail came in and had to be sorted there wasn’t anyone to wait on the customers when they came in for goods unless they wanted to wait till Nick was through with the mail, so if they were in a hurry the only thing to do was to leave the money on the counter for what they might want, or if they had a charge account it would be set down on a piece of paper. As it was an event when the mail came in most of the people would come around at about that time of day and all those who would wait for the distribution of the mail would sit on the railing in front of the store and cut nitches in it while swapping stories with each other. Old Uncle John Thomas, who lived in the Indiana, which he built and named after his home state, was one of the most regular figures that made use of the old railing, because he didn’t have anything else to do unless it was to go fishing once in a while. He was known as Uncle Sam because he was a perfect picture of that gentleman, only he didn’t have any striped pants. I think the railing suffered the greatest when he was around.

For many years it was quite an event when the boat came in, no because of the boat, but people wanted to see what kind of a catch had been made. If the catch was good it would be all right but if it was short the first ones there would get the fish, so everybody wanted to be on hand. The Derkum boys had a monopoly of this business for many years and when they had to depend on the local catch it was very uncertain as to whether there would be enough to go around, even including the ones who fished for themselves, as fish have a habit of making themselves scarce at times. In fact, they are very unreliable. As a few more people began to make this their home the year round Nick started a delivery route and as the people had no way of traveling except to walk this was quite an accommodation, but the horse was soon discarded and an old cut-down Ford was pressed into use. Of course this was a bonanza for Morris as he was doing the delivering. I never heard whether he ever had any trouble with the groceries staying in the machine till they arrived at their destination or not but the roads were not very smooth and Morris did like to drive. His specialty, however, was in trying to see how fast he could go down a hill and then seeing how quite he could stop it at the bottom.

Finally the town was discovered by the baseball fraternity who took their vacation in the winter time instead of the summer and Gavvy Cravath, Ernie Johnson and Jimmie Austin came with their families, so this helped to swell the winter population. There might have been others but these found it a have of sport and kept on coming. They could hunt quail, shoot rabbits or go fishing just as they might choose and what more could one ask in a climate like we have here? Then the town was growing and they might have all the society life that one could wish. This was evidenced by the fact that there were about 25 children going to school at that time. Of course Sam Dungan came to Laguna and built a home. He was an Orange County man and when he retired from baseball he just knew where the best place was and so he came to Laguna.

(Louis Moulton, Apr. 24, 1936)

In 1926 I was invited to the home of Louis F. Moulton to a surprise party. The occasion was the fiftieth anniversary of his entry into California. This party had been planned by his wife and was a complete success as she had managed to get him to go away on a trip for a couple of days and timed his return in the middle of the day after the guests had arrived. The guests were old timers that he had known in the earlier history of California. By a simple matter of deduction it will be seen that he arrived in California about five years after we did. He told us of landing at San Pedro and walking across the country to the Irvine Ranch house, which I believe was at that time located near the eastern end of Newport bay. He said that he walked through so much alkali that his shoes were practically eaten off his feet by the time he got there.

After working for Irvine for some time he rented a part of the ranch which he now owns and went into the sheep business. He once told me that he sold out his sheep and went to San Francisco to get his money and they handed him so much of it that he did not know what to do with it so told them to keep it in the bank. He went out and played the stock market and in three months did not have anything but his credit, so he borrowed $2,500 and came back and went into the sheep business again.

The periodical dry years that we have in this country are always a great problem but the more one has at stake the more he has to worry about and our friend had a plenty. With thousands of sheep on the verge of starvation on barren ground about the only thing to do was to send to Kansas City for a few car loads of corn which was taken out and thrown on the ground where they could get it, and in this way they were saved.

One day I was up Aliso Canyon and Mr. Moulton came down and we happened to meet. He asked me if he could take one of my horses as he wanted to go up on top of the hill, so I agreed and also went up with him. He had driven a perfectly good pair of horses from the ranch but evidently did not want to trust himself on the back of either one of them. He had come down to look at some cattle so where we got on top there was old man Hemenway with his little band of cattle and in a short time they had made a bargain whereby Mr. Moulton had acquired a number of very fine three-year-old steers for $16 each and after this bargain had been completed Mr. Hemenway asked if he could not sell him some calves. He had about ten sour milk calves for which he wanted $10 each. A sour milk calf is one that is mostly belly and looks like a potato with matches stuck in it for legs. However, this bargain was made and some cows were offered, but this offer was rejected with the statement, “The first thing you know I’ll be raising cattle,” but Mr. Hemenway came back in his droll way, “Well, you’ve just agreed to give me $100 for ten calves and if you had some cows you could get them for nothing.” While the cows were not purchased, I think this was the first move toward his starting in the cattle business. This deal was made on top of the hill right in sight of Laguna Beach.

Perhaps it would be of interest to know that at one time Mr. Moulton leased the entire territory where Long Beach stands for a sheep pasture. This may have been where he made the start which was so easily lost in San Francisco, but anyone who has recently come to California would very likely be hard to convince that the country which is occupied by Long Beach has so recently been used as a sheep pasture, and then again, in reference to Signal Hill, how little one can realize what there is under the ground any more than they can realize what may be placed on top of it.

At one time the land which lies south of what is known as the Top of the World club was owned by Oliver Brooks, the brother of L.N. Brooks, who took it as government land and sold it later to Mr. Moulton.

I might repeat here that wherever a group of eucalyptus trees can be seen in the hills around here it is where title to the land has been acquired through the timber culture act, which was an act to encourage the planting of trees in the United States.

(The Irvine Ranch, May 1, 1936)

During a period of about two and a half years, which was in the middle nineties, I worked on a threshing machine which was threshing barley on the Irvine Ranch, and at that time there was no other farming done on the ranch. The whistle used to blow at four o’clock in the morning and we would all get up and would soon have the machine running. When breakfast was ready we would eat and then start back to work. At ten we had a few minutes to eat a bite, then of course we had an hour at noon, after which we would run till eight o’clock in the evening, which meant that we would work for some time by the light of lanterns. This was when the days were long, but when they got short they just lit the lanterns a little earlier. For this work all of the unskilled labor received $1.50 per day. Of course, the board was included. We had a French cook so you can guess what kind of food we had. However, you might not make the right guess so I will make a brief explanation. Any steak or coffee that was left over from breakfast was supposed to be served at lunch, but he could not be bothered so he threw the coffee out in the stubble field and brought the lunch out to the machine because he did not want the boys to come in the cook house.

The lunch consisted of meat and bread, nothing else, as we had water on the job. One day he brought out a lot of corned beef in a pan and handed it to one of the boys who took it and passed it around. Several of the boys took a piece and then some one took a smell, then the fellow reached over and took a smell of that in the pan and then he threw it all out in the field and took the pan and the bread back in the cook house. This made the cook mad, and while the crew did not say much they entered a complaint with the owner of the outfit. At noon he would serve tea, but I did not like it and so took hot water and in a short time half of the crew was taking hot water, so he put them on one side of the cook house and called them hot water fiends but I noticed that when a hot spell of weather came the hot water fiends were the ones that pulled through without losing any time. About a week after the corned beef incident he brought some fried beefsteak that had been left over from the morning meals and saved up. It was good, however, and the boys thought they had a treat till they got the top layer off and then they found the rest of it was walking around over the pan as independent as you please. This was the last straw and a delegation waited on the boss to tell him that he would have to get a new cook or he would have to get a new crew, so, very shortly, he brought a Chinaman and after that we lived on the fat of the land. The cooking was elegant, as good as I care to eat.

There was a man on this job whose bid for fame was his foul mouth. He was so foul that the hardened element who are used to that sort of thing was disgusted. His name was Jim Stalker. He was about six feet three inches high and weighed about 150 pounds, and in order to keep his fun going he had to pick on some one, so finally he got to picking on me. I paid no attention, but even that wouldn’t stop him. Finally it began to get tiresome, but there was no way to make him quit. I was trying to study up some way to bring him to time when one day I picked up a lizard. Now Jim was afraid of snakes. He was not only afraid of snakes but he had such a horror of them that he would go plum crazy if he saw one. One day his partner picked up a piece of dried snake skin and started toward him and was warned that if he came close enough that he would get hit with the pitchfork that he was using. Now Jim was firing at the time and I had to go right by the engine where he was at work. When he had his head forward the back of his shirt collar made a nice little basket and as I walked by I thought this would make a nice place to deposit the lizard.

He whirled and threw a fork at me, but his aim was poor. The air turned blue around him with black and red streaks. When the storm was over I was at a safe distance laughing so I could hardly stand on my feet. He was a pretty good boy from then to the end of the season and when the season closed we shook hands and parted friends.

The Thurston Ranch in Aliso Canyon, post-1891 (Courtesy the First American Corporation).

The Thurston Ranch in Aliso Canyon, post-1891 (Courtesy the First American Corporation).