National Geographic : 1954 Jun
New Rush to Golden California Here is the only known copy of Lawes and Libertyes ... of ... Massachusetts (1648), the first collection of laws from any British colony. Here also are original Indian treaties signed by chiefs with their "marks," the only com plete list of the men who took stock in the Virginia Company, and the log of many an early ship that helped make sea history. With librarian Leslie E. Bliss we pored over old maps that helped make California known. One, about 1580, made it appear a long, lanky peninsula. Another, 50 years later, showed it as an island. Henry Huntington left his home, with its priceless collections, to the public. Like Mos lems to Mecca, scholars come to it from all over the world. Visitors flock there by the thousands to see the treasures and stroll in the estate's superb gardens. There roses, azaleas, camellias, rhododen drons, and orchids bloom in colorful profu sion. Acres of exotic trees and shrubs from every continent suggest lush, faraway Gardens of Eden. One garden alone boasts 25,000 desert plants. Warning: No Gun Play Next day we took a train for "a scenic trip of less than 1,000 miles all within the State of California," as our tickets stated. A sign caught my eye as we climbed aboard. "No gun play in the lounge," it warned. Another requested gentlemen to sit next to the windows "so that in case of sudden Indian attack we won't have our women shot." No ordinary line is the Ghost Town & Calico Railway. In the 1870's its puffing engine and wooden cars shuttled between Silverton and Durango, Colorado. Now they haul some 60,000 visitors a month around Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, near Los Angeles. Walter Knott rented a few acres here in 1920, planted berries, and opened a roadside stand. Later his wife started serving home cooked chicken dinners. Now their establish ment, grown big, feeds an average of 25,000 visitors a week. Whether they eat there or not, sightseers throng the farm every day to see Ghost Town, replica of a gold-rush settlement. They shop in its general store, line up in saloons for soft drinks, and visit the blacksmith shop, jail, church, old-time firehouse, rustic cemetery, covered-wagon encampment, and one-room schoolhouse from Kansas. This town is a lively ghost. Among other "residents," a smith hammers out horseshoes and a harness maker stitches saddles. A chipper sunbonneted woman in her eighties plays a dulcimer on her front porch. The schoolmistress, ringing a hand bell, calls her class together. The cluttered store sells hun dreds of old-fashioned items, some so long forgotten that people ask what they are. "My mother came to California in a cov ered wagon," Mr. Knott told us, "and I don't want people to forget pioneer days. So I built the old town. Folks have a lot of fun here-and so do I." Back to Covered-wagon Days Our youngsters certainly did. They talked to "old prospectors," explored a mine, and panned gold in a sluice (page 762). Behind 6-horse teams we jounced on the board seats of a covered wagon and rode atop a lurching stagecoach, gaining added respect for travel ing Grandpa Barney. In the crowded Calico Saloon, lamplit and smoky, we watched a grizzled miner do a buck-and-wing dance and listened to Gay Nineties songs by a goateed entertainer who looked like Uncle Sam. Star of the show was a pert, high-kicking Florodora girl who danced on the bar. Out near Yermo, in the color-rich Calico Mountains, Mr. Knott gives his hobby freer rein. There he is restoring deserted Calico, a roaring silver town in the 1880's. In near-by Long Beach we watched an army of men and snorting machines building a new waterfront. Huge cement piers, un finished, reached seaward like fingers. On many, rows of pumps were sucking oil from beneath the harbor. These bobbing pumps tell a rags-to-riches tale that is typical of southern California. In 1921 Long Beach was a small seaside town. Then drillers struck oil. Overnight derricks rose like magic forests, cluttering the yards and streets of amazed residents around Signal Hill. At peak production in January, 1924, this field gushed an average of 246,500 barrels of oil a day. To date, it has accounted for about 8 percent of California's vast oil output, and derricks still bristle everywhere. Today Long Beach is a booming city of 256,900 people, an important port, industrial center, and Navy base. With miles of beach, it is also a popular resort.