When my cousin Maryanne called to “thank me” for tattle-taling on her, she reminded me that it was a TILT-A-WHIRL and not a lowly ferris wheel that signaled her own “tilt” moment. And she had had to beg and beg Uncle Lawrence in the first place, so it was a humbling moment at best.
She also reminded me of how Mom would have every day and minute planned with fun excursions when they came to California. I had forgotten (besides the ones I already noted) we ALWAYS went to Forest Lawn, that primo tourist “garden” and, I don’t know, strolled among the fallen stars and enjoyed the landscaped beauty In the Court of Remembrance and Columbarium of Radiant Dawn, the Sanctuary of Light and Sheltering Hills. Seems strange now, but it was just something folks did then.
A better fun day was Laguna Beach and I believe that Aunt Verna bought tons of California pottery there. We kids especially liked to see their official greeter, Eiler Larsen, a long haired brilliant but eccentric man of the world who emigrated originally from Denmark and for 33 years stood on one street corner of that lovely beachfront town – waving and calling out hello to all the tourists driving by. “They all respond” he said before he died in 1975. “I reach out and give the message of good will and they pass it on.” I guess he instinctively understood random acts of kindness and pay it forward-ness before it had a name.
When we were a little older we had an excursion to impersonate some of those personalities who would eventually end up in the Court of Remembrance and we had lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel. We were just unsophisticated enough that we must have surreptitiously glanced around the dining room to see if we could spot the stars. It reminds me of the time in junior high school when a friend and I ditched school and took the Red Car to Hollywood and had lunch at the Brown Derby where we ordered phones at our table and pretended to be talking to our agent! But this day it was Mom who pretended and went to the ladies room just ahead of us and when we entered she was stretched out on the sumptuous chaise, knowing it would make us laugh. After lunch we headed over to Rodeo Drive and while browsing in a corner boutique, overheard Zsa Zsa Gabor ordering dresses to be sent to her house to try on so she didn’t have to use the dressing room with the rest of us. We giggled.
But the best and most diverse trip of all began in Long Beach where we lived, and took the route over a ferry boat to Terminal Island and then on to San Pedro where we would first visit the big Norwegian grocery store where I know we would buy pickled herring, and gjetost (goat cheese) and lingonberries and probably rusks (I forgot the Norwegian name) for Mom.
Then on above the harbor and north along the ocean to Portuguese Bend, home of the Wayfarer’s Chapel, a truly fabulous all glass structure designed by Lloyd Wright the son of Frank , so magical among the trees, a Swedenborgian angel palace. I vowed to be married there some day, although it was not to be.
We saved the best til last. The Magnetic Hill. And this is a forgotten wonder, I think, because I have rarely come across another Californian from the 40’s, 50’s that seemed to know of it’s existence. I can’t imagine that it was our own special secret and without Mom’s input I have no way to verify how we knew and why. But it was our spooky, stranger-than-fiction, magical sojourn which we delighted in showing off to out of town guests. Here’s what I know. There was a hill in Palos Verdes above San Pedro which was called the Magnetic Hill because you could park your car at the bottom, turn off your engine, and feel it slowly, slowly move back up the hill. I am serious. At the expense of being labeled an airy-fairy kook, I have to say it was a phenomenon that we all experienced. You can ask Marianne!
I seem to remember that as the legend went, Indian tribes once lived on that hill in Palos Verdes and signaled to another tribe on Signal Hill (hence the name) in Long Beach. Later of course, oil was discovered on Signal Hill and made a lot of early settlers very rich (but not the Indians). In my youth the lovely view from that side was compromised by derricks. But that’s another story. But is it possible that some magnetic property could actually cause movement of large vehicles? I have no idea. There are stranger things in the world. Is there some scientific explanation? Please write to me if you know.
In the meantime, we’ll fondly remember the fun excursions of our past.
Ah to be a Californian. Those were the days.