February 26, 2013 § 19 Comments
There’s a Jeep Grand Cherokee ad currently running on TV in California that features a jaunty song sung in warbling 1920s style. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGYR1C6wPo0
Over picturesque shots of the Jeep with the Golden Gate Bridge, mountains, desert, poppies, redwoods, beaches and the Hollywood Sign, we hear:
I love you, California,you’re the greatest state of all
I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall
I love your fertile valleys; your dear mountains I adore
I love your grand old ocean and I love her rugged shore
I looked up the lyrics and was surprised to learn that “I Love You California” is our state’s official song. It also features a chorus and three more (in my opinion, far superior) verses that can be seen here: http://www.50states.com/songs/calif.htm#.UTGjrqWSTHg
Having spent most of my life in California, I find it more than a little odd that I had never heard “I Love You, California” played even once before Jeep decided to use it in an ad.
The lyrics were written by F. B. Silverwood (1863-1924), a Los Angeles clothier, and set to music by A. F. Frankenstein, the conductor of the Orpheum Theater Orchestra. The song was copyrighted in 1913 and was debuted soon afterwards by the opera star Mary Garden. “I Love You, California” was an instant success, and in 1915 became the official song of both the San Francisco and San Diego Expositions. It was also played aboard the S.S. Ancon, the first ship to sail through the Panama Canal.
For me, the song captures what I think of as the era of California Exceptionalism–the period between 1900 and 1940 when California had a burgeoning population and geographical remoteness from the East Coast and its culture. Californians–whether established or new–reveled in their state’s differentness: its non-European culture, its climate, its exotic crops, its dramatically varied topography. That California was a popular name for both boys and girls before WWII says a lot about state pride, as do the sentiments expressed in “I Love You, California.”
Apparently, the song is still played at the funerals of former governors, most recently Ronald Reagan’s. But wouldn’t it be nice if it were played at sporting events, and if children learned to sing it in school? Perhaps “I Love You, California” could pave the way for a new era of boosterism, one distinguished by a new-found interest in planting backyard citrus, and in naming babies for the greatest state of all.
February 20, 2013 § 5 Comments
In early 20th century Los Angeles, it was stylish to send postcards of local houses–whether your own, a friend’s or a movie star’s–to the folks back home. When I met the local historian Tommy Dangcil last month, I was struck by the number of such cards in his collection. Because he had published a collection of postcards that included Hollywood homes (Hollywood 1900-1950 in Vintage Postcards, Arcadia) I knew about the phenomenon, particularly in regards to the mansions of local grandees. But I was more impressed by postcards of houses that were utterly ordinary–except, of course, for their exotic location.
The messages on such cards invariably express delight about life in Southern California–the houses, flowers and climate. The sense of departure from old norms is still palpable today, as in the card pictured above. Though the house is a tiny, unlandscaped cabin, it is brand new and–as the writer proudly attests–“Just three rooms but all we need for we are ‘Seldom inn’ unless it rains.”
Next time: “I Love You, California”: the song, the era and the ad.
February 14, 2013 § 2 Comments
Because all of Hollywoodland was once a ranch, there have been horses at the end of Beachwood Drive for as long as anyone can remember. In recent decades, horses have lived at Sunset Ranch, which offers boarding, lessons and trail rides to the public. But when Hollywoodland began in 1923, there was a riding club where homeowners could board their horses and learn to ride English-style, if they didn’t already know how. The allure of riding in the Hollywood Hills was a selling point for house lots, and figured prominently in radio ads for Hollywoodland:
Listen–the horses are stamping in their stalls-the sea breeze kisses the hilltops-while the birds weave melodies of happiness on the open trail. Your day in Hollywoodland-in-California begins with a song, and for a brief hour you canter on the wings of the morning–a shower-breakfast-and away for a day at the office, to return at eventide to the calmness of the hills, and there below you, watch a myriad of millions of lights twinkling in the distance.
Although I had seen the pamphlet in a larger format, I wasn’t aware it was produced in this compact size. I wasn’t planning to buy it, but in the end I did, impressed by its excellent condition and historical significance. Anyone with an interest in California history should check out John Howell’s website, which offers a variety of books and images: johnhowellforbooks.com