Back from Southern California

Last week I went to Long Beach, California, for work. I didn’t have a camera with me, but I had my iPhone. Unfortunately, every great potential shot I saw I couldn’t photograph. I found it so frustrating. Either I was in the car and couldn’t get a clear view or I couldn’t get to the camera of the phone fast enough. On top of that, my husband kept complaining, saying I was spending too much time photographing and that it was distracting him from driving and thinking. (I thought to myself, if you’re that easily distractible, you have worse problems than a wife with an iPhone). But I didn’t want to overly annoy him since he was the one driving.

We drove all over Long Beach and Signal Hill. The beauty of Signal Hill is that they have the best city views. But could I get a photo? No.

I saw an oil refinery; it was big. And the largest USPS distribution center I had ever seen. Then a huge warehouse for Office Depot.

So I’m apologizing that I don’t have any of the good pix, but here are a few of what I did take. Southern Cali, last week:

Some of the buildings could be vacant–or not.

And there are oil derricks everywhere, as if it’s Oklahoma. Now the truth is that I don’t know if this equipment is the derrick or the pump, but isn’t the derrick what houses the pump?

A lot of oil was discovered at Signal Hill. But don’t take my word for it. Here is a photograph from 1923. Look at those oil derricks. I happen to know those tall scaffolding-looking towers are derricks. Click on the photo and slide to the side to see the whole view.

Signal_Hill_California_1923 (1)

We did make it to the antique store where I like to look at vintage photos of anonymous people.

I was surprised to see this antique photograph of a cast of a woman’s face. Someone wrote her name, the names of her children, and the name of the artist on the back.

What is her name? Can you read it? I suspect that she died and left no photographs, so the family had a cast made of her face and this photograph was taken to memorialize the woman. What is your theory?

My husband collects soda pop signs and memorabilia. This is a dispenser for the syrup of a drink called Lemon Crush.

In southern California, we also saw limes.

Lots of limes.  I even picked some.

Now I have to keep reminding hubby to make limeade. He’s the limeade maker in our house.

On the way home, Border Patrol had a large, makeshift border stop set up with dozens of agents.  A dog sniffed every single car. We weren’t sure if it was for drugs, bombs, or a kidnapping. I looked online and at their website, but I couldn’t find anything about the stop. My vote is for bomb materials. Since I value my freedom, I didn’t even pull out the iPhone at the border stop.





Filed under Blogging, California, Nonfiction, Photographs, Research and prep for writing, Vintage American culture, Writing

53 responses to “Back from Southern California

  1. I love taking photos and like you, my primary tool is my phone. Sometimes I get extraordinarily lucky but most of the time not. Recently we went to a family wedding and I brought my proper point-and-shoot Canon. Did I get ONE good picture? Nope. I love those old photos with the signature of the photographer or the studio name in fancy script. Those were the days when having your photograph taken was a big deal. And OMG? Seriously, fresh limes for the picking? Wow. Apples here and almost the end of the season.

    • Do you think you had trouble with the Canon because you were no longer used to using it? I have a nice little Sony, but it takes up space and weight in my purse so I no longer carry it with me. Aren’t those old photos great? I have a lot of them from my family, and yet I still like looking at them (and also vintage snapshots) at antique stores. This one surprised me by being of a cast, rather than a living person. I also am always looking for photographs of dead people–you know, where they are propped up to look alive. Post-mortem photos. Yup, lots and lots of limes! Apples sound good, too, and have a wonderful smell when you have a bushel you just picked or bought . . . .

  2. I looooove, California, when I visited there few times. Those limes are gorgeous 🙂

    • They are so gorgeous. I can’t wait for the limeade. Maybe today? I’ll have to bug hubby. California is beautiful. I am there a lot and used to live there. I am homesick for it, in fact. The only problem is that it really is just too crowded.

  3. Luanne, the photo is so compelling. (Don’t you want to find out her story…or maybe write one???) I know a very creative woman who ‘rescues’ old photos from second hand shops and makes them into covers for little notebooks; she hates to think of those shots, once precious, being dumped into the trash and lost.

    The weather looks amazing; hope it was a wonderful foray and that you enjoy your limeade!

    • Pam, I’ve been doing some research on her. I’m pretty sure her name was Mercy. Probably Ferris, but could be Ferries or Ferriss. I just downloaded the photo onto the website Dead Fred where you can put a photograph to see if somebody in the family claims it. LOVE the idea of rescuing the photos. Most of those old photos are in the antique stores because nobody in the family wanted them after the owner dies, not realizing or caring somebody sometime will want those photographs.
      He hasn’t made the limeade yet! I told him it’s tonight or never! (Or I suppose I’ll do it myself, but I’m trying to be like what’s her name on Everybody Loves Raymond when they argued over who would carry the luggage).

  4. oh wow an oil derrick right in the middle of the city, that’s not something I see every day! love history 🙂

  5. I was laughing as I read about you annoying your husband with your picture taking. 🙂 I can’t make out the name on the photograph, it looks like Mrs. Mirey Ferris….something. I’m relieved to hear security is tight at the border.

    • I am the type of person who pulls over and takes shots or checks out weird stuff when I am by myself. Not my husband who is always head forward, rushing everywhere. I just checked out the lady’s name every which way and I think it’s Mercy!!! Mercy Ferries or Ferriss or Ferris? Hah, I’m not so sure security is tight at the state border, but they were looking for something. I figure people must have posted about it on Twitter, thus warning the bad guys ;).

  6. You think they made a cast of her face when she was dead? Wow! If that’s true it turned out really good.

    • I can’t know for sure, but they used to do stuff like that a lot. A loved one would die and they wouldn’t have a photograph, so they would take a cast of the person or they would actually prop the person up in a chair and take a picture. I have one in my family of a couple and she is looking off to the side and he is looking at the camera and the lapel flower is upside down, a Victorian symbol for death. Of course, there are plenty of naysayers because it’s so hard to believe today that people did stuff like that. Being a cast, there is no way of knowing when Mercy (I’ve decided that is her name) died, although the photograph has to be between 1880 and 1915. So far I have found a Mercy Ferris in 1900, 60 years old, a widow, one son living at home, a New Yorker. Unfortunately there is no 1890 census as the records were destroyed in a fire. What is also unique, maybe is that the photo was in Washington DC. I’m not finding much with names like this for that area.

  7. Many strange and beautiful sights in So-Cal!

  8. That woman had 11 children….

  9. You think you know of a place because of what you have heard and then you visit and it’s like another reality.

  10. Luanne, I like your off beat photographs. The fact that they are not typical of California pictures makes them artsy and interesting. The limes look wonderful.

    The cast of the woman is mysterious. Maybe that sort of thing was in style at the time! California is so lovely but its reputation for unusual people makes it kind of surreal. ( My husband grew up in SF)

    So your photos really “get” California.

    • Thanks, Hollis. I wish the pix were better, but the weird stuff sure interests me. Wish I could have taken a pic of that postal distribution center. MAN! So big. Well, I could have sworn I reponded to your comment, but this happens to me a little too often. Either I have problem moving between electronic devices or I am delusional. Could be either one. Yes, I think the cast was taken after she passed away. That kind of stuff was definitely in style. Photos of dead people, too. heh

  11. I know just how it is when you see so many beautiful photographs begging to be taken and you can’t stop. It’s especially hard when dragging a trailer on a fairly narrow road with no shoulder to pull over on. Freeways are just as bad. So we have to try to describe these beautiful sights with words instead.

    • It is so hard! Your post must have inspired me to write about my frustration, Anneli! So many hummingbirds and lizards and rabbits go unrecorded because I don’t have my finger on the camera button!!!

  12. Interesting shots Luanne! Funny how your pics you don’t like still turn out better then mine. My cell remains very hit or miss. Thanks for sharing!

    • Haha, I don’t think so! Your shots are great!!!! Well, I realize you have a new camera, which I do not have . . . grumble grumble. Thanks, Andy!

  13. I love your photos! That is such a fun travel journal. It looks like the name read Mary Farris. I wonder if would turn up any clues.

    • The more I studied the name, the more I ended up deciding that the name is Mercy. I feel pretty confident at this point. We’ll see if I can get enough info to turn up on the search sites to find her definitively. I also posted the photo on Dead Fred and Cyndi’s List where you can post “anonymous” photos in case the relatives are looking for them.

  14. Oh I love this Luanne, anything to do with California, right? I remember seeing those ‘nodding donkeys’ as I call them, ha, all the way down to Ventura on the Pacific Coast Highway when we drove down to LA from Los Osos where we lived for 5 years before moving further inland. We used to drive down to Long Beach with the grandparents quite a few times and when I had my stuff shipped over the first time I had to go to sign papers to retrieve it. I was always fascinated to see limes and lemons growing in So Cal, being from England and not seeing anything like that growing freely around these parts obviously…! Love your pics and reading about your road trip. You find some intriguing things at antique stores. I would say that woman’s name is Mary? How touching that someone made that of her but also sad isn’t it that that might be all that is left. As you say, wouldn’t it be amazing to know more of her story?

    • Hah, Sherri, they do look like nodding donkeys!! What a cute name for them. It’s such a shock to people who don’t know Cali how industrial so much of it looks. And everything is larger than life. Just like the produce. I saw an old movie the other day (1929?) and they joked about a large baby, saying only in California! 😉
      I thought it was Mary at first, but after searching on Ancestry, and then going back and reexamining the writing I think she was Mercy Ferris (or Ferries or Ferriss). I posted the photo at Dead Fred and Cyndi’s List to see if there are any matches with someone looking for her. But I will keep searching for her, too.

      • Yes, I was shocked about that when I first visited CA. And as for Hollywood, well, that was definitely not what I expected haha 😀
        Ahah…that’s so interesting. What a great name, Mercy. Do keep us posted, I would love to know what you find out…

  15. Looks like you had a great, interesting trip. I love old photographs too. They can be wonderful story generators. And I’ve learned something new from this post: I’ve never been to Southern Cal and the derricks really surprised me. You’re right, it could pass for Oklahoma 😉

    • I was in Oklahoma quite a bit when my daughter was a student at OU, and it really does look like that in Long Beach and Signal Hill. Marie, I’m actually using old photos currently for a project–writing poems from old photographs and stories from my family. I also tried to write a poem about the old photos of dead children with their dolls, but that poem still needs a lot of work–so hard to write about that subject and get the tone just right.

      • What a great idea … writing poems from old photographs! What’s the story with photos of dead children with their dolls? I didn’t know there were photos like that. I imagine they would be hard to write about.

        • I started thinking after writing that to you that what I ought to do is to write a few as a little collection so that people can understand from an epigraph or something what they are about. Because, yes, people would lose a child and realize they didn’t yet have a photograph of the child or not a current one. So they would prop up the child and photograph or take a photograph of the child lying on the bed. They did it with adults, too, but it’s more poignant with children. More creepy with adults.

          • Thanks, Luanne. I know (I’ve seen) people taking pictures of the deceased at funeral parlors. Even my oldest sister has a picture of her standing by the open casket of her late husband. I find it creepy but I guess there’s some old tradition because it’s definitely not uncommon. But I can understand the desire to have a photo of a child and, perhaps, having a toy with the deceased child makes the photo less painful to view? It is very sad but truly understandable. Especially with children. I’m sure you know that stillborn babies are photographed now so the parents can have that one photographic evidence of their child. I’m thinking of a friend right now who had that experience. I saw the photograph of their daughter and it broke my heart. But they were very happy to have the photo.

  16. Yay, you visited my home town! Although I was born in the south I lived in Long Beach from the age of 3 until just a few years ago. Did you go to the beach or make it to Shoreline? It’s a great pier with quaint little shops and the best ice cream ever! I miss it so much. I used to catch the bus in Signal Hill and at that time it was full of Orthodox Jewish families, all in traditional garb and always friendly.

    I think the lady in the cast’s name is Mary Ferris. And she had a LOT of kids!

    • Oh, that is cool, Faith! We didn’t. We were driving through for work with a destination in OC–Maywood (work) to Long Beach to Newport Beach where my son lives (something is wrong with this picture: I live in the desert and he lives at the beach waaaa). What cool memories you have of the area!!! I will have to spend more time there next time. And there will be a next time because hubby likes the antique store there that has soda signs.
      She had a ton of kids. But the more I’ve gone over her name, every which way, especially after search for a Mary Ferris on Ancestry, I think her name is actually Mercy. Take a look: doesn’t that look like it could be Mercy Ferris?

      • You know, it could be Mercy! Did you find anything on Ancestry for Mercy?

        • I did! I don’t have time right now to do more research, but i’m going back to it. I found one, but not in DC, but i was thinking that it was a CAST so the woman herself could have lived anywhere on the east coast. The one I found was in her sixties at turn of century (if I remember right), so it will take some work to connect her with those children!

        • Oh, and I was thinking that just because the children’s names are on the photo doesn’t mean they all survived to adulthood either . . . .

  17. I’m so glad you didn’t pull out your iPhone and start taking snaps of the Border Patrol, Luanne – this could be a whole different post if you had 😉

    I think the lady’s name is Mercy (you don’t hear about people being called that anymore!) and I love the writing. It’s weird how all old cursive writing seems to be written exactly the same way, by the same hand 😀

    Mercy had seven children (and four others?). That’s a classic, they obviously couldn’t fit any more names in.

    • I agree now that her name had to be Mercy. I am going to find her in the old records. I am bound and determined!!
      Re the border Patrol. I actually was scared to use my iPhone. They looked really determined and it was a huge crowd of them. They knew what they wanted and it sure wasn’t human smuggling as the dogs sniffed the wheels of the vehicles.

  18. Happens to me all the time too – perfect photo and I can’t take it!

  19. Ellen Morris Prewitt

    The Lemon Crush is my favorite!

  20. I’ve often found that the iPhone takes great pics -sometimes even better than my regular camera. Glad you shared these pics!

    • I know what you mean, Rudri. Even my iPad takes some good pix. I love how you can really see what you’re taking with an iPad screen. Of course, I feel dorky doing it. I mean, my dad uses his iPad to photograph now because of his eyesight.

  21. Where does he keep his memorabilia? 🙂

    • Oh have you ever asked THE question! Now that the garage and his workout room are full, he’s putting them up in our walk-in closet! I can’t have sweaters and boots on the top shelf any more–he has signs up there!

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