Saturday, July 3, 2010

Catalina in Postcards

By and large, I've strayed away from collecting postcards, but recently, I've decided to try and pick up a few, in a few select areas. Old California, especially southern California, Pittsburgh, and old gas stations, motels, and stores. Since I have a small group of Catalina Island photos that I'll be posting next, these four images of Catalina Island, 26 miles across the sea from Long Beach, seemed like a good start. These are linen postcards, made from a high rag paper with a textured surface of parallel intersecting lines. Introduced in the early 1930's, they were the most popular type of postcard sold in the United States until the mid forties. Photo chrome postcards, which would come to dominate the market, were introduced in 1939. Even though the bright inks that were used in production, and the paper surface itself gave linen cards a painterly feel, the original images were primarily black & white photographs that had been hand colored. 99% of Santa Catalina Island was purchased, in 1919, by Chicago millionaire, William Wrigley, Jr. During his ownership, and the ownership of his sons, the Wrigley family poured millions into Catalina, building homes, resorts, hotels, the Casino, bird park, roads, airports, and fresh water reservoirs. The card of the two boats were part of the fleet that Wrigley owned to transport tourists to the island. The caption, "Happy vacationists board fast speed boats that skim the placid waters of Santa Catalina. As they whiz by, with their cheers of happiness and laughter. with greetings to the new arrivals is a thrill and delight to the passengers aboard the approaching steamer." It was mailed on Aug. 6, 1946 to "R.E. Brown, 816 Jackson St., Sioux City, Iowa" The message, "Hi Pop. I rode on both boats in Picture. We got here on the big one & took a 10 min. ride on the speed boat. Lot of love xxoo Charles. Having fun here." There is no message on either the Wrigley residence card or the bird park image. The caption of the Wrigley home card, "This palatial home was built by the late W. Wrigley Jr. and occupies a site on Mt. Ada, with a commanding view of Avalon Bay and coast-line of the island." No caption on the bird park card. Construction began on the Wrigley residence in 1920 and was completed in 1921. Mt. Ada was named for his wife. After Ada's death in 1958, it became a tourist attraction. In the 1970's it was given to USC, and used as a conference center. Since 1985 it's been an hotel. The bird park was built on 8 acres in Avalon Canyon by William Wrigley Jr. and opened in 1929. It had 500 cages and housed over 8,000 species of birds and was one of the largest aviaries in the world. It closed in 1966. The night scene is captioned, "Avalon Bay, a thrilling scene of bustling activity by day-"Fairyland by night." Like a jewel in an exquisite setting, the view of Avalon, at night from the hills above, is a never to be forgotten sight." Mailed Sept. 19, 1953, to "Mr. & Mrs G. We. Johnson, Laurene, Iowa." The message, "Dear Folks, We are up near the high point of this Island now and having a wonderful time. Reggie and Enid are with us. Now we are just about back to the bay and the boat will leave about 3:30. Minnie and Lester were over for dinner last night, Fri. We came up thru San Bernardino." Written in a different hand, "This has been the most enjoyable weekend we've had in ??? Love L.B. and Jean" Catalina was used for training in World War 2 and was closed to tourism. Coupled with the explosion in car ownership and cheap airfares to places like Hawaii and Baja, Catalina has never recovered as one of the major vacation spots in southern California. Pre-war, big bands played in the Casino, the circular building seen to the left of the ships and on the right of the night scene, swimming beaches were crowded, restaurants and hotels were full. Catalina is still a popular destination, but no where near what it was.

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