BY-WAYS - 3/2/44 - Blaine & Catherine Gilkerson, Ted, Aunt Daisy & Daughter Clyde

Hello, there !

Greetings from California, the land of sunshine and tropical storms. I'm going to send this letter by chartered plane, and ask the pilot to tie it onto a wing, so it - the letter - will dry out. We have had - not a mere rain - but an inundation. I really expected to see Cousin Knox start to build an ark. California does everything in a big way. It has the largest vineyard in the country, the largest olive grove in the world; certainly the largest trees in the world; its oil wells are lakes of oil; its Mt. Whitney is the highest in the U.S. - oh, I might go on and on (not mentioning earthquakes - as the Chamber of Commerce said, "Let sleeping dogs lie.") But when it rains out here, it's no little dribble. It just rains on and on until the people go out on the mountain tops, and pray for it to stop. Well - just in case I might be sued for libel - I'd better stick to facts, and say it rained four nights and three days - almost continuously, pouring out of its sky buckets nine inches of rainfall - which is just half of the whole season's rainfall. Now, that precipitation was snow in the mountainous regions. Eighty-six inches of snow in Donner Pass (near Donner Lake - east of Sacramento). Sixty-eight persons were known to be marooned in the snow in the high spots around Los Angeles. Even the little Tujunga Foothills - right at Knox's front door - were covered with a thin layer of snow. Helen called me outdoors in great excitement. She had never seen such a snowfall before. I just looked and snorted. I came out here to get away from snow. As Will Rogers would say, I bin travelin' aroun' in these here parts. I no sooner got back from Long Beach (via the kindness of one of Knox's patients) than I was hustled off to Temple City and points east. Cousin Blaine and his wife live there. Her name is Katherine. Why her friends should mutilate such a beautiful name, and whack it down to "Kate". I don't know. But "Katherine" it is - and Katherine she shall be - on my tongue and pen. And a very kind, hospitable woman she is. A marvelous cook. A low long glass dish, filled with rich pink camelias - from her own garden - graced the dinner table.

Blaine has a big vegetable garden, and a dozen of the biggest, most contented hens. Their house - open on five sides - is built on sticks. Those chickens - Rhode Island Red, and two barred Rock - walk on chicken wire all day, and roost on a rod, or pole, at night. Blaine and his stepson, Ted, have a Grain and Feed Store. So those chickens get the ambrosia of chicken feed, kale and all sorts of greens from the garden. You should hear them "talk," and cackle and sing. Even during the "deluge" they were "Singin' in the Rain." Incidentally, each hen lays at least one large brown egg a day. Some double-yolkers - just in gratitude for such good care. Sunday afternoon Blaine and Katherine and I drove - in the rain - over to Ontario, where Katherine's son, Lawrence, and his wife live. And then on to Colton, where my dear Aunt Daisy - now 86 - lives with her only daughter. (By the way, between Ontario and Colton we passed the largest vineyard in the U.S.) That day we saw thousands of oranges on the ground, knocked off by the storm. My visit with sweet, fragile Aunt Daisy, was vitally important to me - but it isn't to you - so we'll hurry on to Riverside, and the Famous Mission Inn there. Cousin Clyde, Aunt Daisy's daughter - yes, daughter - went with me on the bus, as it is only a few miles from Colton. Will Rogers once said, in his syndicated column, "If you are ever in any part of California, don't miss the famous Mission Inn at Riverside, the most unique hotel in America." It grew out of a housewife's necessity to augment the family outcome, and her young son's genius for converting a simple boarding house into the world's most remarkable hotel. Frank Miller, youthful manager of "Glenwood Cottage" in 1876, was manager of the hotel that grew out of it - Mission Inn - until his death in 1935. Mr. Miller was always interested in the old Spanish Franciscan Missions, and ways of preserving their historic interest. In 1902-03 he replaced the frame buildings of the old "Glenwood Tavern" with a substantial resort hotel of brick and concrete, based on the architecture of the Missions. He and his charming, cultured wife and daughter traveled all over Europe in 1906, collecting ideas, and bells, and crosses. The story of St. Francis of Assissi had deeply impressed Mr. Miller. In 1910 he built the Cloister hall, with its beamed ceilings, organs, stained glass windows, cell-like guest rooms, buttresses and towers. These guest rooms have great, heavy doors, of mission wood. One section opens inward, like a casement window, leaving a fancy iron grill, with metal screen, to give privacy, yet yield more air. The whole place - on the gloomy, rainy day that we wandered through its halls - gave me an eerie feeling. So many ghosts of the past. And yet in the foyer, where a glowing and sparkling wood fire burned in the huge hearth, many handsome aviators, virile and purposeful, dispelled all such ghosts. There was the William Taft chair, of mammoth proportions. Clyde and I traveled for an hour and a half - through long, dark corridors, marvelous art galleries, curio shops, the lovely St. Francis Chapel, where so many young couples pledge their troth, in the presence of many guests; or the tiny St. Cecelia chapel, where only important witnesses are present. It would take a week to examine the quaint architecture, the costly relics from Spain and other parts of the world. There is a Chinese room, a Spanish Art Gallery, and a dozen other equally interesting rooms.

Now I must close. I am grateful to Mrs. Bowman and all others who take such a kind interest. I expect to have some interesting personal notes next week.

With very best wishes,
Florence B. Taylor

Next - 3/30/44 - Austin TX. Judith Moffatt's Wedding

BY-WAYS Table of Contents