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- California and the Californians - 3/3 -


in making a living, they swell the army of discontent, and confound all attempts to solve industrial problems. In this rough estimate I do not count San Francisco's own poor, of which there are some but not many, but only those who have drifted in from the outside. I would include, however, not only those who are economically impotent, but also those who follow the weak for predatory ends. In this last category I place a large number of saloon-keepers, and keepers of establishments far worse, toward which the saloon is only the first step downward; a class of so-called lawyers, politicians and agents of bribery and blackmail; a long line of soothsayers, clairvoyants, lottery agents and joint keepers, besides gamblers, sweaters, promoters of "medical institutes," magnetic, psychical and magic "healers" and other types of unhanged, but more or less pendable, scoundrels that feed upon the life-blood of the weak and foolish. The other cities of California have had a similar experience. Each has its reputation for hospitality, and each has a considerable population which has come in from other regions because incapable of making its own way. It is not the poor and helpless alone who are the victims of imposition. There are fools in all walks of life. Many a well-dressed man or woman can be found in the rooms of the clairvoyant or the Chinese "doctor." In matters of health, especially, men grasp at the most unpromising straws. In certain cities of California there is scarcely a business block that did not contain at least one human leech under the trade name of "healer," metaphysical, electrical, astral, divine or what not. And these will thrive so long as men seek health or fortune with closed eyes and open hands.

In no way has the unearned increment been more mischievous than in the booming of towns. With the growth of towns comes increase in the value of the holdings of those who hold and wait. If the city grows rapidly enough, these gains may be inordinately great. The marvelous beauty of Southern California and the charm of its climate have impressed thousands of people. Two or three times this impression has been epidemic. At one time almost every bluff along the coast, from Los Angeles to San Diego and beyond, was staked out in town lots. The wonderful climate was everywhere, and everywhere men had it for sale, not only along the coast, but throughout the orange-bearing region of the interior. Every resident bought lots, all the lots he could hold. The tourist took his hand in speculation. Corner lots in San Diego, Del Mar, Azusa, Redlands, Riverside, Pasadena, anywhere brought fabulous prices. A village was laid out in the uninhabited bed of a mountain torrent, and men stood in the streets in Los Angeles, ranged in line, all night long, to wait their turn in buying lots. Land, worthless and inaccessible, barren cliffs' river-wash, sand hills, cactus deserts' sinks of alkali, everything met with ready sale. The belief that Southern California would be one great city was universal. The desire to buy became a mania. "Millionaires of a day," even the shrewdest lost their heads, and the boom ended, as such booms always end, in utter collapse.

Mr. T. S. Van Dyke, of San Diego, has written of this episode: "The money market tightened almost on the instant. From every quarter of the land the drain of money outward had been enormous, and had been balanced only by the immense amount constantly coming in. Almost from the day this inflow ceased money seemed scarce everywhere, for the outgo still continued. Not only were vast sums going out every day for water-pipe, railroad iron, cement, lumber, and other material for the great improvements going on in every direction, most of which material had already been ordered, but thousands more were still going out for diamonds and a host of other things already bought - things that only increase the general indebtedness of community by making those who cannot afford them imitate those who can. And tens of thousands more were going out for butter, eggs, pork, and even potatoes and other vegetables, which the luxurious boomers thought it beneath the dignity of millionaires to raise."

But the normal growth of Los Angeles and her sister towns has gone on, in spite of these spasms of fever and their consequent chills. Their real advantages could not be obscured by the bursting of financial bubbles. By reason of situation and climate they have continued to attract men of wealth and enterprise, as well as those in search of homes and health.

The search for the unearned increment in bodily health brings many to California who might better have remained at home. The invalid finds health in California only if he is strong enough to grasp it. To one who can spend his life out of doors it is indeed true that "our pines are trees of healing," but to one confined to the house, there is little gain in the new conditions. To those accustomed to the close heat of Eastern rooms the California house in the winter seems depressingly chilly.

I know of few things more pitiful than the annual migration of hopeless consumptives which formerly took place to Los Angeles, Pasadena, and San Diego. The Pullman cars in the winter used to be full of sick people, banished from the East by physicians who do not know what else to do with their incurable patients. They went to the large hotels of Los Angeles or Pasadena, to pay a rate they cannot afford. They shivered in half-warmed rooms; took cold after cold; their symptoms grew alarming; their money wasted away; and finally, in utter despair, they were hurried back homeward, perhaps to die on board the train. Or it may be that they choose cheap lodging-houses, at prices more nearly within their reach. Here, again, they suffer for want of home food, home comforts, and home warmth, and the end is just the same. People hopelessly ill should remain with their friends; even California has no health to give to those who cannot earn it, in part at least, by their own exertions.

It is true that the "one-lunged people" form a considerable part of the population of Southern California. It is also true that no part of our Union has a more enlightened or more enterprising population, and that many of these men and women are now as robust and vigorous as one could desire. But this happy change is possible only to those in the first stages of the disease. Out-of-door life and physical activity enable the system to suppress the germs of disease, but climate without activity does not cure. So far as climate is concerned, many parts of the arid regions in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, as well as portions of Old Mexico (Cuernavaca or Morelia, for example) are more favorable than California, because they are protected from the chill of the sea. Another class of health-seekers receives less sympathy in California, and perhaps deserves less. Jaundiced hypochondriacs and neurotic wrecks shiver in California winter boarding-houses, torment themselves with ennui at the country ranches, poison themselves with "nerve foods," and perhaps finally survive to write the sad and squalid "truth about California." Doubtless it is all inexpressibly tedious to them; subjective woe is always hard to bear - but it is not California.

There are others, too, who are disaffected, but I need not stop to discuss them or their points of view. It is true, in general, that few to whom anything else is anywhere possible find disappointment in California.

With all this, the social life is, in its essentials, that of the rest of the United States, for the same blood flows in the veins of those whose influence dominates it. Under all its deviations and variations lies the old Puritan conscience, which is still the backbone of the civilization of the republic. Life in California is a little fresher, a little freer, a good deal richer, in its physical aspects, and for these reasons, more intensely and characteristically American. With perhaps ninety per cent of identity there is ten per cent of divergence, and this ten per cent I have emphasized even to exaggeration. We know our friends by their slight differences in feature or expression, not by their common humanity. Much of this divergence is already fading away. Scenery and climate remain, but there is less elbow-room, and the unearned increment is disappearing. That which is solid will endure; the rest will vanish. The forces that ally us to the East are growing stronger every year with the immigration of men with new ideas. The vigorous growth of the two universities in California insures the elevation as well as the retention of these ideas. Through their influence California will contribute a generous share to the social development of the East, and be a giver as well as a receiver.

Today the pressure of higher education is greater to the square mile, if we pay use such an expression, than anywhere else in our country. In no other state is the path from the farmhouse to the college so well trodden as here. It requires no prophet to forecast the educational pre-eminence of California, for the basis of intellectual development is already assured. But however close the alliance with Eastern culture, to the last, certain traits will persist. California is the most cosmopolitan of all the states of the Union, and such she will remain. Whatever the fates may bring, her people will be tolerant, hopeful, and adequate, sure of themselves, masters of the present, fearless of the future.

*END THE SMALL PRINT! FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN EBOOKS*Ver.02/11/02*END*


California and the Californians - 3/3

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