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Ojai Orange | The Column of Lasting Insignificance | Books | Wait-A-Minute

November 29, 2008
John Wilcock - January 5, 2008

 

  The column of lasting insignificance
     


also posted:



2011
November 26 2011
November 19, 2011
November 12, 2011
November 5, 2011
October 29, 2011
October 22, 2011
October 15, 2011
October 8, 2011
October 1, 2011
September 24, 2011
September 17, 2011
September 10, 2011
September 4, 2011
August 27, 2011
August 20, 2011
August 13, 2011
August 6, 2011
July 30, 2011
July 23, 2011
July 16, 2011
July 9, 2011
July 2, 2011
June 25, 2011
June 18, 2011
June 11, 2011
June 4, 2011
May 28, 2011
May 21, 2011
May 14, 2011
May 7, 2011
April 30, 2011
April 23, 2011
April 16, 2011
April 9, 2011
April 2, 2011
March 26, 2011
March 19, 2011
March 12, 2011
March 5, 2011
February 26, 2011
February 19, 2011
February 12, 2011
February 5, 2011
February 5, 2011
January 29, 2011
January 22, 2011
January 15, 2011
January 6, 2011

2010
December 25, 2010
December 18, 2010
December 11, 2010
December 4, 2010
November 27, 2010
November 20, 2010
November 13, 2010
November 6, 2010
October 30, 2010
October 23, 2010
October 16, 2010
October 9, 2010
October 2, 2010
September 25, 2010
September 18, 2010
September 11, 2010
September 4, 2010
August 28, 2010
August 21, 2010
August 14, 2010
August 7, 2010
July 31, 2010
July 24, 2010
July 17, 2010
July 10, 2010
July 3, 2010
June 26, 2010
June 19, 2010
June 12, 2010
June 5, 2010
May 29, 2010
May 22, 2010
May 15, 2010
May 8, 2010
May 1, 2010
April 24, 2010
April 17, 2010
April 10, 2010
April 3, 2010
March 27, 2010
March 20, 2010
March 13, 2010
March 6, 2010
February 27, 2010
February 20, 2010
February 13, 2010
February 6, 2010
January 30, 2010
January 23, 2010
January 16, 2010
January 9, 2010
January 2, 2010

2009
December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 12, 2009
December 5, 2009
November 28, 2009
November 21, 2009
November 14, 2009
November 7, 2009
October 31, 2009
October 24, 2009
October 17, 2009
October 10, 2009
October 3, 2009
September 26, 2009
September 19, 2009
September 12, 2009
September 5, 2009
August 29, 2009
August 22, 2009
August 15, 2009
August 8, 2009
August 1, 2009
July 25, 2009
July 18, 2009
July 11, 2009
July 4, 2009
June 27, 2009
June 20, 2009
June 13, 2009
June 6, 2009
May 30, 2009
May 23, 2009
May 16, 2009
May 9, 2009
May 2, 2009
April 25, 2009
April 18, 2009
April 11, 2009
April 4, 2009
March 28, 2009
March 21, 2009
March 14, 2009
March 7, 2009
February 28, 2009
February 21, 2009
February 14, 2009
February 7, 2009
January 31, 2009
January 24, 2009
January 17, 2009
January 3, 2009

2008
December 27, 2008
December 20, 2008
December 13, 2008
December 6, 2008
November 29, 2008
November 22, 2008
November 15, 2008
November 8, 2008
November 5, 2008
November 1, 2008
October 25, 2008
October 18, 2008
October 11, 2008
October 4, 2008
September 27, 2008
September 20, 2008
September 13, 2008
September 6, 2008
August 30, 2008
August 23, 2008
August 16, 2008
August 9, 2008
August 2, 2008
July 26, 2008
July 19, 2008
July 12, 2008
July 5, 2008
June 28, 2008
June 21, 2008
June 14, 2008
June 7, 2008
May 31, 2008
May 24, 2008
May 17, 2008
May 10, 2008
May 3, 2008
April 26, 2008
April 19, 2008
April 12, 2008
April 5, 2008
March 29, 2008
March 22, 2008
March 15, 2008
March 8, 2008
March 1, 2008
February 23, 2008
February 16, 2008
February 9, 2008
February 2, 2008
January 26, 2008
January 19, 2008
January 12, 2008
January 5, 2008

2007
December 29, 2007
December 22, 2007
December 15, 2007
December 8, 2007
December 1, 2007
November 24, 2007
November 17, 2007
November 10, 2007
November 3, 2007
October 27, 2007
October 20, 2007
October 13, 2007
October 6, 2007
September 29, 2007
September 22, 2007
September 15, 2007
September 8, 2007
September 1, 2007
August 25, 2007
August 18, 2007
August 11, 2007
August 4, 2007
July 28, 2007
July 21, 2007
July 14, 2007
July 7, 2007
June 30, 2007
June 23, 2007
June 16, 2007
June 9, 2007
June 2, 2007
May 19, 2007
May 12, 2007
May 5, 2007
April 28, 2007
April 21, 2007
April 14, 2007
April 7, 2007
March 31, 2007
March 24, 2007
March 17, 2007
March 10, 2007
March 3, 2007
February 24, 2007
February 17, 2007
February 10, 2007
February 3, 2007
January 20, 2007
January 13, 2007
January 6, 2007

2006
December 30, 2006
December 23, 2006
December 16, 2006
December 9, 2006
December 2, 2006
November 25, 2006
November 18, 2006
November 11, 2006
November 4, 2006
October 28, 2006
October 21, 2006
October 14, 2006
October 7, 2006
September 30, 2006
September 23, 2006
September 16, 2006
September 9, 2006
September 2, 2006
August 26, 2006
August 19, 2006
August 12, 2006
August 5, 2006
July 29, 2006
July 22, 2006
July 15, 2006

 

 



December 6, 2008


A century ago, the best-selling book
Ramona brought hundreds of thousands of visitors to Southern California seeking to bring characters and locations to life. The novel, which told the story of a part-Scottish and part-Native American orphan girl who suffered hardship and racial discrimination before—barely out of her teens---her marriage came to a tragic end. The tale was originally serialized in a weekly Christian paper and as a book it was reprinted over and over again, was filmed five different times and, by romanticizing Mexican colonial life, gave the region a unique cultural identity. It is celebrated annually with the Ramona Pageant at Hemet.

Pouring in to explore California on the new railroads which opened up the West just before the 20th century, eager visitors were already equipped with a ready-made guide book. In a manner often duplicated today, they took a best-selling work of fiction as literal truth, and sought to track down the people and places therein that had captured their imagination.

“Little, plump, fair-skinned, blue-eyed Helen Hunt Jackson” wrote Carey McWilliams,” was almost solely responsible for the evocation of the Mission past, and it was she who catapulted the lowly Digger Indian of Southern California into the empyrean”.

 
The Village Square
Helen Hunt Jackson

Mrs. Jackson (1830-85), wife of a wealthy banker and railroad executive, had originally arrived in California on assignment from Century magazine to write about the missions with which she was “deliciously enamored” said McWilliams. “(They were) then in a state of general disrepair and neglect”, he wrote in Southern California: Island on the Land, “infested with countless swallows and pigeons, overrun by sheep and goats and occasionally inhabited by stray dogs and wandering Indians”.

In 1881, Harpers published Mrs. Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor which was popular but, so far as she was concerned did not make people sufficiently aware of the plight of the Indians even though she had sent a copy at her own expense to every member of Congress. On the cover was a quote from Benjamin Franklin: "Look upon your hands! They are stained with the blood of your relations”.

It was two years later, on hearing about the murder of a poor peasant named Juan Diego, a few miles from today’s Ramona Bowl in the Cahuilla Mountains outside Hemet that she found the basis for her novel, Ramona.

“What I wanted to do”, she said, “was to draw a picture so winning and alluring…that the reader would become thoroughly interested in the characters before he dreamed what was before him—and would have swallowed a big dose of the Indian Question without knowing it”. She called Ramona’s husband, Alessandro.

Historian Phil Brigandi says that Jackson absorbed into her tale real incidents at Temecula, San Pasqual and the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, and she wrote about San Diego, San Luis Rey, San Bernardino and San Gabriel. “So her wide-ranging novel gave many communities a chance to stake their claim to be part of the Ramona myth”.

In fact, so many places tried to cash in on the growing tourist interest that George Wharton James,  for his 1907 book, Through Ramona Country, retraced Mrs. Jackson’s steps. The legend, he said, was like a mosaic of fact rearranged to make a whole new picture.

But Hemet (pop. 66,000) has probably the strongest justification for its claim to the Ramona legend. Today, as much larger towns,  both Hemet and neighboring San Jacinto house many commuters heading daily to jobs in San Diego or Orange County.

 
The Village Square
Ramona Bowl

The Ramona Pageant is staged every spring in the hills south of town. “With an artist’s vision and a writer’s passion for justice” the brochure declares, “ a rocky hillside in a remote valley gave birth to Ramona in 1923”.

It was adapted by playwright Garnet Holme (1873-1929) from the dramatization that had been performed at the Mason Opera house in Los Angeles in February 1905. British-born Garnet, a former touring Shakespeare actor turned director, produced shows throughout California after immigrating in 1903. He staged them at missions and at Yosemite, thereby earning the title of Pageant Master of the National Parks. One of his productions, at Coronado, ingeniously took advantage of a solar eclipse. His original plan was to stage Ramona on the athletic fields of the local high school.

Hemet Chamber of Commerce was persuaded to buy 160 acres of land in and around a nearby canyon and land was cleared for the amphitheatre. For the first few years, there was no road, playgoers hiking up a rough trail, carrying blankets and cushions to sit on the rocky ground. Seating was added year by year, finally reaching the current capacity of 5,000. It wasn’t until the installation of a sound system in 1965 that performers could supplement the natural acoustics with microphones.

More than a million visitors have so far seen what one observer calls “America’s passion play” which took place this year on three weekends in April and May, tickets $30 (locals: $16) and a barbeque lunch offered for an extra $13.50. Earlier  shows in the Ramona Bowl this season have been My Fair Lady and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol will be staged next week.

 
The Village Square
The Old Santa Fe Station in Hemet

Trains stopped running to Hemet in 1968 and the town’s history museum, in the old 1898 Santa Fe depot of the Aitchison & Topeka railroad, is now the town’s history museum, restored with the help of some of Thomas Kinkade’s huge art winnings. Exhibits explain the town’s "story of water" which began with the huge dam built by Lake Hemet Water Company in 1895.

Kinkade was at the Depot last weekend, signing $295 prints of his Florida Avenue at Dusk, Hemet 1915 which he painted in 1986 after visiting his father-in-law, Al Willey.

Paul Bailey, who calls himself a “museum geek” runs the Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology which has a theater that “shakes, rattles and rolls as the giants of the Ice Age come to life” as Jenna Hunt wrote colorfully in the Valley Chronicle. The museum displays the fossils found when Diamond Valley Lake was constructed as Southern California’s biggest reservoir. (It allows un-powered boats and fishing, but no swimming “or body contact”)

For twenty bucks a year, the local Valley Chronicle  offers free classifieds all year and restaurant discounts. The paper’s editorial last week clucked about how the “three old boys”… who had “together been on the council for 30 years” had reappointed some non-resident to the Planning Commission. Budget cuts, as everywhere, were being discussed and one letter writer suggested that rather than having to lose valuable firemen and police why doesn’t “the new City Council vote to forego some of those perks that previous councils have voted for themselves…”

   

 

Hemet’s new fire chief Matt Shobert from Arizona introduced the concept of mothers being able to drop of their ‘unwanted’ babies at the fire station from which they’ll be transferred to a care agency with a grace period allowed for mothers to have second thoughts.

 

City manager Len Wood told the Council last month that Hemet would need an extra $6 million next year “if things don’t get worse—and they probably will”. Almost half of the city’s sales tax revenue had previously come from now-declining automobile sales. He was asking all departments to cut 20% from their budgets. But development was continuing, “if not at the rate of the past. The city of Hemet will ultimately recover and even thrive”.

Long-term continued growth…affordable housing… healthy job creation has been predicted for the region by the Public Policy Report for California for 2015, calling the area “economically vibrant”. Population was expected to continue to expand from 232,000 to 361,000. “Growth in the young adult population is expected to be particularly strong… (residents in their) twenties and thirties”.

   { Part Two of The Quest for Ramona will appear next week }

 

11/29/08

 

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