Creating advocates for history through the stories of greater Los Angeles.
by Paul R. Spitzzeri
It was over 100 degrees when our tenth edition of the “Ticket to the Twenties” festival began in the mid-afternoon today, and the hot weather probably kept some folks from attending. Still, it was an excellent event and, while I was mainly ensconced in the Tepee, sharing the history of the building and of the Temple family, it seemed from the people I talked to that they had a great time.
The festival has a lot to offer: great live music from the period, showings of silent films with live keyboard accompaniment, magic shows, crafts, tours of the historic houses and a lot more. I was fortunate to be able to participate in two new elements to the program.
The first, as noted above, was being stationed in the Tepee, which has hardly been seen by the public for the last couple of years. Aside from our “Behind the Scenes” tours, the building has not been available for regular viewing since we changed our guided tours in summer 2015.
Not only that, but, for the ten years we’ve held “Ticket to the Twenties,” the structure has been closed. So, there were many of couple of hundred visitors who stopped by who said they’d come to events and wondered what the Tepee was like inside and today they had a chance to find out.
What they found was an exhibit of artifacts related to the building, including its inspiration: the “Pima” lodging at Soboba Hot Springs, a resort visited frequently by Walter P. Temple. Then, there were photos showing its construction and completion, including the thatched roof supported by poles that were influenced by totem poles from Alaskan Eskimos (the Temple family visited Alaska eight years before the Tepee was built.)
There were also photographs of those specimens of regional “programmatic architecture” (buildings built in the shape of things) that were highlighted in yesterday’s post here, because the Tepee fit into the fad that launched many of these structures.
Also highlighted in the display were artifacts relating to the oil and real estate business projects carried out by Temple and his partners, including attorney George H. Woodruff and busines manager Milton Kauffman. Objects relating to the oil industry, the founding of Temple City and others were featured.
One particularly interesting item was a March 1928 letter from Woodruff to Kauffman detailing the financial distress the Temple Estate Company was in, a predicament that led to the Temples vacating the Homestead in 1930 so it could be rented to the Raenford (later, Golden State) Military Academy. However, two years later, a bank foreclosure brought the loss of the ranch.
After a few years of occupancy by the school, followed by five years of caretaking under the bank’s ownership, the Homestead was sold to the Brown family in 1940 and became El Encanto Sanitarium. The facility operated for nearly a quarter century and then the property was sold, over a dozen years, to the City of Industry.
The late 1970s restoration, of which there were a few Polaroids of work on the Tepee in the exhibit, ended with the May 1981 opening of the museum. An interpretive board next to the display talked about the phenomenon of Walter Temple’s financial failure following that of his father and grandfather in the 1870s, over fifty years before. Many visitors today commented on the up and down quality of the family history, which is reflected in many family histories.
My sole excursion outside the confines of this amazing building was to emcee another new “Ticket to the Twenties” offering, a trivia contest. Five teams of from two to six persons went head-to-head, answering eight questions relating to the 1920s.
These included identifying the 19th amendment to the constitution; naming the four presidents on Mount Rushmore; giving the title the famed F. Scott Fitzgerald novel that became a recent film; providing the name of the baseball player sold in 1920 by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees.
Two groups answered seven of the eight questions correctly, and others had five and six nailed down, but only one group got all of them right and the quartet claimed first place and a prize of T-shirts created for the event and utilizing a design from a museum artifact.
Then, it was back to the Tepee as the sun started to set and the weather got more comfortable. The greatest number of people to visit the building tended to be when the band, the Nightblooming Jazzmen (get it?), were on break and those enjoying the music, led by the remarkable Chet Jaeger, who will soon be 93 years young, headed over to take a peek at the Tepee.
Seven o’clock came quickly and it was time to close down, clean up, and get ready to do it all over again tomorrow. It’s supposed to be a good ten degrees cooler and, being a Sunday, our visitation usually is greater on that day than Saturday.
So, for those of you heading out to see us, whether those coming just tomorrow and those die-hards who are returning because today just wasn’t enough, we hope you have a great time and please drop by the Tepee to see and learn about this unique piece of architecture.