by Paul R. Spitzzeri
During almost all of the period in which the Temple family occupied the Homestead as their permanent full-time residence after the death of Laura Gonzalez Temple in late 1922, the four surviving of the five children were away most of the year attending various boarding schools. There was a definite trade-off with respect to the quality of their educations juxtaposed with the loss of regular interactions with each other and their father.
When the family did reunite, largely during summer breaks, the children enjoyed their stays at the ranch as well as visits with friends, trips around the region, and other activities. A rare window into what transpired for them, or at least for eldest child Thomas, are a set of journal entries he made between 25 July and 9 August 1924 and which are tonight’s featured artifacts from the Homestead’s collection.
At the time, Thomas was nineteen years old and attending Santa Clara University, where he had gone to the preparatory high school. After a semester at the California Institute of Technology, after which his mother died, he made the abrupt decision to withdraw from Cal Tech and return to Santa Clara, where, in letters of the time, he noted the familiarity and safety of his alma mater.
He had just completed his first year of studies when he penned these entries and it was also a time of change at the Homestead and, specifically, the building of La Casa Nueva. After Laura Temple’s death and a lull in the work at the house, Roy Seldon Price, a Beverly Hills architect known for his striking design of the Spanish Colonial Revival home of film studio owner Thomas Ince, was hired to complete La Casa Nueva. He made some remarkable changes which, while costly and time-consuming, refashioned the house dramatically (though the Temples joked that Price’s invoices matched his surname.)
Thomas was an avid photographer and spent much of his summers documenting the work being done with La Casa Nueva, as well as taking images of the Homestead generally. Without these photos, we’d be lacking so much in our knowledge of the ranch and house. As we approach the five-year centennial of the construction of La Casa Nueva, which took place between 1922 and 1927, these images will be valuable in our programming decisions.
As for the opening entry, on 25 July, Thomas began by recording with sadness the drowning death of the family doctor, Herbert F. Bishop of Alhambra, in a boating accident off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, one of the Channel Islands situated near Ventura and Santa Barbara. Thomas lamented that just a week-and-a-half before, Dr. Bishop was at the Homestead “as healthy and nice as ever,” but recorded his father’s admonition that “in the midst of life, we are in death.”
Thomas also noted the visit that day of Father Rafael Serrano, formerly the pastor at the Mission San Gabriel, with which the Temples had close and long-standing ties. The priest remembered the communions of Thomas’ younger brothers, Walter, Jr. and Edgar, which would have been probably five or so years earlier and commented on their rapid growth.
In stating that Father Serrano was going to Washington, D.C. for reasons not stated, Thomas added “I wish I were going, but as things look now I fear I shall return to Santa Clara, and I might as well.” This ambiguous statement is interesting, because, clearly, he had some idea of going to college back east, but resigned himself to returning to Santa Clara. Tellingly, he wrote that “Meema [his mother] always loved that place, and another thing as Father Maher, the president says, ‘It’s Californian and I am Californian.”
With regard to developments with La Casa Nueva, Thomas recorded that:
Yesterday we made arrangements with Roy Seldon Price, an architect of merit and renown to finish the new home. It was started I remember some 15 months ago i.e. the foundations put in and so forth, by Thanksgiving of last year it had reached good proportion then gradually the work was cut short due to rainy season after whole house was roofed.
With the loss of his mother still foremost in his mind, Thomas added, “I shall never forget the ceremony by Bishop J.J. Cantwell, on the 28th of December, Meema[‘s] 1st anniversary [of her death].” After noting the clergy and nuns from St. Mary’s Academy, where Thomas’ sister Agnes was attending high school, who attended and presided over the event, Thomas wrote that there were “many of the family’s intimate friends, then a service at the family mausoleum [completed in spring 1921 at El Campo Santo Cemetery at the ranch], and the blessing of the cornerstone [of La Casa Nueva] by the Bishop.”
Returning to the work at the house, Thomas stated that “the house has progressed slowly up to this point, but now that Roy Price has the job, surely we’ll be moving in side of 6 months time.” While this was wildly optimistic, given that it was over three years before the house was completed, Thomas added, “we should never forget that the new house was dedicated to Meema by Dadup, as well as by the children.
Thomas then turned to discussion of some of his school mates and former neighbors, probably those from the Old Mission community and the Temple (formerly La Puente) School where the Temples lived for over 65 years before oil was struck in 1917 on their lease in that area and they moved to Alhambra.
He also reminisced about the summer trip to Mexico in 1922 that was a main motivation for the building of La Casa Nueva and said that, in “running over some old pictures I found several of our trip” and added that “I hope to have them all mounted as also others at the rancho.”
Thomas recorded a visit to the rancho of the Camarillo family in what is now the city of that name in Ventura County and mentioned a former Santa Clara classmate, Bill Koch, adding “I shall do what he did, finish at S.C. [Santa Clara] and then East & Europe.” He did succeed in the first two, though Europe proved to a dream deferred until a genealogical research trip to Spain in the late 1960s.
Another event attended was “the annual barbecue for the Church Benefit,” presumably for St. Joseph’s Church in La Puente, where a new building was completed that year, including a 9-foot diameter stained glass window paid for by Walter Temple. The event was “at the W.Y. Rowland Rancho known as El Recreo Club.”
Rowland, a descendant of John Rowland, co-owner of Rancho La Puente with William Workman, lived east of the Homestead a few miles in what is now the City of Industry and, in 1924, unearthed some millstones, likely from his grandfather’s mill, and which were purchased by Walter Temple and incorporated in the fountain in the courtyard of La Casa Nueva.
With regard to the barbecue, Thomas noted that Joe Mullender, who was married to a granddaughter of Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, owner of most of the Workman portion of La Puente after foreclosing in the late 1870s on a loan to Workman and F.P.F. Temple for their doomed bank, was responsible for the planning of the event “and certainly managed everything in great shape.” Mullender and his wife Rosebud Doble owned a ranch left to them by Baldwin north of La Puente.
Thomas added that “all of the old timers were there” though “I only knew a few of them” and stated that “it was for mama to know them all.” In what appears a knowing nod to Prohibition, he wrote that “they danced and drank—soda—and I believe it ended at 11 o’clock P.M.” This, however, was “not like the old affairs of long ago” in which “the ‘paisanos’ kept up for two or 3 days.”
He stated that “the Rowland family was there, Yorbas, Rochas, Vejars, Reyes, Bustamante, and all the rest” and that “we were there to represent the family.” Noting that $600 was raised, Thomas concluded by recording “I remember that 3 years ago we had the picnic at our place.” In fact, in the early Twenties, the Homestead was frequently used for large parties such as the Rowland barbecue, but also Elks picnics and other heavily attended events.
The previous Wednesday, there was a smaller function at the Homestead, as Thomas wrote that friends from the Rocha, Plummer, de la Osa, Guzman and Carson families came over “to play some of the old time pieces and dance quadrilles. Asunción Rocha played the violin and Mrs. Eugene Plummer performed on piano and Thomas added that the latter “sings very well.” As for the dances, there were also “polkas, mazurkas and schottisches” were also on offer.
Thomas admiringly wrote that “Dad dances with more gusto than the rest, he is still a graceful dancer and never stopped till the players gasped for breath, and then he wanted a mazurka.” After talking about his father’s recent decision to grow more facial hair, which meant that ” I suppose he will look older,” Thomas finished his entry by stating, “Dadup, dear old Dadup, I shall soon write my memoirs of this man, W.P. Temple,” a testament of love towards his father that took on more poignancy because of the recent loss of Thomas’ mother.
We’ll continue on with part two of this post with more fascinating entries from Thomas’ journal, so check back for that!