Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Old Post Card Wednesday--Will Rogers' Beverly Hills Home

I bet after seeing us, George Washington would sue us for calling him "father."

-Will Rogers

Will Rogers (1879-1935) was a vaudeville performer, cowboy, humorist, social commentator, and actor. He was part Cherokee on both his mother's and father's side. After his mother's death when he was 10, his father, Clem Rogers, raised Will and his two sisters alone. Clem was a demanding father who had strong feelings about what his children should accomplish in life. Will's expertise with the lasso and at wrangling didn't fit Clem's program and Will left home at 20 to travel the country as a cowboy. He returned to Oologah, Oklahoma, at the turn of the century at his father's request in order to show support for Oklahoma Territory becoming the 40th state, but stayed less than a year when the father-son conflicts once again surfaced. While in Oklahoma he met his future wife, Betty Blake, with whom he had three children. In his time, Will Rogers was the most popular person in the country and California named two sites in his honor.

This gets confusing, so bear with me. Will Rogers Memorial Park is located at 9650 Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills, CA. The land for this five-acre park was a gift to the city from the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1915. Formerly a part of the hotel's front lawn, it became the city's first park and was named for Will Rogers in 1952, long after his death in a plane crash.

This park is also located only a few blocks away from Will Rogers' old Beverly Hills home pictured in this old postcard.

The Beverly Hills place was the Rogers' family home before they moved to the ranch, a sprawling property that is now known as Will Rogers State Historic Park. It's located on the tip of the Santa Monica Mountains, in Pacific Palisades, six miles from the much smaller memorial park. The ranch, a 186-acre estate with a 31-room house, stables, and trails that offer vistas of both the sea and the mountains, was willed to the state of California in 1944.

Confused yet? This won't help much.

In January 2008 Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed to shutter 48 of the 278 California state parks in an attempt to balance the budget this year. Will Rogers State Historic Park was on the closure list. An LA Times travel blog says that: The 186-acre ranch and home (which recently underwent a $5-million restoration), which is described in the release as “popular with visitors,” is on the list to be shut, along with nearby Topanga State Park. The descendants of cowboy humorist Will Rogers told the Los Angeles Times in January that they are fighting to keep the historic site open.

So. The home pictured in this postcard may or may not still be around (anyone know?). The memorial park is nearby. The historic park is six miles from the memorial park and sounds like a wonder-to-behold. But earlier this year it was in danger of being closed, along with 47 other California state parks (taking lifeguards off 16 popular state beaches was included in the same proposal). California state parks may have gotten a temporary reprieve from that threat, but it's been a wake-up call to this reality: California's 278 state parks need sustainable, long term support. It seems they are quite endangered. The good folks at Save Our State Parks have a website loaded with background information and tips on how Californians (anyone, really) can be a part of saving these parks and ensuring that they are viable for the long run.

Will sums it up:

  • Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
  • Chaotic action is preferable to orderly inaction.
  • Buy land. They ain't making any more of the stuff.
  • An ignorant person is one who doesn't know what you have just found out.


Katie said...

Great old postcard! And I only got slightly confused by all the info about the Will Rogers' home. I hope there's enough in the CA budget to keep all the parks open because now I want to visit!!

Barbara J. Davis said...

I'm enjoying your blog and postings. I will visit here often and thanks so much for your nice comment on my site.
Please come by often and feel free to leave remarks and musings.

Lydia said...

There are many CA state parks I'd love to visit and hope they all survive and thrive.

Thank you for visiting.
I do like stopping by the serenity room, too.



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