Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Old Postcard Wednesday--Zoro Garden Nudist Colony, The California Pacific International Exposition 1935, San Diego, Calif.

Far out, man! Isn't this a groovy postcard?  But is not a postcard from An Aquarian Exposition in 1969 -- called Woodstock (iconic poster at right) -- but actually features a scene in Zoro Garden during The California Pacific International Exposition -- called America's Exposition -- in 1935.

The California Pacific International Exposition
The California Pacific International Exposition (1935-1936), called by enthusiastic San Diegans, "America's Exposition," ... was held in Balboa Park. It utilized buildings from 1915-1916 (the Panama CA International Exposition), to which were added an assortment of art deco and pueblo style structures. Above both fairs loomed tower and domes of the 1915 California Building, which, in 1935, became the Palace of Science and Museum of Man.  [Source: LearnCalifornia]

The Nudist Colony at Zoro Garden
A colony of about fifty nudists read books, played handball and ate vegetables in Zoro Garden, at the northern tip of Gold Gulch. Patrons of the Gulch were quick at finding knot holes in the wood fence between the two attractions. [Source: The San Diego History Center]
Although the San Diego Historical Society has posted a timeline based on contemporary newspaper accounts indicating the "colony" was composed of actual nudists, local historian Matthew Alice has stated that the women were "wearing flesh-colored bras, G-strings, or body stockings so everything was zipped up tight."
Matthew Alice is incorrect, the women were indeed topless, as countless un-doctored photographs plainly show. The women did, however, wear G-strings. The men wore tiny loincloth-type shorts.

Excerpted with permission from the book: "San Diego's Balboa Park" by David Marshall, AIA Nate Eagle, a sideshow promoter who, with partner Stanley R. Graham, created the scandalous Zoro Gardens nudist colony. Located in a sunken garden east of the Palace of Better Housing (today's Casa de Balboa), Zoro Gardens was, according to the Zoro Gardens program, "designed to explain to the general public the ideals and advantages of natural outdoor life." Topless women and bearded men in loincloths read books, sunbathed, and acted in pseudo-religious rituals to the Sun God. According to the program, "Healthy young men and women, indulging in the freedom of outdoor living in which they so devoutly believe, have opened their colony to the friendly, curious gaze of the public." The public’s curious gaze quickly turned Zoro Gardens into the Exposition’s most lucrative outdoor attraction. Despite protests, Zoro Gardens lasted for the entire run of the Exposition. 
[Source: Wikipedia]

The San Diego History Center offers views of more postcards of the Nudist Colony at Zoro Garden that you may view here. The Nudist Colony was among three "strange and unusual popular attractions" at the Exposition, sharing the limelight with The Midget Village and Ripley's "Believe-It-Or-Not." (I wonder if that saying May you live in interesting times originated in 1935!) Incidentally, the garden got its name because the queen of the nudist colony's pageant was named Zorine, which morphed somehow into Zoro with one r instead of two.

For extensive research on The California Pacific International Exposition, the website maintained by The San Diego History Center probably cannot be beat. If you want to know the history and all the particulars visit this page with links to individual chapters of research: San Diego Invites the World to Balboa Park a Second Time -- The Complete Exposition History and enjoy your trip back in time.

So, Balboa Park in San Diego has quite a history, having been the site of the Panama California International Exposition in 1915-16 and The California Pacific International Exposition of 1935-36. The final chapter of The Complete Exposition History linked in the above paragraph, that details the legacy of the Exposition, closes with this paragraph:
Problems caused by the automobile, traffic congestion, scarcity of parking and by conflicting environmental, educational, cultural, recreational, professional athletic, military establishment, and commercial interests active in Balboa Park will never be resolved. The best that can be hoped for is that competing individuals and groups and the politicians who make the final decisions will learn to adjust their differences so that the natural environment will be protected and the greater public good will be served.
There is an aerial view of Balboa Park surrounded by central San Diego at Wikipedia. It does sound like Balboa Park has had its ups and downs, and past and current challenges, in the 75 years since the last exposition closed. It is why I was happy to learn this sweet information about Zoro Garden!
Zoro Garden--a sunken stone grotto garden that was designed as a nudist colony during the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition--is now a butterfly garden containing both the larvae and nectar plants needed for the complete life cycle of butterflies. Miniature indentations built into rocks collect small pools of water for the monarch, sulfur, and swallowtail butterflies that can be seen among the colorful perennials and majestic ficus trees that surround the garden.
[Source: Balboa Park website, where you can view a large current image of Zoro Garden]

As sometimes is the case here at OPW, this post seemed to develop its own synchronicity. Zoro Garden is now a butterfly garden, the mental image of which reminded me again of Woodstock....and the iconic image of two lovers embracing each other wrapped in a blanket, with the butterfly kite staked into the ground nearby.



Don't Feed The Pixies said...

ok - so it may be me not being perceptive in the past, but is the postcard address to an Olive Angels? That alone is worth a mention

I love the postcard of the nudist colony - although i would hope they would put on an apron when cooking to avoid splashes

And in return for your train of thought re woodstock may i tell you that i had to ask a work question of a man living in woodstock the other week and he was most helpful :)

Owen said...

Wow, that is a racy way for me to start the day ! ;-)

I like how the card proclaims that it is in Natural Color. Looks like just about everything is natural there... :-)

And then the post mark says "Buy US Bonds, Ask Your Post Master"... that could be misinterpreted also in this context. (note to self... get mind out of gutter) :-)

Was Mrs Olive Angels a relative of Olive Oil ?

My goodness, but how do you find these fabulous cards ???

Deborah said...


mythopolis said...

I love the dream like quality of the image...

Rob-bear said...

Thanks for giving us the bare facts about the Zoro Garden. I can see that this would have been an interesting addition to the California Exposition.
The Exposition itself strikes a bit of a surprising note, coming in the "dirty 30s." Obviously someone had a lot of money to put this event together. And I wonder what it cost to get into the Exposition.
Now it's a butterfly garden, which, itself, is awesome.
Thanks for the history lesson.

Lydia said...

Pixies~ That is nice to know that a resident of Woodstock gave you kindly assistance recently. I assume via phone or email, as you did not mention a trip to the U.S. :)
I wondered if Olive's last name was Angelo, but in looking at the handwriting and other O's it truly does look like an S, making the last name Angels. Fascinating.

Owen~ Your imagination is fired up today! Thanks for pointing out that Natural Color bit, as I hadn't thought of it in context with the card itself. :)
My grandmother's collection of cards is still in the majority, although I have been adding since beginning OPW. I find them online, and admit that I can spend way too much time just looking at what's available!

Deborah~ Hey! Your butterfly profile pic looks like the butterfly kite in the Woodstock image! Now the post is complete.

mythopolis~ I do too. :)

Rob-bear~ Just the (bare) facts for this post, except I did not look into the cost. It is there in that guy's extensive history, I bet. Thing is, it seems that World's Fairs were so important to people then that funding may have even been a priority over other things. Without the Internet, I wonder if we would not still be creating World's Fairs. hmmmm....

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Lydia - even better. Our company has an instant chat facility, with which i can speak to and work alongside with anyone in the world assuming they are online.

Lydia said...

Pixies~ Excellent. Since I left "the office" the business world has changed considerably, with things like that making work more fun (I would imagine).

Roxana said...

this is one of the most interesting old postcard posts ever!!! i enjoyed the card and the information so much, not to mention to bit about the butterfly garden and the connection you made with Woodstock. that is a wonderful photograph, you call it 'iconic' so i suppose it is well-known, just to me it is new :-) is the photographer who took it anonymous?

Lydia said...

Roxana~ Just found your comment. I changed my settings so that I only monitor comments on posts that are four days old (because of my night owl ways, which tended to have them sit there until I woke up). Not coming upon yours appears to be a downfall to this new setting. :)

So glad you liked the old postcard. It wasn't in the best shape but when I saw it for sale online the price was right because of that! Anyway, yes, that photograph is very iconic. And now you have me pondering the source. You know, it may just be a still taken from the documentary movie done that same year. I say that because in my mind's eye I am "seeing" that scene. It may be, however, that I have seen the image so many times that it comes to life in my mind! (I give all this to you totally drug-free, even if I sound stoned!) If I come upon an answer I will def let you know. The image chokes me up, always has, always it is doing right now.



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