Jane Alice Peters, the future Carole Lombard, her two older brothers and their mother probably celebrated Thanksgiving as millions of other American families did. In 1919, when Jane had turned 11, they had been in Los Angeles for about five years, and had quite a bit to be thankful for; the World War had been over for about a year, with the American way of living fully returned to a peacetime mode, and they had withstood the flu epidemic that had plagued many households throughout 1918 and into a good part of 1919.
We have no idea how the Peters family celebrated Thanksgiving that year at their Los Angeles home. But if they decided to go out for dinner that day, they had several options. We know this because the Los Angeles Times historical blog, "The Daily Mirror," just reprinted an advertisement from November 1919:
Truth be told, both of these destinations were popular venues with southern Californians just about any time of the year, so if the Peters family didn't celebrate Thanksgiving at either of these places, chances are good they visited these sites at some other time.
Venice is a site most know about; it's been a popular seaside destination for generations, continuing into today, and would earn a place in Lombard lore when the actress rented the pier's amusement park for a huge party in June 1935. But many years before, here's what Venice's Windward Avenue looked like:
The other destination, Mount Lowe, has largely been lost to history, but for several decades it was a beloved getaway for many. It was a perfect example of the wide range of geography that gave southern California its unique appeal.
Thanks to Pacific Electric and its vast public transit system, it was theoretically possible to travel from the beach at Venice to a mountain resort nearly a mile above sea level in one day. It wasn't a one-seat ride, mind you, as the map below shows, but it was a fascinating journey nonetheless:
And once you got to the end of the ride, you were at a place called the Alpine Tavern (later renamed the Mount Lowe Tavern), which had rustic charm inside and out:
Rooms and cottages were available for those who wanted to stay overnight and enjoy the view, a view Pacific Electric frequently publicized:
So what happened to Mount Lowe? Mother Nature and the Depression. In September 1936, a fire destroyed most of the tavern building. If Pacific Electric -- then struggling because the rise of the automobile was lessening use of mass transit -- had any plans to rebuild the site, they were literally washed away in the regional floods of early 1938 that tore out much of the track. In recent years, Mount Lowe has become a popular hiking trail, enabling people to get a sense of its glory days.
Since it is Thanksgiving, let's close this entry with some music. Not too many songs deal with Thanksgiving, but this one does -- in fact, you'll hear it mentioned in the opening line. It's "Big City Blues" by Annette Hanshaw, one of the best pop-jazz vocalists of the late 1920s; this is one of my favorites from her.
"Big City Blues" was written in 1929 for a now-lost musical called "Fox Movietone Follies." I'm hoping you'll like the song as much as I do...and here's hoping you'll avoid the blues -- big city or otherwise -- this Thanksgiving.