Water Under the Bridge

By John F. Oyler
Copyright © 2017



California Here We Come, 1924
February 23, 2017



In an earlier column I mentioned that Judy Oelschlager Dames had loaned us a family heirloom, the ticket book her mother, Pauline Engel, used when she accompanied Mr. and Mrs. C. P. Mayer on an excursion to Los Angeles in 1924. Miss Engel was serving as Mrs. Mayer’s “companion”; this was an exciting experience for a young lady who had only been in this country four years at the time.

The occasion was the sixth annual convention of the Common Brick Manufacturers’ Association of America, an organization in which Mr. Mayer was a prominent member. It appears that this organization disappeared in the 1930s; The Brick Industry Association may be its descendant.

The “Special Train Trip” began in Chicago at 11:30 pm on Saturday, February 2, 1924. We have no record of how they got to Chicago from Pittsburgh. The “Pennsy” ran nine trains a day on that route, including the world famous “Broadway Limited”. The Limited was an overnight train, arriving in Chicago early in the morning. Perhaps they took that option and spent the day sight-seeing in the Windy City.

From Chicago they took the C., B., & Q. (Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy) Railway to Denver. Miss Engel had compartment C in car X34. Breakfast was served from 7:30 to 9:30 am after a stop in Burlington, Iowa; luncheon from Noon till 2:30 pm following a stop in Creston, Iowa. After stops in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, dinner was served from 6:00 to 8:30 pm.

The next morning, the travelers woke up in Denver just in time for breakfast from 7;00 till 8:30 am, following which they were treated to a sight-seeing automobile trip around the Mile High City. Lunch was served at the Albany Hotel, followed by a “Mountain Scenic Drive”, also by automobile. That evening dinner was served in the Tower Room atop Daniels & Fisher Stores, followed by cabaret entertainment.

Then it was back to the rail cars, for an 11:30 pm departure on the Denver and Rio Grande.The next day was spent in the Rocky Mountains with “wonderful scenery on all sides.” Taking time out for meals seemed a great distraction.

Breakfast the next morning found them in Salt Lake City where they were treated to another organized day of seeing the sights, culminating in an organ and choir recital at the Mormon Tabernacle, and an address by the President of the Mormon Church.

That night they transferred to the Southern Pacific at Ogden, Utah, to cross the Great Salt Lake. The booklet suggests that travelers take advantage of moonlight to take advantage of the view. The following day was through Reno, Nevada, over the Sierra Nevada Mountains via Donner Pass, along the rim of American River Canyon, and on to Port Costa, California.

After breakfast, on Friday, they left their train and were provided with “real entertainment” at the Port Costa Brick Works. One wonders what that means. After lunch they crossed San Francisco Bay by boat in time for dinner at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, then returned to Southern Pacific rail cars, with a side trip through Chinatown.

After spending a night and eating breakfast in the railcars, they were treated to a automobile tour through the city. At 1:00 they boarded the train (Southern Pacific) and got on the road. At 4:00 pm they stopped at “Big Trees” briefly to view the redwoods. The next morning they stopped for several hours in Santa Barbara to inspect the old missions and bathing beach there before proceeding on to Los Angeles where they arrived in the late afternoon on Sunday after enjoying “the rural beauty of California”.

The convention opened promptly at 9:30 am on Monday. Daily programs lasted till 12:30 pm, with afternoons and evenings reserved for sight-seeing and entertainment. The first morning was dedicated to welcoming addresses and Association business – Secretary’s and Treasurer’s Reports, Committee Appointments, etc. Tuesday featured a series of fifteen minute talks on a variety of subjects – “Building Good-Will for Brick”, “Newspaper Advertising That Produced Business”, “Tariff Protection for the Brick Manufacturer”, “Standardizing Grades of Brick”, etc. – mostly business related rather than technical.

Wednesday’s subjects included “Does the Association Need a Laboratory?’, “Short Course in Brick-Laying”, “Selling Clay Products”, and an open forum on “ascertaining costs” (dubbed the most important session of the whole gathering). Thursday it was “Mortar – Its elation to Brick Work”, “New Uses of Brick”, “Brick Salesmanship”, “Dealer Distribution”, etc. Friday was back to business – President’s Address, Election of New Officers, and Committee Reports.

The afternoon schedule is also interesting. On Monday there was an automobile tour to Santa Monica, Venice, and Ocean Park. Tuesday was a series of visits to Los Angeles brick plants. Wednesday they visited Hollywood and movieland, with a viewing of “Ten Commandments” at the Egyptian Theatre. Thursday featured an automobile tour to Pasadena, with one to Long Beach on Friday, followed by a dinner dance at the Hotel Biltmore.

Saturday the tourists drove to San Gabriel Mission through orange and walnut groves and had lunch at “the famous Mission Inn” in Riverside. As for Sunday, “The officers believe this forenoon should be devoted to attending church”. A list of addresses and service times for eight different denominations was provided.

Sunday evening the tourists boarded the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe for an overnight ride to San Diego. There they enjoyed a morning of sight-seeing before boarding a San Diego and Arizona Railway train in time for lunch. That afternoon they passed through the marvelous Carriso Gorge. The next morning they left their train in Phoenix and travelled 120 miles by automobile to Globe, through the picturesque Arizona landscape, including the Superstition Mountains, Salt River Canyon, and Tonto Cliff Dwellings.

At Globe they rejoined their train, now Southern Pacific, had dinner, and went to bed. The next morning, Wednesday, they were in El Paso, Texas, where they were treated to several tours, including one across the border into Juarez, Mexico. The next morning found them in San Antonio; Friday morning, in Dallas. There their cars were picked up by the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railway for the rest of the journey, through Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois and finally back to Chicago early Saturday afternoon, February 23, three weeks after their departure.

I suspect this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Mayers; it is very difficult to imagine what a thrill it must have been for the young Miss Engel to see so much of this wonderful country of ours (and hers, too,now!). I certainly envy them this opportunity and wish I could jump into my time machine and go back to 1924 and join them.

Water Under the Bridge

  • "Water Under the Bridge" is a column written by historian John Oyler. It appears weekly in the Bridgeville Area News, a TribTotal Media publication, as well as in a more expanded form on his blog.

The Author

  • Aside from being Bridgeville's foremost historian, Dr. John F. Oyler is also an associate professor at the Univeristy of Pittsburgh, where he teaches classes in civil engineering.

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