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In the 1920s, the very heart of Santa Barbara County was agricultural, and much of the area remains so today.

An article in the La Habra Star, October 11, 1929, provides an excellent description of the valleys of Santa Barbara County, California, and the ways they were developed by farmers and ranchers one hundred years ago. Much of what is described here remains so today, though the burgeoning rubber plant industry faded with time.

 

Versatile Valleys

Diversified in its geography, versatile in its crops, varied in its industries, Santa Barbara County is a land of richness, of prosperity, of opportunity….It is a land of wide-open spaces, of rolling brown hills, of sheltered inland valleys, of level table-lands and mesas, of miles of coastal sand dunes.

Almost countless are the crops raised in Santa Barbara County. Here is grown barley, lettuce, dry onions, tomatoes, pea, cauliflower, carrots, alfalfa, beans (a pink and white species, as well as the lima), guayule (a rubber plant), sub-tropical fruits.

Not content with raising these many crops, Santa Barbara County residents devote themselves to sundry industries: dairying, beef-cattle production, the raising of flowers for world-wide distribution.

Because Santa Barbara County  has so many geographical divisions within itself, is so topographically diverse, each inland valley is best suited to the rising of certain agricultural productions, to the development of particular industries. To understand the County as a whole, it might be best to observe its natural divisions, take each section individually….

 

Santa Ynez Valley – From the City of Santa Barbara, one goes up over the San Marcos Pass, arrives into he Santa Ynez Valley. Rugged, covered with splendid trees, is the upper part of this valley; ranches are on all sides, thousands of acres in size, devoted to beef-cattle production, horse-raising.

Named by a colony of Danish farmers who settled in the Santa Ynez Valley several decades ago is the little central town of Solvang. Almost like a transplanted Danish community is this portion of the valley; its crops, buildings, equipment, herds–are all tidy in the way characteristic of the Dane, neat, thrifty, painstakingly clean.

Lompoc Valley – Dedicated in great measure to flower-raising is this valley, shortly to the north and west of the Santa Ynez. Spring and autumnn here finds gorgeously-had blossoms in abundance on the sloping hills, level meadows. From these fragrant flowers are secured seeds for distribution throughout the world….

Santa Maria Valley – Largest and most productive of all the agricultural districts of Santa Barbara County is the Santa Maria Valley; approached by winding upward through the hills beyond Lompoc Valley, Guadalupe, at the valley’s mouth, is the packing and shipping center for miles around; three miles it is from the ocean, three miles of a desert local so like the African Sahara in miniature that Hollywood motion picture companies constantly wend their way north bringing screen stars of renown, adding occasional zest to the farming routine.

…Santa Maria Valley has large areas devoted to dahlias, gladiolas, other flowers…alfalfa, truck produce, dairy products.

The tomatoes and lettuce that one eats late in the season are usually from Santa Maria….

Much alfalfa hay remains at home, maintains the dairy cattle. Finest herds: Captain G. Allan Hancock’s Rosemary Farm, the Acquistapace Brothers’ the Knudsen Creamery, the JW Poison Ranch, the Santa Bargia Creamery. Holsteins predominate.

Santa Barbara County may some day rival the South American countries as a rubber-producing region. Now being grown for experimentation is the guayule, a plant which demands little attention, little water, but from which rubber can be extracted. Hundreds of acres near Sisquoc are already plated with guayule…

 

The California Fish and Game – Conservation of Wild Life Through Education publications provided information about efforts to conserve and protect the incredible variety of wildlife found throughout California.

Santa Barbara County itself has such variety of landscape that it is home to creatures of the seashore, river, mountain, valley, and cities.  There were many forms of wildlife in the 1920s that were endangered. Conservation and protection measures were beginning to be implemented throughout the county in the 1920s, as well as in the Santa Barbara National Forest.

Below is a sampling of articles from the report, years 1921 – 1923. The full report can be found on Google Books, here.

Santa Barbara to Frame Protective Laws – January 1923 – Page 33

This article describes the park that is known today as the Santa Barbara Bird Refuge, on Cabrillo Boulevard.

The city park commissioners of Santa Barbara are making a progressive and commendable move in the direction of a city ordinance which will make of all their city parks wildlife refuges. For several years a pond in one of the city parks near shore has been designated by the commissioners as a refuge for water birds. Owing to the general prohibition of the use of firearms within the city limits, the ducks which flock there have learned to feel themselves so safe that poachers now find it an easy matter to approach them near enough to throw clubs and stones with stunning or fatal effects. There seems to be no statute, city, state, or federal, which makes this a legal offense during the open season on waterfowl….

The establishment of such refuges in the heart of a city affords pleasure to the numerous park visitors, has great educational value, fosters the love and appreciation of birds, and ultimately serves the interests of true sportsmen.

Large Annual Kill of Deer in the Santa Barbara National Forest – 1922 – Page 55

Santa Barbara County hunters reported there were 119 deer killed during deer season.

There was a total of 978 reported last year [statewide], which would tend to indicate that hunting was not being carried on as formerly, or else that deer are becoming scarcer. However, from our observations, the woods were full of hunters…deer are just about holding their own against the hunters and lions, with a probably increase in some localities.

-Thomas Sloan, Santa Barbara, California

New Game Refuge Proposed for Santa Barbara National Forest – 1922 – Page 55

A game refuge is recommended in the Santa Ynez district for a double purpose, namely:

First to provide an area into which a number of people go and in which hunting is forbidden, and also into which the game drift from the higher areas. It is felt that a game sanctuary is needed to better protect and perpetrate, especially the deer that come down for water into the region covered by the proposed refuge.

Second, within the area covered by the boundaries of the proposed game refuge is what is known as Gibralter Dam, in the Santa Ynez River, which impounds a large body of water with a surface of about 250 acres and from which the city of Santa Barbara derives its water supply, and it is very much desired by the city of Santa Barbara that everything possible be done to protect the domestic water supply from possible sources of contamination.

– Thomas W Sloan, Santa Barbara, California

Violations of Pigeon Law Numerous – January 1922 – page 57

Wild pigeons were not popular with Santa Barbara County farmers and ranchers in the 1920s. Hog farmers claimed band-tailed pigeons ate acorns which were the prime source of hog feed locally. Santa Barbara County Deputy HJ Abels of Santa Maria, sent a report to the US Department of Agriculture listing offenders who committed various offenses against the pigeons, as outlined in Fish and Game Law Section 626 by “hunting, pursuing, taking, killing, detraining, and having possession of wild pigeons.”

Among the offenders who were cited and fined:

  • GW Fryman, Whittier, Cal.
  • RN Hobbs, Lompoc, Cal.
  • B Davis, Los Olivos, Cal.
  • AR Wurz, Los Alamos, Cal.

Facts of Current Interest – Mountain Lions – Santa Barbara County – January 1922 – Page 49

That the mountain lion is still found in numbers in certain places in California is evidenced by the fact that JG Moore of Los Olivos, Santa Barbara County, recently applied for bounty on eleven lions taken between October 9 and November 26, 1921, in the Santa Barbara National Forest. The bounty will total $300.

Few Antelope Left in Southern California – January 1922 – Page 191

Antelope may still be found along the foothills of the Tehachapi Range and in the Antelope Valley on the Santa Barbara Forest where there are at least 10.

Notes on the Sea Lions – Edward Starks – January 1921 – Page 250

Mr. Starks’ article describes in detail the role that the Santa Barbara Channel Islands play as home and rookeries for thousands of California sea lions on the western coast of the United States. See page 250 in the January 1921 volume for full article.

 

Telephone Service in Santa Barbara County – The 1920s

It’s hard to imagine a time without telephone service, but in Santa Barbara County in the 1920s, the technology was revolutionary. By 1920, 35% of American homes had telephone service, though the number was far less for rural areas like much of Santa Barbara County. Telephone lines were strung from pole to pole, throughout the region, though fires, floods, earthquakes, storms – even a bird – could damage the line and disrupt phone service for days or months at a time. Prior to the 1920s, communicating at a distance was limited to sending telegraphs or via USPS mail.

Communication had gone live, whether to a shop around the corner or to a governmental office at the other end of the country. Residential customers were usually grouped into “party lines,” with three or four households sharing one line. While the main line was shared, calls were identified by a unique ring assigned to each number. The method did allow for people to eavesdrop on calls placed to other individuals.

Transatlantic lines laid beneath the ocean allowing for international calls between the United States to Europe. Business dealings were expedited with the advent of telephones, and customer bases were increased. Families, friends, sweethearts enjoyed having conversations even from a long distance.

Like other hallmarks of the 1920s, telephones, like automobiles and airplanes, virtually shortened time and distance between individuals. It seemed all of society moved at a faster pace than ever before.

By 1927, an increase in automated telephone exchanges and new dial telephones put the power of communication in the caller’s hands. A film from 1927 provided guidance, albeit silent, in using the newest technology:  How to Use the Dial Telephone.

Along with the ability to make and receive calls, cities and towns provided customers with local directories. In addition to names and numbers, state and local government information was included, along with advertisements.

Telephone Directory for Santa Maria, CA – 1922 and Beyond

The Santa Maria and Vicinity Directory included listings for a number of towns and settlements in its pages: Santa Maria, Ballard, Betteravia, Bicknell, Careaga, Casmalia, Guadalupe, Lompoc, Los Alamos, Los Cruces, Los Olivos, Orby, Orcutt, Santa Ynez, Sisquoc, and Solvang.

Telephone directories were a vitally important item in any home or business. In the 1920s, not only did listings include a telephone number, but the location of an individual’s residence, employment status, and place of employment were often included, and the names of high school students and their phone numbers were often listed, as well.

The old style of residential telephone directories were obsoleted with the advent of cell phones, as telephones were no longer associated with a physical location, but with an individual, instead.