Joined: 27 Nov 2007
Location: Monterey County, California
|Posted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:33 pm Post subject: Memories of Monterey
|MEMORIES OF MONTEREY
(Charles Warren Stoddard in his "In the Footprints of the Padres")
"We breakfasted at Simoneau's, in the inner room, with its fresco's done in beer and shoe-blacking by a brace of hungry Bohemians, who used to frequent the place and thus settle their bill. Five of us sat at the uninviting board and awaited our turn while Simoneau hovered over a stove that was by no means equal to the occasion. It was a breakfast such as one is reduced to in a mountain camp, but which spoils the moment it is removed from the charmed circle of ravenous foresters. We paid three prices for it, but that was no consolation.
"She was a dear old stupid town in my day,” he wrote. "Geese fed in the gutters and hissed at the passers-by. Cows grazed by the wayside and eyed the wayfarer in grave surprise. Overhead the snow-white gulls wheeled and cried peevishly, and on the heights that ring the old capital round on the landward side, the pine trees moaned and held the sea-fog in their branches while the little town was basking in the sunshine and dreaming its endless dream."
The grave of Charles Warren Stoddard is in the Monterey cemetery. He came to Monterey in the early '80's, and abode there until his death in 1909.
Richard Henry Dana in his "Two Years Before the Mast" found Monterey but little changed in 1835. Monterey appears a colorful town on a gorgeous bay. Dana was a youthful sailor then, and appreciated the hill-top fort—the Presidio, then the center of the town's activities. With Dana's masterpiece as your guide—a fit companion to "Robinson Crusoe," William Cullen Bryant observed—you may wander through Monterey, following his very footsteps. Dana in those early days ate his snack of "salt horse" where you may now play golf, and you may enter adobe buildings which Dana visited four score years ago. Dim, romantic figures stand out vividly in Dana's descriptions.
Bayard Taylor, poet, essayist, and travel writer, walked from San Francisco to Monterey to attend the Constitutional Convention in 1849. After the "Gold Rush" he wrote in his "Eldorado": "Monterey has the appearance of a deserted town; few people in the streets, business deserted." Continuing, he says: "I met Major Smith, who asked me to spread my blanket in his room, in the old Quartel, or Government barracks. I took my meals at the Fonda de la Union, on the opposite side of the street. It was an old smoky place, not uncomfortably clean, with a billiard room and two small rooms adjoining, where the owner, a sallow Mexican, with his Indian cook and muchaco, entertained his customers.
"The place was frequented by a number of the members and clerks of the Convention, by all rambling Americans or Californians who happened to be in Monterey, and occasionally a seaman or two from the ships in the harbor. The charges were usually $1 per meal; for which we were furnished with an olla of boiled beef, cucumbers and corn, an asado of beef and red peppers, a guisado of beef and potatoes, and two or three cups of execrable coffee. At the time of my arrival this was the only restaurant in the place, and reaped such a harvest of pesos, that others were not long in starting up.
"Every day that I spent in Monterey, I found additional cause to recede from my first impressions of the dullness of the place. Quiet it certainly is, to one coming from San Francisco; but it is dull only in the sense that Nice and Pisa are dull cities. The bustle of trade is wanting, but to one not bent on gold hunting, a delicious climate, beautiful scenery, and pleasant society are a full compensation.
"During my stay of five weeks, several houses were built, half a dozen stores opened and four hotels established, one of which was kept by a Chinaman. There were at least ten arrivals and departures of vessels, exclusive of the steamers, within that time."
John Frost, L. L. D., in his "History of California," 1848, writes: "Notwithstanding the additions made by Yankee enterprise and innovation, the general manners and customs of the inhabitants of Monterey retain all their old Spanish character; and some of the customs of the natives, particularly their amusements, are heartily joined in by the more susceptible of the new-comers. The fandango and the serenade with the guitar, still hold their sway as freely and as undisturbed as in old Spain."