“Just California” by John Steven McGroarty

In my endless quest to discover some stuff of historic and cultural importance closer to home, "havin' adventures" my wife calls it, we found John Steven McGroarty's place, Rancho Chupa Rosa, which has been converted into the McGroarty Arts Center. Now in a very weird coincidence, and presupposing that you subscribe to notions like "coincidence," our friend Thea King was just finishing up a belly dance lesson with her troupe when we happened in. We really had no idea she was gonna be there, but at least we were able to nose around upstairs a little bit and have decided that Tugunga, CA has a real treasure there with the Gro-Arty center. They have all kinds of classes to help you grow artier and different programs going on all the time, plus a nice little park. McGroarty was a local poet laureate and big California supporter who is best known for this poem and the "Mission Play," – the plot was pretty much lifted straight from Helen Hunt Jackson's Ramona, but it was a huge hit and does a pretty good job of giving a feeling for the "mission period" that we've been going over in the God, Glory and Gold

group. Here's the skinny:

The McGroartys arrived in Tujunga in the late 1910's and built a home only to have it burn down. The house was rebuilt in 1923. John Steven McGroarty was named Poet Laureate of the State of California 1933-1934, and represented Los Angeles in the United States House of Representatives from 1935 to 1939. He wrote a column in the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine for 40 years, entitled, "The Green Verdugo Hills," wrote a five-colume history of California, and authored seven dramas, the most famous being the Mission Play, which romanticized McGroarty's former home in the Verdugo Hills. Today the home houses the McGroarty Arts Center, part of the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.

 

"Just California"

by John Steven McGroarty

 

When I am in California I am not in the West.

It is West of the West. It is just California.

 —Theodore Roosevelt

 

'Twixt the seas and the deserts,

    'Twixt the wastes and the waves,

Between the sands of buried lands

    And ocean's coral caves;

It lies not East nor West,

    But like a scroll unfurled,

Where the hand of God hath flung it

    Down the middle of the world.

 

It lies where God hath spread it

   

 In the gladness of His eyes,

Like a flame of jeweled tapestry

    Beneath His shining skies;

With the green of woven meadows,

    The hills in golden chains,

The light of leaping rivers,

    And the flash of poppied plains.

 

Days rise that gleam in glory,

    Days die with sunset's breeze,

While from Cathay that was of old

    Sail countless argosies;

Morns break again in splendor 

   

O'er the giant, new-born West,

But of all the lands God fashioned,

    'Tis this land is the best.

 

Sun and dews that kiss it,

    Balmy winds that blow,

The stars in clustered diadems

    Upon its peaks of snow;

The mighty mountains o'er it,

   

Below, the white seas swirled—

Just California, stretching down

    The middle of the world.

 

Couple o' fun facts about J.S. – he had a yellow cat who factored into a number of his columns. As a "cat guy" myself, I find that pretty charming. Check out the picture.  He also started a club, the Millionaire's Club of Contentment and Happiness, which met monthly at his place, and although I have no idea whether he was being ironic or rubbing it in, it still sounds like a good time. 

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~ by ravenjake on August 22, 2009.

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