The Victorian – referred to as the Bembridge House – is decorated each winter holiday by various neighborhoods and historic districts in Long Beach. Rose Park Neighborhood and Historic Districts decorate the ‘middle bedroom’ and offer a tale for those that visit.
Everybody’s Doin’ It Now-1911
Holidays at 925 Park Circle, Long Beach
(A work of fiction except for all those pesky historical notes)
This was not Edith Bennett’s first visit to this room. She vacationed here last Christmas, enjoying her first winter holiday in California!
After returning to Chicago she knew her future needed to be in Southern California. A young, eclectic woman named Sam she’d befriended while visiting 925 Park Circle in Long Beach wrote to her and encouraged a visit after she graduated from Miss Ravenewood’s Academy for Girls in June.
Edith was more than excited about moving west but she had to convince her parents. They might not be so enthusiastic about sending their only child thousands of miles away.
It turned out the parents were all for it. They liked the idea of some “socially acceptable schooling” in the Golden State. Apparently they’d surveyed the local eligible bachelors in their social circle and found them wanting.
Barely containing her giddy self, Edith helped the porters with her baggage at Union Station in downtown Chicago. She arrived in Los Angeles no less excited and jumped into life at the University of Southern California’s undergraduate program taking classes in French, music and joining the Literary Society (women only).
Edith discovers whole new groups of people on campus and relishes the lack of formality compared to Miss Ravenwood’s back east. She learned a new dance called the turkey trot-the newspapers called it a dance craze-then found herself spending evenings at private clubs
When the Green’s learned Edith had returned but didn’t yet have time for a visit they were a bit disappointed but made sure that she was invited to this year’s holiday festivities and to stay in the guest bedroom.
With the invitation Edith remembered a young man by the name of Jens. Jen Wastlund, who came to last year’s gala and then disappeared. As if floating into thin air. “I’d love to meet him again,” she thought.
Jens had been made aware of the event – although his parents and the Green’s were not on speaking terms. Mrs. Green or ‘JoJo’ really thought that a relationship might be appreciated by both. Plus, she dreamed of entertaining a young couple, not having children of her own.
Jens had pitched his fortunes on the new business of aviation. Until November 11, 1911 that is, when an incredible day of violent weather with temperatures dropping over 60 degrees in some parts of the mid-west pushed huge storm fronts across the plains. He’d barely survived the Great Blue Norther.
Flying in an airplane from St. Louis to Long Island, Jens was almost caught in the storm. The pilot landed safely in the nick of time but they couldn’t secure the airplane on the ground before the storm arrived and it was destroyed.
It was a very close call for Jens and like a close brush with death is apt to do, it made him take account of his young life and where he was going with it.
His investment and his investors were in peril. He limped home with his tail between his legs to his parents home near Drake Park in Long Beach. Barely getting out of bed, nibbling bits of toast and sipping tea, Jens was in a deep funk.
His parents were worried and they thought a Christmas party with all the decorations and delicious food and festivities would be just the thing to pull Jens out of his depression.
On the evening of the holiday gala Edith was dressed in her best party clothes. Sporting a gorgeous ball gown and shawl, with her hair and make up just so, she was the epitome of a beautiful, well-educated and cultured woman of her day. And Jens, clothed in top hat and tails, presented a striking figure of gentlemanly manhood.
On the way over to the party with his parents Jens grumbled a bit about not really being in the mood for it. Once he entered the front door and saw the foyer awash in holiday finery and twinkling lights his mood softened. When he say Edith gracefully float down the stairway to his left to greet him, his heart skipped a beat.
She was beyond lovely! The soft lights, her sable-black hair done up and reflecting the evenings’ glow, her exquisite dress and most of all that smile that seemed to be able to slow time itself all conspired to warm Jens heart, and soften his head as well.
As she glanced at her son’s expression, Jens’ mother noticed his face flush a bit, his eyes twinkle and a somewhat wry smile cross his mouth. She was happy to see her son in a good mood.
Little did she know that her son’s face would portend a romance that would engulf the youthful couple and burn like the white-hot ember that can only be ignited by young love!
Note: “Everybody’s Doin’ It Now” is one of the numerous ragtime songs written by Irving Berlin early in his career considered the best song in 1911. It was a contemporary of his famous hit “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” which gained international appeal and propelled America into the fast-paced movement of the foxtrot and other dances.
Note: The Turkey trot was a forerunner of the Fox trot which was debuted in 1914.
Note: The Great Blue Norther was a terrific – never repeated storm – on November 11, 1911. On that day many mid west cities had experienced a record breaking high only several hours later to experience record breaking lows with 60+ degree drop in temperature. This coincided with massive thunderstorms, blizzards and tornadoes across the plains.
Note: The flying business in 1911. Aviation was in its infancy but enthusiasm was world-wide. Engineers and hucksters alike entered the whirlwind for moneyed prizes – an early form of crowd-sourcing. Planes were being designed and patented. Commercial flights, military and mail flights plus stunts like flying over Niagara Falls occurred in 1911. Passenger air travel was not yet a reality.