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SO SOCAL: The Best...The Beautiful...And The Bizarre

Greetings From...

March 12, 2000|Patt Morrison

For a century, Southern California has been sold--by the mile, by the acre, by the lot and by the penny postcard.

One cent at a time, this seductive medium flaunted the middle-class temptations and comforts of the new American Eden.

To the frostbitten, the ambitious, the hard-luck losers, these images of the dolce far niente latitudes perpetuated a myth that began with the Gold Rush. Postcard-makers traded in braggadocio, and everything Californian was the biggest, the grandest and most glorious; cards, such as the one pictured here, blithely depicted mansions as "typical Southern California homes."

The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce had no small hand in this. Its showrooms displayed agricultural wonders such as an enormous elephant statue covered in California walnuts (above right).

To Americans accustomed to black-and-white photography, the postcard--sometimes in unabashedly enhanced colors that, like California blonds, nature never saw--were penny travel posters, enticing them to a paradise of backyard oranges and endless ocean and limitless plenty.

So SoCal will be devoting a regular feature to the postcard history of Southern California's towns and trends and attractions, places obscure and familiar--as they were, and as their promoters wished them to be.

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