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Westward Bound — Such is the Inconsistency of Women

Ella and family finally see the Pacific Ocean and it seemed to meet her expectations

After leaving Golden Gate Park, it was finally time to actually experience the Pacific Ocean. When I lived in The City (which, as an aside, is what locals call the City and County of San Francisco — never, ever, Frisco), I lived at 41st and Irving — a block south of the park and ten blocks east of the beach. Before that, with only a couple of exceptions along the way, I pretty much never lived more than a few miles from the Pacific Ocean and it was always rather easily accessible. So, as magnificent as it was, it was also easy to take the Pacific Ocean for granted or to even forget that it was there. After all, for the last twenty-five years or so, I have lived in the shadow of the San Francisco Bay and its tributaries — pretty awesome bodies of water themselves.

Not the case, however, for the family from the Show-Me State.

We stayed in the park quite a long while and then boarded a car and went out to the beach. The ocean was rather rough that day and the white caps were a little prominent. I cannot describe my feelings on viewing the ocean, for the first time, only I felt so small and insignificant, something like one of the little grains of sand at my feet, yet within my soul felt a rush of emotion, something akin to the great wave that came rolling in, breaking at my feet. When I stop to think that the same great power that made the restless, rolling ocean stoop to care for me, even poor ungrateful and unworthy me, my soul is filled with wonder too deep for expression. It is all so wonderful when one really stops to think about it.

Ella Hile Diary, 15.

And it turned out this home-grown California boy was given the opportunity to stop and think about it. As recalled earlier, I was excited at the fact that Ella and the family came within a few miles of my home in Martinez, and once again in Golden Gate Park. As coincidence would have it, I am going to a garden railroad convention in Denver in June and am thrilled at the prospect of retracing the route taken by the Hiles at least from Martinez to Salt Lake City. But as I started to write this, I was in route from Martinez to Southern California to visit family and it dawned on me that I would be retracing the route the Hiles took from Martinez to Los Angeles. Suddenly my travel plans took on a greater significance and gave occasion for renewal of the wonder of the ocean in my own right.

We saw seal rock. I mean that we saw the seals on the rock. The rock itself was not visible. We left the beach and walked up by the Cliff House and looked out at the Golden Gate. I begged Oscar to stay a day or two in San Francisco instead of taking the train to Los Angeles that afternoon. He said, ”I thought you were sore because you had to wait seven hours. Such is the inconsistency of women.” Oscar further said, ”I am sorry to state, that we can no longer wait, here by the Golden Gate, for the hour is growing late and we must hurry as our time is swiftly flying,” so we boarded a car for the depot.

Such a swift ride we had down the hills. If it had been a Hannibal streetcar it would never have survived that run. We got a lunch of pie, cakes, and milk and hastened to the train and around four o’clock we were on our way rejoicing . The view all along the coast line was simply magnificent. The palms, the cactus, and all kinds of wonderful things, the orange groves and the beautiful paved roads overhung with green trees and dotted with speeding autos were a pretty sight to see. In every town or city we saw extremely beautiful plants, roses and palms.

Ella Hile Diary, 17-18.

Ella didn’t attach any photos of the trip south from Oakland to Los Angeles, but I took 137, some of which are shared here. The beauty, the grandeur, the plants, the trees, and, of course, the ocean were all there. So were the paved roads and speeding autos, although I suspect they were traveling a bit faster in 2022 than in 1919. So, too, were the towns and I suspect the vision they project today are also much different than what the Hiles witnessed in 1919, but only cosmetically. A world war was just concluding, as was a great pandemic, and it would only be a matter of time before the stock market crash, the rise of ”Hoovervilles” and the Great Depression.

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