Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano is a historical landmark dating from the days when the Spanish settled much of California. Capistrano is the seventh of the 21 famous California missions, and was founded in 1776.

It is largely in ruins thanks to earthquakes and neglect, although the oldest building still in use - "Serra's Chapel", built in 1782 - still stands. Capistrano has been a popular destination for tourists for decades. I think my only visit was for a school field trip! Here are some vintage images, undated, but surely from the 1950's.

Some of you may have been to the mission in recent years, and it sure doesn't look like this anymore. By now development has encroached, and those trees are mostly gone. I love the presence of a liquor store just yards from the picturesque entrance to the grounds!

Even this little entry arch has changed since these photos were taken... presumably the old one was damaged in yet another earthquake, possibly the 1971 San Fernando quake (which I still remember vividly!).

Father Junipero Serra is a familiar name to California schoolchildren; he was the Franciscan friar & priest who helped found the first nine California missions. Surprisingly, the chapel in San Juan Capistrano is the only extant structure in which it is known that Father Serra celebrated mass.

This last photo is my favorite! The central fountain is certainly picturesque, and is surrounded by lots of ladies (and one boy, as far as I can tell). These white doves are always in evidence, though Capistrano is most famous for the annual return of migratory swallows that have flown 6000 miles (from Argentina). St. Joseph's day (March 19th) is listed as the day the "miracle of the swallows" occurs. 

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to San Juan Capistrano!


Nanook said...


San Juan Capistrano-!

Picture 1 is sporting a black, 1951 Chevrolet, right by the liquor store. In the parking lot across the street, the baby blue car is an early 1950's Cadillac. And parked under the ice cream cone on the far right is a 1954 or 55 Buick.

Picture 2 features a black, 1954 Ford, probably the same one as seen in Picture 1. And driving-away in a blur to the left is most-likely a 1949 Mercury.

Picture 3 has a light blue 1955 Ford station wagon, which is parked alongside another (light blue) 1953 Cadillac. And to its right is a 1951 dark green or black Chevrolet.

In picture 4, I'm a bit unclear as to what vintage the swallows belong. (I must be slipping). I'm also uncertain if I'd be thrilled or repulsed to have a flight of swallows circling-around and landing on my shoulders.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

I had heard that the swallows no longer return to Capistrano. Before commenting, I tried to find out if this was true. Wikipedia (which is never wrong), states this: "In recent years, the swallows have failed to return in large flocks to the Mission. Few birds were counted in the 1990s and 2000s."

K. Martinez said...

Wow!! This brings forth deep buried memories I completely forgot about. Back in 1964 my mom and dad took me on big trip, first stop Disneyland, then onto San Diego and the brand new SeaWorld and then onto Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. I remember during that trip we visited Mission San Juan Capistrano and my dad was standing with his arms stretched out covered in doves perched on his arms and shoulders. My mother thought it was disgusting. I don't remember if he was feeding them or they just landed on him. It's amazing how a photo can signal the brain to retrieve a long ago forgotten memory. Thanks, Major. Great memories! Thanks, Major.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Nanook, that is an amazing talent you have. I wish I could do that!

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

I remember going to the mission on a school fieldtrip also Major. My dad would take us down there when we were very small as well. We have a few photos of those days, nice memories.

More recently, I used to work in that town quite often in my adult years. For a time I worked for the California State Food and Agriculture. In Capistrano and along the Ortega Highway there were quite a few nurseries that I used to inspect for various agricultural reasons. I LOVED working in South Orange County, simply off the charts beautiful down there, San Juan in particular. It still had a bit of a rural feel at that time (early turn of the century).

There was a Ruby’s Diner directly over our left shoulder from where we are standing in photo #1. I would drive down there on weekends every now and then with friends and have milkshakes. Rubies makes the best shakes! (Remember to ask for the Oreo cookie/coffee)

Regarding the swallows, I now live on a small farm up here in Oregon. We were visited yearly by a rather large flock of Canadian geese (THOUSANDS!!!). Once in the country, our farm is now completely incased in urban sprawl. The geese just fly past us now.

NICE STUFF! Thanks for the memories today Major. I did indeed enjoy my visit.

K. Martinez said...

Monkey Cage Kurt, enjoyed your story of work life in Orange County. It sounds like some great memories. The small farm you live on sounds like a cool place to live even if it is encased in urban sprawl. It must've been a sight watching the Canadian geese. Too bad they changed their patterns and by pass you now.

Nanook said...

@ Ken-

...As long as the geese don't land. It's what they "leave behind" which causes all the consternation.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Thank you Ken. The farm is still nice, but our wide open view of farmlands and distant mountains has been exchanged for walls of houses. I always say it’s like living in the Death Star trench now.