Saturday, November 14, 2015

Palm Springs

One of my boxes of slides has a nice little batch of vintage views from sunny Palm Springs, California. Roughly 100 miles east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs has been a popular destination for rest and relaxation for decades. Sonny Bono used to be the mayor (in the 1980's), and if that isn't a cause for celebration, I don't know what is.  Plus there are more golf courses than you can shake a stick at, whatever that means. The dry heat of the desert is beneficial to people with certain maladies, and there are a number of spas that take advantage of natural hot springs in the area.

This first photo shows the distinctive mid-century colonnade of the Palm Springs Spa; the spa was designed by William Cody, Donald Wexler, Richard Harrison, and Phillip Koenig and was built in 1959. For decades it was a trendy  place for out-of-town visitors, but in recent years it was showing its age, and the number of visitors had declined. There were rumors that the structure was in danger of being demolished, but local preservationists had hoped to save at least part of it.

On September 3, 2014, the building was unexpectedly razed, to the surprise of many.  

This next photo is from 1954, showing  the pool area of some unidentified hotel. There is something so classically 50's about this great photo, I find it very appealing! The blue skies, palm tree, nearby mountains, and that gleaming, glowing turquoise pool look like a vintage postcard.

I need to scan more of my vintage Palm Springs photos! There are some nice ones showing the shops in the downtown area.


Nanook said...


I''m trying to figure out in the first picture if those folks have just experienced the benefits of the spa, or are about to avail themselves of it. It's kind of hard to tell with those dumb grins on each of their faces.

And judging from the size of that pool, I'm thinking this image is of a motel, rather than the typically large-sized pools we usually see at the higher end hotels of Palm Springs.

I haven't been to Palm Springs since around December 17th or 18th, 1966. I know this date as it was the weekend following Walt Disney's death, and it stands out in my memory.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

It's too bad about that building being torn down. I hope they were able to save that mid-century sculpture that looks like an alien with an egg beater on top of it's head!

I think that pool in the second pic, is the one where Lucy and Ethel met Rock Hudson during a weekend away from their husbands ("Would you like a piece of Rock, Mr. Candy?"). I know, Major! You are not one of her F-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-N-S! Oh, and that reminds grandmother had a story about seeing Joan Crawford walking her dogs in downtown Palm Springs in the 1950's.

K. Martinez said...

I haven't been to Palm Springs since 1973. Last trip I mostly remember our eyes burning from the smog on the drive over there from Los Angeles. I like the font style for S-P-A in the "Palms Springs Spa" sign. It's sort of space-age googie. It's too bad about the building being razed, but that's usually how they do it, when no one is looking. Nice set today. Thanks, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I would bet dollars to donuts that those folks were only posing in front of the cool architecture, and were not patrons of the spa. I almost wrote “hotel/motel” when writing my incredible prose, but figured it was kind of unnecessary. Guess I need to be more accurate next time!

TokyoMagic!, yeah, the whole story about the spa being torn down is pretty crummy. The land is owned by an Indian tribe, and various spokesmen tried to make it an issue about Indian rights. My guess is that it was about putting lots of money in the pockets of a few wealthy developers and businessmen, while most members of that tribe saw no benefit at all. What’s with the “F-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-N” thing? Is that a Lucy trope? Seems more “Bugs Bunny” to me!

K. Martinez, even though the smog is still a problem, people forget how much worse it was 40 years ago. I’ve seen old photos of L.A. that resemble modern photos of those polluted cities in China. I like the “SPA” lettering too!

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, the line "Because I am NOT one of your F-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-N-S!" is from the movie, Mommie Dearest. Christina Crawford says it to her mother, Joan Crawford.

K. Martinez said...

@Major, I remember those terribly smoggy years. Several times it was so bad that my cousins and I were told to stay inside the house due to the smog alerts. I've never encountered that kind of problem today. It's a whole lot better for sure.

TokyoMagic!, I figured you were channeling Tina.

Nanook said...

@ Major-

Your incredible prose hasn't stumbled at all. I know what you meant. I was more annoyed at myself for not being able to ID the pool - although I don't know why I should. I'm hardly "Mr. Palm Springs". And besides, I think that moniker belonged to Sonny Bono - or perhaps Bob Hope.

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, I remember the Smog Alerts when I was a kid! There were various "stages" of Smog Alerts, but I can't remember now if they used numbers or colors to categorize the stages. My grandparents moved to Palm Desert (just east of Palm Springs) in the early eighties and when we would be driving back home after visiting them, we would come up over a hill and be able to look off in the distance and see the thick blanket of smog hanging over L.A. County. It was pretty gross!

Nanook said...

@ TokyoMagic!-

The smog alerts ran between Stage 1 and Stage 3. However, in 1957 fer instance, what was deemed a Stage 1 alert (0.5 parts per million of ozone) would be considered a Stage 3 alert today. And evidently the worst smog day (in Los Angeles) was September 13, 1955, when the city reached 0.9 ppm of ozone in Vernon and 0.85 ppm in downtown.

And for all you smog history buffs out there, June 27, 1974 marked the last Stage III Alert in the U.S., in lovely Upland, CA, where the ozone levels rose to .51 ppm-!

K. Martinez said...

Nanook, That's some cool information there. I must've been around for that last one as I usually spent summers at my cousin's house (Culver City) in the early to mid-70's and my uncle would drive us through Riverside County many times to go someplace else I don't even remember anymore.

TokyoMagic!, I remember those smog blankets. It was sort of foreboding.

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook, that is fascinating info. Do you happen to know when they last had to do any kind of smog alert (a Stage 1 or a Stage 2)?

Ken, foreboding is a good word for it!

Nanook said...

@ TokyoMagic!-

You'd have thought yours an easy question, but simple searches didn't yield exact results. I was able to determine many parts of So. Cal as having Federally-acceptable air; but other parts continue to have issues.

And perhaps more importantly, there's this, from the LATimes (7/14/14)...
..."In the past few years, scientists have grown increasingly alarmed about so-called “particulate matter” pollution, which embeds deeply in the lungs and is linked to serious heart and lung problems, including an increased risk of lung cancer. Los Angeles was ranked fourth for particle pollution in the American Lung Association’s latest “State of the Air” rankings. Now California regulators are struggling to bring particle pollution under control, along with ozone.

“We don’t meet federal ambient air standards in Los Angeles,” Nichols said. “We’ve brought the levels way, way down to the point where we don’t trigger actual health alerts very often, but I’m not satisfied with that.”

Nichols says by 2030 California needs to “move people and goods” with zero emissions technology. That gives the state 15 years to get its act together. Can it do it again?"

(Mary Nichols is the President of the California Air Resources Board).

Breathe with care, you So Cal folks.

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook, that is also interesting info. Particle Pollution....that sounds really unhealthy. I do remember on those days with the smog alerts, if you tried to take a deep breath in, there would be sort of a sharp feeling in your lungs. It would be difficult to describe to someone that hasn't experienced it.

Anonymous said...

As a 7th grader going to Millikan Jr. High in 1962-'63 in Sherman Oaks, last period in the afternoon I had PE and we were required to 'run a lap' each day there wasn't a Stage 3 alert. I remember that smog layer, and the pain I felt after that in my lungs...I sort of wheezed my way walking home knowing full well it wasn't healthful. The next year we moved to the Orange County coast and I never experienced it again as the coastal breezes pushed the smog inland. Yes, it is MUCH better today.

Anonymous said...

I remember that "Spa" sign very clearly from our visits in this era. Too bad the building was lost. The city has a lot of development in the old downtown, a lot of wholesale demolition and replacement, a lot of money sloshing around. Evidently too much to save this one.

At least some of the replacement buildings are following a sort-of mid-century Modern look, but there's nothing like the real old stuff. Everything was so light and airy since the earthquake stiffening hadn't ruined all the structural codes, door hardware and finishes were so different, etc.

Thanks for the fun pics, Major.