1909 Christmas on Palomar
Excerpts from Elsie Hayes Journal
By her Granddaughter, Barbara Beishline Waite

Please visit Barbara's website for more info on Elsie's Journal now available!

Elsie Hayes fell in love with Palomar the very first time she visited with her family when she was 16 years old. That was in the summer of 1904. They camped under the trees and were captured with the mountain's beauty.  The Hayes family bought the old "Mack" place ~ which is now owned by Tom Burton on the south side of State Park Road, and Dale Huntley and Cliff and Susie Kellogg to the north.

They were thrilled to have seven acres of apples trees and went to work to plant a total of fourteen acres. Many of those trees are still enjoyed today.   They usually returned to their Long Beach home in late fall. Aunt Mamie stayed in Long Beach with the girls, Elsie, Alice and Hylinda, while Alonzo tended the ranch on Palomar..

In 1908, Alonzo Hayes and his wife, May Carrie Reed Hayes were returning to the mountain in a particularly chilly season.  May wrote:

"Alonzo and I left Claremont Dec. 5.  Camped in shed at schoolhouse at Temescal.  Next night camped near Temecula by roadside, frost on our pillows and comforts when we woke in morning, Third night camped under splendid live oak at Nate's.  Alonzo made a big campfire.  Arrived safely at Palomar Dec. 8, 1908.  Returned to Claremont Dec. 24, 1908, arriving safely."

When Elsie was 91 she wrote with vivid recollection of a December trip up the mountain made in 1909. 

"One night journey up that old grade is certainly unforgettable.  It was December 1909.  We were again living in Long Beach, but for the first and only time my parents were trying out the idea of spending the winter at the ranch on Palomar.  We girls were to join them for the holiday.   Alice was staying with our friends the Hands and attending high school in Pasadena.   I was a Pomona College junior, living in Sumner Hall, the girls dorm."

"A few days before Christmas Alice took the Santa Fe at Pasadena, I got on the same train when it stopped in Claremont, and Papa met us with team and wagon in Temecula.  My poor father was evidently coming down with a heavy cold and reached Temecula bent over with lumbago.  He was ten years older than mother, looking older yet because of the beard he always wore.  That evening when we registered in the funny little hotel in the otherwise wholly Indian settlement of Temecula he looked ancient."

"Alice and I shared a room down the hall from Papa's.  Mama and Aunt Mamie had been left alone on the mountain, and a storm was coming up.  We HAD to drive the next day, and Papa asked me to rub his back with liniment.  The eagle-eyed landlady stopped me when she saw me going through the lamp-lit hall to his room.  'He IS your fatherů?' she asked grimly.  Astounded, insulted and highly amused, I tried to reassure her and showed her the liniment.  Dubiously she allowed me to continue."

"Cold as it was. Alice and I were such fresh air fiends that we felt we had to open a window in our little room.  We struggled in vain with the one through which we saw faint moonlight coming through the clouds.  Another window, which showed no light, resisted our efforts too, but eventually we managed to shove it open a little way.  Relieved that at last we had some air, we still were restless, wishing in this Indian village that we were nearer Papa's room.  We were wakeful in the night and looked out alarmed to see an Indian standing under the moonlit window.  When we finally slept we woke in daylight to discover our opened window led only into a stuffy little storeroom!"

"Breakfast was early before our thirty-mile drive. But we were only on the lower reaches of the grade when dusk fell.  It was bitter weather.  We all wore heavy coats, but the icy wind chilled us through and through. As usual, we girls walked part of the way up to save the horses.  When we climbed back to the seat we were glad to pull the heavy quilts Mama had thoughtfully provided."

"It's going to storm , all right," Papa said hoarsely looking at the black sky that seemed to surround us.  "And it's getting so dark I can't see the road.  One of you will have to walk ahead and carry the lantern."

"We put the thick quilts over our heads and fastened them under our chins with big safety pins (those must have been sent down by our loving mother, too).  As we walked along the edge of the road the howling wind tore our "shawls" out like balloons and almost blew us over the precipices at the lower side of the grade.  We took turns carrying the flickering lantern. The horses bent their heads and toiled ahead.  Papa was bent, too, and muffled and bearded.  On that dark night on the bleak mountainside I thought we must look like Russian peasants I had seen pictured.  Almost 70 years later that scene is still a vivid memory."

"We reached the forest, and finally the ranch with its warm fires and warmer welcome.  For days afterwards Papa was very ill.  Later Mama said it must have been pneumonia.  And for days the snow fell, silently, endlessly.  Mama and I went out with an axe and cut down a Christmas tree.  Aunt Mamie filled our stockings, as she always did for Christmas, with contents earlier ordered from Sears & Roebuck, 'the farmer's Bible.'"

"For many years mail came to the 'Nellie' post office at Bailey's three times a week, the carrier and his horse using the old trail, once an almost impossibly steep road, a bit of which may still be seen near what is now the south grade up the mountain.  Even when mail days fell on a holiday, the mail came, just the same. This year Christmas was a mail day.  The storm was over, the sun brilliant across the fresh, deep snow and the green, green evergreens.  Never again, I fear, will there be such beauty on our mountains as on that day when we had real rainy seasons.  Beyond the verdant hills and valleys the ocean glittered, with the distant islands standing out sharply in deep blue."

"On that sacred day in the midst of such beauty my heart sang as I walked lightly on top of the snow through that shining world.  The Christmas gift packages and greetings that I carried back only added to my always- remembered joy."

"But two days later when Alice took her turn as mail carrier the sun had done its work, and she sank through deep clogging snow at every step.  Though we used to take a shortcut over the hill, it was too much.  She came staggering back, arms full of delayed parcels, and without a word dropped onto a couch and burst into tears.  We were frightened until we realized that nothing had happened to her except exhaustion."

"My parents had decided that a Palomar winter was not for them.  When we girls were due back at school the roads were still impassable.  When Papa was well enough to travel, he and our good neighbors the Baileys devised a possible way to get down.  The horses could of course break through the snow with less difficulty if their load was lightened, and now the oldest members of the family would be going, also. So Alice and I were taken by Bailey sleigh as far down as, I think, Lone Fir.  From there I rode on to Temecula with another storm delayed traveler, a young man who enchanted me with tales of the Alaska he knew.  I was charmed by the young man himself, also at the same time trying desperately not to be tossed off the very high seat of his huge wagon, with almost no handholds to help when we hit deep ruts and stones washed down by the storm."

"In those days any Pomona student reaching the campus late after vacation had to formally apply for readmission.  My dear friend Alice Parker was still on the faculty there, and told me with much amusement how when my application was read at a faculty meeting there was great astonishment.  Never before, in that sunny Southern California institution, had the excuse of being snowbound been given for a week's delay in returning after the holidays.  However, she knew Palomar herself, and was able to convince her associates that it could well be a valid reason."

Now, nearly a hundred years later Alonzo and Elsie's descendents are gathering once more for Christmas on Palomar.  Alonzo Hayes' great, great, great  grandson Mateo (five months old) will be here as the 6th generation of Hayes, Roberts, Beishline, and Waite families to venture up the mountain.  It is not quite the challenge today that it was in 1909 when it was accomplished by horse and wagon!  But the love of Palomar is just as present today as it was a hundred years ago.  I will share with our four children some of the wonderful tales that Elsie shared with me many years ago.

It has been such a pleasure to edit Elsie's diaries and notes from her years spent living on the mountain.   Elsie wrote of rather ordinary things yet they give us a unique glimpse into life as it was on Palomar 100 years ago. Elsie wrote stories and articles for magazines for many years.  Many of them are based on her mountain years and a book is planned for the future. 

A very Merry Christmas to you and your family!  I hope you enjoy Elsie's memory of Palomar as much as I have enjoyed retelling it for you. 

Barbara Beishline Waite
Christmas on Palomar 2006