Snail's Postcard Post

The California Coast

A friend and I went to the beach in Santa Monica yesterday. We found a spot south of the pier, just like the time I went with Mama Snail years ago when she painted this postcard:IMG_7929

The water was warmer than I ever recall in Southern California, and we saw dolphins! So I was inspired to give a postcard salute to the California coast.


IMG_7935IMG_7937Grandma and Grandpa Snail (on Papa Snail’s side) live in Solana Beach, near San Diego. Grandma Snail sent me the postcard above when I was a wee snail at summer camp in Colorado. Grandpa Snail sent me the one below at the same time.

Grandma wrote:
Can’t wait to get my first letter from you at camp. What activities are you enjoying + are you making some new friends? Hope you are enjoying the gorgeous Rocky Mountain scenery.

Grandpa wrote:
Just wanted to thank you again for the beautiful blue glass shell. I went scuba diving yesterday in same area you went with your dad in the ocean but didn’t see anything that pretty. Hope you are enjoying the camp + meeting new friends. I want to hear all the details when you return to Solana Beach.

IMG_7932IMG_7934This is one of the postcards I used in an art series:img_6316

Caption: Avalon Bay–a thrilling scene by day–a fairyland by night. Avalon is situated on the landward side of the Island…25 miles south of Los Angeles harbor, an enjoyable two hour steamer ride.
Caption: Named after Saint Catherine, this Island of 76 square miles of unspoiled natural beauty is home to 3000 year-round residents, as well as a host of wildlife. Clockwise from top left: Avalon, Catalina’s only city is the primary arrival and destination point for visitors to the Island. The California Poppy, the State flower, is on of many blooming plants growing wild on Catalina. Two landmarks in Avalon are the Casino (1929) and the Holly Hill House (1890). Though not native to Catalina, Bison (“buffalo”) roam the interior of the Island.

From a friend when we were 11:
I promised to send you a postcard for your collection. We’re on our way to go jet skying [sic.] we just got finished snorkling [sic.] the fish are cool.IMG_7947IMG_7941

Buffalo arrived on Catalina in 1924 for the filming of a movie. Accustomed to humans, they continue to thrive unconfined on the island. In their evolutionarily short time on Catalina, the buffalo have gotten smaller,  an adaptation of many animals known as island dwarfism. This allows them to live in balance with the island’s small-scale ecosystem.

I volunteered with the Catalina Island Conservancy some years ago, and learned that since the 1960s, the organization has introduced bull calves from Wyoming to prevent inbreeding in the island herd. These days, the Conservancy returns the favor by sending Catalina bison to strengthen herds in the Western states.


This is one of the first postcards I bought for myself. I was a young snail on a field trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. And I still love sea mammals. This one’s the quintessential-California harbor seal. 


IMG_7928(Where we went yesterday.)
South of the pier is the original Muscle Beach: 

IMG_7931A gymnasium in the sand used by acrobats and old school fitness enthusiasts, Muscle Beach patrons have awed passing crowds since the 1930s. (The newer Muscle Beach is a little further south along the Venice boardwalk, and favored by heavy duty bodybuilders.) The image above from the late ’50s/early ’60s comes from a postcard for Charles Phoenix’s fabulous God Bless Americana slide show.IMG_7930



The Four Seasons Biltmore, Santa Barbara
IMG_7952This is near where we camped with your class! A very pretty hotel…I saw Terri Friedman today, and also, Mary Paige’s [my best little snail friend] grandparents came to my reading–they knew who you were, that’s for sure! One down, 27 to go.

From Mama Snail at the beginning of a long book tour when I was small. Postcards from her junkets are what got me started collecting. IMG_7953


IMG_7954Caption: Southern Pacific’s Streamlined “Coast Daylight” follows the blue Pacific shore line for 113 miles on its scenic route between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

One of my most picturesque midcentury postcards. This one captures the California coast perfectly, and sends me imagining what it was like to ride in an old-time passenger train right along the bluffs that drop to the Pacific.

While reading a bit about the Coast Daylight online, I found Wikipedia has this exact photo in its archives. It’s dated 1957. The Coast Daylight Wikipedia page has other nice Coast Daylight photos too, if you want to see more. 

Here’s what I learned: Considered by some to be the most beautiful passenger train in the world, the red, orange and black Coast Daylight ran from 1937-1971. Replacing the Daylight Limited, which set the route in 1922, the Coast Daylight cut the nine-stop trip down from an already “speedy” 12 hours, to 9 3/4, thanks to the G2 streamlined locomotives that pulled it. While most streamliners converted to diesel in the late ’40s, the Coast Daylight ran on steam until 1955. So the one in this postcard would have just switched over.

In the ’60s, the Southern Pacific Railroad started to suffer. To cut costs, the railroad set up Automats in the traditional dining cars. (For a cool Automat postcard and a bit about that phenomenon, check out this post.) In 1971, Southern Pacific handed Amtrak the railroad switch. The classic era of the Coast Daylight was over, but the trains kept on chugging with the route extended all the way to Seattle.  IMG_7956


IMG_7957The iconic Lone Cypress looks over Monterey Bay along 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach in Carmel. One of my favorite scenic postcards. Another from Grandma and Grandpa Snail:

November 3, 1999
We are in the Carmel/Monterey area not too far from Santa Cruz where you have visited. Tomorrow we are going to see the acquarium which is suppose[d] to be one of the best in the country. We are looking forward to seeing you on Thanksgiving. Until then both of us send much loveIMG_7959


IMG_7970Another one of my favorite scenic postcards. I love how the red of the bridge illuminates the fog from below, and how the photographer caught how precisely the fog bank ends where the Bay opens up.


IMG_7965IMG_7966IMG_7968 IMG_7969


(The Bay Bridge)




Another postcard from camp. One summer, Mama and Papa Snail and I drove from the snail garden in Los Angeles to a summer camp in the High Sierra near Truckee (above Lake Tahoe near the Nevada border). Mama and Papa Snail then left me to it and set out on their own summer getaway. They drove west to Point Arena, then followed the coast up to the Oregon border. 

Tues. July 23
Dad + I have begun our drive up the coast. We’re sitting on the porch of our little cottage listening to the sea lions barking out on the rocks…arg arg arg arg. Amazing. Saw a deer + little spotted faun in the meadow. Hope you’re having fun. Thinking of you. The people we stayed with in Ukiah had a flock of ducks–so cute. Love you–Mom + Dad


IMG_7984Popular with cyclists, scenic Coast Highway 1 traces most of the western edge of California, running about 655 miles from (approximately) Dana Point in the South to Leggett in the North.


IMG_7980This unusual postcard arrived with one of the best messages I’ve received. It’s from my friend who runs Lovely Handwritten Notes and the personal essay blog Rough Outlines. Currently living in Washington D.C., this postcard tells of her much loved hometown of Arcata in the far north of the state.

May 19, 2012
I thought I’d send another postcard response for your collection. Funny enough, this is one of my favorite photos of my hometown in California. I think I like it so much because it so accurately captures the beauties of places in the world that tourist postcards often overlook. To many, the fog may not be ideal, but growing up with that fog–it was always something I could count on. It wrapped me up in familiarity just for a moment.


This entry was published on June 30, 2014 at 10:59 pm. It’s filed under U.S.A. and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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