Monday, June 14, 2010

The Setting on Mt. Baldy and the Stone House

Below - the old Virginia Dare winery in Rancho Cucamonga in 1977. It has since been restored. It was the site of plays and happenings back in the 1960s. Above, a photo of how it looked originally.

Historic Upland, California. The black and white photograph is of Tey`s Fountain - stonework from Upland similar to the stone house complex.

"T h e A r c h e t y p e s"
The Happening on Mt. Baldy
Spring 1969

It had been a year of El Nino and the Marinas on the West Coast were hit by storms and floods. Mount Baldy's river flooded way past its banks leaving large trees overturned and uprooted. The mountain road had just been repaved and painted with a new white stripe. That road disappeared around a bend, cut straight across- the road was gone. Up river was a site built of native stone. There were stairs, and a paved platform overlooking the deep and wide flood-stage river-bed of new landscape. A small stone room with an open roof was at the top of the stairs, that was the last stop for the guests. Merillee arrived in her sports car dressed in her Robin Hood costume complete with bow and arrows. It was her job to guide each of the guests one by one to the entrance of the path. On the way, behind each bend, was a girl in costume with something for them to eat. One could not see all of the girls posed from the starting place down river at the end of the pavement. I stood up on the platform so that I could see how it was all progressing since I was responsible for it, it was my senior project.
Each girl had an idea for her personal costume for the event. I had images in my mind of the costumes which often matched the pictures in their minds.
Several but not all of the participating students were posed for still photos for my senior exhibit.

The Stone House

The stone house complex was built east of the Claremont campuses in Upland up towards the foothills near the old cannery. An artist had constructed a fanciful complex of native rock structures on acres of land. There were several residences as well as an arena around a pyramid which had a descending curved stairway going down into the ground. Near that was a pottery wheel studio. A family who lived there were stained glass artists, there work hung in the open-air workshop. The land was well planted with trees, it was a garden away from the world. The landlady was a French woman who had a white toy poodle. Our house was a ranch-style home built of stone in the Hispanic style. There was a stone archway leading into the living room and there were niches in the walls for religious icons. In the large room, a picture window made of glass bricks faced the rising sun. We lived there in the late `60s in the summer.

Right on schedule, irrigation water would be pumped in for the crops of citrus trees. The builder had constructed a deep round stone pool in the grove of trees above the complex, it was about 15 feet across. Above it was a large conduit from which the water poured to fill the pool. It was shaded fresh water and was lovely. It was especially welcome after a long day of coaching childrens` swim classes in a chlorinated pool. We had to watch out for bees, because they loved the clean unchlorinated water too.

During the 1960s, there were many movie-makers on campus. One of the professors shot a scene at that pool one morning before we all went to work. We got all dressed up as if for a party and stood in the dry pool. We chatted and toasted as if nothing were going on as the pool filled up to the depth of over 5 feet. It made for a funny movie as our table and chairs began to float around beside us. He filmed at dawn so the light was excellent.

There were some other memorable events held in that house, Voodoo drumming was popular back then. There were some local people who had an alligator farm with exotic animals in the area and my roommate Sylvi took drumming lessons from the proprietor who had studied in Haiti. Sylvi, had her own Haitian drum and would practice at home. We had their professional drumming group at the stone house party, I was always the dancer.

Of course, to recall that era, the `60s music on that great LA radio station would have to be in the background. Each semester had its own hits, the music was incredible back then. A new LP was an event. We`d gather at the apt. of whoever had the new record and hear it all the way through. At the stone house, Hap played his Frank Zappa records and the Banana Album - Andy Warhol`s prodigies singing "Shiny Boots of Leather." I remember bringing the first Jimi Hendrix Experience record back to Claremont, it was a big hit.

Those were the days. At the beginning of the year in 1966, Sylvi and I visited the warehouse studio of Chris Burden and Steve Watson. I think they lived there but it looked pretty inhospitable. It was a huge space. Chris had an airforce bomb hanging from the ceiling, it was made of aluminum.

Thanks Rebecca, it was fun to write this up. I`d never heard of the Pomona Art Dept. quitting after that fellow`s performance. We`re all looking forward to hearing more about that!

Regards, Jill Roe (Mary Jill Roe Bennett) Class of 1969

Description by Dana Magnuson of Professor Richard Barnes` play held at the old winery:

"I don't remember a whole lot except that it was called "The Eighth Avatar" and was pretty well advertised and was very unique and involved alot of visual effects such as colored spotlights and smoke, maybe strobe lights, loud electric music...seems like one unusual thing was it started late at night 11:00 or midnight maybe...colorful flowing costumes, maybe some characters on stilts. Seems like characters were moving all around throughout the ruins and the audience was sort of wherever you could find a place to sit or stand. There wasn't much of a libretto but was some explanation of what an avatar Hindu mythology the incarnation of a God or a religious concept....maybe something about there being being seven avatars in the Hindu cosmology, and this was to be the eighth? I remember it as pretty confusing but entertaining in a jumbled way. Probably alot of mind alteration going on. I think I was with Merrily Whittle or Malinda. That's about all I recall. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a script or video tucked away someplace in the PC English Department annals...Barnes was pretty influential although considered kind of an odd duck. I will try to remember to ask Steve Young about it if/when I see him. He lives on Lopez Island (near Orcas) and is in close touch with Mowry, who might also remember something about it."

There was another happening held out there in 1968, many people attended. They built a small wooden wagon that had a construction on it built of fireworks. When I heard that they planned to wheel the wagon inside the winery and set off them off, I didn`t believe it - it was an enclosed space! We followed them into the large interior, we`d been standing right where the painter of the ruin stood when he painted the above painting. The room was enormous and lined with observers. The sculpture made of sparklers and fireworks was lit, they were white and rose colored. The sparklers lit the room and the sillouettes of the viewers danced on the walls all around in a rosey glow. It was quite a sight! MJA From Pomona alumni Chrys Atwood: "My mom and her brother, Bill, at the Ostrich Farm in Pasadena. They were visiting Southern California, staying with Uncle Harold at his Upland Inn. I'm guessing this is about 1924."

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