In May we enjoyed a two week vacation in California. In this blog post it is our intention to share some details with you and show you some pictures.
In the forty one years that we have lived in British Columbia, Canada, we have visited and enjoyed holidays in California many times. The major reason that motivated us to make this particular trip at this time is as follows. A long time ago (during the years immediately following the end of World War 2) I was a student/pupil in London, England at a high school named Loughborough Central School. A contemporary of mine for part of that time was a student named Colin Mackenzie. He was ahead of me by three years and so we did not move in the same student circle and were not friends, as such. We were, however, in the same “house” – Faraday House. Everybody in the school and particularly those, like me, in Faraday House knew who Colin was. As well as being an academically bright student, he was an outstanding athlete who ran like the wind, winning every race he entered on the annual school sports day. Faraday House won the sports shield, mainly as a result of Colin’s prowess.
Many years later an enterprising couple in the UK created a computer website and programme named, “Friends Reunited.” Its purpose was to provide the opportunity to former British school pupils to reconnect with friends and acquaintances from their schooldays. I registered on the Loughborough Central page and began attempting to contact others who I remembered from my Loughborough days. Colin had registered and I sent an introductory note to which Colin graciously responded. He did not remember me, which was not surprising. The result was that we became firm, online friends.
I learned that Colin, after finishing school at Loughborough, had spent three years in the Royal Air Force (RAF) as an aircraft apprentice. He was awarded a cadetship to RAF Cranwell. After a few months he obtained a medical discharge and worked for a few months doing office work in London while awaiting a passage allowing him to emigrate to Canada in 1951. After working at A.V. Roe (assembling jet engines) in Toronto, the air force beckoned again and he served as a Navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) for six years and then went to Acadia University in Nova Scotia and thence to Dalhousie Medical School where he trained to be a family doctor. After interning in Saint John, New Brunswick for a year, he and his wife Thelma (a Canadian born in Nova Scotia) moved to Santa Cruz in California where he became a physician in a new family practice in Scotts Valley. He remained a valued member of the medical profession at the family practice and local hospital in Santa Cruz for the rest of his career. He and Thelma are now very active retirees. They have children and grandchildren, all living and working in the Santa Cruz area.
In early May Colin telephoned one morning and said, “When are you coming to visit us?” After researching it was agreed we would fly to San Jose on May 17 where Colin and Thelma would meet us. For the next two weeks we would spend part of the time with them and the rest of the time touring in a rented car and visiting some other friends we have in California.
The most convenient way to make the return flights was to fly from the airport at Bellingham, Washington, about a 45 minute drive from home. However our departure from Bellingham in an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 was scheduled for 6:30am which meant a very early start from home. Our alarm clock awakened us at 2:45am and we left the house at 3:45am. A 10 minute drive brought us to our local 24 hour per day border crossing. Soon we were driving on empty Washington state country roads where the only signs of human life were lights and activity in the milking barns of a few dairy farms along our route. After parking our car in the long-stay parking lot at the airport, a shuttle bus took us to the terminal building where we checked in without any problem.
We had an enjoyable and efficient journey to San Jose where we were met by our friends Colin and Thelma and driven to their home in Santa Cruz, located on the coast of Monterey Bay 51 kms south of San Jose and 120 kms south of San Francisco. It is the county seat and largest city of Santa Cruz County, California with a currently estimated population of about 269,419. European settlement in the area dates back to the Spanish Santa Cruz Mission in 1791 and the name, Santa Cruz, means in Spanish, Holy Cross.
We were spoiled by Colin and Thelma from the moment of arrival, and every moment during the next few days was packed with vacation activity as they showed us the beautiful area in which they live. We walked through a forest of giant redwood trees where we felt humbled in the presence of these arboreal mammoths, a number of which are over one thousand years old. We also walked along the Santa Cruz pier watching fishermen, which included a young boy or two, catching mackerel, observing sea
lions lounging on the timber foundations of the pier and catching glimpses of dolphins playing off shore.
Colin gave us a tour of the medical clinic at Scotts Valley founded by him and two colleagues back in the 1960s. It is still a going concern, serving the needs of the community with a larger staff of physicians.
Thelma is very gifted in a number of ways. Hers and Colin’s home is filled with things she has designed and made, from carved wood items to lovely fabric creations, such as duvet and pillow covers, matching dust covers for kitchen items like the food processor and blender for example. She makes most, if not all her clothing. A conservatory is filled with lovely flowers and plants including orchids and delicate, orchid like streptocarpus plants. I should also mention that Colin, since retiring from his medical practice has taken up the hobby of wood turning. Examples of bowls, plates and other beautifully turned items can be seen throughout the house.
One of the most enjoyable memories that we have from our visit to Santa Cruz is the tour we had of a chocolate factory and The Candy Store – not just any chocolate factory but Mackenzies Chocolates, founded in 1984 by Thelma. Colin’s very talented wife, although she did not have any experience in making chocolates, had the notion that it was something she would like to do. The result is an amazing place with varieties of chocolates that we have never seen anywhere else. It is now managed by their son Ian and is a true
family business. If you are interested in a violin, cell phone, shoes, cowboy boots, rabbits, crosses, Eiffel Tower, an aircraft, figurines such as Santa Claus et al, all made of chocolate, Mackenzies Chocolates has them and more. Everything is available by mail order too. “Google” Mackenzies Chocolates and you can see more of the available inventory. Grace had the opportunity to be part of the process of creating some of the chocolates too! When we left to come back home Thelma and Colin presented us with a big box of delicious, mixed chocolates. We have carefully rationed ourselves and still have some left. Wonderful!
We rented a car in Santa Cruz, a late 2016 model white Nissan Sentra and were very
pleased with the service it gave us. Our original intention was to drive inland and visit Yosemite State Park but we changed our minds and went south down Highway 101 towards Los Angeles. Colin and Thelma recommended that we visit along the way the town of Solvang. We did so and found it delightful and fascinating.
Here is an extract from Wikipedia’s entry about the town. “Solvang was founded in 1911 on almost 9,000 acres (3,600 ha) of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata Mexican
land grant, by a group of Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish colony far from the midwestern winters. The city is home to a number of bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark in California. The architecture of many of the façades and buildings reflects traditional Danish style. There is a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen, as well as one featuring the bust of famed Danish fable writer Hans Christian Andersen. A replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower or Rundetårn in the scale 1:3 was finished in 1991 and can be seen in the town center.” We enjoyed our brief visit to Solvang which has a population of about 5,500 persons.
After an overnight stay in nearby Buellton we continued our journey south to Garden Grove in south Los Angeles. Our plan was to attend the Sunday services the following day at Shepherds Grove Church, the home of the TV programme, “The Hour of Power” that we watch every week at home. The lead pastor there is Robert (Bobby) Schuller, the grandson of the late Dr. Robert Schuller, who founded the popular TV programme back in 1971.
It was a wonderful experience, actually being present live in the services (traditional at 9:30am and contemporary at 11:15am). We have a high respect for the ministry of Bobby Schuller and we appreciated the opportunity later to have a good conversation with him and his wife Hannah. The special guest that morning who was interviewed by Bobby was Alex Boye, a gifted song writer and musician
who writes music for the movie industry. In the service he sang his Africanized version of the song “Let it Go,” originally
written for the movie, “Frozen” by songwriters Robert and Kirsten Lopez. Alex is British born and grew up in Tottenham, London. We spoke to him after the service also and I greeted him in a broad Cockney accent. To my surprise he roared with laughter and embraced me with a huge hug! He is a delightful man.
We visited Jack and Carolyn Williams, some long time friends who live in Long
Beach and Christine, a cousin of Grace’s, and her husband Richard, who live at Redondo Beach before we began our northward journey. It was not a long journey that day – just to Culver City on the northern side of Los Angeles where we had booked for two nights at a nice motel. Our reason was to fulfill what we had planned for the next two days – time at the Getty Center and Villa.
Paul Getty was one of the richest Americans ever. He was born in 1892 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father, George Getty became involved in the oil business in Oklahoma and son Paul gained his first work experience in his father’s company. His academic education culminated in obtaining a degree at Oxford University, England in Economics and Political Science. When his father died, Paul became the chairman of the company. Despite the fact that his father thought that his son would not be a success in business, Paul proved that he was very smart and astute. He expanded the company’s holdings, amalgamating a number of oil and other companies into one company named simply, Getty Oil. He is also credited with coining the phrase, “The meek shall inherit the earth, but not its mineral rights.”
In 1949 J. Paul Getty took the, or one of the biggest business gambles of his life. He negotiated a 60 year lease from the Saudi royal family of a tract of land in Saudi Arabia, near the border with Kuwait. The initial cost in US dollars was $9.5 million and the annual “rent” would be $1 million. For four years Getty Oil conducted exploration and test drillings without significant success – all this at the cost of a further $30 million. Then a drilling discovered a virtual ocean of crude which from that time on produced 16,000,000 barrels of crude a year, making Paul Getty one of the richest men in the world. When he died in 1976 at the age of 83 his net worth was reckoned to be more than $2 billion (that would be more than $8 billion at 2016 US dollar value).
Paul Getty purchased a home at Pacific Palisades, north of Los Angeles where he and his family lived for some years. However, in the 1950s he relocated to England where he purchased a mansion in the county of Surrey near Guildford. It would be his main home for the remainder of his life.
He was an enigma. Even though he possessed vast wealth he lived frugally and could be ruthlessly stingy. When renovation work was being done at the Guildford, Surrey home he noticed that
the telephone bill increased, a sign that the workmen were using it for personal calls. Paul Getty had the telephones with dials locked and he installed a coin operated telephone that the workmen could use, at a cost of course. When his grandson, Paul Getty III was kidnapped by criminals and held for ransom, he at first refused to pay anything, saying that to do so would expose all his grandchildren as well as the children of other wealthy people to the danger of being kidnapped for ransom. The criminals responded by severing one of the boy’s ears and forwarding it in the mail to the boy’s grandfather. J. Paul Getty then vigorously negotiated a reduction of the ransom demand, said to have been about $17 million. It was finally settled at about $3.4 million..
Paul Getty was married five times and divorced five times. He ruefully commented that his matrimonial failures were due to the fact that it is not possible to have a successful business and marriage, one must choose to have one or the other. He also loathed having to pay money to the government. His reason was that it was a pointless exercise as the only thing that the government would do with the money was waste it.
At the same time, J. Paul Getty left to the world a huge and wonderful collection of art and antiquities. He began his collection during the days he lived in Malibu. In 1953 he established the J. Paul Getty Trust. It is the world’s wealthiest art institution and it operates the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Foundation, the Getty Institute and the Getty Conservation Institute. The Getty Center and Villa in Malibu house much of these ancient treasures. In his will J. Paul Getty bequeathed an enormous financial endowment to the Getty Trust for its maintenance and work. It is the most highly endowed charitable organization in the world. Visitors pay no entrance fee at either the Center or the Villa, just a modest parking fee for those who arrive by car.
Grace and I spent two enthralling days, first at the Center and then at the Villa. I hope you will enjoy some of the photographs that I took there and which I have posted on this blog. I do not know about you but when I stand in the presence of something that is thousands of years old and has a significant place in history, I have a strange, almost physical sensation. For instance, I stood in front of the bust of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, carefully scrutinizing the facial features thinking, “This is the face of the man who was the Roman Emperor during the time of the ministry of the Lord Jesus which culminated in his crucifixion, death and victorious resurrection. Did Tiberius, in Rome, have any idea what was happening in distant Jerusalem – events that would change the world and history?”
While we were at the Getty Center Grace had a most interesting experience. As you may know, she is a gifted linguist. Currently she is working hard at becoming proficient and fluent in Spanish and is making remarkable progress. We noticed a group of elementary age students with their teacher who was speaking to them in Spanish. That encouraged Grace who went to the teacher, introduced herself in Spanish and explained that she was currently learning the language. The teacher immediately called the students to gather around in a group. She then explained to them that Grace was a teacher who was learning their language. She then asked Grace to speak to them and tell them about herself, in Spanish of course. Grace was taken by surprise but being the person she is, rose to the occasion. She then took questions from the students who were interested to know more about her. I am sorry that I do not have of picture of this encounter to share with you.
From Malibu we drove north to Santa Rosa, located north of San Francisco to visit our friend of many years, Tim Martin and other friends there. Santa Rosa was the home for many years of Charles Schultz, creator of the famous “Peanuts” cartoon strip. Tim kindly took us to the Schultz Museum. This completed, we returned to Santa Cruz to spend our final day or so with Colin and Thelma.
During that final day Colin encouraged me to try my hand at wood turning and suggested that, under his instruction and guidance, I attempt to make a long style rolling pin. We went to his workshop
where he kitted me out with the recommended protective clothing, including hard hat and protective face mask. In retrospect, I wish I had had the presence of mind to have a photograph taken. I thought I looked a bit like Neil Armstrong stepping on to the moon! With great patience, Colin took me through the process, giving me help, as necessary along the way, particularly in the important finishing stage. He has subsequently said he considered me a “star pupil” in my first attempt at wood turning. He is so kind! We certainly are very pleased to have the rolling pin and a lovely holder in which to keep it that was made by Colin and Thelma.
I mentioned earlier that Thelma and Colin gave us a large box of Mackenzies Chocolates. The best (and only) way we can share them with you is by the following pictures.
On Tuesday May 31 our friends, Colin and Thelma, drove us back to San Jose airport for our flight home. It was a wonderful vacation.
I thought we would give the final word to J. Paul Getty. Although in many instances it may be true, I do not believe that it always is or inevitably will be true. It is food for thought however.
“A lasting relationship with a woman is only possible if you are a business failure. I hate to be a failure. I hate and regret the failure of my marriages. I would gladly give all my millions for just one lasting marital success.” (J. Paul Getty)
Credits: Author: Martin
Information Sources: Wikipedia, Forbes.com – Contributor Augustino Fontevecchia, Getty Center and Villa websites
Photographs: Martin, Alaska Airlines