Finding Meaning

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A Lost Story

By Skip Hellewell

Went to the Pageant of the Masters the other night with the Beautiful Wife, partly because a daughter was appearing in a painting. As most know, the Pageant got its start in 1932 during the Depression to lure well-heeled L.A. Olympics visitors down to Laguna. Once in Laguna, the plan went, they would buy the paintings of our starving artists. It was a great idea because that first humble effort grew and is still running 87 years later.

One thing bothered me. We know so little of the woman who launched the idea that transformed our town—Lolita Perine. In case you’re the sort of person who enjoys a lost story, here’s what I learned about Lolita, often described as a vaudevillian and artist.

Lolita Mary Perine was born in San Francisco in 1878, not long after the gold rush. Her father, described as a miner, disappears from the scene because in 1900 Lolita, her mother, and a grandmother are living in New York City. The mother’s occupation is artist and Lolita, 22, is an art engrosser decorating books. Nicer books were enhanced by hand decorating then and you can find still books “designed and hand-colored” by Lolita, including a fancy 1903 “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Lolita and mother, life companions, returned to San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Sources describe their occupation as “colorists,” those who decorated books, or enhanced black-and-white photographs. In 1920, they are living in Los Angeles on Alvarado Street; Lolita is running a boarding house with 12 lodgers and an art business.

By 1922, she is living in Laguna Beach and her occupation is “writer;” her mother is an artist. Perhaps it was the Depression, but by 1930, her occupation is real estate broker. How many smart, ambitious women, when times were hard, have turned to selling real estate? She appears to have made real estate her career, living at 820 Glenneyre, and teaming up with Maud Peek in the firm, Perine-Peek.

To put the story straight, the talented Lolita was variously a book designer and decorator, colorist and artist, writer, and finally a real estate broker. Thinking of her 1903 book, I wonder if it was Lolita who named our “Sleepy Hollow” neighborhood.

Roy Ropp and wife Marie assumed leadership of the Pageant in 1935 and made improvements. One change was to finish the show with Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” Here is Ropp’s description of the first enactment:

“A reverent silence spread over the audience. A brief narration—then the curtain slowly opened as the rich baritone voice of Mr. John Ferguson sang the beautiful ‘Lord’s Prayer,’ gradually building to the great climax. The curtain remained open, that the picture might be seen in complete silence—then it slowly closed upon this great drama. The audience was profoundly enthralled. They had experienced a sacrament, a great benediction.” (Neal Gibby, 1966.)

I mention Ropp’s account of that first showing because this year’s portrayal of da Vinci’s masterpiece, a Pageant tradition, was devoid of reverence, disrupted by discordant music and then a golf cart made up as a time machine. We should return to reverence. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]

 Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 9:30 a.m. (summer schedule)

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.

 

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