One soggy March Sunday a few years ago, my daughter, Carlyn Maw, and I headed to Manhattan Beach where Jane and her small family lived between 1927 and 1930. First stop, the small cottage in Polliwog Park that is home to the Manhattan Beach Historical Society. Steve Meisenholder, the society’s former president, has spent most of his life in the area. He gave us a great tour. Among other enticing artifacts in one of the back rooms, we found this wool bathing suit,* the sort that Jane might have worn when she plunged into the ocean for a swim on a brisk March afternoon in 1928.
Our second destination was the town of Redondo Beach just a few miles away. Redondo Union High School is now spread out over 66 acres, but the Beaux Art auditorium that announced the campus when Jane and Dick Wick Hall, Jr. were there exists only in yearbooks and photographs.** That evening we made our way back to Manhattan Beach over semi-flooded roads for dinner at what was then Talia’s Restaurant. The building incorporates the former Hall house. It’s now David LeFevre’s popular Fishing With Dynamite. This location, where Jane launched her literary career as a young teen, will always be important to our family.
Finally, at about six o’clock, the sun broke through the clouds; the Manhattan Beach Pier became more inviting despite the chilly winds. Off the end of the pier beyond the Roundhouse we could see seals glide through surface waves and Brown Pelicans plunge into the Pacific with astonishing speed to pick up their own evening meals. Some things have not changed over time such as the view west from the pier over the vast expanse of the ocean.
As three well-fed pelicans took off into the sky, I thought of Jane’s devotion to her widowed mother and brother. “Now we are The Three” she wrote, three people who became inseparable in Manhattan Beach. Jane’s options seemed unlimited in what was then a town of less than 2000 people. I wish we had known her while she could still hear the sea gulls from her bedroom, and type for hours undisturbed by her empathetic mother. And when a sign on the door of 1148 Manhattan Avenue declared that Jane was the Manhattan Beach correspondent for the Redondo Daily Breeze. As we headed back towards Los Angeles, Carlyn and I promised we would return to this prosperous coastal city of 35,000 on a warmer, drier day.
* The label clipped to this bathing suit at the MBHS reads: “Wool bathing suit for rent at Manhattan Beach bathhouse. During the late 1920s & early 1930s, the same suits were used by both men and women. It wasn’t until 1933 that men could take off the tank top on the beach.”
**Thanks to Therese Martinez and the Archives staff these are carefully preserved in the school Archives.