arboretum walk

Los Angeles County Arboretum is in my city , Arcadia , across Baldwin Avenue from the Santa Anita racetrack . Actually , right across Baldwin are the stables and , a little further down , one of the giant shopping malls that have taken over America .  But  , behind the stables , and as yet still a distance from the shopping mall , is the picturesque old track built in the thirties ,  and  its extensive parking lot .

Developers have been eyeing that parking lot , that open space ,  for years , salivating ( in a business sense ) , hoping to use the expansive  space to make more money . The mall ( Fashion Park ! ) has been spreading and spreading like an invasive and contagious  lesion across the town , like a pecuniary pustule on the face of the city .  I suppose though , that  progress is progress , that  time moves on , and that business is business . The racetrack , however , has been the golden goose for Arcadia . We’ll see in future years if the city kills off that goose , squeezes out the track , and how things go then .SantaAnita1

All of this area , the stables , the Fashion Park , the parking lot , was used to imprison the L.A. area Japanese , citizens or not , for a few months after Pearl Harbor ,  as longer-term  internment  camps were being built , as the high desert camp called Manzanar , in which  to keep them  , where most of these people would spend the years of the war . At a time  years later , as WWII dragged on , thousands of young men from these prison camps volunteered for the military , to fight for the country that had imprisoned them and their families , to win honors in combat .army medal of honor

Do the ghosts of these detainees still haunt this space ?  No doubt , yes , in some of the same horse stables used in 1942 to house people . What about in the mall , where tar paper shacks were once standing , having been built quickly ,  with  barbed wire  stretched around  ,  and armed Army guards  posted , bayonets and machine guns ready , to keep the Japanese , citizens and otherwise , within their cramped quarters ?santa anita 2

E. J. Baldwin , known as ” Lucky ” , once owned all of this land . Where the Arboretum is now was his home . He lived in the adobe house built by a previous owner , Hugo Reid  ,  a Scotsman , who married a native Tongva woman and lived near the small  natural lake that still exists on the property .Arboreteum 2013 April 119

Lucky Baldwin built an exquisite Queen Anne Cottage on the lake as his honeymoon cottage . He never lived there . Near the cottage is a beautiful coach barn built in the same style .Arboreteum 2013 April 114

Ada and I visited the Arboretum on Sunday . The sun was shining . As we walked we heard the continual calls of the peafowl , their  loud and uniquely annoying wail . Lucky Baldwin went to India in 1880 and brought back three pairs of the ornate birds . Now there are hundreds of their descendants wandering the Arboretum and also roaming the surrounding neighborhoods , walking the streets ,  perching  high up in trees , screeching , wailing , proudly showing off their brightly colored feathers on their decidedly decorous tails .  Proud as peacocks .Arboreteum 2013 April 001

The arboretum is a botanical garden . The gardens have expanded in recent years . When Ada and I went this Sunday , every flowered inch  seemed to be in bloom . We both had cameras and there were endless photographic possibilities .Arboreteum 2013 April 087

Some say the Queen Anne cottage is haunted . Sounds are heard at night , moans , and strange smells are said to  permeate the grounds .  There are those who say it is the ghost of one of Lucky’s wives . Others say a native American actor once lived in the cottage and died there , and that his phantom calls out  .   We were not there at night . The place closes to the public at 4:30 . Maybe there are ghostly sounds . Maybe they are the shrieks of the young girls old man Baldwin was known to have seduced . Maybe they are the moans of the Japanese Americans , their dignity accosted , living in stables across the road , imprisoned  because they happened to be of their  particular ancestry . Maybe their wails , proudly kept to themselves during the war , are released now and are wafting across the road , an audible release of decades-0ld frustration , the spewing-out of locked-away  humiliations  and indignities , overheard by whomever roams the Arboretum grounds at night .Arboreteum 2013 April 021

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There is a Japanese garden now there on the grounds of the Arboretum . It is a peaceful place to walk and to calm down , to let go of daily frustrations and to enjoy nature . The Arboretum area may have a rough-and-tumble history , but that can easily be overlooked on  a visit . It closes at 4:30  and the ghosts don’t come out  until night falls . Relax .  Enjoy  .

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