“Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it's called golf.” Will Rogers
In the first part of the 20th century if there was one man that truly represented the United States it was Will Rogers. As an authentic cowboy he moved on to be an actor, radio commentator, newspaper columnist, world traveler, and a pioneer in aviation.
As a humorist and philosopher his quotes and remarks are as fresh and pertinent today as when he made them three quarters of a century ago. All of which made him one of the most beloved and admired men in America. And the whole nation mourned at his untimely death in 1935 in an Alaskan plane crash.
But thanks to the Will Rogers State Historic Park his memory and life-style can still be enjoyed. In 1922 Rogers purchased 200 acres of hillside property in what is now Pacific Palisades with the idea of making it a ranch for his horses. First and foremost for his whole life Will Rogers was a cowboy who loved horses. He learned roping as a cowboy when he was six years old and it continued to be one of his favorite activities throughout his life.
In 1930 he moved his family from Beverly Hills to the Ranch which continued to be expanded from a six room cabin to a home with 31 rooms, 11 baths and seven fireplaces.
“Never squat with your spurs on” Will Rogers
In 1944 Betty Rogers, Will's widow, deeded the ranch to the State of California as a memorial to her husband.
We visited this Park on a Summer day and wondered why it has taken us so long to get there. We started at the Visitor Center which is located in the Roger Guest House and Garage. Here there are historic exhibits of important periods of his life as well as a mini theater that shows his films. He had roles in fifty silent films and twenty one "talkies" A tour guide is required to tour the residence and we were fortunate to have David Shepherd, park ranger, as our guide. He was both knowledgeable and most friendly and has been with the Park five years.
We also viewed the extensive stables where Will Rogers maintained a large collection of horses, some which he used especially for his roping. And polo became one of the principal activities with his sons as participants. The polo field is still maintained today.
Besides Will and Betty the family included four children, with one son dying at an early age of diphtheria. The house also saw many famous guests including Walt Disney, Clark Gable and the Charles Lilndbergh family. Decorations in the house all have a western theme with paintings, saddles and ranch style furnishings. We visited his office where Will Rogers wrote a daily column which appeared in some 300 newspapers. He wrote over 4,000 of these columns.
We then settled at one of the picnic tables with our ice chest, filled with goodies, for lunch while enjoying our serene surroundings. The picnic grounds are extensive and some with pits for barbecues and all providing extensive views of the whole park.
The Park offers a full schedule of events during the year including hiking, horse back riding, and a film event where Rogers movies are presented. For a schedule of these events go to www.willrogersranchfoundation.org. The park is easily accessible from either Pacific Coast Highway or 405 Freeway at 1501 Will Rogers State Park Road, Pacific Palisades.
“Good judgement comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgement" Will Rogers
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