Camp Idle a While: An Arroyo Vacation in 1899

On August 9, 1899 the “Society Gossip” section of the Pasadena Daily Evening Star contained a brief note that “There is a merry party of campers down in the Arroyo…” The Star followed up with a more detailed report on August 26, as “Camp Idle a While” was on its third and final week.

The location of “Camp Idle a While” was described as a “well-shaded spot” of “fine Live Oak trees” in August 1899. An 1893 lithograph of Pasadena shows a cluster of trees west of California Street in the Arroyo, which may have been the site of the camp.

“The scheme of establishing a camp so close to town grew out of the fact that the ‘men folks’ found it impossible to separate themselves from business at the present time, so they organized the party, chose a romantic, well-watered and well-shaded spot and put up their tents.”  

There were five families involved, and each had “a comfortable tent, well fitted with comforts and conveniences.” The spot they chose was near the Campbell-Johnson toll bridge, close to the present site of the La Loma Bridge. 

“The camp is laid out in the shape of a semi-circle and has a large dining tent and kitchen.” “It is camping with all the comforts of home …” Live Oak trees provided shade, there were “luxurious hammocks” and “even a big mirror hanging on a convenient tree, though no lady of the party is supposed to curl her hair …”

“The campers are enjoying life thoroughly …They have a fine spring of water close at hand, keep a cow and are so close to civilization as to enjoy the privileges of visits from the grocer and fishman, yet are in all ways desirable completely shut out from the world.” 

“At night the camp looks like a section of fairyland. Torches and Japanese lanterns afford a subdued light while a big bonfire crackles cheerily. Songs are sung, stories are told and a dreamless sleep ends all too soon by the Early Risers routing out the Sleepy Heads for breakfast.”

The experience was so enjoyable that “each and every member of the jolly company has said that his or her future vacations shall be spent in the same manner.”

- Kirk Myers

This article was originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of West Pasadena Residents' Association's The News.