Travels with Eva Fenyes: An Auto Trip to Los Olivos, 1917

Los Olivos postcard
Eva’s destination in 1917 was Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos. Several times over the years, she stayed at Mattei’s on her trips north. The first time was in 1898. This postcard is from her trip in 1912.

Eva Fenyes often kept a journal when she traveled, and several of her small notebooks have survived the years. All are available in the Reading Room & Archives at Pasadena Museum of History, and for easy access some have been digitized and some transcribed. However, not many people come to read what might be described as a window into the mind of Eva Fenyes. I think it is fascinating to read her words and hear her voice, and as an enticement to those who might also want to explore her thoughts and observations, here is one complete journal entry from one day in the travels of Eva Scott Fenyes.

The day is Tuesday, March 27, 1917, in the morning, and Eva, her daughter Leonora, her granddaughter Leonora, nicknamed Leoto, and their chauffeur Carl Wright are preparing for an auto trip that will take them from Pasadena to Los Olivos and environs. The following transcription preserves Eva’s punctuation, spelling, and capitalization, and we might imagine from the jagged handwriting that she is jotting down notes as she rides along a bumpy road.

Los Olivos journal
You can read Eva’s entire journal by clicking on this image

She begins:

On this trip are my daughter, grand daughter, myself & chauffeur.

Leave home at 9 a.m. just one [hour] later than time fixed – usual result of depending on many servants and others. Beautiful day but fog coming in. Peach & other trees in full bloom.

9.30 San Fernando – Our usual road is closed & we have to go to Burbank – many new houses along the road – news in paper warns us war is coming – Wonderful wild flowers Marvelous roads. Superb views

9.45 Lankershim

10.05 puncture

10.35 – Got out & walked along road while Carl & Leoto changed the tire. Met 3 women–Leonora said “Here come a widow and two women.” Their auto has also “Busted” Rested under a beautiful oak just bursting into leaf. Under it were three weeds, pretty but later all 3 will develop nasty stickers, pricks & burrs. Wheat and oat heads well-formed. Lost one half hour by the accident –

Brandt Ranch. 10.45

11.45 Meet Mrs C. Perkins who has a fine ranch near Camarillo. Mirage reflects building trees etc as in a Lake.

noon. Arrested for speeding, although I continually warn Carl not to surpass the allotted time – It appears that 30 miles is all the state allows & we were going according to the Deputy who stopped us, 37 miles an hour – Paid $5.00 –     Wonderful glowing carpet of orange poppies on hills.

Ventura 12.25. Most of the old adobes have disappeared. Superb draw along shore – borders of mustard. Sea calm – Lovely snowy surf on the sandy beach. Salt odour refreshing – Fields on steep hill-sides cultivated.

At 1. arrive at Hotel Rincon where we lunched once before. Look at rooms, Lovely sea-view. Lunch in olive grove. Dogs & chickens helping as before. Ask where drinking water comes from. “Very pure, pumped from creek.” Is sulphurous also!

Off at 2.10

Arrive at Sta Barbara 2.45   Met the Carpenter’s from Col Spgs & sent telegrams & saw most beautiful grocery store we ever entered. Exceedingly hot

Leave 3.25 for Los Olivos – 12 miles good road 40 miles dirt road ahead of us

[Illegible word] and Adobe on La Quemada Ranch Gerard Baron. Sketch adobe on el Refugio Ranch. Quest[ion] old man. says he is too young to give his name – on past Solvang Danish village and by Santa Iñez – Lovely – views everywhere.

Arrive at Mattei’s Inn Los Olivos 7 p.m. Fine supper. We have our old bungalow. We fear carl has had an attack of some kind. His mouth is drawn to one side & his eyes partly closed. Leonora says he may be an epileptic. We are really alarmed.

That evening after dinner, Eva purchased a postcard from the tavern and wrote a short note to her husband Adalbert.

Eva's Los Olivos postcard
The front of Eva’s postcard sent from Mattei’s Tavern to Adalbert Fenyes, March 27-28, 1917

Eva's Los Olivos postcard back
The back of Eva’s postcard sent from Mattei’s Tavern to Adalbert Fenyes, March 27-28, 1917

The next morning after “a good night’s rest” the party rose early and drove throughout the valley visiting Mission Santa Inés, Solvang and Lompoc, and finally La Purisima Mission before returning to Mattei’s that evening. Eva never mentioned Carl’s attack again so it seems that he must have been well recovered. The group spent three evenings at Mattei’s and their hotel bill came to $28.40. There were extra charges for the garage – $1.25, tips – $1.00, and porter – $.50.

Eva Fenyes sketch of Santa Barbara
Eva Scott Fenyes (1849-1930, House of Santiago de la Guerra, Santa Barbara California, 31 March 1917 (ESF.011.2965) Painted on the trip home.

Mattei’s Tavern today
Mattei’s Tavern on the day Maili Halme signed the lease launching the renovation of the historic restaurant. Visit her new website at https://www.matteistavern1886.com.

Today, Mattei’s Tavern remains an historic icon of Los Olivos in the Santa Ynez Valley. Mattei’s Tavern is now under the proprietorship of Chef Maili Halme, who is passionate about a historically accurate restoration.  The restoration promises to revive the tavern’s long and fascinating history which began at its founding in 1886 by Italian Swiss immigrant Felix Mattei. The restaurant hopes to provide an “Excellent dinner” just as Eva Fenyes wrote on the postcard she sent to Adalbert.

You can read more about Mattei’s Tavern, its history, restoration, and upcoming December 2017 reopening, and about Maili Halme who shares her memories of Mattei’s Tavern while growing up in the Santa Ynez Valley. All are featured in the Santa Ynez Valley News, “Reopening Mattei’s Tavern restaurant a dream come true for Santa Ynez Valley chef.”

- Julie Stires