By Beverli Jinn
Twenty-five years seems like a long time. If it’s your age, of course, it is a long time. It’s your whole life, for God’s sake! If it’s your anniversary, it may seem even longer.
For almost all of those who attended the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Dana Point Historical Society, it probably didn’t seem all that long. Melvin Pierce, for example, has lived in South Orange County since 1930. His dad worked for developer Sidney Woodruff.
There was no Hide Trail in 1930, no drogher statue. That didn’t come until 1990.
The real droghers were the sailors of the brig Pilgrim and others like them who, with R.H. Dana, climbed the steep cliffs overlooking the sea and hurled dried hides to the rocks below. It was 1835; 95 years before Mel Pierce and his family arrived, 170 years before there was a Dana Point Historical Society.
So there we were in 2012, mostly the same people who always support city events, watching the sun disappear on the other side of the Headlands as we sipped our cocktails and marveled, as human beings are prone to do, at how the years had slipped by. Certainly we all understood that the sun had not actually gone anywhere. If we’d chosen to do so, we could have walked or driven to the Headlands and reassured ourselves that the sun was still in place. We could have watched it seem to drop into the sea, all the time knowing that it was not the sun but we who were hurtling through space.
In a nano second of universal time, we would be gone; the Hide Trail might be at the bottom of the sea; Dana Point itself might be in Riverside, the Town Center still unrealized.
Had we been able to time travel to 1835, of course, there would have been the same sun and the same cliffs and maybe an occasional drogher, but no wooden bridge or rock-lined paths descending to the beach, no railings or safety warnings, no homes overlooking the jetty-enclosed harbor, no hand-mixed concrete arches of what had been promised to be a luxurious hotel, the Dana Point Inn.
After all, 1835 was not a long time ago. The cliffs and the rocks and the sea that battered those cliffs had not suddenly appeared so that R.H. Dana and ships like the Pilgrim could visit what would someday become Dana Point.
In her book, Home Port for Romance, Doris Walker discusses the history of this area. “At one point in geologic history,” she writes, “the land for miles inland was the bottom of a bay that covered most of Orange County and beyond.”
Homo sapiens probably wouldn’t show up for a million years or so.
It wasn’t until the 14th century that Copernicus and other scientists began to insist that the sun itself was firmly in place and that the Earth and its seven companion planets orbited around it.
So . . . where does all this leave you and me and the folks who attended the 25th anniversary of the Historical Society? For that matter, what does it mean to anyone? Why bother to restore photographs of bean fields or buildings constructed in the 1920s or of the construction of Roosevelt Highway? Why do we need a museum to house the relatively young artifacts of the 20th century? Humankind comes and goes. So what?
Well, I don’t pretend to have an answer to the “so what?” question. I’ve been working on discovering the meaning of life, but thus far the truth has eluded me. This does not, however, rule out the possibility that a 21st century Copernicus will figure it out. Maybe I’m just not listening.
What I am sure of is that change is inevitable. What I am sure of is that the Dana Point Historical Society does much to connect us with the humanity of those changes. What I am sure of is that in some mysterious way the droghers and the Spaniards and the Indians and the many forms of life before them existed and evolved.
Most of them undoubtedly watched the sun set and pondered what it means.