The Music Room was full of suited men, dressed in white shirts with high, hard collars and wearing felt derbies and silk toppers masked with dust. They sported bushy mustaches and goatees. Most knew each other. All were rich.
These were the powerbrokers of early twentieth-century Los Angeles: the bankers, the automobile dealership owners, the chamber of commerce leaders.
These self-proclaimed hustlers departed from the Los Angeles Times building early afternoon to make the 3.5-hour trip to Riverside, then a town of mustard fields and citrus farms where the navel orange had been popularized.
Because of the many car dealers in the group, their caravan shined with new show models. Highway association president, John S. Mitchell sat in a chauffeured Columbia Silent Knight; others arrived in a Stutz roadster, a Hudson touring car, a Simplex, a Jackson.
Frank Miller, owner of the inn emceed the event, keeping the speeches “short and crisp.”
The hustlers proposed the “chain of societies,” each to have a president supervising a team of live-wire workers. They hoped to advance the chain, link by link, across the country, creating 192 societies between Los Angeles and New York. The room got warmer as Riverside became the first link in the project.
Mitchell turned up the heat, greeting the crowd as my “fellow highwaymen.” Then he and the association’s chairman worked like televangelists, persuading the hustlers to tithe to the Ocean. Cash came “pouring into [Mitchell’s] pockets.”
“Never before in the history of this good roads movement has been so easy to do big things,” gushed Bert Smith, the Times automobile editor.
C.E. Woodside, a bonds dealer from Hollywood, emerged as their national organizer. Woodside, probably creative as any bonds dealer, came up the deadly dull slogan: “California is the spending $30,000,000 for good roads. What can you do?” But the crowd cheered it on.
With his own funds, Woodside would take to the road to promote Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. But he never left Los Angeles.