A Trip Back in Time to the Birthplace of Steinbeck’s ‘The Pastures of Heaven’
The other day, I noticed my son reading one of his favorite John Steinbeck books, “The Pastures of Heaven.” We've been to visit many of the Steinbeck landmarks up in the Monterey area, but what I shared with my son shocked him: the very book in his hands had been written right here in Orange County.
In 1931, Steinbeck learned about Laguna Beach from another writer by the name of Hal Wire. Still an unknown at that time, Steinbeck and his wife, Carol, rented a room at 504 Park Avenue in Laguna Beach. The house – a shingled cottage – had been built back in 1912 for George Garbarino, a volunteer fire department worker. Garbarino rented the space to the soon-to-be famous writer from 1931 – 32. The price was $15 per month.
Author John Steinbeck
In 1932, “The Pastures of Heaven” was released. It was Steinbeck’s second novel, but still he and his wife did not have a lot of money. Back then, this was actually a poor part of Laguna. A reporter from the weekly newspaper, Laguna Beach Life, came over to interview the writer at the house soon after the book's publication. Remembering his reporter days and how much he loathed a boring interview, that day Steinbeck decided to have a little fun with the reporter. In answer to her questions, he gave extreme and over-the-top answers that related to blood sacrifices and other horrific practices. Not getting the joke, the reporter fled from the house in confusion.
Steinbeck would not taste any real financial success until the publication of his next book, 1935’s "Tortilla Flat." However, he spent some very formidable time here in Orange County, crafting this brilliant collection of 12 inter-connected stories about the Corral de Tierra Valley in Monterey, California.
Although the house has changed a bit, it remains a literary landmark; where an up-and-coming icon of literature spent his last humble years before exploding on the scene as one of the most popular authors of his, or any, generation.
Photo courtesy of Chris Epting
It is a private residence so please respect the owners, but if you're ever in the area and feel like stopping by, it's a unique opportunity to view what is arguably one of the most interesting cultural sites in Orange County.
“We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” –John Steinbeck
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