December 24, 2004


A Man's Quest Reverberates Up and Down State: Seeking a yard decoration, John Kolstad ends up a bell maker, helping restore El Camino Real's markers. (Bob Pool, December 24, 2004, LA Times)

Nearly 100 years after they first appeared, the El Camino Real bells are back.

An ambitious campaign to restore the highway markers along the 700 miles of California's "Royal Road" reached Los Angeles this month.

Cast-iron replicas of the mission-style bell that directed motorists in the early 1900s along California's first north-south highway have been installed on poles shaped like shepherd's crooks along the Ventura and Hollywood freeways from Westlake Village to downtown Los Angeles.

Authorities say as many as 650 bells placed at two-mile intervals may eventually mark the storied footpath. Also known as the King's Highway, the route between San Diego and Sonoma was launched in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra.

A former Whittier resident's search for one of the old bells to use as a backyard garden decoration helped trigger the highway markers' renaissance.

Fifty-three-year-old mortgage broker John Kolstad lives in the Bay Area city of Saratoga. But he has never forgotten his curiosity over an original El Camino Real bell that stood near his childhood home.

"When I was young, I lived in Whittier near the corner of Whittier Boulevard and Colima Road. I'd always see this old bell on the corner surrounded by new buildings," Kolstad said. "I couldn't figure out why it was there, until one day in the fourth grade I went to the San Gabriel Mission and found one there."

It's an outrageous establishment of religion...

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2004 9:32 AM

They just need to get Taco Bell to fund the project (though I think some LULAC folks had trouble with their Chihuahua ads a few years ago...)

Posted by: John at December 24, 2004 9:46 AM

It clearly is. Those keywords...mission, shepards...Father Junipero, all smack of things religious. I'm shocked, offended, and appalled along with other emotions the ACLU will describe on my behalf.

Posted by: Tom Wall at December 24, 2004 10:02 AM

The greatest enemy of secularism is history.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at December 24, 2004 10:11 AM

There's actually a lawsuit going on now regarding the Missions. The Bush administration recently signed a bill (introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer) which provides something like $50 million of the $150 million or so needed to repair the crumbling Missions (which every California school kid visits on a field trip at least once in his life). The problem? The Missions are still owned by the Church and used for religious even though these buildings are at the core of California's political/secular history, the ACLU is saying that this money is represents impermissible government support of religion. (By the way, the repair money is not going from the government to the Church, but to a non-profit historical society that is overseeing the renovations.)

Posted by: Foos at December 24, 2004 1:10 PM

Note also the dates. Spain really didn't make any effort to "own" California until a few years before the American Revolution. It was just too far away and of no obvious use. Their presence only lasted about 50 years until Mexico came into being and claimed all Spanish territory in North America as their own. The Mexicans sort of held the area for about 25 years until they lost it "fair and square." The US has been in control for over 150 years now, which is twice the entire Hispanic occupation of the area. Something to consider when the Aztlanists take about "returning " the state to Mexico.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 24, 2004 2:17 PM

There is something Stalinist about this attempt to change history and delete the significance of religious devotion to the settlement of California. But given the proclivities of most ACLU members, it shouldn't be surprising that they resemble Stalin.

Posted by: Bart at December 25, 2004 6:15 AM


While I don't care much one way or the other about this, money is fungible. So even if it is an historical society doing the work, it represents a cost avoidance for the Church.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 25, 2004 9:04 PM


Sure, you don't care.

Posted by: oj at December 25, 2004 9:17 PM