(Lorraine and I accepted a wedding invitation in San Francisco. Peter Grennan and Therese Dunne, both Irish born, are the happy couple. We then drove down the California coast to see our daughter and her family in San Diego. We stopped at San Simeon to view the Hearst Castle.)
Stanley and his wife Lorraine enjoyed their tour of Hearst Castle.
When he was 10 years old in 1873, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the mother of William Randolph Hearst, took her son on a trip to Europe.
Together they viewed the great museums, castles, galleries and cities on the continent. This cultural tour stayed with young William for the rest of his life. It proved to be the later impetus for his zeal in collecting artworks, statues, furniture, wood carvings and entire villas when he began his building of "La Cuesta Encantada" or the Enchanted Hill in 1919.
W. R. Hearst, born in San Francisco, was the only child of George Hearst, a wealthy miner from Missouri, who struck it rich in silver in California. His strike was the Comstock Lode and it made him a multimillionaire. He returned to Missouri, married his childhood sweetheart, Phoebe Apperson, and whisked her off to California.
In 1865 Senator George Hearst purchased 40,000 acres of ranch land at San Simeon. In 1919 William Randolph Hearst inherited the ranch, which had grown to 250,000 acres. The ranch was rustic and spartan in its accommodations. W. R. Hearst decided to "build a little something."
In collaboration with a famed female architect, Julia Morgan, he created an estate of 42 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms - 165 rooms in all, and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways. It consisted of a main house "Casa Grande" and three guest houses in the Mediterranean Revival style inspired by a Spanish cathedral.
The Hearst Castle, as it is now called, sits on top of a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean at San Simeon. It sits on Highway US1, 245 miles south of San Francisco. It represents 28 years of labor and untold millions of dollars.
Do not, I repeat, do not go there without making reservations. Lorraine and I with three children went there, sans reservations 21 years ago and were turned away. This time it was $14 a person for the tour, paid in advance, to California State Parks.
It is a very exacting, well-run tour and a 40-minute film prepares you for the wonders of a modern day palace. It is viewed on a five-story tall screen.
An insight into William Randolph Hearst is essential to the understanding of the man who accomplished this feat.
Born in 1863, he attended Harvard. He never graduated, as he was asked to leave after introducing a donkey into the dean's office with a sign saying, "Now there are two of you in that office."
His wealthy father George gave him a newspaper, The San Francisco Examiner, to play with and he turned it into a publishing empire. Many magazines and newspapers even today are part of the Hearst syndicate.
He married a Broadway dancer and had five sons. Randolph, the last of his sons (father of Patti Hearst of bank-robbing fame), died this year. Today there are 48 heirs, including Patti, to the Hearst fortune.
His wife Millicent was not enthralled with living on a mountaintop on the California coast and stayed back east. She sponsored the Journal-American Milk Fund which supplied milk to poor children during the depression. W.R. Hearst and his wife parted company and never resumed their married relationship.
All the while, W.R. was engrossed in his all-encompassing dream of the castle on the mountain. An outdoor, blue-tiled pool with Italian statues and columns is on the first level. It is the first sight we see after the frightening five-mile tortuous ride up the mountain on the bus, past the San Simeon Zoo and game preserve.
The first guest house is filled with Spanish antiques and Flemish tapestries. A billiard room and a theater complete this Casa del Sol.
W.R. Hearst invited many of the Hollywood movie stars and sports celebrities of the 1930s and 1940s to his castle. Some of the actors flown in by DC-3 to spend a weekend were Clark Gable, Dick Powell, Lew Ayres, Joel McCrea, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and Charlie Chaplin. L.B. Mayer, Jack Warner, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Louella Parsons, Hedda Hopper and Howard Hughes, Winston Churchill, Charles and Anne Lindbergh and George Bernard Shaw were also guests.
After the guests were seated, Mr. Hearst would appear in the huge banquet hall at 9 p.m. from a secret door and the feast would begin. Stories and jokes filled the room and the guests competed to keep Mr. Hearst amused. Plays and sketches were the evening's entertainment.
Mr. Hearst became enamored of a beautiful Ziegfeld blonde, not so talented movie actress, named Marion Davies. She was cast in many of Mr. Hearst's film endeavors in the hope of stardom which never materialized. They remained loyal to each other until Mr. Hearst's death in 1951.
In the late 1930s W.R. Hearst was in debt to the tune of $129 million. He managed to become solvent in the 1940s and he never looked back.
William Randolph Hearst was accused of many things. One - his newspaper campaign got us into the Spanish-American War in 1898, with the slogan "Remember the Maine." Two - "Yellow Journalism" - Truth was not necessary for a newspaper story to be printed in his papers. Three - He competed with Joseph Pulitzer in an unscrupulous manner in circulation for his newspapers. Four - He ran for president but was not successful.
William Randolph Hearst, the beneficiary of a 10-year-old's trip to the continent with his beloved mother, dedicated his entire life to a monument to beauty, art and elegance at San Simeon.