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Duck! At Playa Del Rey-1890.

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I recently came across a Winchester Model 1890, .22-caliber rifle. This was the first repeating .22-caliber rifle classically designed by John Moses Browning for the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, and was sold beginning in 1891. Nearly one million of these rifles were made between 1890 and 1932. They still rival any modern .22 rifle.

This gun shares a little local history. My rifle, often called a “gallery gun,” was used beginning in 1925 at the Pike Amusement Park Shooting Gallery in Long Beach. It was shortly thereafter retired and put into storage. Legend has it that the shooting gallery owner; a married man, was shot by his mistress with it. She was pretending to shoot at targets, and when he wasn’t looking she shot off most of his ear. It was a close shave. He survived, as did the gun. His marriage did not.

When I was in school at Saint Bernard’s in Playa Del Rey in the 1970’s, a small group of us would pack up our rifles and shotguns on weekends, and make the trek to the Frazier Park area near Gorman. Along with a more recent and borrowed Winchester Model 61 (1949), I learned to shoot on a Model 90 and grew to appreciate the unbelievably good craftsmanship of what was then a nearly 90-year-old rifle. We spent wonderful days exploring the back woods in Kern County and target shooting with our rifles.

If you are looking for a great place to explore, the Mt. Pinos and the Frazier Mountain area are full of surprises. It is close to the CA Landmark (#129) Fort Tejón, which has a modern reproduction fort and interpretive center. The United States Army established this military post on June 24, 1854, to suppress stock rustling and “protect” the Indians in the San Joaquin Valley. Camels for transportation were introduced here in 1858. As regimental headquarters of the First Dragoons, Fort Tejón was an important military, social, and political center, but it was abandoned September 11, 1864. Camp Latham, the Civil War camp at Rancho La Ballona, was garrisoned with troops from Tejón. Both Forts were involved a few years earlier in the Owens Valley Indian War.

About the time John Browning began designing guns for Winchester, a group called the Recreation Gun Club owned a very large tract of Playa Del Rey land. In the late 1800’s, the La Ballona area was teeming with ducks, geese and other waterfowl. Large groups of hunters made their way on horseback to the Region from Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica, and would camp near the shores of Ballona Creek and the Del Rey Lagoon.

In those days, no bird of any kind was safe (nor was a barrel of brandy), and the Club promptly shot-out the place.

In May 1905, the Gun Club sold their land to “developers” for a whopping $135,000.00, and the sale included nearly 5000 feet of ocean frontage. Several members of the Club called foul, claiming the land was worth more, but their efforts to stop the transaction failed. The next month the Guaranty Trust Company purchased the same land for $300,000.00, and 1 day later dozens of lots; a small percentage of the tract, were sold for a total of $308,000.00!

You can draw your own conclusions here.

PHOTO:

DUCK HUNTING AT PLAYA DEL REY, CA, 1890. This photo was taken near where the Ballona Creek emptied into the Pacific Ocean. (Courtesy, Beach Of The King/Playa Del Rey, Author).

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