Roundup: December 14, 2022

WLAC Los Angeles Corral 12.14.22 RoundUp Flyer



Roundup Synopsis

Taken From Branding Iron 309 Winter 2023. 

December’s Roundup saw the L.A. Corral welcome guest speaker Steve Lech as he took us back almost a hundred years before tens of thousands of people flocked to the Coachella Valley for the biggest music festival in the world. Mr. Lech introduced us to a woman named Susie Keef Smith (1900- 1988), who created photographic postcards of this majestic California desert landscape.
Susie’s love for photography began as a child when she contracted polio at the age of twelve. Her uncle gifted her a large format camera to use while she was confined to a wheelchair. Through perseverance and to doctors’ amazement, she began to walk again. In 1926 with encouragement from her father, Susie became the postmaster of Mecca, California. During the 1920s many Americans had an image of the California deserts as desolate wastelands with no vegetation. This is why they were commonly known as the “Devil’s Garden.” Most people were unaware of the attractions of the Joshua trees, or the dazzling Salton Sea. Susie began to take photographs of the desert landscape which propelled her to the forefront of the golden age of postcards.
During this era Susie encouraged people to travel out west to see the California Desert for themselves. Susie captured photos for postcards by traveling through the desert on a Ford Model T Truck, that was given to Susie by her father on one condition: that she disassemble the vehicle and put it back together again. This she accomplished, and it started on the first crank, proving her skills as a motorist.
Photographic postcards were great for advertising the land and for people to write to each other. This form of postcards created a medium that encouraged people to venture out to the California desert. The routes Susie chose to photograph were attractive to travelers because this was during the time the Colorado River Aqueduct was being built. The aqueduct channeled water through the desert thus enabling desert communities to become popular vacation destinations. The best-known example was Palm Springs. Smith took pictures of the aqueduct construction workers and their equipment. Susie’s photos allowed people to visually grasp the mystic beauties of the desert landscape. A large number of the locations Susie photographed are now part of the Coachella
Valley Preserve.
— Darran Davis


Photos from the Roundup