Only a touch of ‘Oz’ in Claremont

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A few years ago I debunked the myth (promulgated in several biographies) that Jim Morrison of the Doors lived in Claremont while growing up; he actually lived briefly in Clairemont, the San Diego neighborhood. Claremont is a bit landlocked for a Navy family.

There’s another, lesser-known myth that L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wizard of Oz,” owned an orange grove in Claremont. Reader Dave Null asked me the question after finding a passing reference to Baum’s alleged grove in the book “Orange Empire” by Douglas Cazaux Sackman.

A more definitive word comes from Katharine Rogers’ bio “L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz,” in which she states: “The Baum sons soon followed their parents to Southern California … Robert had graduated in engineering from Cornell, and he married Edna Ducker, whom the Baums had known at Macatawa since she was 14. Shortly afterward, Robert and Edna established an orange ranch in Claremont, about 50 miles from Hollywood.”

I checked with Ginger Elliott of Claremont Heritage, the historical society. She replied: “You are correct. Robert Baum lived here and was a very successful citrus rancher and head of the Claremont School Board — I have seen a few diplomas from CHS (Claremont High School) with his signature. I do not think that his father ever lived here — but my real estate agent 30 years ago told me the story!”

These myths die hard. Especially when claiming the author of “The Wizard of Oz” as a past resident is so much more impressive-sounding than claiming his son!

For the record, L. Frank Baum died in 1919 and is buried in Glendale.

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  • http://sakionline.net D.L. MacLaughlan-Dumes

    Robert S. Baum and his wife Edna lived at 3822 N. San Antonio Ave., where he was a rancher. In the 1920s California Voter Registration database this was considered part of the La Verne Precinct, but from about 1936 onward it was listed as part of the Claremont Precinct. I think it’s now part of Pomona but I’m not sure where. Google Maps can’t seem to find it. Perhaps it no longer exists.

    In the 1940s the Baums moved to 1105 College Ave. in Claremont, a site I remember well. I went to an estate sale there sometime in the early 1970s and there was much of interest to L. Frank Baum fans, including books and memorabilia from his famous father. A poor high-school student at the time, all I could afford was a small china bowl, but it had a place of honor in my house.

    Next time you speak to Ginger Elliott, please give her my regards. I spent many happy hours learning about Chaucer and medieval literature from her late husband Tom when I was at Cal Poly many years ago.

    [Thanks for the added info, D.L. -- DA]

  • B. Beck Khosh

    Thank you for solving a decades-old mystery. In the mid-’70s I lived on College Avenue, next to the house purportedly owned by L. Frank Baum. The age of the building and the date of his death seemed to negate that possibility. It’s nice to finally discover that there was some relation to the Baum family.

  • Melody Kriesel

    The house is located at 1426 N Towne Avenue in Claremont. It is on the northeast corner–the house with the garage doors diagonal to the corner. It was built in 1927. We have family friends who have lived in the home for decades. Perhaps San Antonio at that time continued on up past the high school and the name was later changed to Towne. The address numbers could conceivably coincide with that prospect if they did not start over at the 100′s when crossing the city limits line.

    • ikelur .

      I remember ages ago mid 60′s my folks looked at that house while they were househunting. I wasn’t too impressed, the upstairs bedrooms had floors that sagged where they overhung the first floor on the south side. I wonder if that was ever fixed.

  • Amy Bates

    Funny you should mention that sale, DL, because I was there too. I purchased a small lusterware candy dish that presumably belonged to L. Frank. Whether it did or did not, I prize it highly, and use it to temporarily store jewelry on my dressing table.