“The Mason Manufacturing Company was located at 905 East 60th Street in Los Angeles. It consisted of about 35,000 square feet. It was a well-lighted building made of brick. It had high ceilings with glass and movable transoms for fresh air. The company was a well-known concern that manufactured wrought iron lamps and outdoor furniture plus novelty wood and iron pieces.
We had a well-equipped blacksmith shop, with two forges and an array of machines for cutting and drilling iron, spot welders and trip hammers. We also had a woodworking mill with modern equipment. Frank Mason, my father, and his partner Louie Schmenger were the owners.
I entered the establishment the latter part of 1929. I liked the iron department more than the rest of the factory; here I worked with the ingenious iron worker, Max Gebhardt. He was a creator of the iron world. He was terrific, a big husky German.
We sold to Barker Brothers in Los Angeles a large amount of lamps and outdoor furniture, also some novelty pieces in wood. My father was well known to Barker Brothers’ executives and we did a tremendous amount of business with them.
It was toward the end of 1929 (after the stock market crash) when an interior decorator, Fred Nason, Mr. Danielson of the interior design department, and Mr. Marshall Pumphy (I think he was vice president at that time) all from Barker Brothers met with us. Mr. Nason brought with him a photo of a settee that was in a background of a Warner Brothers movie. As I remember, the move was with the actor Warner Baxter titled “Old Arizona.” Mr. Nason believed that there was a thought there that we could use in making a furniture line to go with the Spanish type homes that were building up like weeds in L.A. and Hollywood.
Dad and I went to work at once. I was a sketch artist and draftsman. We had about 24 pieces drawn up and we put the woodworking part of the factory on go!
It wasn’t long before we had a nice setup of Monterey furniture. We invited the executive bunch of Barker Brothers down to the factory to introduce the new line. Their eyes popped out of their heads. You should have heard the “oohs” and “ahhs.”
Immediately they were preparing for a big introduction of a real California type of furniture expressing the true living feel and history of California and the West. My father bought some new high-quality woodworking machinery and also expanded our building to 65,000 square feet. We had a lot of fun making up this line.
The lumber we used was alder from Oregon. We ran this wood through multiple drum sanders, giving the wood a textured surface; all sides and corners of the pieces were antiqued or roughed up to look worn.
All pieces were glued and laminated with hot glue from a multiple glue-up machine. The drawer pulls, hinges, and strap supports were wrought iron, made up by hand over a forger and anvil.
The finishes were all oil-stained or base-stained by asphaltum and antiqued by paraffin and rotten stone. The finish could be retained by rubbing in any wax polish. Later we made a finish named “desert dust;” here we bleached the wood with a 100% peroxide and ammonia, then lacquered and rubbed out dry raw umber glazing with a rag until the highlight effect was accomplished. Many pieces were hand decorated with colors and flowers. We used California tiles on some tables and tops and the hutches. This was very popular.
We did brand some of the pieces, but had to stop as it interfered with the employees; too much smoke. We manufactured about 120 different pieces in about four years. That is, we counted that many pieces in the line. We made three different bedroom sets; six different dining room sets; sixteen different upholstered pieces; sixteen different end tables, occasional and coffee tables; four different desks and secretaries. We also manufactured twelve different home bars and stools, plus lamps and novelties – all Monterey.
And we always had new pieces coming through. This added a lot of interest in our product. There were always retail customers anxious to find something new for their homes and Monterey collections.
We started out with Barker Brothers since they promoted the line. Barker Brothers took out a copyright on the name “Monterey.” We had the whole eighth floor in their downtown building and we also had three to six window displays and lots of advertising for at least five years. The same setup was given to us by the Hollywood store plus in model homes.
Later on, Bullocks Wilshire also began to sell Monterey. Home bars and stools were made in many styles, plus some leather upholstery pieces using their own stained finish picked out by their decorator and buyer, Mrs. Elliott and Margaret Bullock.
We sold to more than 21 accounts throughout the US, including the most exclusive stores in 11 different states (Texas, New York, Chicago, Florida…).
Monterey & The War
World War II came. We had to get war works in order to get iron, wood, and lacquer. Barker Brothers’ contract department got us many officers’ quarter, lounges and dining halls in both Marine and Army camps. These contracts gave us “double A” priority.
The largest camp order was for Camp Pendleton. This was a beautiful display of Monterey using decorative pieces (with Marine insignia) using real saddle leather and heavy colored upholstery fabrics. The officers’ lounge looked like a flower garden. We also manufactured bunks and chests for the army camps.
The retail floor did suffer. There wasn’t much to sell, to the sorrow of us all. But we had to go USA. We manufactured the line until 1943 when my father died at 68 years old, and I was drafted into the US Navy. That was the end of Monterey. My father’s partner was not very active in the manufacturing game: He took care of shipping and buying paints and lumber. In 1945, my father’s partner and my mother sold the factory out.”