Posted by: Bonnie Phelps | August 8, 2014

White Bloomers and Land for the County Park!

Peter and Anthony Swanson purchased “Bella Luna” in 1995.  But Anthony’s roots go back much farther than that.  Keep reading for her delightful story, sharing another use for bloomers, and the way the Crestline County Park came to be!  Bella Luna is for sale now and the next owners just may appreciate the love for the mountain that the family has had since the 1920’s. When I learned a little of Anthony’s story, I knew we’d have subscribers to the Mountain News enjoy reading it too.  Thanks to Anthony and her son, David for sending this our way:

Peter and Anthony Swanson  Since before I was born in 1935, my family has had land on Palomar Mountain.

In 1920, my grandfather Reid Wallace was in the oil business in Texas.  He could have bought Signal Hill in Long Beach by partnering up with a friend, but my grandmother Sally didn’t want him in the oil business any longer, so he took his money and moved the family to southern California in the early 1920s.  He speculated with land purchases on Palomar Mountain.  When the depression hit in 1929 he could no longer afford to pay the taxes on the land—he had to let go of some of it.  I still have the beautiful oak table at home in San Diego that was made for Reid by one man, used to pay for one of the parcels.

My uncle Burge often brought my aunt Peaches up to Palomar—the clear mountain air helped her asthma.  Peaches had fallen in love with planes when she was a little girl in Texas, and took up aviation, becoming “the first girl glider pilot.”  She trained with Anne Lindbergh at San Diego Bay and Mt. Soledad.  In 1930, Lindberg became the first woman to receive a first class glider pilot license, right around the time that Peaches died from a burst appendix.  On a clear day, San Diego Bay and Mt. Soledad—where Peaches once flew—are visible from Palomar.

In the 1930s during the depression the family struggled to make ends meet, living in a four-bedroom home in Mission Hills.  As many as 11 people resided in this home, where I still live.  They dined at a huge table—it wasn’t fancy food, but it was the essence of southern hospitality.  My birth certificate listed my father John Byrd Hardin as a truck-driver; he later became a civil engineer, surveying some of the land on Palomar.  When I was a year old my mother Alice Sue Hardin got a job at the San Diego Union, where she wrote navy society articles; my aunt Etta Mae Wallace wrote for the San Diego Sun, another newspaper of that period.

During WWII, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, San Diego became very crowded.  A young woman on a packed train from up north was told if she needed a place to stay in San Diego to call my family.  Her brother was sick at the Naval Hospital, and when he recovered she brought him to the house and he later brought a friend.  The friend brought a friend, and the result was that there was often a military man at the table, enjoying a weekend of refuge with the family.

My grandfather had a cabin at Palomar in the early 1930s, very close to where Bella Luna is today—it burned down before I was born.  But from the time I was a little girl, the family would camp on the mountain at the County Park, the same land that had been given to the county by my grandfather in lieu of taxes.  We almost considered the park “our” place.  We were a large group, staying for a night or two at a time.  We hiked and we had parties.  Only a few people lived on Palomar back then.  Daddy would visit John Leach, and my mother used to take me to see Alice Tillinghast, whose family is still present on the mountain.  I was often told of a night, before the road was built for the telescope in 1936, when one of Palomar’s famous fogs descended and a cavalcade of cars was blinded coming up the mountain.  Mrs. Tillinghast got out and led the way forward, the white of her great big bloomers gleaming for the car headlights.

As an adult, with my husband Peter and our three children, we camped on Palomar occasionally.  We always thought it would be nice to have a cabin to go to and enjoy during the snow.  We didn’t want anything fancy, just a cabin where we could hang our hats.  In 1995 we were at the annual Palomar Water Board Meeting and met Joe Robinson, who owned a cabin with his wife Maryanne at the crest of a hill.  As we were parting, I asked if he knew of any cabins for sale.  Joe said “yes, we’re going to look at one right now.”  It was next door to the cabin they owned.  He didn’t have a key but we walked around the outside, and decided we wanted it.  It seemed like it could be the perfect cabin to be warm and toasty in the snow.

When we would drive up from San Diego in winter and the bones of the cabin were frozen, we’d build a big fire in the wood stove, put a chicken in the oven, and before we knew it the cabin was warm and dinner was ready.

Anthony Swanson's parents on Palomar Mountain 1924We have two old photos hanging in our cabin.  One is of my parents standing in front of a huge boulder on the Robinson’s land.

Palomar Mountain 1924

The other photo, of a gal in front of the Robinson’s cabin, is dated July 1924.  For the last two decades Bella Luna has been our refuge from the city, where we have enjoyed many happy, quiet hours—along with star gazing parties and Thanksgivings with 20 or more enjoying autumn on the deck.

-Anthony Swanson

See also: Harmony at Home UT Article 2005

Peter Swanson Played for Symphony 1960 to 2004 UT Article July 2010

Friends of Peter Swanson


  1. I remember you, Anthony. I worked with your mother and aunt for two wonderful years when I was fresh out of high school. I came to a couple of wonderful parties at your house. My name then was Toni Trusel.

    • Anthony was thrilled when I called her to read your message. She would love to hear from you! Enjoy catching up!

  2. […] White Bloomers and Land for the County Park! […]

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