Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, April 29, 1960

 April 29, 1960, Mirror Cover

We Are Told You're Nothing but a Procal

Paul Coates    I'm not complaining.  I'm perfectly happy with my job.  I enjoy these daily tete-a-tetes with you.

    But the unpleasant realization is slowly awakening within me that the first major decision of my journalistic career — after venturing west some dozen years ago — was a wrong one.

    I decided then I should write for the entertainment of the local folks.  Become one of them.  Adapt myself.

    So instead of standing around and gawking at the native sand marveling at their curious mores, I did my level best to blend into the Southern California landscape. 

    I never once let on that I was thunderstruck by the behavior patterns of my new neighbors.  Not even in letters home to Mom did I admit that Southern Californians were different than their forefathers east of the Alleghenies.  (If I had, she probably would have sent me a bus ticket and made me go home.)


April 29, 1960, Chessman

       But it was this blase acceptance of my new environs which has been costing me dearly ever since.

    I completely overlooked the vast and profitable national market for stories about the untamed, unashamed civilization which had sprouted in the Greater Los Angeles basin.

    It's a market which has boomed beyond belief in the past decade.  There are articles in at least one national publication nearly every month in which the author dissects, with considerable astonishment, the Southern California native — and then proceeds to diagnose his insanity.

    Yesterday, I happened to catch the latest sociological study of the Southern Californian to hit the magazine stands.  Entitled "Habits and habitat of the Southern Californian," it appeared in the May issue of Harper's.

    It was authored by a Cynthia Lindsay, who the magazine states now lives in Beverly Hills, and it didn't miss a cliche. 

    In fact, Mrs. Lindsay's imagination and perceptive powers went far beyond those of the average Sunday supplement analyst of the Southern California citizenry.

    First of all, she gave us a name.  She called us the Procal.

    At first glance, this might sound like a patent medicine cure for itchy scalp.  But, apparently, it has something to do with our allegiance to California.

    The Procal, she observes, is addicted — in addition to the above-mentioned cliches — to TV, nudity, dogs, prudery, early courtship and marriage, drive-in movies, pizza and the soil.  Not necessarily in that order. 

    She points out that it's hard to tell Los Angeles' City Hall from a lavish sandwich stand, that we have signs reading "Caution.  Peacocks crossing road," and she accuses Los Angeles of being taken over by the "middle-class of the Middle West," which has given it — she states — "a flat flavor, culturally as well as architecturally."

As the Picture Clears

    Some of her observations might appear to be a bit contradictory, but it's probably our confused nature, not her confused vision, that's at fault.

    Because, in the end, she left me, at least, with a very clear picture of the Southern Californian.

    He is — as I interpret her piece — an individual who marries at 17, clad only in swimming trunks, and presents his bride with a surfboard instead of a ring to seal the pact, then proceeds to a drive-in movie to consummate things, spends the next nine months watching TV, and bears his children — all of whom have green "swimming pool" hair — on the safety islands of our freeways, while motorcycle policemen race playfully and obliviously past, busily engaged in speed contests with the rest of the happy natives.

    I just hope that some of those middle-class farmers who are still back in Iowa subscribe to Harper's and become so terrified by the article that they stay back there with their crops. 

    Because if this is the kind of progeny they produce, we don't want any more of them migrating out here.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Caryl Chessman, Columnists, Paul Coates. Bookmark the permalink.

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