The Midwesterners who journeyed west to found Pasadena were sure they had found it -- paradise that is. They were amazed that flowers bloomed in winter and you could pick oranges off the tree. Seems natural to want to share such a place with others. So, in 1890, the enterprising members of the Valley Hunt Club decided to start a parade to "tell the world about our paradise" (and maybe sell some land). The notion was to promote southern California and attract Easterners to move here. Climate was the big draw.
So, for fun, I compared our weather today with that of the hometowns of the four teams here for bowl games. Today, Pasadena's weather is going to be clear with a high of 74 and projections for high 70's this weekend. By contrast, it is snowing in Columbus, Ohio with a high in the low 20's and colder weather forecast for the weekend. It's better in Tuscaloosa -- they get rain and snow with a high in the 30's and in Austin, where they get 41 degrees with 20-30 mph winds. Eugene is on the west coast and doesn't really count, but duckland will get up to a cool 51 with some showers.
Seems an easy sell. Why live there when you could live here? For decades upon decades, we've assumed that, once the folks back east get a load of our weather, they would all want to move here.
And they did. People moved here in droves. Back in 1890 when this whole parade thing started, Pasadena's population was pushing 5,000. As of 2007, the census folks estimate the city's population at 143,000.
But, you know, as good as the weather is, I think it was mostly work that really drew people to California. Work is also what keeps people here. It's not much use to live in paradise if you can't find work and pay your bills.
That's been the story in my own family. My great-grandfather on one side and my grandfather on the other side moved here for work. One came to California to work in construction and the other in the orchards. For a century, California's seemingly limitless resources and opportunities sustained each generation. That is, until my generation.
Times have changed. We don't like to think about it, but California is not the land of opportunity it once was. I've seen friends move out of state for a better life. I've seen family leave to find work. And I read regularly about how California has lost its appeal.
In fact, much has been written of the domestic migration out of California over the last decade. This, and population movement in general, is a regular topic on the NewGeography blog. They report that over the last decade a net 1.5 million people moved out of California to other states. Over the same period, Texas and Alabama saw net population growth as the result of domestic migration.
Then there's this interesting little thought. We might be seeing Rose Bowl history tonight. I haven't done an exhaustive search on this, but this game may mark the first time Rose Bowl teams have hailed from two states that are outpacing California in domestic migration.
Still, it seems like paradise here. It is a sunny January day. We have the mountains behind us and the beach to our west. Flowers are in bloom. Orange and lemon trees dot the neighborhoods. There is beauty upon beauty, if you take a moment to look.
On the other hand, the stories of friends and family and the migration statistics are real. Over the last decade, the state seems to have bumped up against something. Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's the schools or cost of living, or traffic. Maybe it is all a temporary thing -- coming changes will push the state to new levels of luster and appeal.
Or maybe, it's just that even paradise has its limits.