The lure of California

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Image from the California Tourism and Promotional Literature Collection, CSUN Oviatt Library.

Since California’s “Gold Rush” days, the state has consistently lured people seeking a better life. There’s something about the sunshine, warm weather, economies that support agriculture and tech, and the beautiful landscape that is full of possibilities. Despite the risks of earthquakes and wildfires, people are still drawn to the state (though I wonder if we’ll start to see a migration out — that’s a post for another day).

Camilla Hall was one of those people drawn to California. She arrived in 1970 for a couple of reasons. For one, she had friends who had relocated there, and they convinced her to move. I also think she was tired of the dreary and snowy Minnesota winters (a common complaint!) and was excited about the promise of sunshine.

She also was switching careers. In Minnesota, she had worked in county social services offices, first in Duluth for St. Louis County and then in Minneapolis for Hennepin County. But she was a talented artist and decided to start over in California and reinvent herself as a working artist.

She succeeded, creating line drawings and exhibiting often at outdoor art shows in Los Angeles and San Diego. But by the spring of 1971 she wasn’t selling as much as she wanted to and decided to move to the Bay Area, where she had heard there was a better market for art.

Camilla at an outdoor art show, Los Angeles, c. 1970. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Brooks.

The Bay Area of the early 1970s was a bastion of the New Left, whereas in many other areas of the country, the movement was fading. But in the Bay Area, especially in Berkeley, the movement thrived. There you could find revolutionary organizations still at work. Camilla didn’t know it when she moved there, but she would become wrapped up in revolution, thanks to her next-door neighbor at her new apartment on Channing Way: Patricia Soltysik.

What one seeks when moving to a new place can quickly take an unexpected turn. For Camilla, her move to California lead her into the Symbionese Liberation Army.