Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Carmel's Bohemian Error

The Carmel City Council in 2004 refused money from the sale of a risqué calendar intended to help pay for firehouse repairs. But in 1931, during Carmel's Bohemian period, poet-Mayor Herbert Heron and several of his councilmen had no objection when the Society of Sun requested permission to have a nudist colony at the old Carmel hospital site. The head of the twelve person sun-worshipping and lust-scorning Society, explained to the Council that she was fearful of peeping Toms. She planned to locate in a wooded section surrounded by an 8 foot wall. City attorney, Argylle Campbell, dissented and feared "Carmel would become the laughing stock of the nation" if the Society was welcomed to town. Both fears were realized. An entrepreneur quickly set up sightseeing flights over the hospital for gawkers who had heard the news. The police deputized two citizens to control the crowds and the Society was forced to swiftly leave town after a few days to escape a horde of peeping Toms. And six months later the New York Times described Carmel as a "haven of art, literature, liberalism and nudists."

(Photo: Herbert Heron playing Hamlet at the Forest Theater in 1926 from the Harrison Memorial Library Local History Room as found in the Carmel Residents Association Newsletter.)

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