John Vonderlin: Moss Beach Owes Its Name to the Variety of Mosses Found There

Story from John Vonderlin

Email John [email protected])

Hi June,
   It was stories like the following that helped to give Moss Beach its name. Resort owners were glad to make Moss Mania, Pebble Pathology, and Shell Sickness, all common ailments along the beaches of the Coastside in the 1800’s. Enjoy. John
LETTER FROM SANTA CRUZ. From the special correspondent of the Alta.  Santa Cruz  June 14th, 1867. 
The Sea-Moss Mania.
   The ladies down here have a perfect mania for gathering sea-moss. One lady has collected half a bushel of it, at least. There is something fascinating in the employment — the moss looks so pretty, dotting the beach; and it is interesting to search  out the choice colors of it. As many ladies have never gathered moss, and do not understand how to prepare it for making up in wreaths, bouquets, etc., I will tell them how it is done. During high tide the moss is washed high on the beach, and can be gathered dry, though generally you find it in the greatest quantities on the wet beach, among the sea-weeds, as the waves wash them on shore; then, again, it is washed up in large bunches, separate from the weeds. Sometimes, in following up a receding wave, in pursuit of a bunch of moss, the water comes rolling back sooner than expected, and you find yourself immersed over shoe-tops. It is delightful, after feathering a basket full of moss, to walk to a little pond near by the beach, the water from the mosses dripping over you the while; then, to sit down on a rock by the pond, throw your moss in the water, wash it and then replace it in the basket, all nice and clean. You throw off your gloves to do this; the water is warm and pleasant; you will enjoy it; it will make your hands hard and red, and your face will get well browned up walking on the hot seashore. But, there is no pleasure in gathering sea-moss in gloves and veil. Next, you carry your mosses to the house, spread them out, when dried, lay them carefully away in boxes. When ready to arrange it, place a few pieces of it at a time in a basin of water, where the leaves will separate, and resume their natural size and form (they shrink very much in drying) but, in raising it from the water, the separate leaves of a stem fall together again, and to obviate this difficulty, slip a piece of tin, a plate, or card, whichever you wish to dry it on, in the water, under the moss, and in this way it can be raised in nearly its perfect shape. If you wish to let the moss remain on the card, press it, when partially dry, between the leaves of a book. When dried, it it easily removed from the card, or whatever it is dried on, and ready for arranging as you wish. May, l am told, is the most favorable time of the year for gathering it.  The manner in which gentlemen gather moss is amusing.  They spend considerable time collecting it — for their wives, I suppose, or perhaps for somebody else’s wives.  At all event, they gather it, and they pick up sea-weeds, grass, shells, sand, sticks, and everything connected with the moss, indiscriminately.
   Since writing the above, I have made a discovery.  Sometimes, in removing moss from the paper on which it is dried, it sticks and breaks. To prevent this, oil the paper slightly.  I believe, is considered the best thing to dry it on.    Hagar