14 October 2012

Early La Vida Mineral Water Company History Continued

To date, the earliest information found about the bottling and sale of the mineral water found at the La Vida Mineral Springs resort, in the Brea portion of Carbon Canyon, is Summer 1927.  That is when advertisements started to appear in the Los Angeles Times, generally in a section of the paper devoted to health, where books, medicines, diet products, and sanatoria were also promoted.

In the 31 July issue of that paper, for example, were two small ads.  The first, with the heading, "Regain Your Health—Be Well," and claiming that "La Vida Hot Springs Mineral Water should do it.  For indigestion, gas, stomach, liver and kidney troubles, nervousness, circulation, etc."  A Los Angeles address on South Spring Street, which was then the financial center of the city, was provides, as were phone numbers, for the firm, which was called the La Vida Water Company.

The second ad, just under the Langdon Health Clinic's claim that "we are masters of chronic disease," presumably meaning that they treated not caused such things, for only $25 per month, touted La Vida's water as "Nature's Great Health Remedy," and warned readers "Do Not Compare of Confuse This Mineral Water With Any Other Water in California."

By September, the company, using the slogan "Nature's Wonder Water" seemed ready to expand their content, as the issue of the 11th contained a much larger ad, that was titled "Health, Wealth, and Happiness," noting that "Good Health is of thegreatest value—the greatest asset—the other two objectives are secondary."  The list of maladies treated by the product grew, in addition to the few listed earlier, to "Sick Headache, Diabetes, Bladder Trouble, Neuritis, Bright's Disease, and Rheumatism."

The firm asked readers to "give us the opportunity to prove to you the Health benefits of La Vida Wonder Mineral Water.  We have bona-fide testimonials that it is helping many.  Give it a trial.  It may be just what you have been looking for.  Use a drinking water that comes the nearest to 'Nature's Best'— LA VIDA (The Life)."

The product was available in four one-gallon bottles delivered to the recipient's door for 75 cents and, naturally, "we refund the cost of La Vida Water to our customers if it does not give satisfactory resuts after a fair trial."  Alas, what constituted "fair"?

The reason for the expanded marketing seems to have lied in the fact that this ad mentioned that there was a "New $30,000 La Vida Bath House located in Carbon Canyon, Orange County, 30 miles east of Los Angeles via Whittier Blvd."

Two weeks later, beneath an advertisement interesting "Fig-Co" coffee substitute that promised to help for stomach, liver, kidney, heart and nerve problems, was another ad from La Vida, with a "Free Astounding Offer Special" that was "The Greatest Evidence of Proof Obtainable" about the remarkable curative properties of the water.  That is, "Two one-gallon bottles of La Vida Mineral Water Delivered absolutely FREE" to those who wanted to cure all of the above ailments, plus a few more, including "Auto-Intoxication" and "Gravel Stones."

With a limited time offer for a few weeks, the company "want you to know for yourself the great Health and Live-Giving Benefits of LA VIDA WATER the only natural water of its kind in Southern California."  Why, for those who gave it the opportunity, "Good Health is the Reward that hundreds and hundreds of people have obtained by drinking LA VIDA MINERAL WATER.  You will be amazed at the beneficial results."

By Spring 1929, the company began to refer to its product as "The American Vichy," mimicking the famed mineral waters of the south-central French resort town.  Noting that the company would provide a "Gallon Sample Delivered Free," the ad stated that "La Vida has performed miracles in restoring Health."  Incidentally, the company had moved to a new address at 927 W. 2nd Street, an address likely underneath the 110 Freeway just west of Bunker Hill.

In summer 1930, the company, which had a new name (see below) even with the onset of the Great Depression (which, however, did not fully develop until the massive bank failures of 1932), expanded its operations outside of the Los Angeles area.  The Times, in an 8 June, article noted that "twenty branches of the La Vida Mineral Water Company, from San Diego to Fresno, have been operned within the last few months."  These locations included Alhambra, Fresno, Pomona, San Diego, Fillmore, Redlands, North Hollywood, Glendale, Riverside, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Oxnard, Santa Barbara, Santa Paula, Pasadena, San Bernardino and Ventura.  Within a few weeks, it was expected that locations would open in San Francisco and Oakland, as well.

This movement was made because company officials stated that "Sales in January and February 1930 equaled sales for the entire year of 1929," and then March was better than the previous two months together, April saw a healthy (?) increase, and May almost doubled the performance of the month before, when over 4,000 new customers were obtained.  From our four delivery trucks in December 1929, the company was now operating thirty-four.

By August, the La Vida Mineral Water Company was operating main offices in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco, with 37 total branches and was sponsoring radio broadcasts on five Los Angeles, two San Francisco, two Oakland and Fresno and Santa Barbara stations that promised "An Incomparable Discovery for those in Ill Health."  Touting that "Many Thousands Benefited," the company averred that "a very large percentage of our new customes are commended by people who have benefited by the use of LA VIDA MINERAL WATER."

An advertisement from the La Vida Mineral Water Company from the 27 May 1931 issue of the Los Angeles Times.  Click on the image to see it in a separate window in a larger view.

The epitome of company advertising in these early years came with a full-page spread in the Times on 27 May 1931 that claimed, as so many others had, that "This May be the Most Important Message You Have Ever Read."  Ratcheting up the rhetoric in ways not approached before, the company breathlessly exclaimed that "literally hundreds of physicians right here in Southern California recommend and prescribe La Vida Mineral Water . . . Chesmists have analyzed La Vida and found in it remarkable properties which make it unique in the United States. . .  World-famous scientists, in Europe and America, have indorsed La Vida . . . No product has been more universally accepted than La Vida.  No product has received higher praise, more impressive indorsements from great authorities.  No product has so reached so quickly the heights of widespread demand." 

And, the coup de grace?  "There is a Power . . . a Force . . . in La Vida Mineral Water that almost defies explanation and description."  The prose built in intensity as "We in the La Vida Mineral Company have been watching the tens of thousands of people who have used La Vida—we have seen experiences so amazing that they are almost unbelievable—people who have suffered for years, now fully recovered and well—people who have bene enabled to discard their crutches and canes—people who can now eat nortmally again and sleep at night.  Think of what that means!"

To allay the skepticism of the doubting Thomases out there, the ad disregarded those who "just think they are ill" or who "are helped by anything the believe in," or who "are just slightly ill" because "they recover whether they do anything or not."  No, the company was talking about the seriously ill "who are worn out and discouraged."  In these cases, "those are the people who have found the amazing secret of La Vida—a secret that cannot be told in words, but that can be found in life."

Of course, the miraculous work of the water was not limited to customers.  La Vida's president "suffered for nine years with serious stomach trouble, and tried everything, without success—then he used La Vida, and stopped the trouble."  The vice-president found similar results, as did the bottling plant manager who "was forced to live on a diet of milk and raisins—for six years he suffered tortures with his stomach.  After three months of La Vida, his trouble was gone."  Arizona's La Vida rep ended "seven years of suffering" by using the water and "the man who directs La Vida distribution in Canada could hardly stand on his feet a year ago, because of rheumatic trouble—and today he is active and strong.

Even with these stunning testimonials, the ad claimed that the company refrained from advertising these anecdotes because "many experiences have never before been told publicly—we have been almost afraid to tell them, because seemed too miraculous to be true."  But, it went on to relate the tale of "a little girl who suffered for years from juvenile arthritis—who had to be carried from her chair to her bed—and who today is running gayly in her garden" and the woman who received injections after eating because of gastrointenstinal pain "who today eats freely without any ill effects."

Under a section titled "La Vida is Unique," it was explained that "La Vida is a natural alkaline mineral water flowing hot from the earth at Carbon Canyon, Orange County, California.  It is the only water of its exact kind in the United States" and comparable to European examples at Vichy, Carslbad (Czech Republic), Baden-Baden (Germany), Sardara (Italy), and Vidago (Portugal.)  It was stated that La Vida "contains a combination of minerals 20 times stronger than can be found in the average spring water."

Sure to spell out that "La Vida is not a cure-all, not a quack remedy, not a nostrum, not a drug," the ad noted that it did not treat ailments, but dealt with systemic issues that led to ailments, based on "the excess acid condition."  It then admonished readers to talk to their doctor and "your physician can tell you if La Vida can help you," just like today's pharmaceutical ads.  Still, the company went on to observe that "your health is too important—too serious—too sacred—for you to neglect this remarkable, tested, proven, method of helping to remove the cause of many troubles."

Under the prototypical heading of "Act Today!," the ad concluded by noting that the price was small, a four-gallon case for $2, for the benefits of using La Vida and implored readers to "go to your telephone right now—don't let another hour pass without making the decision that has mean health and strength to others. . . Make this day a red letter day in your life." 

It should be added that, by this point, less than a year after there were 37 branches of the company, there were, in late May 1931, a whopping 81.  In an article from the same issue as the amazing ad above, La Vida Mineral Water Company president C. A. Kleinman was quoted as saying that "our advertising campaign has created a demand for our product outside of Los Angeles and immediate expansion is necessary."  He was quoted further as remarking that we now maintain eighty-one Pacific Coast branches, employ 250 men and woman and operate eighty-nine delivery trucks.  Fifty-eight of these branches are in California."

And, by mid-July, the number of branches rocketed to 110 on the Pacific Coast, including Vancouver, B. C., Oregon, and Washington, as well as inland to Denver and Phoenix.  In a 12 July 1931 Times piece, Kleinman reported that the company "has entered on a year of expansion that promises to carry retail sales for 1931 to $750,000, according to plans for further distribution."  The article went on to note that "La Vida mineral water is a product of Carbon Canyon, near Los Angeles, and its properties have made it popular throughout the cpast area."  Moreover, its expansion can be noted in the statement that "from one central office and four trucks in 1929, the business of the company has grown to such an extent that more than 100 trucks now are used to handle the retail distribution."

After Summer 1931, though, material about the La Vida Mineral Water Company becomes scarce.  Likely, it entered into its expansion, as is all too often the case, too rapidly and got overextended.  The worsening national economy, which as noted above, led to the depths of the Great Depression as banks failed by the thousands in the U.S. in 1932, probably also had a role to play.  And, just maybe, the miraculous curative properties of La Vida mineral water weren't quite as advertised!

As to the La Vida Mineral Water Company president, he was an interesting character.  Charleston Adrian Kleinman was born in July 1891 in Toledo, Ohio to a father, Lewis, born in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and who was a barber, and a mother, Pearl, from Odessa in the Ukraine.  About 1900, his parents migrated from Ohio to Los Angeles and his father died shortly thereafter.  In the 1910 federal census, Charles's mother ran her late husband's barbershop and the 18-year old was listed as a musician.  In fact, he did copyright a song called "Windy" in 1913.  By World War I, however, Kleinman was employed in the beans and rice wholesale business with F. E. Harris.

In February 1919, Kleinman pulled up stakes and went to Wichita Falls, Texas, which was in the midst of a oil boom.  He was briefly in a law firm called Lyons and Kleinman and then operated the Prime Oil Company with partner Mark Kleeden and a 1922 Encyclopedia of Texas had a lengthy entry on Kleinman, who was said to have been "a lawyer who has led the life of Los Angeles, California in civic and political activities for years."  It has been hard to find any information to substantiate that claim, though the entry (which was provided by the subject) offered that Kleinman finished second as a Republican in a campaign for the California State Senate.  He was said to have been a graduate at the law school at U.S.C. in 1915 and practiced law for two years before working as a teller and bookkeeper at two banks.  After his relocation to Wichita Falls, it was stated that he had 39 producing oil wells, 24 under his direct control on 2,000 leased acres with assets of $400,000.

By 1928, though, Kleinman was back in Los Angeles and was listed in the Register of Voters as an attorney through at least the mid-1930s.  His address in 1928 was 927 W. 2nd, the headquarters of the La Vida Mineral Water Company.  In the 1930 census, he resided in an apartment with his wife and was listed, again, as a general practice attorney.  His mother and sister, Rozella Kanter, however, who lived elsewhere, were working as a "Water Co. clerk" and "Water Co. stenographer," presumably for La Vida.

If 1932 was the turning point downward for La Vida, given its florid advertising campaign, perhaps too rapid growth, and then contraction as the nation's economy worsened, then Kleinman probably left the business and moved on.  His later years are sketchy:  he was in Los Angeles until at least the late 1930s and then turned up in Chicago, where he registered for the draft during World War II and resided with a woman whom he married a few years later.  In 1946, however, he was back in Los Angeles and married to another lady, whom he was with only a few years.  In the early fifties, he remarried again and there is no indication in the voter registers as to occupation.  Finally, Kleinman lived until August 1980, when he died in Brooklyn. New York.

It at least appears that the bottled mineral water from the La Vida resort started off in a modest way by about 1927 and then went into a startling expansion in 1929-31, after which the company's fortunes waned, if not ended, because there are later iterations of the La Vida water.  Hopefully, more information will be turned up that carries the story beyond its brief boom under Kleinman.


sweetsimplicity said...

Very informative. Thank you. The information really helps me out.

sweetsimplicity said...

In my opinion, wouldn't their marketing strategy kinda resemble Kangen Water? While reading on, first thought in my head: "I've heard similar remarks from the Kangen Product". Just my opinion. btw: awesome post.

prs said...

Hello sweetsimpicity, thanks for the comments and glad you enjoyed this post. Will have more on the La Vida Mineral Water history soon.