By all accounts, Elias Manchester Boddy was a self-made man.
Boddy's early years were difficult. Born in a log cabin in Washington, gassed in Europe inWorld War I, Boddy worked his way through college with a variety of odd jobs, ranging from janitor to ditch digger.
Long before he made his fortune in the newspaper business, Boddy published a book. “Japanese in America,” published in 1921, traced the diplomatic, trade and immigration history of Japanese Americans. Boddy proposed that “the Japanese can be both assimilated and Americanized.”
In 1926, Boddy was hired as editor of a teetering publication called the Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News. The newspaper went bankrupt in 1927 and, a few court orders and deals later, Boddy took over as editor and publisher. He began to investigate police corruption in the city of Los Angeles. In response, the police chief had Boddy arrested under an obsolete law that prohibited newspapers from publishing horse-race statistics. The case was dismissed and Boddy continued muckraking. The dollars rolled in.
In 1936, Boddy purchased Rancho del Descanso in La Cañada.
In 1942, Boddy purchased the Mission Nursery from Fred and Mikoto Yoshimura. The sale included all the stock, including roses, that would later be planted at Descanso.
The Yoshimura family reports that “[i]mmediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese community leaders were targeted by United States authorities and were considered enemy aliens. Regardless of his good standing with the local community, Mr. Yoshimura was picked up by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was then interrogated and detained for many months. Mrs. Yoshimura did not know where her husband had been taken or when she would see him again.”
A few days later, Mrs. Yoshimura was given notice that she, and the rest of the family, would also be interned. Several people offered to “buy the nursery for only a fraction of its value … Fortunately, the Yoshimuras were acquainted with E. Manchester Boddy, publisher of the Los Angeles Daily News, from his visits to the nursery to find plants for his estate in La Cañada which is now known as Descanso Gardens.” Boddy purchased the nursery at a fair price.
After the war, the Yoshimuras started over. They founded the San Gabriel Nursery and Florist, still a thriving business in San Gabriel.
This was the beginning of the Descanso Gardens Rose Garden. Manchester Boddy's original Rose Garden began as an orderly arrangement of row after meticulous row of rose bushes, both ancient and modern. An organized man, Boddy called it the History of the Rose.
Today, the Rose Garden is more diverse. Companion planting allows for year-round blooms.
What would Manchester Boddy think of the garden today?
Boddy was a pragmatist and a newspaperman. The world changed during his lifetime. Airplanes and radios were new inventions in 1900. The first talking motion picture was shown by Thomas Alva Edison in 1910. Scotch tape was patented in 1930. Television came of age in the 1950s.
Would Manchester Boddy like the new Rose Garden? Boddy was an innovator and businessman who saw the great changes of the 20th century. Yes, he would approve.