From Canyon To Cove: Halliburton treasure trove lost

Where are Richard Halliburton's boots?

That question is rolling around in the minds of members of the Laguna Beach Historical Society, or to be more precise, the revived historical society.

Halliburton's boots, and a complete collection of first editions of his travel books, along with other personal effects, were donated to the original society some 30 years ago.

That group disbanded in the 1980s, and was "revived" in 1990.

But while, by many accounts, most of the artifacts that had been gathered in a museum were stored away and handed over to the new group, the Halliburton collection was not.

Robert Gibbons of Missouri said he has been wondering what happened to his treasure trove of items — worth at least $50,000 — that he had collected over a lifetime of interest in his childhood hero, the ill-starred adventure writer who died at sea in 1939.

Halliburton also built a famous house in Laguna Beach, which recently was put on the market for the first time in many years.

The concrete home, dubbed Hangover House, was state-of-the-art when it was built in the mid-1930s on a South Laguna hillside overlooking what is now Aliso Creek Golf Course. In a recent column, I wrote about the house and in another column the question of whether Halliburton was related to the oil services Halliburton family came up.

That's when Gibbons sent me an e-mail confirming the Halliburton oil services connection, through his father, Wesley, and mentioning his lost treasures.

Here's his message:

"Richard Halliburton was my boyhood hero. I had collected all of his books (first edition with dust jackets). Many were autographed by Richard Halliburton. I had been given by RH's cousin Elizabeth Halliburton Shinn Richard's boots, travel suitcase and photos after Richard's father Wesley's death in the '60s. I had built a model of the Chinese junk Sea Dragon that Richard tried to sail across the Pacific Ocean in 1939. Near Midway Island, the junk sank in a storm, with loss of all hands.

"I donated the collection to the Laguna Beach Historical Society because of Richard's connection with the town and building his home there. I presented two lectures on the life of Richard Halliburton with slides and donated a set of the slides and audio tape of my narration to the Laguna Beach Historical Society. The photos I took when the museum opened were donated to the Halliburton collection at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. The exhibit filled two large display cases with the framed photos on the wall behind them. Also, there was an album of correspondence between Wesley Halliburton and myself, framed plans of Hangover House from architectural magazines and a framed photo of Richard with the large map that was in Hangover House in his bedroom."

He also sent photos from his slide show and one of the ill-fated Sea Dragon, of which he wrote: "Letters from Richard to his parents describe getting money from the Halliburton Oil family to help finance his Sea Dragon voyage that killed him in 1939."

Apparently the original Historical Society was disbanded in the '80s, after Gibbons' donation.

While some artifacts were recovered after the museum in which they were housed was closed, this treasure trove was not.

Anne Frank, who helped relaunch the historical society in 1990 and was its first president, said she has no idea where the items might be.

The one person who might know, Marge Rolley, who by all accounts was central to the society, has long since died.

This bothers Gibbons, who added: "I wonder if the owner of the building just went in there after the museum closed and threw the museum contents into a dumpster? As far as I know, the boots and suitcase never surfaced on EBay or an auction house. I would love to know what happened to all of it."

Gibbons is still collecting Halliburton memorabilia and is on the hunt for a copy of the 1930s film " India Speaks." Halliburton himself appears in the film, probably one of the only moving pictures of him in existence.

"I found a nitrate copy in New Jersey about 15 years ago," Gibbons wrote. "The cost at that time was $800. Now, I have learned that the film archives is no longer in business, so what happened to all their nitrate negatives? Also, back in the '50s, I found a 16mm safety film copy of 'India Speaks' for $75 and asked Wesley Halliburton to buy it for me. He said no, because he never approved [of] Richard doing that movie without consulting him first. I have a press book of the movie right now, and have seen some of the lobby cards for sale on EBay, but not a print or tape."

If anyone has a clue as to what happened to Halliburton's boots and the other items, let me know.

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