An Iowa Picnic:
Farewell, My Lovely, Chapter 9

"This car sticks out like spats at an Iowa picnic."

Marlowe is not referring to a picnic in Iowa but rather to a distinctive Los Angeles phenomenon. As immigration to Los Angeles from the Midwest swelled, new residents founded State Societies that held annual or semi-annual picnics. Charles H. Parsons of the Federation of State Societies explained that the gatherings were popular because,

    There are many who come here [to Los Angeles] alone, they have no relatives, possibly no immediate friends; homesickness and loneliness naturally follow; possibly one may be almost ready to return to the old home and former friends. Then the opportunity comes to attend one of the famous state picnics or evening social reunions . . . He may only meet those who knew his family and friends, but it is some one from home. Immediately all the outlook changes; homesickness if forgotten, lonesomeness thrown aside. He finds he is not alone out here after all." (Qtd. in Robert M. Fogelson, The Fragmented Metorpolis, p.196)

The Iowa State Society was the largest in the city, and as its membership grew it started holding picnics for individual counties. Immigrants from the Midwest tended to be poorer, less-educated, and more conservative than native Angelenos, who looked on the picnics as comically rustic. Spats--cloth or leather leggings that attached to the upper part of a shoe--were part of formal dress and would be completely out of place at an Iowa Picnic. Chandler's reference to the picnics reinforces a motif that runs throughout his novels: the midwester immigrant drawn to L.A. by the promise of material success, only to find loneliness and disillusionment (consider, for example, Mrs. Morrison-- Jessie Florian's nosey neighbor in Farewell, My Lovely--and Owen Quest in The Little Sister.)