This rumor has been around for ages and has taken many shapes, the most common variable being where, precisely, Munchkinland is located. Some rumors cite “the valley.” On the b.la author list, one of our own claimed that the rumors are semi-true and the real Munchkinland is in NorCal. San Diego claims the legend as its own.
Like most legends, this one is false but based on truth, and it’s San Diego, not Los Angeles, who holds the rights to it. Mt. Soledad, near La Jolla, is where the actual homes, fabled to be Munchkin homes, were built, coincidentally around the time that The Wizard Of Oz was shooting.
Three or four ranch style homes (reports vary) were built in the late 30s, designed by architect Cliff May. According to About.com, these homes were scaled for the time period and built into a hillside, so they appear to be Munchkin-sized. But according to Weird California, the homes really were diminutive, if not quite Munchkin-tiny. All but one of them have been demolished, and people frequently visit the remaining one in search of the legend. They all find the same thing: a curiously small house, somewhat Munchinland-esq in features, sitting on a hillside.
During the filming of The Wizard of Oz, the Munchkins, none of whom are credited by name in the picture, stayed at the Culver Hotel. Several of them returned fifty-nine years later, over Halloween of 1997 (Beyond the Rainbow). This followed a larger reunion in 1990, in Liberal, Kansas. If the Munchkins had all been living together in Munchkinland, there would have been no need for a reunion.
Because the 124 Munchkin actors came from far and wide (and most of them were not actors at all), very little is known about most of them. Biographies of a few living Munchkins can be found at Kansas Wizard of Oz ‘N More.
It is possible that the rumors began because La Jolla is close to where L. Frank Baum lived when he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. But most likely it is just a matter of timing and popular culture intersecting.
More about all things Oz at The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Website.
Photo: Stephen Sisters