My family moved from a small coastal town in Oregon to Laguna Beach. Although both towns are located on the Pacific Ocean, they could not be more different. Laguna Beach was heaven. The weather was perfect, and I don't think I had ever seen so much fresh fruit in the markets. Almost every house had an orange tree, and there were groves of orange trees as far as the eye could see. In Oregon, a treat was to receive one orange in our Christmas stocking—here, you could pick them right off a tree.
At the south end of Three Arch Bay, was the Moulton-Niguel, Sherman Chandler land, which we thought would never be developed. I was working for the South Laguna Water Company, and remember the many developers who came into the office requesting land maps and asking if it were possible to put in water lines that far south. You could drive on what is now Crown Valley Parkway, and see nothing but wheat fields on both sides of the two-lane road.
What I remember most about those days were the artists and art galleries that were the hallmark of Laguna. Going to the Festival of Arts each summer, you could see magnificent works of art. I bought my first painting there, a seascape above the cliffs of Laguna Niguel. The artist was Henry Vander Velde, who resided in a small house with his wife and children on those cliffs, long before Laguna Niguel was formed. I still treasure this painting, and it hangs in my living room. I also have a beautiful print of Jacque Moffet, Women of the August Moon, and a print by Robin Wethe Altman that shows the cliffs of Laguna near the old Victor Hugo's (now ). I love these paintings, as they are constant reminders of Laguna Beach.
The Pottery Shack was a favorite stop. There, you could buy seconds and thirds of their wares for a very reasonable price. Whenever out of town guests came, we always took them there and bragged about what a wonderful place it was.
My parents especially enjoyed the French restaurant on Coast Highway, and we had many memorable and wonderful dinners there. Not only was the food great, but the service was impeccable.
Shopping in Laguna meant Marriner's, Axlines Shoes, and even the Mode O Day shop. JC Penneys was another favorite, and the wonderful ice cream shops were a special treat. I especially remember the Scoop Deck, which was owned by Doris Dance, a local resident. When she had her grand opening, she invited Tom Hatton, a TV personality, down for the day. Tom graciously provided entertainment for all the patrons and drew pictures for many of the young people who attended. Doris Dance was also the swimming instructor for young people. She taught at one of the motels on the north end of town.
One of the most unforgetable persons was Eiler Larsen, "The Greeter." Who could ever forget his wonderful "hellos" to all the passing cars on Coast Highway. Also, when sitting in a restaurant with my two daughters, we saw William Boyd, better known as Hopalong Cassidy. At that time, he was living at Lagunita and was known to frequent many of the restaurants. He was a very nice man who stopped to say hello to us.
My memories of living in Laguna Beach are vivid and warm ...
Gloria Stiger Linkey is the author of Native American Women: Three Who Changed History.