Laguna Beach in the Fabulous '50s

The Laguna Beach of the 1950s meant Eiler Larsen, the Pottery Shack, Victor Hugo's and Axlines Shoes.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Rich Kane March 30, 2012 at 04:29 PM
We've got more coming Rick -- watch for a post from another blogger coming Saturday!
Joyce Wethe Robertson March 31, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Gloria, Great to hear from a fellow Laguna tic! We could share so many memories, let's get together sometime. Fun to get into the same publication on the same day. Joyce Wethe Robertson
Beth leedsBethleeds@gmail.com October 22, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Doris Dance also opened an Ice Cream Shop at the "new" Boat Canyon! It was all pink stripes! She and her daughter Sharon lived in my grandmother's apartments on Cypress Drive!
Warren Allen November 19, 2012 at 03:35 AM
It's wonderful to hear firsthand accounts like yours of life in the Laguna that precedes the one we experience now. Please unroll some more of your colorful memories..!
Pam Rosbach April 30, 2013 at 02:18 AM
Do any of you know of a Laguna Beach artist name Van Goos? When I was pregnant with my son (18 years ago) I was given a numbered print called "The Joys of Motherhood" by a co-worker/friend who had once lived in the Laguna Beach area. She re-gifted the print to me stating that it had charmed her home starting in the early 60's. I would like to find out more about this artist....any help would be greatly appreciated.


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