As I was catching up on emails today, I came across this prompt from yesterday. In the bad old days, when I was working on my last job, being this far behind on emails would have caused a great deal of stress, both internal and probably also coming from Twit and Princess Fairy Dust. I am so fortunate to be out of that situation and to not feel like I’m required to stay consistently current with friends and family, because they are all generally healthy, happy and content as possible given the possibility of a Republican takeover of the federal government. I can say this knowing that most of them are Democrats like me, and if they’re not we’ve already forgiven each other for mutual political lapses, and the RNC ended just last night.
Spouse and I live under the same roof and are generally carefree, content and happy in our retirement home. One reason for this current state of bliss is that, although we keep different schedules and pursue different activities as individuals, we both seem to feel that it’s part of our “marriage contract” to monitor each others’ well being on a daily basis, and to act accordingly. Our daily interactions start when he joins me in my “woman cave”, usually bringing his morning wake-up beverage with him. He’ll come through the door and ask, every day, “Whatcha doin’ dear?” knowing full well that I will be either sitting in front of my computer or reading in my grandma’s pink upholstered rocking chair. He’ll then sit down on the my other grandma’s pink flower covered couch and we’ll begin our mutual morning status checks on sleep pattern and quality of the previous night and the expected aches and pains of old age.
The pattern this morning, however, was very different. I got up and initiated my usual morning routine but, after plowing through the second fifty pages of The Big Sleep, I started to feel a little sleepy myself, and realized that I had hauled my buns out of bed an hour or so earlier than usual. So, I decided to mix things up a bit and go back to bed where, if I was able to catch a few more Z’s, I would probably be a little more energized for all the additional reading and computing I expected to do today. I did fall back to sleep, and when I woke up I simply restarted my morning routine where I had left off, back in the woman cave.
In the interim, unbeknownst to me, my poor caring Spouse had come up to join me and became a bit concerned to find me not upright in a chair but quietly prone back in my bed. When he returned to restart his usual morning routine he made a point to tell me that he really to make sure that I was OK since it was so unlike me to sleep during the day, unlike him and most other husbands I know who, for some reason, as a group, feel that a midday nap is a right and requirement to keep their grizzly bear grumpiness in check, especially if if they have been cooped up in the house with their wives all day i.e. every weekend while they were working.
Huntington Beach (locally initialized “HB”) is a seaside city in Orange County in Southern California, known for its long 9.5-mile (15.3 km) stretch of sandy beach, mild climate, excellent surfing, and beach culture. Our little family, Me+Husband+Two Young Daughters (approx ages 2 and 4) moved to a two story house on the end of an HB cul-de-sac in 1994. We all reluctantly moved away from that home, on a pie shaped lot with a pool + a yard in the back + less than a mile from the beach, about twelve or thirteen years later. Our girls gained some degree of maturity + some other “gifts” they took with them when we moved but I, their mother, believe I took many more. The gifts I received there, that I have carried with me in my heart and in my spirit since we left, fall into two general categories. (1)People and (2)Fitness.
With our girls approaching school age, we made the obvious decision to move from a small house, the first one that Husband and I had purchased together, in a family-friendly neighborhood which was, unfortunately, located too close for comfort to a high crime, gang-infested area. At the time, I was working, on a temporary/contract basis, for McDonnell Douglas in HB. While performing due diligence to locate a place for us to move to that was both geographically desirable and affordable, I came across an article in the L.A. Times touting Huntington Beach as “The Best City for Children.” Decision made.
The house we bought had one of just 19 addresses on Dragon Circle, in one of several La Cuesta housing tracts built in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s in the very desirable neighborhoods of South Huntington Beach. When we moved in we were warmly welcomed by our neighbors next door since, besides theirs, ours was the only home on the street then that had young children living in it. Over the next five or so years, the number of homes where young children lived more than doubled and, since we lived at the closed end of the street, the children congregated on the street in front of our house to play while their parents congregated nearby to watch over them. I wish I could say that all of these similar families, by income, size and just general characteristics, continued to get along with each other over the years, while all the children went to school, played, joined sports teams and Scout troops together. Sadly, I cannot, but that is a tale for a different post. One of those new neighbors who moved in with her family became my best friend and now, even after both of our husbands retired and we are separated by thousands of miles, we still enjoy a weekly scheduled hour long (or more) conversation. Gina and I both look forward to those events, and have visited each others’ new homes, after we both left HB, her for Southern Oregon and me for first Middle and then East Tennessee.
Construction of any kind on the beach is prohibited without a vote of the people, allowing Huntington Beach to retain its natural connection to the ocean rather than having the view obstructed by residential and commercial developments. Swells generated predominantly from the North Pacific in winter and from a combination of Southern Hemisphere storms and hurricanes in the summer focus on Huntington Beach, creating consistent surf all year long, hence the nickname “Surf City”. The city includes just a small industrial district in its northwest corner, while the colorful and active downtown district includes an art center, a beach-centric shopping district, and the International Surfing Museum. The HB Pier, domain of fishermen (also women and kids), strollers and people and surfer-watchers, stretches from Main Street into the Pacific Ocean. BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery is based in Huntington Beach.
The HB tourism website, surfcityusa.com, advises visitors and residents alike to “Mark your calendars for all the fun-filled events Huntington Beach has to offer! Some of the most popular annual events include the Surf City USA Marathon in February, Annual Huntington Beachcruiser Meet in March, National Professional Paintball League’s Surf City USA Open in April, US Open of Surfing in the summer.” It goes on to say “You might notice that people in Huntington Beach don’t stay indoors for very long. That’s because this is a fit, active town where residents and visitors not only spend their days at the beach, but also take advantage of Surf City USA’s other outdoor and natural attractions. We’re home to Orange County’s largest city parks and… (y)ou can bicycle for miles along our coast, go horseback riding, or even try yoga on a paddle board in Huntington Harbour.
Now, contrary to the way the people in HB are described above, I did stay indoors for very long before we moved there. Over time, though, even I came to enjoy and appreciate the variety of more healthful and physical activities that I could try just by stepping out my front door. Actually, I found many new outdoor pursuits to attempt by perusing the free local papers I regularly picked up off my driveway. So, after determining that I needed to do some good and possibly fun things for me and me alone, for both my mental and physical health, I decided to go ahead and try a few. So in 2002, I believe, I started training for the Long Beach Half Marathon using its Official Training Program called, appropriately for me, A Snail’s Pace.
The group I trained with met on Saturday mornings at HB Central Park. The program, at least as currently advertised, offered, besides fun group training, 16 Weeks of Expert Coaching/Training, structured pace groups with safe interval training and an evidence based structured training program to maximize efficiency and minimize risk. All half marathons are 13.1 miles long. I actually completed the Long Beach Half Marathon twice, as well as a couple of Surf City Half Marathons and half of the first Orange County Marathon that ended with me calling home to be picked up out of a pouring rain! The course time limit for those distance races, both Marathon & Half Marathon events, is usually 7.5 hours. I did my first Long Beach Half Marathon, mostly walking with a few very slow jogging splits, in about 3 ½ or 4 hours. I finished those other distance events plus the Music City Half Marathon in Nashville, as well as a 5K or two, since then, but that was the fastest pace I have ever had in any timed event.
I had so much fun in that first training program that I was inspired to keep moving even after I finished that first race. I kept training with that group for a year or two after that but veered off into less formal training with a girlfriend who moved into a La Cuesta neighborhood just a five minute walk away from mine around 2005 or so. Kathy was a friend of a friend and we had only met each other a couple of times before she moved to HB, the first time when we co-hosted a wedding shower for our mutual friend. She and I hit it off from that beginning, and our bond was strengthened by other shared factors besides our close geographical proximity after her move. We both, along with our mutual friend, were purchasing agents working in the local aerospace biz. Kathy also had two daughters who were close in age like mine, though hers were slightly older, as well as a fairly small family of parents and in-laws and a couple of sisters and nieces who lived in Southern California. Her girls were active in school and other extracurricular activities similar to mine, and her husband worked a lot of hours in a stressful job, like my husband.
Just by a happy happenstance, when I found out that Kathy would soon become a neighbor, I asked, I think, if she would be interested in joining me for walks in the area. She was and, looking back and totaling up the time that passed while we took our nearly weekly jaunts, I can hardly believe that they only occurred over a few, possibly three or four years. IDK why, but the time we spent and the distance we covered on those walks, both literally and figuratively, loom monumental in my memory. I guess, though, the time flew by because we spent it in mutually rewarding and invigorating conversation. Even before I moved away from HB, I had begun to miss those talks with Kathy more and more, as she got busier on her job, after being promoted a few times and taking on more responsibility, and as her husband was able to back away from the stress of his job and began biking with her.
As I walked around the HB neighborhoods less and less often, I substituted bike rides along the Santa Ana River Trail, a 12-foot wide path following the Santa Ana River, a waterway that is cement-lined through much of Orange County and begins at a junction with the Huntington Beach Bicycle Trail. The closest access point to this easy-riding trail was about a five minute ride from my backyard. When we moved to Brentwood, Tennessee, I tried to find a similar trail or path so I could continue to exercise in the great outdoors. Unfortunately, no part of this state is flat for any great distance, which easily discouraged me from trying to ride my beach cruiser. On top of that, there are four seasons here, and two of them are either too cold or too hot or too wet, either in the form of snow, frozen puddles or humidity I could cut with a knife, to comfortably continue this exercise on any kind of a regular basis. Riding the recumbent bike in the basement is just not the same!
I have been enrolled off and on in a memoir writing class over the last year or so. During that time I have written several vignettes, dealing with various subjects, parts and times of my life, working off of whatever popped into my head in the days before the next class assignment was due.
Throughout that stressful process I had been struggling with how I wanted to organize those stories in a way that might make them interesting for my audience, which essentially means my two daughters. They both know a lot about my immediate family, mainly my mom and my sister, as my girls have spent a lot of time with both of them over the 25 years of their own lives. They are both acutely acquainted with my own self-image and my cynical sense of humor. However, as young women of the millenial generation, I don’t think they, like many of their peers, have much appreciation for or understanding of the struggles and challenges faced by their foremothers, especially those like myself of the baby-boomer generation.
In the end, at least for the time being, I’ve decided to organize my stories chronologically as much as possible. Fortunately for me, then, I have already written the first story I wanted to tell about the beginning of my life, which took place in Gardena, which is thus also one of the Places of My Life. Here it is…
I have a lot of good, but hazy memories, of my childhood in the small town of Gardena, California. Those memories include a range of the usual neighborhood activities, though my childhood home was situated in an unusual location which was not ideal when compared to current standards and preferences for raising a family in safety.
Gardena is a city located in the South Bay (southwestern) region of Los Angeles County. Some believe the city was named for its reputation for being the only “green spot” in the dry season between Los Angeles and the sea. Gardena officially became a city in 1930 when it incorporated itself as protection against a heavy county tax imposed on a planned park project.
Gardena is bordered by two cities, Torrance and Hawthorne, that big beautiful park developed by the county that Gardenans didn’t have to pay for, and two neighborhoods, Athens and Harbor Gateway, that are officially part of the city of Los Angeles. Athens (and I didn’t know till now that it had a name) is a predominantly black, heavily Hispanic, relatively prosperous unincorporated community. All the schools in Gardena were part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest public school district in the nation, with a reputation for extremely crowded schools, large class sizes, low academic performance and incompetent administration.
Harbor Gateway (as it was renamed by the city of LA) is a narrow north-south corridor situated approximately between Vermont Avenue and Figueroa Street north of Interstate 405, and Western and Normandie avenues south of I-405. The territory was acquired by the city of Los Angeles in a shoestring annexation, specifically to connect San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City and the Port of Los Angeles with the rest of the city. Despite being part of the city of Los Angeles, some parts of Harbor Gateway have a “Torrance, CA”, “Gardena, CA” or “Carson, CA” address because they are serviced by those cities’ post offices. This is where I lived from my birth, on Wednesday, April 26, 1955, until we moved (a whole ten miles and ten years later) to Torrance, so my sister and I could complete our early educations in a better school system.
We lived at 503 W. 157th Street, on the corner of a busy main street, Figueroa. Fig ran along the side of our house and the street in front of our house was the entrance to the neighborhood. Fig was on the side of the house you can’t see in this photo, which I can’t believe I was able to find today online, so maybe the house still looks like this, as it did when I lived there! No matter what they’re called today, like subdivisions or some such other high-falutin or modern terms, I will always associate happy memories, wherever I live, as having taken place in a neighborhood.
Kitty-corner from us across Figueroa was the Spanish American Institute. I guess I really never knew what went on there, I just knew, or at least I think I can recall, that a small herd of cows may have been housed or stabled there. I had no idea at the time what function the cows may have served at the institute but we could smell them and touch them and I think maybe even ride on them, unless that was just a figment of my childhood imagination that I choose to hold on to, among others.
Our neighbors, both close by and farther afield, encompassed a variety of family sizes, arrangements and ethnicities, during the first ten years of my life that my own small and homogeneous family lived in this little house with the carnations (which had a beautiful smell) and geraniums (whose smell made me want to puke) that grew in the ground along the non-busy side and the large fig tree that anchored the far corner of the brick enclosed back yard.
Gardena, like many of the suburban areas of Los Angeles, now probably falls within the category of urban sprawl but, back in that idyllic time, it was one of the new bedroom communities rising out of the rich California farmlands that were initially cultivated by Japanese and Mexican families. I know that my family, Dad and Mom, added a master bedroom and bath, with a fashionable walk in closet, to our house, probably around the time my sister came along, about 4 ½ years after me. I also know that two very different families, in almost every possible way, had lived next door to us in that ten year period, on the other side of those flowers and brick wall.
The first family there was the Millwees and oh my god! They were four typically rambunctious blonde and freckle faced boys. Mom was Esta, an unrefined woman who spoke with maybe a slight Okie accent and had the dusky dark skin tone and long lanky physique to match. Dad was Don, Sr., a construction worker or some other outdoor manual laborer of that time and place, like maybe an oil field operator. I don’t think he was around very much; he had to work a lot to support that large and active family. I remember the two older boys, Donnie and Brad, and how I would halfheartedly chase them around the grass and the yard and up the fig tree, sometimes even walking dangerously balanced along the brick fence that separated our ordered backyard from their chaotic one. Most searingly, my most ingrained memory of trying to act like one of the boys is the one where I stepped off the fence into their backyard, in my rubber go-aheads, only to encounter a nail sticking up out of a block of wood there that ended up with its point embedded in my foot.
On the other end of the spectrum was the second neighbor family, a pretty traditional Japanese one. Theirs, like ours, was composed of a mom and a dad and two little girls. I don’t remember a lot of details about those people, but image of the beautiful, colorful, large and sort of exotic Japanese dolls, encased in glass, that were prominently displayed in that home, made a long lasting impression on my by then expanding and inquisitive mind.
I think the neighbors across the street were Filipino, with a grandma who nurtured a beautiful rose garden. I remember proudly bearing a few of those fragrant colorful blooms to a favorite teacher, with the stems wrapped in a wet paper towel to preserve them, surrounded by aluminum foil to preserve my fingers from the thorns.
I don’t think I have ever again lived in such a relatively small geographical area that encompassed a similarly large diversity of neighbors. This early exposure to the variety of colors and languages of America’s citizens probably, especially in retrospect and in comparison to the places we lived while my kids were growing up, opened my mind and my heart to appreciating all of our wonderful differences!
El Camino College is a two-year public community college located in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County known as Alondra Park. In 1907, the California State Legislature, seeing a benefit to society in education beyond high school but realizing the load could not be carried by existing colleges, authorized the state’s high schools to create “junior colleges” to offer what were termed “postgraduate courses of study” similar to the courses offered in just the first two years of university studies. I often learn new information from Wikipedia about my hometown and home state and, even though Wikipedia does not vouch for the accuracy of its facts, I know from personal experience that ECC was really thought of as the local high school extension program when I graduated from West (Torrance) High in 1972.
The El Camino Community College District was officially established as of July 1, 1947 and today serves nearly 23,000 students of a diverse background mostly drawn Southern California’s South Bay, including the cities of El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Lawndale, Hawthorne, Lennox, Gardena, and Inglewood. Wikipedia lists the following diverse group of celebrities as ECC enrollees, though most did not graduate before they left school to pursue their dreams and finally gain financial success and public acclaim: Frank Zappa (avant garde musician, Rock N Roll guitarist); Brian Wilson (Beach Boys founder); Chris Montez (singer); Suge Knight (Rap impresario); Fred Dryer (Actor, producer and former football defensive end in the NFL); Bo Derek (actress and celebrity);Chet Baker (jazz trumpeter and vocalist).
Many members of my school’s class of ’72 planned to “attend” ECC, which really meant they planned to register for classes to satisfy their parents’ post-graduation requirements that they either get a job or go to college. Many of the surfer dudes and dudettes who matriculated in the local So Cal beach cities, plus a few Valley dudes and dudettes, briefly flashed their proofs of registration at any of the many local Junior Colleges, then merrily skipped out to play and party for as long as their parents bought that excuse as justification to continue to provide financial support to these older, but still juvenile in many ways, delinquents. “JC’s,” as they were dubbed by high school guidance counselors who recommended them to these kids and their parents in hopes that some might benefit educationally, or at the very least be kept off the streets as bums, were very nearly free then, too, which was an added bonus for all concerned.
A brief history of California’s public education philosophy and resulting systems reveals that in this area my home state has for a very long time demonstrated forward thinking and a leading edge approach rare among its peers, one which continues to this day, even in today’s trying economic and social environment. A collegiate “department” of Fresno High School was set up in fall of 1910. This later became Fresno City College, which is the oldest existing public community college in California and the second oldest existing in the United States. In 1921, California passed legislation which allowed for the creation of community college districts and launched the current model of community colleges that would now offer general education courses for which knowledge and credits could be transferred to four year colleges and universities. The first ever transfer student was from Modesto Junior College and transferred to Stanford in 1922.
I never attended El Camino as a fulltime regular student at any point in my undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate educational programs. That doesn’t mean, though, that I didn’t ever take advantage of the free, or at least very low cost, educational opportunities available to any and all Californians through the community college system. I know I took a math class at ECC at some point, which I initially thought may have been a trigonometry class that I know is generally a pre-req for calculus, a subject which is now a requirement for admission to most of your better MBA programs. I dodged that bullet, though, as it was not a requirement at UCLA’s Graduate School of Management when I applied there in 1978.
I have always done well with accounting, or any figuring that revolved around dollars and cents i.e. “real” numbers. I struggled through basic Algebra in high school, which may have been a class that I repeated at ECC. I really never progressed past basic Algebra, though I may have tried to do that at ECC. I never understood made-up numbers, like sines or cosines or tangents, when I first encountered them while trying to prepare myself for grad school, just in case I might have needed to know at least what they were. I might have been living in either the Los Angeles City College (LACC) or West Los Angeles (Community) College when I tried trig. I don’t recall for sure, though, probably because I was so confused by just the full and proper name of that daunting subject. I do recall, though, taking professional certification courses in contracts management at WLA, where I also clearly remember meeting a 6”8” dapper fellow student who was not a basketball player, or any other type of athlete, I don’t believe. We went on exactly one date, where I learned that a Cadillac was the only standard automobile that could accommodate his length behind the wheel. That guy and that date and that semi-related story were clearly memorable to me since I still recall all those details, though probably not to him since he never asked me out again.
Last in my ECC saga is a story that came to mind as I was writing this post, which I related to Husband as a reminder and a clear indication of the value my family put on education, along with a statement about how much it cost them to help me achieve this goal, even back in the 1970s, when college costs were considerably lower than they are now. As I was graduating with my BA in International Relations from the University of Southern California, a private school which was very expensive then in relation to public universities, a gap which has closed considerably in the 21st century, my mom said “Look, my arm is staring to grow back,” by which she meant that she and Dad had been paying “an arm and a leg” to send me there. My more reserved and ever-practical father took the opportunity to tell me, at that late date, that he wished I’d gone to El Camino first and then transferred to USC. Thanks to Hubs and Dad for reminding me of one of the latter’s more endearing qualities.
The 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education was a turning point in higher education in California. The state funded four year college and university systems were to limit their enrollments, yet an overall goal was to “provide an appropriate place in California public higher education for every student who is willing and able to benefit from attendance”, meaning the junior colleges were to fulfill this role. The Master Plan for Higher Education also banned tuition, as it was based on the ideal that public higher education should be free to students (just like K-12 primary and secondary education). As officially enacted, it states that public higher education “shall be tuition free to all residents.” Thus, California residents legally do not pay tuition. However, the state has suffered severe budget deficits ever since the enacting of Proposition 13 in 1978, which led to the imposition of per-unit enrollment fees for California residents (equivalent in all but name to tuition) at all community colleges to get around the legal ban on tuition. Non-resident and international students, however, do pay tuition, which at community colleges is usually an additional $100 per unit (or credit) on top of the standard enrollment fee. Since no other American state bans tuition in public higher education, this issue is unique to California. In the past decade, tuition and fees have fluctuated with the state’s budget. For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, enrollment fees ranged between $11 and $13 per credit. However, with the state’s budget deficits in the early-to-mid 2000s, fees rose to $18 per unit in 2003, and, by 2004, reached $26 per unit. Since then, fees dropped to $20 per unit, down $6 from January 2007, which was the lowest enrollment fee of any college or university in the United States.
Of course, that was almost ten years ago now, and I know, again from personal experience, that those costs, or fees, or tuition, or any combination thereof that they are called now, are going back up again. I know this from my youngest daughter, the possible future psychiatrist, who recently completed refresher courses in biology and physics at Santa Monica College, yet another two-year, public community college located in the greater LA area, as preparation to hopefully perform well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) which she plans to take for the first, and hopefully last, time next month.
The caliber of the student bodies, the challenge level of the coursework, and the competition for admission to any and all of the fine and still comparatively low cost institutions of the California Community Colleges System (CCCS) have risen dramatically since my spotty presence there during the 1970s and 80s.
As Walt Disney sat at a bench, at an amusement park, watching his daughters play, he noticed how ragged and filthy the small amusement park was. He also observed people’s reactions to different rides, and noticed how children’s parents had nothing to do. They would be anxious to go home, while their children were still having fun, and playing. This is where Walt was conjuring, and planning a new type of amusement park; one that would be clean, and would have attractions for parents and children together. This was Walt Disney’s idea, which he brought to fruition with his creation of Disneyland.
Disneyland is the first of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. Opened on July 17, 1955, Disneyland has a larger cumulative attendance than any other theme park in the world, with over 650 million guests since it opened. These two sentences contain all the basic facts you need to know about how and why this still magical place and “The Happiest Place on Earth” colored my childhood, my youth, my young adulthood, my dating and parenting life, and really my entire outlook on life, today and into the future. Critical to Disneyland’s lasting impact on me is that the park and I are the same age, with both of us officially beginning to exist on planet Earth in the year 1955.
Years before Disneyland was constructed, Walt was thinking, generating, and creating everything in his mind. He traveled the United States, and visited buildings of America’s most prolific inventors and creators, such as Thomas Edison’s Workshop, the Wright Brothers Bicycle shop, and the home of the Dictionary magnate Noah Webster. While visiting these places, he was formulating and dreaming of a “Mickey Mouse Park” with a western village, Main Street, and more; these ideas would eventually form Disneyland.
The concept for Disneyland began when Walt Disney was visiting Griffith Park in Los Angeles with his daughters Diane and Sharon. While watching them ride the merry-go-round, he came up with the idea of a place where adults and their children could go and have fun together. He hired a consultant from Stanford to gauge the proper area to locate the theme park based on the area’s potential growth. The recommended location was on 160 acres of orange groves and walnut trees in Anaheim, southeast of Los Angeles in neighboring Orange County.
To fully appreciate the facts given as initial background above, one must be able to picture the landscape of Southern California in the 1950s and at the same time jump ahead and compare it to that landscape today. Los Angeles was spreading out block by block and tract by tract, as more and more housing was built in response to increased demand. This increased demand was generated over the decade by the booming economy as it changed over from agriculture, oil drills and basic manufacturing to more advanced manufacturing of airplanes and rocket ships and jet engines, from the basic black telephone and party lines and operator assistance to intercoms and automatic telephone exchanges and microelectronics. This manufacturing change and growth in turn led to the expansion of supporting retail businesses and services until the urban sprawl became suburban sprawl that crept out of the L.A. coastal basin, east over the Santa Monica Mountains (really foothills) into the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, north to Simi Valley and sleepy coastal communities, and of course South to the now infamous Orange County, “The OC.” This sprawling and seemingly haphazard growth, along with improvements in the manufacture of automobiles, including some assembled locally, made cars cheaper and more ubiquitous on existing roads and led to the necessity of moving all these new Californians from place to place. This became LA’s famously crowded freeway system.
Griffith Park still serves as an oasis of nature in the heart of the urban jungle that is Los Angeles proper. It is today, in fact, one of the largest urban parks in North America, referred to as the Central Park of Los Angeles, though LA’s park is much larger, more untamed, and rugged than its New York City counterpart. Conversely, Orange County is now the third-most populous and the second most densely populated county in California, the sixth-most populous in the United States, and more populous than twenty-one U.S. states. The completion of Interstate 5, known to Angelenos as the Santa Ana Freeway, in 1954 helped make Orange County a bedroom community for many who moved to Southern California to work in aerospace and manufacturing. Orange County received a further boost in 1955 with the opening of Disneyland.
Uncle Walt, as my irreverent dad would often call him, uttered the following words of wisdom and promise with regard to his new amusement park in the year it was opened.
To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land; dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world. Disneyland will be uniquely equipped to dramatize these dreams and facts. The idea of Disneyland is a simple one. It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge. It will be a place for parents and children to share pleasant times in one another’s company. Here the older generation can recapture the nostalgia of days gone by, and the younger generation can savor the challenge of the future. Here will be the wonders of Nature and Man for all to see.
When Disneyland opened, in the year of my birth and for a long time after, there were still orange groves surrounding the site. My grandma lived among those groves when I was a kid, before they were pulled out to make room for more Disneyland parking lots, tourist motels, and the newer parts of Anaheim. One of the joys of every family visit to Disneyland was to sit together in a glass-enclosed booth in Tomorrowland, talking to Grandma on the hands free phone. I don’t remember if this “attraction” was managed by AT&T or Bell, though I think I remember that you had to reserve the booth ahead of time. Dad would dial Grandma’s number and we’d all shout “Hello” at once when she picked up the receiver on her end. I think we talked to Grandma more often from that little booth inside Disneyland than we did face to face, even though she was only a few miles separated her from us when we were there!
We went to Disneyland at least once a year while I was growing up. When my kids were born, my mom couldn’t wait till they reached the age where a daily nap was no longer required so that she and Dad could go with Husband and me to bring her “jewels” to Disneyland for their very first visits. Even now that we all, except Mom, have lived in other states, my girls and I make it a point to visit Disneyland, and the newer Disney California Adventure theme park, as often as we can when we’re back in So Cal, and as often as we can find some way to pay a discounted admission price! When Disneyland and I were both young, and until we both became teenagers, park patrons would buy a book of tickets, along with admission. These tickets were labeled by category of the rides listed thereon as A, B, C, D and E. A ticket rides were the cheapest, most sedate and old-fashioned; E ticket rides were the best and newest and most exciting, at least from a kid’s perspective. We long time natives still say that when something is a lot of fun, exciting, and/or adrenaline pumping, it’s a real E-ticket experience. I used to say that about my last job in California, long after E tickets had gone the way of the dinosaurs but shortly after the opening of California Adventure. When I walked into the office every morning, I’d welcome my colleagues to the ShinMaywa California Adventure, warning them to prepare for an “E” ticket ride. I only had to explain the concept once, even to the Japanese natives I worked with, before I got their hearty concurrence about the nature of our shared daily experiences.
Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.
This is another quote from Uncle Walt that struck a chord with me. It mirrors how I feel, or at least want to feel, about myself. I guess, in the end, maybe this is really why I feel such a kinship with my beloved Disneyland. It’s still where I want to go when I want to feel like a kid again, even now, when we are both senior citizens.
Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you. Wow, this prompt opens up so many possibilities for me, since I feel like I have lived my whole life around food, usually not in a very good or happy way.
Fortunately, the prompt gave me leeway to talk about any (or all) aspects of a meal that has deep roots in my memory from the food I ate to a description of the place I was when I ate it. More importantly, I get to include the people who were there AND a reminder from one of my new-found favorite authors, Anne Lamott, who wrote in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life: “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
Warning – This post does not contain any photos, just copied evocative velvet art!
The Tijuana Inn, Gardena, California, early 1960s
This was my family’s go-to dining-out spot. I don’t remember much about the Mexican food they served, but I gleefully recall the pats of butter that came to the table with the tortillas. I have been told that I refused to eat as a baby. Healthy eating habits were not a concern for elementary school kids in those days, so what I looked forward to the most when my family of four (Mom, Dad and little Sis) sat down at one of the tables was licking the sweet creamy butter off those little soft cardboard squares, one after the other, and bring me some more, please!
Like the food, the restaurant’s décor has not remained clear in memory, either. I’m pretty sure there were many booths, maybe some of them were round. I think the upholstery was orange pleather, the kind that leaves lines on your thighs after you have peeled them from your seat. I googled the Tijuana Inn, which I knew no longer existed, and found that the old place had gone into bankruptcy before it burned down last century. The entry also provided its location, which brought to mind a memory of a bank of plate glass windows across the front, facing dear old Gardena (or was it Redondo Beach?) Boulevard. Like many family dining establishments, they featured painted-on decorations in December, maybe even “Feliz Navidad” or “Feliz Año Nuevo.”
There is, however, one aspect of the décor that I remember made a big impression on me as a child: a couple of large, almost wall size paintings, which I think were actually the kitschy but endearing velvet kind. One featured what I imagined was an Aztec god or warrior, cradling the limp form of a beautiful Latina in a pristine white dress, and I wondered what their location and relationship were. The other one was of a bullfighter in the ring with an angry bull, and I never wondered what their relationship or location was. I didn’t really want to think about it.
The last clear memory I have of eating there, and just about anywhere else we ate as a family while we all lived under the same roof, was how my parents liked to tease my sister by saying that she placed her orders “from the right side of the menu.” This meant that her selection was always the most expensive among us. Maybe that’s why, even now as a fifty-five-year-old twice-divorced single woman, she’s still looking for a “Sugar Daddy?”
This is a direct quote from my mother who doesn’t take her own advice.
Explanation of this quote When you tell a lie the truth will catch up with you, some way, some how, sooner or later.
Explanation of Mom’s approach: She thinks it’s OK to tell a “little white lie” if necessary to avoid hurting the recipient’s feelings but more importantly to prevent the recipient from having a bad opinion of her or her family.
Example of Mom’s approach: Lie to her friend who has invited me to a (surprise) birthday party/open house for her friend’s Chabadnik second son-in-law who I have never met in my life. Now I love my mom’s friend and appreciate her invitation in this instance and all the prior ones and all the recognition my family and I have received from her over the years. So Mom lied in advance and told her I had other plans that day, which turned out to be true after the fact.
My preferred approach would have been to tell the truth in the first place, trusting that Mom’s friend knew me well enough to appreciate that I would rather spend the time with people I know and love than with somebody I’ve never met, have little in common with, and would probably never see again as we were both visiting in the area at the time.
I hardly handle anything with kid gloves. I prefer an honest direct approach.
I used to have one of those, but it was a very long time ago (nearly 8 years but it started 10 years before that) in a galaxy far far away (in So Cal for a subcontractor to one of the few commercial airplane manufacturers still in existence). You can follow the link above to my happily employed fellow blogger’s post that describes some of the reasons she still loves her job. IDK, maybe us old farts should all work in frigid Minnesota. Maybe that environment better preserves nice people?
My comment is based on my more recent experience where most of my older co-workers hated their jobs probably because, like me, they knew they could have done their jobs better and had much more fun if only more of the managers respected their experience and supported the ideas they generated from it. Instead, unfortunately, they seemed to often fear ideas that came from old farts like me. If any of our ideas were even actually considered, we seldom heard about it.
FYI my lovely old job was with a Japanese company that also still built a seaplane using a design developed in WWII. I contend that the main reason they kept me on so long was due to my skill in translating their ESL to semi-technical business English in letters to their domestic suppliers and customers. These wonderful people always bought whatever my kids were selling for school, soccer, Girl Scout, etc. fundraisers. They let me use their office supplies when I wanted to be participate as a parent in my daughters’ schools, interests and extracurricular activities. I received no flak or hassle when, after 5 years there, I requested a part-time flexible schedule that allowed me to work around school schedules after my nanny started working part-time for a crazy neighbor who didn’t appreciate that I was already paying the nanny to work for me full-time.
I didn’t receive a watch when I left ShinMaywa after 10 years. They just let me pick the venue for my farewell lunch. and I still have the pictures my old boss took of all my Japanese friends enjoying the strange delicacies served at the best Jewish deli in Orange County.
To bring this story back to the watch pictured in the linked post, I have started wearing one again. I’d had to remove it on arrival at my last job since it stood between my wrist and the desktop when typing on the computers I used there and, more often than not, I’d forget to take it with me when I left the office each day. As an Old Fart, I don’t like using a cell phone, which I don’t always have on me anyway, to find the time. I just have to remember to put my watch on before I leave the house!
Another of my favorite sayings, which may also be a cliché, is:
“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”
I have spoken this line to my spouse many times over the nearly 25 year span of our marriage, along with the corollary I learned from my first high school friend who married at a very young age and has never gotten along very well with most of her in-laws.
“Be careful who you marry. Make sure you get along with them because you’ll be stuck with them, too.”
While I didn’t always get along with his parents and the two brothers who were living when I met him, I have always, or at least as far back as I can remember, gotten along with his sisters-in- law. His parents have passed, along with one of the two brothers, and now I think the three of us girls get along better than ever. I’m sure there’s a deep psychological and/or emotional reason for this otherwise unexplainable fact. If anyone has any possible explanations, I’d love to hear them!