The Changing Face of a Hometown
Laguna has been the place that I’ve called home since 1956. My father bought a vintage farmhouse on the top of Ledroit Lane and dragged his wife and children to live with a constant view of the ocean. I was hooked on the village atmosphere of the town as a 7-year-old, and remain so today.
And yet, much has changed, and it’s not just the buildings, the City Council, or the DRB.
“Back then” – which works through the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s – the town really did consist of locals. Laguna businesses were for the most part owned by the parents of my friends. We could hardly get in trouble. There were always extra sets of eyes tending to us.
Val’s dad owned the Union 76 Station. Gail’s owned Welches’ Health Food Store. Peacock Insurance was Kathy’s dad. And Steve’s, Laguna Nursery. The principal of El Morro Elementary, Bill Allen, was my best friend Jill’s father.
We worked in jobs that I don’t see kids taking anymore. We were maids, waiters, waitresses and bus boys. We pumped gas, cleaned car windshields, and maybe put extra air in someone’s tires. We mowed lawns, tossed the local newspaper, and baby-sat before nannies took over. I helped mom clean our house, all 6,000 square feet of it. No one we knew had a cleaning woman they could complain about.
We “kids” didn’t have cars, or if we did, we’d earned them by working hours between homework and sports practices. No one’s parents drove their kids to or from school. It was either the bus or we walked.
The high school had strict clothing rules. No crop tops, shorts, or pants of any kind for girls. Guys’ hair couldn’t touch their collars, and girls’ skirts could not be more than 3” above the floor in a kneeling position. The vice-principal carried a tape measure and suspension was a potential punishment for clothing infractions.
We didn’t have cell phone “leashes,” and could go for hours without anyone knowing exactly where we were. The hilltops were open and free, not yet parkland with restricted access. And the beaches were home for as many hours as we could park our bodies between the sand and the surf.
My folks didn’t lock our doors until we went to sleep at night. And yes, my girlfriends and I used to ‘hitch’ from one end of the town to the other. Dogs ran the beach and didn’t get ticketed.
I’d like to say we more innocent and I believe that we were tougher. I think we had lower expectations of what we should ‘get’, and a stronger understanding of how hard it was to work and save for the things we wanted.
There seems to be more glitz and a bit less ‘down hominess’ but the town remains a very special place. For those lucky enough to live in Laguna, it’s those sunsets and beach walks, those surf days and sun days, those whale spouts and dolphin leaps, that bring it all home.
Catharine Cooper is proud to be vintage Laguna. She can be reached at [email protected].