Village Matters

Life-changing Christmas

By Ann Christoph

sAnneChristophFor all you kids out there whose parents won’t let you have your own phone, or the latest computer game—I’m here to put that in perspective.  I not only had to walk to school in the snow uphill both ways, but our family was the last in my class to have a television.  This was because my dad forbade it.

With a television perhaps he believed we would be exposed to all kinds of improper and violent behavior, or maybe he just thought it would be a distraction and a waste of time.

Can you imagine what he would have thought of texting?

Anyway my Uncle Danny, a television repairman, took care of the TV issue. One summer day he and his family came from Chicago on a visit to our dairy farm.  He simply brought in a gray plastic Motorola television and installed it in the living room.  Nothing more was said.  We had a television and my dad became a regular viewer.

Our favorite show was Disneyland and on that show we followed the process of the construction of Disneyland park in Anaheim, Calif., somewhere very exotic and far away and an opportunity to experience in person the fabulous world of television and movies.  We begged to go. Maybe that was what my Dad feared if we got a television! For years we put our savings into a Disneyland fund. Probably by 1958 there was about $60 in it.

That Christmas our parents finally decided it was time for Disneyland; that was our interpretation. They really had much more on the agenda, like checking out the dairy business in California and Arizona.

We drove to Chicago, snowy and cold, and arrived at Uncle Danny’s place on the south side after dusk.  He lived upstairs of his repair shop and I remember the many deadbolt locks on the door and squeezing in the narrow stairway all bundled up in a winter coat.  We spent the night.  Then came our first airplane flight. The stewardesses were glamorous in their formal navy blue suits and caps. Meals were served; it was much more like a cruise ship than today’s bus-like atmosphere.

Disneyland was grand. We saw hippos in the jungle and walked on a miniature Main Street. We shook hands with Mickey. Knott’s was another stop before the corrals of Dairy Valley (now Cerritos) and visits with old friends of our parents. We stayed in motels and I discovered halibut, which I ordered every day. We swam in the unheated pools in Phoenix and were grateful that they were not iced over like the rivers in Wisconsin.  Mountains. I finally saw them.  At school we had been singing about “purple mountains’ majesty” and we were told to color them in purple in the background of our crayola pictures.  But they were not real to me until this trip.  Palm trees, saguaro cactus, sunny weather in winter; it was a new world, much more than the experience of Disneyland promised to be.

The trip set in motion my dad’s decision to leave the farm in Wisconsin and establish a dairy business in Arizona. As a result every member of our family had a different life than was in the process of unfolding in the Midwest.

Step by step that decision led to my meeting Alfredo, finding the landscape architecture profession, coming to Laguna to work for Fred Lang and becoming an environmental advocate. Still aspects of my prior life beckoned—the real Main Street, the historic buildings, the feeling of belonging that comes with great-grandparents being founding fathers of the town, the farm life of animals, gardens and crops.

Laguna has bits of these valued hometown attributes—our traditional downtown, historic buildings, a heritage of art and beautification, animal protection, and gardens.  And unlike leaders of my Wisconsin hometown, Laguna residents are diligently protective of this community heritage. We love our town and care deeply about it. We don’t just let things happen that will homogenize us with the rest of modern urbanization. Sharing these values makes a hometown indeed.


Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former member of the City Council.


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