Holiday Digest: Thanksgiving Past

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By Patricia Truman

An old-fashioned phone didn’t offer privacy, but area teens could figure out which beach they would meet at while talking to one another. Photo courtesy of Patricia Truman

Growing up in magical Laguna as a child in the 1950s and becoming a teenager here was a wondrous adventure and privilege. Joyously, a close circle of girlfriends had an unofficial ritual for a well-enjoyed holiday: Thanksgiving. 

The cheer squad at Laguna Beach High School would often travel with the sports teams. Photo courtesy of Patricia Truman

Being young girls anxious to talk to our peers after hours, we’d use the old-fashioned tall black phone as our only means of communication. We arranged to meet at our favorite street beach by raising the earpiece to hear, speaking into the mouthpiece perched above the stand, clicking the earpiece holder several times, and engaging our “Number, please” operator. 

Arriving in our festive attire, we removed our shoes and walked barefoot along our beloved shoreline. There was no swimming or surfing that day, but somehow, the ocean had its own magical way of helping us observe Thanksgiving, evoking overflowing gratitude for family, friends and our simple but full lives. 

It was as if there were sparkling diamonds, dazzlingly lovely, on the oncoming waves beneath skies so clear and blue, with perhaps a few white “puffies.” Chilly water decorated with white foam washed over our unprofessionally manicured feet. Gasps, laughter, running away from big swells, all joyous moments for these beach bunnies, having tucked their bikinis away for a few months. 

Thanksgiving, with all its planning of menus, table settings, best china and silver, was a national tradition, yet each family had their own unique culture. 

After our individual family feasts, we, feeling well-fed with all the many trimmings on our families’ special menus, created a topic of discussion when we met at the beach. It always morphed to boys as we exercised off some of the savored feast. Usually, we strolled to Main Beach and back to Anita Street, each heading home for the awaiting dessert of pumpkin, apple or mincemeat pies. Thanksgiving was celebrated in our young hearts, which were once again filled to the brim with gratitude for friendships, robust youth, and the beauteous special place of our hometown Laguna, an ideal place to flourish and grow. 

Laguna Beach High School was small, allowing one to have a tribe of besties from which generated slumber parties and multiple phone calls placed through the familiar voices of the General Telephone Company’s live operators. One friend’s mother was an operator and was known to listen to our conversations. Consequently, nothing seemed to remain a secret for young Laguna teens.

An old-fashioned phone didn’t offer privacy, but area teens could figure out which beach they would meet at while talking to one another. Photo courtesy of Patricia Truman

Our summers of swimming, sunning, and fun evening beach parties were followed by a then-allowed bonfire. The boys played familiar songs on their ukuleles, to which we sang along. Youths free to roam barefoot all day, movies for 50 cents with a dish of ice cream afterward as we put nickels in the jukebox was a grand time of community and companionship. Hobie was shaping his first boards at the foot of Anita Street, where we often hung out. Loving the feeling of getting too much sun and learning body or board surfing on very long, heavy wooden boards were precious parts of our lives.

With fall’s arrival, there was the start of school and football games, and we female Song Leaders were considered part of the team. We often rode on the team bus to far-away games in San Juan Capistrano or Lake Elsinore. It was great fun for a few girls on a bus filled with young males just coming into their own sense of manhood. During basketball games, again we performed, dancing and prancing to the crowd’s delight. Baseball, basketball and football were always popular, with many townspeople attending. Laguna was then a small village; thus, sports were great entertainment long before all the electronic distractions of today. At the end of every athletic season, there were banquets, and again, the cheerleaders were included, making us feel we were growing up. 

True Thanksgiving experiences seep into my memory bank, tucked away to be fondly recalled once again as I bask in the privilege of growing up in that safe, uncomplicated era in America, a time of plainness and appreciation of living a simple life. It is my Thanksgiving wish that all who visit our golden shores be filled with thankfulness forevermore! 

Patricia Truman is an active supporting resident, realtor, author, minister and GrandPatty of a large family.

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