Laguna’s Art Museum and Summer
It’s May. As far as I’m concerned, summer is here. So my thoughts turn toward Laguna’s Art Museum. Because inside is their collection of gorgeous early 20th century Impressionists. These painters, Edgar Payne, Guy Rose, Anna Hills, Lucy Bacon, William Wendt and Mary Brady among others, loved to get in their black model T’s and make the dusty, jolting trip down the coast to paint in Laguna. Such clever men and women! The legacy of how Laguna looked back then, the dirt roads where summer tourists storm Main Street today, the beautiful light, which is unchanged today, and the lush and untrammeled countryside, that we now call Laguna Canyon Road, North Laguna, AlisoBeach and so on, is a delight to behold.
I must get myself in there for my annual pilgrimage.
My own story involves an annual summer trip down to Laguna, all the way from Pasadena. Way back then, the ‘60s, we took the Santa Ana all the way to Laguna Canyon Road. A good portion of the freeway still ran between orange groves. There was no air-conditioning in the car. There were three younger sisters and a younger and older brother. It’s a blank to me now how we all fit…that is until I turned sixteen, got my own, very used, car, and began making the migration down on my own, with maybe a sister or two, whom ever begged the hardest for the privilege of driving with the snippy, but apparently exotic, older sister. We always stayed in Three Arch Bay for the month of July, which is why now all of us have proper respect for riptides, although no fear of them.
I’d like to say it was a different Laguna then. A quieter Laguna. A more ramshackle, laid-back Laguna. And it was true that there were still artists’ shacks on Main Beach. The original Pottery Shack still reigned supreme, and in fact a greeter was still standing at Coast Highway and Broadway…well, okay. I don’t know if he was the original greeter, but back then we still had a live one.
I wonder why we don’t have a live greeter now. How hard could it be to find an old Laguna Beach duffer willing to stand out there in those archaic clothes and wave to the tourists? We could get several. To rotate. No one would ever know the greeter was a different man every two hours. Everyone would love it! Especially the tourists.
But so, even back then, civilization had taken over in town.
Today we do have a fairly pristine stretch on Laguna Canyon Road, if one starts from the 405. It’s still green and gold shadows, waving grasses, purple shadows, unbelievably blue skies marred only by poor reception for our cell phones, which we aren’t supposed to be using anyway.
That stretch of Laguna Canyon Road is not enough, however. So I like to hit the museum, the beginning of every summer, to slip back in time, back to when our town was barely there, but already the artists knew it was a gloriously beautiful spot. A spot where they built shacks to spend the summer if they could. Where they explored the empty beaches, the thriving wild life and plant life, the groves of Eucalyptus. To paint the dirt roads, the deep colors, the wild life, the untouched vegetation. They made beautiful paintings. Thrilling, in fact. Giving us a gentle moment of time travel back to the beautiful prism that was the earliest days of Laguna Beach.
Ruth Yunker is an author and humorist. Her book, “Me, Myself and Paris,” is available on Amazon, hardcover or Kindle.