By Annlia Hill
Walter E. Parke followed Baird Coffin as Laguna Postmaster in 1953. Under his leadership, the post office moved from Broadway to 570 Glenneyre Street. Lagunans didn’t like it! It was out of the business district, on a hill, on a narrow street with no curbs and had little parking.
The end of 1961 brought a new postmaster, Eugene T. White, who delivered the good news that a new post office building would be located downtown near a parking lot. The post office returned to 236 Laguna Avenue, where it had been from 1923 to 1941. The Glenneyre building was still officially the Main Post Office, while the Laguna Avenue office was the Finance Station (whatever that is!).
Donald Willard Rose became postmaster in 1968 after White resigned. The Glenneyre PO was closed, and a third postal window added at the Laguna Avenue office. New development in areas surrounding Laguna resulted in the consolidation of post offices so that South Laguna, Laguna Niguel and Laguna Hills were designated Classified Stations of the Laguna Beach Post Office.
The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 ended political considerations in postmaster appointments. Based on merit alone, David Rios was appointed postmaster of the entire area in 1974. Rios started his career as a letter carrier in Laguna. Construction of a new shopping complex at the old Laguna Lumber Company of Joe Jahraus on Forest Avenue began that same year. In 1975, the Laguna Beach Post Office leased one of the new buildings ‒ the last PO move. But today, the building is no longer the Laguna Beach Post Office but Playa Station, and letters mailed from Laguna are no longer postmarked Laguna Beach but Santa Ana.
A gaggle of newspaper and magazine cartoonists in Laguna gathered each day at a local watering hole near the post office. Over the years, this fun-loving group included Phil Interlandi, his twin brother Frank, Virgil Partch, Dick Shaw, Ed Nofziger, John Dempsey, Don Tobin, Roger Armstrong and Dick Oldden. The gathering began after Phil Interlandi moved to Laguna Beach in 1952 and Frank in 1953. The first location was the White House Restaurant (around the corner from the Laguna Avenue PO), chosen because it was the closest bar to the post office, where they dropped off their morning output of cartoons. As Phil said, “That was the first bar I walked into in Laguna, and it became a habit.” Over time, the cadre of cartoonists grew, and the watering hole moved. When the post office moved to Forest Avenue in 1975, the cartoonists moved with it, bellying up to the bar at the Ivy House restaurant in the Lumberyard. The Marine Room Tavern later became the cartoonists’ favorite haunt. According to Frank, “The truth is, we’d meet in one bar and wander to another. But we always got our work done before we played. Some days, I’d get mine done in a half-hour and play all day.”
Each cartoonist had his style, publication niche and often a signature cartoon character ‒ from the voluptuous blond secretary Queenie to Big George to an angry old lady in tennis shoes to talking animals; from politics to the absurd (oh, I repeat myself); from English to Spanish; from Disney films and cartoon shorts to comic strips (Little Women, Buenos Dias); from Playboy, The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, Better Homes & Gardens to national syndication in daily newspapers. Thanks to Dick Shaw, humor editor for Orange County Illustrated, the magazine had first-rate cartoonists, his Laguna buddies.
This clan of cartoonists operated on the theory that all they needed was pen, paper and a nearby post office, and what better place for their cottage industry than Laguna. As Partch said, “What the hell. If you’re a freelancer and don’t have to go to an office, you’d be an idiot to live in Cleveland or Yuma or Detroit.” Pen and paper they always had with them, but when the post office moved, so did the cartoonists. The Street Gang, as management of the Ivy House restaurant, called them, spent their midday ritual in humorous and boisterous camaraderie. Cheers!
Annlia is a 50-year resident of Laguna Beach and married to a fourth-generation Lagunan. Having walked nearly every street and alley in town, she has observed firsthand the artistic charm and imagination of residents.