Opinion: Village Matters

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Collection Diaspora

ann christoph
By Ann Christoph

Just as none of us is the last owner of our house/home, we are not the last owners of all the stuff we have collected either. As wonderful as it all is, the reality is that someday all of that must find a new home.

This past week I helped find a new home for some precious objects offered in a neighbor’s estate sale. 

A book called “Bambi’s Children.” 

Since childhood, haven’t you wondered what became of Bambi and Faline’s fawns? I couldn’t resist finding out. A cream-colored porcelain enamel box with black trim and black lid—matches my 1930s stove perfectly. A cereal-sized yellow Bauer bowl that I have already used several times. If you know the significance of Bauer, you are probably a fellow addicted collector of Southern California 1930s/40s pottery. 

Alfredo found a six-inch long, intricately assembled wood model boat named SS Grandpa. 

Beautifully made. Another one of those lovely items to admire once or twice and dust forever.

As charming and appreciated as these finds were, the experience saddened me. I knew the people who built the beautiful craftsman-style house 35 years ago and collected all these items to complement it. I have been through the experience of having an almost empty 1930s craftsman house, needing that piece of furniture, one just right for the size and era of our house, and the thrill of finding it! Then after several years of finds, realizing that collecting had to come to an end—no more room. It was already approaching too much. Their house is much larger, and they could collect even more. How much joy they must have had to discover all those treasures, but now there would be no more–it was over. Time for all those items to be snatched up by other collectors and dispersed. The diaspora was in progress. Time for one generation to empty the coffers, and the next one to either appreciate or throw away what they have held so dear.

It wasn’t just pottery and books. There was a wonderful collection of fabrics and dresses. Little plaid schoolgirl dresses with white collars and smocking. 

“This is what I wore to school—I’d get a new one every fall,” I showed Alfredo. Aprons, lace, doilies, sewing notions. Several sewing machines. This craft was important to the lady of the house. A large wood executive-type desk dominated the male part of the working guts of the house near the garage. There was a glass door looking out onto a sunny patio. Remnants of his career were displayed, including two slide rules. 

Who today even knows how to use them? 

I was taught, but never mastered doing calculations that way. Inexpensive, hand-held and much more accurate calculators put slide rules out of business. Clearly, the man of the house treasured the memories that went with them even though there was no reason to use those slide rules anymore.

I met this couple before South Laguna was annexed to Laguna Beach, and we had the South Laguna Specific Plan Board of Review—our version of the Design Review Board. They were applying to build this very house, and I remember standing in the street discussing the plans. Then, the house complete, we saw them at neighborhood parties and dog walking. 

Now to have the intimate details of their lives on display, the stories behind all those objects only to be imagined seemed like a violation of their privacy. Still, I am grateful for the small bits of their collection that I have added to my array—and the thoughts those objects have led me to ponder. 

Thank you, Vera and Robert.

Ann is a landscape architect and former Laguna Beach mayor. She’s also a long-time board member of Village Laguna, Inc.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Great writing and story. I’m sure so many of us have similar experiences to draw on, but not as elloquently and warmly written.
    One question: how was the word ‘village’ chosen?
    Thank you

  2. This is my grandma and grandpas house. They are good people and loved Laguna beach. Thank you for writing this!!! They would love it.

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