by Skip Hellewell, Pretium Press
Book Review by Craig MacDonald
Laguna Beach is a "magical" seaside resort community in South Orange County. It's a place of wonder, a place of artistry, a place of activity, a place of renown and a place that was a magnet for a Sacramento teen named Skip Hellewell, who first saw it on a field trip with a group of Boy Scouts intent on learning how to surf in 1958.
Skip fell in love with the quaint town and never forgot it. After a very successful career with medical device companies around California, he was able to live in Laguna Beach and figure out why it's so unique. The author and newspaper columnist (Laguna Beach Indy) wrote a fascinating book, "Loving Laguna," which was deliciously designed by his daughter, Brooke Hellewell Reynolds.
Through Skip's writing and Brooke's design, using historical and modern photos, the reader can begin understanding why Laguna Beach has been one of the most dazzling, desirable destinations to live or visit anywhere.
By reading this book, you can absorb the sights, the sounds, the bustle, the quiet, the characters, the tastes and the feel of Laguna…. Skip does a good job of helping us understand the past so we can better understand the present and catch glimpses of the future of this charming area.
The first homesteaders were farmers, George and Sarah Thurston, who settled near Aliso Creek in 1871. The Goff Family arrived in 1876 and raised potatoes on a bluff where the Montage resort is today. The hit film, "Treasure Island," about Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, was shot around Goff Island in 1934. Later, the area became Treasure Island Trailer Park, where part of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz 1954 blockbuster, "The Long, Long Trailer" was filmed.
Skip tells about historic homes in the area, including the Enchanted House (489 Pearl Street), once the home of Hollywood Director Malcolm St. Clair, who oversaw nearly 100 movies, including "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe.
There's a terrific map of the beaches on Page 64. Rock Pile Beach is one of three designated for surfing and is off limits for swimmers. Divers Cove is a favorite for divers because of the kelp beds and reefs that harbor fish.
"Main Beach is a beach to be sure but it's also a three ring circus. Just sit down on a bench and observe," writes the author, the father of 6. He offers walking tours and numerous tidbits, like:
-Hotel Laguna, built in 1930, became a hot spot for filmmakers and actors, like Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn and John Barrymore.
-Fingerhut Gallery (Coast Highway at Forest) was once The Sandwich Mill, an afternoon gathering place for folks, such as Earl Stanley Gardner (Perry Mason novels), TV Broadcast Icon Stan Chambers and Boris Karloff (Frankenstein actor).
-In 1900, Norman St. Clair, a Los Angeles Architect turned Artist, came by train and stagecoach to paint watercolors of Laguna Beach. The first gallery was The Pavilion in 1918. You'll learn about the Laguna Art Museum, the Festival of the Arts, Pageant of the Masters, Sawdust Festival, Laguna Playhouse and Art School of Laguna.
-The first Thursday of the month, there's a Gallery Art Walk from 6-9 pm, complete with music, refreshments and entertainment. You can even take a free trolley (firstthursdaysartwalk.org).
-Eiler Larsen is just one of the local characters in the book. He was "The Official Greeter of Laguna Beach." The Danish native and World War I Army veteran won the hearts of tourists and most residents by standing along Coast Highway, waving and welcoming people to the town from the 1940s until the 1970s. Although he passed away just days shy of his 85th birthday in 1975, a statue of Larsen greeting others was erected near "his office" at Coast Highway and Forest.
There's real wisdom in some of the author's final words: "Laguna is a place to step out of the daily hustle and bustle, dig your feet into the sand and savor life."
Find out more about this amazing place by visiting it in person or take a look at Skip's website: www.lovinglaguna.com