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Laguna Beach

 Volume 13, Issue 37  |  May 7, 2021

Barbara’s Column

Let a smile be your umbrella 


World Smile Day is celebrated on the first Friday in October, originated by Smiley Face creator Harvey Ball in 1963.

Countless songs have been written with “Smile” in the title, in every genre, including Hall & Oates’ 1976 rockin’ “Sara Smile,” Country music star Tim McGraw’s “Just to See You Smile,” J. Cole’s 2013 Hip Hop single “Crooked Smile,” and Louis Armstrong making everyone grin in 1972 with “When You’re Smiling.” As the late great Nat “King” Cole crooned in 1954: 

“Light up your face with gladness 

Hide every trace of sadness 

Although a tear may be ever so near 

That’s the time you must keep on trying 

Smile, what’s the use of crying 

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile 

If you just smile.” 

Now more than ever, with our lives turned upside down by COVID-19, we should cherish the things that bring smiles to our faces.

Longstanding member of the Laguna Beach branch of American Association of University Women Karen Dennis was particularly moved by the drive-by graduation ceremony for the 2020 Laguna Beach High School seniors.

Let a graduation

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Karen Dennis was moved by the drive-by LBHS graduation ceremony 

“If you have to be under house arrest, Laguna is the place to be,” said Dennis. 

Laguna Beach attorney and announced City Council candidate Larry Nokes found one result of the pandemic that might not be such a bad thing. 

“The slower pace was forced on us, but I kinda like it,” said Nokes. 

Laguna College of Art & Design trustee and artist Joan Gladstone enjoys taking walks, seeing people out with their kids and their dog – even with masks on. 

“I like to see the crinkly eyes above the masks,” said Gladstone.

Laguna Beach historian Jane Janz said the only thing about the pandemic that could make her smile was going downtown and seeing the Laguna she knew as a child. 

“There were hardly any cars,” said Janz. 

The Digester Building in the Village Entrance is a downtown landmark, a relic of the wastewater treatment plant built in the 1930s with funds provided by President Roosevelt’s New Deal and abandoned in the 1980s. The City Council approved in February spending $930,000 to preserve the structure and another $130,000 to make up the total of $175,000 needed to remove the sludge from the structure. 

“It has become a symbol of Laguna Beach, which I think is hilarious,” said wordsmith Chris Quilter, whose wicked lyrics trigger smiles, snickers, and guffaws at performances of Lagunatics. “The next thing I know (Planning Commissioner and sculptor) Jorg Dubin suggested building a parking structure around it. Someone should fact-check what is written about it.”

Surely, something to sing about!

Let a church

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Tom and Darrylin Girven are members of Laguna Presbyterian Church

The Laguna Presbyterian Church is another downtown landmark, with a foundation in the community going back to the 1890s when Sylvanus and Sabra Ferris held adult Sunday School classes on the front porch of their beachfront cottage. The imposing Spanish Colonial-style edifice we know today was dedicated in March of 1928, less than a year after Laguna Beach was incorporated in June of the previous year.

Just the thought of the church sustains Tom Girven. He and his wife, Darrylin, have been members since they moved to Laguna Beach more than 20 years ago.

“The connection we have to our village,” cites Trudy Grossman as a reason Laguna is a special place to live. 

Founding executive director of the Laguna Canyon Conservancy and Laguna Greenbelt Inc. board member Mary Fegraus relishes the small distinct neighborhoods in Laguna Beach, 

“You really get to know your neighbors,” said Fegraus. 

Let a goats

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The goats make Mary Fegraus smile

Oh! And she loves the goats that munch a fire break on the city’s hillsides –despite butting heads with her close friend, environmentalist Elisabeth Brown, who objects to the goats’ eating weeks in one place, she says, and depositing the residue of seeds someplace else, which then must be cleared. 

Nita Carman Park brings a grin to the face of architect Marshall Ininns. The little park near the high school is named for the late Day Carman. He and his wife, artist Debby Carman, funded the two metal sculptures that have sunbathed for decades on the grass. The Arts Commission recently refurbished them.

Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl smiles at the thought of Terry Thornsley’s sculptures, named “Laguna Locals,” installed at Crescent Bay. 

“Not many people know you can sit on the sea lions and look down the coast,” said Poeschl. 

The ocean always draws a smile from Carolyn Lyons, even seeing the waves from a distance.

“Driving down Broadway and looking at Main Beach makes me smile,” said Laguna Beach Friends of the Library and Laguna Beach Taxpayers Association board member Karl Koski, former City Manager of Temple City. 

“Coming down Laguna Canyon from the hot interior reminds me of seeing the water as a kid and I couldn’t wait to get into it.”

Let a canyon

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Driving on Laguna Canyon Rd makes several locals smile

Patriots Day Parade Committee President Ed Hanke also loves the drive through Laguna Canyon. 

“You know you are going into Laguna,” said Hanke. 

Former City Councilman Dan Kenney called it a two-martini drive – just as relaxing after a long day at work, but minus the worries about a DUI.

Former Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman gets pleasure from wandering around Moulton Meadows with Laguna Beach businessman Steve Kawaratani, son of Laguna nursery owners “Pete” (Takashi) and “Bessie” (Ikuko).

“Steve points out trails and the wildlife,” said Grossman. “It’s very peaceful.”

For some, it is the folks who make Laguna unique. 

“It is a joy to see how caring people are right now,” said Mary Lawson. “Their behavior is edifying.”

Frequently meeting up with people you know when you are out and about makes Laguna special said Gene Felder, Top of the World Neighborhood Association and Laguna Greenbelt board member. 

“I think what is really unique about Laguna is that it doesn’t matter how rich a person is,” said former Mayor Elizabeth Pearson. “You sit down to dinner and on one side of you is a millionaire or even a billionaire and no one cares what you are worth, just who you are.”

So “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella” to help get through these troubled times. And hey, let us know what make you smile. 

Contributions to this column are welcomed. Submit suggestions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

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Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Maggi Henrikson, Sara Hall, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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