Every summer, I experience a condition that can only be described as throwbackitis. Do you suffer too? From music to scents to those tender little feelings that tickle the memory; they all transport me to a different time and place.
Destination: Carlsbad, CA – 1779 Guevara Road
My family, the Laytons; my Dad, Mom, sister Cindy and Brian and I, are living in a cozy 3 bedroom house with a big grassy backyard and a dichondra/clover lawn in the the front. Mom and Dad bought their first house, a simple ranch-style on a street just a few blocks from a eucalyptus grove and a stinky lagoon (estuary) and the beach! My genius Dad built a wooden fence and installed sprinklers.
He also built us a sandbox out of wood which might have been a good enclosure for the tortoises we babysat one summer for the Headstart program at his school but they were of the Houdini genus. Our gray part-Persian cat Puff was both our purr baby and a watchcat keeping dogs out of our yard.
I am pretty sure my Dad used his GI Bill to buy his first home. After serving in the Korean War as a rocket scientist in Germany, he attended USC in Los Angeles. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education then took a job teaching in the Oceanside School District. He had determined it was better not to live in the town he taught in and found this house in Carlsbad. My Mom hadn’t learned to drive yet when we moved to Carlsbad!
Dad took his first teaching job at North Oceanside Elementary School. Within a year or two he was the principal. Then a big construction project took eminent domain and the school was demolished to make room for the I-5 being built from Los Angeles to San Diego. Dad worked as the Vice Principal at Lincoln Junior High in Oceanside and then became principal of The newly-built San Rafael Elementary School at the front gate of Camp Pendleton.
Cindy and I shared a bedroom which our parents painted lavender ( I don’t know where that came from, I was more of a turquoise fan and I think she liked yellow.) We had lavender floral print bedspreads and fiberglass curtains – a new thing.
We had matching teal-padded vinyl toy boxes in our closet where we stored our valuables; dolls, stuffed animals, crayons and coloring books, paper dolls, Barbies and their wardrobes, etc.
We had great dolls – Raggedy Anns, Chatty Cathy and Chatty Baby, highchairs, strollers. I had a doll named Hilda that had a removable hairpiece that could be styled. We had trolls and stuffed animals. I had one I called Wonderdog – he was a kind of Basset hound that I could put my head on when we watched TV. And Batman rings from vending machines – you had to wear your batman ring while watching the TV show.
One Christmas Cindy and I got talking Mr. Ed puppets; Mr. Ed the talking horse was a tv show character. Brian got a talking Larry the Lion ” Rrroarr – oo, I scared myself!” One of the little neighborhood girls came to our door on Christmas morning looking for the Larry the Lion – she was sure it was hers and Santa had left it at our house by mistake. That stoked my emerging territoralism.
Brian was down the hall in his own room in a crib. Dad and Mom were across the hall. They even had their own bathroom – a big deal back in the day. The house had a fireplace and was furnished with Danish modern-style furniture that we call Mid-Century today.
Brian had a highchair and I had 2 rocking chairs; being the oldest grandchild, I think I got one of whatever I asked for from both sets of grandparents. 1 rocker was wooden with clown decals and a music box that played when the chair rocked. The other was white vinyl; the perfect canvas for American cheese collages (I wouldn’t eat American cheese, but found it came in handy for tearing into shapes to stick on my white rocking chair in artistic arrangements. )
My best friend, red-headed Judi Chaplin lived in a cottage on Oak Street, a few blocks away with her Mom, Dad and enormous German Shepherd Pepper. Judi’s house was my favorite destination. Her Mom Lois made crafts and had a great supply of potato chips in their food storage in the detached garage.
Judi was a full 11 months older than me and knew all kinds of interesting things like how to trace around a picture to color in the lines and about new trends like the Beatles. She also lived down the street from a huge mansion (to us) that had a swimming pool and a homeowner that allowed Judi to bring neighbors over to swim. Her Dad, Don Chaplin, owned one, then 2 motorcycle shops in Carlsbad. Sometimes Lois would take me home on the back of her motorcycle. It was scary and thrilling all at the same time!
I had some second-tier friends that were fun to play with if I didn’t have permission to travel the half mile to a mile to Judi’s. There was Debra Brunswick, the daughter of a Marine stationed at the Camp Pendleton base in Oceanside. Cindy had Linda Urbanski who lived almost directly behind us on Butters Road, I think her father was a policeman. Her family had a travel trailer parked next to the house and they let us play in it. Next to her were twins Pam and Kim Hendricks who were too old to play with but were cool tweens and taught me how to ride a 2-wheeler bicycle. Also their little brother Eric, but we hadn’t noticed that boys existed yet.
We attended services at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouse on California Street in Oceanside, California where we attended Primary one weekday afternoon a week, Sunday School on Sunday mornings and Sacrament Meeting on Sunday afternoons.
I attended Buena Vista Elementary School a few blocks from home. I think it was built a year or two before we arrived in Carlsbad. The principal was a towering man that wore glasses and a serious expression; Andrew Channel. I was far too intimidated to test or make fun of him for any reason.
Mrs Boyer was my first grade teacher and I don’t think a kinder woman ever taught littles. On hot days she would have us come in from recess, put our heads down on our desks and place a wet paper towel on our necks to cool us off. I don’t remember her ever raising her voice. My one complaint is that after a fabulous art-making experience, we would put away our pictures and drawings and she would get out the counting man, a metal figure that had spaces for magnetic digits. I remember my brain shutting right down when it was time for math.
On the playgrounds were blacktop game areas complete with tether-ball courts, basketball hoops, 2 and 4-square courts and dodgeball courts. On the dirt were climbing equipment like monkey bars, a pirate lookout tower, climbing ropes and a huge dome to climb. I was wary of heights and preferred to remain on terra firma. There were also giant cement rings that we would claim for forts and other defenses.
I started there in first grade and attended through 5th grade; 6th grade was at Valley Junior High. One year, the city built a street behind the school with an underpass for the students who now had to cross a road – it was thrilling and a bit scary to descend into the underpass that had puddles and earthworms when it rained and my first look at graffiti on the walls.
It was at Buena Vista that I had my first experience as an author. Every year the school held a book fair and each student made a book to enter. In second grade I made a book about dogs with a pink cover and a torn-paper dalmatian. My proud parents oohed and aahed over my clever little book. I knew right then I would need to write at some point.
Our parents had given us a swing set one Christmas, white, decorated with teal diamonds. We also had an inflatable pool that we could turn into a mermaid lagoon and whirlpool when the notion would strike. But our favorite playground was the ocean. I am pretty sure I am part mermaid. My parents could get me to do anything for the promise of a trip to the beach.
This morning, in July of 2019, for the first time in a long time, my husband, son and I all got back in the water. We went to a public pool and swam laps for a long time. Even though it was a Monday, I was so happy.