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Gracie Goes Back in Time to Learn Some Laguna Niguel History

History teacher Phillip Andrews shares his knowledge of the way Laguna Niguel used to look.

My history teacher this year is Mr. Phillip Andrews. I found out he grew up in Laguna Niguel, and it made me curious about Laguna Niguel's history and what Laguna Niguel was like when he was my age.

Mr. Andrews has lived in Laguna Niguel since he was born. He remembers growing up here in the '60s and '70s, and it was like living in a small town. He said, "They used to , and in the hills there were cattle and sheep tended by Basque sheepherders. Almost every community activity took place at the beach, where even during the Fourth of July you knew every person there."

Some of his best memories were waking up in the morning with a couple hundred sheep in his backyard and spending endless hours at the beach.

I asked him what he did as a kid for fun. Mr. Andrews told me that there used to be three lakes in the hills between Laguna Niguel and Dana Point that they used to hike to. Laguna Niguel also used to operate a mini bus that had surf racks that would take all the kids to Salt Creek Beach.  In those days, he said, "you could park right on the beach; Crown Valley used to be a two-lane dirt road. There were rolling hills from Crown Valley to El Toro."

The only school open in Laguna Niguel at the time was , but was built during his elementary school days, so he finished there. was built in the mid-'70s and he attended there, as well as . He went to college in Los Angeles but has since moved back to South Orange County, where he still lives, teaches and loves to surf.

I asked him which Laguna Niguel he thought was better. There has been so much growth since he grew up here, he felt it was kind of a trade-off. 

"When I grew up here, we were so isolated. We had to drive all the way to Laguna Beach just to go grocery shopping." 

He prefers the Laguna Niguel he grew up in. He has great memories of all the open space and knowing every family in town.

"No one locked their doors.  It was the most perfect place I could ever imagine growing up in.  I was very lucky."

I feel lucky to grow up in Laguna Niguel, too. It is still like a small town to me, and we may not know everyone, but we sure do run into friends everywhere we go. Mr. Andrews taught me a lot about the town I am growing up in. Even though I cannot go back into the past, when I look outside, I can close my eyes and imagine the rolling hills instead of the houses.  I open my eyes and see the Laguna Niguel I am growing up in. , wonderful people and awesome I hope some day I can tell my town's history to a future generation of kids like me.

To see some photos of Laguna Niguel in the '60s and '70s, check out the photos I found courtesy of the Orange County Archives.

There is also a Facebook page called "You Know You Grew Up in Laguna Niguel If ... " at facebook.com/groups/239581786075458/#!/groups/239581786075458/

Thanks, Mr. Andrews, for teaching me some Laguna Niguel history!

Courtney Fielder October 03, 2011 at 08:24 PM
Thanks for the great article Gracie. I did not grow up here but am raising my kids here. It is nice to see what it was like so many years ago. I would also agree that this is a great community!
Danna's October 04, 2011 at 01:29 AM
Hi Gracie, It's hard to imagine rolling hills and parking on the beach! Those were the days!! Keep writing because it is a joy to read your articles. Mary
CW October 04, 2011 at 01:43 AM
Another awesome article by the beautiful and talented Gracie!! Gracie, it's been so awesome reading all of your articles. I will always look forward to them as they are such a joy to read. I enjoy reading the Patch online now because of you too..LOL. Keep 'em coming girl. So so proud of you. Love you! Cindy and Madi
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 04, 2011 at 03:33 AM
Cindy: Thanks for the kind words about Gracie, we are so happy she is part of the Laguna Niguel Patch family! She is a star. Also, thanks for reading!
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 04, 2011 at 03:34 AM
Danna: Yep, LN was once all farming land and there was no Crown Valley Parkway as we know it today! Gracie brought the history to life.
Anonymous October 04, 2011 at 02:26 PM
I love hearing about CA history and especially Orange County history, as I grew up in Laguna Niguel. Awesome to see the pictures and hear about "how it used to be"!
Jennifer Smalley October 04, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Great article Gracie! It is exciting to see the city of Laguna Niguel through your eyes and well as Mr. Andrews'.
Kacy Porter October 04, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Thank you Gracie for sharing the history of Laguna Niguel. I grew up there too and everything Mr. Andrews said is true. He forgot to mention the triple ice cream scoop for .25 cents at Thrifty's we all use to get after a day at the beach. The Mini Bus use to stop there.
Barbara Doran October 06, 2011 at 12:00 AM
From Gracie Doran: Thanks so much for reading "Days of Grace". I loved learning about Laguna Niguel history. I appreciate all of your nice comments. Gracie
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) October 06, 2011 at 12:02 AM
Gracie: You are a star and people love your columns! Keep up the great work.
Addie Carroll October 06, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Hi Gracie, Keep up the great work! I've had the pleasure of teaching with Mr. Andrews and his sister. You're a lucky girl to have such a wonderful teacher!
Terri Bruno November 22, 2011 at 07:23 PM
This is great! I think kids would enjoy this article along with adults! I remember back in the early 80's when I would drive to Laguna Niguel- I came across many detour signs and dead end streets - because they were still building it back then. I love seeing the pictures and reading the article! Great Job!! Terri Bruno
Charles October 31, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Does anyone know the origin of the term "Crown Valley"? Corona Del Mar just up the coast translates as Crown of the Sea so perhaps it was taken from that but that is a bit of a stretch.

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