August 10th, 2014:


Being a writer usually leads in a variety of directions. It’s frequently said that life is what you make it, and that people are as happy as they want to be. I prefer to have fun and enjoy what I do. I took a somewhat different path after my divorce when I decided to pursue advertising and public relations instead of the newspaper trade.

Pelican’s Retreat Restaurant in Calabasas, CA was my version of a magic carpet ride for a few years. It was a pleasure to plan parties and special events, especially when the restaurant owners were a congenial bunch. Fishing excursions, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, live entertainment, participation in nearby Agoura Hills’ Pony Express Days, and mixers for various chambers of commerce were a few of the activities.

John, Gert, Bruce & the Pelican

John, Gert, Bruce & the Pelican in Western garb among the Calabasas oaks.



One of the most satisfying occasions was the Living History party. The restaurant building, nestled on a hill adjacent to the 101 Freeway and the Calabasas Grade (a steep drive down to the Conejo Valley from the western end of the San Fernando Valley) had a long history. On the hill behind it had once stood the first Calabasas one-room schoolhouse, built in 1890. When the old Victorian-style school was demolished, another one-teacher school was built further down the hill in 1925. A retaining wall and stairway, plus the north wall of the restaurant, remained part of the remodeled building, which was a rambling old place with atmosphere. There was a double-sided fireplace, a rather long narrow bar area and two outside patios shaded by shapely trees, appropriately named Trees of Heaven.

The Calabasas Historical Society hosted the party at the restaurant, prompted by the painting of the original 1890 Victorian schoolhouse by a local artist. Catherine Mulholland, granddaughter of LA’s famous engineer, William Mulholland, whose efforts had brought water to Los Angeles, was there as well as Charles Mureau, who had bought the school property in 1950 (Mureau’s story was detailed in last week’s blog). A few relatives of original area pioneers, who had homesteaded huge acreage or had local businesses, like the first garage, café and courthouse, attended. The area had changed a great deal since the days of oak trees and native grasses with a definite Western flavor. It was fast becoming the exclusive and expensive residential area it is today.

Our mutual efforts brought out a good crowd to see 19th and early 20th century black and white photos. Original desks from the schoolhouse era were also on display. The capper for the evening was attracting the attention of the Los Angeles Times, our largest newspaper. They sent reporter Bob Pool to write a long story about the affair. A few years before, Bob and I were both writing newspaper stories about the Conejo Valley.

The restaurant, like many of the pioneers who attended, including Charles Mureau, are long gone and the building is empty. The empty building is still a good location for a restaurant. The area is already a prime spot for several car dealerships, like Mercedes, BMW and Acura.


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