Elayne called me late in the third day of our displacement. “I’ve found a house. It’s on the beach in Malibu,” she said with a bit of trepidation in her voice.
“Malibu?” I replied. “Honey, my office is on La Cienega. I have to work for a living. Are you serious?”
“I’m sorry,” she replied, “but I was desperate. There was nothing available for us in town, so I just got on the highway and kept driving. You will like it. The house is in Malibu Colony and it’s furnished. I had to take it for a year which will give us plenty of time to re-build or find another permanent home. The broker assured me that the drive to your office shouldn’t take you much more than 40 minutes.”
“Did you already sign a lease of some kind?” I asked.
“I had to,” she replied. “The broker said that he had other interested people.”
The next day we packed up our kids, and obviously little else, and drove down to Malibu. I had never been to the famous Malibu Movie Colony, but this was in late fall and there wasn’t much activity. When we passed through the gates of this little private community, all we saw was a row of small un-assuming cottages on a very nice beach.
The house we rented was quite ordinary. It had four bedrooms and a garage which certainly worked for us. It had all the necessities; beds, linens, furniture, kitchenware, etc… really all our little family needed to camp out and lick our wounds.
Fortunately Malibu had a market, service station garage, post office, hardware store, elementary school and just about anything you would expect to find in a small town. Sure it took me 40 minutes to get to work, but it was really only 15 or 20 minutes longer than my regular drive-time from Bel Air. Coincidentally two other young families, who like us lost their homes in the Bel Air Fire, also moved into the Colony shortly after we did.
Our son Tom joined our little family in March, five months after the fire, no worse for his mother’s experience. He weighed a healthy 13 lbs and would soon be playing with his brother and sister on the beach.
Actually we adapted to our new Malibu life quite easily. The local elementary school was less than a mile away. The market and drug store were within walking distance, and there was an emergency medical center even closer.
The Colony road and the beach were wonderful playgrounds for the Colony kids. The place was a real old-fashioned neighborhood. There must have been 20 families with young children. We never had to make “play dates” for our kids. They were on their own. They had bikes and skateboards and boogie boards and of course a beautiful beach to build sandcastles and play in the surf. We only had one rule: “Just be home in time for dinner.”
To my delight, there were also seven or eight tennis courts in the Colony and, being tennis players ourselves, Elayne and I were soon a part of the weekend activities.
It wasn’t long before we joined the local Malibu Yacht club and bought the first of three sailboats which we launched through the surf and raced on summer weekends.
But the highlight of this forced relocation was the beach and the ocean right outside our front porch. It was beautiful. It wasn’t more than three weeks after the fire I came to the conclusion, as did Elayne, that Malibu and Malibu Colony was where we would like to raise our family.
It took several years, but Bel Air slowly recovered. Wood shingle roofs were banned. New fire resistant planting took root on the hillsides, and folks started to rebuild new houses on their old lots for their own occupancy or for resale. Hearing that we had no intention of rebuilding our house on Chantilly and moving back to Los Angeles, a builder friend of mine suggested that we partner in a spec home on our Bel Air lot. I used our share of the sale proceeds to buy a lot in the Colony, and with a government insured disaster loan, we built the house I live in today. It’s a modern four-bedroom home just across the road with beach access and a magnificent view of the mountains.
That was over 50 years ago. I told Elayne and everyone who asks that I would have burned down our Bel Air house in the city myself if I thought we would be able to spend the rest of our lives here on the beach in Malibu.
The above comment deserves a ‘knock on wood’ because (wouldn’t you know it)… Nine years later we came close to losing our new house in the big Malibu Canyon wildfire of 1970 in which 100 homes were destroyed. Some of us got lucky. We were able to fight it off with our garden hoses. Today we are very fortunate to have a fire station just a few hundred yards away.