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Newsletter of the Rancho Los Alamitos Volunteer Service Council

Co-editors Doug Cox and Roxanne Patmor

January 2024

In this issue...

  • VSC Perspectives, Doug Cox
  • Restoration of the Historical Fred. H Bixby Rancho Co. Business Offices - Phase I - Reception Office
  • LB Navy Memorial Heritage Association (LBNMHA)
  • Stepping Back in Time 
  • Rancho Voices - Taking Care of Business 
  • Remembering Jean Preston

In the Spotlight

  • Volunteer: Juli Quinn
  • RLAF Board Member: Harry Saltzgaver
  • Designer: Donna Skinner

VSC Perspectives

Doug Cox, VSC President

The Rancho’s long-awaited DEIA training is under way, with the first round of Aspire workshops presented earlier this month. The third and final workshop in the initial series of identical workshops will be conducted on Saturday, Feb. 3.

Held in the Rancho Center, the January 9 workshops enjoyed broad volunteer participation, particularly the full-capacity morning session. Attendees were introduced to a wide range of key concepts, such as explicit and implicit biases. Volunteers were encouraged to consider for themselves how to apply these concepts to their individual and collective roles at the Rancho.

Planning is in the early stages for follow-up conversations among staff and volunteers regarding specific efforts to support the Rancho’s emerging DEIA practices and goals.

Volunteer in the Spotlight

Juli Quinn

Juli Quinn is a recent addition to the VSC and was one of the tour guides during this year's holiday event. Juli recently joined the fundraising committee.

What made you decide to become a Rancho volunteer?

After I retired for the final time, I wanted to find fulfilling volunteer work that allowed me to give back to the community and gave me opportunities to use my experience and skills.

I also wanted to meet new and interesting people who were contributing to a unique cause. I had volunteered for the Newport Film Festival for three years, rating and selecting student film projects for consideration, and back in the 80s and 90s, I did some occasional event volunteering at the Rancho.

After COVID-19 shut down, I was itching to “get out,” and I knew being a Rancho Volunteer and helping would bring more purpose to my life…and it has.

The main focus of my volunteering with the Rancho has been seeking opportunities to support Rancho Development efforts. I’m a member of the Development Committee and am learning how I might best use my experience and skills to increase and sustain funding for the Rancho. I also volunteer as an occasional Greeter, Guide, and Host as time allows.


How long have you been volunteering here?

My current volunteering at the Rancho started with my attendance at the New Volunteers’ Information sessions in 2023. Unfortunately, I was out of the country during the docent training and another one has not been offered. That said, I have attended the terrific Tongva and Tovaave Program training sessions offered by Donna Rogahn and Chris Fountain. I have also been attending the VSC events and programs. Currently, my attention is focused on helping support the funding, planning, and success of this year’s Cottonwood Event.


What do you like best about the time you spend at the Rancho?

Spending time meeting and getting to know the other volunteers and the staff. Everyone I meet has a deep commitment to the Rancho! Next up is meeting and helping visitors access the Rancho itself. I love pointing out the special places to new visitors such as the Cutting Garden, Rose Garden, Secret Garden, Kitchen Midden, the hidden Shell Bench in the Shell Garden, and the working Blacksmith’s Shop. Visitors love the Rancho animals, and of course, I always point out the Gift Shop. Another thing I particularly like is pointing out the ongoing efforts to maintain the authenticity of the Rancho through conservation and restoration preserving historical authenticity.


What’s your favorite thing to hear from visitors?

“I never knew the Rancho existed!” “Wow! The gardens are amazing!” and “We are coming back and bringing friends and family!” I always encourage them to visit Trip Advisor, Google, and Yelp to recommend the Rancho!


What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering here?

Expect a warm welcome from volunteers and helpful information on the different groups such as the docents, gardeners, bookworms, crafters, and faux foodies. I think there is something for everyone to contribute and become a member of “A Place for All Time!”


What do you like to do when you’re not at the Rancho?

I enjoy the theater, all the local museums, the ballet, films, visiting Japanese Gardens, and I’m always on the hunt for off-beat and different experiences.


What’s something that makes your day better?

Sunshine, a good cup of coffee, and being with joyful people of good will.


What’s the one word your friends and family would use to describe you?



Who would play you in a movie of your life?

Annette Bening.


What else do you want us to know?

I was born and raised in LA, a product of the public schools in LAUSD and the Glendale Unified School District where I worked for 19 years. I taught high school and middle school English for 10 years in GUSD before I went to the district office as the Coordinator of District Curriculum and Staff Development. 

After I left Glendale, I worked as the director of a national school reform initiative through USC where I taught Teacher Education courses. My next move was to the Director of School Outreach and Support for the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project where I entered the 501c3 world and facilitated the growth of a Charter elementary school into three successful charters that span K-12. During that period, I was a tenured Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction teaching graduate classes at CSULA for 7 ½ years. I was also a member of the The Accelerated Schools (TAS) Board for 11 years, two years as Board President, and currently serve on its Foundation Board.

Before retiring in 2011, I served for 6 ½ years at the Los Angeles County Office of Education as Director of “No Child Left Behind”. Following that assignment, I consulted with multiple school districts, facilitating changes in administrator, teacher, and classified evaluation systems.

I've lived in Seal Beach for 38+ years and practiced being the Perfect Aunt.

Leadership in the Spotlight

Board Member Harry Saltzgaver

By Guest Contributor Jo Murray

Wild About Harry

Harry Saltzgaver has, since March of last year, served as the Managing Editor at Sunstone Management. Sunstone CEO John Keisler wooed him away from his executive editor post at the Grunion Gazette. He held the editor position for 31 years. Keisler and others recognized Saltzgaver’s talent as a writer, his ability to connect with readers, and his passion for his community.


Harry has been a valued member of the Rancho Los Alamitos board of trustees for about 5 years.


“I'm checking on when I joined the board, but I think it was 2018 or 2019. I've been on the Cottonwood Luncheon committee for several years, the Parliamentarian for the last year and the Governance Committee for the last year” he wrote in an email.


Harry has lived a life of community involvement, serving on both public and nonprofit boards. In addition to his Rancho work, he has served as president of the Public Corporation for the Arts, the Long Beach Recreation Commission and the Long Beach Water Commission, as well as three-year chair of Goodwill of Southern Los Angeles County. He currently is treasurer of the Grand Prix Foundation of Long Beach, president of the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center advisory council, and the Long Beach Salvation Army Red Shield. 


“As the editor of the Grunion, I became familiar with the Rancho many, many years ago. I wrote multiple stories about the strategic plan and restoration projects spearheaded by then executive director Pamela Seager and came to cherish the bit of tranquility in the midst of a big city. I particularly enjoyed the approach of telling the history of the land through the people who lived there, from the Tongva to the Bixbys,” he said.


Harry has published two books — ‘Passionately Positive, The Beverly O’Neill Story’ and ‘20 Pounds of Salt in a 10-Pound Bag,” a compilation of his signature column, A Pinch of Salt. He was born and raised in Colorado. He has been a journalist for more than 40 years starting in Colorado, then moving to California in 1992. 


He may have been born in Colorado, but his understanding of California history and particularly Long Beach is keen. He married the love of his life Maria 22 years ago, on board the Queen Mary. He has told me that he knows more about the ship than any tour guide on board. (Between them, Harry and Maria have five children, eight grandchildren, and two big dogs.)


Harry’s historical knowledge of the area includes the role that water has had on the community.


“As the president of the Long Beach Water Commission, I worked to have the story of how water drove the development of the Rancho and surrounding land told. When that project was completed, Jerry Miller (chair at the time) asked me to join the board.”


Saltzgaver’s contributions to the many civic boards he has served on have shown great results. His astute nature is reflected in the actions of leadership that show a responsibility for financial outcomes.


“My personal goals as a board member are to have a smoothly running governing board with a foundation operating in the black. Increased awareness of the Rancho by city residents is also important to me.” Saltzgaver said.


What do we not know about Harry?


“Thanks to, or because of, the Pinch of Salt column, there's not much that isn't known about me” he wrote in an email. “How's this? My grandfather's brother, Jack Saltzgaver, played with the New York Yankees with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the dynasty years of 1936-39. I only made it to playing in college!”


While there might be some fun details in his family tree, to me the biggest secret is that he is one of the kindest persons that I have ever met. In the more than 10 years that I sent him stories- he always edited them to be more kindhearted and gentler.  His love for his family and his community is unwavering. He is proud of his faith- and he lives it daily by his actions.


No matter when I sent him an email, a text or called him - 24/7 he would respond right away. I have yet to figure out how he did it.


It’s no wonder I’m wild about Harry!

Harry with Congressman Robert Garcia

Photos courtesy of Justin Rudd

Harry and Maria Saltzgaver

Designer in the Spotlight

Donna Skinner

For the past nineteen years, Donna Skinner has been the behind-the-scenes wonder woman when it comes to RLA’s marketing, website, and email campaigns. Donna was recruited by Pamela Seager to develop a website for the Rancho. It turned out, there was nothing she couldn’t do. She designed the Cottonwood tribute book and many of its ads, including those placed in local newspapers. She wrote and distributed press releases and we have her to thank for the design of this newsletter.

In January, Donna retired. She is stepping away from her computer screen and design programs, but not from her art and creativity. She plans to do more painting and drawing and work with her favorite non-profits including the DemoChicks and Long Beach Soroptimists. We will miss her talent, her willingness to help, and her easy-going nature. Fortunately, she’s leaving us her template for Meanwhile and not changing her phone number or email for emergency design help!

We will miss Donna and wish her well in her retirement!

This is Donna's oil painting of men who moved the barns to their current locations in 2012.

The painting was inspired by a photo taken by Cristina Salvador Klenz, the photojournalist who documented the entire restoration of the Barns Area.

We heard you!

You told us you’d like to know more about operations at the Rancho. Beginning with this issue, we'll spotlight funders, projects, city leaders, and community partners who contribute to site operations. We are starting with the Rancho’s recently completed restoration of the reception area of the business office and one of its funders.

Reception Office Restoration

History of the Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association

Better known as the “Navy Trust,” the Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association (LBNMHA) grew out of the U.S. Navy’s 1997 decision to close its Terminal Island base. The impressive campus, known as the Roosevelt Navy Base, was the work of Adrian Wilson and the "African American architect to the stars," Paul Revere Williams. It was anchored at one end by an Administration Building with its stately tower and at the other by its recreation complex that included the officers club. When the base was closed, the land was returned to the Port of Long Beach.

The Port had a plan. The site would be decommissioned, the buildings torn down and replaced with a dock and massive container parking lot. The required meetings attracted thousands of people and news coverage. Long Beach had been a Navy town, the Roosevelt Navy Base was a commanding presence, and was on the National Register of Historic Places. How could it be torn down? Preservationists, attorneys, consultants, the Port, and the City held meetings and public events. Recommendations were made for adaptive reuse of the administration building including as a Post Office or Port offices. The Port disagreed with the recommendations.

In 1998, the Port and preservationists reached a deal. A five-million-dollar reserve was created to fund preservation projects throughout the city. The fund is administered by a board that includes representatives from the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission, Long Beach Heritage, Willmore City Heritage Association, and the Historical Society of Long Beach. The Navy Trust board asks the Long Beach Community Foundation to manage the fund’s investments. Earnings from the fund are dispersed to individuals and organizations through a competitive process of formal requests to the Navy Trust board.

The first grants were given in 2002. Over the years, Rancho Los Alamitos has received more than $300,000 from the Navy Trust for various projects. Most recently, it funded $40,000 for the first phase of the restoration of the Rancho’s business offices. The portion funded by the Navy Trust was completed in January 2023. Work funded by other grants and donations continued later into the year.

At the end of 2023, the Navy Trust invited the Rancho to apply for a grant to do the second phase of the restoration. Funded projects are announced in March.

Sources: Peter Devereaux's 2012 History of LBNMHA and Renee Simon's LBNMHA history brochure. Both Devereaux and Simon currently serve on the Navy Trust board.

Photo of Roosevelt Navy Base from the Library of Congress.

Business Office Reception Area Stepping Back in Time 

What is the significance of RLA's business office?

In December 2021, Executive Director, Pam Lee submitted a Navy Trust proposal to begin the process of restoring the Fred H. Bixby Ranch Company’s business office. In keeping with the rest of the historic Ranch House interiors, the proposal focused on the restoration of the main reception office to its 1930s appearance. Among the reasons listed was the significance of the office to understanding the Rancho’s story.

In the business office, Bixby met with ranch hands, tenant farmers, truckers, livestock breeders, feed purveyors, oilmen, and building contractors. The business side of Rancho Los Alamitos made the charming Ranch House and breathtaking gardens possible. 


What does it take to step back in time?

Prior to beginning the restoration work, the existing furnishings, flooring, and lighting fixtures were documented with photos and notes. The restoration project included paint analysis to determine historically appropriate paint colors. The walls were prepped and painted. In the 1940s or '50s, original 1930's ceiling lighting had been replaced with fluorescent fixtures. Installing reproduction ceiling lights and wall sconces brought back the look of 1930s lighting. Original office furnishings were cleaned and restored.

Additional period-appropriate furniture and office equipment were researched, purchased, and added to the room. A telephone shelf from architect Harvey Lochridge's 1931 plans for the offices was recreated and installed in its original location on the slanting countertop. Assistant Curator Robin Herrera used sources from RLA’s archives to place the furniture and accessories as they were when the office was the center of the Bixby’s business operations.  


What makes RLA’s Business Office restoration unique?

Research conducted for the restoration revealed that business offices of the past are not commonly preserved. Overlooking the business side of historic sites means the conditions of office workers and the aesthetics of the work environment are lost.

The restoration of the main Reception Office brings it into line with the high standard of authenticity seen throughout the site. Eventually the business office will be part of site tours to create a more complete and nuanced picture of the activities on the ranch..


Other supporters include the Evalyn M Bauer Foundation, the Deborah Bixby Green Trust, Bixby family members and the Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation.

Office stool prior to cleaning and repairs.

Fluorescent lights replaced original fixtures.

Hanging lamps and wall sconces similar to originals.

Rancho Voices - Taking Care of Business

The business office was a busy place. It wasn’t only business associates and suppliers who came to meet with Fred Bixby, it was also people who lived and worked on the ranch. It’s not hard to imagine tenant farmers, ranch hands, and their families coming up to the counter or taking a seat while waiting for Mr. Bixby to greet them.

For the tenant farmers, the business office was the place accounts were settled at the end of the harvest and where loans were made for livestock, seed, and equipment needed to work the land. A portion of the harvested produce belonged to the Bixbys and the rest went to the tenants. In the 1930s, for those from the farther sections of the Rancho, like Seal Beach or Los Alamitos, getting to the business office might take an hour each way, depending on whether they traveled by wagon or car. 

Both Anna Watte and Anna Cannou, whose Belgian families were tenant farmers at the Rancho, recounted memories of accompanying their fathers, whose first language was Flemish, to the business office to translate or clarify points for them during their meetings with Mr. Bixby.

Anna Cannou described the office as always very clean. She said the only time there was anything on the counter was when Mr. Bixby had leaflets he wanted the farmers to look at or a plate of cookies if he knew their family members would come along. Her father would tell her to take one cookie, Mr. Bixby told her to take as many as she wanted. She said one day her father arrived smoking a cigar and tried to hide it when Mr. Bixby approached. He told her father it was fine to bring the cigar into his office. Anna also spoke of selling Mr. Bixby raffle tickets for her church’s fundraiser. She said he would buy all she had and tease her that he’d never won anything.

For those who worked at the rancho, the office was the place to pick up their pay and mail and do other business. In an interview, Ray Rodriguez said Mr. Bixby acted as a banker for the workers so they could save money to send back to Mexico. He said, “You could build up a little nest egg and he would take care of it for you. Nobody ever lost a cent.”

Toni (Antonia) Machuca lived with her family in ranch housing on Palo Verde Avenue. She recalled her mother sending away to the Long Beach Press-Telegram for crochet patterns. Toni described a box in the office with cubbyholes with ranch workers' names where the mailman put their mail. Her mother would say, “Oh, Antonia, go see if my pattern came,” and Toni would walk up Palo Verde to get the mail.


These stories came from interviews conducted by Marian Burton and Beverly Miller and are part of RLA's archive.

Left, Antonia "Toni" Machuca

Worker housing on Palo Verde Avenue

Remembering Jean Marilyn Preston

June 21, 1930 - January 21, 2024

Sadly, we learned that Jean Preston passed away on January 21. Jean's daughter Nancy said that her mother loved the Rancho and thought of it as her second home.

Jean’s volunteer service began in 1981. She was a longtime docent and, along with her husband Jim, an active part of Rancho activities into the 2000s. Volunteers spoke of her friendliness, easy laugh, and dependability as a Saturday docent.

From 1995 until June 1997, Jean served as president of the Rancho Los Alamitos Associates. During her time as president, the group held fundraisers, worked on special Saturday programs including California Ranch Day events, and earned publicity for the Rancho in newspapers and in Sunset Magazine. When Pam Young left RLA for a new job in 1995, Jean hosted an "Adieu" party at her Bluff Park home, which Pam still remembers with fondness.

For more than 30 years, Jean was a welcoming face for volunteers, staff, and visitors. We hold Jean's family and friends in our thoughts and prayers.


Top photo from 1992 L-R Back: Terry Shields, Fran Price, and Jean Preston. Middle: Pam Lee and Betty Walker. Front: Joanne Locnikar and Dee Gilliland. Photo courtesy of Joanne Locnikar

Bottom left photo is Jean Preston and Ken Austin.

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