The Calabasas Historical Society’s annual western-themed fundraising barbecue on Sunday drew a crowd of more than 50 people to the where its members shared stories, knowledge of history and passion for preserving the past.
Gathering at several tables to eat a meal that included ribs and coleslaw, many attendees dressed in old time attire while listening to the pleasant plucks and strums of bluegrass band, Sometimes in Tune.
“It’s going great, good crowd, lots of people, good music,” said Susan Jennings, president of the historical society. “We don’t count on this being a huge fundraiser. We are a pretty small organization.”
Former society President George French and his wife Pat sat with their neighbors and friend, B.J. Farmer. The group went through pictures of Farmer's former house, which is now the site of a new building for elderly residents, as they discussed Calabasas's rich history.
“It was a single-family home, now it’s a building with 400 units,” Farmer said.
Recalling the Leonis Adobe’s early history when it had just been saved from razing by Kathleen Beachy, French told of how he started the first fundraiser 13 years ago.
“We came here in 1966. We were on part of this ranch originally called El Scorpion. They were having a fundraiser, playing guitar, having a barn dance and they were trying to get donations to restore the Adobe house. Kay Beachy had just purchased it . . . I was impressed,” French said. "Thirteen years ago, I had the first fundraiser and Chef Joey [Bell] was here for the first one . . . he was working at Sagebrush Cantina.”
Bell insists French didn’t steal him from the cantina.
“I stole myself,” Bell said as he expertly cut slices of beef and dishing out palatable delights, including a much-mentioned bread pudding for dessert. The chef’s food received rave reviews throughout the afternoon.
“I love it. You get food, a cool little antique house—you can’t beat it. And the bread pudding, it’s so good,” said Christiana Trimper, relative of historical society board member Robin Mitchell.
Honored at the fundraiser was Vic Cook, the winner of this year's Living History Award. The founding owner and director of the private Meadow Oaks School, which merged with and became Viewpoint School in 2000, Cook was honored for his service to the community of Calabasas.
Past recipients include Mayor James Bozajian, who is also a historical society board member and longtime Calabasas resident. He received the award in 2005.
“The [historical] society actually predates the city,” Bozajian said. “It served a valuable role in preserving the city’s history before the city even started.”
Calabasas was established in 1990 while the historical society was incorporated in 1979.
Bozajian also explained an interesting feature on the adobe house built in the 1840s. Upon entrance, many visitors are forced to stoop to enter. “That’s because it’s so old and 150 years ago, people were a good foot and a half shorter,” he said.
But Bozajian’s knowledge of the life of Don Miguel Leonis extends far beyond the museum’s adobe walls or its fields home to sheep, bulls, goats, turkeys and chickens. He said Leonis had a brother and a lot of his descendants are still around.
The historical society also grants an annual scholarship. Judy Jordan, appointed by the historical society to provide scholarships, said that while it's traditionally been awarded to Los Angeles Pierce College history majors, the society has decided to focus on local schools.
“We decided to concentrate on giving to local high schools,” Jordan said. “[The scholarship] will be awarded to local high school students on the basis of an essay on the history of Calabasas.”
The recipient of the next scholarship will most likely be announced at next year's barbecue, Jordan said.