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In the Pipeline: Where the air carries a palpable peace

March 05, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • The Runyards backyard as it looks today.
The Runyards backyard as it looks today. (HB Independent )

I wish every street in Huntington Beach had a Gwendoline Runyard.

She passed away in January at 90, a year after her husband, Bob, but left behind a remarkable trove of memories inspired by the neighborhood where she lived.

Runyard wrote in 1955: "During my search for a larger house for a larger family I found Old Pirate Lane. Here stood one old country-type red farm house, with matching barn, positioned on this rarely traveled grass, gravel, and dirt track which led to the edge of a little airport. The house faced Graham Street."

The farmhouse, built in 1906 by the Graham family (and no longer red), still stands. As does the house the Runyard family built in the 50s, and pretty much every other house originally constructed on this dead end side street that doesn't run much beyond the length of a football field.

But what a wonderful little world it represents; a peek back to a simpler, uncluttered, more rugged Huntington Beach.

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Runyard, a poet and family archivist published a small book some years ago, named for her street. Her son John and I used it as a guide as we walked the neighborhood of his youth. The small paperback details the stories behind every house and each family that lived in those houses, in both words and rare pictures.

John painted a fine picture for me, recalling the lush, thick, fragrant orange and eucalyptus groves, the agriculture – and the horses. His family, along with several others, kept horses in their backyards (along with goats, bunnies, chickens, pigs and even a burro). In the early 60s, John and his brothers would ride their horses to the beach, trotting down Warner Avenue before cutting across the wetlands and moseying to the sea. Can you imagine that today?

In the Runyard backyard are remnants of the rich past: the hay shed for the horses, citrus trees, and an old swing set visible in some of his Mrs. Runyard's vintage photos. A sign, "The Runyard Ranch," hangs from a shingle. Just how quaint was life here in the early 60s? One day the two Runyard horses jumped the fence. They were found soon after, grazing at Meadowlark Golf Course.

The golf course factored in when the kids wanted to make money, too. Before the high nets or fences were put in place to catch errant balls, Runyard and his pals would retrieve the shanked shots and sell them back to the golfers for a quarter apiece.

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