In 1964, Inger Nielsen and her husband, Arne, chose a three-bedroom home in Golden West Park in Huntington Beach when the Danish-born couple moved to the United States from Australia.
“When we immigrated, we (first) ended up in Los Angeles,” Inger Nielsen said. “But this area (Huntington Beach) was quiet, kind of rural and close to Los Angeles.
“For $375 down, we could get one of these houses. But Arne and I only had $25 to our name. . . . They held this house for us anyway, and we’ve held onto the house ever since.”
But for the Nielsens, much has changed on the street where they live. The first week they lived in their new house, neighbors dropped off welcome baskets filled with cakes, casseroles and fruit. Now, they rarely speak with the folks next door.
Back then, most women didn’t have both a career and a family to nurture.
“When we first moved in, and these neighbors started dropping by to introduce themselves, I thought, ‘What do these people want from me?’ ” Nielsen said. “I didn’t know how friendly and open Americans are. Our kaffeeklatsches met every morning. Those days are gone completely.”
Today, Golden West Park is an aging neighborhood with a dwindling population. Of the original 300 or so families that took root in the early 1960s, Nielsen knows of just four or five still living in the two-story houses. Most of the owners sold their homes long ago to trade up into bigger models and more affluent addresses.
“We talk to old friends now,” she said, “and they say, ‘Oh, you’re still in that same house?’ To hold on to the house is in our blood. In Scandinavia, the homes are passed down from generation to generation.”
In 1969, Glen View School was opened to accommodate the burgeoning number of children in the development. As the baby boomers grew up and went on to secondary schools, the need for Glen View School dropped. By the middle 1970s, the school closed. Children who had once walked to the grade school were carrying their books to Golden West College.
But by early last decade, families with infants began reappearing in the neighborhood. In response, a day care and a Montessori school took over the cavernous elementary school.
Kellie Gillespie, owner and director of Under the Rainbow Day Care, has been in Glen View since 1985. “There used to be a school in every housing tract around here,” she said. “When the kids grew up, the schools closed. That’s how we got this location.
“In this neighborhood, I see more two-parent families, with both of them working. And it’s not like it was 20 years ago, when every other family had six children. There are so few children in this neighborhood that I have toddlers come in three times a week just for the social interaction of the preschool experience.”
In a neighborhood filled with people moving closer to retirement, younger dual-income families are finding a buyer’s market. One two-story house, completely renovated and sporting a gazebo and spa in the back yard, is listed for $277,000. Affordable prices and a quiet location amid hectic Orange County have lured more than one family here.
But few clans have taken over the neighborhood as the Drubkas have. Four years ago, Barbara Drubka moved to Huntington Beach from Long Island with her husband. He works in aerospace and quickly landed a job. They made their home across the street from Barbara’s sister. Soon, the two daughters persuaded their parents to come west from Chicago. The parents found a house within a few blocks of their children.
“Coming from New York, we’re used to not talking to people,” Drubka said. “We don’t know our neighbors well. Everyone’s too busy working, dealing with children. There are so few children my son’s age that I actually take him to a preschool just so he can play with other 3-year-olds.”
Drubka also enjoys taking both her son and infant daughter to Greer Park in the center of the tract. It has picnic areas, a lake and ducks. Lots of ducks. In fact, the ducks are one issue that does get people talking on Drubka’s street.
“It happens every spring,” she said. “During mating season, lots of ducks nest in our yards, not over there in the park. They just waddle up and down the street like they live here, and leave their calling cards everywhere. The droppings can be unsightly and unsanitary.”
But, she added, “realistically, no one can stay home all day to chase a duck out of their yard.”
Indeed, very few residents in Golden West Park stay home during the day. Those at home, such as Inger Nielsen, walk over to the college to take a class, use the library or take advantage of the school’s recreational facilities.
“When we first moved here, there was no college,” she said. “We have received more schooling here than we did in Denmark.”
For the people in Golden West Park, it is not just the college that is the drawing card. It is the sense that, like the Nielsens, a family can put down roots.
Population Total (1990 est.): 3,824 1980-90 change: -3.4% Median Age: 34.7
Racial/ethnic mix: White (non-Latino): 73% Latino: 9% Other: 17% Black: 1%
By sex and age: MALES Median age: 33.2 years FEMALES Median age: 36.6 years
Income Per capita: $24,042 Median household: $68,750 Average household: $74,322
Income Distribution: Less than $25,000: 12% $25,000-49,999: 19% $50,000-74,999: 26% $75,000-$99,999: 22% $100,000 and more: 21%