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The Snowmen of El Manor

Since 1982, an army of snowmen (and women) have kept watch over El Manor, a tidy suburban street in L.A.'s Westchester neighbor near LAX.

  (Photos by Steven Johnson / LAT)
According to longtime resident Kevin Minihan, the whole thing started when a group of four or five neighbors went down to the old Hughes airfield (now part of the proposed Playa Vista development), and gathered up a bunch of tumbleweeds. ()
They spraypainted the variously sized tumbleweeds and stacked them in their yards to make snowmen. Unfortunately, the tumbleweed snowmen didn’t last very long. ()
The next year, the neighbors hatched a new plan. They went to Home Depot and bought a stack of 8’x4' sheets of plywood. ()
Using a snowman figure cut from a Christmas card as a model, they carefully sawed out a prototype. Fewer than half a dozen were created in the first batch. ()
Minihan says that in 1986 or thereabouts they passed out a flyer to all the houses on the street asking if anyone wanted a snowman for their yard. The response was tremendous and they cut out 25 that year alone. ()
Each snowman is cut the same shape, but can be painted to walk to the left or to the right. ()
The snowmen all start out painted white, but each house customizes their own. Some are fancier than others. ()
There is a pirate. ()
A holiday shopper. ()
A hockey player. ()
Even an abstract work of art. ()
Not everyone sticks to the theme. ()
People who sell their house and move out of the neighborhood often leave their snowmen behind for the new residents. ()
Minihan says they cut a few new snowmen this year. Others just get a new coat of paint, and sometimes a new look. ()
Residents of El Manor are a close-knit bunch. Every Fourth of July they throw a block party and generations of current and former residents return to celebrate the street. ()
Another annual tradition on the street actually commemorates a dark moment for the snowmen of El Manor. ()
One Christmas season, in the mid-'90s, the Kelleys of El Manor woke up to find their snowman missing. ()
It was assumed that some neighborhood kids were up to some mischief. But compared to garden variety thefts of yard gnomes or flamingos, this seemed to be at odds with the spirit of the season. ()
And besides, the snowmen are heavy and awkward to carry. ()
Word of the stolen snowman spread. Some children from the street set about looking for him. ()
Yes, awkward and heavy, the Kelleys’ snowman hadn’t made it more than a few blocks away, where it had been left by the vandals at the side of the road. ()
The children found the snowman and brought it back to the Kelleys. ()
That Christmas morning and every Christmas since, the neighborhood gathers to welcome back the snowman. ()
Champagne is poured and toasts are made in honor of the snowmen of El Manor and the festive nature of this cheery street in Westchester. ()
To share your neighborhood’s holiday traditions, go to Latimes.com’s Your Scene user photo galleries. ()
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