Huntington Beach author Therese Allison details family history in new book

Huntington Beach resident Therese Allison was a leader in the business world before retiring in 2004.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

As a retired insurance broker who has raised three successful student-athletes, Huntington Beach resident Therese Allison knew she had an interesting story.

Allison found the bigger story when she dug into her family’s heritage, using information acquired by her father Gould before he passed away in 2015 along with her own digging.

“I promised him before he passed that I would write the book,” she said.

So she went to the library to peruse old newspaper articles. She uncovered details about her grandfather, J.C. Allison, who competed with William Mulholland to bring an international aqueduct into the Los Angeles area in the 1920s and early ‘30s.


The ensuing book is a portrait of a successful businesswoman but also a love letter to Allison’s family heritage. Allison plans to self-publish her first book, “Playing for Keeps: How a 21st Century businesswoman beat the boys,” for release in September.

Allison, 59, was successful in a male-dominated business before retiring in 2004 to raise her children.

“Something happened in 2001, which I’m not going to tell you,” she said with a smile. “You’re going to have to read the book, because it ruins it. But that was a turning point for me. It made me realize I needed to stay home and take care of my kids because I was traveling all over the world.”

Allison was a mentor to her oldest son, Michael Carder, 29, a successful business consultant in New York. In 2008, she wrote a brief 10-page story about her experiences, along with several of her lessons learned in business. She later learned that her son had the list of lessons pinned above his desk while attending UCLA.

Michael recently became a principal in his company, Allison said, one of the youngest in the company’s history.

“Then I thought, ‘There’s something here and I can help people,’” she said. “If I can do that with my son, I can really help people. That was my impetus to start to write. I started doing all the research on my family heritage, and stuff kept coming up. It was almost like I was Dora the Explorer … The governor of California, [Robert] Waterman, was my great-great grandmother’s relative. He stood next to Abraham Lincoln as one of two delegates at the first Republican National Convention [in 1856]. It started to get really big.”

Allison said she was especially excited to unearth previously unknown details about her grandfather’s actions during the California Water Wars, which inspired the movie “Chinatown.” She said there were political machinations that left her scratching her head over the decision to accept Mulholland’s bid over her grandfather’s.

The book also carries a personal touch as the artwork was done by her late father, an abstract painter.

Therese Allison  poses with her daughter, Tori Hagan, who will be a sophomore at Huntington Beach High School.
Therese Allison is seen with her daughter, Tori Hagan, who will be a sophomore at Huntington Beach High School.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Her childhood friend from La Cañada Elementary School, Jeff Eben, wrote the book’s foreword. The two recently reconnected through social media.

“The more I see about her story, the more fascinating it becomes,” said Eben, an educator turned author and public speaker in the Central Valley. “It’s so intriguing. There’s just this tightly connected little web, and it all yields itself in Therese.”

Allison said she has two mantras, “Chaos is opportunity” as well as “Aim high and refuse the no.”

“Every time there’s chaos, there’s always an opportunity to solve a problem,” Allison said. “A lot of people are like Chicken Littles and they run … but I look for the opportunity to come up with a solution.”

Playing for Keeps

Business plays a role in the book but so does athletics. Allison was a champion in girls’ tennis after helping La Cañada High School win the CIF Southern Section Division 3-A title in 1977, and her children also have a background in athletics.

Michael played hockey, while Jamie Carder, 26, made the world championships twice in synchronized skating. Allison’s youngest child, Tori Hagan, is an incoming sophomore libero for the Huntington Beach High School girls’ volleyball team. She was the only freshman on varsity last year.

“Since I was little, I was taught to work hard and do your best,” Hagan said. “I just played and did my best, tried to please whoever was watching. It was scary, but I tried to make friends with the other girls.”

That can-do attitude pleases her mother. And reflecting on her time in business, as well as her time as a mother, has been rewarding for Allison.

“I didn’t really want to go back into that [business] world, but I thought I could write my story and see if I could help people,” Allison said. “I think it’s going to be a gift for my kids. They really didn’t know my story. No one really knew the story.”

Allison said the book will be available on Amazon and Kindle.

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.