Community seen through calendars

While the contention goes on over Sunset Beach's recent annexation by Huntington Beach, Pat Thies is busy living in the past.

Just as she does for a few months every year.

Thies, who frequently visited Sunset throughout her life and moved there a decade ago, created a calendar in 2004 to celebrate the seaside community's 100th anniversary. The calendar, which residents used the following year, provided a pictorial history of Sunset, with "then" and "now" photos showing sites around town alongside their past incarnations.

The following year, Thies focused on a specific decade, using surviving photos to show Sunset in the 1900s. Since then, she's gone through the decades in order — meaning that the neighborhood's 2013 calendar, which she's assembling now, may evoke memories of the moon landing, flower power and JFK in the 1960s.

"I'll have to find out if there were actual hippies or not [in Sunset Beach]," Thies said. "I've been told they played a lot of volleyball. They did a lot of partying. Whether they were actual hippies, I don't know."

Every year, Thies asks Sunset's roughly 1,200 residents to send her photos of the neighborhood from whichever decade the calendar focuses on. Sometimes, she uses images from beyond the backyard — the 2011 calendar, spotlighting the 1940s, includes newspaper headlines about the end of World War II alongside local mementos.

Thies starts by printing 50 copies and posts an ad on the neighborhood post office's bulletin board; people can contact her personally to buy one. After the first 50 sell out, she prints subsequent ones to order.

The proceeds from the calendars, which go for $20, go to the Sunset Beach Community Assn., the neighborhood's de facto governing board before it was annexed last year by Huntington. The association still holds monthly meetings and has coordinated with Huntington officials to ease the transition.

"We're not doing this to make money," Thies said. "We're just doing this historically."

Thies, whose father, Dick Starling, was the neighborhood's first volunteer fire chief, has seen a lot of Sunset's history firsthand. More than once over the years, she served as president of the community association.

Mike Van Voorhis, the group's current president, called Thies the unofficial historian of Sunset.

"I go to her several times a year with a question only she could answer," he said.

He added that he looks forward to Thies' calendar for the 1970s, as he moved to the area in 1975.

"I have boxes of photos, and I'm sure I'll definitely be going through those when they get to the '70s and '80s," Van Voorhis said.

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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