Our Laguna: Community labors over annual breakfast

The Exchange Club's Labor Day Pancake Breakfast is a labor of love.

Firefighters, police officers and volunteers have been flipping pancakes, grilling sausages and brewing coffee for more than 20 years, under the direction of Sande St. John, as summer draws to an end.

St. John, hobbling around on a crutch and probably headed for surgery to repair her leg injured in a fall at her daughter's home, still managed to mobilize the troops again this year. After spending the past two months in a wheelchair, St. John certainly wasn't going to allow a blustery wind or the occasional rain drop to dampen enthusiasm.

"People don't work on Labor Day — unless you know Sande," said Laguna Coastal Taxi's George Kiepper, a volunteer.

Retired Laguna Beach Police Officer Ted Falenchi said the Pancake Breakfast is an opportunity for off-duty officers to get out into the community.

"I'm here to help Larry Bammer," Falenchi said.

Bammer, president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees Assn., a job once held by Falenchi, will also be getting out into the community from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 17 at Main Beach where police will sponsor "Dunk-a-Cop," a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club.

There will be a dunk tank, and balls will be $1 each.

Among Bammer's fellow officers who spent the morning over a hot grill: Paul Bixby, Rowen St. Moritz, Jason Farris, who brought his whole family along — wife, Christy, and children, Chase, Carter and Jason Jr.Zack Filler, Brian Clasby, Robin Levinson, Jon Coutchie and Julia Bowman, the department's new crimes against persons officer.

Las Brisas and the White House provided the food, and the Orange Inn supplied the coffee.

Firefighters on pancake duty included Division Chief Jeff LaTendresse — assisted as always by son, CodyCrissy Teichmann, Bryan Sarjeant, David Lopez, Albert Herman, Robert Abijay, Danny Kalschewer and super chef Pat Brennan.

Retired Fire Capt. Eugene D'Isabella watched over the kids who clambered over the retired 1931 Seagrave Pumper he drove to the breakfast.

"That all I do these days," D'Isabella said. "The next time will be for the 9/11 monument dedication on Sept. 11."

Mai Huynh donated water. The Watermelon Fairy (Jessica de Stefano) distributed slices of the fruit. Miss Linda's puppets and violinist Doug Miller entertained.

Civilians also are recruited for the breakfast.

"I have to get up at 5 a.m. to be here," said former Mayor Cheryl Kinsman, who has been collecting the cash at these shindigs for years.

But Nathan Nordskog was already on the job at 5 a.m., setting up equipment — the tents, the grills, the coffee urns. His daughter, Jordan, helped.

Erin and Donald Perez, Brad Kettering, Tyler Swets, Christina Vickers, Gordon Mulder, Michael and Steven Jeppson, Justin Intveld, Connie Burlin, Vicky Theris, Recreation Committee member Nicholas Kinsman, St. John's daughter Shanin Ostrander and granddaughters Camryn, Katelyn and Kelsey were also among the helpers.

St. John complimented city workers John O'Hara, Reggie Christian and George Gonzalez for the beautiful condition of the park.

For some, Labor Day means the residents have taken back the town from the tourists.

"Laguna can function again," said Cindy Prewitt, founder of Laguna Beach Live!, which will be presenting Red, White and Bluegrass at Aliso Creek Inn on Sunday. "We will be seeing people we haven't seen all summer."

George Nelson, owner of Fawn Memories, has a different take.

"Labor Day means my summer business is at an end," Nelson said.

This year, Kathryn Delpdew celebrated Labor Day because she has a job.

Susan Neely, a Laguna Beach Community Clinic board member, has been working since she was 13 and she said she appreciates the opportunity to work.

"We just wish more people had jobs," Bob Neely said.

The United States is not the first country to celebrate workers. Labor Day was first held on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York. It was proposed by a member of the American Federation of Labor after he attended the Labor Festival in Canada.

Labor Day became a national holiday by a unanimous vote of Congress after the deaths of workers striking the Pullman Co., makers of railroad cars.

The September date was selected so there would be no confusion with International Workers Day, celebrated in May by communists around the world.

"Labor Day is the celebration of all the people who have worked so hard for the betterment of our country," said Karl Koski, a retired city manager and member of the Laguna Canyon Flood Mitigation Task Force.

"It is a recognition of free enterprise and entrepreneurship and the people who make it happen."

Former Mayor Steve Dicterow, among the volunteers at the breakfast, said, "Labor Day is a celebration of working humankind."

Labor Day is a time to celebrate working men and women, according to Levinson, but it also heralds the new season.

"It's the end of summer, a great day for people to talk about the coming fall," said Donna Gee, a perennial volunteer with her daughter, Danielle.

Insurance broker John Campbell said, "It is a time for family and friends to get together to appreciate everything we have."

His wife and longtime Festival of Arts exhibitor, Lu Campbell, was home painting in preparation for the 2012 show.

"We are showing respect and honoring the labor force, but it is also the unofficial "Take Back Our Town Day," St. John said.

Among those enjoying the Pancake Breakfast: Michelle and Councilman Kelly Boyd, doctors Bill Anderson and Korey Jorgensen, Tom Boehm, Sandy Vetter and Curtis Pebley, head of Laguna Playhouse and Festival of Arts security.

Also: Dee Koski, Joshua Castenada, Stefany and Morris Skenderian, dentist Joe Baker, ArtZ, who recently donated a photograph of the Main Beach lifeguard tower to the city, Thad Hogan and his 215-pound mastiff, Grunt, who made a great pillow for 3 ½ -year old London Nedelman.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (949) 302-1469 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com.

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