In The Pipeline: Three generations of tea party tradition

Back in 1987, there was a picture of Mende Schlendering in the newspaper — this newspaper. The occasion was her 10th birthday, celebrated with a tea on the golf course at SeaCliff Country Club. But more specifically, the reason Mende's picture was in the paper was because she was continuing a tradition.

Back in 1987, Mende dressed up in her mom's fanciest clothes, just as all of her invited girlfriends were instructed to do on the party invitation.

Because that's what's Mende's mom, Diane Nicastri, did on her 10th birthday back in 1960, when her picture also appeared in the newspaper.

Traditions being a dying breed, it only made sense to help Mende's daughter, Toby, celebrate her 10th birthday this year by putting her picture in the paper. Thus, we can help secure three generations of Huntington Beach girls at tea parties, captured forever while donning their moms' clothes.

At the Capital Grille in Costa Mesa last Saturday, the young girls gathered, dressed to the nines as Mende and Diane arranged gifts and party favors.

Diane, who was raised on Balboa Island, told me her mother originally had the idea of a full-scale dress-up tea party because she was from Michigan and still appreciated the sense of formality and pageantry that's not really a deep-rooted part of West Coast beach culture. In fact, at her granddaughter's party, Diane wore her mom's mink coat, the same one she was photographed wearing back in 1960 (though back then, it all but swallowed her up).

She had such fond memories of the party that when Mende turned 10, it was a no-brainer to recreate the same sort of affair. But styles had changed.

"When I went through my mom's closet for my 10th year party, it was like Madonna's wardrobe," Mende said. "All bright colors and big shoulder pads. Now today, the girls all look like they're going to a prom. So with these parties, we see how fashion changes, too."

Mende added that she likes this kind of family tradition, because the fast-paced world around us has had its way with many traditions, chewing them up and leaving them on the dust heap.

The girls at the Capital Grille all seemed enamored of the concept of wearing their moms' dresses (slightly altered for the party), wearing a little makeup and behaving like the grownups they dream of becoming.

A chocolate frosted cake with colored sprinkles awaited on a white linen tablecloth, as did an elegant lunch and a silver tray full of Shirley Temples on the rocks.

And pictures were taken, of course, to commemorate and continue a Huntington Beach tradition that we are proud to present here in the Independent.

Toby basked in the moment of tradition with great aplomb and seemed to appreciate the gravity of what had come before her, telling me that when she grows up, she'd like to do her best to continue the tradition through the next generation.

And Toby, a note to you. I'd like nothing more than to still be writing this column at that point about your child's party. And I promise — we'll put the picture in the paper.

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County" from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at

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