In my three years as a tour guide, I never thought I'd help organize a family reunion tour. In fact, the idea never occurred to me. Then I got a call from a friend who wanted to do something special for her husband's side of the family. Since then, I've helped organize three family reunion tours and hope to do more. They have been a lot of work, but also very rewarding in bringing families together to appreciate their legacy and doing something unique.
|The Hine/Chabre/Hardy Family at the childhood home of the|
If you're lucky enough to have a family reunion, consider planning a tour. It adds an interesting dimension to the get-together and can complement the traditional party and dinner. Basically, there are two types of family reunion tours: legacy tours and recreational tours. With a legacy tour, you actually go to the places where family history was made - childhood homes, schools, places of work, and favorite places. These tours take lots of research and a couple scouting trips to see how much these places have changed. Recreational tours are more pure entertainment and involve going places that diverse family members want to see.
|The Woodward Family wanted to visit the frozen banana stand on Balboa|
Island since their favorite show - Arrested Development - was filmed nearby.
The two family legacy tours that I've helped run were extremely rewarding. One involved the family of Ken and Barbara MacMurray. They wanted to get the whole family together to honor Ken's great grandfather - Weymouth Crowell - who was one of Los Angeles' most important builders of the 1920s and 30s. He built a number of very notable structures including the LA Public Library, the LA County Medical Center, the California State Building (razed several decades ago) and First Baptist Church. Exploring these buildings and seeing his name on one of the church towers was a lesson in architectural history and an adventure in and of itself. I rented a bus for 30 people and, with music, speeches, jokes and lunch at San Antonio Winery, this multi-generational band of MacMurray/Crowells had an unforgettable time.
|The Crowell/MacMurray Clan in front of one of Weymouth's|
masterpieces - the art-deco LA County Medical Center.
My other legacy tour was with some close friends who wanted to tell their fascinating family story of LA history. Working with Mary Chabre and her brother Harrison, we followed four generations of family members who settled in the LA area. Gus Chabre's family were some of the original French inhabitants of Los Angeles, founding the first French newspaper and numerous saloons. Mary and Harrison's side of the family goes back to Mexican rancho days. Their great uncle was one of LA's early mayors and then City "Zanjero" (water manager). A later relative married Griffith J. Griffith, the philanthropist who donated over 3,000 acres of open space to the City, including bequeathing money and plans for the Observatory and Greek Theatre. Another relative
became City Attorney of Santa Monica and helped to secure precious water rights for the City.
The tour took us from Olvera Street (where we had to race under the plaza's gazebo to escape a rare LA downpour) to Griffith Park to Santa Monica, tracing family roots and visiting childhood homes. On this tour, every family member from teens to seniors spoke at various times about certain relatives and their exploits. What a great day it was!
The Woodward Family Tour gave the family a chance for some relaxation and entertainment after a memorial service for one of their relatives. Family members came from the East Coast and the Midwest, and many wanted to see the Orange County coast. I rented a big bus and we enjoyed a chocolate-covered banana on Balboa Island, strolled the sand along Crystal Cove State Park, enjoyed the panoramic views from Top-of-the-World at Alta Laguna Park, and did a walking tour of San Juan Capistrano Mission. Once again - multiple generations, great people, lots of fun stops and a chance to be together and see some new places.
|Ken Woodward and yours truly in front of the Big Bus|
at Crystal Cove State Park.
So, whether it's a family legacy tour with lots of research or just a fun day seeing the sights, consider adding a tour to your next family reunion. Obviously, I'd love to help you plan it, but the point is to do it. Time slips by, and families are meant to be treasured.
|Buildings from the 1920s often reward you for looking up!!|