It was vastly different from the hustle of the city, the constant traffic that droned out conversation, the smog clouds that vanished into asymmetrical skyscrapers and the people, oh so many people. The little unassuming city of Buena Park, California was vastly different from my hometown and even though I didn’t know it back then it was perfect to grow up in. When we moved there 23 years ago the population was 70,000.
It was beaufituly peaceful in a ways we weren’t used to. The stores all closed before 10, and the silence perpetuated our nights. Our biggest claim to fame was Knotts Berry Farm, a western themed amusement park with Snoopy and Charlie Brown to boot. My favorite activity was to walk around the outside stores during Christmas time. The mall was a barely noticible hub of staple American stores and food court basics but we went every Sunday nonetheless.
Up toward the hills the houses sprawled like miniature mansions and the silence during a morning walk becomes eerie, as I grew up I used to run there every morning and every evening. After rush hour the passing of cars is still far and few except for those leaving the food store that now sits hilltop.
During the summer mother would let me run down the long sidewalks of our suburbia utopia as the sprinklers bloomed in all their glory before California had a drought and when global warming was just being born. Every generation thinks that they are last good one, but in our case I think it rings true. The last to see non hipster mom and pop stores, that belonged to long time residents, to get to know them, and treat them like family. The couple who used to own the dry cleaning behind our apartments had lived there for over 50 years. They used to play jokes on me and I’d ask about their daughter who lived in Oregon. I used to go to school with the son of the guy who owned the grocery store and my favorite store to go back to school shopping was ‘Teacher’s Supply’ nestled right at the exit of the freeway and owned by locals too.
Nowadays Buena Park is still that peaceful city I grew to love, although it has kept up with the times and the competition. There is now big modern building a few blocks from Knotts Berry Farm and a big electric guitar sculpture purtrudes from the new ‘Rockign Brew Restaurant’. It has plans, big plans to draw investors and become a destination.
I haven’t been to Rocking Brews because I got distracted by the library that still looks the same as it did when I used to go everyday after school, it has a tiny bookstore of used books run by volunteers that makes you think of grander times as you browse letters and pictures bound in pages that are used less and less.
If you get tires of the ritz and glitz of featured Orange County tourism come to Buena Park. It will give you a feel of what Southern California really is, go to the historic sites along Beach Boulevard, visit the library during tea time, walk down Knotts Berry Farm and up to the upcoming Butterfly Pavillion. It is worth a day visit, just as much as it was worth growing up in it.