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Community Oral History Project

Community Oral History Project

The Laguna Woods History Center has an ongoing project to interview community leaders in order to document their story and preserve our heritage. Please contact us and let us know if you would like to participate.

Jennifer and Cindy Keil (shown here) of 70 Degrees designed this History Center website and are also spearheading the oral history project. Jennifer is the Oral Historian and Cindy is the Editor.

Each candidate for this project is selected by LWHC for their early history and major contributions to the community. They provide varied perspectives of life in Leisure World which was incorporated into Laguna Woods in 1999.  Each oral history has a verbatim transcript, recording log, and video. These interviews are indexed with OHMS: Oral History Metadata Synchronizer. Use the links below to use the text searchable oral history interface with interview segment titles.

OH01_Morris Meadow_Video

OH01_Morris Meadow_Recording Log

OH01_Morris Meadow_Transcript

OH01_Morris Meadow_OHMS

OH02_Evelyn Shopp Video

OH02_Evelyn Shopp Transcript

OH02 Evelyn Shopp Recording Log

OH02_Evelyn Shopp OHMS
OH 03 Bob Ring Video

OH 03_Bob Ring Transcript

OH03_Bob Ring_Recording Log

OH 03 Bob Ring OMHS

OH 04 Robert Merritt Video

OH 04_Rob Merritt_Transcript

OH 04_Rob Merritt_Recording Log

OH 04 Robert Merritt OHMS
OH 05 Myra Neben Video

OH 05 Myra Neben Transcript

OH 05 Myra Neben Recording Log

OH 05 Myra Neben OHMS

OH 06 Lee Bevilacqua Video

OH 06 Lee Bevilacqua Transcript

OH 06 Lee Bevilacqua Recording Log

OH 06 Lee Bevilacqua OHMS

OH o7 Joan Long Video

OH 07 Joan Long Transcript

OH 07 Joan Long Recording Log

OH 07 Joan Long OHMS

Oral History Project Interviews with a Transcript Only:

OH 08 Fran Lindberg Transcript


The Story of Laguna Woods

On March 24, 1999, the City of Laguna Woods was incorporated as Orange County’s 32nd city. In addition to being one of California’s safest cities, Laguna Woods is unique in that the average age of its 18,000 residents is 73.

Laguna Woods, as a community, began in the 1900s when its approximately four square miles of gradual and varying slopes, hills, and low-lying areas were a part of South Orange County’s expansive Moulton Ranch. In the early years, dry farming and cattle grazing dominated the area with a few scattered ranch dwellings and barns.

In 1962, Ross Cortese, a young and energetic developer whose previous projects included Rossmoor and Leisure World Seal Beach, purchased 3,500 acres of the Moulton Ranch. His goal was to create a second Leisure World community, “to supply the basic needs of life for people aged 52 and older; create a serene atmosphere of beauty; and provide security, recreation, and religious facilities – then leave the living to the individual.” His dream materialized and on September 10, 1964, Leisure World Laguna Hills (now called Laguna Woods Village) received its first 10 residents. Since then, Laguna Woods Village has grown to be one of the world’s premier retirement communities for active adults.

The prospect of forming a city first arose in 1971 and was a lingering issue until 1996 when the potential of a reduction in municipal services provided by the County of Orange and the possibility of a commercial airport at the site of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station became very real concerns. Cityhood proponents were successful in gaining the necessary approvals to place the issue of incorporation on the ballot for a special election on March 2, 1999 and on March 24, 1999, Laguna Woods officially became a city.

Today, Laguna Woods is bordered by the cities of Aliso Viejo, Irvine, Laguna Beach, and Laguna Hills, as well as unincorporated County land. In addition to Laguna Woods Village, it includes several senior-oriented residential communities, a number of thriving commercial centers, and a large amount of open space.

Historical Articles