Mayberry vs. Orange County

Why Will Ferrell, Steve Martin, John Stamos and others think kindly about their Wonder Years in O.C.

All of us are shaped by childhood moments, good and bad, that eventually make us who we are. But when asked, most of us remember the Mayberry moments: events that made us happy, people who made us feel safe and treasured, places we cherished.

Would I have become a fisherman without having spent memorable mornings on the water with my older brothers? Would I still gravitate to Lebanese food without Mom’s talent with tabouli? Would I still prefer Fudgsicles for dessert without the profound influence of the cool guy who drove the ice cream truck in my neighborhood?

Probably not. And that’s why we thought it might be fun to tap the collective memory of people who spent their Wonder Years in Orange County for this month’s cover story. Writer Pat H. Broeske and Senior Editor Laura Bleiberg wondered what the recollections of notable natives might tell us about a place that more than 3 million of us now call home.

Choreographer Molly Lynch recalls weekend trips to Santa Catalina aboard her family’s boat, and wearing her bright orange life preserver all summer long, even in supermarkets. Olympian Janet Evans remembers the telegrams she received in 1988 from supporters at El Dorado High School when she went off to swim in Seoul, South Korea, as a gangly 16-year-old. Marisa Wayne describes the day she ignored her father’s request to clean her room aboard their yacht—until he decided to handle it as only John Wayne would.

Those recollections provide glimpses into some extraordinary lives, and into an Orange County that may seem a bit more Mayberry than it does today. But when the time comes for the generations now being raised here to look back, we’re sure their memories will be no less nostalgic.

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