By Scott Wagenseller
Palisades News Publisher
Ronald Reagan once said, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” Or, in my case, in the Southwest Room at my humble childhood home on Old Ranch Road in Brentwood. We had a room there where discussions and debate helped form my perspective and values.
My mom was a Texan, raised in Amarillo and the daughter of the largest cattle-feed operator in the region; she was a debutante. An accomplished athlete, an energetic volunteer and former buyer at Bullocks, she had style and class. Over the years, she yearned for some Southwest flavor in our California ranch-style home.
Early in my teen years, my dad answered Mom’s request by adding a new room that had open beams, a large fireplace and a robust bar, big enough for them to sit and visit with the multitude of neighbors and friends who would stop by for drink and discussion on topics of the day.
Our neighbors, Patty and Peter Choate, Ivan Weiner, Ann Dobkin and Sue Ann Converse, were up to the task of bringing a progressive liberal view on just about any topic, whether local or international, to mix up the evening and get everyone going. My mom and dad were conservative to the core. It was the ‘80s, and while Ronald Reagan was on the distant big-screen, rear-projection TV, I would sit to the side with a Coke and peanuts and listen to the discussions. My mom was always pleased when one of “the girls” would show up (Joan Mackey, Martha Owen, Maggie Edwards, Barbara Knutson and Doris Coleman, among others) because they were always grounded with good Texan values. Sometimes they were still there talking long after my mom had gone to bed.
You could say this was the local tavern of Sullivan Canyon. Everyone was welcome and even the horses knew it. In fact, one day a horse did show up, having escaped from his corral and no doubt realizing his owner was probably inside talking at the bar, poked his nose in looking to add his horse sense to the discussion.
At family functions, my eldest brother Whitney would throw out a comment to get my mom’s blood boiling, only to be challenged by my aunt, Ann Triplett (mom’s younger sister and a Highlands resident). On occasion I would add some comment, only to be bolstered by my far more eloquent and more learned brother Laine, who has since become a business attorney and my attorney for all matters. He could articulate a more educated statement.
It was this classroom I appreciated most from my formative years, and it is this classroom I hope to replicate in Palisades News. In recognition of the forum and its value in bringing friends and neighbors closer in discussion, I asked my editor, Sue Pascoe, to add the banner “The Southwest Room” above our editorial page. Our hope is to replicate the free-wheeling discussions of that original Southwest Room. The room is open to everyone, the discussions are no-holds barred and even when we disagree, we’ll meet up the next week and do it again.
(Editor’s note: Wagenseller’s brother Whitney died in December 2012, his father Sherman in July 2013 and his mother Janet in February 2014. The house is still in the family, but is expected to go on the market, soon.)