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Newsletter of the Rancho Los Alamitos Volunteer Service Council

July 2023

In this issue:

  • VSC Perspectives
  • Outreach Committee Updates
  • Does this Ring a Bell?
  • Want a better memory? Volunteer!
  • Job Opening: Operations Manager

In the Spotlight:

  • Volunteer: Tom Taylor
  • Staff: Chris Fountain
  • RLAF Board: Marlene Temple

VSC Perspectives

Doug Cox, VSC President

Change for the sake of change isn’t always such a bad thing, even if it means happily changing back to some semblance of normality with a new lease on life.

Remember the shared cabin fever of the Covid years? Things that might have seemed trivial before the pandemic, like taking a long walk or exploring the local garden center, became longed-for treasures when they became utterly out of reach. Now that restrictions have been lifted, it’s understandable that folks might be looking at all things great and small quite differently. And that is exactly what the Rancho community is doing.

The Rancho is stretching its legs these days as we get back into the swing of things, especially the Rancho’s volunteers and staff who have been venturing beyond our storied 7.5 acres through the newly revived VSC field trip program. First stop was the June 24 visit to MOLAA (Museum of Latin American Art) in Long Beach, which drew nearly 40 RLA volunteers and staff for a private, docent-led interpretive tour and lunch afterward on the museum’s sunny patio.

Exactly one month later, on July 24, RLA staff and volunteers, again numbering 40, headed a few miles north to the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum in Compton. The field trip program is the brainchild of the indefatigable Janice Wellsteed, who was elected the VSC Steering Committee’s new Volunteer Enrichment representative during the June committee meeting.

We don’t have to leave the Rancho to discover new ideas and explore beyond familiar horizons, either. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of volunteers Jan Wierzbecki and Joanne Locnikar, there is a steadily growing and beautifully organized library tucked away in the Volunteer Room on the ground floor of the Rancho Center.

There are volumes about just about every corner of California’s long history, some of it bright and some of it not, awaiting volunteers with a few minutes to spare, along with everything from vivid biographies of our state’s most colorful and significant leaders to gardening collections and culinary guides.

Whether you have a few hours or just a few minutes, your options are endless.

Last month Rancho volunteers took a private midday tour at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA). Photo is from the MOLAA Facebook page.

In the Volunteer Spotlight! Tom Taylor

This month’s Spotlight Volunteer is Tom Taylor. We might call Tom a Renaissance man. He’s an illustrator, a photographer, a builder, and now, an RLA docent.


What made you decide to become a Rancho volunteer?

I recently moved back here (where I grew up) from Central California to be near my daughters and wanted to continue my volunteering in a museum setting.

How long have you been volunteering here?

Just a few short months. I started volunteering in 2012 with the San Luis Obispo Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP). I designed and constructed elementary school gardens.

What’s your favorite thing to hear from visitors?

"I didn't know that".

What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering here?

Show up 20 minutes early, keep your eyes and ears open. The other volunteers here will help you so much!

What do you like to do when you’re not at the Rancho?

I make stuff. I'm working on adobe and steatite (soapstone) exhibits. I make abalone and sand dollar pendants.

What’s something that makes your day better?

After the pandemic, I'm just so grateful to be involved with the volunteer & staff "family" here. I'm enjoying meeting new people and learning new things.

What’s the one word your friends and family would use to describe you?


What else do you want us to know?

I compile one-page "Flash Histories."

My Tomol Ava Chumash boat replica has been exhibited in 24 schools and three museums. It now resides in the Channel Islands National Park in Ventura. I believe the Tomol is the forerunner of the Tongva Ti'at.

My family keeps growing. I now have ten great-grandchildren.

In the Employee Spotlight! Chris Fountain

Chris Fountain recently joined the Rancho Los Alamitos staff as its Manager of Education and Public Engagement. In this interview, we learn about his early years and his thoughts on history and education. We welcome Chris’ experience, dedication, and leadership in this important role.


Can you share a bit about yourself? Where you grew up, and what helped shape your interest in history?  

I was born and spent my early years in Long Beach. I eventually joined the Los Alamitos School District before returning to Long Beach for my degree in History at CSULB. I have always been fascinated with social movements and how people navigate change through time. It was a subject I always gravitated towards and was able to see the content as a story, not just a string of facts. I think it was instilled in me at a young age that the past taught us lessons and we needed to listen closely. 


What drew you to studying history and pursuing a career in public education?

I always knew I was going to be an educator. I don’t really remember a time (other than when I wanted to be a sports broadcaster when I was 10) when teaching in some capacity wasn’t an option for me.

I had many teachers and professors of history throughout my time in secondary school and college who attracted me to the subject. They were some of the most passionate people on campus. It was very natural for me to weave my interests in the subject with a desire to make sure that everyone was able to see themselves in the history that they were studying.

Presenting history to the public is an important job that I do not take lightly. As a steward of the past, I feel that we, as educators, are responsible for making positive changes that benefit all in the present. History lays out a blueprint for ways that can be achieved. 


You spent time as a teacher at the Intellectual Virtues Academy. Was there a connection between that experience and deciding to pursue an MA in Museum Studies?   

Intellectual Virtues Academy has a unique and specific educational philosophy centered on a holistic approach to teaching. Subject matter is not presented in a vacuum, but associated with the ways in which we can foster growth on personal levels as well. Throughout their studies, a student may be challenged in the way they think about tenacity, open-mindedness, or curiosity. While I knew this was an important approach to education, I also knew that it could be the foundation of public history in general. How can we promote curiosity and open-mindedness in the museum field? How would that make a positive change in our world? 


You attended Southern University in New Orleans for your MA in Museum Studies. Were there internships or special projects that you’d like to tell us about?  

In New Orleans, I worked with The Historic New Orleans Collection on the NOLA Resistance Oral History Project, where I got to listen to dozens of civil rights leaders discuss their connection to the Civil Rights Movement. It was a rewarding experience and helped me better understand what each person went through on a very personal basis. Before being employed there, I also interned at The National World War II Museum, where I cataloged photographs and letters from soldiers during the war. 

Can you talk a bit about your time at the WWII and BK Museums and the parallels between those experiences and your role at the Rancho?   

Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned at the museums is how important it is to think outside of the box to reach new audiences. Historically, older museums in diverse cities have trouble representing all their communities. I do not have a catch all or immediate solution to how museums can solve this, but I do believe that through new programming and interpretive strategies, museums can reflect their cities in more honest and interesting ways. I believe the Rancho is uniquely poised to represent the diverse communities of Long Beach through programming inspired by that multiplicity of perspective. 


What aspects of education and outreach are you most looking forward to at RLA?  

I am looking forward to connecting with the different communities of Long Beach through the Rancho and fostering partnerships that are long-lasting and meaningful for both entities. Building community bonds has always been some of my most rewarding work through the world of public history. 


Can you give any examples of times someone has had an “aha moment” learning something new about history?    

I believe the greatest “aha moments” come when paradigms are challenged. When you can present information in a way that causes people to shift or challenge their worldviews, you have not only made a topic more interesting, but you have also created an avenue for that person to explore further and disrupt the perpetuation of misinformation or close-mindedness.

Sharing the stories and voices of people who are often pushed to the periphery of history often leads to the most challenging and rewarding interactions with students and visitors. It is hard to describe just one moment, as there are many where I have felt we have been able to create a new way of thinking for someone free from prejudice and consciously aware of how their perspectives have changed. 


What else would you like RLA volunteers to know about you? 

Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask me any questions! I am so thrilled to be back in this community and honored that I get to spend so much time with all of you in such a beautiful setting! 

In the Spotlight: RLAF Board Member Marlene Temple

Beginning this month, we’ll feature a member of the Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation’s (RLAF) Board of Directors. The RLAF board provides leadership that helps guide us in achieving our mission and modeling our values.

Our first Spotlight is Marlene Temple, a board member and the the recipient of our 2022 Cottonwood Award for Leadership.

Marlene's family moved to Long Beach from Missouri when she was five years old. Fortunately for all of us, she made it her lifelong home. Marlene’s love of people and joy in giving is obvious to all who know her. She was married to Don Temple, founder of a large self-storage company. In 2006, Don and Marlene founded the “Don Temple Family Charitable Foundation,” and she served as its President. Marlene’s giving comes from her heart and embraces the things she loves, including the arts, children and education, healthcare, and above all, the people of Long Beach. We are honored to have Marlene as a Board member of Rancho Los Alamitos.


Marlene also served as President of the Dramatic Allied Arts Guild, which gives scholarships in the Arts, and is active in the Musical Theater West organization, currently serving on its Board of Trustees and previously serving as President of the Footlighters. Her support of the International City Theatre (ICT) began with its inception at Long Beach City College. In 2015 she was the recipient of ICT’s “Ackerman Crystal Arts and Humanitarian Award.” She actively supports the Long Beach Symphony and is the Season Sponsor of the Long Beach Playhouse, where she faithfully attends opening nights.  


Marlene was the National President of Theta Sigma Phi Sorority, whose focus was scholarships for those studying to teach in the area of Special Education. She is active with Steel Magnolias, benefiting the Stramski Center at Miller’s Children’s Hospital, and serves on the Board of Trustees of Memorial Medical Center. She is proud to be a part of the Ronald McDonald House and the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific.


The Don Temple Family Charitable Foundation has made significant donations with Honorary Naming to Long Beach Memorial Center Heart Lab, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and Long Beach City College, where a campus building is dedicated as the “Don Temple Family Charitable Foundation Math Success Center.”

Marlene says she feels privileged to make life better for the people reached by the Foundation’s donations. She says she and Don felt that Long Beach was good to them, and they wanted to give something back. In that spirit, we were pleased to present the 2022 Cottonwood Award for Leadership to Marlene Temple and the Don Temple Family Charitable Foundation.

Community Outreach Reaching Out!

June Outreach in Review

Community Outreach volunteers had a busy June. They took their coloring books, crayons, Cool Crafts, and cheerful messages about the Rancho to three events and spoke to nearly 700 people about the many reasons to visit and support RLA. Nice job!


New Volunteer Outreach

CSULB’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, better known as OLLI, is dedicated to offering programs and opportunities for older adults. They are helping us recruit new volunteers through their online newspaper. Thank you, Pat Coil and Roberta Rogoff, for getting the OLLI ball rolling!

Upcoming Events:


August 6:

Membership table at RLA’s Summer Concert 5-7 pm


September 23:

Membership table at RLA for Rancho-to-Rancho Walk.

RLA is the destination. Festivities begin after 2 pm.


October 28:

HSLB Annual Historical Cemetery Tour

Sunnyside Cemetery

1095 E. Willow St, Long Beach 90806

9 am to 3 pm


October 28:

Día de Los Muertos Fiesta

St. Isidore Historical Plaza

10961Reagan St., Los Alamitos, 90720

Noon to 9 pm


December 3:

Winterfest at St. Isidore Historical Plaza *

10961Reagan St., Los Alamitos, 90720


December 7, 8 & 9:

Membership table at RLA Christmas Open House*


*Events are confirmed. Further details are to be included in the next issue of Meanwhile.

The Community Outreach team welcomes RLA volunteers to visit them, or join them, as they spread the word about this place for all time.

Does this Ring a Bell? 

When visitors of all ages move from the parking lot to the Ranch grounds, they step back in time to an era when the Bixby property stretched farther than the eye could see. RLA’s efforts to preserve the past are evident in the gardens, house, barns, animals, and objects central to Ranch operations. The red dinner bell sitting upon the Laundry Building, still ready to call ranch hands to supper, is one of them.

In 2011, a new roof going on the building was the perfect opportunity to give the bell some long-deferred TLC. Blacksmith Steve Christensen removed all the old paint, applied sealing primer inside and out, and then gave the bell three coats of Rustoleum “Regal Red” enamel paint.

Today, the bell reminds visitors that hungry RLA ranch hands, who knew nothing of ordering a fast-food dinner on a phone app, eagerly awaited the sound of the bell, knowing a home-cooked meal awaited them inside. And now it is a key element in the Rancho’s house tours.

Docent and VSC President Doug Cox watches for the two quietest children on a school tour. He invites them to come and pull the cord that causes the pealing bell to ring throughout the grounds. He notes that in addition to the fun of letting kids ring it, the bell is also helpful for managing tour group traffic. It lets docents know that one tour is five or ten minutes from leaving the house, and a new tour can enter the house without worrying about colliding with the current tour.*

While the bell, now well over 100 years old, has a new job at Rancho Los Alamitos, its booming peal is as welcome as it was when ranch hands rather than students and visitors walked the grounds. 

*Notice the bell's pull cord beside the kitchen door.

Want a better memory? Volunteer!

Most of us won’t find it surprising that recent studies confirm that volunteering has demonstrable benefits for seniors. The article linked below substantiates and shows how volunteering just a few hours a week can improve mental acuity, build social networks, and provide a sense of satisfaction for retirees and older people.

Despite bearing the words “Phoenix Bell Co., Leaven-worth, Kan.” on its yoke, the bell was made by the C.S. Bell Co. of Hillsboro, Ohio –

one of the most prolific bell manufacturers in the country.

The Rancho is Hiring! Position: Operations Director

We are looking for a dynamic and energetic facilities and operations professional to join our team and help lead the way to the future. Our 7.5-acre historic resource comprises the original ranch house (constructed c. 1800-1933), four acres of nationally significant gardens, a barnyard area with six historic agricultural buildings and livestock, a visitor center, a gift shop, and a classroom facility.

The successful candidate will lead the day-to-day operations of the historic site, working closely with the Facilities & Maintenance Manager, the Accounting & Administrative staff, and the Earned Income staff to ensure the historic site is appropriately staffed, resourced, and secured for ongoing visitor and staff needs. Click here to download the job description.

To apply: Go to and upload your current resume and a specific cover letter identifying your suitability for the position. Resumes without specific cover letters will not be considered.

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