A Chipper Christmas

Want to do something to help out some of your less fortunate neighbors, make the canyon a little safer, and take care of an inconvenient task all at once? Thanks to some very generous donations of time, space and equipment, you can do just that.

On Saturday, January 6, 2001, the Topanga Citizens Firesafe Committee will be offering a Christmas Tree chipping service with the help of many volunteers Battalion Chief Mike Dyer and County of Los Angeles Fire Department personnel will donate their time. Joe Gerson is allowing us to use the Topanga Center parking lot, Thad Geer is giving us use of his chipper, and several, as yet unidentified, Topangans are volunteering pick-up service.

VOL.24 NO. 25
December 14, 2000 - January 11, 2001




Here's how it'll work. Call 455-1219 before January 1 and leave your name, address and phone number and a pledge to donate $5. Then show up at the Center parking lot behind Topanga Creek General Store with your tree and five bucks on January 6, between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Or if you'd like, let us know and we'll pick up your tree at your home for an additional $5 donation. After January 1, it'll cost you a $7.50 donation for chipping and an extra $7.50 for pick-up service if you want that, too.

Also, we'll sell the mulch ($5/standard trash can full, bring your own can or bags) on a first come, first served basis. We'll forward all the proceeds to the Woman's Club to bolster their emergency relief fund. You'll have taken care of responsible tree disposal (no landfills will be used for this project) and we'll all have done a little bit to reduce a dangerous fire hazard in the canyon.

Enjoy the holidays even more knowing the tree that gives you pleasure can help out some other folks, too.

-Topanga Citizen's
Firesafe Committee

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Congregation Stands Up to be Counted


By Michele Johnson

On Sunday, December 3, an emotional meeting was held among churchgoers at Topanga Christian Fellowship Church, its trustees, its pastor and a representative of Foursquare Church, who was there to lay out the requirements and benefits of joining that denomination.

Presentations by Pastor Matthew Brayman and Foursquare Coordinator of Development Dan Ussery were followed by a question and answer period, in which most questioners expressed grave doubts about giving up the church's independent status and the paid-up deed to the church itself in order to go Foursquare. In fact, when trustee Patricia Moore-Joshi, who opposes the connection, asked for those who had signed a petition against going Foursquare to stand up, well over half of the 35 or so present stood to affirm their dissent.

Pastor Matthew Brayman, an ordained minister of the Foursquare Church, opened the meeting. He explained that he'd been brought to Christian Fellowship to fill in when it was in crisis, and finally took the permanent assignment last May. From the outset, the trustees told him they were going to explore a connection with Foursquare, and he made it clear at the time that "if there were no interest in Foursquare, I would probably decline." He simply didn't realize the uproar that would be caused by the suggestion that the independent church go Foursquare, especially when the congregation discovered its bank account and deed would be acquired by that group. But, he argued, "I really feel it has a lot to offer for the long-term health of the church."

Foursquare administrator Dan Ussery then stood to explain Foursquare's position. He said Foursquare, unlike many other denominations, asks for the deed to be "held in trust" because in their experience, "Ownership of property is a contentious thing in a congregation."

Ussery insisted Christian Fellowship would still have autonomy in deciding how to develop the property, though conversely he said Foursquare would "provide framework" for its use. "The international board reviews all plans of development of property." He also said that Foursquare could lend its good name, AAA credit rating and credit line to the church. He added that Foursquare has never allowed a property to be foreclosed on or closed due to nonpayment of taxes.

In return for turning over the deed and bank account, Ussery said that Foursquare offers a six-week summer camp for children and a system of training and placing new pastors should Christian Fellowship ever need a new one. It also offers an opportunity to back a missionary program operating in 85 countries and a chance to be part of the 25,000 Foursquare churches worldwide.


The first emotional questioner was not impressed. "It sounds like a spiel, a corporate spiel." She said the real problem facing the church is that "the community doesn't know this church exists." That won't be solved, she argued, by "an outside, corporate global franchise." And she concluded that Topanga is full of "freaks" and "outspoken freaks don't do well in a corporate environment."

91-year-old Melvin Penny, one of the founders of the church in the 1940s spoke and said, "I do worry about this church. I helped to build it."

Ussery insisted there's "not any intent for a takeover." The congregation would elect leadership and choose its own pastor. And "owning property together is the best way to preserve this property." He pointed out that only 12 Foursquare churches in the last 20 years have been sold, and the money from those sales was being held by the church for the congregation when and if they wanted to reopen.


These reassurances did little to stem the flow of protesters. Karen Moran said, "I am 100 percent against going Foursquare" and insisted there are groups made up of independent churches who are "very supportive and available to us, and could provide all the services to us and would never, ever ask us for our deed." Patricia Moore-Joshi agreed. "I love Foursquare. I love it in the Valley." And, she went on, "Foursquare isn't the only way. It's a wonderful way but I'm standing up for Topanga and independence."

Realtor Chryssa Lightheart said she was "talking dollars and cents, because so many put so eloquently the spiritual side." She said that the church and grounds may now be worth $650,000, and then asked, "Would any of you sign over the deed to your house?"

Many people voiced philosophical concerns. One woman said the independent Christian Fellowship mirrors the "spirit of Topanga." Another had read Foursquare bylaws and was concerned that dissenters could be asked to leave the congregation, insisting, "This is a community of dissenting voices." Teacher Nancy Snooks also had looked into the history of Foursquare and was concerned that it was too conservative for Topanga, brooking, she quoted, "No disloyalty, insubordination or backbiting of the church or its leaders."

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A Very Merry Senior Dinner


Harriet Swenson greets Herta Ware.


By Carole Merritt

Seventy seniors were serenaded first by Harriet Swenson on piano, with Linnea Richards on guitar, followed by the tender voices of Topanga's Daisies and Brownies singing "Frosty the Snow Man" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," while a few young boys, elbows leaning on a buffet table, wistfully joined in at the annual Topanga Seniors' Christmas Party.

Decked out in Christmas finery, the event was sponsored by the Topanga Woman's Club at the Community House. Linda Hinrichs, outgoing president, assisted by Lisa Villasenor, greeted the guests, while incoming president, Lola Babalon worked feverishly in the kitchen with the volunteer teens who assisted with serving fruit punch and the sumptuous turkey dinner.

Linda hailed the evening as "A time for renewing old memories and making new ones," while the guests, including many octogenarians and a few, such as Melvin Penny, in their 90s, celebrated a Christmas to remember.
And we wish them many, many more.

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Holiday Cheer December 17th

The Children's Party at the Community House, Sunday, December 17th is a special evening designed to light the sparkle in each child's eye and warm the hearts of all the adults in attendance. This community party has it all and everyone is welcome. The evening is filled with holiday carols, the joy of voices raised together in song, children's craft activities, animated stories read to the group by Linda Hinrichs and a story the children act out themselves with the help of Topanga's own children's theater teacher, Kathie Gibboney.


It is a night to remember to include as you plan out your annual holiday celebrations-good friends, good fun and a warm fire. The event is co-sponsored by the Topanga Community Woman's Club and Children's Corner and is free to all. Cookies and light finger friendly goodies are welcome. Bakers who love to be creative and play in the kitchen, here's an opportunity to share your talents and avoid the calories of daily exposure to the results of your art. Hot cider will be provided. Please call Sue Warner at 455-0850 or Linda Hinrichs at the Community House, 455-2467, if you wish to participate in any way. The more the merrier as many hands make light work and together we create this special event many have come to love.

Won't you join us on Sunday, December 17th at 6:00 p.m. at the Topanga Community House? Who knows what kind of magic will be brewing as we all come together once again to share a holiday evening in the Canyon.

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Harley the Boxer Attacked by Coyotes


By Tony Morris

Harley, Café Mimosa's resident canine greeter, has been absent for the past week as the result of injuries he suffered during an attack by coyotes. Arlette Parker, a long-time Topanga resident and Mimosa's owner, said that her 11-year-old Boxer was attacked by a pack of coyotes on Saturday, November 25. Parker and her husband had returned around 11:30 in the evening and had just let Harley out of the house when they heard what Parker described as "a terrible wailing cry followed by coyotes barking loudly. It was very scary." She remembers telling her husband that the coyotes must have gotten something, not knowing that her dog had just been attacked. Parker immediately called out to her dog who ran to her. Harley's rear legs were covered with blood and he had sustained major bites. Realizing that her dog was going into shock she worked to stop the bleeding and administered antiseptic to clean the wounds. Parker and her husband remained with Harley through the night and took him to the Malibu Animal Hospital early Sunday where he received dozens of stitches. Parker says her dog was unable to walk until four days after the attack.

Topanga Wild's Gerry Haigh advises Topangans that it's "our responsibility to understand that we are living in the natural habitat of the coyote, an instinctive predator. We can't blame the predator. It's really like blaming people for eating." The coyote's domain is where we live. Haigh says that coyotes hunt during both day and night and for this reason pet owners are often unprepared for daytime attacks. Haigh says that is all the more reason Topangans living near known coyote runs, such as Topanga State Park, should be aware of their pets whereabouts. Small dogs and cats are at risk and even large dogs like Harley, a Boxer, can be seriously wounded by a coyote pack.

Jennie McNary, curator of mammals at the Los Angeles Zoo, says that coyotes in the Los Angeles area are "most comfortable in urban areas where they can often find food left out for pets." McNary says that a coyote pack will attack larger animals, including large dogs. Pack size can vary from five to seven adults and they are quite effective hunters. In Topanga coyotes have been observed on residential streets during the day. McNary said that very rare attacks on young children, who can mistake them for dogs, have been reported in the Los Angeles area. She stressed that anyone living in the urban wildland interface should be aware that the coyote is a permanent resident of the region. Canis latrans is not about to disappear in the near future and we should probably accept that reality.

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T-CEP Fund-Raiser Glitters

On Sunday, December 3, The Mermaid Tavern, shimmering with lights and scented with pine, provided the backdrop for a glittering Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (T-CEP) fund-raiser.

About 75 people gave generously to be there. Among them were Benefactors Steve and Leslie Carlson, Patrons Fred and Carol Feer, John and Patricia MacNeil, Wendie Malick, Wayne and Lynn Northrop, Tony and Jeanne Pritzker, and Randy Neece and Joe Timko and Sponsors Richard Altenbach and the Christina Johnson (Erteszek) family.
The dinner was a lovely affair. The huge stone fireplace was ablaze and flanked by Christmas trees swathed in chiffon. Candles shimmered everywhere as the crowd, dressed in their holiday finery, dined on filet mignon or portobello mushroom ravioli.

Actress and activist Wendie Malick opened the program with a toast to T-CEP. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky then stood to laud the group. He was followed by Pat MacNeil who unveiled a dramatic video of T-CEP at work, made with all-volunteer talent. Finally Fred Feer spoke eloquently about T-CEP's goals for the future.

The evening was then given over to a musical program with "selections from Bach to bluegrass" played by Richard Altenbach, first violinist for the L.A. Chamber Orchestra and premier harpist Katie Kirkpatrick. The crowd cheered the achingly beautiful performance with a standing ovation. Richard Altenbach is the husband of Dawn Simmons, chairman of the fund-raiser. On a sad note, the last piece was dedicated by Richard to Dawn's brother Mike who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident the previous week and to Mermaid owner Bill Buerge's mother Helen Margaret Buerge, who had also just passed away.

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American Dream Realized


Manjit, (left) and Nindy still keep up with Topanga by reading the Messenger.


By Joni Morales

Remember Manjit and Nindy from the Topanga Creek General Store? They both worked as cashiers, and Manjit became the stock clerk.

Well, now they have two stores of their own! After long years of saving and hard work, their American dream has been realized.

Manjit Singh and Narinder (Nindy) Verma met each other when they were working in Rome, Italy. They discovered that they were both from the Punjab state in northern India, and they became loyal friends.
In 1983 they both came to the United States, and soon they became U.S. citizens.

Manjit started working in the Topanga Creek General Store in 1989, and Nindy started a year later. They both loved the people, the climate, and the natural beauty of Topanga.

For about 10 years, they worked in the store. Their intention was to one day buy it themselves, and stay in Topanga.
In 1990, Nindy married Sunita. They have two daughters: Amrita, age 9, and Isha, age 5. Now they have a son named Maneet, who was born on November 18, 2000!

In 1994, Manjit married Harpal. They have two daughters: Harmanjit, age 5, and Kiranjut (Kiran), age 2.
When the two friends found that it wasn't possible for them to buy the Topanga store, they had to consider other possibilities.

A friend who had bought a store in Ohio told them that there might be a better chance there.
The two families moved to Ohio and began looking for a prosperous store to buy.

It took over a year, but on October 12, 2000, they bought a franchise called Convenient Mart.
It's a large store with a produce section and a deli section where meat and cheese are sliced to order and sandwiches and salads are made daily.

Not two weeks later, the opportunity arose to buy a second Convenient Mart-the largest and busiest in Cleveland! Hot food is prepared daily in its deli; it's not unlike the Topanga Creek General Store. It's the #1 Convenient Mart in Cleveland!

Both families send love and best wishes to their friends in Topanga, and if you ever find yourself in Cleveland, Ohio, you are invited to visit them! *

*See Joni Morales for phone #.

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Ancient Echoes Opens

Owner Karen Bovee at the grand opening in November of Ancient Echoes Imports, specializing in clothing, jewelry and pillows from Morocco, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tibet. You'll find Ancient Echoes in the Old Center at 115 Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

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