FATE Or An Amazing Series Of Coincidences?
I was not looking for a unique home owned by equally unique people, with a totally unique collection and an equally unique story about how they came to live in and love Valley Center. I was looking for Glen “Taco Titan” Bell’s acreage. My friend, Janet Wohl, a longtime resident of Valley Center and expert bookkeeper, agreed to drive me to the Bell property but said the trip wouldn’t be complete without stopping off at the Andersons. Sure, I said.
It turned out that the Andersons were Mardie and Dave Anderson and their story turned out to be an absolutely fascinating series of coincidences or proof-positive of the existence of fate. Mardie and Dave combined their families while still living in Torrance, CA. Coincidently, Mardie has three children and Dave has three children. Coincidentally, Mardie has two boys and a girl and Dave has two boys and a girl. Coincidentally, Mardie’s children are the same age as Dave’s children.
With their children living independent lives, Mardie and Dave began contemplating a move. They were ready to leave the congestion of Los Angeles for something more comforting, but they did not know where that place might be. So, one day in 1989, Dave convinced Mardie to go for a long drive in his 1979 red Fiat Spider convertible to begin the search. Dave loved the car, Mardie referred to it as a “…real piece of…well, a disaster waiting to happen.”
As fate (or coincidence?) would have it, the car broke down on the 15 and the Andersons were stranded. They called AAA and, while the tow truck driver was working with their car, Mardie, making small talk, asked him if there was any place in the area he would recommend as a great place to live. “Valley Center,” he said.
So, the Andersons began searching for property in Valley Center. They found a place they loved and opened escrow, but there were complications and the escrow fell through. Devastated, they continued to search. By coincidence (or fate), while Mardie was at a doctor’s appointment in Los Angeles, Dave was shown the burned out concrete shell of the Mendenhall Mansion, built by the Mendenhall cattle family between 1912 and 1914 and, at that point, vacant for more than thirty years. Dave was so moved by the property that he bought it immediately. “When Dave took me to see what he had bought, I was speechless,” says Mardie. “I can remember looking up at the tower and saying to Dave that we would never again have a vacation! We had agreed to look for a fixer-upper, but this was beyond, beyond!” The Andersons moved a trailer onto the property and began what Dave estimated to be a three to six month long renovation. “Two years, nine months and twenty days later, we moved out of the trailer and into our home,” Mardie laughingly recalls. That was twenty five years, forty Christmas trees, and some fifteen hundred Santa Clauses ago. Another coincidence: it seems that Mardie loves Christmas. But she swears it is completely coincidental that she has ended up with a mindboggling menagerie of Christmas décor. “Someone gave me a Coca Cola Santa in 1961 from a Savon Drugstore display and that’s how it started. I swear I didn’t plan on a collection but people kept giving me one unique Santa after another and then, before I knew it, I had fifteen hundred of them.” Of course, adding forty Christmas trees seems perfectly natural!
For the Andersons, Christmas preparations begin in October and, on the beautiful January day that I had the privilege to drop into their amazing home, the fifteen hundred Santas, forty Christmas trees, and other miscellaneous décor were still being carefully wrapped to store away until next year. And, before you ask, let me answer your next question: where do you store that many of anything? Well, as coincidence or fate would have it, the Anderson home has an unusually large attic that Mardie has made into a true fantasy world for her grandchildren. Divided into themed bedrooms, I think I counted six in total: a Hippie Room, Cowboy Room, Jungle Room, Desert Storm Room, Nautical Room and, of course, a Santa Room! Where else would a herd of Santas spend the summer? By the way, the Bell ranch property across the street from the Andersons was well worth the drive as well. But that’s another story all together.