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Solvang Restaurant Book Review

Solvang Restaurant Book Review


There are places on this Earth that are simply breathtaking; little paradises waiting to be discovered. We are drawn to them and they enrich our lives forever. The Gold Coast is named for its beautiful scenery and not for the metal. From Santa Paula, Ventura and north to San Luis Obispo the highway weaves in and out of beautiful valleys and picturesque towns. The people take the seasons as they come and the heartbeat of the land is slower and more resolute than in the cities further south and north. My parents used to drive north to the Gold Coast region in the 1930's to visit an old friend, Brick Buell, supposedly one of the members of the old Buell family that had a large ranch in the region. I drove through the area in 1969 traveling south to Los Angeles with a Master Sergeant, on leave from Fort Ord. Nearly half a century later the region has barely changed. Gone are the Almond farms, replaced by wineries and rolling hills filled with choice grapes. The old cattlemen are still hanging on in places, but the old Spanish land grant rancheros are gone. Housing tracks are going up in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Muellton, Los Olivos and other quaint towns.

The old vaqueros would have been shocked to see railroad tracks, modern roads and spacious freeways replace the old Indian trails, cattle paths and stagecoach ruts. Great estates have been arved out of the old land grants now. Michael Jackson built his Neverland Ranch amid the great Oak and Sycamore trees. James Arness, Fess Parker and a host of Hollywood celebrities own mansions on large acreages. It isn't unusual to see llamas, bison, miniature horses, peacocks and other exotic animals roaming huge estates. I returned to the Gold Coast many times over the years and watched the steady but unspectacular growth. The people love their land and the scenic views and growth must take that into consideration before they approve of new building. Paradise is not exempt from change. Old settlers leave the land and new ones come. There is always a steady flow of pioneers. I returned again in 1997 and took up with the usual gang of suspects; the Gold Coast Roadster and Racing Club. We went racing that year in Northern Nevada for seven weeks and then we came back to paradise to recover.

I didn't get to meet Arne 'Aebleskiver' Hansen then, but I did eat at his restaurant, though by then he had sold it to others in the community of Solvang. But I knew Aage Block's son, also an Aage, Jack Mendenhall, Evelyn Roth and a host of other Danes and Gold Coast denizens. They were often hardheaded, stubborn, resolute and unyielding, but they were my friends and they would do anything for me and vice versa. Arne wrote a fine little book based on his life and the history of the Santa Ynez Valley, the heart of Gold Coast country. It's called "A Glimpse in Time as seen from the Solvang Restaurant," and Arne Hansen did a most credible job of writing it. It is in paperback, runs to 147 pages and measures 6 by 9 inches. The price is $19.95 and you can get a copy by going to his website at Arne was born in Denmark and his writing style reflects his country of birth; but it is highly interesting and you will have no trouble reading his book. There are some things that I wished he had done; one of which was to provide an index and also to increase the print size and double space. I also wished he had doubled the size of the book and given more space to his stories of the people he came to know and love.

Arne Hansen left farming in Denmark to explore the United States. Like so many post World War II Europeans he had a fascination with everything American; the land, people, music, culture, etc. He hitchhiked and drove all over the West and spent amazing times in Alaska, Montana, Canada, Utah, Idaho, Yukon, and other places before finally settling in Solvang, California. He tried his hand at almost every job imaginable before a complete stranger suggested he buy a beaten down old restaurant in the Danish community of Solvang. I've often said that the most fascinating people are those who own a store and bring people to them. Arne's stories are simply wonderful. They are great not because I know many of the people that he writes about, but because the casual reader doesn't have to know these people to appreciate their life stories. As I've gone through life collecting stories and biographies I've come to the conclusion that there is no man or woman alive who hasn't led a life worth examining and learning about. Arne is one of those men who has an encyclopedia of stories gleaned from a lifetime of inquiry.

Today the Danes are mostly gone from the town that they founded a century ago, though many of the residents today have some heritage from the original settlers. Arne tells us stories about people and places long gone. For those who remember that time this is a book that will bring back memories and hopefully inspire the reader to record their own stories and leave them to the next generation to enjoy. I remember many of the old ranchers, some from old Spanish surnames living on after their land was taken from them or sold out from under them. I remember Evelyn cutting hair at the Pig Pen just outside of Buellton, the Petroleum Museum lovingly created by that blue-eyed lothario Jack Mendenhall, and the lovely shops and stores in Solvang. My family always had to stop and dine on Danish pastires and then shop at the Christmas Store for beautiful tree ornaments and other souvenirs. The tree lined avenue outside the town of Solvang that led to Buellton where we always stopped and looked at the Ostrich and Emu farm. The old Grand Hotel in Los Alamos where the rooms haven't changed since the 1880's when it was a stop on the stagecoach trail to northern California. Next to the Grand Hotel was the Yello House with six rooms all themed to a special genre; Elvis, Parisian, Egyptian, Gypsy and more. Then there was the fabled Madonna Inn just south of San Luis Obispo.

For those of you who have never tasted an Aebleskiver or know what they are you will be in for a real treat. They are Danish pancake-like doughnuts that have a sweet taste to them and look much like a Filipino malasadas or a large donut hole. The taste is indescribably great, with a jam-like topping or light coating of powdered sugar. Arne packed as much as he could into his book, "A Glimpse in Time as seen from the Solvang Restaurant," and I just wish that he had done more. There is just so much more to know and to enjoy along the Gold Coast. A sentence just doesn't do justice to many of the quaint characters that are found in the book or the people Arne Hansen didn't get around to telling us about. But if we nag him a big he just might write book two and tell us about the shenanigans, scandals, successes and failures of a place that is so beautiful that it is indeed paradise on Earth. I rate this book a six and a half spark plugs out of eight and recommend that you add it to your library and enjoy the mesmerizing stories of the people and places along the Gold Coast.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].