When we first moved to Corona del Mar, everything north of Fifth Avenue was open hills. To the west, where Irvine Terrace is today, was Mr. Harris’s riding stable, and to the east, from Poppy to Crystal Cove, more open space. In the village itself there were still lots of vacant lots, great places to play because in those days they weren’t fenced off. I guess it was assumed that if you were romping around and fell, it was your own fault and you would learn to be more careful the next time.
The place wasn’t completely rustic, however. Even in those days there was a viable commercial area with several restaurants including the Hurley Bell (Five Crowns), our own Wild West Museum, a nursery specializing in begonias and a splendid drugstore (the corner of Marguerite and PCH where the current Prudential Real Estate is) with its own soda fountain where one could get a lime rickey and, even better, hand-packed ice cream. It was a great night when my father would suggest we mosey on down there and get a quart of vanilla and a quart of chocolate and settle down with our glasses of ice cream–for some reason we never ate it in a bowl–and watch Beanie and Cecil which introduced a great many of us not just to Beanie, his friend Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent and the other characters but also to Stan Freberg and his zany sense of humor.
But it was another store that was the site of some of my most heartfelt wishes in those days–Anthony’s Shoe Store. Now Anthony’s had very little to do with my own footwear. In those simpler times, I had a pair of saddle shoes for school, a pair of MaryJanes for dress up, and a pair tennis shoes for roaming all those vacant lots, and my shoes were either too inexpensive to send to a shoemaker or outgrown before the need, so all of Anthony’s repair skills were a matter of indifference, but there was something that Anthony’s had that was magical. This was the Cinderella contest he had every year. For weeks, every time you walked by, there gleaming in the window was a pair of gold sandals. In our age of bling this would barely register, but then it was like looking at a pot of gold. They glistened, they shone, they were as tempting as the ballet slippers in The Red Shoes. How could any little girl not covet those shiny gold sandals? And all you had to do was be like Cinderella–have them fit your foot. When the big day came, waiting in line with all the other little girls, I would check their feet, comparing them to mine while I hoped and prayed that this year I was Cinderella. Finally, it was my turn. The beautiful golden sandals were slipped on and–they fit! Perfect! But every year they seemed to fit some other little girl better–usually a little girl with curls as golden as the sandals, someone who, looking back, was going to make a much better publicity shot for the local paper.
Anthony’s is still there, still in the same location, but there hasn’t been a Cinderella contest in decades. Just as well, probably, so that the rest of us don’t have to go home feeling like the ugly stepsisters.