Saying Goodbye to His Beloved Hometown

(Editor’s note: Stuart Muller, 73, has retired to Mexico after decades of activism in Pacific Palisades. He masterminded the historical Clearwater mural on the back walls of the CVS building on Swarthmore, was a 22-year Area Representative on the Community Council and, in 2005, received Citizen of the Year honors for his successful campaign to dampen the noise emanating from the car wash in the heart of town. Alas, one of his goals went unfulfilled: establishing a community/senior center at the Palisades Recreation Center.)

By Stuart Muller
Special to the Palisades News

I will always remember the wonderful life I’ve had in this close-knit community: the people, the tranquility, the light, the ocean breezes, body surfing, roller-skating, hiking, and my family and friends.

Fortunately for me, after my parents got married in Nebraska in 1941, they moved out to Pacific Palisades, where relatives had been living since 1926. I was born in 1944, and four siblings followed: Nancy, Robert, Jonathon and Elizabeth.

We first lived at 1160 Fiske, near Bestor Boulevard, at a time when they were building houses above Bestor. The once peaceful neighborhood was alive with the sounds of hammers and saws.

I asked my mom, “When are they going to finish making all this noise?” She replied “Never!” which has turned out to be very true! They’ve been tearing houses down for years now, and building mansions.

Making presentations to Stuart Muller at the July Community Council meeting were Councilman Mike Bonin’s Deputy Lisa Cahill (left), Congressman Ted Lieu’s Janet Turner and PPCC Vice President George Wolfberg (right).
Making presentations to Stuart Muller at the July Community Council meeting were Councilman Mike Bonin’s Deputy Lisa Cahill (left), Congressman Ted Lieu’s Janet Turner and PPCC Vice President George Wolfberg (right).

My parents, Wayne and Mary, were founding members of The Parish of St. Matthew, and I was in the first class to go all the way through the “Day School” (when it was located in the building now occupied by Seven Arrows on La Cruz).

I attended the new junior high school—Paul Revere—and since Palisades High was not yet opened, I attended University High, graduating in 1961. After Santa Monica College I went to USC, where I majored in cinema, along with classmates like George Lucas and John Milius.

The week after I graduated in 1967, I bought a one-way ticket to Europe and ended up living in a tiny Spanish village with no running water and no television. I found work as a photographer’s assistant, creating pictures for Time-Life books on wine and spirits and Spanish cooking.

Melantha Tatum, a girl I knew from the Palisades, visited me in Spain (she was on a road trip with her mother), and decided to stay. She lived in a separate house, but we ended up together, and in 1968 we returned to the Palisades to get married. Our son Payson was born a year later and Daniela was born in 1973.

I worked at the Walt Disney Studio as a wildlife photographer and writer, and then at Walt Disney Imagineering as a writer, concept designer and photographer for EPCOT Center, Tokyo Disneyland and other Disney projects.

When gay people were liberated, Melantha and I parted ways and in 1980 I began a joyful 20-year relationship with a fellow imagineer, Tom Fitzgerald.

In 1989, after earning a master’s degree in clinical psychology at Antioch University, I took a one-year sabbatical and traveled around the world. When I returned I began a Ph.D. program, specializing in early childhood and adolescent psychotherapy. I volunteered at PaliHi for eight years conducting individual and group psychotherapy. Starting in 1994, I served on the Community Council for 22 years, which I greatly enjoyed.

I used my writing, photography and imagineering skills to conceive and execute many projects designed to improve our streetscapes, and utilized my training and experience to create, teach and administer a successful Early Childhood Program at the Palisades Recreation Center (1991-97). I’ve enjoyed meeting the now-adult children and their parents in the community.

I will truly miss my hometown and all the wonderful people who live here. But life is about the present and about change.

Things have dramatically changed in Pacific Palisades, most notably the high cost of housing, which is the primary reason that I am moving to Mexico. I’ve always enjoyed the Hispanic culture, and will be able to live within my means in San Miguel de Allende, a beautiful UNESCO-preserved town full of light, music and friendly people. I hope to work with young children again, the vocation I love the most.

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