Keeping history alive to share it and learn from it

Laura Hook is the latest president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, the nonprofit organization working to preserve and promote the history of the area since 1978. Although Hook grew up in Imperial Beach, she’s lived in Lemon Grove for 40 years, immersing herself in her community through her work with her children’s schools, Soroptimist International of Lemon Grove, the Old Globe, and the Parsonage Museum.

Since taking the helm of the historical society in October 2020, the society has succeeded in changing the name of Civic Center Park to Treganza Heritage Park, honoring the family who settled in the area in the late 19th century. A two-day dedication of the park will take place on Oct. 8 and 9, with an antique auto show, games and activities for kids, open houses at the Parsonage Museum and the H. Lee House Cultural Center, food, and lectures on the Treganza family’s generational history and contributions to the city.

Hook, 66, worked as a hospital unit coordinator for Kaiser Permanente until 2020 and lives in Lemon Grove with her husband, John. They have two children, Amy and Catherine. She took some time to talk about her work with the historical society and why maintaining and sharing the history of her city with others, is so important to her.

Q: Congratulations on your new role as president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society. I’ve read that you first joined the society after attending one of their regular history lectures. What was the lecture about?

A: I’m not completely sure, but I think it was in 2002 and about Pat Abbott, professor emeritus in geological sciences at San Diego State University.

Q: What was it about that particular lecture event that compelled you to join the historical society?

A: I love to expand my mind with new information and it was so informative and convenient.

Q: You’re stepping into this role after Helen Ofield, well-known and respected in Lemon Grove as the previous president of the organization. Have you received any advice or guidance from Helen that’s been helpful to you so far? Or, have there been lessons you’ve learned from watching her that you’ve chosen to apply to your own time as president?

A: I remember the first time I heard Helen speak, saying to myself, “Wow, I could listen to her speak all day long!” I have, and always will, run things by Helen, since I am basically a newbie to this job, only doing it since October of 2020. It is a great feeling that I can use her wealth of knowledge with just a call.

What I love about Lemon Grove …

I live in Engelstad Manor and the houses were built in 1952. Mid-century modern homes with real hardwood floors, plaster walls and large yards. My house and neighborhood hold 40 years of my memories, from wild party girl to marriage to motherhood and my new adventures.

Q: What are your goals/vision for the organization?

A: I would like to share the history of this area with more people. I have people I speak to, and they haven’t even seen the museum or the Lee House and are simply amazed at the history of Lemon Grove, once they take the time to do that. We also share local history with the Lemon Grove School District, so children can be more aware of where they come from and how people worked hard to make Lemon Grove what it is.

Q: Tell us about the Treganza Heritage Park dedication.

A: The historical society approached the Lemon Grove City Council about changing the name of Civic Center Park to Treganza Heritage Park, to honor one of the pioneer families of Lemon Grove. We had a unanimous vote on Feb. 4, 2020, but we all know what happened then. So, here it is 2021, and we are ready to unveil our new park (located at 3200 Main St., Lemon Grove). Our website manager, Cynthia Hughes Doyle, is a Treganza descendant and chair for the event. She’s worked tirelessly to create a great event. We are expecting a large number of Treganza descendants converging on Lemon Grove that weekend. At 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8, there will be a free “History Alive!” event for all, about Alberto Treganza’s architectural career and Dr. Amorita Treganza and her family. Cynthia has been doing archival research from here to Salt Lake City, Utah, regarding her grandfather, and it is amazing what she has found out. Amorita was a medical doctor, had a hand in starting the Old Globe theater, and was an original member of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, so she is pretty special to all of us.

On Saturday, Oct. 9, the day will start with a dedication ceremony, antique cars, old-fashioned games, tours of the Parsonage Museum and H. Lee House Cultural Center with archival treasures; these events are all free. That night, we will have a fundraising dinner with auction items and a troupe of Flamenco dancers.

Q: Who is the Treganza family, and what’s their significance to Lemon Grove?

A: All of the family members were quite accomplished for the time. This would take another page!

Q: Where did your own interest in history come from?

A: I was lucky enough to be born in the ‘50s and have seen a lot of history. I always loved history because I was able to travel a lot with my family, so we saw the United States in a Chevrolet. My dad was in the Navy, and then became a history teacher for San Diego city schools, so we shared the love of history and the stories of his life, and the importance of what was going on around us.

Q: What is it that you love/enjoy about history?

A: Everything. To hear a story is one thing, but to delve into the whole story and how it has affected our lives today is really fascinating.

Q: Why are historical societies important to you?

A: We need to preserve history as it is and not try to change it, like I see people trying to do nowadays. Again, I have been able to travel and see American history and European history in the places where it happened. We need to learn from the mistakes made in the past.

Q: What’s been challenging about your work with the historical society?

A: Too much work, too little time.

Q: What’s been rewarding about this work?

A: New friendships and meeting people I would never have met. I have been having fun renting the Lee House and helping with events there.

Q: What has this work taught you about yourself?

A: I can do pretty much everything!

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: Live life to the fullest; life is too short to worry about the small stuff.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: I speak fluent Donald Duck.

Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: Getting lost in my garden or the garden at the Parsonage Museum.




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