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Verdugo Views: Sunshine society gets 'Rejuvenated'

May 03, 2012|By Katherine Yamada
  • The first edition of the Sunshiner's Magazine, printed by the Verdugo Hills Sunshine Society, came off the press in 1936. It was sent to members of the organization, which operated Twelve Oaks Lodge, a small retirement home on Sycamore Avenue in La Crescenta.
The first edition of the Sunshiner's Magazine,… (Courtesy of the…)

The Verdugo Hills Sunshine Society was formed in the early 1930s with the goal of operating a home-like boarding home for elderly people of culture and refinement.

Charter members James and Effie Fifield helped form the society with the specific intention of donating their home, named Twelve Oaks Lodge, to the group.

The Fifields, from Minneapolis, wintered in what was then called Verdugo City for many years.

When James Fifield died in 1933, Effie Fifield took over his publishing business. She also wrote several novels, and one, ‘‘Rejuvenated,’’ was illustrated by her niece, Inez Brown, who lived in this area. After her husband’s death, Effie Fifield spent more time here and began the process of turning her home on Sycamore Avenue over to the society.

Grace J. Overbeck, secretary to the Fifields and the society’s historian, wrote numerous articles about the project; they were printed in the Glendale News-Press and The Ledger in the 1930s. Recently, these articles were placed in scrapbooks by Joy Lang, a past president of National Charity League, Glendale Chapter. They are on file at Twelve Oaks.

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In one article, Overbeck reported that members were “busily engaged in arranging the club’s rooms. They were choosing dishes, silverware, draperies and other household items in preparation for entertainments to which they are happily looking forward.”

“The society’s ‘No Debt’ slogan put them in a class by themselves in this debt-depressing decade,’’ she wrote another time. Their entertainment often included card parties, potlucks and open houses for members who wanted to see the facilities for themselves.

In 1935, the Sunshiners decorated a large Deodar cedar tree at the corner of the Fifield residence, laying claim to the first lighted Christmas tree in the valley. Overbeck added that, somehow, they also managed to put a lighted cross on the roof.

When Effie Fifield celebrated her 80th birthday on Valentine’s Day, 1937, more than 100 guests brought greeting cards. They also planted a tree, another Deodar, in her honor.

She died in November 1937 after a lengthy illness, and her contribution to the society was recognized at their next annual meeting. There, leaders stressed that Twelve Oaks was not a charity home, but a home that could be had at a nominal sum, according to a 1938 Ledger article.

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