Ninety Years Young

Local Couple Spends 70 Years Together.

by Lyndsey Schaefer

Paul_and_Alice_Shinoda.jpgWhen one of her daughters asked my grandmother about having a 70th wedding anniversary party, she replied, “How about a 75th wedding anniversary party?” Her daughter smiled and said, “If you and dad hit 75, we will definitely have a big blowout!”

While platinum is the traditional gift to bestow upon a couple that’s celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary, for my grandparents, Paul and Alice Shinoda, platinum isn’t good enough.

At their 50th anniversary party, Grandpa presented his family with a spiral-bound book called Recollections, an autobiography of sorts. It told the story of his and Grandma’s lives together, beginning when they met at a beach party in Los Angeles shortly after my grandfather had graduated from UC Berkeley as a plant nutrition major. In 1939, he started a nursery in Torrance, which grew to 30 acres by 1942, when America entered World War II after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. Though curfew laws soon were imposed on Japanese-Americans, my grandparents left for Delano, California, with various family members — including their three small children — in the middle of the night. When Executive Order 9066 was issued by Governor Earl Warren, it required anyone of Japanese descent in California to sell their property and be forcibly moved into internment camps. Instead, the Shinoda family traveled north to Idaho, where Grandpa had heard U&I Sugar Company was hiring workers. They took their children via train to Blackfoot, Idaho, only to have Grandpa be rejected by the sugar company, as he was considered too slight to work. He eventually got a job on a farm milking cows and doing construction work.

When that work dried up, the Shinodas moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, in April 1942, where one of my grandfather’s brothers, Uncle Joe Shinoda, had bought a 90-acre dairy farm. Another uncle, Pete, learned how to run that farm, while Grandpa helped grow hay, alfalfa, corn, and sugar beets. After the war, the Shinodas were able to return to California in 1945. The family spent a decade living in Torrance before eventually settling in Santa Barbara in 1966, where Grandpa went into business at Uncle Joe’s San Lorenzo Nursery Company, which had bought 79 acres of land in Santa Barbara. Over time, my grandfather help develop 30 acres under glass, growing orchids, foliage plants, Easter lilies, poinsettias, and chrysanthemums. Grandma and Grandpa were active members of the community, with Grandpa becoming president of the Kiwanis in Santa Barbara, and Grandma a leader of the Tres Condados Girl Scout Council.

Paul and Alice had three children prior to World War II — Paul Jr., Carol, and David — and three children after the war: Michael, Irene, and Roxanne. Today they have 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, not to mention countless extended family members, longtime church friends, and neighbors.

Grandpa retired in 1975. Then he joined a writing class taught by the late Bill Downey at Santa Barbara City College, where he worked on finishing Recollections.

Both my grandparents loved to travel and have seen the world from Japan to Europe. Grandpa also embarked twice a year on deep sea trips to Mexico. They both went on regular fishing trips to Posada Don Diego in Baja, and from 1980-1999, they spent full summers on the Kenai River of Alaska. Over these years, they had 18 different motor homes.

They always promised to take each grandchild on a fishing trip to Alaska. My brother Kevin and I fondly remember those vacations, which included the taste of Grandpa’s smoked salmon, and Kevin fearing for his life while digging for clams.

But it’s not just these great gifts of trips that make them such special people — it’s the little things. From their traditional strawberry waffle breakfasts — only on Sundays — to the way they call each other “Mums” and “Pops,” their daily interactions are like a sitcom.

Their first home in Santa Barbara was designed by famed architect Richard Neutra. With its bevy of rooms and nooks and crannies to roam in, their home on El Camino Real was a grandchild’s playground. Especially since their Welsh corgi, Trooper, would hide with us in closets and under desks, waiting to be found by Grandma. In the large backyard, the grandkids would be free to engage in an all-out warfare of mudslinging until it was too dark to see.

Tragically, their beautiful home was reduced to ash during the Painted Cave fire of 1991 that swept through the hillside, burning decades of Shinoda family memories. They were vacationing in Alaska when the fire hit, which was lucky, and unlucky, since no one was home to salvage anything.

Grandma and Grandpa decided to move rather than rebuild, and soon made a lovely home off State Street, complete with tool shed and woodworking shop for Grandpa and orchid garden, swimming pool, and indoor Japanese soaking tub for Grandma. In his woodshop, Grandpa churned out many handmade items for his family, including jewelry boxes for all of the women, catchalls for the men, a crib for one of the great-grandchildren, and napkin holders adorned with zoris (Japanese for flip-flops) for everyone.

Grandpa also made a conference room table for the church that he and Grandma attended loyally, Bethany Congregational Church in Santa Barbara.

My grandpa, now 93, and grandma, 92, currently reside in Goleta at the Maravilla senior housing community, where they enjoy the leisurely pace of life. So, last October, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren convened in Montecito to celebrate two people whose love has grown over the years, and whose relationship together continues to give hope to newlyweds everywhere — including myself.

Congratulations, Grandma and Grandpa Shinoda! You are an inspiration to us all. Can’t wait for your 75th!

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

City Closes In on New Police Station Location

Santa Barbara's Saturday Farmers Market may lose its 35-year site.

Homeless Could Get ‘Tiny Box’ Homes Downtown

Neighbors complain as City Hall fast-tracks grant application.

Ethnic Studies to Become Graduation Requirement

School board votes unanimously for 2023 start date.

School Shooting Threat to Santa Maria Schools Made via Facebook

Further investigation revealed that suspect did not have access to firearms.

Celebration of Life Ceremony Scheduled for Mark “Marky” Meza, Jr.

The 21-year-old former Carpinteria resident was killed in the Borderline shooting.