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34-Year Tradition : Neighbors Know How to Keep a Party Going

September 21, 1986|NANCY GRAHAM | Times Staff Writer

He can't verify it with the Guinness Book of Records, but Bel-Air resident John P. Shelton is convinced that his neighborhood block party holds the world record for longevity.

Even more remarkable than its longevity, Shelton said, is the phenomenon of a down-home type block party in an exclusive community where the wealthy usually seek anonymity behind high walls and shrubbery.

Seventy-five to 100 men, women and children showed up recently for the 34th annual "Linda/Orum" block party at the cul-de-sac of Orum Road, just above Linda Flora Drive. A few participants, such as Clara and Bill Berry, remember the first block party in 1952.

Although the Linda/Orum group has no official membership roll, no dues, no official name and loosely defined boundaries, the people involved in it say they have strong bonds to their neighbors and pride in their community.

Many of their children, now grown, learned to participate in community activities and discovered their own artistic talents while preparing for the annual block parties and the plays and musicals they performed as part of the yearly event. Some of the children, such as Julie Welch, now 25, were writing and producing plays and musicals for the block party while still in their early teens.

Marge Bowers, a costume designer whose son, Tom, worked with Welch in putting together the shows, said she thinks the plays will return when the new crop of neighborhood children are old enough to participate.

"This is a lovely place to live," Ivy Shelton said. "There is a feeling of spiritual unity. You really want to do things for your neighbor. It's very easy to have a Neighborhood Watch up here. I know everybody and their cars. They know me.

"I think more than everything else, it's a feeling of security and identification with the neighborhood."

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