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Teague Dynasty Built on Lemons and Politics : Santa Paula: The line began in 1893, with the arrival of C.C. Teague, a Yankee from Maine who became a pioneering rancher. His son, Charles McKevett Teague, was a U.S. congressman.

FAMILIES: Portraits from the Home Front. One in an occasional series. ABOUT THIS SERIES: "Families: Portraits from the Home Front" is an occasional series on the lives of Ventura County families. The series looks at all kinds of families in the county, the traditional and the non-traditional, the old-line dynasty and the newly-arrived immigrant. All shapes. All sizes.

June 18, 1995|MACK REED | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the shadow of the hillside mansion built by his great-grandfather lives woodworker Chuck Teague.

The descendant of one of Ventura County's best-known families--a Santa Paula dynasty built on lemon ranching and Republican politics--is raising his twin 4-year-old daughters in a modest, one-story fixer-upper.

"Hey, Chuck," jibe Teague's friends, "why don't you own one of those big houses up on the hill?"

"I say, 'Well, I'd prefer to own a small house,' " he replies. Then he jokes, "I like living in a house I have to do my own work on. And I'd rather not do any traveling, either."

Fact is, Chuck and Laura Teague bought their little two-bedroom house when Ventura County's housing market peaked in 1988, then saw the recession crush their plans to fix and resell it.

However people see him, Chuck Teague is--like many who live in his blue-collar neighborhood just off Harvard Boulevard--decidedly down-to-earth.

He used to blush when people raved over the deeds of his great-grandfather, pioneering citrus rancher Charles Collins (C.C.) Teague. Or when they told him what a great neighbor and congressman Santa Paula had in his grandfather, U.S. Rep. Charles McKevett Teague.

Now, he tries to meet each compliment with grateful thanks, but cannot shake his bashful modesty.

"Gosh, it's like anybody when your ancestors are well thought-of. . . . Sure it's something to be proud of," says the 34-year-old Teague in the family's tidy living room, which is decorated with vintage citrus labels and a few sticks of well-preserved antique furniture.

He walks into the bright little kitchen. Soon, supper will be ready for Chuck, Laura and their sweet, rambunctious 4-year-old twins, Caitlyn and Alison.

"I've always felt very fortunate to have had the ancestors I had and do have," Chuck continues, stirring a fragrant, sizzling pan of chicken teriyaki. "But at the same time, it's kind of embarrassing in a way."

The Teagues, like the descendants of the Camarillo and McGrath families, stand among a handful of true dynasties that have shaped Ventura County.

Their line began in 1893, with the arrival of C.C. Teague, a Yankee from Maine.

At 20, C.C. Teague came with his family to work in Santa Paula's lemon groves. His career spanned six decades, a period during which he helped modernize the citrus industry and built the Limoneira Co. into one of the largest lemon producers in the world.

C.C. Teague's son, Charles McKevett Teague, held a seat in Congress for nearly 20 years, strengthening the county's Republican Party on a steady diet of folksy campaigning and grass-roots service.

And today, C.C. Teague's grandson (and Chuck Teague's father), Alan Teague, 57, straddles the twin streams of his family's legacy--as board chairman of the Limoneira Co. and past mayor of Santa Paula.

ALAN MIRRORS THE COUNTY

Alan Teague is, like his sons, his father and his aunt and uncle, a passionate community volunteer. And he is head of a clan that has--for the depth of its roots, spread its branches far and thin.

About 33 Teagues in all--nuclear families, divorcees and elderly widows--are scattered across the state and the country in pursuit or the fulfillment of their own lives and dreams. When they come together, it's usually a few at a time for the occasional family barbecue, holiday feast or weekend visit.

"We are not a huge family in that sense," says Alan Teague, who still lives in Santa Paula, like his son, Chuck, and his family; his ex-wife, Betsey; and his aunt, Alfrida. "But we still keep our ties. It's informal and friendly."

Anchored, yet changing, the Teagues mirror the old Ventura County and the new.

And despite the family's holdings--they own a substantial share of stock in the 4,000-acre Limoneira Co. and Alan Teague is a busy real estate speculator--the Teagues insist they are not among the super rich.

"If that wealth's out there, just send me the check," joked Alan Teague. "I'll spend it."

Alan Teague learned the citrus business from the ground up, graduating from sweat labor to bookkeeping and, ultimately, administration of the Teague-McKevett ranch.

As his job title rose, his political stock was rising too. Weaned on summertime clerical work in his father's congressional office, Teague won a City Council seat in 1966. Four years later, at age 32, he was named mayor.

Meanwhile, he was giving up to 40 local stump speeches a month for his father's reelection bid while Charles McKevett Teague was busy in Washington.

When his father died Jan. 1, 1974, friends and political allies turned immediately to Alan, pressing him to run in March, 1974, for the empty congressional seat. But he declined, instead offering support to a good friend, Robert Lagomarsino, who ran and won.

"I just couldn't see taking my kids back there" to Washington, Alan Teague said. "We had some pretty fun things going on right here in Santa Paula. I liked horseback riding and farming. It just didn't seem the thing to do."

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