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Ventura County Perspective

Different Regions, Similar Nonetheless

September 10, 2000|JOAN D. AYRAL | Joan D. Ayral is a freelance writer who lives in Thousand Oaks

In 1991 my husband and I moved to a town just north of Atlanta, at the center of what is sometimes called the Bible Belt. Young people I didn't even know greeted me on the street with, "Good morning, ma'am," and the everyday dress code was just a little short of white gloves.

In the South the first question asked after we were introduced to someone was, "What church do you go to?" And when I asked what I should wear out to dinner with the Newcomers Group, the answer was "what you would wear to church."

When I took a course to get my Georgia license for selling insurance the icebreaker question asked by the teacher was, "What do you think had the most impact on your life?" At least two men in the small, almost all male class answered, "when God became part of my life." And in restaurants you would see men bow their heads to pray before they ate, even at a business lunch.

At the concerts in the town square, my husband and the other former servicemen stood when the song from their branch of service was played. And at the fashion show at the Founders Club, grace was said before we had lunch.

Politeness permeated the atmosphere in the South; people even wrote thank-you notes.

When we told friends we were going to retire in the Los Angeles area, they were concerned. Even though we said "north of L.A." they could only picture us living in that capital of American hedonism surrounded by young people sporting tongue studs and tattoos.

Now we live in Ventura County, in the shadow of Cal Lutheran University and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. At a play in a small local theater, I overheard part of a conversation: "Now isn't that the sin of pride?" And in the supermarket I heard a mother say to her complaining son, "Just offer it up."

The personal columns in our local newspaper feature ads that read "SM muscular build, sense of humor, enjoys working out. Seeking SF believes in God, goes to church."

Listening to the radio in my car, I heard an ad for a seafood grill and cantina that invited patrons for breakfast after church. An obituary in the paper began with, "On July 11 God called home a great person."

When I went to pay for some copies at a local shop I found I needed a quarter and went to break a $20 bill. Another customer handed me a quarter.

At a charity fashion show and lunch at Lake Sherwood Country Club, a woman I know gave the invocation. And at the July 4 patriotic concert at Dover Hendrix Park, my husband again stood when they played the U.S. Army song.

Sometimes, the Southland doesn't feel too different from the South after all.

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