Sun City is one of four identical retirement communities designed by Del Webb in the 1960s, located along Interstate 215, in Riverside County, California. It spans four square miles, contains two golf courses, and its primary purpose is to accommodate folks ages 55 and older. This concentrated demographic of the elderly provides for a plethora of eccentrically decorated homes–I set out last week to explore and photograph some of them.
While out snapping, I was approached by a Mr. Sam Bybee, who looked curiously at me photographing his front lawn. “So you like what I’ve done with the place?” he asked me, pulling out his wallet and showing me a badge. “I was a Texas Ranger for 32 years. This lawn is a tribute to a life I once knew. Want a tour?” I followed him into the backyard, passing an overweight beagle, whom he referred to lovingly by the name Peaches. “I’ve owned 117 dogs. I just had to bury one today. I get them from the pound up the street, so they don’t have to put as many of them down. If any of your friends ever want one, I get them their shots and give them away for free. Never could respect anyone who charged money for a dog.” He opened a sliding door and motioned for me to follow. He said jokingly, “I’d like to buy a pretty lady a drink.” I found myself sitting at a kitchen counter, sipping a 7Up, while he told me more of his past. “I came to California to do some training in Fort Roberts. There were dances held once a week up in Newport, and that’s how I met my first wife. We were together until she died in ’84, then I moved here. One of her girlfriends followed me, and we ended up married–been that way since. She just had a stroke a few weeks back, which left her paralyzed from the waist down. She’s fine though, a real trooper. Camping out in the living room right now.” He took me to meet her. I didn’t know what to expect, but when I walked in, a very small, cute lady in (I’m only guessing, now) her early seventies was sitting in a rocking chair, crocheting with the television on. Mrs. Bybee had short red hair and wore enormous bifocals that made her eyes appear to be as wide as tea plates. She looked up at me and smiled politely. Mr. Bybee introduced me and told her about my interest in the front lawn. “See Marjorie, someone appreciates the way I decorate,” he said proudly. ”You like it?” she asked me, in utter disbelief. “My, my. That’s all I have to say about that.”
My chat with the Bybees lasted for about an hour before my mother called me home for dinner. When I got up to leave, Mr. Bybee slipped me a calling card of sorts, which I found rather humorous and stored safely in my pocket to include in this recounting (shown below, but with some of the information covered–for privacy reasons, of course–by another picture I took that day). From her rocking chair, Mrs. Bybee waved goodbye and said in her small, childlike voice, “It was lovely meeting you. Please come back very soon!”