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ONE MAN'S WISH FOR SMILES LIGHTS UP STREET.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

It was the smiles Harold Longanecker missed most. Driving down the main street of his hometown at night and seeing families Christmas shopping under the bright holiday decorations along Sherman Way in Reseda.

Maybe he was just being nostalgic or just reliving the fond memories of a man getting on in years, but everyone seemed to have more holiday cheer back then -- even the businessmen.

More smiles, Longanecker told the Reseda Neighborhood Council in a January e-mail after another dark holiday season on Sherman Way -- the 26th in a row.

Those lights and decorations just seemed to make people feel good and lift spirits, Longanecker wrote. Maybe if they came back, so would the smiles. Who knows? It was worth a thought.

``I didn't think I'd hear back from them, but I got a call asking me to come to their next meeting to discuss it with them,'' Longanecker said Friday.

So that's what the 61-year-old mailroom employee at Lockheed Federal Credit Union did. It was a new holiday season, and he was full of optimism again. It felt good after what he had been through the past 10 years.

Cancer took his prostate in 1995, and his mother died in 1996. Then in 1998, he was downsized out of the mailroom clerk job he had held for 19 years in the insurance industry.

He bounced among some part-time jobs for the next couple of years looking for steady work. But nobody wanted to hire full time an aging mailroom clerk in questionable health.

Then his luck changed. One of the bosses at Lockheed's credit union in Burbank, where Longanecker had worked as a temp, wanted to know if he'd like to come back full time. It was the best Christmas present he had gotten in a long, long time, Longanecker said.

``Until I got that job, I was pretty depressed, but once I got back in the swing of things, I took a look at Reseda and realized how dreary Sherman Way was without those lit holiday decorations we used to have up.''

After listening to Longanecker, the 15-member Reseda Neighborhood Council agreed. It spent $16,000 to buy and install 40 lighted holiday decorations, which now line Sherman Way's main shopping district from Lindley to Wilbur avenues.

The council's chairman, Walt Sweeney, says that when the holiday lights were turned on after Thanksgiving, his telephone started ringing and e- mails began arriving by the dozens.

``Reseda has 72,000 people, and it seems everyone who has lived here a long time remembers those old holiday decorations with fondness,'' Sweeney said.

``The feedback welcoming them back has been overwhelming. I even got an e-mail from a woman now living in Boise, Idaho, who moved in 1995 because she said Reseda was going to pot.

``She was back last week visiting friends, saw the holiday decorations back up, and wanted us to know we were moving in the right direction, bringing back a community spirit.

``That's exactly what neighborhood councils are supposed to do,'' Sweeney said.

Nobody knows what happened to the old holiday decorations, but Sweeney thinks they may have been too expensive to store, put up every year and replace.

But now, the holiday lights are back on Sherman Way. Thanks to Harold Longanecker, who missed the smiles.

dennis.mccarthy(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3749

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Harold Longanecker stands at the intersection of Lindley Avenue and Sherman Way, where holiday decorations adorn the street again.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 3, 2006
Words:587
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