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California Pepper Tree sprouts Tiny Town in Coronado

I suddenly felt like Gulliver

Jenny Gyapay checks her “Tiny Town” creation.
Jenny Gyapay checks her “Tiny Town” creation.

I’ve always been a tad cynical about anything cute. Think portraits of children with giant Disney eyes. But I do have chinks in my armor. Here’s one: ambling down C street in Coronado t’other day, I suddenly felt like Gulliver. This sixty-year-old gnarly-trunked California Pepper Tree was sprouting new life. The trunk had filled with tiny bars, churches, the “Puny Gym,” a “Shrimpy’s” burger joint with gnomes eating actual-looking burgers, pizza joints, log ladders, gnomes towing sailboats, a music studio with a gnome playing the piano and a lamb and an elf singing their little hearts out from their log perch outside. Really original stuff. And elves running about preparing to take off on The Big Race around the trunk.

“I made it to fill in covid time during the lockdown,” says Jenny Gyapay, the official Mayor of Tiny Town, who happens to live at the (full-size) house beside the tree and who built every last ladder and structure, from Peewee’s Pizza (the one with the clamshell roof) to the house made of pine cones. I mean, I have to admit, this is totally cute and fascinating. All built up and down the trunk of this ancient California Pepper.

Jenny Gyapay’s Tiny Town is growing - up the pepper tree.

The great thing is, nothing is from professionally-made kits. Starbucks’ cups and shells from the beach make patio umbrellas, pine cones make roofs for little houses, copper pans hang by a tiny stove, and stuff is happening. A goat is waiting on the Troll Bridge until the bad-tempered troll lets him by. Two elves are about to burst off on a race; two more are sleeping off a hangover on a log outside Shorty’s Tiny Town Saloon. A little red trolley rides the fence to get around the town. But it’s not like a model train set. Plastic is rare, and heavily disguised. This whole effort is hand-made, and way more funky-Bohemian than some storebought toyset.

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Why would Gyapay, this active-duty teacher, spend all her time on such an off-the-wall project? “Well, covid lockdown boredom,” she says. “Plus, I am a teacher, a behavioral specialist at Escondido Union School District.” That means dealing with naughty, often tough kids all day. Who would not need a little fantasy relief?

Peewee’s Pizza shop, one of Jenny Gyapay’s many creations.

Next week, Tiny Town will celebrate its first anniversary. “It’s doing well,” says Gyapay (the name comes from her Hungarian-American husband Paul). “Neighbors are always bringing new characters, so our Tiny Town population has risen from 30 to 82.” Partly, she’s driven by the hope that books may result. “I am writing a series,” she says. “‘It’s going to be called the Peppertree Village series. It will be inhabited by pixies, gnomes, fairies, and one angry troll.” First book will be The Big Race, the second, Freda’s Fear of Flying. “Freda’s a fairy,” she explains. “She should be able to fly, don’t you think?”

And while she believes kids need innocent fantasy outlets that aren’t TV-fed, she has to admit that “it would make a great TV series, too.”

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Jenny Gyapay checks her “Tiny Town” creation.
Jenny Gyapay checks her “Tiny Town” creation.

I’ve always been a tad cynical about anything cute. Think portraits of children with giant Disney eyes. But I do have chinks in my armor. Here’s one: ambling down C street in Coronado t’other day, I suddenly felt like Gulliver. This sixty-year-old gnarly-trunked California Pepper Tree was sprouting new life. The trunk had filled with tiny bars, churches, the “Puny Gym,” a “Shrimpy’s” burger joint with gnomes eating actual-looking burgers, pizza joints, log ladders, gnomes towing sailboats, a music studio with a gnome playing the piano and a lamb and an elf singing their little hearts out from their log perch outside. Really original stuff. And elves running about preparing to take off on The Big Race around the trunk.

“I made it to fill in covid time during the lockdown,” says Jenny Gyapay, the official Mayor of Tiny Town, who happens to live at the (full-size) house beside the tree and who built every last ladder and structure, from Peewee’s Pizza (the one with the clamshell roof) to the house made of pine cones. I mean, I have to admit, this is totally cute and fascinating. All built up and down the trunk of this ancient California Pepper.

Jenny Gyapay’s Tiny Town is growing - up the pepper tree.

The great thing is, nothing is from professionally-made kits. Starbucks’ cups and shells from the beach make patio umbrellas, pine cones make roofs for little houses, copper pans hang by a tiny stove, and stuff is happening. A goat is waiting on the Troll Bridge until the bad-tempered troll lets him by. Two elves are about to burst off on a race; two more are sleeping off a hangover on a log outside Shorty’s Tiny Town Saloon. A little red trolley rides the fence to get around the town. But it’s not like a model train set. Plastic is rare, and heavily disguised. This whole effort is hand-made, and way more funky-Bohemian than some storebought toyset.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Why would Gyapay, this active-duty teacher, spend all her time on such an off-the-wall project? “Well, covid lockdown boredom,” she says. “Plus, I am a teacher, a behavioral specialist at Escondido Union School District.” That means dealing with naughty, often tough kids all day. Who would not need a little fantasy relief?

Peewee’s Pizza shop, one of Jenny Gyapay’s many creations.

Next week, Tiny Town will celebrate its first anniversary. “It’s doing well,” says Gyapay (the name comes from her Hungarian-American husband Paul). “Neighbors are always bringing new characters, so our Tiny Town population has risen from 30 to 82.” Partly, she’s driven by the hope that books may result. “I am writing a series,” she says. “‘It’s going to be called the Peppertree Village series. It will be inhabited by pixies, gnomes, fairies, and one angry troll.” First book will be The Big Race, the second, Freda’s Fear of Flying. “Freda’s a fairy,” she explains. “She should be able to fly, don’t you think?”

And while she believes kids need innocent fantasy outlets that aren’t TV-fed, she has to admit that “it would make a great TV series, too.”

Sponsored
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