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News 8 Throwback: Larry Himmel series on beautiful backyards from 1990s

From an elaborate koi pond in Santee to an extraordinary tropical island paradise in Casa de Oro, these suburban sanctuaries made the cut for Larry's backyard series

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — In the 1990s, News 8's Larry Himmel explored the best, most unique backyards in San Diego County. From an elaborate koi pond in Santee to an extraordinary tropical island paradise in Casa de Oro, these suburban sanctuaries made the cut.

General store and more in National City

 In searching for unique and interesting backyards, News 8's Larry Himmel found this wild one in the San Diego suburb of National City. A miniature town was created in Judy Strahan's backyard that served as an homage to her childhood memories and her family's long history in the area. The buildings included everything from town hall to a blacksmith shop to a bank. Strahan's Mercantile was the focal point with products from decades before. Stepping inside was like stepping back in time.

Casa de Oro tropical paradise

Linda Childress contacted News 8 recently to see if we could find the story about their San Diego backyard. They were happy to see it after all these years. It took four years to create it but generations of the Childress family have enjoyed the tropical paradise in Case de Oro. 

'Ghost Town Mining Camp' in El Cajon

This definitely is one of the more unusual backyards Larry visited. Robert Sams collected relics from the 1800s and turned his El Cajon yard into an old mining camp. He even reconstructed a mine shaft. Outhouse holes decorated a wall. Larry joked that they didn't look very comfortable and they didn't have "People" magazines to read while sitting on them. Wylie the tortoise adds the perfect touch to the scene chomping on lettuce. 

Amazing koi pond in Santee

Dutch Hightower's Santee backyard had it all--a pool, a gazebo, a jacuzzi, and a built-in barbecue. But what made his outdoor oasis so special was a huge koi pond stocked with colorful fish. He must have really loved it because his monthly electric bill was $255--a large sum in any era. He relaxed in the evening to the soothing sounds of the running water--worth the price and effort it took to keep it up.  

Family fun in a Fallbrook yard

Rudy and Gloria Adame turned their Fallbrook backyard into a combination of a tropical paradise and a sports complex. As a landscape architect, Rudy did most of the work making the space look serene while also adding a trampoline, basketball and volleyball courts, a tetherball pole and more for his kids and neighbors to enjoy. He was working on adding a jacuzzi and spa when News 8's Larry Himmel came to try out the facilities built for family fun.