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Lasting bond of princesses, fathers

For the 32nd year, friends who were in an Indian Princesses tribe as 6-year-olds and their dads meet in Corona del Mar for an annual reunion.

December 31, 2006|By Michael Miller

NEWPORT BEACH — Adolescence. Young adulthood. College. Careers. Marriage and children.

Over the last three decades, the Indian Princesses who gather over the holidays at the Five Crowns Restaurant have weathered them all — and so have their fathers, who still accompany them 32 years after they first put on ponchos and feathers.

In 1974, a group of seven 6-year-old Corona del Mar girls joined Indian Princesses, a nationwide group for girls and their fathers, and formed their own tribe. During elementary school, the girls — Sydney Frazier, Amy Peckenpaugh, Kim Nelson, Jill Tyler, Carolyn Elwood, Merritt Blake and Sandy Onken — took vacations together, accompanied their fathers to holiday dinners and formed a lasting bond.

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As girlhood gave way to young adulthood, the tribe members were happy to remain Kickapoos — and on Friday, they proved it for the 33rd year in a row, as three women and five fathers congregated for the annual dinner at the Five Crowns.

"We would get dressed up and they [patrons at the restaurant] would make comments like, 'How cute! Look at those dads and their daughters all dressed up!' " said Frazier, who flew in from North Carolina to attend this year's gathering. "As we moved into our 20s, we became confident young women, and people started to make other comments like, 'What are those men doing with those women?'

"We would explain that we were fathers and daughters, and they would say, 'Oh!' "

It's been a while — nearly 30 years — since the women in the group dressed up as Indian Princesses. Moreover, they're scattered wide, with members in North Carolina, Arizona, New York, San Diego and San Francisco.

Their parents, however, still live in Southern California — and they've grown as close over the years as their daughters. In the past, the men and women used to sit side-by-side at the holiday dinner; now, they split into two groups so the fathers can share stories.

Even as they reached ages when many girls try to distance themselves from their parents, the original Kickapoos still enjoyed celebrating the holidays with family.

"When they're 6, 7, 8 years old, they're all pretty much the same, but as they grew older, they matured in different directions — some more religious, some more social," said Sam Spragins, Frazier's father. "But if you ask them, they had a special bond with each other, which was the Kickapoos."

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