ALAN SCOTT LIGDAMale View treeBorn: 1942-06-04Died: 2008-01-09
Children: none
Siblings: none

Alan was Ted Ligda’s only child, born of his marriage to Mildred.  His youth was marked by frequent family moves as his parents drived much of their income from the purchase of homes in need of repair, fixing them, and selling at a profit.  After his parents divorced, Alan lived with his mother who speculated in real estate, often moving into houses she purchased.  By age seventeen, Alan recalled living in seventeen different homes including a year spent living with his Grandmother Ligda at 2132 Haste Street in Berkeley.  He claimed never to attend the same school for two years in succession although he did attend a few more than once.  His last complete school year was in 1957-58 at Carlmont High in Belmont.  He was then living with his father at 1662 Laurel Street in San Carlos.  When he moved back with his mother in Palo Alto, he enrolled at Palo Alto High for his sophomore year, but dropped out after a few weeks.  Alansays he is “justifiably modest” about his early academic career.

Alan enlisted in the Marine Corps on his 17th birthday in 1959 and served four years leaving with the rank of Lance Corporal.  His military service took him to MCAS, El Toto, California, the American Embassy in Oslo, Norway, Marine Corps School, Quantico, Virginia, the USS Long Beach (CG(N)-9), the USS Wasp (CVS-18), and into the Second Marine Division at Camp Lejune, North Carolina.  During his service, he qualified as a rifle expert.

In February of 1966, Alan went to Copenhagen, Denmark to study.  There he met Inge Jansen 1 and fell in love.  They were married on April 6, 1968 in Strandmarkskirk, Hvidovre and made their first home in Denmark, but moved to Los Altos, California later in the year.  They returned to Denmark in 1970.  The decision to relocate was based on a number of things, among them United States involvement in the Viet Nam War.  Neither he nor Inge wanted to raise a family if their sons would be subject to conscription.  Both felt Danish society was more peaceful, predictable, orderly, and safer than what existed in the United States at the time.  Before leaving, they purchased a house sight unseen at Blegivij 65 in Odder.  After settling in, Inge took a job at a home furnishings store in Asrhus; Alan became manager of a record store doing work similar to work he had done in California.  He was later hired to work at a larger store in Randers, a 35 mile commute from Odder. 2

In 1972, the Ligdas sold their house in Odder and bought a larger home in Randers.  During the few weeks the former owners needed to vacate, Alan and Inge came to California to visit his mother.  On arrival, they learned she was suffering from cancer in the terminal stages – a condition she had kept from them.  On sensing her needs, they returned to Denmark, cancelled the purchase contract, gave notice to their prospective employers, and shipped their possessions to California.  On August 15, 1972, they left Denmark for New York and took the train to Philadelphia where they picked up a car for delivery to California.  Alan described the cross country trip as memorable.  The car lacked air conditioning and a radio.  Alan had a portable tape player and a single tape – the Beatles Golden Oldies  with songs both had committed to memory long before the journey’s end.

Alan and Inge bought his mother’s house at 146 Hawthorne Avenue in Los Altos and assumed responsibility of caring for her until her death on August 15, 1973.  Alan also used the time to pursue his education, enrolling at Foothill College where he studied history, drama, commercial art, geology, and music.  He made the Dean’s List.  He became quite adept at hand composition and letterpress printing, skills he later put to use commercially to help support the family.

Alan assumed management of Hermes Publications, a company his mother owned.  He described it as: ” . . . probably the smallest publishing company in the State, if not the Nation.”  He published a successful hard cover reprint edition of Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, Fundamentals of Book Collecting by Maurice Dunbar, one of Alan’s professors at Foothill College, and a limited edition of In Search of Steinbeck 3  He had considerable faminiarity with films, many of which he watched repeatedly.  Additionally he always read and sometimes memorized the names in the film credits.  He said this gave him: ” . . . the ability to project a knowledge of motion pictures I didn’t actually have.”  The Seattle Times of May 18, 1986 named City Lights, ” . . . the best stocked video store in the Seattle area.”

On April 11, 1983, Jeffrey Scott Ligda, their second son was born..  Despite the demands of parenthood, Inge made the time to work part time at the store.  Kenny helped.  By 1985, Inge was working full time and, by 1987, the store had again outgrown its location.  Alan got new quarters with 6,000 square feet at 82 Front Street South.  City Lights had become one of the largest video stores in the Pacific Northwest.

Despite his success, Alan was uncertain the demand for video rentals would continue.  He was quoted in the Seattle Times of July 23, 1991 as visualizing a system where movies would be distributed to homes by satellite forcing outlet stores to concentrate primarily on specialty videos.  City Lights began its decline when the City of issaquah converted Front Street from two way to a single arterial street that became choiked with bumper to bumper traffic twice daily.  Regular customers fround it difficult to get the the store.  It was difficult to attract new customers.  Alan’s lease did not allow him to move the business.  This impediment, coupled with his own concerns for future growth, led him to the decision to close the business.  On September 1, 1995, City Lights held a sale of its stock of nearly 13,000 films.  When Alan opened the doors at 7 a.m., he found a line of customers stretching more than two blocks.  Some had come from as far as Los Angeles.  Some had waited all night.

Afte closing the business, Alan went to work as the video buyer for Movieola Video in Redmond, Washington.  When Anne, Brandy, Duke, and I visited him in January of 2000, he considered himself semi retired, taking part time openings that interested him.  He had one experience at a hardware store where his employer put him out on the floor without any training.  He resigned, confessing he knew less about home repairs than most of the customers and, in attempting to answer their questions, probably did them more harm than good.  At that time, Inge was working at the Bright Horizons Preschool.  While she was at work, Alan took a day to show us the surrounding area and some of his favorite haunts in Seattle which included the Mighty Mouse Toy Store, the Northwest Gallery of Fine Woodwork, and the Elliot Bookstore.

I never saw Alan again.  We traded emails from time to time as well as cards at Christmas.  His diabetes worsened to the point his feet had to be amputated.  I spoke with him by phone after the operation.  He was in good spirits, seemed to be adjusting to his condition without complaint, and even managed to joke about it a bit.  His 2007 Christmas contained a note that he and Inge were expecting to become grandparents, “December 30 or so.”  Rosalind arrived a day ahead of schedule in Palo Alto.  Alan came to California to see and hold her.  He died on January 9, 2008, shortly after returning home.


  1. Inge was born July 9, 1945 to Jorgen Hartvig Jansen and Helga Bjerg.
  2. My girlfriend and I visited Alan and Inge in Denmark in 1971.  They were wonderful hosts, showing us the sights of Copenhagen and taking us on a day trip to Malmo in Sweden where cigarettes sold for a fraction of the cost in Denmark.  I didn’t smoke, but Alan did and by filling both his and my quotas, he had cigarettes to last several weeks.
  3. by Anne-Marie Schmitz for which he won a Western Books Award in 1979.

    Alan was diagnosed as an adult-onset diabetic in 1976 and began taking insulin several times daily.  On September 19th of that year, the Ligda’s first son, Kenneth Scott, was born at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto.

    In July 1979, on an impulse, alan and Inge decided to move to Washington.  They flew to Seattle.  Two days later, while on a walk, Inge saw a house she liked.  Alan looked it over, agreed, and they bought it.  On October 1, 1979, the famly moved into their new home at 2101 192nd Avenue, SE in Issaquah.  Alan used the garage to house two printing presses and over five tons of foundry type which he used to start Archive Press, a printing/publishing company.  Inge took a job with Ashwood Montessori School in Bellevue.

    From March through November of 1982, Alan worked part time at Videonites, one of the early video rental stores on the east side of Puget Sound.  He enjoyed the work so much, he decided to open his own business.  On august 15, 1983, Alan opened City Lights Video at 40 Front Street in downtown Issaquah.  City Lights was an immediate success.  Within a year, the business outgrew its original 1,000 square foot location.  Alan moved the business to 98 Front Street South where he had 3,500 square feet.  Alan bought films agressively concentrating on classics, foreign, fine art, and family movies.  He said he drew on the: ” . . . experience I gained while cutting classes and going to movies as a teenager.” 4 Alan had also worked at the Palo Alto Film Festival in the 1970’s writing their programs and doing typesetting.  During this period he met his lifelong friend,             who later became the projectionist for the Stanford Theatre and was eqully knowledgable about movies.  Alan often commented, if asked a question about a film he didn’t know, “Ernie would know that.”