Meet the people and places from the stories I tell throughout
Soap & Soul. This is my family and our history. I do believe that every family has a story to tell, and I hope I get to hear yours someday.
Be sure to click on the first picture in each chapter to see them full size and scroll through the slide show.
Table of Contents Introduction
My son’s home for a month in 2020: “The dulcet tones of bass brass drifting across the countryside.” September 2020
My family: my mom, David, my dad, me, Mike. Circa 1981
My brother Mike and me at my high school graduation, unaware of our soapmaking future. June 1994
With my brothers Mike and David, carroting around at Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas, CA. June 2022
My family that leads the company today, plus Santa: my brother Mike, me, my mom Trudy, my husband Michael, my brother David. December 2022
The bottle of the flagship Peppermint Pure-Castile Soap has not changed much in the last 50 years.
Welcome to my home. A favorite, though rare, sight at my house: snow. It happened once.
“Sunrises rival sunsets in their brilliance” at my house.
“The misty marine layers of May and June creep up the hillsides each morning, turning the mountaintops to islands in the clouds.” Chapter 1: The Bath and Bedroom
With my #1, discovering there is magic in the world in January 2005.
With kiddo #3, August 2009.
Juggling three young kids, an extra arm would have been super helpful. April 2010 Chapter 2: The Cleaning Cabinet
Michael and me during our engagement, 1997.
My children were my biggest motivation to “go green,” especially after the 409 Moment with my #2.
Sadie, my “canine streak gleefully flying by the front window, giving me occasion to breathe some fresh air and get to know my neighbors.” Chapter 3: The Laundry Room
My grandfather Dr. Emanuel Bronner as I remember him, 1987.
Michael’s tours of the factory are always precise and packed with information.
Michael and I in a rare moment together at work in front of the All-One Magic Schoolbus. Chapter 4: The Kitchen
My dad Jim Bronner: “He rose from the bottom rung as a Seaman Recruit to Chief Petty Officer.” Circa 1962
“My dad’s cooking was outlandish. Prime rib slow roasted in front of the fireplace suspended by rope and turnbuckle from the ceiling.”
My parent’s engagement party, 1968.
Aunt Gisela & Uncle Ralph, my parents, and Aunt Margaret posing in 1981 a la 1920.
Only my parents could rock the crocheted dress and ruffled shirt so perfectly. Circa 1981
To my dad I was his Little Miss Muffet.
My dad taught me many things about chemistry, cards, and life.
My mom climbing to the top of the All-One Firetruck, 2015.
My mom and I with our matching smiles on the streets of New York, 2019.
My dad in front of his Snofoamer II. Chapter 5: The Office
“In 2012 I lost my fear and found my public voice.” Speaking at a rally on behalf of the “Yes on 37” campaign.
Filming tutorials from my kitchen, July 2023. You can never trust the edibility of what’s bubbling on my stove.
This certificate authorized my great- great- grandfather to begin making soap in Laupheim (now Germany) in 1858.
With my grandfather at one of his last conventions, Las Vegas 1992. Chapter 6: The Backyard
“A black Labrador named Tucker–the sweetest, friendliest fellow you ever would meet.”
“Every time we walked in the door, or if he just hadn’t seen us in a while because we’d been in another room or he’d been napping, Tucker would greet us with a gift.”
Tucker helped me demonstrate many green tips, such as my dad’s Euco-Peppo Bear Wash.
Same story every year: “The pumpkin vines are in bed with the peppers, the beans have toppled their cages, and the zucchini are the size of baseball bats.”
My Backyard: “I feel the journey of the wind across the land, the journey of the Earth around the sun, the rhythm of creation, the pulse of the skies.” Chapter 7: The Family Room
“The maxim says the family that prays together stays together, but there’s also something deeply bonding for the family that reads together.” Circa 1978.
Pop, vice president and chief inventor at a Los Angeles chemical manufacturer, pictured here at work with his “thousands of pages of research.”
The whole family playing in Snofoam, my dad’s creation.
The Trudy Bronner Children’s Discover Garden at the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum in Escondido, CA.
The James A. Bronner Family Branch of the Boys & Girls Club in Valley Center, CA.
My dad Jim and Uncle Ralph, Warner Springs, CA in 1985. Afterword
On my 18th birthday, when my parents gave me my piano: “Pop was not a musical person…He had learned, at the age of 56, to play “Happy Birthday” just for me.”
The sign taped to my piano said, “‘For your birthday, Christmas, college graduation, marriage, and first baby shower.’ He lived to see all but the last one of those.”
Uncle Ralph, the tireless storyteller: “He’d load up his van with soap-it fit 39 cases- pick a city, and with his wife, my Aunt Gisela, visit every health store.”
“You could always find Uncle Ralph by following the children who flocked to him. He was like the pied piper of soap.”
My dad giving a toast at our wedding reception before dancing one final “Sunrise, Sunset” with me. June 1998: Appendix: Five Generations of Soapmaking
Emanuel and Luise Heilbronner, my family’s first generation of soapmakers, circa 1858.
The house and first soapmaking factory in Laupheim, Germany.
I’m standing at the grave of my great great grandmother Luise Heilbronner, in Laupheim, Germany in 2018.
Karl Heilbronner who with his brothers Berthold and Sigmund founded the second generation of soapmaking in Heilbronn, Germany.
Berthold and Franziska Heilbronner with their daughters Luise and Lotte who were unsuccessful in convincing them to leave Germany in 1938.
The Stolpersteine, or Stumbling Stones, placed outside residences in Germany commemorate all who perished or were displaced by the Holocaust.
The marker placed in the Jewish cemetary in Laupheim in honor of my great grandparents who perished in Theresienstadt and Auschwitz.
My grandfather Emanuel Bronner on the shores of Lake Michigan after he immigrated to America as a young man, circa 1930.
My grandparents Emanuel and Paula Bronner, circa 1934.
My grandmother Paula with her three children, Ellen, Jimmy, and Ralph.
My grandpa and dad, with a poem written on the back: “March close together- Descendants of all tribes; Leave hates and jealousies down in the gutter.”
A moment where my grandfather thought he was done refining his Moral ABC. He edited it many more times.
My great aunt Luise Bronner speaking on reconciliation and peace in Heilbronn, Germany, circa 1952.
A portrait of my great aunt Luise Bronner at the school named in her honor in Heilbronn, Germany. She was a founding professor at UMass Boston.
My grandfather Dr. Bronner with much of the family in 1985. Don’t be jealous of my pink shorts!
David and Mike with Tante Lotte in Haifa, Israel in 2008. David holds a copy of the 1858 soapmaking certificate and a brick from the Heilbronn factory.
My brother David, me, cousin Eric, cousin Mark, brother Mike on the steps of the Heilbronn factory in 2018.
My aunt Ellen Bronner with her father Dr. Bronner circa 1978.
Cousin Judy adding her handprint to the family heart at the company headquarters in Vista, CA in 2022.
I’m sitting on S. Hope St. in Los Angeles near the site where my grandfather first made his Peppermint Castile Soap in the States in 1948. Picture 2023. Further reading
How the Label Was Born
Five Generations of Soapmakers Built Dr. Bronner’s
The Five Soapmaking Locations of Bronner Family Soaps
Lisa Bronner: The Man I Called Grandpa