Friday, May 20, 2016

The Counterculture in Orange County

Handbill promoting Yippie Day at Disneyland, Aug. 6, 1970.
While the monolithic notion of Orange County as an ultra-conservative bedroom community has long been laid to rest, little has yet been said about the small but active counterculture that flourished here for generations. O.C. has seen quasi-utopian colonies, Timothy Leary’s Laguna adventures, bohemian artists' colonies, Aldous Huxley’s visit to Trabuco Canyon’s Ramakrishna Monastery, the Yippies’ “liberation” of Disney’s Tom Sawyer’s Island, "Happenings," the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, subversive bookstores, and many more examples of local free-thinkers, beatniks, non-conformists, cultists, Communists, iconoclasts, and unclassifiable wingnuts. 

 Curious to learn more about this part of our past? Register for the annual dinner of the Orange County Historical Society, June 10th, 2016. There, journalist/author/commentator Jim Washburn will “discuss the leftish side of the county, in a manner that shows just how entertaining history can be when the speaker has no regard for facts.” (Ed: Don't tell Jim I said this, but he's really quite good about getting his facts straight.)
Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley and Linus Pauling at the Ramakrishna Monastery, Trabuco Canyon, 1960.
Washburn has written about music, popular culture and politics for the L.A. Times, O.C. Register, O.C. Weekly and publications from Rolling Stone to Reader’s Digest. He co-authored the book Martin Guitars, an Illustrated Celebration and the John Crean autobiography, The Wheel and I. He has curated four exhibits at the Fullerton Museum Center, on such topics as O.C.’s rock music history and O.C. in the disco era. (If you attended his earlier OCHS talk on the history of rock music in Orange County, you know why you need to hear him speak again!)
Timothy Leary: "Rec'd from Orange County 3-18-70."
This year's OCHS annual dinner will be held in the Historic Friends Church (1888), which is now part of Moreno’s Restaurant in El Modena. For more information or to sign up, see the OCHS website. As of this writing, there's about a week left in which to register. There will be no walk-ins allowed.(Yes, I know,... all these rules are a real drag, man. Just another example of "the man" trying to keep you down.)
Tim Morgon performs at Balboa beatnik hangout The Prison of Socrates.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A couple events this weekend...

...and if you can't make it to this event in Costa Mesa on Sunday (or even if you can), also consider the big Vintage Postcard and Paper Show and the Glendale Civic Auditorium, which runs BOTH days this weekend!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pioneer Andres R. Arevalos

Andres Arevalos turns first shovelful of dirt at Arevalos School groundbreaking, 1964.
In the 1950s and 1960s, during Orange County’s unprecedented population boom, schools were being built at a shocking rate. Each school district had its own naming conventions. The policy of the Fountain Valley School District (which also overlaps the City of Huntington Beach) was to name schools for local pioneers like William T. Newland, Hisamatsu Tamura, Robert B. Wardlow and William D. Lamb. Today, many of those schools have closed and in some cases only the adjoining parks – also bearing the pioneers’ names – remain. Now that there’s talk of changing the names of some of those parks, I thought it worthwhile to share a little bit about each of their original namesakes.

Researching Lamb’s biography for my March 22, 2016 post proved pretty straightforward. But it was much more difficult finding information about the namesake of Arevalos Elementary School, built at 19692 Lexington Lane in Huntington Beach.

Andres Reynoso “Andrew” Arevalos (sometimes spelled “Arebalos”) was born Nov. 30, 1880 in Mexico. He left Jalisco for the United States in 1905. He married Guadalupe (“Lupe”) Garcia, also a Mexican national, in Indio before they moved to the Fountain Valley (a.k.a. Talbert) area in 1908.
Superintendent Baubier and Andres Arevalos at Arevalos School opening, Feb. 1965.
The Long Beach Press-Telegram would later describe Arevalos as “little man with courteous ways." Despite his size, he was strong and hard-working. He worked for twenty years as a section hand for the Engineering Department of the Pacific Electric Railroad. This meant he was part of a crew of laborers who maintained a particular section of track. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Arevalos worked for the Pacific Electric for twenty years – roughly the same length of time that the P.E.’s Santa Ana-Huntington Beach line was operational (from 1909 to 1930). 

But most of Arevalos’ attention went to farming and family. He raised sugar beets, corn and peppers in the fields around Talbert, including the land across the street from what would eventually become Arevalos Elementary School. Meanwhile, in the Arevalos home, he and Lupe would raise nine children.

In the early 1920s, the Arevalos were among the first residents of the Colonia Juarez tract in Fountain Valley – a neighborhood specifically created in 1923 as affordable and accessible housing for Mexican-American laborers. After apparently renting for some years, Andres Arevalos bought Lot 42 (10332 Calle Madero) of Colonia Juarez on October 1926. He would live there the rest of his life.
Arevalos Park today.
Andres Arevalos never became a U.S. citizen, and he never learned to speak, read, or write in English. He seldom appeared in the local directories – probably because he could not communicate easily with the directory companies’ canvassers. Likewise, he seldom appeared in the newspapers.
Guadalupe Arevalos died in 1957 – the same year Fountain Valley incorporated as a city.

The Fountain Valley School District broke ground for Andres R. Arevalos Elementary School in January 1964. Andres and his 7-year-old grandson Rodney Arevalos joined School District Superintendent Dr. Edward W. Baubier for the ceremony.

The school was officially dedicated at another ceremony on Feb. 9, 1965. “It doesn't bother us that we named a school after a man who is neither rich nor famous,” Baubier said. “We are honoring the man because he was a pioneer in our community and has been a credit to it all these years. You can't measure what a man is by money but by his success. Arevalos' success is that he provied a good education for his family and knitted his family together with strong ties that are lacking in many families today.”

Among the speakers at the dedication was Dr. Susan J. Freudenthal, who the Register called an "internationally known teacher from the Netherlands," and the school’s first principal, Bruce Sinclair.
Shyly speaking through an interpreter, Arevalos said he never imagined there would be a school named after him. "I was very surprised when they told me they wanted to honor me," he said.
Andres Arevlaos died of emphysema on Feb. 28, 1966 at Orange County General Hospital, where UCI Medical Center stands today. He is buried at Westminster Memorial Park. His obituary in the Register called him the "Beloved father of Fred, Gilbert, Andrew, Michael, Joe and Rudy Arevalos, Mrs. Nettie Aguiliera, Mrs. Esther Garcia and Mrs. Jovie Lara."

Was Arevalos really a Fountain Valley pioneer?  After all, farmers were already settling in Fountain Valley at least thirty-three years before Arevalos arrived. And the Talbert family, who eventually laid out the town site at Bushard St. and Talbert Ave., arrived eleven years before Arevelos did. 
Modern view of the well-marked Arevalos Park.
But Andres Arevalos was clearly one of the first to put down permanent roots in the Colonia Juarez area, south of what’s now Mile Square Park. Today we think of Juarez simply as part of Fountain Valley. But until the city incorporated in 1957, Talbert and Juarez were distinct communities with their own personalities, histories, and pioneers. As such, Arevalos was a Juarez pioneer who later became a Fountain Valley pioneer by dint of annexation.

Sadly, the Fountain Valley School District trustees voted to close Arevalos Elementary School in 1988. In the decades since, the school buildings have been leased to the private Pegasus School. The adjacent park has continually been included on the City of Huntington Beach’s inventory of parks as Arevalos Park. The park features a playground, benches, a swing set, and a greenbelt. If the park is to be renamed, it is unclear what the new name would be.

My thanks to Stephanie George, Crystal Bracey and the Arevalos family (many of whom still live in Fountain Valley) for their help with this article over the past couple months. Click here to see the first part in this series.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Before and After: The Old Courthouse

The image above shows the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana around the 1910s. We're looking across the intersection of Sycamore St. and Santa Ana Blvd. (then called 6th St.). The image below shows a modern version of the same scene, from the same angle.
Okay,... Let's take a look at the details!

First, you'll notice that the cupola is now missing from the Courthouse. The popular story is that it was damaged during the 1933 earthquake and had to be removed. Indeed, it was removed while other repairs were being made to the building, post-quake. But that just provided a good excuse to remove the part of the building that was the most difficult to paint, clean, and otherwise maintain.

That said, those will keen eyes will notice that the stone work around the attic windows is different too -- And that WAS a direct result of 1933 quake damage. Those with impossibly good eyesight might also notice that parts of the curbs surrounding the courthouse block are still made of cobblestones, as they were in the early 1900s.

Next, notice that there's a lot more foliage in the modern view. The good news is that most of those trees are the same in both photos. I admire them every day, as I walk to and from my office. (And these days, they're often full of noisy green parrots.)

Most of the other buildings seen on the periphery and in the background of the early photo are long gone, but First Presbyterian Church remains. One of it's dome-topped steeples appears on the right of the older photo. The post-quake remodeled version can be seen in the modern photo as a white building with a gray roof.

The block across the street from the front of the Courthouse has changed completely since the first photo was taken. Today, a shiny glass office building and its white concrete parking garage fill the entire block. Prior to that, the block at various times held Santa Ana's old Carnegie Library, the Elks' Lodge, a garage, and more.

In the older shot, many of the surrounding buildings are churches. In fact, part of today's Civic Center Drive, behind the Old Courthouse, was originally called Church St. because of all the churches lined up there. In the 1950s, the car culture took over and people moved into the suburbs. Many of the churches followed, building big new sanctuaries on large parcels of land (with their own parking lots) further out amid the tract houses and orange groves.

That's it for today. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dr. Coy and historical Orange County trivia

Owen Coy rolls out a great idea.
In 1928, Dr. Owen C. Coy, professor of history at USC and director of the California State Historical Association, began a crusade to start "an active, incorporated historical society" in Orange County. He outlined his plans in a lecture before the State Board of Education, which seemed enamored of his noble goal. Coy, not being a local, was unaware that the Orange County Historical Society had been incorporated and holding well-publicized meetings since 1919. But thanks anyway, Owen!

And speaking of the Orange County Historical Society,... You're welcome to attend their next meeting, which will be held in the VERY near future: Thurs., April 14, at 7:30pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St. This will be an ORANGE COUNTY HISTORY TRIVIA CONTEST, so bring ALL your brain cells along to this event. Quoth the OCHS website,...
"Back by popular demand, you’re invited to an evening at the Orange County History Trivia Contest! 
   
"Members and non-members alike, round up your friends and come as a team (matching t-shirts, hats, or team names always encouraged) or as individuals (and we’ll match you up once you arrive)!  
   
"Test your familiarity with Orange County history and challenge others in areas such as geography, literature, food, art, music, politics, sports, personalities, and general knowledge, in varying formats.  Meanwhile, enjoy the banter by our entertaining trivia game hosts! 
    
"It’s free to play!  Prizes given to the winning team.   If you’re new to the area or you’ve lived here forever, you’ll have fun, so come on down!  It’s a perfect opportunity to meet people who are interested in Orange County history."

Friday, April 08, 2016

Andrew Deneau (1949-2016)

Andy Deneau,1977. Photo courtesy Anaheim Heritage Center.
Andrew Leo "Andy" Deneau, who co-founded and served as the first president of the Anaheim Historical Society in 1976, passed away on Easter Sunday (March 27, 2016). This native son of Anaheim will be especially missed by the city's local history and historic preservation communities.

Andy was born on April 5, 1949 to Harold Leo Deneau and Rose (nee Hargrove) Deneau.  He attended George Washington Elementary School, John C. Fremont Junior High School and Anaheim Union High School (Class of 1967).  He worked his way through college as a dispatcher for the Anaheim Fire Department, and used his California State Teaching Credential to teach arts programs in the public schools.  Most recently Andy, a trained musician and performing arts professional, served as Director of Marketing and Community Relations for the Long Beach Opera and was the founding director of Dance In Schools, a supplementary arts education program in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Andy’s life was defined by his substantive community service, including (in part): chairman, Heritage Committee of the original Cultural Arts Commission, City of Anaheim; chairman, Ad Hoc Museum Committee, City of Anaheim; member, Heritage Committee, Anaheim Bicentennial Committee; member, Citizens’ Capitol Improvement Committee, City of Anaheim; co-founder and first president, Anaheim Historical Society; founding board member, Anaheim Foundation for Culture and the Arts [aka Anaheim Cultural Arts Center]; founding member and treasurer, Anaheim Museum Inc.; founding member, Central City Neighborhood Council, City of Anaheim.  Most recently, he served two terms on the Anaheim Cultural & Heritage Commission (2007-2013).  Andy also co-authored, with Diann Marsh, most of the National Register applications for Anaheim landmarks [including the Carnegie Library and the Kraemer Building] submitted through the 1980s.

(Ed - My thanks to Jane Newell of the Anaheim Heritage Center for putting this obituary together.)

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Opal Kissinger (1924-2016)

Opal Kissinger portrays Helena Modjeska at OCHS history conference, 1988.
I wish this were some terrible April Fools Day joke, but it apparently is not. I just received word that Opal Kissinger has died. The obituary being forwarded around the Anaheim Library staff  follows below:
Opal Kissinger, 91, passed away on March 29, 2016 at St. Joseph’s Hospital after struggling for several months with numerous health issues.  She was born on July 27, 1924 in Iowa, where she was raised on a farm.  After graduating from Central Michigan University, Opal taught school in Iowa and Michigan for twenty years, following in the footsteps of her family.  She received her Masters’ Degree in education, with a minor in library science, from the State University of Iowa in the early 1960s. 

Following her marriage to Richard Kissinger, the couple moved to Orange County in 1963.  After teaching one year at Sycamore Junior High School, she became the librarian at Fremont Junior High School.  The 1967 Fremont yearbook was dedicated to her.  In 1970 she joined the Anaheim Public Library as an Adult Services librarian, becoming Local History Curator in 1974, a position she held until her retirement in 1987.

In the Anaheim History Room, Opal was responsible for collecting, cataloging, preserving and making available to the public materials related to Anaheim’s history.  Opal also administered the Mother Colony House, Anaheim’s oldest structure and museum.  During her 14 years, Opal introduced nearly 25,000 students to the Mother Colony House and Anaheim history.  She also contributed weekly articles and historic photographs to the Anaheim Bulletin, for which she was recognized as “Citizen of the Day” in 1984.  Opal was active in many clubs and organizations, including the Anaheim Historical Society, Mother Colony Household, Ebell Club and the Women’s Division of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.  In 2006 Opal was presented with the Anaheim Historical Society’s “Margaret Atkins Award” for her work in preserving Anaheim’s history.

Opal’s most unique contribution in the preservation and dissemination of Anaheim’s history were her first-person portrayals of women from Anaheim’s past, including Madame Helena Modjeska and Vicenta Sepulveda Yorba Carrillo.

After nine years of retirement, filled with a stint on the Orange County Grand Jury (1988-1989) and conducting tours of the Anaheim Stadium, Opal returned to the History Room in 1996 as a part-time librarian to assist with the organization of the huge collection of materials accumulated by Elizabeth Schultz.  She compiled the definitive chronology for the Anaheim Public Library, which was essential to the library’s Centennial Celebration in 2002. 

In 2008 Opal made a significant donation to Heritage Services, funding exhibit space at Founders’ Park for the many Anaheim artifacts [including a mail delivery carriage and wine press] collected by her during her tenure as Local History Curator.  Her legacy endures every time a student on a field trip, a resident or a visitor is introduced to Anaheim’s rich heritage by following the “OK Trail” at Founders’ Park.
Opal, Jane Newell and I at the Anaheim Historical Society 2007 Annual Dinner.
Local historian and former OCTA chief Stan Oftelie further points out that "Opal was a very big deal in local history and before her illnesses was the guiding light/chief organizer/lifelong officer of the Association of Retired Orange County Grand Jurors."

Opal was not just a great asset to the community, she was also extremely kind and a delight to be around. Happily, much of what she helped build and grow -- including the Anaheim Heritage Center -- will remain and will continue to benefit future generations. But Opal will be missed.

Update: The following obituary for Opal appeared in the Orange County Register on April 24, 2016:

Opal Leone "Lea" Kissinger, born on July 27, 1924 in Dayton Township, Iowa, to Carl Dewitt Wilson and Emma C. (Voelgel) Wilson, passed away peacefully March 29, 2016 at St. Joseph's Hospital after struggling for several months with numerous health issues. She was raised on a farm and attended public schools in Millersburg, Iowa. She received her teaching credential from Coe College, Iowa, attended several universities in Iowa and Michigan, earning her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in education. She received her Master's in library science from San Jose State University, California.

Opal taught school in Iowa and Michigan for many years, as well as in California after she and her husband Dick moved to Orange County in 1963. In 1970 she joined the Anaheim Public Library as an Adult Services librarian, becoming Local History Curator in 1974 in the Anaheim History Room, a position she held until her retirement in 1987.

Opal was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Richard "Dick" Kissinger; and siblings, Ward Rossel Wilson, Eva Irene Marie (Wilson) Underwood, Jessie "Judy" Mable (Wilson) Ross and Anita Anne (Wilson) Wilson. She is survived by nieces, Joan Wilson, Susan Wilson Kirchner, Anne Wilson Dowling, Victoria Beck, Mary Underwood, Christine M. Miller; nephews, Robert Ross, John Wilson, David Wilson, Steven Wilson, David Casper, Steven Casper, Robert Feller; cousins Charles Johnson, Jolene Johnson, and Craig Johnson.

Special condolences go to Opal's caregiver Yenni Maruanaya who cherished her until the end. Interment is private at Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana. At her request there will not be a memorial service. The family suggests that any contributions in Opal's memory be made to the charity or organization of your choice.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Polynesians were first to settle Orange County

It’s just like Thor Heyerdahl told us. Except in reverse. Sort of.

No one has known the identity of the so-called “Oak Grove people” (or “Milling Stone Horizon peoples”) who inhabited Southern California 6,000 years ago. They disappeared long before the arrival of the Shoshonean people who were here to meet the Portola Expedition and the Spanish Missionaries.
Orange County historian Chris Jepsen holds a cogged stone or cogstone.
It was previously believed that the Oak Grove people had left few archaeological clues about their identities and their lives. Among those clues were the mysterious cogged stones which have been dug up by local farmers, gardeners, pot hunters and archaeologists for generations.

But new facts have come to light, and it appears that those earliest residents were Polynesians. How do we know? Check out these artifacts, uncovered within the last 15 years:
The ancient, ruined Tiki idol above was excavated in Sunset Beach, in front of Sam's Seafood restaurant in 2006. In the image below, a similar pagan idol is exposed after a heavy rain in the backyard of a home in Floral Park, Santa Ana.
Indeed, carved effigies typical of the South Seas seem to be widely distributed throughout the Orange County area.
Shown above is another Tiki found in the yard of a private residence -- This time on a hill overlooking San Juan Capistrano. Below are two earthen drinking vessels uncovered in Laguna Beach. It's believed they were used for religious ceremonies.

The "Garden Grove Place of Refuge" (shown above) was excavated in front of a suburban apartment complex. Caches of tiny fetish carvings may sometimes be found at such sites, like the Tikis seen below, which were found on the site of the Garden Grove Elk's Lodge in 2015.
Perhaps most spectacularly, an entire Polynesian temple has been uncovered in south Anaheim. (See photo below.) Structurally, it is in remarkably good condition. Unfortunately, it's infested with birds.
To prove the theory of Polynesian colonization, amateur anthropologists built a replica of an ancient Polynesian raft (shown below) and used the prevailing currents to float from Papeete, Tahiti all the way to the docks in front of Pizza Pete’s in Newport Beach.
On their journey across the Pacific, the anthropologists experienced thrilling adventures and terrifying scenarios, including spotty mobile phone coverage, rationing of hair conditioner, and an uneven ratio of hot dogs to buns. The story of their voyage is expected to be turned into a documentary, a lengthy book, an action movie, a children’s picture book, a Broadway musical, a chain of restaurants and a new flavor of chewing gum.