Monday, May 14, 2018

Neon History (Event!)

La Palma Chicken Pie Shop sign enters Museum of Neon Art. (Photo by Adriene Biondo)
The art and history of neon on our local roadsides will be the topic of author J. Eric Lynxwiler’s eye-popping program at the Orange County Historical Society’s Annual Dinner, June 14 at the Phoenix Club, Anaheim.  He’ll also highlight the work of the Museum of Neon Art, which saves favorite signs like La Palma Chicken Pie Shop’s giant chicken. Enjoy good food, fun, a silent auction, and an amazing speaker. Members and non-members welcome. Register by May 31. To register or for more information, visit
Linbrook Bowl, Anaheim. (Photo by Chris Jepsen)
 I'm really looking forward to this! Hope you can be there!
Restored sign at Fun Zone, Balboa, Newport Beach.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 10)

Senaida Sullivan, 1965
 [Continued from Part 9]

More than twenty five years after Silverwood's death, Senaida Sullivan, state music chairman of the Native Daughters of the Golden West, with support from her organization and the Al Malaikah Shrine, led the lobby to have "I Love You, California" made the official state song. Many other state songs had been posited over the years, but none of the others had staying power. Senator Jack Tenney and Assemblyman Frank Lanterman (who loved playing the song on pipe organ) made the case to the California State Legislature. In 1951, their resolution passed. However, equivocating politicians had reworded the language to make "I Love You, California" “an” official state song, but not “the” official state song, leaving room for future waffling.
Silverwoods president Stephen C. Bilheimer (right) cuts ribbon at first Orange County store, at the Broadway Center on Euclid Ave. Anaheim, April 5, 1957.
In 1984, Assemblyman Dan Hauser authored a bill to officially make “'California, Here I Come,” our state song. It was defeated 41 to 30. Hauser complained that “I Love You, California” should be relegated to “state hymn or even better, funeral dirge.”

In 1987, to honor the memory of Frank Lanterman, (but because the song was falling out of copyright the following year), freshman Assemblyman Tim Leslie proposed a bill to unequivocally make “I Love You, California” THE state song. The idea was not universally loved. “I can't believe we're doing this,” said Assemblyman Dave Elder. “It might've sounded great on Frank Lanterman's organ after about four drinks -- if you had them, not him.” Assemblywoman Jackie Speier flat-out called it “a terrible song.”
Frank D. Lanterman at the organ.
Yet somehow the measure passed and was put into effect in 1988. It had been seventy five years since Silverwood published the song, but it finally fulfilled its intended roll. It may have sounded leaden to 1987 ears (accustomed as they were to modern talent like Whitesnake, Wang Chung and Kenny G), but its time had finally come.

Silverwood’s chain of stores grew along with Southern California, added women’s professional apparel to their repertoire, moved their headquarters to Santa Ana, and became part of the family of Hartmarx Specialty Stores. They closed after the 1991 Christmas season due to slumping sales.
Silverwoods (on left) at Fashion Island, Newport Beach, circa late 1970s.
In 1924, the year of his death, Frank Silverwood wrote a poem entitled “Just Tell Him Now” that was not only prescient but also seemed to capture his philosophy.

Just Tell Him Now

If with pleasure you are viewing any work a man is doing,
If you like him or you love him, tell him now;
Don't withhold your approbation till the parson makes oration,
And he lies with snowing lilies o'er his brow;
For no matter how you shout it, he won't really care about it,
He won't know how many teardrops you have shed.
If you think some praise is due him,
Now's the time to slip it to him,
For he cannot read his tombstone when he's dead.

More than fame and more than money,
Is the comment, kind and sunny,
And the hearty, warm approval of a friend;
For it gives to life a savor, makes you richer, stronger, braver--
Gives you heart and hope and courage to the end.
If he earns your praise, bestow it;
If you like him, let him know it;
Let the word of true encouragement be said.
Do not wait till life is over and he's underneath the clover,
For he cannot read his tombstone when he's dead.

Indeed, Daddy Silverwood isn’t reading many tombstones (or blogs) these days, either. But we Californians really should return his love by at least remembering him and by singing our state song.
Francis B. "Daddy" Silverwood, 1920.
[Click here to return to Part 1]

Friday, April 27, 2018

Thar she blows!

Okay,... So this has nothing particularly to do with Orange County history, unless you take into account that whales were once hunted off our coast. But I'm posting it specifically with my friend Bob Minty of Dana Point in mind. Bob portrays Richard Henry Dana at events on the Pilgrim, and he's a great collector of information about whales and the old whaling industry. If there's something he hasn't seen yet, perhaps it's this: Whale bone toilet seats!

Yes, we once slaughtered the whales wholesale -- not just for oil and ambergris, but also as something to poop on.  I stumbled across the ad in the pages of the Feb. 1922 issue of The American School Board Journal, which advertised nearly every product a school could want, from fire escapes to crayons.

Update: Bob has already responded: "The term 'whale bone' referred to baleen (not skeletal bones).  They used baleen for anything where we use plastic today."

I then asked him if that meant "whale bone corsets" were actually made of baleen.
Bob Minty at the Dana Point Historical Society, circa 2016.
"Yes," he replied. "Corsets, combs, policeman’s saps, buggy whips, bedsprings, fishing poles were all made from whalebone (baleen). When baleen is heated, it can be bent or twisted to any shape. The only use for skeletal bone, other than fertilizer, was to whiten cane sugar during the refining process.  (C&H Sugar -Terminal Island)."

"Another odd idea was  Mr. Wrigley (of gum and Catalina Island fame) wanted to develop a whale milk farm. They would use Orca whales as 'sheep dogs'.  I have the newspaper article."

Thursday, April 26, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 8)

Frank B. "Daddy" Silverwood, circa 1920.
 [Continued from Part 7]

By the early 1920s, Francis B. Silverwood’s menswear chain had five stores throughout Los Angeles County, and it would continue to grow. Every Monday he set out letters (a.k.a. “wise talks from the office boy”) to his sales staff, sharing his thoughts on how business should be conducted, professional self-help tips, and how customers should be treated.

“I want the man in overalls to receive the same polite attention as the man in the silk hat and frock coat," he wrote in 1915. "I want the looker to be accorded the same attention as the buyer: A looker to-day is a buyer to-morrow. What is needed most in business to-day is more kindness. I want you to do unto others as tho you were the others. I want you to love your work and cultivate a happy disposition: happiness is a habit and I want every Silverwood employee to get the habit.”
Silverwood's store at 6th St. & Broadway, Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy
In another such letter he promised, "If your heart is in your work you won't have to proclaim your progress: you'll be so conspicuous I'll discover it long before you do. If you outgrow your job I'll make a bigger one for you. Don't think because you don't see me every hour of every day that I'm not keeping a line on you..."

In 1920, Silverwood opened a large new flagship store on the northeast corner of 6th St. and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, replacing a smaller one at the same intersection.  The new store was said to be the largest retail clothing store in the United States.
Silverwood's at 6th St. & Broadway, circa 1905. Note sign reading, "Home of Silverwood's Office Boy." (Photo courtesy L.A. Public Library)
Next time: Departures

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 9)

Frank Silverwood's 1922 passport photo.
[Continued from Part 8]

In early 1922, Silverwood handed over the reins of his company to his longtime business partner George E. Nagel and planned the vacation of a lifetime. Having already been around the world twice, this time he applied for a passport that cleared him for visits to India, Constantinople, Java, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Borneo, Burma (Myanmar), Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Greece, the Society Islands, Italy, France, the British Isles, Spain, Egypt, Switzerland, Belgium Holland, and part of what’s now Malaysia. In reality, he spent most of the next two years in Australia.

In January 1924, Silverwood suffered a stroke in Honolulu while headed back toward California for a visit. It was the beginning of the end for him. George E. Nagel – now head of the F.B. Silverwood Co. – left for Hawaii to attend to him and to bring him back to Los Angeles.
George Nagel in 1931.
For all his business success and charitable work, Silverwood’s most famous contribution would remain “I Love You, California.” Silverwood wrote other songs, of which he once said, “Oh, I'm no poet. I just want to keep the cheer-music going, so I write jingles.” (And none of those jingles proved as popular as his ode to the Golden State, which he’d felt so strongly about.) His other works included "The Golden Poppy" (1922, with music by Raymond Hubbel), a number of Hawaii-influenced numbers like “Honolulu, I’m Coming Back Again” (music by David S. Lindeman), and the more philosophical "We Want the Flowers Now" (1917, with music by Byron Gay). After suffering a stroke in 1924, lying on his deathbed, he turned to a relative and quipped, "Well, I'm getting my flowers now, anyhow."

Francis B. Silverwood died on March 11, 1924, in Los Angeles, with less than $10,000 to his name, having shared much of his business' success with his employees via profit-sharing, having spent a good deal on travel, and having given much more of his personal wealth to charity. He also gave many large gifts to friends and loyal employees in his later years.

Next time: We Finally Get A State Song!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Pioneer Preacher Puts Gospel in Gospel Swamp

Rev. Isaac Hickey
Isaac Hickey was born to John and Sarah Hickey in Marion, Tennessee on May 29, 1819. At the age of 20, he married Malinda Jane Marshall in Tennessee and the couple soon moved to Titus County, Texas where they began their family. Over the course of 25 years they had 15 children.

Sometime between early 1863 and the beginning of 1866, Rev. and Mrs. Hickey and some of their many children trekked from Texas to California along with twenty-five other families in ox-drawn wagons. The arduous trip took nine months. They initially stopped in San Bernardino and and settled in the Rincon ranch area near Chino in 1868. Isaac, an ordained Baptist minister, became the founding pastor of a Baptist congregation that met in the El Rincon schoolhouse.

Soon thereafter, the family uprooted to Julian, California, where Isaac again served as a preacher.

In those days, unclaimed public land was considered open for homesteading. The Santa Ana River - which had long been used as the boundary line for several ranchos - had changed course in 1825, leaving ownership of the rich and damp land between the new and old channels hazy. In 1870, the Hickeys, like many other families, saw an opportunity for free land and moved to this apparent no-mans land.

Specifically, Isaac and Malinda Hickey moved to the marshy southern outskirts of the new township of Santa Ana. Some of their children settled on adjacent parcels. Together the property was known to locals as Hickey's Settlement.

Isaac Hickey listed himself as a “Trader” on his voter registration entry, but he made his mark in the community as a bible-thumping preacher. Hickey, said historian Jim Sleeper, "sloshed his way into this rich over-flow land" to bring salvation to anyone who'd accept it. He had a fire and brimstone style of preaching, which he said was his way of "paving the way for the kid-glove men who would come in the future." Hickey volunteered his services without pay at a small nondenominational church that served most of Santa Ana and he was said to be the first to preach a sermon in the town.
Malinda Jane Hickey
He would also serve as the first pastor of what became the First Baptist Church of Santa Ana, where the parishioners called Isaac and his wife “Father and Mother Hickey.” There were initially only thirteen Baptist Church members: Rev. Isaac and Malinda Hickey, son John Hickey and hiswife, a young “Miss Hickey,” G. L. Russell and his wife, Robert English and his wife, Mrs. William Tedford, Mrs. Orma G. Vance, Miss Annie Cozad (Santa Ana's first school teacher), and Mrs. Lizzie Sears.

Until March 1871, when services began to be held in the newly built schoolhouse at Sixth and Main St., most services were held in members' homes. After one of these animated residential gatherings, a well-known local grumbler named George Lynch declared that "Gospel Swamp" would be a good name for the community. The name stuck and was reinforced by others (mostly Southerners along with some Reorganized L.D.S.) who also came to the marshland and preached, held revival meetings and practiced their faith among the tule weeds. Even today, one occasionally hears the name Gospel Swamp attached to the South Santa Ana area (or sometimes erroneously to less gospel-y/swamp-y parts of Fountain Valley or Huntington Beach).

The Hickeys and their neighbors came in for a rude awakening when the Stearns Rancho Co. claimed ownership of the land they'd be living on. The company owned the Rancho Las Bolsas, from which the river had cut the disputed territory. Largely fruitless attempts were made to shoo the squatters off the land. Finally, in 1877, the federal government decided that the land between the old and new river channels was still part of the Rancho Las Bolsas. Legal challenges raged for several years until eviction notices were issued in October 1879. A few squatters were able to buy the land they'd lived on, but most moved away. One of the most popular resettlement spots was Julian, where the Hickeys had lived prior to Santa Ana.

But the Hickeys weren't headed back to Julian. From at least 1878 through at least 1882 they lived and farmed just outside Phoenix, in Arizona Territory. In July 1879, Isaac and Malinda were called as witnesses in the trial of their teenage son, Price L. Hickey, who had been arrested for robbing the Wells Fargo stagecoach. (Price was not found guilty, went on to become a prospector, and returned to Santa Ana prior to 1900 to raise his own family.)

Isaac Hickey died on January 11, 1893, in Creston, California. A street in Santa Ana was named for him, but has since been renamed 8th Street.

A 2013 Orange County Register article declared that Hickey was "a man lost to time," and that "his existence is now condensed to a few passing references in history books and essays." Let's hope this blog post helps raise his profile a little.

[Addendum: Anyone wanting to do further research on Isaac Hickey would probably be well served to check with the Santa Ana History Room at the Santa Ana Public Library. When the First Baptist Church of Santa Ana was closing up shop, I helped shepherd their records over to SAPL. I'm not sure if that collection is processed and available for research as of this writing, but if not, it should be someday soon. Another good resource would be historian Carolyn Christian, who's done a great deal of good work on Gospel Swamp, albeit more often from the RLDS side of things.]

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 7)

Happie Winckler with inset photo of Frank Silverwood
[Continued from Part 6]

In 1919, Silverwood met Happie Cora Winckler of San Francisco while heading west on a cross-country train trip. Happie was a Wisconsin native, a recent divorcee, and was about 30 years Frank’s junior. Prior to her arrival in San Francisco, she’d lived in Chicago with her husband, German merchant Otto W. Winckler, and she was still best known as a Chicago socialite. Over the next year or so, Silverwood frequently took the train north to visit Happie, who lived at the Chancellor Hotel in San Francisco. In late 1920, impending nuptials were announced.

Silverwood invited 500 guests to his Dec. 8 stag party, held at the ritzy Jonathan Club, where he’d kept his bachelor’s quarters for over a decade. The elaborate invitation featured images of Happie, a gold wedding ring inscribed with "Fifty-Fifty" (a favorite Silverwood phrase), and the home he’d purchased for their new married life. He called the home Happyland, in her honor, and under its image was written, "Where the Welcome Signs Are Always Out to Daddy's Friends."
Cover of Silverwood's stag party invitation.
After the party, he headed north to San Francisco, to marry Happie on Dec. 14, 1920. They were married by Judge Thomas F. Graham at the home of Col. James H. Fannin near the Presidio. In contrast to the enormous stag party guest list, the wedding guests were few. They included Mr. and Mrs. Joe Dowling, Mrs. M. Cooke, Mr. and Mrs. Fanning, and Mr. and Mrs. George E. Nagel. The newspapers said, it was the third marriage for each of them, although only the one other marriage, to Marie Funk, can be found for Silverwood.

Frank and Happie spent a month-long honeymoon in Hawaii, where they were feted by local Shriners and the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce (for whom Frank had written a song). The "dashing and beautiful... Mrs. Silverwood proved herself a great favorite here," said the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. But Frank and Happie were becoming less enamored of each other by the day. 

Returning to California, they settled into Happyland at 760 E. Sycamore Dr., in Eagle Rock. The house had been built in 1904 by James Fulmer and it was not far from the Strickland Home (renamed the Optimist Boys Home and Ranch.)
All was not happy in Happyland. Apparently, Happie found Frank to be morose, temperamental, and generally a party poop. And Frank wasn’t happy with Happie, either. In early August of 1921, he told Happie he was sorry he had married her, had regretted it from the day of the wedding, and that she had best pack her things and leave." Happie filed for divorce in San Francisco after only nine months of marriage, hiring bigshot attorney Harry I. Stafford and telling the court she was "Happie by name, happy by disposition, but unhappy as a wife.'" The divorce was finalized on December 27, 1921 in San Francisco Superior Court. Happie failed to get the $100,000 cash settlement she sought, but came away with $32,000, a big automobile, and a large amount of Southern California real estate.

Within a few years, the land surrounding their Eagle Rock home was subdivided by developer R.C. Blackmer into residential lots sold under the banner of “Silverwood’s Happyland.” It’s now the Happyland Residential Historic District.

Happie Silverwood was still living in San Francisco in 1926, after which here whereabouts are unknown.
Happie Winckler Silverwood

Next time: The Wise Office Boy

Thursday, April 12, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 6)

Silverwood surrounded by newsboys.
[Continued from Part 5]

Remembering his difficult years as a newsboy in New York, Frank Silverwood thought of a way to use music to change the lives of newsboys throughout the country. In 1909, he made an offer to an initial group of 500 newsboys: He would send them six copies of a popular song, which they could sell for 25 cents each. Of the resulting $1.50, 25 cents went to the publisher, 25 cents went to the newsboy, and Silverwood used the remaining $1 to start a bank account for the lad. If the account remained open for five years, Silverwood would deposit a dollar of his own for every dollar added by the boy in the interim. By 1920 he had already given away countless thousands of dollars to some 12,000 newsboys across the country.
Shriners at Bluebird Studios in Universal City in 1917 hear actress Dorothy Phillips (right) sing the new Silverwood song, "Honolulu, I'm Coming Back Again." The song was adopted by the Honolulu Chamber of  Commerce and Hawaii's Shriners. (Daddy Silverwood seen on the left.)
Daddy Silverwood wanted each lad to learn to save and invest and to "decide to be one of the great men of the future." In a letter to them, he wrote, "You are living in a land where nobody is held down by caste -- in a country where poor boys from the farm go to the White House; where brakemen, and even section hands, become railway presidents; where the poorest boys become our merchant princes; where the factories and institutions of every description are built up by boys who have had no opportunity except their own energy and their own integrity."

Although he was a benefactor to poor newsboys and various community charities and even served as president of the Strickland Home for Probation Boys, Silverwood had long shunned personal publicity for these efforts. But when word got out about his newsboy project, he found that other wealthy businessmen were copying him. Seeing that he could do even more good by inspiring others to get involved, he began consenting to media interviews. Silverwood’s became known as “the store with a conscience.”
Strickland Home for Boys orphanage, Highland Park. (Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library)
Next time: Happyland!