Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween in the Santa Ana Register, 1910-1920

Halloween spot art from the Santa Ana Register, 1911.
As a local historian, I spend a lot of time rummaging through the old Santa Ana Register (now known as the Orange County Register) and other newspapers of yore. In the process of looking for specific things, I always end up running across other cool stuff that seems worth copying and saving for future reference. Some of latter is related to Halloween because,... well,... because I love the holiday!  Here are a few glimpses of Orange County Halloweens past...
Green Dragon Confectionery ad, S.A. Register, Oct. 11, 1912.
The Green Dragon Confectionery had a great name -- One that was especially well suited to a holiday full of scary imaginary creatures. As of 1912 this stalwart Downtown Santa Ana business was offering a wide array of holiday-specific goodies and decorations. Most of the advertised goods above are familiar, but I had to turn to Merriam-Webster to discover that Jack Horner Pies are "an ornamental pie-shaped container from which favors or toys are extracted often by pulling a ribbon at a party." So that would go nice with the party favors, baskets for salted almonds and assorted Halloween candies, pies and cakes. I want to go to a party like this on Halloween!

Balboa Pavilion ad, Santa Ana Register, Oct. 28, 1910.
The Balboa Pavilion isn't the first place I think of at Halloween. Today, it's the folks across the water on Balboa Island who get all the attention with their elaborate holiday "yard" displays. (Sans yards.) But in 1910, and for a number of years before and after, the Pavilion was host to a big annual Halloween Dance. Sounds like fun! 
Party decorations ad, Santa Ana Register, Oct. 25, 1920.
Halloween and book stores are both pretty high on the list of things I'm fond of, and here they are together in the same place! In fact, the Santa Ana Book Store was long a major local supplier of Halloween decorations and party favors in the early Twentieth Century.

By the way, this year's Anaheim Halloween Parade  -- a local tradition since the 1920s -- was a real corker. (Photos here.) Hope you didn't miss it. If you did, see it next year!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

O.C. narrowly averted counter-culture uprising

Crazed beatniks Lera Chapman and Bobby Schaal stick it to the man!
How did Orange County survive the tumultuous youth movement and violent social upheaval of the 1960s? It wasn't easy, as this Oct. 1, 1965 Los Angeles Times article by Jack Boettner starkly illustrates...

The wide tie fad has been stopped before it could get rolling in the Orange Unified School District’s junior high schools.

Students in the 9th grades at Yorba and McPherson junior high schools began showing up in dad’s old four-in-hands of the mid-1940s with the opening of the fall term. But it did not set well with the administration.

Thursday was the last day the broad and bold neck wear could be worn at Yorba.

Homer Jurgens, Yorba vice principal, said the ties “just don’t fit in with the school’s dress code. We feel they are inappropriate for school wear. They are apt to be disturbing in the classroom situation. We know fads do exist, but we have to be careful with certain ones. The dress code was established by a combination of parents, faculty and students last year.”

Jurgens said there has been no formal announcement that the ties must be discontinued, but that the administrators had made the decision after conferring with several teachers. He said he has been breaking the word to the students individually.

George Osborn, principal and McPherson, said the wearing of the wide tie was brought to a halt because they are unacceptable and might cause a “commotion” in class. He said they did not meet the criteria of a dress code drawn up by staff and students.

 “We try to keep the dress within reason,” he said, “yet leave the individual his freedom. If we allowed the  ties, pith helmets might be next.”

Portola Junior High School reported none of its students had joined the wide-tie trend.

Bobby Schaal, 13, one of the Yorba students who has taken to the ties, said one student brought 84 ties to school and was selling them at 10 cents apiece.

Why does he wear them?

“It’s something different,” Bobby said. “I guess you could say it’s a way to chop the old timers.”

He said he was not disappointed that the school had put an end to the mounting fad.

Thus was chaos and rioting averted in Orange County. And indeed, pith helmets never got a chance to wreak their special brand of counter-cultual mayhem. But the kids in Orange were ahead of their time. The following year, British fashion designer Michael Fish would bring back wide, loud neckties. By the late 1960s and early 1970s much of the Western world was wearing them. Even (or perhaps especially) junior high school vice principals! Along with avocado-colored appliances, brutalist architecture and bad men's hairstyles, it was part of what historians now call the "Uglification of America."

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Knott's Halloween history event at OCHS

Boot Hill, Knott's Berry Farm, 1990. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.
Love Halloween? Love theme park history? Boy, have I got the event for you! Join the Orange County Historical Society and authors Ted Dougherty and Eric Lynxwiler for some Halloween fun and holiday history on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. This event is open to the public at no cost.

Halloween is now a multi-billion dollar industry. Yet long before costume-shop chains and Halloween stores cropped up every October, the Halloween season was far more innocent and simple. Many remember when the season entailed trick-or-treating in home-made costumes among a few illuminated porch decorations. That all changed in the 1970s when Halloween's popularity began to explode. One of the pioneers of the now-global Halloween industry was Orange County's own Knott's Berry Farm. Take a trip back in time with authors and historians, Ted Dougherty and Eric Lynxwiler as they share how the family-friendly Knott's Berry Farm theme park was at the forefront in creating a spooky form of entertainment that has been emulated at theme parks around the world.
Ted Dougherty is a historian and author of the award-winning book, Knott's Halloween Haunt: A Picture History. In addition to scaring thousands of guests for ten seasons as a "werewolf" at Knott's, Ted has also consulted, provided historical tours and trained characters for the longest running Halloween theme park in the world, Knott's Scary Farm's Halloween Haunt. Due to his expertise of things that go bump in the night, Ted has worked as an Associate Producer for the documentary, Season of Screams, and featured in numerous media outlets, including Newsweek, the History Channel and CNN. 

Urban anthropologist J. Eric Lynxwiler is the co-author of Knott's Preserved:  From Boysenberry to Theme Park, The History of Knott's Berry Farm, and Wilshire Boulevard:  Grand Concourse of Los Angeles.  Neon enthusiasts may know Eric as the affable host of the Museum of Neon Art's Neon Cruise. Downtown L.A. preservationists know him as an L.A. Conservancy docent for the Broadway Theater district.  While attending UCLA, he spent one school year behind the counter of Knott's shooting gallery and, more recently, worked as theme park's graphic designer on signage, brochures, and its new series of Berry-Market-labeled preserves.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Knott's, Modern architecture, Irvine, Bowers, etc.

So the good news is you're finally tall enough to go on the Sky Jump and the Corkscrew at Knott's Berry Farm. The bad news is the Corkscrew (the world's first inverting steel roller coaster) left the farm in 1989 and is now at Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho. Also, the parachutes of the Sky Jump ceased operation in 1999. Ah, well,... We like the Calico Mine Ride better anyway.

Architectural historian extraordinare Alan Hess has two upcoming speaking engagements you can attend. First, tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. at the Laguna Art Museum, Alan will discuss California Modern architecture. Next month, to celebrate the City of Irvine's 50th Anniversary, Alan will speak at the Great Park Gallery, Sept. 19, 1:00 p.m. You may still have trouble saying "Great Park" with a straight face, but this is a darn good reason to drive out there.

I noticed two more articles on the Bowers Museum Blog that I hadn't noticed before. One is about the amazing coffered ceiling in their Rancho Room. The other describes the background on a photo of a burst solar heater during the "Big Freeze" of 1937. Yes, that "technology" has been around since at least 1891.

And you thought Al Gore invented solar panels! He did not. That's the Internet you're thinking of.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

"Flogged like a beast" in Dana Point!

Book cover art appealing to a, um, ... niche audience. 
It's pulp non-fiction! I've never before seen a book related to Orange County history presented with a cover quite like this. Two Years Before the Mast is, of course, Richard Henry Dana, Jr.'s classic memoir of life as a sailor in the 1830s (published in 1840). It was a muckraking book, intended to shine a light on the terrible treatment of common sailors and to inspire reform. Locally, however, it is now sometimes misidentified as primarily being a romantic adventure tale.

The section of the book that's retold most often in O.C. is the part where Dana described his visit to the cove below San Juan Capistrano that we now call Dana Point. He arrived as a crew member aboard the Pilgrim, which had come to collect cow hides from the mission. He described the area and recounted the process of flinging hides down from the bluff-tops to the beach below, where they were gathered and taken by rowboat to the waiting ship. He famously called this cove "the only romantic spot on the coast."

Every year, the Dana Point Historical Society does a nonstop public reading of Dana's book. In Dana Point Harbor, there's a replica of the Pilgrim, which is visited by thousands of school children each year. The harbor also hosts an annual Tallship Festival. And a larger-than-life statue of Dana (which looks nothing like him) seems to gaze out toward the horizon. But seldom do you see the Chamber of Commerce using the sort of language you find on this book cover:
The back cover. Only slightly less lurid than the front..
This 1953 paperback edition from the Almat Publishing Corp. was "edited for modern reading" by Marshall McClintock. Almat's Pyramid Books imprint had a knack for churning out pulps with half-naked people on the covers. They featured titles like The Shame of Mary Quinn, The Heavenly Sinner, and The Divine Passion. It's sort of hilarious that they gave the same treatment to Dana.

My thanks to Mark for sending this copy along to the Orange County Archives. One never knows what amazing O.C.-related curiosities he's going to send our way. Just when I think I've seen every form of Orange Countiana, he or one of our other friends/patrons surprises me with something obscure. And that's a very good thing. It's a slow day when you don't learn something new.
Promotional slug from inside the book.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Who owned O.C.’s roads in 1918?

Motoring in Orange County, 1910s
The history of our roads is fascinating, and today I came across a curious 1918 newspaper article that sheds some light on that history.  But first, a bit of background…

Abel “Horse Face” Stearns (and his Stearns Rancho Company) was once the largest landholder in Southern California. He had vast holdings across today’s Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange Counties. Here in O.C., his lands included the following ranchos: La Habra, Los Coyotes, San Juan Cajón de Santa Ana, Las Bolsas and Bolsa Chica. But the drought of the 1860s devastated the cattle industry and Stearns was forced to throw in with a real estate partnership to get out from under crushing debt. The partnership, called the Robinson Trust, successfully brought Stearns back into the black by selling land. Stearns died in 1871, but his company went marching along.

The following article, from the May 13, 1918 Santa Ana Register, refers to a document in Orange County’s Book of Deeds 324, page 193:


The county has received an unusual, rather remarkable deed. It covers strips of property from Yorba to the sea, and it slides into deeds given as far back as 1868. The deed, presented to the Board of Supervisors today by the Stearns Rancho Company, is for all interest that the company has in strips of land reserved for road purposes.

As deeds were given by Alfred Robinson, trustee for the ranch company, from 1868 on down to the present day, there were reservations made for sixty-foot roads at township and section lines and for forty-foot roads at quarter-section lines. These reservations left title in the ranch company. Since then, whenever a new road was needed to which the county did not have a deed, the ranch company has been called upon to give deeds.

The matter has been of considerable annoyance to the ranch company as well as to others. The ranch company decided to give over to the county every right it has in the reservations, and to that end it has offered the county a deed. That deed is a blanket deed. It merely says that to the county it deeds all of its reservations for road, natural stream and ditch purposes.
Whittier Blvd. in the La Habra area, looking west, circa 1918

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Malls and shopping centers, 1977

Fashion Island, Newport Beach.
Today I stumbled across a copy of the Shopping Center Development Handbook, a 1977 book about the planning of malls and large shopping centers published by the Urban Land Institute. It's fascinating reading if you're interested in such things, and it uses examples from all over the country. I thought I'd share the book's few Orange County images here on the blog.

Westminster Mall sits on a 93-acre triangular site.
Nostalgia is to history what pine-tree-shaped air fresheners are to forests. But that doesn't mean I don't have something nostalgic hanging from my rearview mirror. Nostalgia has its place, and sometimes it makes us stop and think about the larger and deeper scope of history.

Little inspires more nostalgia in Orange Countians than the shopping malls and shopping centers they grew up with. For me, it's memories of The Broadway, B. Dalton Books, Big Boy Jr., and the fresh-squeezed lemonade stand at Huntington Center (before it became the mess that is "Bella Terra"). It's also Silverwood's, koi ponds, Modernist playgrounds, and tostadas in the Robinson's lunchroom at Fashion Island. For you, it may be fond memories of shopping with your parents or friends at the Mall of Orange, the Laguna Hills Mall, or Fashion Square.
La Paz Plaza, Mission Viejo

I hope at least a few of our local malls survive. It's hard to get nostalgic over cookie-cutter big box stores.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Come to where the flavor is,... Mission Viejo!

Look! It's another great Mission Viejo promotional film from the 1970s! Watch for those Philip Morris product placements! (*cough!*)

What? You didn't know that the Mission Viejo Co. was once owned by an enormous tobacco company?

The Mission Viejo Co. was founded in 1963 by Donald Bren and the O'Neill family. Later, Bren sold his part of the company and bought the Irvine Co. instead. In 1969, Philip Morris invested in the Mission Viejo Co. and in 1972 they bought it outright. The company developed Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, and some communities in other states. The cancer people finally sold the company to developer J.F. Shea Co. in 1997.

(Previous Mission Viejo film posted here.)