Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Orange and the Dream of California

Fruit crate art (1920s), extolling twin miracles: Oranges and California.
Author David Boulé will speak on “The Orange and the Dream of California” at the Orange County Historical Society’s season kick-off program, Sept. 10, 2015, at Sherman Library & Gardens, 2647 E. Coast Highway, in Corona del Mar. A social hour and optional potluck of appetizers and desserts will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by the program at 7:30 p.m. The event is free to the public, and I hope to see you there!

In his presentation, Boulé will explore the five hundred year, intertwined history of the orange and California and how these two iconic entities have built upon one another to feed the imagination and conjure both a compelling fantasy and a remarkable reality.
David Boulé
 “The image of California as paradise and the orange as unique among all fruit has endured for centuries because, partially, these things are true,” Boulé writes. “These truths, recognized by chroniclers, journalists, scientists, growers and other objective observers, have then been magnified by poets and boosters, artists and hucksters, songwriters and bureaucrats – with both artistic and commercial motivation – to appeal to people’s continuing desire to believe that such exceptional perfection can really exist.”

A third generation Californian, Boulé has a lifelong fascination with the history, culture, achievements and uniqueness of the region. For decades he has scoured paper ephemera shows, flea markets, antique stores, the Internet, libraries, museums and bookshops to collect items and information relating to the California citrus industry.  A career in marketing communication has given him particular interest and insight into how the orange helped enhance the popular image of California as a place of potential, reinvention and fulfillment.

1915 brochure promoting Orange County
Explaining how collections and research like his can fill in gaps left in more general, academic approaches, Boulé adds, “I believe an individual zeal and a personal focus can help not only gather materials that might otherwise be dispersed and kept out of context, but add depth and texture to more traditional research approaches.”

David’s collection includes historic photographs, hundreds of postcards, rare advertising and marketing materials, books, phonograph records, posters, journals and personal papers, newspapers and press clippings, and many California orange-themed souvenirs and promotional items.  His collection has been featured in exhibits, he has given numerous presentations. His book, The Orange and Dream of California, was published in 2014 by Angel City Press and will be available for sale at the event.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mission Viejo, 1967

Here's a 20-minute film from 1967, marketing the new community of Mission Viejo. In his indispesable book, Orange County Place Names A to Z (2006), Phil Brigandi writes, "In 1963, the O'Neill family and a group of investors formed the Mission Viejo Company to develop a master planned community on the northern end of the old Rancho Mission Viejo. The first families arrived here in 1966, and the City of Mission Viejo was incorporated in 1988."

The film footage here includes La Paz Plaza, schools, parks, rolling hills, grazing sheep, Mission Viejo's first church (Lutheran), the then-new Orange County Airport terminal, UCI, Fashion Island, Newport Harbor, and aerial views of the contruction of Dana Point Harbor. For further memories of childhoold there's a  shot of the contruction of Old MacDonald's Farm and an Indian Guides pinewood derby. Interior views of "Spanish Modern" (or perhaps Man of La Mancha Modern?) tract homes will also take you back.

Observant viewers will notice both Richard O'Neill and Tony Moiso of the Rancho Mission Viejo in planning meeting scenes. And just to make sure you know it's the late 1960s, it's backed with easy listening version of Beatles hits. My thanks to Hedy Henderson for pointing out this great footage!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Jewish History and early O.C. Baseball

The Heritage Museum of Orange County (3101 W. Harvard St., Santa Ana) has been hosting some great historical programs in their speaker series. These Saturday events begin with refreshments at 9am, followed by a program at 10am. The next two are,...
  • July 25, 2015: Dalia Taft, Archivist, Orange County Jewish Society — “Celebrating 158 Years of Jewish Orange County: The Early Years
  • Aug. 15, 2015: Luis Fernandez, Professor of History, Santa Ana College - “America’s Favorite Passtime: Early Orange County Baseball

Friday, July 17, 2015

Disneyland turns 60!

Walt Disney with Peter Ellenshaw's 1954 concept map of Disneyland.
Today is the 60th anniversary of the TV show and press preview that opened Disneyland. Tomorrow, July 18th, will be the 60th anniversary of the first day the general public was allowed into the park. To mark the occasion, the great architectural historian Alan Hess left a great post on Facebook. But since Facebook posts are (in some ways) so ephemeral, I am reposting it here, with apologies:
The single most important piece of Modern architecture and planning in the twentieth century opened July 17, 1955. Walt Disney's brilliant insight was to design it with his own studio animators and set designers -- masters of the 20th century's premier technology, the movies. They went far beyond International Style architects' fixation on structural expression to shape space and form using the techniques of film -- editing, sequencing, framing, imagery, color, story telling -- to tap into the heart of modern life.
In just three sentences, Alan manages to say what needs to be said. But I'll prattle on now anyway,...

It's disturbing how little substantive historical research/writing has been done about a place as important and beloved as Disneyland. But I'm very thankful for those who have provided us with what little meaninful work we do have. David Mumford, Bruce Gordon, the Jantzen brothers, Sam Gennawey, Werner Weiss and a handful of others come to mind. It's hard to research a corporation that controls its image and records so tightly. They manage their history like a valuable asset, which I suppose it is. Thus, anything written that goes beyond the depth of a press release is a notable achievement. Kudos to our Disneyland historians!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Green Kat, Westminster

Photo courtesy Westminster Historical Society, with image editing by Bob Ash.
When I set out to find the story of a tavern, I never expected to find an anemic chimp, illegal gambling, witchcraft, women’s softball stars, and a pre-World War II affirmation of brotherly love between Japan and America. But here we are…

A month ago, longtime Westminsterite Chris Garland asked me about the Green Kat Café. This led me to discover TWO convoluted tales that turned out to be part of the same story. My previous green-feline-related post actually intertwines with the following tale, although that tale was set in Santa Ana and this one takes place in Westminster.

The Green Kat began as the Green Gables Cafe, built at the southwest corner of Beach Boulevard and Westminster Boulevard in "New Westminster" in the late 1920s or the early 1930s. New Westminster, was a highway town composed of about 10 subdivisions developed about a mile east of “old” Westminster between 1927 and 1929. The area was later incorporated into the City of Westminster. On a prominent corner of the highway, surrounded by miles of flat, open fields and few buildings of note, the Green Gables almost immediately became a landmark.

"It was very well known in the early years," said Westminster historian and former mayor Joy Neugebauer, "because it was exactly the midpoint between Downtown Santa Ana and Downtown Long Beach. People would use it to give directions."

And so it was that Westminster – founded by a minister as a temperance colony in 1870 – ended up with a tavern as probably its most recognizable landmark.
Ad from the Santa Ana Register, June 2, 1941
The Green Gables appears in the local directories around late 1935, and the first owners were Allen and Marjorie Vorhis (or Voorhees). Along with a service station just across Beach Blvd., its architectural style was an early example of Westminster's spotty Tudor Revival architectural theme.

Tony W. Shackles, a charter member of the Midway City American Legion Post, bought the café in Fall 1937. In April 1940, he sold it to easterners Mrs. Jean Reynolds and Mrs. Josephine Smith, although it was primarily Smith who managed the place. She also remodeled and refurbished the dining areas and kitchen and began calling it the Green Gables Inn. Soon after, the Long Beach Independent wrote, "Dancing is on every week night until 2 a.m. Sunday, dancing is from 3 p.m. to 10. Ray Chapman and his dance band play. Jam session is a feature every Monday, amateur night is every Friday. The popularity of Green Gables Inn is growing steadily as indicated from week to week." In 1941, they were busted for having illegal slot machines.

In October 1944 the Green Gables Inn became The Normandy. Mr. and Mrs. Ray Smith of Westminster were the new owners and Harry Greenwood was the manager. By 1951, the proprietors were L. C. Arnold and C. W. Ahlbin.

Meanwhile, Orval W. Hinegardner (1910-1991), who’d closed his Green Cat Café and Kit Kat Cocktail Lounge in Santa Ana in 1940, was still ricocheting around the Southern California restaurant scene. This was nothing new for Orval. Even when he was proprietor of the Green Cat, he also operated McNee’s Café on Whittier Blvd. in Whittier, where his father, (Stanton), was the cook and another Hinegardner, (Clifford), was assistant manager. Orval had a penchant for hopping from one thing to another – a trait that probably wasn’t lost on his four (or more) wives.

Later in the 1940s he would live in El Monte (no wife listed in the directories), and worked at the oddly-named Hi-Knees Party House in Monterey Park.
From the Register, Nov. 7, 1941. I would pay to see a "startling dance band."
But in 1952, The Normandy became the Green Kat Café, and Orval – now living in sunny Corona del Mar – was the new owner. Unlike Santa Ana’s Green Cat, which had once held a fine reputation even among Orange County’s civic leaders, Westminster’s Green Kat was a less-reputable tavern.

“It was a dive,” said longtime Orange County Historical Commissioner Don Dobmeier. “It was a large nondescript structure, painted green. I never went in, but there always seemed to be a lot of cars in front of it, even at 8:00 in the morning.”

It appears Orval wasn’t too hands-on this time. The new Green Kat was managed by "Jeanne" (according to newspaper ads) and by custom motorcycle genius/hellraiser Herk Currie.   

"It was the most popular night spot in the area," said Neugebauer.

It was a landmark, but was also a pretty rough-and-tumble place and a mildly notorious as a pick-up bar. But it was also, in the words of Nick Popadiuk, "the crown jewel in the string of watering holes along Westminster Blvd. during [the town's] classic Dive Bar Era (late '50s-60s) ."
Westminster Ave., New Westminster, Feb. 1957
Soon, Orval and his wife Lorene moved to Midway City, not far from the café.  And they added a new family member: a young female chimp named Sara Heartburn. When she was 13 months old she was found to be anemic, and Garden Grove veterinarian Dr. Stanley L. Baldwin performed a blood transfusion from Chester, a chimp from Long Beach. "The transfusion between chimpanzees may be unique in the annals of veterinary medicine," said the Long Beach Independent.

In 1962, the Green Kat was torn down and replaced with future Orange County Supervisor Ron Caspers' Keystone Savings & Loan -- a building that made dramatic use of the Old English half-timbered look suggested by the city's name.

Caspers' story -- from his meteoric rise in business and politics to the day he disappeared at sea – is far more interesting than that of the Green Cat or Green Kat. But that’s a tale for another time.

[This entry updated 7/17/2015 with new information and photo provided to me by Nick Popadiuk.]

(Click here to go back and read PART I of this two-part series.)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Pat Hearle, 1931-2015

Pat Hearle teaching kids about archaeology at Santiago Oaks Regional Park, 1986.
I'm sad to report the passing of Pat Hearle. She was a regular at the County Archives and an active member of the Orange County Historical Society, the Orange County Pioneer Council, the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society, and the Old Courthouse Museum Society for many years. Hardly  a week went by when I didn't have a conversation with Pat. She is already missed.

Pat had a few favorite stories, which I will attempt to retell as best I can:
  • Pat was a member of Orange County's pioneer Greenleaf family. Her ancestor, Dr. Edward F. Greenleaf was from the same little town in Clark County, Missouri as William H. "Uncle Billy" Spurgeon. After Spurgeon founded the town of Santa Ana, he wrote to Greenleaf, inviting him to come and serve as the town's first doctor. Pat said she once visited that small Missouri town and said she could see exactly why both Spurgeon and Greenleaf both wanted to escape.
  • When she was a girl, Pat's family owned a large parcel of land on Greenleaf Street in Santa Ana. Somewhere on that land was "the largest pepper tree in Southern California." How large was it, you ask? It was large enough that it appeared on aeronautical charts and aviators used it as a navigation landmark. Sometimes pilots, while trying to get their bearings, would circle the tree again and again. Pat remembered climbing this giant tree and watching the planes circle.
  • Pat was on the faculty of Walt Disney Elementary School in Anaheim when it opened in 1957. Walt Disney himself was on hand for the opening. He'd had his artists paint a mural of Disney characters all around the school's multi-purpose room. He also gave free one-day Disneyland passes to all the students and teachers and their families. School was dismissed early. Pat went home, collected her sons, and spent the day with them at Disneyland -- on Walt's nickel.
  • Pat enjoyed the annual Orange County Pioneer Picnics, and recounted how people at each table would brag about how early their families arrived in O.C. "My family arrived in 1918," one would say. "Well," huffed another, "my family came here in 1902." If asked, Pat would say her family arrived in Santa Ana in 1882, which usually ended that particular line of conversation. She got a kick out of the awkward silence thereafter.
Pat had many lifelong friendships, she loved her archaeological trips to China Ranch in the Mojave, and at the end of her life she worked hard to remain as independent as she could for as long as she could. She was a strong woman with many interests and it was hard not to like her.

Here's Pat's obituary from the June 16, 2015 issue of the Orange County Register:
Leonore Patricia "Pat" Hearle, late of Anaheim, died May 23, 2015 of natural causes at age 83. Born December 21, 1931 in Santa Ana, she was the only child of Leo Patrick Flaherty and Hazel Greenleaf Flaherty. A lifelong resident of Orange County, Pat grew up on Greenleaf Street in Santa Ana, and graduated from Santa Ana High School and Santa Ana College where she sang and performed leading roles in numerous productions. She earned her B.A. and teaching credential at Cal State Long Beach, and, after her 1954 marriage to Herbert David Hearle, she taught briefly at the newly opened Walt Disney School in Anaheim. After the birth of her third son, she went back to teaching at Cambridge Elementary School in Orange where she taught kindergarten and first grade for thirty years. In 1960, she was Vice President of the Long Beach State Alumni Association, and at different times was a longtime member of the Orange County Sports Car Club, Junior Ebell of Santa Ana, and the Pioneer Council of Orange County. After her 1977 divorce, she served four terms as President of the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society. She was always active on the planning committee for Santa Ana High School Class of 1949 reunions, and also served as a member of the Old Courthouse Museum Advisory Committee for many years. Her longest and favorite residence in adulthood was in Bluebird Canyon in her beloved Laguna Beach. She is survived by her sons, Patrick (his wife Sally), Kevin (his wife Libby), and Michael; two granddaughters, Ashley and Amanda; and one great-granddaughter, Austin. A Celebration of Life will be held June 20, 2015 [at 12:30 p.m.] at the Clubhouse of Harbour View Park at 16600 Saybrook Lane in Huntington Beach. In accordance with her wishes, she will be buried in the last of the Greenleaf family plots in Santa Ana Cemetery.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Green Cat, Santa Ana

Illustration from an ad for The Green Cat, Santa Ana Register, Jan. 15, 1937.
Like other felines, Orange County's popular Green Cat had more than one life. This is the story of its first incarnations in Santa Ana. A future post will tell the story of a later incarnation in Westminster.

The Green Cat Cafe started as a confectionery, lunch counter and soda fountain at 300 N. Main (at 3rd St.), in Downtown Santa Ana. It was the sort of place where office workers could get an affordable lunch, where soda jerks assembled malts and phosphates with appropriate panache, and where children stared into glass candy displays before slowly and painstakingly making their selections.
The Green Cat's first incarnation is shown on the left, 1920s.
It began in June of 1927, when Navy veteran and Kansas native Lambert James "Jim" Detrixhe (1888-1973) moved to Santa Ana from El Monte with his wife Alice and young son Billy. At the same time, he bought the Roth Drug Store at the northwest corner of Third St. and Main. He’d previously run a soda fountain and had been in the catering business for 17 years. As such, he put a lot of stock in the drug store’s fountain business and immediately invested in a refrigeration system that allowed him to make his own ice cream. The store came with seven stools, but within a year, Detrixhe expanded the number to twenty four. To reflect the new focus on treats and lunches, he changed the name to The Green Cat, and he purchased signature green jadeite glasses and dishes.

Long ago, green cats – like flying broomsticks and bubbling cauldrons – were associated with witches (a tradition that dates to at least the 1500s). In a short 1915 comic movie entitled, “The Green Cat," a presumably witchy “old maid” with a green cat plays tricks on two buffoons. A longer comedy of the same name, featuring Snub Pollard, was released in 1923 and played the following year at Walker’s West Coast Theatre, two doors up from Roth’s Drug Store. A fictional “Green Cat Café” also served as the opening setting for the play, "The Good Little Bad Girl." So perhaps one of these instances explains the name Detrixhe gave his café. Or it may also have been a riff on an earlier Santa Ana institution: the popular Green Dragon Confectionery.
Advertisement in the Santa Ana Register, Feb. 27, 1932
In any case, “The Green Cat,” seemed to have caught on as a name for businesses, as there was also a place called The Green Cat on Rural Route 2 near Orange.

In 1931, Detrixhe moved the popular café up the street to a larger space at 415 N. Main, added a dance floor, and expanded the menu to include heartier fare. The already popular business became even more popular. Women's clubs, charitable organizations and the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce met there. The mayors of local cities gathered there to plan how to approach the County government about needed road improvements. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce held a meeting there to rally people against the PWA and other New Deal make-work programs. The Eddie Martin Pilots Association met there to screen films on aviation. The Republicans met there. The Democrats met there. Presidential candidates stumped there. And the County Council of Epic Clubs met there for a special dinner in 1936 with L.A. County Supervisor John Anson Ford as their speaker (after listening to a radio broadcast of FDR).
A 1947 view of the second Green Cat location, at 415-417 N. Main St.
On May 17, 1935 a banquet was held by Santa Ana’s city leaders to honor the good citizenship of Orange County's Japanese Americans and the friendship between the nations of Japan and the United States. Representatives of five local Japanese organizations attended. No one in the room could have predicted that the next decade would bring Pearl Harbor, World War II, the interment of California’s Japanese-Americans, and the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan. In retrospect, this evening of brotherly love at the Green Cat was a rather poignant moment in Orange County history.

W.H. Spurgeon, Jr., president of the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce, acted as M.C. for the evening; Santa Ana High School football star Kiyoshi Higashi introduced a group of girls performing traditional Japanese dances; and Japanese Consul to Los Angeles Tomokazu Hori shared his thoughts on friendship and commerce.

"I am especially happy to see... hearty friendship toward each other between the Americans and Japanese,” said Hori. "World peace and harmony is largely a matter of personal friendship. As long as the peoples have friendly regards toward each other, their countries will be friends no matter what political or financial difference there may be between them. ...These two countries have every reason to stand together and work together for the peace, progress and prosperity of mankind."

Sadly, Emperor Hirohito didn’t get the memo.

Prominent local rancher Hisamatsu Tamura, Jr. gave a talk on "the growing friendliness between Americans and Japanese." Speakers lauding their Japanese-American neighbors included Postmaster Terry E. Stephenson, Judge James L. Allen, and Stuart Strathman of the Placentia Chamber of Commerce.
Banquet facilities at the Green Cat, shown in the Register, Sept. 13, 1939.
In the early 1930s the Green Cat fielded an excellent baseball team, the uncreatively-named Green Cats, which played churches, businesses, fraternal organizations, the Irvine Beanpickers, and others in the Orange County Nightball League.

In February 1936, the Green Cat Café reopened after a brief refurbishing. It could now seat 118 in new leather booths on the spacious first floor, and 250 in rooms for private parties on the second floor. (The walls on the second floor could also be folded back to create an enormous banquet hall.) New refrigeration, ventilation and a sound system were installed as well.

It was this new and improved Green Cat that Detrixhe sold to established restaurateur Stanton "S. S." Hinegardner and his son, Orval "O. W." Hinegardner in October 1936. S. S. Hinegardner had operated the Santa Ana Cafe at Sixth and Main in the 1920s. His son would now become the active manager of the Green Cat. They kept the old staff (of 22), but made a few changes, including operating the place 24 hours a day. 
Advertisement in the Santa Ana Register, Oct. 19, 1935
But selling the restaurant didn’t mean Detrixhe had given up on the Green Cats baseball team. In fact, immediately after selling his restaurant, he doubled down, starting an additional Green Cats women's softball team. This team was initially managed by “Bomo” Koral (who was later instrumental in the development of Santa Ana’s park system) and did battle with such rivals as Tiernan's Typists and the phone company's Hello Girls. Some of these Cats, like Amateur Softball Association Hall of Famer Ruth Sears, later went on to join the more famous Orange Lionettes.

Within a year, Detrixhe would uproot and run another restaurant in Santa Monica. Meanwhile, the Green Cat Café continued its popularity. They added an adjoining Kit Kat Cocktail Lounge next door, where bartender Al Crowne added a novel twist to mixology by playing musical spoons.

Despite this juggernaut of pure entertainment, the Cat was in trouble. In July 1939, the state came after O. W. Hinegardner, saying he hadn’t made a single payment into the state unemployment insurance fund since taking over the Green Cat. Even a good restaurant with customers can fall victim to poor management. On January 17, 1940 Hinegardner sold his interest in the operation to his father and closed the place.
The original Green Cat building still stands near the West Coast Theatre.
Since that time, the Green Cat's second, larger location has been torn down for the First American Title Insurance complex. But the original location has continued on as a series of cafes. In recent memory, it was El Nidito and retained the look of an old lunch room. Today, with a remodeled interior, it serves as The Little Sparrow, where a hip crowd dines on international fusion cuisine. It’s a rare case of a sparrow following after a cat. 

(Click here to read PART II of this two-bit series.)

Monday, June 08, 2015

Cow Punching in Old Orange County

Roundup at the Forster Ranch, San Juan Capistrano, 1900
I just wrote a short article on the history of cattle in Orange County for the June 2015 County Connection (county employee) newsletter. (Link.) You'll notice I give somewhat short shrift to the Rancho Era, but that story will be covered in the next installment of the series. Meanwhile, here's something to think about:

Mission San Juan Capistrano ran about 14,000 head of cattle during peak years and Mission San Gabriel had around 16,000. The ranchos covered the hills and plains of O.C. with cattle. And in the decades prior to World War II, Orange County was home to about 30,000 head.

Today, lawyers outnumber cattle by more than thirty to one in Orange County. (Insert your own joke involving "a lotta bull" here.) We have more freeway call boxes -- even in this age of mobile phones -- than cattle. And despite efforts to stamp out both carbon emissions and fun, Orange County has more beach fire rings than bovines.

In fact, there are more dogs at “Corgi Day” at Huntington Beach’s Dog Beach than there are cattle remaining in the hills of O.C.

Whoopee ti yi yo, git along little doggies.