Thursday, February 22, 2007

Brea, history collections, Huntington Beach, etc.

The Olinda Historic Museum and Park has been renamed the Olinda Oil Museum and Trail. This is my half-assed segue into today's photo, which shows an oil fire in Brea in 1926.

Joe Shaw has asked me to be a regular contributor to his "Greetings from Downtown Huntington Beach" blog. I'll start posting things there soon. Another new recruit, author Chris Epting (who penned the H.B. book for Arcadia Publishing) has already started contributing.

The Orange Public Library’s history archives has started to build a new collection: The Orange Mayors Collection. The scrapbooks of various mayors of Orange will be copied and returned.

The digitization projects at the Launer Room in the Fullerton Public Library are on indefinite hold. On the plus side, construction of a library expansion (which would double the size of the Launer history room) will begin within a year.

The O.C. Archives has reclaimed Room 107 of the Old O.C. Courthouse, giving us work space for projects, a sink, and enough additional storage to hold us for at least a little while longer.

This month, KCET (not KOCE as I reported earlier) is running a short Black History Month PSA featuring Barbara Hill, who was the first black teacher in Santa Ana. I, however, know her for her work in researching O.C.'s black history. For someone who didn't start out as a historian, she has an admirable willingness to roll up her sleeves and dig through daunting mountains of documents in search of the facts.

This last entry is not about O.C., but how can I resist a Googie item?: Friends of Johnie’s is holding a “Ghost Cruise” this Sunday, to focus attention on the recent illegal demolition of Johnie's/Harvey’s Broiler in Downey, and to “bring awareness to other popular car cruise destinations that may be threatened...or already lost.” This will be a self-driving classic car cruise along “the old cruising circuit” with stops at some of the old drive-in restaurant haunts of yesteryear. The cruise will begin at 8am, at Bob's Big Boy, 4211 Riverside Dr, in Burbank. For details, visit the Friends of Johnie’s website.


Anonymous said...

the Barbarba Hill spot you reference is running on KCET, not KOCE.

She is one of the Black History month heroes on KCET.

Chris Jepsen said...

Thanks for the correction. I've updated the original post accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Hi - this isn't really a comment, but a request for help. I recently read an enlightening book called Sundown Towns, A Hidden Dimension of American Racsim by James W. Loewen for a class. He also has an active website for continued and expanded research concerning this subject.

Anyway, I was born in Huntington Beach so I choose this town as the subject of my research in determining if Huntington Beach was a sundown town during the Nadir years 1890 -1940 and after. "The nadir of American race relations refers to the period in United States history from the end of Reconstruction to the beginning of the 20th Century, when racism was worse than in any other post-bellum period. During this period, African Americans lost many civil rights gains made during Reconstruction." If anyone has any information or stories on racism (segregation,etc)in HB then or now, I would love to hear about it and appreciate it very much. Thanks. Matt Tonkovich

ockid said...

I don’t think anyone has ever shown that there were any actual “sundown” towns in Orange County – that is, come up with a city ordinance or other official action. And, of course, many of these communities weren’t incorporated cities until after World War II.

That isn’t to say that blacks weren’t necessarily welcome in some neighborhoods, but that’s very different from a law.

The largest black population, of course, was in Santa Ana, but there seem to have been black families scattered all through the county. The 1925 County Directory is especially useful, as it seems to be the only one that indicates black residents with a “(c)” after their name.

Another place to look would be the files of the California Eagle, which had an Orange County correspondent (perhaps living in Fullerton) as early as 1926. Not sure what there is to be found in the Los Angeles Sentinel.

Glancing through the 1925 directory, I also notice black families in Anaheim, Fullerton, and Orange, and there were probably more I didn’t catch. I also know of at least one black family in Newport Beach in the 1930s.

As for Huntington Beach, there were a couple of black residents in the early days. One of them, Henry Brooks, was fairly well known. He was a World War I veteran, and worked as a local lifeguard. Ella Casselle (I think they were related in some way) was in town by 1918, listed as a nurse in the directory. When she died in 1932, she was described as the only black person living in town. (See the Huntington Beach News, 9-15-1932, 3-9-1933, 6-1-1933.)

You may have already run into the story of the Pacific Beach Club in Huntington Beach. The first big event there was over Labor Day, 1925. For the fire that destroyed it, see the Santa Ana Register, January 21-22, 1926. Interestingly, the members were back as late as Labor Day, 1929, though staying in tents (HB News, 9-5-1929).

There was also an attempt to start an orphanage for black children in town in 1931, but it met with local opposition and never opened.

All this in a town with a fairly active Klan – even after the recall in Anaheim in 1925.

Huntington Beach was an incorporated city (1909) so it would not be too difficult to confirm if the city council ever passed a local sundown ordinance. The records would be in the City Clerk’s office.

Hope this helps
–Phil B.