Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Knott's, Little Saigon, San Clemente, Balboa, etc

Long time, no post. Sorry about the delay. It took a while to get the new computer up and working. Thankfully, it is much faster than the old one, and less prone to random crashing.

Today's photo is of Downey's first post office, which was moved to Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Town, where it now stands near the old Kansas schoolhouse. I'm not sure whether it qualifies as part of O.C. history, but it's interesting anyway.

The San Clemente Historical Society's museum is looking for a new home now that their landlord has more than tripled the rent. If you know where they can find cheaper digs (or more donors) contact their president, Mike Cotter, at (949) 322-6009.

The Smithsonian's S. Dillon Ripley Center in Washington, DC, just opened a new exhibit entitled "Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon." It tells the story of the Vietnamese-American experience in America, and includes a lot of material relating to O.C.'s own Little Saigon. For more information, click here or here.

Mission San Juan Capistrano's West Wing and Soldier's Barracks will be closed this weekend (27th and 28th) for fumigation. The rest of the Mission will be open as usual.

The mission is also working on the preservation of the Bell Wall and South Wing, which have both had a more than a little wear and tear over the past 200-and-some-odd years. Work should be completed before the swallows come back.

This month's version of Tales of Balboa includes a short feature on The Doll House, a local hang-out that operated at 415 E. Balboa Blvd in the years after WWII.

The Tustin News recently ran an article about a WWII vet's final visit to the old Marine Corp Air Station at Tustin.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Orange Mutual, Anaheim Colony, and life stories

Packing House news: The old Orange Mutual Citrus Association packing house (1924) on Almond Ave in Orange is being sold. The Lamonica family and their partners are asking $4.95 million. Kudos to the City of Orange for mandating that this historic structure cannot be torn down. Otherwise, I'm sure it would be another bank of condos by next week.

Life Story Class: A free 16-week writing class will be offered at The Center at Founders Village, 17967 Bushard, in Fountain Valley, Tusedays from 9am to Noon, beginning Jan. 30th. Students will learn techniques for spurring their own memories and writing compelling life histories for their children and grandchildren. Call (714) 593-4446 for information.

More house moving: Two small "railroad bungalows" in the Anaheim Colony historic district will be moved out of the path of bulldozers early tomorrow morning -- starting at 2am.

Cheap books: The Fullerton Friends of the Library will hold a used book sale this weekend at the Main Library, 353 W. Commonwealth Ave. Hours are 1pm-4pm Fri, 10am-4pm Sat, & 1pm-4pm Sun.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Knott's collection comes to the OC Archives

Knott's Berry Farm has donated a large collection of historical materials to the Orange County Archives. For the first time ever, the public will have access to documents, films, ephemera and the more than 20,000 photos that tell the story of the Knott family and the business empire they created. The collection spans from the 1910s to the 2000s. When it arrived at the Archives, it filled more than 30 large boxes. (It has since been transferred into metal file cabinets.)

The only catch to this wonderful gift is that so few of the photos came with notes or captions. As such, Phil and I are researching the "backstory" of KBF ourselves, using this newly aquired collection in conjunction with old newspaper and magazine articles, land records, other historical collections, employee newsletters, and the memories of those who knew and/or worked for the Knotts.

So if I seem a little nuts for Knott's these days, it's because I'm more or less immersed in it 24/7. There's nothing actually wrong with me. I just love my job.

[Note: The photo above shows Main St. in Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm during the 1940s. Notice that Calico Square and the train (both 1952 additions) aren't there yet, and that visitors' cars are parked directly behind Goldie's and the Jail.]

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Evangeline Update

The Evangeline Hotel (1906) (a.k.a. Colonial Inn Hostel) in Huntington Beach is being turned into the Huntington Beach Youth Retreat – the third in a chain of facilities operated by the Southern California Alcohol & Drug Recovery Foundation.

Some of the neighbors aren’t thrilled with the new ownership, but it could be worse. In the past few decades, the Evangeline has been a flophouse for bums and a stop-over for itinerant surfers and wandering teens. Turning it into a place where people go to get off drugs is a nice change of pace.

The Evangeline is one of the overlooked historic gems of coastal O.C. It’s the last remnant of the days when that part of H.B. was best known for Methodist encampments and Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War veterans) conventions. It is also the largest and probably most significant of the few buildings in town that pre-date the 1920 oil boom.

Recently, the Evangeline was in serious danger of being torn down and replaced with more of the ubiquitous “tall skinnies” (4-story homes with no yards) that infest my hometown.

The photo above shows G.A.R. members and their families on the porch of the Evangeline sometime around the early teens.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

OCC, water, Hart Park and a fire

Orange Coast College will open an exhibit about its history. A reception and dedication will be held Feb. 2, 5-9pm in OCC's new Doyle Arts Pavilion. This event will kick off the school's 20-month-long 60th Anniversary Celebration. (Apparantly taking their cue from Disneyland's 2-year 50th anniversary celebration.) For information or reservations, call (714) 432-5707.
Today's photo shows the Auditorum at Orange Coast College (now known as the Robert B. Moore Theater) in the 1960s.

The Dana Point Historical Society meets Monday, 7pm, at the Dana Point Community House, 24642 San Juan Ave. The speakers will be former mayor Wayne Rayfield and South Coast Water District president Dick Dietmeier. They'll discuss Dana Point's past, present and future water projects.

A fire claimed a 100-year-old home on the 26000 block of Mission St in the historic Los Rios District in San Juan Capistrano on Thursday. Luckily, no one was killed or seriously injured. The fire’s cause is under investigation.
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The plunge and bathhouse in Orange's Hart Park - built in 1935 as a WPA project - are being renovated and modernized by the city. An effort is being made, however, to retain the historic look and feel of the place.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rea House moved out of the bulldozer's path

In the wee small hours of Wednesday morning, the historic Rea House (and a second structure on the same property) was moved from 125 W. Elm St., to 129 W. Stueckle Ave, in Anaheim.

Probably the best remembered of the Rea family are Kate and Ella. Say their names together quickly, and you'll see where the word "Katella" came from.

The photo above was shamelessly stolen from the City of Anaheim's Neighborhood Preservation Coordinator, Tom Kupfrian, who posted it to the Mother Colony Yahoo Group. The house is shown approaching Anaheim Blvd.

The next historic Anaheim house to be moved is 1207 W. Center St, which will find a new home at 1225 W. Center St. The tentative moving date is Jan. 23rd.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Esther Cramer, place names, Irvine Museum, etc.

Happy Birthday to one of Orange County's most respected historians, Esther R. Cramer. She has served on the County Historical Commission since its inception, has gathered innumerable oral histories, and has written such books as The Alpha Beta Story; Brea: The City of Oil, Oranges & Opportunity; and La Habra: The Pass Through the Hills -- Each of which is the standard book on its respective subject. She has also contributed to and edited many other volumes of local history, including the current edition of A Hundred Years of Yesterdays, which is available at the Old O.C. Courthouse Museum.

Today's photo shows Alpha Beta supermarket on Harbor Blvd. in Costa Mesa in 1964.

O.C. Archivist Phil Brigandi will address The Anaheim Historical Society on Tues., Jan. 30 at 7pm, in the Social Hall of St. Catherine's Military Academy, 215 N. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim. Phil will speak about his excellent new book, Orange County Place Names A To Z. For more information, contact Cynthia Ward at (714) 292-0042.

There's a nice article in today's Register about Carl Karcher on his 90th birthday.

"Peaceful Awakening: Spring In California," the new show at the Irvine Museum opens on Jan. 20th. Follow the link for details.

The Lake Forest Antique Mall is closing it's doors. It's not surprising that a town that doesn't respect history enough to keep the name "El Toro" (in use since at least 1838), isn't likely to care much about antiques.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Warm Western Bacon Cheesburger on a cold night

Yes, it’s been cold lately,… But will it snow in O.C., like it did in January of 1949 and 1882? Seems like we're about due.

Carl Karcher, founder of Carl's Jr. restaurants, will be added to the Anaheim/O.C. Walk of Stars this month. Although the "Walk of Stars" seems like a dubious enterprise, Karcher is certainly a significant figure in Anaheim's recent history. Viva Carl!

Disneyland Hotel chef Ysaias “Ray” Reyna passed away on Jan. 11th, at age 97. For 45 years, he helped make the hotel a special and memorable place for visitors. Five years ago, he was honored as the “Second Oldest Employee That Ever Worked at Disneyland.”

Dr. Barbara Stone will address the Capistrano Valley Republican Women Federated on Wednesday at 9am. Dr. Stone is brilliant and funny, and she understands the past, present and future of California government better than anyone. Her political science students at CSUF are lucky indeed. The meeting will be held at the Beach House Restaurant 25001 Dana Dr. in Dana Point Harbor. $15. For reservations, call (949) 496-2525.

After last week's post about the ruins of Lion Country Safari, I noticed that Chris Epting (author of the Arcadia book on Huntington Beach) has posted a brief look at the ruins of Marineland on YouTube. No, it wasn't in O.C., but it is related to the "dead local amusement parks" topic.

If you know of any upcoming events or projects related to local history, send me an email and I'll include it in a future update.

Huntington Beach history comes home

The oral history collection of noted Huntington Beach historian Barbara Milkovich (who moved out of state some years ago) is headed back to Orange County. I was greatly honored that she offered the tapes to me. (Am I now the default H.B. historian?!?) Although I'll be keeping copies for myself, the originals will go to the Orange County Archives, where they'll serve the public for many decades to come. The collection features interviews with Tim Talbert, Bill Galliene, Fay Clapp, Ray Stricklin and other noted local figures, including many of the people involved in the creation of Golden West College.

The photo above is a view of Huntington Beach Elementary School through the oil derricks, circa 1930.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Lion Country Safari

Today, Werner Weiss has added a retrospective of Lion Country Safari to his Yesterland website.

I went back to visit the "ruins" of LCS in Irvine a couple years ago and was surprised at how much of the old infrastructure still exists. The restaurant building, the boat cruise docks, train station, lake, animal show stage, "ranger stations," landscaping, and trench barriers for some of the animals were still in place. Some things were in better shape than others, and some had appearantly been re-used as part of a summer camp facility. However, the only wild animals I saw were ducks, herons and a few lizards.

Link: Lion Country Safari, Irvine (Yesterland.com)
Link: Lion Country Safari memories (OCThen.com)
Link: Past & present LCS photos (TheImaginaryWorld.com)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Preservation, citrus strikes & veterans

Hats off to the Santa Ana Historic Preservation Society, which continues its fight to retain at least a little of Downtown's historic character. Read about the latest battleground (across from the Reagan Building) in this article from yesterday's L.A. Times. I understand the City gave this land to the developer for next to nothing. The least the developer can do is consider the surrounding environment and like a responsible citizen.

O.C. Weekly's Gustavo "Ask A Mexican" Arellano will discuss the 1936 Citrus Strike at this month's meeting of the O.C. Mexican American Historical Society. The meeting will be held Jan. 27 from 10am to Noon at El Centro Cultural, 310 W. 5th Street, Santa Ana.

This year's schedule of programs for the Civil War Roundtable of Orange County is now posted to their website. For details, click here and follow the link to "Events." In addition to their programs and meetings, these folks are involved in some excellent ongoing projects, like marking the graves of Civil War veterans here in O.C.

The O.C. Genealogical Society is offering a variety of how-to seminars at the Huntington Beach Public Library on Feb. 3 and March 3.

A group of Irvine residents is promoting the creation of a new permanent veterans memorial in Northwood Community Park. This would be in addition to the existing memorial at Col. Bill Barber Memorial Park and the memorial already planned for the "Great Park." How interesting that the people of Irvine -- who pay HOAs to take their personal freedoms away -- feel so strongly about honoring the men and women who fought and died to give us our freedom in the first place.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Orange County Board of Supervisors display

As of today, there's a new historical display in the Hall of Administration at the Orange County Civic Center. All our County Supervisors, from 1889 forward, are represented in a series of five frames -- one for each Supervisorial District.

The panels were created by the Orange County Archives, which is part of the County Clerk-Recorder's Office. Photos were culled from a variety of sources, including the O.C. Archives, First American Corp, the Anaheim and Santa Ana Public Libraries, and the Old Courthouse Museum. One of the most important sources, however, was Mr. Stan Oftelie, who constantly amazes me with his broad and deep understanding of our County government's history.

(Unfortunately, the new display is short two photos: Abel Guy Smith and David McMullan. If you know where to find photos of these blokes, please let me know.)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Take a class in O.C. history!

“Learn about Orange County history, including such topics as the early occupants of this territory, Spanish and Mexican influences and the development of some of our cities."

Diane Ryan is once again offering her class in O.C. history through Coastline Community College’s Emeritus Department. It’s the only class of its kind that I’m aware of.
Call (714) 241-6213 for registration information. You can register the first day of class if there is room, but they may be full by then. The classes are noncredit and are aimed at students over 55, but anyone can sign up.

SocS 400 Section #8848
16 wks starting Tues., Jan. 30, 1:30-3:30
Leisure World Seal Beach, Clubhouse 3, Room 2

SocS 400 Section #8027
16 wks. starting Thurs., Feb. 1, 1:30-3:30
Oasis Senior Center, Corona del Mar

Friday, January 05, 2007

Ed Nixon to talk about his brother

Tuesday will be President Nixon's 94th birthday, and the Nixon Library will mark the day in several ways. At 10:30 am there will be a formal laying of a wreath sent by President Bush. This will be followed at 11 am with remarks by Edward Nixon, the President’s brother. He will "talk fondly about his older brother’s life and legacy." Admission to the Library will be free in honor of this special day.

Also of interest to Nixon fans: On Monday, the Nixon Library will launch a new exhibit about the day Elvis Presley went to the White House to meet Yorba Linda's favorite son.

Start filling up that new calendar

Historic sites: If you're looking for things to see and do, check out the Register's "DiscoverOC" listing of historic sites around O.C. The photo of Garden Grove's Stanley House Museum (above) is taken from their site.

Dana Point: The Dana Point Historical Society's next program meeting will be held Jan. 22, at 7pm, at the Dana Point Community House, 24642 San Juan Ave.

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth: The Peterson Automotive Museum presents "Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth... The Original Rat Fink" through June 3rd. Roth was a custom hotrod guru and artist who plied his trade at Buena Park's Cars of The Stars Museum and at Knott's Berry Farm, among other places.

Mission San Juan Capistrano: The Mission's Living History Society will host an open house on Sat., Feb. 10th, at 11am, on the Mission grounds. Society members dress in costume and portray figures in the Mission’s history on the second Saturday of each month and for special events at the Mission. At the open house, prospective volunteers will learn about the program and watch members in action. For more information, call (949) 234-1322.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

From Cordelia Knott's kitchen

The history bug makes people do very strange things. Case in point: I just bought a scroungy old pie tin on eBay. Why? Because it's stamped "Knott's Berry Place."

No, that's not a typo. Knott's Berry Place became Knott's Berry Farm in 1947. That makes this "distressed antique" a rare artifact from one of my favorite chapters of local history.

The guy I bought the tin from said it was nailed to the side of a barn on Starr Ranch until the 1960s, when someone pried it off and tucked it away for safekeeping.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year

I said I’d be flaky about posting during the holidays, and I was true to my word. Here’s another quick round-up…
  • On January 4th, 1889, Assemblyman E. E. Edwards introduced a bill to create Orange County.
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  • The historic Albert & Susan Chaffee House (1913) at 12771 Nelson Ave., Garden Grove, is up for sale. The 2,040-square-foot, two-story bungalow will only set you back $500! The catch? You have to pay to have the house moved and provide the dirt to put under it. Still, it could be a pretty sweet deal for the preservation-minded buyer. If you’re interested, call the owner, Garden Grove Planning Commissioner Ron Pierce at (714) 757-5400.
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  • The vacant old commercial building at 431 S. Lemon St. in the Colony historic district of Anahiem was badly damaged by a fire late Monday. There weren’t many old commercial structures downtown, and now there’s one less.
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  • Volunteers are raising money for a Veterans Memorial in Veterans Park in Yorba Linda, where the city has its annual 4th of July Celebration. If you’d like to help, visit ylvma.org.
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  • The First Advent Christian Church of Tustin celebrated it’s 125th anniversary on Monday, Dec. 30th.
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  • The “Majestic California” exhibit at the Irvine Museum ends Jan. 13th. The exhibit features paintings of California from the early 1900s.
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  • The O.C. Historical Society’s next meeting will be at the new Segerstrom Center for the Arts, in Costa Mesa, on Thurs, Jan 11, at 6:30pm. Tim Dunn will lead members on a private tour of this impressive new building. I have no idea why this is historical, but it does sound interesting. (Their February program will about the “Orange County on Display” exhibit at the John Wayne Airport.)