Saturday, May 26, 2007

Knott's Berry Farm and another Anaheim book

Chris Merritt's presentation on the history of Knott's Berry Farm was really amazing, and I only hope he does an encore performance here in O.C. He's researched this subject for about 15 years and it shows! Moreover, he's a good storyteller. I can't wait to read his book, which should be hitting shelves about a year from now.

The photo above was taken at Merritt's presentation on Monday. From left to right: Tony Baxter of Disney Imagineering, your truly, Bud Hurbut (the genius behind the Mine Train Ride, the Log Ride, and many others at Knott's), Kevin Kidney (extremely talented artist), and two more folks who I think are also from Imagineering.

Naturally, since this was probably my only chance to have my photo taken with these guys, I *had* to blink. Still, it was quite a moment for me, getting to stand around and talk with legends.

Anyway, that was Monday, and the rest of the week has been uber-busy too. Between family stuff, work, and the battle to save my home from a poorly planned nearby construction project, I just haven't had much time to post updates. And as you can see, this isn't much of an update either.

I can, however, report that Steve Faessel's new Anaheim book is excellent. His knowledge and hard work really shine through. Even historians and long-time Anaheim citizens will see photos they've never seen before. Alternately, you could ignore the photos and simply read the captions for a good summary of Anaheim's history from 1940 to the present.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Old newspaper photos, Fort Wilderness, Orange, etc.

While everyone was feeling bad about the destruction of the Leisure World globe at Laguna Woods, O.C. was also losing another mid-Century icon. Say goodbye to Fort Wilderness (1956), on Disneyland's Tom Sawyer's Island. Demolition began this week. There was a time in my childhood when Tom Sawyer's Island was the coolest part of the park, and Fort Wilderness was a significant part of that. Learn more about the history and fate of Fort Wilderness in Werner Weiss' latest update. (Photo courtesy
UCLA has opened up online access to 5,124 photos from their L. A. Times and L. A. Daily News photographic archives. I provide a link to this collection with the warning that you will likely be lost in the site for at least a couple hours. And yes, it includes some Orange County stuff.

The Fullerton Historic Theatre Foundation has revamped their website at

The Orange Community Historical Society's next meeting is May 24, 7pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. Historian and County Archivist Phil Brigandi will speak about Orange County place names.

I don't remember if I mentioned that the new Orange Public Library & History Center is open for business. It's on the same site as the old library, just a couple blocks east of the Plaza on Chapman Ave.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Roadside O.C., etc.

Yes, I have a soft spot for mid-Century roadside architecture. Today’s image is an architect’s illustration of the Aztec Motel at 7620 Beach Blvd, in Buena Park, next to the Medieval Times dinner theater. The building still stands.

And speaking of cool mid-Century roadside stuff,...
There’s an 11th-hour effort afoot to save the landmark Leisure World globe in Laguna Woods. Couldn't they just cut the "Leisure World" lettering off the globe and avoid all this legal unpleasantness? (I don't think you can copyright a generic image of planet earth.) Links follow:

Today’s Register article about the Santa Ana YMCA Building had some accuracy problems, but the historical information was fairly interesting.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

From the mountains, to the sea, to all of Orange County...

Today's photo is from an eBay auction item I discovered some months ago. It's a model of the water tower at Los Patos, a small community off Warner Ave, on the bluff overlooking PCH in Huntington Beach. This model was created for an "N scale" model railroad by Muir Models Inc. The actual tower was built in 1939 and was still standing as recently as 20 years ago. It's not every day you see a product related to such an obscure O.C. community. (Sadly, I didn't win the auction.)

Happy birthday to Santa Ana historian Francelia Goddard, who turned 100 on Friday.

Bradley Flint, who was briefly the docent at the Old Courthouse Museum, is filling the vacancy left by Ranger Sam at the George Key Ranch historical park in Placentia. No word yet about who will become the new docent at the Old Courthouse.
Thanks to Jeff Smith for his great talk on grass roots preservation at the Orange County Historical Society on Thursday.

The City Of Huntington Beach is finally taking action to replace the trailers on their pier with permanent buildings. I hope they end up looking like the iconic old deco buildings that stood on the previous pier. It would look sharp, provide historical continuity, and would be a good match for the Ruby's at the end of the pier.
The Old O.C. Courthouse was the backdrop for a Law Day celebration last week. Actually, Law Day was May 1st, and it would have been more fitting if they'd held it then. It would have been nice to celebrate the rule of law on the same day that hundreds rallied to support illegal activities on the opposite side of the Civic Center. But then, I enjoy irony more than some folks.
On a separate but not completely unrelated note, hundreds showed up for the Peace Officers' Memorial Ceremony at the Santa Ana Civic Center on Wednesday. The event paid tribute to all the law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty throughout the history of Orange County.
The Tustin Area Historical Society's annual Promenade Home & Garden Tour will be held on Saturday, May 19th from 9 am to 4 pm.
Guy Ball has also updated the new Tustin Area Historical Society's new website with a bunch of historic photos and a virtual tour of their museum.
The City of San Juan Capistrano will add a park to the historic Los Rios District.
The San Clemente City Council voted against replacing a historic garden with two condominium buildings.
Fountain Valley's 50-year history is discussed in a recent Register article.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Airport, Civil War graves & Anaheim preservation

Today's photo shows the Blue Angels with Governor Ronald Reagan at the dedication ceremony for the new Orange County Airport terminal, May 6, 1967. (Photo from the Blue Angels website.)

Charles Beal has completed his "Civil War Veteran Graves of Orange County" project. The project is featured in the May edition of Point of Beginning (a professional land surveying magazine) and is slated to be featured in a Register article sometime around Memorial Day. Way to go!

The O.C. Historical Society will meet at 7:30pm, Thursday, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St, in Orange. The topic will be the creation of Anaheim's newest historical district. I will probably be there.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Cowboys, Knott's, H.B., Rossmoor & Mao-sketeers

Today's photo shows cowboys branding cattle on the Moulton Ranch (in what is now Aliso Viejo) in 1913. (Photo courtesy O.C. Archives.)

Over at Greetings from Downtown Huntington Beach, I just posted a short bio of the late George Arnold -- Perpetual H.B. City Council candidate and rabblerouser.
Christopher Merritt will give a slide lecture on the history of Knott's Berry Farm before the Crescenta Valley Historical Society, May 21, 7pm, at the La Cresenta Valley Church of Religious Science. It's one heckuva drive in rush hour traffic, but I'm going to try to be there. Meanwhile, Chris' book, "Knott's Preserves" is finally nearing completion.

On a related note, Christeen Taniguchi will speak on the subject of O.C.'s programmatic and roadside architecture (with an emphasis on Hobby City and Knott's Berry Farm) at this weekend's California Preservation Foundation conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. If you're going to this confab, be sure to check the schedule.
The community of Rossmoor is throwing a big 50th anniversary party this weekend.
Also, the Register ran another article about the demise of the Port Theater in Corona del Mar.
The Garden Grove Historical Society will hold a "Book & Barn Sale," May 31 to June 2, 9am-4pm, at 12174 Euclid Ave.

Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. First, China built its own Orange County and now this... Cory at BoingBoing writes, "Shijingshan Amusement Park in Beijing is basically a weird, Chinese clone of Disneyland. Japanese bloggers have blogged a bunch of photos of the park and its characters." Weird.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Dorthea Lange, El Toro, Fullerton Arboretum, etc.

Did you know that famed photographer Dorthea Lange did some work in Orange County during the Depression? Today's photo was taken by Lange in February 1936. It shows a dairy "near Santa Ana" (probably closer to Midway City). The business had gone belly-up and was taken taken over by the Resettlement Administration which turned it into a "self-help cooperative dairy." (Image courtesy U.S. Library of Congress.)

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at the Rancho Days Fiesta at Heritage Hill Historical Park, 25151 Serrano Rd., Lake Forest, 11am to 4pm. Events include Indian dancing and music, mariachis, living history presentations, educational exhibits, and an arts and crafts fair. For the kids there will also be hand cranked ice cream, candle dipping, early American crafts, butter churning and pony rides ($1). Adult admission is $4. Child’s admission is $3. The park’s historic buildings will be open courtesy Amigos de la Colina. Feel free to dress in Rancho period clothing if you choose.

An old El Camino Real bell will be rededicated at it’s new home in the Fullerton Arboretum on Saturday, May 12. This event will also include the opportunity to tour the Heritage House Museum (a.k.a. the Dr. George C. Clark House), the new O.C. Agricultural & Nikkei Museum, and to see the newly restored Chapman Wisteria Arbor. Cake and other refreshments will be served in honor of Dr. Clark’s birthday. The event runs from 1pm to 4pm. Admission and parking are free.

See footage of Tomorrowland on opening day in 1955. Narration by Bob Cummings.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Vi Smith, Orange, and a bunch of links

Noted O.C. aviation historian and journalist Vi Smith died Thursday. Among local historians, her best known work is undoubtedly From Jennies to Jets: The Aviation History of Orange County (1974), which is still the go-to book on the subject. The concourse art gallery at the John Wayne Airport is named for her. Services will be held at Noon, May 11, at Waverly Chapel in Santa Ana. (Link to obituary for Violet K. Smith in the L.A. Times.)

If you thought you saw Huell Howser walking around Orange last week, you were right. Phil Brigandi gave Huell a tour of his hometown for an episode of “Visiting… With Huell Howser,” to air later this month on PBS.

Today’s O.C. Register features an article about changes in Tustin’s Old Town district (Local section, pg 5), but it doesn’t seem to be on their website. However, here’s a link to a related article from last week. Meanwhile, go read the dead tree version of the Register.

Also in the Register: Mike Harrah is moving the Basler Home; some of MCAS El Toro’s trees are spared the ax; more “Doheny Housenews from Dana Point; and Disneyland’s C.K. Holliday steam locomotive will leave the park for an appearance at Fullerton’s annual Railroad Days event this weekend.

Do you have any local history you'd like to share, or related events you'd like to promote on this blog? Send me an email.