Thursday, April 24, 2008

SAAAB, Dana Point lanterns & Aliso Viejo Ranch

These photos show the Santa Ana Army Air Base (SAAAB), a WWII pilot training facility in what is now part of Costa Mesa. Today, Orange Coast College, the O.C. Fairgrounds, and Vanguard University are located on the site of the old base. The first photo (top) shows the Service Club lounge in about 1944. The second photo shows some of the barracks as they appeared in May 1949 – shortly before they were torn down. This Saturday, the SAAAB Wing will hold its 32nd annual reunion at Orange Coast College’s Student Center.
The Dana Point Historical Society (DPHS) recently acquired two more of the colorful lanterns that adorned that community’s streets in its early years. These particular lanterns have a complicated provenance, including this story, related by DPHS President Carlos N. Olvera:
“Our newly acquired lamps were a gift to Winnie Everett of South Laguna... from Heinz Kaiser. Kaiser was an Orange County Supervisor for the 5th District. ...He had just been elected to a third term when he died in 1958. After his death, a second will, dated in 1956, was filed naming Miss Everett as executrix of his estate and leaving her half of his estate. [Ed. – Including the lanterns!] Originally, the first will, dated in 1952 and filed shortly after his death, had left all of his estate to his wife. Although a surprise to many, the second will was not contested.”
The City of Aliso Viejo is planning to do something (hopefully preservation or adaptive reuse?) with the Aliso Viejo Ranch site at 100 Park Ave. The City held a community workshop last week to brainstorm ideas. If you’d like to know more about this project, contact the City at (949) 425-2530.


Matterhorn1959 said...

The landing strip at SAAB became the site of the first official Drag Strip in America, the Santa Ana Drags. Any chance of images of the drag strip from the early days?

Chris Jepsen said...

Actually, there was no landing strip at SAAAB. It was mainly classrooms, barracks, and other ground school facilities. However, the military DID commandeer the Orange County Airport (which was some distance away from SAAAB) during the war, and I believe that's where the drag strip was later located.

Also, the strip was not -- as is usually believed -- part of the runway. It was separate from (but adjacent to) the O.C. Airport runway.

Yes, there's quite a bit of Santa Ana Drag Racing info floating around out there on eBay and in collections. We have a couple images here. I believe there's also footage of it in this free film at the Prelinger Archives:

CoxPilot said...

My father-in-law was the commanding officer of the Santa Ana flight operations. And, that was based at the Santa Ana Airport. Air Operations was a separate command under Army Air Corps until 1941, then changed to Army Air Force six months before Pearl Harbor. Later he was transfered as Commander of the Air Training Facility at Uvalde, Texas (a cadet training facility similar to Santa Ana).

Your correct about the drags at SA, but they used the OLD original runway (abandoned for flight ops after the new heavier and lengthened runway was built for the SAAB, to accommodate military aircraft. Prior to the Army taking over the field, it was a small strip for private use.

I ran my old Jag through a couple of times for $1.00.