Saturday, May 22, 2010

Morrison Park, Santa Ana

The Morrison Park Neighborhood Association in northern Santa Ana invited me to speak to them on Thursday evening about "How to Research the History of Your Home." What I didn't know was that my presentation would be followed by a fascinating panel discussion by some of the area's earliest residents. Aside from a few farm houses, the area was all orange groves until the first tract went under construction in about 1955. Some of these folks were original owners.
From left to right, the people in the photo above are Don and Deanie Bass, Dick Kirwin, Anne Neidring Haus, Al Glicksir, and Lester and Jean Davis.
Forty-year resident Don Bass said the park was named for Judge Kenneth Morrison, who presided in the juvenile courts and who was very concerned with Orange County's youth. "He used to sit in the bleachers at the Santa Ana Bowl with a bullhorn -- A one-man cheering section for the Saints."
The Davises have lived in their home almost 55 years. A Tustin "farm boy," Lester moved to Santa Ana to raise his family. He bought in the Vista Del Flores tract (now considered part of the Morrison Park neighborhood), and paid $14,500 for his home! He remembers the baby boomer kids taking over the street when school was out -- once counting 76 kids playing touch football in the street together.
Lester Davis also spoke about Morrison Park's most famous resident, Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan, for whom Corrigan street is now named. In 1938, Corrigan, a pilot, filed a flight plan to go from New York to Long Beach, but ended up in Ireland. He claimed it was a navigational error. However, he had previously been denied permission to make a transatlantic flight. The "wrong way" gimmick was his way of getting around the rules. He moved to Santa Ana in 1950, purchasing a home and an orange grove.
Davis said, "Corrigan had a reputation as difficult with the City Council, but I never found him that way. He was a very gentle man and a very concerned neighbor. He had a barn out back with the airplane from his famous flight in it. His son still lives in the house."
Al Glickser, once employed by the Long Beach Press-Telegram, is a well known figure in the neighborhood today. He expressed his heartfelt warm feelings about his neighbors and his neighborhood. "You can't live somewhere 40-some-odd years and not become attached," he said.
Anne Neidring Haus recently moved to Floral Park, but came back to be part of the panel discussion. She said that many of the people who lived on their old street, Fairbrook, worked down the road at State Farm Insurance, where her husband, Gordon, also worked. She said that other ideas for the park's name included Corrigan and Fairbrook. But Morrison was chosen because of Judge Morrison's dedication to helping young people.
Dick Kirwin first saw the neighborhood when he was a driving instructor at Santa Ana High School. He had his students drive all over town, and in the process he noticed this area that he liked. In 1966 the Kirwins left South Santa Ana and moved to Morrison Park.
Dick Kirwin said that Corrigan wanted to sell off his orange grove and have it turned into apartments, but the neighbors didn't like the idea. They went to Mayor Loren Griset and asked him to take the issue before the City Council. The Council voted to let the local residents decide on the zoning. They decided the land would be used for a church (part of the parking lot of Spurgeon Memorial United Methodist Church) and a park. He said that a creek also once ran through Corrigan's property, but no trace of it remains today.
I wish more neighborhoods would get together like this to learn about their own history. What a great idea! My thanks to the Association for inviting me!


Gustavo Arellano said...

Judge Morrison, huh? Is he the same Judge Morrison who wanted to uphold housing covenant laws in Orange County during the early 1940s, per the Alex Bernal cover story I wrote a couple of weeks ago? If it is, how funny and apropos that Morrison Park is right next to Floral Park, created as a white-only haven...

Doug said...

Good post.

Chris Jepsen said...

I don't know if that's the same Judge Morrison.

Good sleuthing on the Bernal story, by the way.

Of course, race restriction clauses in deeds were more the rule than the exception in those days. Not just in Floral Park and not just in Orange County, but across the board.

That being the case, the question to ask is, "Why Orange County?" Why do both the Bernal and Mendez cases originate here? Dumb luck? Or is there a more significant reason?

I also find it interesting that neither the Bernals nor the Mendezes talked about their respective cases, even to their children.

Was this out of modesty, supressed anger, or simply not appreciating the larger importance of what they'd done?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your presentation at our MPNA meeting. Also for your excellent writeup on the discussion from our senior residents.
Ivan Ashbaugh,
MPNA email Coordinator.

Chris Jepsen said...

Ivan: It was my pleasure. Thanks to MPNA for inviting me. Other neighborhoods could learn a lot from you folks. (And thank you again for the technical assistance.)