Thursday, December 30, 2010

Moonshine, a fish parade, and a happy new year

Even before national prohibition, Huntington Beach was supposedly a "dry town." Of course, that's not how it worked in practice, even with occasional busts by the local police.
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This photo, from the Jan 7, 1932 Huntington Beach News was captioned, "Photograph taken at police station... showing bootlegging equipment confiscated at the warehouse at 708 Huntington avenue, [between Geneva Ave. and Hartford Ave.] alleged to belong the Steve Stimatz whose trial for possession will be heard Friday. In the picture from left to right are: Officers Robidoux and Shafer; Councilman E. B. Stevens and Chief of Police L. F. Keller..."
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These days, the City approves almost anyone downtown who requests a liquor license.

E. B. Stevens, by the way, is best remembered as the father of the short-lived Huntington Beach Fish Parade. In 1926, the entire fishing-themed parade, from bathing beauties to dignitaries to jazz bands, wound its way from Huntington Beach along a route more than 85 miles in length, taking in communities as distant as Olive, La Habra and Norwalk. The event was not repeated in 1927.
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Anyway, have a happy new year and enjoy the (merely) 5 1/2-mile long Rose Parade. But take it easy with the bathtub gin.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More Claim Jumper history: Nik's and Nick's

This is a follow-up to my post a couple months ago about the history of Claim Jumper restaurants. I told you that Carl Nickoloff previously ran Nik's Coffee Shop in Long Beach (seen below), and that Carl and his son Craig started Claim Jumper in Los Alamitos in 1977. The family later sold the chain.In response to my post, founder Craig Nickoloff sent me a very nice email that included information about yet another generation of the family to go into the restaurant business:
"...Meanwhile my son, Nick Nickoloff, who is a fourth generation restaurateur has opened two restaurants in Orange County serving lunch and dinner, 'Nick's Laguna' and 'Nick's San Clemente', both restaurants are doing great and he is planning on expanding in the near future, I am very proud.
"My daughter and son-in-law have opened a small sandwich shop in San Clemente on Pico Blvd next to the high school named 'Humphry's', they are doing great, the sandwiches are excellent."
I had the chance to have dinner at Nick's San Clemente last night. (See photo at the top of today's post.) The food was very good, and the place was packed. Expect prices that are a bit steeper than Claim Jumper. The vibe is "nice casual." My Hawaiian shirt was fine, but I felt a bit under-dressed in the jeans and sneakers I'd been wearing to walk around town that afternoon. Also, be warned that one of their salads is almost a meal by itself.
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Toward the back of the establishment were a number of framed menus and photos from the old Nik's Coffee Shop in Long Beach. I snapped photos (below) so I could share them here on the blog.
(I apologize for the fuzziness of all these photos. The battery in my good camera went dead and I was left using an older digital camera that I happened to have in my glove compartment.)
I love the wonderful Mid-Century logo and signage! It would have been at home on any Googie building. Here's where I wish I'd been using my newer camera. Still, you get the idea.
To see my original post about Claim Jumper, click here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

President Harrison visits Santa Ana

The photo above shows President Benjamin Harrison's reception at Santa Ana Station in 1891. (Click image to embigulate.) The image below is a closeup detail from the same photo, showing Harrison on his whistle-stop in Orange County. Note the eagle-topped arbor at left.
This photo was one of a number of images our friend Lisa Ackerman discovered for the Orange County Archives at a recent estate sale. They were among a number of photos by local photographer B.F. Conaway, and the Archives ended up with the whole set.
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For those who napped through their U.S. History classes, Benjamin Harrison was our 23rd president and served one term: from 1889 to 1893. A Republican, he was best remembered for various pieces of economic legislation. (Remember why you napped through U.S. History yet?)
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The economy was tanking during his years in office. Moreover, he was held responsible for the first federal budget to reach a billion dollars. He had his ass handed to him in the next election.
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During his administration, six states were admitted to the union: North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming.
Odd Fact: Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of our 9th president, William Henry Harrison.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, from Santa, Whittles, and me

I join Santa and Whittles in their holiday wishes to you. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa, Mission Viejo, the Evangeline Hotel, etc.

Young Henry Gonzales sits on Santa's lap at the White Front Store at 2222 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, in this photo from 1962. (Photo courtesy Anaheim Public Library.) You can tell it's the early '60s, because even Santa has an aluminum Christmas tree.
This color photo shows Santa and his elves in their workshop at,... Mission Viejo. (Thought I was gonna say the North Pole, didn'tcha?) This photo was taken just two years after the Mission Viejo Company -- which developed the entire area -- was taken over by cigarette-pimping Philip Morris Inc. I thought the photo (which comes to us courtesy the Mission Viejo Library) might have been taken at the Mission Viejo Mall, but the mall didn't open until 1979.
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Our search for "historic parking lots" in Orange County continues, and comments continue to roll in. Phil Brigandi writes, "If the Orange Crush is ever ruled an official parking lot (as opposed to its current status as a de facto one), that will open up many possibilities for historic sites buried under concrete. First on my list would be the West Orange [Southern Pacific] depot."
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Good news and bad news on the historic Evangeline Hotel (1906) at 421 8th St., Huntington Beach.
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First, the bad news: The original carriage house was badly damaged in this last big storm. The roof collapsed due to what one knowledgeable observer called "water weight and wood rot caused by neglect" by the property's various owners over the years. Another pointed out that the barn was only still standing "because the termites were holding hands." The new owners have requested a demolition permit.
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Now the good news: The Evangeline's new owners are a group of several developers from out of the area (I know this sounds like bad news, but stick with me) who want to restore the building and turn each floor into a condo-type vacation home for their own families. If the plans that were described to me are followed, it could be an very positive step for this important property.
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As someone who wants to preserve what little remains of H.B.'s important historic structures, I'm unsure whether to come down on the side of saving the carriage barn, or whether to simply see it as the price that must be paid to see the Evangeline itself restored. Sometimes you have to compromise.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas in Irvine (no vampires this time)

Today's images are Christmas cards sent by James H. and Katherine Irvine in the 1930s. Copies of the cards were posted online by the Katie Wheeler Branch Library in Irvine. (As always, click on any image to enlarge it.) The 1938 card, above, depicts Irvine Lake. I just discovered a much larger version of this image recently, which I may share at a later time.
Note the recurring agriculture motif. Also notice the recurring terrible poetry. Yikes! (Am I the only one reminded of Farmer Iggy's Almanac? "Plant in the mornin', vegetables a-bornin'.") This last card shows the Irvine Ranch Headquarters. Today, much of this property is preserved as the Irvine Heritage Park.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Knott's Merry Farm, Christmas vampires, etc.

Today's image is the cover of the Nov./Dec. 1960 issue of the Knotty Post, the old employee magazine at Knott's Berry Farm.
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On this day in 1888, the Orange News was founded. Also on this day, in 1929, the Seal Beach Volunteer Fire Department was organized.
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Tomorrow (Monday) will mark the 114th annivesary of the discovery and slaughter of a remarkably "enormous vampire bat" on the San Joaquin (Irvine) Ranch. (Really!) Thus began the annual Irvine tradition of heralding the arrival of Christmas with the slaying of a vampire. (Not really. But maybe they should.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A quick jog through historic Santa Ana

Dave DeCaro of Daveland stopped by the Orange County Archives the other day to visit me. He didn't have much time, but he did stick around long enough for me to give him an abbreviated tour of Downtown Santa Ana. Naturally, we started with the Old Courthouse and the Archives. Then, with time at a premium, the obvious next place to go was 4th Street (with a quick detour onto 3rd as well). I took all the photos in today's post during that short tour. Dave's version of the trek is posted on his blog and a new Santa Ana page on his website.
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The photo above shows Dave at the Yost Theatre (1912). The image below was taken at 4th and Sycamore, and shows a variety of historic buildings, including the tall First National Bank Building and the ornate Orange County Title Company Building (with a modernized lower half). Before the strip malls and shopping centers of the 1950s and the malls of the 1970s, 4th St. was the most important shopping and business district in Orange County. Much of the street's historic infrastructure can still be seen between misguided attempts at updating and improving the buildings.
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Some of the coolest buildings here are the old theaters, with the West End Theatre (1915), shown below, being a prime example. The West Coast Theatre on Main St. (not depicted here) is also a beauty.
I spent most of the tour pointing at things and talking -- not taking photos -- So I'm not showing you even a fraction of the interesting stuff we passed. And our short timeframe meant that a lot of neat places were skipped entirely -- like the snazzy Santora Building at Broadway and 2nd St.
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I'm not sure what the story is on the building shown below, at Broadway and 4th, but I like it. The upper floors have loads of character, while the first floor suffers from a half-baked art-deco overlay.
One of my favorite blocks in all of Santa Ana is the 400 Block of West 4th St. directly across from the enormous Reagan Federal Building & Courthouse. This tidy row of old two-story commercial buildings (below) show what Santa Ana could be if it got its act together. Santa Ana has loads of potential to be welcoming, fascinating and charming. Sadly, few expect to see that potential realized.
Buildings along this part of 4th include the Lawrence Building and the Clausen Block. An underwhelming pastrami place just moved out of one of these storefronts. One can only hope it's replaced by The Hat.
In the photo above, you see the back of the old Santa Ana City Hall (1934), designed by architects W. Horace Austin and H.C. Wildman after the big quake of 1933 made the even older City Hall unsafe. The building project was partially funded by the WPA.
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Why photograph the back of City Hall? Because the parking lot behind it (at left) is also historically important. That land was Santa Ana's Chinatown. It was burned down in 1906 after leprosy was discovered there. (Yes, all the residents were removed from the buildings first!)
It's also fun, as you walk down 4th St., to look for signs (sometimes literally) of the old businesses that used to inhabit the buildings. Signs and logos for stores like Krieger's (above), Woolworth's, Buster Brown Shoes, and Rankin's Department Store can still be found amid the architectural details. This is fertile ground for urban archaeology.
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Unlike many downtowns that simply died and faded away, Downtown Santa Ana is still a bustling commercial hub. The area just has different customers now. The shops now sell quinceanera and wedding dresses, trips home to Mexico, cheap children's clothes, and "check wiring" services.
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There's also a really cool Western-wear store on East 4th and an honest-to-God newsstand on Broadway, between 4th and 5th.
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If you're interested in a tour of Downtown Santa Ana, check out the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society's website. They often conduct tours on the first Saturday of the month, and occasionally offer them at other times as well.
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(Or if all else fails, find a local historian and see if he'll spend his lunch hour giving you a walking tour.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas in Stanton

Welcome to scenic Saddleback Pines, nestled between the high-tension power lines and the train tracks at 10722-10800 S. Magnolia Ave., in the sylvan wonderland of Stanton, California. Their stylish team of tree technicians is waiting eagerly to assist you.
It appears this Christmas tree farm was in operation from at least 1968 until at least 1985. They had over 2,000 trees each year on about 6 acres of land. Saddleback Pines sold both "choose-and-cut" and potted trees. (No, it's not what you'd call serious history," but after five years of blogging I don't have as much Christmasy material as I used to.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Seal Beach postcards, racism tours, and UCI

It's hard to say what's most inviting about the image above: The miles of barbed wire along Westminster Blvd., or the cop who's waiting to ambush you and give you an expensive ticket. But if the sign says "welcome," they must mean it.
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Yes folks, you are now reading the special "Seal Beach's Least Inviting Postcards" edition of O.C. History Roundup. All three of today's images are postcards you could purchase and mail to friends and family to share the wonders of Seal Beach.
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Don't get me wrong. I've always really liked Seal Beach and I still do. Unlike many other cities I could name, it's retained its beach-town charm. That just makes the existence of these postcards all the more puzzling.
The second postcard shows Southern California Edison's Alamitos Generating Station (power plant). You can tell it's Christmastime because of the twinkle-light "trees" running up the side of this industrial monstrosity. Boy, when I think of escaping to the beach, I always think of giant ugly Erector Sets with smokestacks belching crud into the sky.
Our final postcard shows the collapsed Seal Beach Hotel shortly after the 1933 "Long Beach" earthquake. If the promise of poorly constructed hotels, unstable soil and violent quakes doesn't bring in hoards of tourists, what will?
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In other news, Sandra Robbie took Frank Mickadeit on a "tour of O.C. racism." I'm not sure I understand why the tour singled out the City of Orange.
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Notice to researchers: UCI's Special Collections & Archives have moved temporarily to the Southeast Asian Archive in Room 360 on the third floor of the Langson Library. They hope to be open in a renovated facility on the fifth floor of Langson in mid to late January. Hours at their temporary digs are Mon-Fri, 1-5pm. Renovation progress photos are posted on their Anteater Antics blog.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Irvine Ranch, postcards, El Toro, OCHS, gifts

I was at the Irvine Ranch Historic Park (a.k.a. Irvine Ranch Headquarters, a.k.a. Myford) yesterday, and noticed these amazing old poinsettias growing along the old driveway to the Irvine family home. (The home is long gone, but a replica has been built on the same location in the form of the Katie Wheeler Branch Library.)
The second image here shows the old gate into the Irvine Ranch House with a younger, but still beautiful, poinsettia plant. Sort of puts you in the mood for Christmas, no?
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For the first time in a long time, there's going to be a vintage postcard fair held here in Orange County. The O.C. Winterfest Postcard Show will be held this Saturday, Dec, 11th, 10am-6pm, at the Holiday Inn & Suites, 2932 E. Nutwood Ave., Fullerton. Admission is $5. I'll probably be there myself.
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Later that evening, the Heritage Hill Historic Park in El Toro (known to those just off the turnip truck as "Lake Forest") will offer holiday candelight tours amid their charming 19th Century buildings. Along the luminaria-lit paths you'll find Victorian-costumed carolers, storytellers, refreshments, Santa, and more. Admission is $3 for children (3-12yrs) and $4 for adults. The park is located at 25151 Serrano Rd. (Yes, it's behind a shopping center, but it's still quite a delightful place.)
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Don't forget to attend the special Orange Countiana meeting of the Orange County Historical Society this Thursday. (See my Nov. 30 post for details.) As editor, Phil Brigandi has really breathed new life into the idea that Orange County needs its own historical journal and has provided us with an excellent example of the same. He and some of our contributors will be on hand to talk about their articles for the journal and sign your copy. And remember: Extra copies of Orange Countiana make excellent gifts for friends and family. (Okay, okay!... I'll back off!)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Orange County flag and a Tustin blimp hangar

Chris Epting has an article about the creation of Orange County's flag in today's Huntington Beach Independent. I blogged a bit on this subject last year, but Chris actually went out and tracked down the flag's designer for an interview.
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The photo above shows O.C. Supervisor Alton Allen (wearing a tie and glasses) with a county flag that would soon be taken to the 1969 Boy Scout Jamboree. Note the decorative carousel horses at the South Coast Plaza parking lot in the background.
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There's good news for the historic North Blimp Hangar at the old MCAS Tustin. According to O.C. Supervisor Bill Campbell,...

"The Board [of Supervisors] directed OC Parks to prepare a concept plan to establish a regional park at the former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin and to preserve the North Blimp Hangar. In conjunction with the concept plan, a number of analyses will be completed, including:

  • A re-evaluation of the requirements necessary for the public to access the hangar and the costs to satisfy those requirements.
  • A recreation demand and market evaluation of potential uses for the park, including the hangar.
  • An assessment of the costs to develop park uses adjacent to the hangar.
  • Exploration of the financing options available to OC Parks and the County to develop, operate, and maintain the regional park.
"The concept plan and supporting analyses are expected to be completed within a year. Board direction will then be sought to proceed with more detailed planning, design, and financing work and the preparation of a Program of Utilization for submittal to the National Park Service." (My thanks to the Heritage Coordinating Council for passing this news along.)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Saved. Not Paved.

Yesterday, our pal Mike Boeck attended the ceremony at which "Irvine Company CEO Donald Bren [shown above] officially signed over 20,000 acres (31.25 square miles!) of Irvine Ranch land to the people of Orange County. ...It was a beautiful day, just about perfect weather."
The land was given to OC Parks (still known to many as Orange County Harbors Beaches & Parks). Mike also took the photos you see in today's post. In the image above, County Supervisor Bill Campbell signs the document, accepting the land while Donald Bren, OC Parks Director Mark Denny and Supervisors Nelson, Bates, Moorlach and Nguyen look on. In the image below, Bren addresses the crowd.
Normally, I don't post about news events on this blog. But this transfer A) Was clearly an important moment in Orange County history, and B) Includes many historic sites on the land in question.
There's much more coverage of this event, the transfer, and its significance in an article in today's Register.