Friday, September 30, 2011

Saturday doin's, Anaheim and Old Courthouse news

If you missed the Anaheim Historical Society's big Citrus Celebration at Founders Park this past weekend (as I was forced to), there's still a chance to partially redeem yourself. Tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 1st, Anaheim's historic Founder's Park, at 400-418 N. West St., will hold an open house from 9am to noon. Costumed docents will be on hand to lead tours and share information on the historic homes. The event is free, although donations to help support school tours are always appreciated. It appears this open house thing will be a regular occurance on the first Saturday of each month. (That's the same schedule as the open houses at Santa Ana's Victorian Howe-Waffle House, so you could make a day of it!)

Did I mention the Anaheim Historical Society now has a blog? Well, they do. So go look at it already!

Those of you who have been involved in one way or another with the Old Orange County Courthouse during the past three decades probably know the curator of the Old Courthouse Museum, Marshall Duell. He has been there since the 1980s when the building reopened after a major retrofitting. Marshall has announced that he's retiring in October. If you plan to stop by to say farewell, you might want to call him first -- I understand he broke his arm and may be out for a couple days.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dig that crazy Santa Ana, man!

In the "Comments" section of my recent post about the fate of Santa Ana's historic Lacy Neighborhood, our pal, archaeologist and frequent reader Douglas McIntosh, wrote, "I hope that with the destruction of this neighborhood, that someone has considered the fact that there is the strong possibility that there may be numerous sub-surface features and artifacts that may be encountered and destroyed by earth moving activities.

"Considering the age of some of the structures that Chris wrote about, back yard features such as privies, burn pits, cisterns, wells,storage rooms etc..could be exposed when grading and leveling work is carried out in this region. Nearly all of the above listed features were encountered and examined when pre-construction work for the Ronald Reagan Federal Building [on the other side of Downtown Santa Ana] was carried out in the 1990s.

"...In taking a second and third look at your photos, I believe there should have been both an architectural historian and an archaeologist on site during all of the earth-moving work associated with moving these structures."

Doug's message includes some excellent points. It also reminded me that Doug long ago sent me photos of the dig at the Reagan Federal Building/Courthouse site (CA-ORA 1030H). Now might be a good time to share those photos on this blog. The exposed brick in the photo above is the basement of an 1870s-80s newspaper office. (The Santa Ana Blade?)
All these photos were taken in 1995. The one above shows Tony Sawyer, Steve Dies, Carol Schultz , Kam Slater, and Scott Campbell toiling in the mud of the spring rainy season. The photo below shows Art Ruelas holding up a ceramic jug found in a privy feature.
Doug writes that they found, "hundreds and hundreds of [artifacts]. I should scan and post photos of some of the artifacts. Many bottles, ceramics, personal items. The photo is of the excavation of a former printing shop. We also excavated a hotel foundation and church foundation, Victorian era backyard dumps and privies. Fun stuff."
This last photo, below, shows Doug himself, finding a creative way to get the right vantage point to photograph the site. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Full circle in Huntington Beach

I've told the tale many times of my first foray into local history, over 20 years ago. I had a project to do for my high school photography class and decided that old buildings in downtown Huntington Beach would be a good subject. Pretty soon, I found people were coming out of the old buildings to ask what I was doing, and then ended up telling me the histories of their homes or businesses. Eventually, somebody directed me to City Historian Alicia Wentworth, who told me all kinds of interesting stories about the town I grew up in. She had amassed a large collection of historic images of the city, and I gave her copies of mine to add to the collection.

That could have been the end of it, if she hadn't said what she said next: "There are lots of historic buildings and sites around town that I'd still love to have photos of before they disappear. But I'm not as spry as I  used to be. If I paid you, would you take my list of historic sites and go photograph them?"

Naturally, I said yes. For a few dollars out of her own pocket, Alicia got her photos, I got my first paying job, and I was drawn into local history for good. 
I tell this story again because I'm scouting around again for old photos of Huntington Beach. Barbara Haynes of DeGuelle Glass ("The Glassiest Place in Town") gave me a disc chock full of amazing Huntington Beach images -- and guess what I found among them? A few veeery familiar images.

I took all three of the images in today's post back in the late 1980s. The one at the top of today's post is the Charles Warner House (1907) at 403 Tenth St. Charles Warner was on the city's first Board of Trustees (City Council). Warner Avenue was named in his honor. His son, Willis Warner, was raised in this house and grew up to become an important elected official in his own right. Willis also lived in this house while he was serving as one of the most influential Orange County Supervisors ever.

Today, the house is owned by Joe Santiago, who has made the Warner house famous as "the house with another old house hovering over its garage." You see, Joe also purchased the historic but threatened Ed Manning House. But Joe couldn't afford more land to put the Manning House on. So he put it on top of the garage of the Warner House! He is now working to restore both homes. (Manning, by the way, was the first mayor of H.B. and an ancestor of Alicia Wentworth. Small world!)

The second image, immediately above, shows Huntington Auto Service (circa 1918). This building is now demolished. About all that remains of the downtown "Auto Row" anymore is the old Hudson/Rambler/Peugeot dealership building at 410 Main (now "The Electric Chair" punk fashions), and Jax Bicycles at 401 Main, which I believe also served various dealerships and garages over the decades.
I believe I rediscovered this last image once before and posted it to my blog. So this is a re-rediscovery. The Troop 1 Scout Cabin was completed in 1924 thanks to support, work and donations from all parts of the community. Huntington Beach should take a certain amount of pride in this building, which still stands in the middle of Lake Park.

Thanks for bearing with me and my walk down memory lane.

Friday, September 16, 2011

OCHS, Mendez, Guy Ball, Irvine Ranch, and an out-of-county experience

It's been a busy couple of weeks. First, I had to prep for my "Pacific Beach Club" talk for the Orange County Historical Society on the 8th. I wasn't sure how such an unsettling topic would go over, but I got a ton of positive comments later. I was also pleasantly surprised by the turnout. We had about 150 people show up! Seems our gatherings just keep getting larger and larger! 

As usual, our September meeting was held at the Sherman Gardens & Library in Corona del Mar. (Always great hosts!) I'll admit that I didn't have time to take photos that night, which is why I'm substituting one I took earlier at the Sherman. (See above.)

About the same time, I got an offer to write a local history book. I'm writing the proposal now, but I think I'll give myself a fairly long period of time to complete the work. This whole year is shaping up to be a busy one. Anyway, I'll write more about the forthcoming book once it's a done deal.
On Saturday, I attended the grand opening of the new exhibit at the Old Orange County Courthouse about the Mendez v Westminster school desegregation case, entitled "A Class Action." Actually, I was also there the night before with the CSUF historical folks (and a few others) who were scrambling to dot the last "i"s and cross the final "t"s.  By the time they were done, it really looked amazing. Go and see this thing!

The photo below shows members of the Estrada, Guzman, Mendez, and Ramirez families (along with a couple politicians who jumped into the photo op), descendants of the plaintiffs who brought at least partial desegregation to California well before Brown v Board of Education. In fact, Mrs. Guzman, (in front, holding a blue folder), is one of the last living plaintiffs.
I also ended up writing two other articles for different publications over the past couple weeks. And in keeping with my duties as the new president of the Orange County Historical Society, I wrote my first "President's Message" for the County Courier too. I think that will turn out to be a fun gig.
On the 9th, our friend, local historian Guy Ball, generously donated a heaping garageful of metal flat-file cases to the Orange County Archives. Steve and I were there bright and early with a County truck. Boy did we need these cases, and boy could we not afford to order new ones! The savings will help pay for our hernia trusses.
On Sunday, my friends Phil and Stephanie and I went on a trek to Julian, taking our time winding through the back-country of Riverside and San Diego Counties to see various fascinating historical sites. I love treks like these, and Phil -- who knows this territory like the back of his hand -- was an outstanding guide. One of the most interesting and surprising stops was the St. Francis Chapel (a "branch office" of Mission San Luis Rey) and the Cupeño (Indian) cemetery at Warner Springs

The photo above shows what Old Saddleback looks like from the back side. Those antennas you see are on top of Santiago Peak. The image below was taken deep inside the Eagle & High Peak Gold Mine at the end of C St. in Julian. (Our tour guide had an official "Grizzled Prospector" beard and hat!) If you're ever in Julian, forget the apples and gift shops and check out this amazing opportunity to experience gold mining and ore processing as it was in the 1870s.

I won't belabor this non-O.C. expedition here too much on the blog, but I've posted a bunch of photos to my Flickr site if you're interested.
This week I also attended the dedication of a new historical marker for the old Irvine Ranch irrigation system. The plaque was placed near the reservoir in Peters Canyon Regional Park by the Orange County Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Former head of O.C. Public Works Carl Nelson, who did an enormous amount of research on this important piece of Orange County history, is seen speaking at the dedication ceremony in the photo below. Carl is always an amazing source of knowledge when it comes to the infrastructure that made this part of California tick over the past couple centuries.
That's about it for now. Hopefully things will slow down enough that I can get back to blogging more often this week.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

OCHS update, Indians, & Mendez v. Westminster

A few bits of information for anyone who plans to attend my Pacific Beach Club presentation at Sherman Gardens on Thursday:

1) Don't pay any attention to the article about it in the Register. These are the actual facts: The program begins at 7:30pm. It will be preceded by a potluck of appetizers and desserts only, beginning at 6:30pm. You don't have to join in the potluck/social hour, but you are welcome to do so. If you do plan to nosh, bring enough of something for six people. Yes, the program is free, but I can't be held responsible for what Judy will do to you if you start eating all the goodies without reciprocating.

2) Check out the beautiful gardens, and also the exhibit on California Indians at the adjoining Sherman Library. (Today's photos all come from that exhibit.)
3) If you read my blog but haven't been to an Orange County Historical Society event before, please do come up and introduce yourself to me when I'm done with the program. (I'll probably be running around in prep/panic mode beforehand.)

4) And finally, don't pay any attention to the "history" cited in that Register article either. Yikes!
The new Mendez v. Westminster exhibit, "A Class Action: The Grassroots Struggle for School Desegregation in California," had its "soft opening" at the Old Courthouse Museum in Santa Ana over Labor Day weekend. The grand opening will be on Sept. 10th at 4pm. There will be a reception,  and CSUF Professor Ray Rast will discuss the research that went into this exhibit.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Our house, in the middle of the street...

Last April, I told you about the City of Santa Ana settling a lawsuit filed by the Friends of the Historic Lacy Neighborhood. In short, the City gave in and allowed at least half of the historic homes slated for demolition in the Lacy Historic District be saved from the bulldozers. Those remaining on the demolition list were then stripped for historical salvage materials which went to the Santa Ana Historic Preservation Association. (Give them a call if you need something for your own historic home.)

I thought I'd share some photos I took last week of a few of the houses that have been saved outright thanks to the Friends of Lacy, including the one above, being moved to a lot down the street.
These homes are all in the vicinity of 6th Street in Santa Ana, between Main St. and the Train Station.
All these homes are to be renovated as part of the settlement agreement. The one above is going to take a lot of work after vagrants camped out in it for a while. When it's done, it will make a great home for someone (again).
Why would any city want to tear out charming homes like these to make way for insta-slums? Why should the citizens have to fight city hall to preserve properties like these? It's really impossible to understand.

There used to be a very active group called Let's Improve Santa Ana (L.I.S.A.), which was founded by that juggernaut of community activism, Adaline Walker. It seems like the movement today is Let's Trash Santa Ana. Let's be glad there are a few acolytes of Mrs. Walker left to fight the good fight. Santa Ana has taken a lot of punches to the face, but she's still got a lot of potential.
I've actually been inside this last house, and it's charming. It's an 1870s or 1880s home with high ceilings and an newer (circa 1930s) addition on the back. I can't wait to see what it looks like once it's cleaned up.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Snack Shop becomes restaurant empire

John Reuben McIntosh and Audrey Forrow were both Marines at MCAS El Toro when they met. They married, and after leaving the Marine Corps they both started working in restaurants. In 1948, they both landed jobs at a restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway in Corona Del Mar -- John as a cook and Audrey as a waitress. They were there only two weeks when a kitchen fire caused a lot of damage and the owner decided to sell the place. The couple went to Audrey's father, John McIntyre, and asked him for a loan so they could buy it. Instead, he went into partnership with them. Together, they bought the place for $3,000.

The little restaurant, with only two tables and 10 counter seats, reopened on Oct. 19, 1948 as the first Snack Shop restaurant. Today, it still stands as the northern portion of what is now Ruby's Diner. (See photo above.)
Snack Shop #3, at 17th St. and Flower, Santa Ana. (Now El Pico de Gallo Grill.)
It was so popular and successful that a second Snack Shop opened in 1950 on South Main Street in Santa Ana. And by 1960 the chain had grown to include eleven coffee shops.  The McIntosh's remained very hands-on about their business. John is said to have been very detail oriented, and Audrey created many of the recipes and designed the decor and staff uniforms.
(Click on the menu to enlarge.)
Thinking beyond coffee shops, they also opened the first Reuben's restaurant in 1960. Snack Shops and Reuben's were just the beginning of the Far West Services company, which ultimately included such restaurants as Coco's (1965), Isadora's, Moonrakers, The Plankhouse, The Sandpiper, The Mooring, Baxter Street (dinner theater), The Whaler, The Reuben E. Lee, and more. At the top of their game, Far West was serving meals to 45,000 customers a day.
The Reuben E. Lee restaurants , in particular, were real landmarks, housed in what appeared to be old paddle wheel boats in Newport Harbor and on Harbor Island in San Diego. The one in Newport was dismantled in 2007.
But for some reason the original Snack Shop chain seems to hold the most memories for Orange Countians. Over at OC Then, nostalgia runs heavy for the Snack Shops' Nui Nui Burger and Chile Size. Here's a partial list of former Snack Shop locations:
  • Westcliff Plaza, 17th and Irvine, Newport Beach
  • 2323 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, Hawaii (shown in photo above)
  • Pacific Coast Highway at MacArthur, Corona del Mar
  • South Main St., across from the old Sears, Santa Ana
  • Chapman Ave. at Shaffer, Downtown Orange (shown in photo below)
  • 17th St. at Flower, Santa Ana
  • Huntington Beach

Eventually, all the Snack Shops were turned into Coco's. Coco's, in turn, was ultimately sold to the Catalina Restaurant Group, which now also owns Carrow's.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Disneyland carbeque, 1961

A friend of mine found these photos, which someone had appearantly thrown away. These images were captioned, "As I got off work one afternoon, I saw smoke from the D[isneyland] parking lot." The fire took place right on the side of the lot facing Harbor Blvd. Can you identify any of the businesses in the background? The Saga Inn (featuring the Lancer's Restaurant) and the Charter House Hotel can be seen in the photo above. The motel in the background of the photo below seems to have a Middle Eastern motif.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Fun in San Juan Capistrano

Here's an image of Downtown San Juan Capistrano from the Orange County Archives, showing just what kind of place it was in the 1950s. If you're a bit confused about the exact location, remember that The Swallows Inn had not yet moved to the other side of Camino Capistrano.

Random related story: I'm told that some decades ago Lindy Curry, Jim Sleeper and a few others tried to drum up an Orange County chapter of E. Clampus Vitus. It was to be called the "Swallows Chapter" -- not in honor of Capistrano's famous Petrochelidon pyrrhonota, but rather for the (in)famous Swallows Inn. Presumably, the place inspired them. Anyway, the idea never came to fruition and Orange County is still part of the Platrix Chapter, which includes Los Angeles.

Speaking of San Juan Capistrano,... The S.J.C. Historical Society will hold their annual barbeque on Sept. 11, 3pm, at Amates Campground on the Rancho Mission Viejo. (Head out of town toward the mountains on the Ortega Highway and it will be on your right. Watch for a sign!) Tri-tip, beans, salad, dessert and soft drinks will be served. $20 per person. Call (949) 493-8444 or contact for more information or to RSVP. I attended last year, had a great time, and have been looking forward to going again all year. (Why can't they do this more often?!?) However, I already have plans for the 11th and can't go. Please go and enjoy the day (and the tri-tip) in my stead.