Saturday, December 31, 2011

O.C. in the Rose Parade, 91 years ago

 The City of Orange's float shown above was one of three units from Orange County in the 1921 Tournament of Roses Parade. The float's title was "Heart of Orange County," but the ribbons radiating out to small banners reading "Pasadena," "Los Angeles," "Newport/Balboa," "Riverside," and "Long Beach," hinted that Orange was also the heart of all Southern California. The float was decorated with lilies, ferns, carnations, and what appear to be red poinsettia petals outlining the heart.

The other two parade units from O.C. that year were the 26-piece Anaheim Elks Lodge marching band, and a float from the City of Anaheim. Anaheim's float also had a cardiovascular theme. In their case, the float was surmounted by a giant orange which was decorated with a white heart, indicating that Anaheim was the heart of the "orange district." According to the Los Angeles Times, "Four shepherd girls with crooks were on the float -- Helen and Marcella Webber, Lanette Rile and Helen Jordan."

What could be a better symbol of your citrus industry than a bevy of shepherd girls?
This second image is the cover of the 1921 Tournament of Roses issue of the Pasadena Evening Post. Inside, it describes the scene: "Early in the morning the crowds commenced to arrive and take positions along the line of march. Every road leading to Pasadena was thronged with automobiles and the great three-car trains of the Pacific Electric discharged their passengers every two minutes."

People didn't camp out to watch the parade back then, but even in 1921, an estimated quarter of a million people attended.

Although already famous, the Rose Parade's vetting process for entries still wasn't very refined by 1921. For instance, the Times reported, "One of the most conspicuous entries in the long procession was the three-wheeled cart of a misshapen dwarf attired in a high plug hat. Though helpless since birth, the happy dwarf was drawn through the streets by his faithful spotted pointer."

I don't think we'll be seeing that again Monday morning.

Thanks for another year of reading my blog, and for all your comments, emails, and contributions of photos and information. See you next year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Citrus history on display in Fullerton

The Fullerton Museum Center is hosting an exhibit now through March 25, entitled, Citrus: California's Golden Dream. Their promo material reads, "...This is the story of the second California Gold Rush, the quest for oranges, grapefruits, and lemons, the fruits that dominated the state's economy from the 1880s through the 1950s. Citrus: California's Golden Dream features a fascinating array of fruit labels, historical books, maps, postcards, farm machinery, packing crates, and memorabilia."

Better still, Gordon McClelland will present a program at the Museum entitled, "Citrus Crate Labels: An Artistic Overview," on Feb 9, at 7pm. Gordon, as you may know, is a leading crate label collector and expert and has written several excellent books on the subject.
The Fullerton Museum Center, shown above, is at 301 N. Pomona Ave. See their website for hours and more details.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Capistrano, Teri Delcamp, and Roads to Romance

The photo above was taken by Walter Knott or a member of his immediate family on a visit to Mission San Juan Capistrano sometime around the 1940s. It comes out of the Knott's Berry Farm Collection at the Orange County Archives. (Some other images in this particular series show the Knotts posed in the Mission's gardens.) Note the great hat worn by the docent and the box brownie camera held by the tourist in the foreground.

Here's what I get for not paying attention: I just now learned that Teri Delcamp, the longtime historical officer for the city of San Juan Capistrano, has left and taken a similar post for the City of Riverside. The Register article about Teri leaving appeared in November. Frank Mickadeit's more recent article hits the nail on the head about the gap left by Teri and the need to replace her with another full-time historical professional. And if there were any doubts, Ilse Byrnes agrees with Frank -- And you can't ask for a better advocate for the community's well-being and history than Ilse.

I was always very impressed with the quality of Teri's historical research and her knowledge of San Juan's history. I wish every city in Orange County had a Teri Delcamp watching over them. She will certainly be missed. I wish her well in Riverside.

Also in San Juan Capistrano news, the folks who were running the Frank Forster Mansion (1910) as a special events venue have gone bankrupt and closed the place.

After two posts (here and here) featuring old "Roads to Romance" maps of Southern California, I've heard from more than a few of you who either own or fondly remember these maps. In fact, Claudia Horn, Coordinator of Special Collections & Archives at Chapman University had a couple extra copies of the 1960s version of the map, and sent one to me and one to the Orange County Archives. I'll post a version of it here sometime in the not-too-distant future. Many thanks, Claudia! 

Frequent reader Ken Stack sent along a photo of his copy of the map, which I've posted below.
Hope you all had a great Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Today's image is a postcard showing a nativity scene at Mission San Juan Capistrano. The photo was probably taken in the 1960s.

Here's hoping you all have a wonderful holiday!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Disneyland: Steps In Time, Adventureland

Today's "before, after and today" images show the entrance to Disneyland's Adventureland, looking out toward the center of the park. The image above was created before the park was complete, in about 1954. The photo below shows the same spot in 1963 -- largely unchanged from its appearance when Disneyland opened, in 1955. It seems the Polynesian roof lines didn't look quite as impressive in reality as they did on paper. The exotic masks and shields (supplied by the still-amazing Oceanic Arts of Whittier), also ended up a lot smaller than planned.
Originally planned as "True-Life Adventureland," this section of the park was to be based on Disney Studios' popular nature documentaries, shot in exotic locales. Adventureland included fantasy elements mixed with features from Africa, Asia, South America, Central America, the Middle East, and the South Seas. When the park opened, those places seemed exotic, mysterious, and otherworldly to most guests. Today, many of Disneyland's guests are actually from those places. Still, this mid-Century expression of the "exotic other" is a big part of Adventureland's charm.

The photo below was taken earlier this year from approximately the same angle as the 1963 image. The thatched roof has been improved significantly, the faux elephant tusks have been made to  look like wood instead of ivory, (to make things more PC), and the nearby foliage has filled in to look a bit more green and jungle-like.
At its 1955 dedication, Walt Disney read, "Here is adventure. Here is romance. Here is mystery. Tropical rivers - silently flowing into the unknown. The unbelievable splendor of exotic flowers...the eerie sound of the jungle...with eyes that are always watching. This is Adventureland."

Compared to Disneyland's other realms, Adventureland has always been rather small. In the beginning, its only real attraction was the Jungle Cruise. It is also the only land not to have what Walt called a "weenie": That is, a highly visible and curiosity-inspiring object at the back of each land that drew people into the land from the entrance. Main Street's weenie was Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Tomorrowland had the Moonliner Rocket. Frontierland had the smokestacks of the Mark Twain Riverboat. And so forth. But guests approaching the Adventureland entrance couldn't see more than a short distance forward, which I suppose heightened the mystery of what might be hidden around that first bend.

Today, Adventureland features several additional attractions, including the Indiana Jones Adventure, the Tarzan Treehouse (formerly the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse), and the Enchanted Tiki Room. Of course, its best attraction is the opportunity to relax on the Tiki Room's lanai, sipping a Dole Whip float and watching the 1963 tikis do their thing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Sennett Bathing Beauties at Dana Point

Here are Hollywood's once-famous Sennett Bathing Beauties at Dana Point, helping promote real estate sales at the behest of developer Sidney Woodruff.  

Woodruff had also developed Hollywoodland, which ultimately provided the town of Hollywood with its iconic hillside sign. He also convinced many film industry bigwigs to invest in the new town he was going to develop on a stretch of scenic coastline called Dana Point. One of those backers was Mack Sennett

Sennett was best known as a director of silent slapstick movies, but also worked as a screenwriter, actor, producer, cinematographer and composer. In 1912, he founded Keystone Studios, which launched the movie careers of such talents as Charlie Chaplin, Bing Crosby and W.C. Fields. And, as you may have guessed from the name, the studio also made the Keystone Kops comedies.

In 1915, Sennett introduced the popular Sennett Bathing Beauties, who appeared in humorous short films (including some shot in Orange County), wearing what were then considered revealing swimsuits.

The year after this photo was taken, the Sennett Bathing Beauties were disbanded. And a year after that the stock market collapsed, destroying Woodruff's plans for Dana Point. Ultimately, the town wouldn't "take off" until well after World War II. By then both Woodruff and his Hollywood pals were well out of the picture.

(This post's for you, Brent!)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Original Christmas Store

Today's photos come from The Original Christmas Store, which had shops in Orange and Newport Beach during the 1980s. (These postcard images are from the Newport location.) These stores carried all kinds of Christmas decor, but are best remembered for their large and elaborate animated displays, some of which cost as much as $50,000 (in 1980s dollars). Examples included life-sized elephants, storybook scenes, and an Alpine Village featuring 50 Steiff toy animals.

Opening its first shop in Dallas in 1972, the chain eventually grew to have stores in five cities throughout the American West. They were open during the holidays, and sometimes also from mid-July to mid-August for the tourist season.

The Original Christmas Store first came to Orange County in 1979, setting up shop at The City Shopping Center in Orange (now the site of The Block, or The Outlets At Orange, or whatever it's called this week). A few years later, they opened a second O.C. location at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.
Orange Coast Magazine described the store as having, "All types of Christmas decorations, from 60 different countries... Creches, music boxes, nutcrackers, stockings, ornaments, wreaths, angels, garlands and beads line the walls. You can buy Christmas trees to decorate yourself or trees pre-decorated, delivered and set up for you. Whatever you need to prepare your home for the holidays is there..."

The store at The City stopped making its seasonal appearances in the early 1980s, leaving the Newport location to continue through 1986.

By 1987, the chain was having financial problems. Owner George R. Grubich hoped that taking the company public would save it. In an interesting move, he reached out to his customers. That Christmas season, about 55,000 customers signed cards indicating their willingness to purchase stock in the company.

But it was too little too late. The business filed for bankruptcy in early December 1988. Only the Houston store remained open through the end of that holiday season, and then it was gone.

I suspect, however, that many Orange County families still have favorite Christmas decorations that were purchased at The Original Christmas Store. I know our family does.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

He called for his Fiddlers Three

Reader "John Galt" wrote to me, asking what I could tell him about "a chain of coffee shops ... called Fiddlers Three" with locations scattered throughout Southern California. He remembers his dad, who he refers to as "a coffee shop nut," taking the family there numerous times.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any good photos of the place, which is why there's a random photo of the old Fashion Square Mall (one of many Fiddlers Three locations) in La Habra at the top of today's post. The only contemporary visual reference I could find for the chain is an ad, shown below, from the March 13, 1986 issue of the Los Angeles Times.
It appears Fiddlers Three arrived on the scene in the 1960s. It was comparable to the Marie Callender and Jolly Roger chains during the same time period -- a step up from places like Denny's and Tiny Naylor's. Think dark wood, fake plants and phony Tiffany lamps hanging over the tables.

The Fiddlers Three in La Habra was in operation in 1968 and was still open in the 1980s. I believe there's a Regal movie theater on that spot now.

Another Fiddlers Three opened next to Sears in the Laguna Hills Mall in late 1973 and was still operating as late as 1988.

Just last year, Tustin historian Juanita Louvre wrote about local restaurants in her newspaper column, and mentioned that the "Fiddlers Three Restaurant, which once occupied the Claim Jumper spot on Irvine Blvd. [in Tustin], is still remembered for making the best cheddar cheese soup ever tasted."

Classified ads in the mid-1980s claimed Fiddlers Three had locations in "the Orange County, Long Beach and San Fernando Valley areas." Further research produced references to Fiddlers Three branches in Fullerton, La Mirada, at the Puente Hills Mall, and at the Northridge Fashion Center. In Long Beach, they had a restaurant on Anaheim St. and possibly another one at PCH and Bellflower Blvd. The company's offices were on Signal Hill, and according to a 1986 Times article, the chain's owner was John Faber.

Yelp contributor "T.R." (we loved his review of San Juan Hill!) described the Fiddler Burger as "probably the greatest burger ever made. [It was] served on a long onion bun, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and don't forget to add your favorite cheese. It would come with a salad and they would serve it with [a] three bean salad on top of that."

Today, the chain is gone. However, those with a serious jones for a Fiddler Burger are directed to 12721 Glenoaks Blvd., in Sylmar -- An old Fiddlers Three that has changed hands and partially changed names (it's now just "Fiddler's Restaurant"). At least some of the old menu items are still available there, although opinions seem to vary on whether they're as good as they used to be.

Do you have any memories of Fiddlers Three? I have none. But I do miss the golden era of good coffee shops. Bob's Big Boy was a favorite of mine before they started their downward spiral -- I'm guessing somewhere around the late 1980s. But those kinds of restaurants were aimed squarely at the middle class, which has clearly been marked for extinction.

Monday, December 12, 2011

News from Capistrano and Tustin

Here's a great old postcard image of poinsettias growing along the bell wall at Mission San Juan Capistrano. See what happens if you plant them instead of putting them out by the garbage on Dec. 26th?

It seems the County of Orange now has a plan to save the historic North Hangar at the old MCAS Tustin Lighter-Than-Air Base. See the Register's recent article for details. Tustin resident a historical jack-of-all-trades Guy Ball writes, "The blimp hangers [are] not only historical landmarks but they 'say' Orange County as much as the Golden Gate bridge says San Francisco and the Empire State Building says New York City. They played an amazing role in the county's effort to defend against the enemy during World War II, the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm. To many of the servicemen and women who came to Naval Air Station Santa Ana/Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, this base was their first taste of Orange County and the place that made them decide to settle here and raise families."

Speaking of Tustin, the Tustin Area Historical Society is hosting a second signing event for Juanita Lovret's new book, Tustin As It Once Was, on Dec. 17, 10am-2pm. The book is $20, with all funds going to TAHS.

The historic Cook Barn (1898) on Del Obispo St. in San Juan Capistrano burned down earlier this month. The O.C. Fire Authority deemed the fire's cause accidental.

Christmas in Laguna Beach

The caption under this photo from the Oct. 22, 1957 edition of Laguna Beach's South Coast News reads, "Strange Cult Makes Ritual Sacrifice of Coffee and Cookies to Mysterious Hovering Santa Claus Head."

I know we've come to expect that kind of strangeness from Laguna,... But I'm only kidding.

The caption actually reads, "[The] first sign of Santa Claus each year is the formation of a 'Christmas Spirit Committee' by the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce. Last week, that item was attended to and the community begins its Christmas spirit early."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Disneyland: Steps In Time, Frontierland (2)

As a follow-up to my Dec. 1 post about Disneyland's Frontierland, here's another series of before-and-after images. This time, we're standing inside Frontierland, across from the Trading Post and the current site of the Shooting Gallery. The image above is a detail from a circa 1954 concept illustration by Disney artist Sam McKim. The entrance to Frontierland would be just to the right of this image.
The second image (above) shows the same location as it appeared just months after Disneyland opened, in December 1955. The perspective is slightly different, but you can see that everything was pretty much built as planned. Note that a Miniature Horse Corral is in roughly the same spot where the Shooting Gallery stands today. The corral lasted for only two years.
Today's final photo was taken this year. The Trading Post is still in place, but it now sells Disney cloisonne pins rather than Old West-themed souvenirs. What I'll call the "Entrance Fort" is still standing, but much of it is obscured behind those big trees. The desert landscaping in the foreground, while nicely done, doesn't really blend with the lush greenery nearby.

In the comments section of my previous post about Frontierland in the 1950s, someone wrote, "Times have changed, ... educated people no longer view the Old West with such golden-hued nostalgia, and people feel less connected with history in general."

I always appreciate comments, and this is no exception. But I must repectfully disagree with this one.

First of all, I don't think educated people in the 1950s viewed the Old West with "golden-hued nostalgia." People knew the westward expansion, like any large-scale human endeavor, was full of good and evil, hope and despair, fellowship and violence. And as in science fiction, these stories of human nature played out in a setting that was still dangerously unpredictable. People didn't find these stories interesting because they were about lollipops and sunshine. When it comes to fiction, only trouble is interesting.

Secondly, the fact that people now feel less connected with history just shows that damn few people are actually educated. Schools today often teach what to think rather than how to think. And when it comes to American history, that indoctrination is generally slanted toward the negatives. Even when I was in school, concepts like rugged individualists moving west to find freedom and opportunity got short shrift, while topics like political scandals or riots were given much more weight. And we've had many more years of political correctness pile up since then. I can only imagine how strong the anti-American vibe must run in social studies programs today. It's hard to get kids or adults excited about history that seems entirely negative.

Writing or teaching history requires a strong effort to check our biases at the door, and tell the good, the bad and the ugly. Or, as Phil Brigandi likes to say, it requires perspective. Sadly, many people seem to write history the way they write fiction, only focusing on all that interesting trouble.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Shamelessly promoting both myself and TLAGPD

Do you have a question about Orange County, past or present? Beginning in the December issue of Orange Coast magazine -- which is already on your local newsstand -- I'm serving as the new "Orange County Answer Man." This month, I answered questions about gold mines, Disneyland, and some frequently mispronounced O.C. city names. Next month's column will discuss crazy weather, the Boy Scout Jamboree, and a long-standing argument in Downtown Orange. Send me an email, and your question (and my answer) about Orange County may appear in a future issue.
I know it's only early December, but the ongoing attempt to make Talk Like A Grizzled Prospector Day (Jan 24th) our next national holiday marches on. We recently created a Flickr group for TLAGPD, which includes not only great photos of grizzled prospectors, mines, etc., but also includes more information about the holiday than anyone actually needs. Stop by for a visit, and don't forget to mark Jan. 24th on your calendar.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Ride the Roads to Romance (1950)

Last month I posted a series of Newport Harbor maps by Claude G. Putnam, and also mentioned the 1946 map he created for the "Roads to Romance" campaign. Well, one of our regular readers, Douglas S. McIntosh, scanned selected portions of a1950 Roads to Romance map (also by Putnam) in his collection for inclusion in today's Roundup post.
"The map measures 35" x 22"," writes Doug, "so you only get bets & pieces at a time. ...I focused on O.C. for you." (Click to enlarge any of these images.) Note the "Bolsa Chica Dev[elopment]", "Knott's Ghost Town," and, as Doug puts it, "Look, Ma! No Disneyland!"
Speaking of what isn't on the map, it's kind of surprising how few attractions are promoted on a promotional piece like this. A lot of tourist spots that could have been represented here, like the art colony at Laguna Beach or the casino on Catalina, just aren't there. Odd.
The image below is pasted together from the various parts of the map Doug sent. I'd love to see the whole thing framed and up on the wall someday.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Heapin' helpin' of O.C. history

 Blog posts are necessarily brief and generally not as in-depth as you might hope. Happily, there's more to life than blogs. I recently contributed a lengthy article entitled, "The Rise & Fiery Fall of the Pacific Beach Club" to the latest Orange Countiana (Vol. 7) historical journal, from the Orange County Historical Society.  It's a tale of the early civil rights movement in Southern California. It's also a mystery involving Roaring '20s con-men, the KKK, towering Egyptian architecture, bathing beauties, and arson. And shucks,... It's got footnotes and everything.
I will be joining the other contributors to this journal to speak and sign copies at this coming Thursday's meeting of the Orange County Historical Society: Dec. 8, 7:30pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. All members of the society get a free copy of the journal, and additional copies are available for $20 each.

Other articles in Vol. 7 include "The Silent Canon: The Spanish-American War Memorial at Irvine Park," by Jim Sleeper; "Sacred Encounters: The History of Holy Cross Cemetery," by Stephanie George; "The History and Humanity of Charles C. Chapman," by Brett Fisher & Randolph Boyd; and "Fools Rush In: Politics & Gambling In 1930s Orange County," by Phil Brigandi. (Once again, huge thanks to Brigandi, who again served as editor.)

Hope to see you on Thursday!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Disneyland: Steps In Time, Frontierland

Here's another "before and after, and way after" series of images of Disneyland, beginning with the early 1950s concept art for the entrance to Frontierland, shown above. The 1958 photo of the completed entrance, below, shows a more elaborate version of the "fort" walls and towers, but no Indian village at the entrance. The Indian village ended up where Critter Country is today.
With the trees covering much of the fort, and modern metal railings keeping folks out of the pond, a modern view of the Frontierland entrance (shown below) doesn't seem quite as well themed. Somehow the grey concrete doesn't seem quite right either. Look back at that concept art again, and note the warmer tones and more natural look.
While new attractions have been added or updated in each of Disneyland's "lands", it seems Frontierland has gotten the mucky end of the stick. The last addition was Big Thunder Mountain (an outstanding ride) way back in 1979. But since then, Frontierland has lost the Mike Fink Keelboats, Fort Wilderness, The Golden Horseshoe Revue, and shops that sold Western merchandise, like the Pendleton Woolen Mills Dry Goods Store and the Indian Trading Post. And of course, Tom Sawyer's Island was re-themed with pirate stuff, making it more a part of New Orleans Square than Frontierland.

Having been sick at home for a week and a half, I've had the chance to watch a lot of Westerns on the new digital side-band channels. They range from poor to excellent, but they're all better than the "reality shows" and endless police procedurals produced today. Anyway, I can't help thinking that America is way overdue for a resurgence of interest in the Old West. All it would take would be one blockbuster movie or a couple major TV hits. If and when that happens, perhaps Disney will take another look at Frontierland.

By the way, Disneyland history fans will be interested to read Imagineering Disney's post about the Frito Kid, and Kevin Kidney's sad news about the mural at Plaza Pavilion. Both are worth reading.