Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A cartoon...

Here's Orange County as depicted by Virgil "VIP" Partch, in the Daily Pilot, 8-24-1974. Partch was a nationally known cartoonist and former Disney animator who lived in Corona del Mar. As seen above, VIP had a gift for cleverly summarizing a whole story with one simple image. This particluar cartoon depicts the very essence of what happened to Orange County throughout the second half of the 20th Century.

I'll have to post more about Partch in the future, but I had to share this ASAP.

Friday, January 25, 2013

It's always Valentine's Day in Santa Ana

Macres Florist, 419 N Broadway, in a (circa 1940s?) photo by Edward Cochems. Courtesy Santa Ana Public Library.
Today's post is an early nod to Valentine's Day. And what says romance like Downtown Santa Ana?

In the late 1890s, a Greek immigrant lad named Harry Macres arrived alone in New York City and began selling flowers in the streets. Success in business (which was still considered a GOOD thing, back then) allowed him to open a flower shop, which also did a booming trade. In the early 1930s, he moved his family and his business to Southern California, initially opening a shop in Anaheim. In 1935, Harry and his son Albert expanded their business into Santa Ana, moving into what had been a motocycle and metalworking shop at the corner of Broadway and 5th St. The building had recently undergone rehabilitation in the wake of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. Ultimately, it became their flagship location. Today, it's owned by Albert's son, Mike Macres. The business is a Santa Ana icon, the longest continually operating family business in the city, and has undoubtedly helped save countless marriages.
Macres built the Santa Ana float for the Rose Parade from 1947 through 1950, and was the first to put each flower in tiny vials of water.
Speaking of hearts and flowers, the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society invites you to "bring your sweetheart to a special celebration of Valentine’s Day at the Howe-Waffle House, 120 Civic Center Drive West, on Sat., Feb. 2, 2013, noon to 4pm. Included with your tour of this 1889 Victorian gem are a cup of tea and a selection of delicious chocolates. Enjoy an extensive display of beautiful vintage valentines dating back to the 1800s. As an extra sweet treat, talented pianists Sandra Heaton and Therese Ton will offer a selection of vintage and modern love songs, played on our rare 1870’s Weber piano. Adults $5..." A walking tour of historic downtown Santa Ana for an additional $8 will be held at 2:30. (Call to reserve a spot: 714-547-9645.) For more information, visit

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tale of a Grizzled Prospector

An unknown grizzled prospector and his mule.
Each Jan. 24th, we commemorate the 1848 discovery of gold in California by celebrating "Talk Like A Grizzled Prospector Day." All y' gotta do to take part in this here holiday is t' talk like a grizzled prospector, gol-durnit!

January 24, 2013, marks the 165th anniversary of the day James Marshall first saw flakes of gold at Sutter's Mill, thereby launching the California Gold Rush. The ensuing mania brought more than 300,000 fortune seekers to The Golden State. After the rush, many found other lines of work or went home to resume their normal lives. But some stayed in the West, prospecting, mining, and following whatever seemed to be the next "big strike."

One such boom occured when silver was discovered in Orange County, California's Cañon de la Madera in 1877.  Santa Ana residents Hank Smith and William Curry stumbled across ore while hunting, and within a week of them staking a claim hundreds of prospectors were pouring into what eventually became known as Silverado Canyon.
Slightly less grizzled miners at the Blue Light Mine in Silverado Canyon.
One of the old Forty Niners who arrived with that contingent was described in historian Terry E. Stephenson's classic 1931 volume, Shadows of Old Saddleback...
Perhaps the most interesting of all the many men who rushed into the Silverado was “Dad” Justice, described as “a veritable pioneer of the West,” a friend of Mark Twain and credited with being the original of Mark Twain’s Colonel Sellers. Beginning with the days of ’49, he had gone from mining camp to mining camp all over California and Nevada and as far north as British Columbia, always a picturesque figure, always optimistic, always seeking millions.

It was in the Silverado that “Dad” Justice’s mining days came to an end. He died as he had lived, among miners and mining excitement. A grave was dug in the little flat near his cabin, and silently his friends laid him away and filled in the rocks and earth. His grave is there today unmarked, and “Dad” Justice is almost forgotten,...

“Dad” Justice died still firm in his belief that a great silver ledge, as rich as the richest Virginia City had ever known, lay hidden somewhere in the Silverado’s ridges awaiting the lucky strike of some miner’s pick. He died not living to see the gradual fading away of hope, the abandonment of tunnels and drifts, the sinking of the sun upon Silverado’s dreams.

Cash Harvey, for many years a prominent political figure in Orange County, was fond of relating an incident in which “Dad” Justice figured. The two men were prospecting over a steep mountainside when they discovered a likely looking piece of ore, loose on the surface. Immediately, Harvey started toward the summit eagerly seeking the ledge. Justice started downward.

“What you going downhill for?” asked Harvey. “That rock wouldn’t roll up-hill.”

“May be when that rock broke loose from the ledge, the mountainside tipped the other direction,” declared “Dad” sagely.

In the remark “Dad” Justice hit upon a geological fact that points to the reason why big mineral bearing ledges have never been found in the Silverado. The country is geologically broken up. In the formative ages so much happened thereabouts that formations are criss-crossed with breaks.

A few rods above the forks of the Silverado, the line of the Cleveland National Forest crosses the canyon, and above that line no cabins have been built. The flats along the creek bed, most of them not more than half an acre in extent, are grown over with scrub oak, sumac and greasewood. Here and there on the steep rough mountain slopes a bit of bare rock marks an old mine dump, with brush and trees bravely doing their best to hide these man-made scars upon the landscape; a black hole shows the entrance to an old-time tunnel, where miners wasted their energy and hopes in a vain quest for treasure.

Here and there is a rotting timber, a line of rocks laid to mark the tidy dooryard or the foundation of a cabin long since torn down. Here a forge stood, there an open-air fireplace where miners cooked their food.

This, perhaps, is the unmarked brush-covered grave of old “Dad” Justice…
It’s hard to find much of a paper trail for Justice – Hardly surprising for a man who spent his life rambling from strike to strike. Even a search of many recently digitized newspapers from the Gold Rush era show no signs of a “Dad” Justice. Certainly, knowing his first name or initials would help in future research efforts.
Photo of Silverado Canyon by Clara Mason Fox, circa 1900.
Mark Twain, in his autobiography, stated that the character of Colonel Sellers, who first appeared in his 1873 novel (with Charles Dudley Warner), The Gilded Age, was based on his mother's favorite cousin, James Lampton. That pretty much sticks a fork in Justice’s claim to literary fame. However, the fact that people readily believed this story attests to the fact that Justice bore more than a few similarities to Sellers.

Col. Sellers was a comically offbeat character who lived in an eternal state of hopeful expectation, who always had a plan for certain success, yet was perpetually flat broke. It's a description that suited “Dad” to a tee.
Another unidentified grizzled prospector, dadgummit!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Be part of the Nixon Centennial

Nixon campaigns at Laguna Beach City Hall, Oct. 30, 1952 (Photo courtesy OC Parks)
 As local history goes, it’s hard to beat having a President of the United States born in your midst. Tomorrow (Wednesday) would have Orange County native Richard M. Nixon's 100th birthday. The Orange County Historical Society welcomes you to join them for a special program the day after for a thoughtful discussion of his life and legacy by The Reverend Canon John H. Taylor: "
Richard Nixon: A Century in Perspective." The program will be held Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

In 1979, John Taylor joined the staff of former President Nixon, becoming his chief of staff in 1984. He traveled with Nixon to the Soviet Union, China, and many other countries, helped with six of his books, and assisted in planning the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda. Named the Library’s director in 1990, Taylor oversaw President and Mrs. Nixon’s funerals in 1994 and 1993. As co-executor of Mr. Nixon’s estate, he helped pave the way for the opening of the Nixon White House tapes and other historical materials. And in 2007, he coordinated the Library’s entry into the federal government’s system of presidential libraries.

Taylor received his master of divinity degree in 2003 from the Claremont School of Theology. He was ordained to the diaconate in 2003 and to the priesthood in 2004, and is now the full-time vicar of St. John Chrysostom Episcopal Church and St. John’s Episcopal School in Rancho Santa Margarita.
A young Richard Nixon, Yorba Linda native.
Richard Nixon – one of the most fascinating and controversial figures of the 20th Century – was born January 9, 1913 in the small town of Yorba Linda. Today, the area's rolling hills, unassuming downtown, occasional patches of open land, and tinges of rural roots remind us of the agricultural Orange County of Nixon’s youth. Nixon’s favorite menu items are still marked at Mexican restaurants like El Adobe in San Juan Capistrano and Olamendi’s in Capistrano Beach. Surfers still point out Nixon's San Clemente "Western White House" at the southern tip of Orange County. And of course, the Nixon Library and Birthplace are the primary place where researchers and the general public come to better understand the 37th President of the United States. Although he moved back East in 1980, Nixon's imprint on Orange County is everywhere. 
Nixon speaks near his old Yorba Linda home, 1952. Note the Yorba Linda Citrus Assoc packing house in the background
The following is an abbreviated timeline, highlighting just some of his local connections.

1912 – Nixon’s father, Frank, builds the house where Richard would be born.

1913 – Richard M. Nixon is born, January 9, 1913.

1916 – Frank Nixon helps build the first Friends Church in Yorba Linda.

1919-1922 – Richard Nixon attends Yorba Linda Elementary School.

1926-1928 – Attends Fullerton High School.

1931-1932 – Pat Ryan (later Pat Nixon) attended Fullerton College.

1939 – Richard Nixon opens his first law office (now demolished) in La Habra.

1940 – Proposes to Pat Ryan on the bluff tops of Dana Point. They marry, and make their first home in La Habra.

1946 – Elected to Congress.

1950 – Elected Senator

1952 – Elected Vice President. (Re-elected in 1956)

1959 – The Nixon family dedicates the Disneyland Monorail in Anaheim.

1962 – Nixon’s defeat in the California Governor’s race leads to the creation of the Lincoln Club – an Orange County Republican powerhouse.
Leonid Brezhnev and Nixon at La Casa Pacifica, San Clemente, 1973. (Photo courtesy NARA)

1968 – Elected President. (Re-elected in 1972.) Also in 1968, the Nixon family – friends of Walter and Cordelia Knott – visit Knott’s Berry Farm.

1969 – Buys a home, “La Casa Pacifica,” in San Clemente which would become known as the Western Whitehouse.

1973 – Holds summit with Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev at La Casa Pacifica. Nixon also throws the first pitch at Angels Stadium.

1974 – Resigns the presidency as a result of the Watergate scandal. The Nixons are flown back to California, landing at MCAS El Toro, where a crowd of supporters await them.

1977 – The famous Frost/Nixon interviews are held at a private home in Dana Point.

1975-1979 – Nixon is a regular at the Shorecliffs Golf Course in San Clemente.

1980 – Sells La Casa Pacifica to Allergan founder Gavin Herbert.

1988 – Ground broken by daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower for the Nixon Library.

1990 – The Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace opens in Yorba Linda.

1993 – Pat Nixon dies and is buried at the Nixon Library.

1994 – Richard Nixon dies and is buried just feet from the house he was born in and next to Pat.
Nixon and his birthday cake, San Clemente, Jan. 9, 1974.

Huell Howser (1945-2013)

Huell Howser with Modjeska statue at Pearson Park, Anaheim.
If you haven't yet heard the sad and shocking news of Huell Howser's death, then you must be living under a rock. He passed away Sunday night after being in very poor health. He was only 67. I'm not going to tell you his life story, since every media outlet in California is already doing that. Instead, I thought I'd share a few observations about the man's work, and some links to a few of his Orange County adventures.

Huell was not a historian. But he gave innumerable local historians time on television to explain the stories of their communities.

The dialog in his programs was laden with repetition and predictable Huell-Speak. ("Oh, boy! This has to be the most (adjective) (noun) we've seen all day!") Yet he managed to be more engaging that the vast majority of TV programming.

He rose to fame with simple, low-budget, lightly-edited shows at a time when popular wisdom dictated quick cuts, splashy effects and sound-bites tailored for America's ever-shortening attention spans.

Huell was not a native Californian. But he introduced us to corners and facets of our state that even we natives never knew existed.
Huell Howser with Phil Brigandi at the Plaza Fountain in Downtown Orange.
In short, Huell did not, on paper, seem to be the right guy for the job -- But it was his very fish-out-of-water, folksy approach that made the show work. Make no mistake: The man knew what he was doing. He knew what he wanted out of each show, and he knew how to get it -- All while making it appear as though he had just fallen off the turnip truck. He was hardly the inadvertantly "AMAZED" tourist he pretended to be. He wanted us to fill that role. And often, we did.
Ilse Byrnes prepares to lock Huell Howser in the old San Juan Capistrano jail cell.
The following are links to a sampling of the many Orange County programs that were part of Howser's TV series:

Anaheim with Cynthia Ward
Mission San Juan Capistrano with Don Tryon (promo clip only)
Orange with Phil Brigandi 
Garden Grove
San Juan Capistrano with the Rios family and Ilse Byrnes
Newport Beach's historic boats
Laguna Beach
Knott's Berry Farm with Marion and Virginia Knott
MCAS Tustin
Starr Ranch Conservancy (promo clip only)
Irvine Ranch Land Reserve
Cynthia Ward and Huell Howser with Joe Public on the streets of Anaheim.
Huell Howser is, and will remain, very much a part of "California's Gold."