Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Presidents and Orange County

President Harrison in Santa Ana, 1891. (Photo courtesy Orange County Archives)
Presidents Day is coming soon, so I thought a look at presidential visits to Orange County might be in order. A couple years ago, I wrote about the various presidential visits to Disneyland over the years, and I've certainly written about O.C. native Richard Nixon many times. Today's post includes a few more fun images. Take, for instance, the photo above, showing President Benjamin Harrison at the Santa Ana depot on Apr. 23, 1891. (C.E. French stands behind him in his Civil War uniform.) Harrison was on a whistle-stop tour, and a brief but elaborate reception was held for him.
FDR in Laguna Beach, 1938. (Photo courtesy Orange County Archives)
The photo above shows President Franklin D. Roosevelt riding past The White House Cafe on Coast Highway in Downtown Laguna Beach on July 16, 1938. He was trying to zip down the coast from L.A. to San Diego with minimal interruptions, but Laguna police and nervous Secret Service agents couldn't hold back the crowds surging toward his car. Mayor Howard Heisler took the opportunity to greet the President and local artist Frank Cuprien presented him with a seascape painting. After several minutes the motorcade proceeded again toward its destination.
Hoover visits O.C. in the late 1930s. (Photo courtesy Fullerton Public Library)
In the photo above, former president Herbert Hoover meets with local newspapermen. From left to right: Anaheim Bulletin publisher Lotus Loudon, Santa Ana Register publisher R. C. Hoiles, President Hoover, Orange Daily News editor W. O. Hart, and another (as yet unidentified) newspaper publisher. With little fanfare, Hoover also came to Orange County in 1932, consulting community leaders about his re-election bid. One night, he visited the Hart home in Orange. “The Hart family for years preserved the ‘president's chair,’ where he sat,” said historian Phil Brigandi. “David Hart, then about six, always remembered being brought downstairs in his pajamas to meet the president.”

The image below shows Senator Richard Nixon, running for Vice President, speaking at the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana during a whirlwind campaign tour of his old Southern California haunts. Pat Nixon sits at the lower right of the image. Nixon was born in what is now Yorba Linda but was then an unincorporated part of the Fullerton Township. Other communities strongly associated with Nixon include La Habra, where he opened his first law office; and San Clemente, the location of his “Western White House,” which he called “Casa Pacifica.”
Nixon on the steps of the Old Courthouse in Santa Ana. (Photo courtesy OC Parks)
All this month the Orange County Archives is hosting an exhibit entitled "The Presidents and Orange County," highlighting photographer Patrick B. O'Donnell's images of U.S. presidents visiting O.C. or being visited by Orange Countians. (No, the photos in this blog post are not part of the exhibit -- they are definitely by photographers of earlier generations.)

As a photographer for the Daily Pilot, Cal State Fullerton, and the Whittier Daily News, Pat O’Donnell has captured countless historic moments including Orange County’s encounters with every U.S. president from Lyndon B. Johnson to George W. Bush.

O’Donnell’s career was launched in the late 1950s when he won the Kodak High School Photographer’s Contest while he was a senior at Whittier High School. In addition to a long career as a photojournalist and time as Cal State Fullerton’s Public Affairs Office photographer, O’Donnell has taught photography for more than 20 years at Cal State Fullerton and Orange Coast College. He is a past president of the California Press Photographers Association, the Greater Los Angeles Press Photographers Association, and the Orange County Press Club. Pat O’Donnell and his wife Peggy have lived in Fountain Valley since 1972. Together, they served for years as the official photographers for the Orange County Fair.
A panel from the exhibit. For fun, I added campaign badges from my own collection.
Strangely enough, I featured a few of the photos in this exhibit on my blog back in 2008 -- Long before I even knew who the photographer was. O'Donnell had some of his work up at the Orange County Fair, but I couldn't find a credit line anywhere. I'm glad I not only found out who the photographer was, but also got to meet the guy and spend some time admiring and displaying his work.

The Orange County Archives is open Monday through Friday, 9am to 4:30pm, on the first floor of the Old Orange County Courthouse, 211 W. Santa Ana Blvd., in Santa Ana. (If you visit, stick your head into the office and say hello!) The Archives will also be open for special Saturday hours on Feb. 8,  10am-3pm. And yes, we will be closed on Presidents Day.


Alex Meade said...

Hi Chris,

Love your blog. I would love to talk more about your writing and your work. could you please email me? alex@beaconspoint.com .

Bob said...

I remember when Johnson dedicated the site for UC Irvine. There was nothing out there at the time. How things have changed....

Orangesqueeze said...

Bearded James McFadden is facing the camera, between President Harrison and C.E French.

James said...

I remember Ronald Reagan at Mile Square Park in 1984.