Thursday, July 30, 2015

Come to where the flavor is,... Mission Viejo!

Look! It's another great Mission Viejo promotional film from the 1970s! Watch for those Philip Morris product placements! (*cough!*)

What? You didn't know that the Mission Viejo Co. was once owned by an enormous tobacco company?

The Mission Viejo Co. was founded in 1963 by Donald Bren and the O'Neill family. Later, Bren sold his part of the company and bought the Irvine Co. instead. In 1969, Philip Morris invested in the Mission Viejo Co. and in 1972 they bought it outright. The company developed Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, and some communities in other states. The cancer people finally sold the company to developer J.F. Shea Co. in 1997.

(Previous Mission Viejo film posted here.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Orange and the Dream of California

Fruit crate art (1920s), extolling twin miracles: Oranges and California.
Author David Boulé will speak on “The Orange and the Dream of California” at the Orange County Historical Society’s season kick-off program, Sept. 10, 2015, at Sherman Library & Gardens, 2647 E. Coast Highway, in Corona del Mar. A social hour and optional potluck of appetizers and desserts will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by the program at 7:30 p.m. The event is free to the public, and I hope to see you there!

In his presentation, Boulé will explore the five hundred year, intertwined history of the orange and California and how these two iconic entities have built upon one another to feed the imagination and conjure both a compelling fantasy and a remarkable reality.
David Boulé
 “The image of California as paradise and the orange as unique among all fruit has endured for centuries because, partially, these things are true,” Boulé writes. “These truths, recognized by chroniclers, journalists, scientists, growers and other objective observers, have then been magnified by poets and boosters, artists and hucksters, songwriters and bureaucrats – with both artistic and commercial motivation – to appeal to people’s continuing desire to believe that such exceptional perfection can really exist.”

A third generation Californian, Boulé has a lifelong fascination with the history, culture, achievements and uniqueness of the region. For decades he has scoured paper ephemera shows, flea markets, antique stores, the Internet, libraries, museums and bookshops to collect items and information relating to the California citrus industry.  A career in marketing communication has given him particular interest and insight into how the orange helped enhance the popular image of California as a place of potential, reinvention and fulfillment.

1915 brochure promoting Orange County
Explaining how collections and research like his can fill in gaps left in more general, academic approaches, Boulé adds, “I believe an individual zeal and a personal focus can help not only gather materials that might otherwise be dispersed and kept out of context, but add depth and texture to more traditional research approaches.”

David’s collection includes historic photographs, hundreds of postcards, rare advertising and marketing materials, books, phonograph records, posters, journals and personal papers, newspapers and press clippings, and many California orange-themed souvenirs and promotional items.  His collection has been featured in exhibits, he has given numerous presentations. His book, The Orange and Dream of California, was published in 2014 by Angel City Press and will be available for sale at the event.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mission Viejo, 1967

Here's a 20-minute film from 1967, marketing the new community of Mission Viejo. In his indispesable book, Orange County Place Names A to Z (2006), Phil Brigandi writes, "In 1963, the O'Neill family and a group of investors formed the Mission Viejo Company to develop a master planned community on the northern end of the old Rancho Mission Viejo. The first families arrived here in 1966, and the City of Mission Viejo was incorporated in 1988."

The film footage here includes La Paz Plaza, schools, parks, rolling hills, grazing sheep, Mission Viejo's first church (Lutheran), the then-new Orange County Airport terminal, UCI, Fashion Island, Newport Harbor, and aerial views of the contruction of Dana Point Harbor. For further memories of childhoold there's a  shot of the contruction of Old MacDonald's Farm and an Indian Guides pinewood derby. Interior views of "Spanish Modern" (or perhaps Man of La Mancha Modern?) tract homes will also take you back.

Observant viewers will notice both Richard O'Neill and Tony Moiso of the Rancho Mission Viejo in planning meeting scenes. And just to make sure you know it's the late 1960s, it's backed with easy listening version of Beatles hits. My thanks to Hedy Henderson for pointing out this great footage!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Jewish History and early O.C. Baseball

The Heritage Museum of Orange County (3101 W. Harvard St., Santa Ana) has been hosting some great historical programs in their speaker series. These Saturday events begin with refreshments at 9am, followed by a program at 10am. The next two are,...
  • July 25, 2015: Dalia Taft, Archivist, Orange County Jewish Society — “Celebrating 158 Years of Jewish Orange County: The Early Years
  • Aug. 15, 2015: Luis Fernandez, Professor of History, Santa Ana College - “America’s Favorite Passtime: Early Orange County Baseball

Friday, July 17, 2015

Disneyland turns 60!

Walt Disney with Peter Ellenshaw's 1954 concept map of Disneyland.
Today is the 60th anniversary of the TV show and press preview that opened Disneyland. Tomorrow, July 18th, will be the 60th anniversary of the first day the general public was allowed into the park. To mark the occasion, the great architectural historian Alan Hess left a great post on Facebook. But since Facebook posts are (in some ways) so ephemeral, I am reposting it here, with apologies:
The single most important piece of Modern architecture and planning in the twentieth century opened July 17, 1955. Walt Disney's brilliant insight was to design it with his own studio animators and set designers -- masters of the 20th century's premier technology, the movies. They went far beyond International Style architects' fixation on structural expression to shape space and form using the techniques of film -- editing, sequencing, framing, imagery, color, story telling -- to tap into the heart of modern life.
In just three sentences, Alan manages to say what needs to be said. But I'll prattle on now anyway,...

It's disturbing how little substantive historical research/writing has been done about a place as important and beloved as Disneyland. But I'm very thankful for those who have provided us with what little meaninful work we do have. David Mumford, Bruce Gordon, the Jantzen brothers, Sam Gennawey, Werner Weiss and a handful of others come to mind. It's hard to research a corporation that controls its image and records so tightly. They manage their history like a valuable asset, which I suppose it is. Thus, anything written that goes beyond the depth of a press release is a notable achievement. Kudos to our Disneyland historians!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Green Kat, Westminster

Photo courtesy Westminster Historical Society, with image editing by Bob Ash.
When I set out to find the story of a tavern, I never expected to find an anemic chimp, illegal gambling, witchcraft, women’s softball stars, and a pre-World War II affirmation of brotherly love between Japan and America. But here we are…

A month ago, longtime Westminsterite Chris Garland asked me about the Green Kat Café. This led me to discover TWO convoluted tales that turned out to be part of the same story. My previous green-feline-related post actually intertwines with the following tale, although that tale was set in Santa Ana and this one takes place in Westminster.

The Green Kat began as the Green Gables Cafe, built at the southwest corner of Beach Boulevard and Westminster Boulevard in "New Westminster" in the late 1920s or the early 1930s. New Westminster, was a highway town composed of about 10 subdivisions developed about a mile east of “old” Westminster between 1927 and 1929. The area was later incorporated into the City of Westminster. On a prominent corner of the highway, surrounded by miles of flat, open fields and few buildings of note, the Green Gables almost immediately became a landmark.

"It was very well known in the early years," said Westminster historian and former mayor Joy Neugebauer, "because it was exactly the midpoint between Downtown Santa Ana and Downtown Long Beach. People would use it to give directions."

And so it was that Westminster – founded by a minister as a temperance colony in 1870 – ended up with a tavern as probably its most recognizable landmark.
Ad from the Santa Ana Register, June 2, 1941
The Green Gables appears in the local directories around late 1935, and the first owners were Allen and Marjorie Vorhis (or Voorhees). Along with a service station just across Beach Blvd., its architectural style was an early example of Westminster's spotty Tudor Revival architectural theme.

Tony W. Shackles, a charter member of the Midway City American Legion Post, bought the café in Fall 1937. In April 1940, he sold it to easterners Mrs. Jean Reynolds and Mrs. Josephine Smith, although it was primarily Smith who managed the place. She also remodeled and refurbished the dining areas and kitchen and began calling it the Green Gables Inn. Soon after, the Long Beach Independent wrote, "Dancing is on every week night until 2 a.m. Sunday, dancing is from 3 p.m. to 10. Ray Chapman and his dance band play. Jam session is a feature every Monday, amateur night is every Friday. The popularity of Green Gables Inn is growing steadily as indicated from week to week." In 1941, they were busted for having illegal slot machines.

In October 1944 the Green Gables Inn became The Normandy. Mr. and Mrs. Ray Smith of Westminster were the new owners and Harry Greenwood was the manager. By 1951, the proprietors were L. C. Arnold and C. W. Ahlbin.

Meanwhile, Orval W. Hinegardner (1910-1991), who’d closed his Green Cat Café and Kit Kat Cocktail Lounge in Santa Ana in 1940, was still ricocheting around the Southern California restaurant scene. This was nothing new for Orval. Even when he was proprietor of the Green Cat, he also operated McNee’s Café on Whittier Blvd. in Whittier, where his father, (Stanton), was the cook and another Hinegardner, (Clifford), was assistant manager. Orval had a penchant for hopping from one thing to another – a trait that probably wasn’t lost on his four (or more) wives.

Later in the 1940s he would live in El Monte (no wife listed in the directories), and worked at the oddly-named Hi-Knees Party House in Monterey Park.
From the Register, Nov. 7, 1941. I would pay to see a "startling dance band."
But in 1952, The Normandy became the Green Kat Café, and Orval – now living in sunny Corona del Mar – was the new owner. Unlike Santa Ana’s Green Cat, which had once held a fine reputation even among Orange County’s civic leaders, Westminster’s Green Kat was a less-reputable tavern.

“It was a dive,” said longtime Orange County Historical Commissioner Don Dobmeier. “It was a large nondescript structure, painted green. I never went in, but there always seemed to be a lot of cars in front of it, even at 8:00 in the morning.”

It appears Orval wasn’t too hands-on this time. The new Green Kat was managed by "Jeanne" (according to newspaper ads) and by custom motorcycle genius/hellraiser Herk Currie.   

"It was the most popular night spot in the area," said Neugebauer.

It was a landmark, but was also a pretty rough-and-tumble place and a mildly notorious as a pick-up bar. But it was also, in the words of Nick Popadiuk, "the crown jewel in the string of watering holes along Westminster Blvd. during [the town's] classic Dive Bar Era (late '50s-60s) ."
Westminster Ave., New Westminster, Feb. 1957
Soon, Orval and his wife Lorene moved to Midway City, not far from the café.  And they added a new family member: a young female chimp named Sara Heartburn. When she was 13 months old she was found to be anemic, and Garden Grove veterinarian Dr. Stanley L. Baldwin performed a blood transfusion from Chester, a chimp from Long Beach. "The transfusion between chimpanzees may be unique in the annals of veterinary medicine," said the Long Beach Independent.

In 1962, the Green Kat was torn down and replaced with future Orange County Supervisor Ron Caspers' Keystone Savings & Loan -- a building that made dramatic use of the Old English half-timbered look suggested by the city's name.

Caspers' story -- from his meteoric rise in business and politics to the day he disappeared at sea – is far more interesting than that of the Green Cat or Green Kat. But that’s a tale for another time.

[This entry updated 7/17/2015 with new information and photo provided to me by Nick Popadiuk.]

(Click here to go back and read PART I of this two-part series.)