Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dr. Coy and historical Orange County trivia

Owen Coy rolls out a great idea.
In 1928, Dr. Owen C. Coy, professor of history at USC and director of the California State Historical Association, began a crusade to start "an active, incorporated historical society" in Orange County. He outlined his plans in a lecture before the State Board of Education, which seemed enamored of his noble goal. Coy, not being a local, was unaware that the Orange County Historical Society had been incorporated and holding well-publicized meetings since 1919. But thanks anyway, Owen!

And speaking of the Orange County Historical Society,... You're welcome to attend their next meeting, which will be held in the VERY near future: Thurs., April 14, at 7:30pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St. This will be an ORANGE COUNTY HISTORY TRIVIA CONTEST, so bring ALL your brain cells along to this event. Quoth the OCHS website,...
"Back by popular demand, you’re invited to an evening at the Orange County History Trivia Contest! 
"Members and non-members alike, round up your friends and come as a team (matching t-shirts, hats, or team names always encouraged) or as individuals (and we’ll match you up once you arrive)!  
"Test your familiarity with Orange County history and challenge others in areas such as geography, literature, food, art, music, politics, sports, personalities, and general knowledge, in varying formats.  Meanwhile, enjoy the banter by our entertaining trivia game hosts! 
"It’s free to play!  Prizes given to the winning team.   If you’re new to the area or you’ve lived here forever, you’ll have fun, so come on down!  It’s a perfect opportunity to meet people who are interested in Orange County history."

Friday, April 08, 2016

Andrew Deneau (1949-2016)

Andy Deneau,1977. Photo courtesy Anaheim Heritage Center.
Andrew Leo "Andy" Deneau, who co-founded and served as the first president of the Anaheim Historical Society in 1976, passed away on Easter Sunday (March 27, 2016). This native son of Anaheim will be especially missed by the city's local history and historic preservation communities.

Andy was born on April 5, 1949 to Harold Leo Deneau and Rose (nee Hargrove) Deneau.  He attended George Washington Elementary School, John C. Fremont Junior High School and Anaheim Union High School (Class of 1967).  He worked his way through college as a dispatcher for the Anaheim Fire Department, and used his California State Teaching Credential to teach arts programs in the public schools.  Most recently Andy, a trained musician and performing arts professional, served as Director of Marketing and Community Relations for the Long Beach Opera and was the founding director of Dance In Schools, a supplementary arts education program in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Andy’s life was defined by his substantive community service, including (in part): chairman, Heritage Committee of the original Cultural Arts Commission, City of Anaheim; chairman, Ad Hoc Museum Committee, City of Anaheim; member, Heritage Committee, Anaheim Bicentennial Committee; member, Citizens’ Capitol Improvement Committee, City of Anaheim; co-founder and first president, Anaheim Historical Society; founding board member, Anaheim Foundation for Culture and the Arts [aka Anaheim Cultural Arts Center]; founding member and treasurer, Anaheim Museum Inc.; founding member, Central City Neighborhood Council, City of Anaheim.  Most recently, he served two terms on the Anaheim Cultural & Heritage Commission (2007-2013).  Andy also co-authored, with Diann Marsh, most of the National Register applications for Anaheim landmarks [including the Carnegie Library and the Kraemer Building] submitted through the 1980s.

(Ed - My thanks to Jane Newell of the Anaheim Heritage Center for putting this obituary together.)

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Opal Kissinger (1924-2016)

Opal Kissinger portrays Helena Modjeska at OCHS history conference, 1988.
I wish this were some terrible April Fools Day joke, but it apparently is not. I just received word that Opal Kissinger has died. The obituary being forwarded around the Anaheim Library staff  follows below:
Opal Kissinger, 91, passed away on March 29, 2016 at St. Joseph’s Hospital after struggling for several months with numerous health issues.  She was born on July 27, 1924 in Iowa, where she was raised on a farm.  After graduating from Central Michigan University, Opal taught school in Iowa and Michigan for twenty years, following in the footsteps of her family.  She received her Masters’ Degree in education, with a minor in library science, from the State University of Iowa in the early 1960s. 

Following her marriage to Richard Kissinger, the couple moved to Orange County in 1963.  After teaching one year at Sycamore Junior High School, she became the librarian at Fremont Junior High School.  The 1967 Fremont yearbook was dedicated to her.  In 1970 she joined the Anaheim Public Library as an Adult Services librarian, becoming Local History Curator in 1974, a position she held until her retirement in 1987.

In the Anaheim History Room, Opal was responsible for collecting, cataloging, preserving and making available to the public materials related to Anaheim’s history.  Opal also administered the Mother Colony House, Anaheim’s oldest structure and museum.  During her 14 years, Opal introduced nearly 25,000 students to the Mother Colony House and Anaheim history.  She also contributed weekly articles and historic photographs to the Anaheim Bulletin, for which she was recognized as “Citizen of the Day” in 1984.  Opal was active in many clubs and organizations, including the Anaheim Historical Society, Mother Colony Household, Ebell Club and the Women’s Division of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.  In 2006 Opal was presented with the Anaheim Historical Society’s “Margaret Atkins Award” for her work in preserving Anaheim’s history.

Opal’s most unique contribution in the preservation and dissemination of Anaheim’s history were her first-person portrayals of women from Anaheim’s past, including Madame Helena Modjeska and Vicenta Sepulveda Yorba Carrillo.

After nine years of retirement, filled with a stint on the Orange County Grand Jury (1988-1989) and conducting tours of the Anaheim Stadium, Opal returned to the History Room in 1996 as a part-time librarian to assist with the organization of the huge collection of materials accumulated by Elizabeth Schultz.  She compiled the definitive chronology for the Anaheim Public Library, which was essential to the library’s Centennial Celebration in 2002. 

In 2008 Opal made a significant donation to Heritage Services, funding exhibit space at Founders’ Park for the many Anaheim artifacts [including a mail delivery carriage and wine press] collected by her during her tenure as Local History Curator.  Her legacy endures every time a student on a field trip, a resident or a visitor is introduced to Anaheim’s rich heritage by following the “OK Trail” at Founders’ Park.
Opal, Jane Newell and I at the Anaheim Historical Society 2007 Annual Dinner.
Local historian and former OCTA chief Stan Oftelie further points out that "Opal was a very big deal in local history and before her illnesses was the guiding light/chief organizer/lifelong officer of the Association of Retired Orange County Grand Jurors."

Opal was not just a great asset to the community, she was also extremely kind and a delight to be around. Happily, much of what she helped build and grow -- including the Anaheim Heritage Center -- will remain and will continue to benefit future generations. But Opal will be missed.

Update: The following obituary for Opal appeared in the Orange County Register on April 24, 2016:

Opal Leone "Lea" Kissinger, born on July 27, 1924 in Dayton Township, Iowa, to Carl Dewitt Wilson and Emma C. (Voelgel) Wilson, passed away peacefully March 29, 2016 at St. Joseph's Hospital after struggling for several months with numerous health issues. She was raised on a farm and attended public schools in Millersburg, Iowa. She received her teaching credential from Coe College, Iowa, attended several universities in Iowa and Michigan, earning her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in education. She received her Master's in library science from San Jose State University, California.

Opal taught school in Iowa and Michigan for many years, as well as in California after she and her husband Dick moved to Orange County in 1963. In 1970 she joined the Anaheim Public Library as an Adult Services librarian, becoming Local History Curator in 1974 in the Anaheim History Room, a position she held until her retirement in 1987.

Opal was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Richard "Dick" Kissinger; and siblings, Ward Rossel Wilson, Eva Irene Marie (Wilson) Underwood, Jessie "Judy" Mable (Wilson) Ross and Anita Anne (Wilson) Wilson. She is survived by nieces, Joan Wilson, Susan Wilson Kirchner, Anne Wilson Dowling, Victoria Beck, Mary Underwood, Christine M. Miller; nephews, Robert Ross, John Wilson, David Wilson, Steven Wilson, David Casper, Steven Casper, Robert Feller; cousins Charles Johnson, Jolene Johnson, and Craig Johnson.

Special condolences go to Opal's caregiver Yenni Maruanaya who cherished her until the end. Interment is private at Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana. At her request there will not be a memorial service. The family suggests that any contributions in Opal's memory be made to the charity or organization of your choice.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Polynesians were first to settle Orange County

It’s just like Thor Heyerdahl told us. Except in reverse. Sort of.

No one has known the identity of the so-called “Oak Grove people” (or “Milling Stone Horizon peoples”) who inhabited Southern California 6,000 years ago. They disappeared long before the arrival of the Shoshonean people who were here to meet the Portola Expedition and the Spanish Missionaries.
Orange County historian Chris Jepsen holds a cogged stone or cogstone.
It was previously believed that the Oak Grove people had left few archaeological clues about their identities and their lives. Among those clues were the mysterious cogged stones which have been dug up by local farmers, gardeners, pot hunters and archaeologists for generations.

But new facts have come to light, and it appears that those earliest residents were Polynesians. How do we know? Check out these artifacts, uncovered within the last 15 years:
The ancient, ruined Tiki idol above was excavated in Sunset Beach, in front of Sam's Seafood restaurant in 2006. In the image below, a similar pagan idol is exposed after a heavy rain in the backyard of a home in Floral Park, Santa Ana.
Indeed, carved effigies typical of the South Seas seem to be widely distributed throughout the Orange County area.
Shown above is another Tiki found in the yard of a private residence -- This time on a hill overlooking San Juan Capistrano. Below are two earthen drinking vessels uncovered in Laguna Beach. It's believed they were used for religious ceremonies.

The "Garden Grove Place of Refuge" (shown above) was excavated in front of a suburban apartment complex. Caches of tiny fetish carvings may sometimes be found at such sites, like the Tikis seen below, which were found on the site of the Garden Grove Elk's Lodge in 2015.
Perhaps most spectacularly, an entire Polynesian temple has been uncovered in south Anaheim. (See photo below.) Structurally, it is in remarkably good condition. Unfortunately, it's infested with birds.
To prove the theory of Polynesian colonization, amateur anthropologists built a replica of an ancient Polynesian raft (shown below) and used the prevailing currents to float from Papeete, Tahiti all the way to the docks in front of Pizza Pete’s in Newport Beach.
On their journey across the Pacific, the anthropologists experienced thrilling adventures and terrifying scenarios, including spotty mobile phone coverage, rationing of hair conditioner, and an uneven ratio of hot dogs to buns. The story of their voyage is expected to be turned into a documentary, a lengthy book, an action movie, a children’s picture book, a Broadway musical, a chain of restaurants and a new flavor of chewing gum.