Friday, May 20, 2016

The Counterculture in Orange County

Handbill promoting Yippie Day at Disneyland, Aug. 6, 1970.
While the monolithic notion of Orange County as an ultra-conservative bedroom community has long been laid to rest, little has yet been said about the small but active counterculture that flourished here for generations. O.C. has seen quasi-utopian colonies, Timothy Leary’s Laguna adventures, bohemian artists' colonies, Aldous Huxley’s visit to Trabuco Canyon’s Ramakrishna Monastery, the Yippies’ “liberation” of Disney’s Tom Sawyer’s Island, "Happenings," the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, subversive bookstores, and many more examples of local free-thinkers, beatniks, non-conformists, cultists, Communists, iconoclasts, and unclassifiable wingnuts. 

 Curious to learn more about this part of our past? Register for the annual dinner of the Orange County Historical Society, June 10th, 2016. There, journalist/author/commentator Jim Washburn will “discuss the leftish side of the county, in a manner that shows just how entertaining history can be when the speaker has no regard for facts.” (Ed: Don't tell Jim I said this, but he's really quite good about getting his facts straight.)
Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley and Linus Pauling at the Ramakrishna Monastery, Trabuco Canyon, 1960.
Washburn has written about music, popular culture and politics for the L.A. Times, O.C. Register, O.C. Weekly and publications from Rolling Stone to Reader’s Digest. He co-authored the book Martin Guitars, an Illustrated Celebration and the John Crean autobiography, The Wheel and I. He has curated four exhibits at the Fullerton Museum Center, on such topics as O.C.’s rock music history and O.C. in the disco era. (If you attended his earlier OCHS talk on the history of rock music in Orange County, you know why you need to hear him speak again!)
Timothy Leary: "Rec'd from Orange County 3-18-70."
This year's OCHS annual dinner will be held in the Historic Friends Church (1888), which is now part of Moreno’s Restaurant in El Modena. For more information or to sign up, see the OCHS website. As of this writing, there's about a week left in which to register. There will be no walk-ins allowed.(Yes, I know,... all these rules are a real drag, man. Just another example of "the man" trying to keep you down.)
Tim Morgon performs at Balboa beatnik hangout The Prison of Socrates.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A couple events this weekend...

...and if you can't make it to this event in Costa Mesa on Sunday (or even if you can), also consider the big Vintage Postcard and Paper Show and the Glendale Civic Auditorium, which runs BOTH days this weekend!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pioneer Andres R. Arevalos

Andres Arevalos turns first shovelful of dirt at Arevalos School groundbreaking, 1964.
In the 1950s and 1960s, during Orange County’s unprecedented population boom, schools were being built at a shocking rate. Each school district had its own naming conventions. The policy of the Fountain Valley School District (which also overlaps the City of Huntington Beach) was to name schools for local pioneers like William T. Newland, Hisamatsu Tamura, Robert B. Wardlow and William D. Lamb. Today, many of those schools have closed and in some cases only the adjoining parks – also bearing the pioneers’ names – remain. Now that there’s talk of changing the names of some of those parks, I thought it worthwhile to share a little bit about each of their original namesakes.

Researching Lamb’s biography for my March 22, 2016 post proved pretty straightforward. But it was much more difficult finding information about the namesake of Arevalos Elementary School, built at 19692 Lexington Lane in Huntington Beach.

Andres Reynoso “Andrew” Arevalos (sometimes spelled “Arebalos”) was born Nov. 30, 1880 in Mexico. He left Jalisco for the United States in 1905. He married Guadalupe (“Lupe”) Garcia, also a Mexican national, in Indio before they moved to the Fountain Valley (a.k.a. Talbert) area in 1908.
Superintendent Baubier and Andres Arevalos at Arevalos School opening, Feb. 1965.
The Long Beach Press-Telegram would later describe Arevalos as “little man with courteous ways." Despite his size, he was strong and hard-working. He worked for twenty years as a section hand for the Engineering Department of the Pacific Electric Railroad. This meant he was part of a crew of laborers who maintained a particular section of track. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Arevalos worked for the Pacific Electric for twenty years – roughly the same length of time that the P.E.’s Santa Ana-Huntington Beach line was operational (from 1909 to 1930). 

But most of Arevalos’ attention went to farming and family. He raised sugar beets, corn and peppers in the fields around Talbert, including the land across the street from what would eventually become Arevalos Elementary School. Meanwhile, in the Arevalos home, he and Lupe would raise nine children.

In the early 1920s, the Arevalos were among the first residents of the Colonia Juarez tract in Fountain Valley – a neighborhood specifically created in 1923 as affordable and accessible housing for Mexican-American laborers. After apparently renting for some years, Andres Arevalos bought Lot 42 (10332 Calle Madero) of Colonia Juarez on October 1926. He would live there the rest of his life.
Arevalos Park today.
Andres Arevalos never became a U.S. citizen, and he never learned to speak, read, or write in English. He seldom appeared in the local directories – probably because he could not communicate easily with the directory companies’ canvassers. Likewise, he seldom appeared in the newspapers.
Guadalupe Arevalos died in 1957 – the same year Fountain Valley incorporated as a city.

The Fountain Valley School District broke ground for Andres R. Arevalos Elementary School in January 1964. Andres and his 7-year-old grandson Rodney Arevalos joined School District Superintendent Dr. Edward W. Baubier for the ceremony.

The school was officially dedicated at another ceremony on Feb. 9, 1965. “It doesn't bother us that we named a school after a man who is neither rich nor famous,” Baubier said. “We are honoring the man because he was a pioneer in our community and has been a credit to it all these years. You can't measure what a man is by money but by his success. Arevalos' success is that he provied a good education for his family and knitted his family together with strong ties that are lacking in many families today.”

Among the speakers at the dedication was Dr. Susan J. Freudenthal, who the Register called an "internationally known teacher from the Netherlands," and the school’s first principal, Bruce Sinclair.
Shyly speaking through an interpreter, Arevalos said he never imagined there would be a school named after him. "I was very surprised when they told me they wanted to honor me," he said.
Andres Arevlaos died of emphysema on Feb. 28, 1966 at Orange County General Hospital, where UCI Medical Center stands today. He is buried at Westminster Memorial Park. His obituary in the Register called him the "Beloved father of Fred, Gilbert, Andrew, Michael, Joe and Rudy Arevalos, Mrs. Nettie Aguiliera, Mrs. Esther Garcia and Mrs. Jovie Lara."

Was Arevalos really a Fountain Valley pioneer?  After all, farmers were already settling in Fountain Valley at least thirty-three years before Arevalos arrived. And the Talbert family, who eventually laid out the town site at Bushard St. and Talbert Ave., arrived eleven years before Arevelos did. 
Modern view of the well-marked Arevalos Park.
But Andres Arevalos was clearly one of the first to put down permanent roots in the Colonia Juarez area, south of what’s now Mile Square Park. Today we think of Juarez simply as part of Fountain Valley. But until the city incorporated in 1957, Talbert and Juarez were distinct communities with their own personalities, histories, and pioneers. As such, Arevalos was a Juarez pioneer who later became a Fountain Valley pioneer by dint of annexation.

Sadly, the Fountain Valley School District trustees voted to close Arevalos Elementary School in 1988. In the decades since, the school buildings have been leased to the private Pegasus School. The adjacent park has continually been included on the City of Huntington Beach’s inventory of parks as Arevalos Park. The park features a playground, benches, a swing set, and a greenbelt. If the park is to be renamed, it is unclear what the new name would be.

My thanks to Stephanie George, Crystal Bracey and the Arevalos family (many of whom still live in Fountain Valley) for their help with this article over the past couple months. Click here to see the first part in this series.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Before and After: The Old Courthouse

The image above shows the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana around the 1910s. We're looking across the intersection of Sycamore St. and Santa Ana Blvd. (then called 6th St.). The image below shows a modern version of the same scene, from the same angle.
Okay,... Let's take a look at the details!

First, you'll notice that the cupola is now missing from the Courthouse. The popular story is that it was damaged during the 1933 earthquake and had to be removed. Indeed, it was removed while other repairs were being made to the building, post-quake. But that just provided a good excuse to remove the part of the building that was the most difficult to paint, clean, and otherwise maintain.

That said, those will keen eyes will notice that the stone work around the attic windows is different too -- And that WAS a direct result of 1933 quake damage. Those with impossibly good eyesight might also notice that parts of the curbs surrounding the courthouse block are still made of cobblestones, as they were in the early 1900s.

Next, notice that there's a lot more foliage in the modern view. The good news is that most of those trees are the same in both photos. I admire them every day, as I walk to and from my office. (And these days, they're often full of noisy green parrots.)

Most of the other buildings seen on the periphery and in the background of the early photo are long gone, but First Presbyterian Church remains. One of it's dome-topped steeples appears on the right of the older photo. The post-quake remodeled version can be seen in the modern photo as a white building with a gray roof.

The block across the street from the front of the Courthouse has changed completely since the first photo was taken. Today, a shiny glass office building and its white concrete parking garage fill the entire block. Prior to that, the block at various times held Santa Ana's old Carnegie Library, the Elks' Lodge, a garage, and more.

In the older shot, many of the surrounding buildings are churches. In fact, part of today's Civic Center Drive, behind the Old Courthouse, was originally called Church St. because of all the churches lined up there. In the 1950s, the car culture took over and people moved into the suburbs. Many of the churches followed, building big new sanctuaries on large parcels of land (with their own parking lots) further out amid the tract houses and orange groves.

That's it for today. Happy Friday!