Sunday, December 30, 2007

Natural history, genealogy, architecture & Mr. Toad

Today's photo is an example of "programmatic architecture" (buildings that look like other objects or other kinds of buildings.) In this case, it's Walker's Richfield Gas and Service Station at the corner of First St. and Harbor Blvd in Santa Ana, in 1957.

The O.C. Natural History Museum is continuing the process of making the old United Presbyterian Church of Santa Ana (1911) their new home. Although the parking may be a problem, it's otherwise in a great location -- between Main and Bush St, on Santa Ana Blvd. There's a disputed rumor floating around that the builiding itself (which needs extensive work) may have been designed by noted local architect Frederick Eley. Click here for a pdf of the building's historical survey information.

Yesterland is waxing nostalgic for the original Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland. As Brodie Bruce once said, "...EVERYONE wants Mr. Toad's Wild Ride."

The next meeting of the Orange County California Genealogical Society will be held the morning of Jan. 5th. These meetings always feature a variety of programs that are helpful to both new and longtime genealogists. For meeting and seminar times and details, visit the OCCGS website.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Westminster, Hobby City, Nixon, Vic Stapf, etc.

The photo above shows Westminster as it appeared around 1920. The community finally incorporated as a city in 1957. The last event in Westminster's year-long 50th birthday celebration will be a New Year's Eve bash at the Rose Center, 14140 All American Way, 8pm-12:30am. There will be a classic rock band, dancing, dinner and champagne. Tickets are $55 per person. Call (714) 895-2860 for more information.

Today's post is made up almost entirely of interesting stuff I should have posted earlier this year. Somehow it all slipped between the cracks until now.

For starters, I just noticed this old open letter (link) from John Taylor, which covers a lot of the controversy surrounding the handover of the Nixon Library from the Nixon Foundation to the National Archives. It makes for interesting reading.

I also just discovered that Vic Stapf has a blog now. I've enjoyed his "Photos of the Forgotten" website for years, so I'm happy to see this new development. (Link) . Vic has also turned his collection of Disneyland-area postcards into a book, called Postcards From Anaheim. He describes the book as, "96 pages of the Googie glory that once surrounded the Disneyland theme park. Available now through the bookstore in either hard or soft cover editions..."

The soft housing market means that Hobby City (on the Stanton/Anaheim border) will still be around for a while longer. The original plan was to tear out this quirky roadside complex and replace it with a bunch of condos. We've been talking about the phenomenon of "preservation through neglect" for ages, but now we seem to be experiencing "preservation through economic slump." In any case, read the latest about the Hobby City situation in the Register.

It recently occured to me that I'd never posted a link to the Home & Garden TV segment on the Daigle House. Although it's sort of a puff piece, it's interesting and proves that you never know what you'll find when you restore an old building. (Link)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Date shakes, Landing Hill, lions and wall calendars

How's this for complicated: The image above is a scan of a photo of a painting of Mission San Juan Capistrano as it appeared 100 years ago. (As always, click the image to enlarge.) The photo comes from the Library of Congress' collection.

Orange Coast Magazine reporter Cynthia Furey, is "working on a story about the Crystal Cove Shake Shack (or Crystal Cove Date Shack, in previous years)," and could use our help. If you know anything about the history of this place or have any "nostalgic stories about the shack," please send her an email, or post it as a comment to this blog.

Jamie Cleland and Andrew York will present a program entitled, "Settlement and Ceremony at Landing Hill" at the Jan. 10th meeting of the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society (PCAS). Landing Hill, located between Alamitos Bay and Anaheim Bay in Seal Beach, is known for its many archaeological sites. For more information, visit the PCAS website.

Outside The Berm recently posted photos from the opening week of Lion Country Safari in Irvine. Personally, I think Irvine could be livened up a great deal by bringing back the lions -- But this time without any fences.

Daveland posted its 500th entry on Christmas, and it's good stuff. It begins a multi-day series of photos from Disneyland's opening year, 1955.

The 2008 O.C. Mexican American Historical Society wall calendar -- featuring a historic photo for each month -- is now available for $10. Visit the OCMAHS website for details.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Two Main Streets, decked out for Christmas

Main St., Ghost Town, Knott's Berry Farm, decorated for Christmas, mid-1960s.
Pacific Coast Highway and Main St., Huntington Beach, Christmas 1935.
I probably won't post again until the 26th or 27th, so I'll wish you all a Merry Christmas while I have the chance.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cold War Xmas, Stephanie George & Yost Theater

Here's a photo from the Orange County Building Department's Christmas party in 1957. They gussied up the office rather than having the party at a restaurant or hotel. The homemade decor is interesting, especially the timely Sputnik replica hovering above everyone. (The USSR launched the real Sputnik on Oct. 4, 1957.) And what's that strange butcher paper mural behind them? An enhanced version of the image also posted above. (Click the image to embigulate.) Your guesses are welcome.

I'm happy to report that Stephanie George is now the full-time Archivist for CSUF's Center for Oral & Public History (COPH). Way to go!

There's now some interest in renovating the old Yost Theater in Downtown Santa Ana and using it for live entertainment again. Click over to the Register's article for more information.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Corona del Mar, Taco de Carlos & William Wendt

Here's another example of old municipal holiday decor -- This time from Corona del Mar in 1946. I'm including both the whole image and a larger cropped view of the Santa Claus portion. I also posted another 1946 O.C. Christmas photo over at Greetings from Downtown Huntington Beach.
At OCThen, Steve remembers the short-lived Taco de Carlos -- an early attempt by Carl Karcher Enterprises to enter the Mexican fast food market. I only remember visiting the one in Fountain Valley, and I honestly don't remember much beyond the logo featuring "Happy Star" in a sombrero.

The Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society is creating a "Santa Ana Room" (presumably at the Howe-Waffle House), where they'll display items from Santa Ana's past. They are looking for anything old that has Santa Ana on it, including "advertising items, old photos, products made in SA (with the city name on it), etc." If you would like to donate any items, contact them via email or leave a message at (714) 547-9645.

The Bowers' blog recently featured an entry on Southern California artist William Wendt and one of his paintings, Trees They Are My Friends (1935). Is it just me, or does that title sound vaguely like LOLCat syntax?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Knott's Christmas, Orville Hanson, & Book Baron

Today I have two images from Knott's Berry Farm in December 1966, both from the collection of the Orange County Archives. The first is Santa's Igloo. The sign in front says, "Santa will be in his workshop 12 noon to 6:00 pm." 

The second photo is of Bob's Men's Shop, which (from the early 1950s until just recently) stood where the giant Snoopy store is now located on Grand Ave. Personally, I miss Bob's. They had a lot of great stuff, including a good stock of Pendelton wool products, Reyn Spooner shirts, high-end western wear, and a stock of good quality ordinary things like belts and ties. It was always easier to find good stuff there than at Macy's, Bloomingdales, or any of these other East Coast outfits.
Sadly, longtime Huntington Beach resident Orville Hanson passed away on Dec. 16th. I hear that his funeral will be at First Christian Church on Main St., tomorrow (Dec. 21) at 11am. Born in 1919, Orville was a member of the HBHS class of 1937, an oilworker, and more recently was the chairman of the City's Historic Resources Board. As Diane Ryan put it, "Huntington Beach has lost an important link to its historical past. Orville will be missed."
The Book Baron is now closed for good. I hear that Acres of Books is likely to be next. This is a seriously disturbing trend. Book-buying sites on the Web have advantages too, but they don't let you browse and discover books through serendipity.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas, Tustin, Carol Jordan & Huntington Beach

Well, here's something you won't see anymore: A nativity scene on the front lawn of your neighborhood elementary school. Specifically, this photo shows Huntington Beach Elementary School (now Ethel Dwyer Middle School) in 1946.

Carol Jordan's book, Tustin: An Illustrated History, has just been published by the Tustin Area Historical Society. This book has been out of print for many years, and the Society and Carol worked together to revise and update this new edition, including the addition of many new photos. To find out how to buy a copy, visit the TAHS website.

I don't have a lot to write about this week, so here are some old wax recordings of Christmas music to get you in the holiday spirit.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Buena Park, Old Courthouse, Seal Beach, etc.

Today's photo shows the George Reis residence in Buena Park on Christmas Day, 1896. People identified in the image include Emil (in the surrey), George T. (in the road, near the center of the photo), Charles (behind the fence, left of the two women), Clem (small boy, standing), and George (standing next to Clem). I love that they got their dog and horse into the photo as well.

The Old Courthouse Museum is looking for volunteer docents. Tours will focus on the history of the Old Courthouse as well as the general history of Orange County. A docent manual, reading material and training will be provided by OC Parks staff. Once trained, most tours will take place in two hour shifts on weekdays, 10am to noon and 1pm to 3pm. However, the museum staff will work with volunteers for the best schedule. The Old Courthouse is located at 211 W. Santa Ana Blvd. in Santa Ana. For more information call: 714-973-6610 or email

The Santa Ana Historic Preservation Society's new book about local orange crate labels has been printed and will soon be available. They used a few labels from my own collection, and I'm looking forward to seeing what else is included.
Werner Weiss has written a review of the new "Walt Disney Treasures" DVD set, entitled, Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic. It provides a look back at the history of Disneyland, and is already in stores. Yes, I've already asked Santa for one of these.

The Register recently published a virtual tour of "Steve Martin's Orange County," which compliments my earlier posts on this subject.
Since this time of year is so busy, I probably won't be posting quite as often. Here's an extra photo to help tide you over. This is a 1946 view of the Seal Beach Pier, decorated for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Very Talbert Christmas

Here's County Supervisor Tom Talbert making balloon animals in a Santa suit at the joint Christmas party for the O.C. Associated Chambers of Commerce and the O.C. Coast Association. The event was held in Huntington Beach -- probably in the late 1940s. It seems the girl (above left) lacks faith in Tom's balloon-animal-making skills. I'm also including the shot below (with no balloons) so you can actually see Talbert. Most politicians want to be seen as Santa Claus, but Tom Talbert, as usual, took things to the next level.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Holly Sugar Plant, Huntington Beach

In the 1890s, it became clear that the marshier, wetter areas of Orange County (e.g. South Santa Ana and Huntington Beach) were perfect for growing sugar beets. In 1897, the first of five local sugar processing plant was built in Los Alamitos. The Holly Sugar Plant shown above, was built in Huntington Beach in 1911, when more than 30,000 acres of O.C. was planted in sugar beets. The plant cost $1,250,000 to construct, and would remain H.B.'s primary industry until oil was discovered in 1920. 

Many people who grew up in Orange County also remember Holly's plant in South Santa Ana, near the 55 Freeway.
Below is a mid-1950s Holly Sugar billboard ad by Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel. You can see more at the UC San Diego website.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Christmas in jail, Disneyland's tobacco shop, etc.

Today's photos were taken at the Orange County Jail, around Christmas, sometime in the 1940s. I particularly like the cobbled-together Santa costume. After a couple cups of festive holiday "pruno nog," perhaps the other prisoners didn't notice that "Santa" just had a newspaper hat and a mop on his head. Reminder: This weekend is the holiday French Park home tour. . I posted some photos from tonight's Newland House Museum event over on Joe Shaw's blog. The event continues tomorrow. . Yesterland has added a look back at the days when Disneyland had its own tobacco shop.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

More theme park stuff and Huntington Beach

I recently posted about a blog dedicated to old Disneyland tickets. Well, now there's another blog, called Vintage Disneyland Goodies, offering a look at all kinds of old Disneyland ephemera. In honor of this new site, I'm posting the front and back of a Carnation menu distributed at Disneyland in the 1960s.
Meanwhile, you Knott's Berry Farm fans may enjoy the short film Jay Jennings posted to YouTube. It's interesting to see clips from old Knott's promotional films and hear Dave Bourne, (who played with the Wagonmasters for many years) share his memories. The film is in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. .

The Huntington Beach Historical Society will hold a "Holiday Tour and Craft Fair" at the Newland House Museum tomorrow evening, 4pm-9pm, and Saturday, 9am-4pm. I will probably stop past Friday night, since it's always nice to see this 1898 farm house decked out for the holidays. There will be a handbells performance on Friday at 6pm and a chorus on Saturday at noon.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Knott's Berry Farm history

In this scene from the mid-1960s, "school marm" Alda Reed decorates the old one-room schoolhouse at Knott's Berry Farm. This 1870 building was brought to Knott's in the 1950s from Beliot, Kansas.

Yes, this is another "getting ready for Christmas" photo, but it also helps me introduce Phil Brigandi's new article about the history of Knott's Berry Farm. Click on over to his SoCal Historyland site if you'd like to learn about Knott's in the days before Ghost Town (i.e. pre-1941). In addition to this extremely well-researched article, Phil has also posted a handful of related images.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Who says "big oil" can't be cool?

What's not to love about this building? This is the Union Oil Research building near Imperial Highway and Valencia Ave. in Brea, circa 1964. Dig those clean, modern lines, and the wonderful signage. I bet it was hard to take a bad photo of this place, since the "good composition" was built right in.

Naturally, the eye is immediately drawn to the huge "76" circle, but ultimately, the word "RESEARCH" -- in a font mimicking architects' printing -- is even cooler.

There are a lot of contrasting textures used in this building too, which was typical of the era. Today, industrial buildings, (like everything else,) tend to just look like stucco crates.

Someday I'll have to do one of those Images of America books on Mid-Century Modern industrial buildings in O.C. There were some real gems.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Salute to Santa, Sheriff's badges, and BOOKS!

It's time to decorate for Christmas, if you haven't already. In today's image, the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce decks out Main Street for the annual "Salute to Santa" event and parade. The photo was taken in early December 1950. The Hudson dealership seen in the background is now home to "The Electric Chair." To get an idea of what the "Salute to Santa" was like, read this H.B. Independent article by Jerry Person, describing the event in 1953. . 

The Orange County Historical Society will host the first of two planned "Authors' Nights" on Dec. 13, 7:30pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 S. Canal St, in Orange. Authors of recently published local histories will be on hand to sell and sign their books. Scheduled authors for the December event include Phil Brigandi (Orange County Place Names, A to Z), Jeff Delaney (Newport Beach's Balboa & Balboa Island), Steve Faessel (Anaheim: 1940-2007 and Historic Photos of Anaheim), Jeanette Gardner and Lawrence de Graaf (Early Placentia), George Jezek and John Westcott (Orange County Past & Present), and Doris Walker (Dana Point). What a great opportunity to do some Christmas shopping and rub elbows with historians! This will also serve as the OCHS's holiday meeting, with decorations, raffles, and refreshments. . 

As if that weren't enough, a the O.C. Historical Society will host a second author's night on April 10, 2008, which will include the authors of recently published histories of Santa Ana, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, San Juan Capistrano, Seal Beach, Yorba Linda, and the Missions of Southern California. . Speaking of books, the O. C. Sheriff's Department has just released a history book. The Golden Star is "an illustrated history of the badges, patches, and insignia of the Orange County Sheriff's Department," and was written by Deputy John M. Hollenbeck. Although the subject matter sounds like it might be kind of dry, it's really a great way to tell the story of law enforcement here in O.C. It's also an impressively illustrated book and even shows how badges are made. For more details, see the printer's website.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Balboa, Balboa Island, etc.

Jeff Delaney's new book, Newport Beach's Balboa & Balboa Island, will be available Dec. 3rd. It's one of the "Images of America" books from Arcadia Publishing. To find out more about the book and to see a bunch of vintage Balboa views, visit Jeff's website

Today's image (above) shows Marine Ave. on Balboa Island in the 1950s. What's the single most shocking change between Balboa Island in the 1950s and today? They had parking back then! Heck, you could park a whole bus in front of the post office! Today you'd have to wait for low tide, park out on the wet sand, and then rush to buy stamps before the tide came back in. 

The other day, an anonymous reader left a nostalgic comment on one of my early posts about Villa Sweden Restaurant in Huntington Beach. I thought I'd post a link to the comment here, since it's otherwise hard to find. 

Unrelated note: After a couple years of blogging, I finally got around to completing the About Me/Profile page here on the O.C. History Roundup. I doubt you really care what my favorite movies are, but at least you'll always have reliable links to my email address and my (non-blog) website.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Laguna, celery, Placentia, MODCOM & Christmas

Today's photo shows the 200 block of S. Coast Blvd, in Laguna Beach, in December 1946. You need to enlarge the photo (click on it) to see much of the detail.

Bowers' blog has a new entry about celery growing in early Orange County. It includes a couple great images.

The Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee (MODCOM) will hold their annual holiday party on Monday, Dec. 17th. Keep an eye on their events bulletin board for details. (Yes, I know this isn't an O.C. event, but then O.C. doesn't have its own major architectural conservancy group -- and it certainly doesn't have a group to defend great Modern buildings.)

The Orange County Library Association's Fall Program will be held at the Placentia Public Library, Dec. 13, at 7 pm. The focus of the program is the local history collection at the library and historic sites in the area. For more information contact Margot McLaren.

Speaking of Placentia, the historic Bradford House is now decorated for a turn-of-the-Century Christmas. An open house and tours will be held 2-4pm, Dec. 9. For more information, call (714) 993-2470. The Bradford House is located at 136 Palm Circle, in Placentia. 

Today I stumbled across another blog dedicated to a facet of Disneyland's history. The blog's name clearly states its laser-beam-like focus: "Vintage Disneyland Tickets." Some of you ephemera fans will definitely dig this.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Capistrano, Tustin, Knott's Berry Farm, etc.

The federal government has decided that the Juañenos don't rate recognition as a tribe. I wonder if they would have fared better had the three factions united before approaching the Feds. In any case, I'm sure appeals are already being prepared.

Meanwhile, back at Mission San Juan Capistrano, the Church wants more time to study whether they actually put the new rectory garden on top of an old cemetery. It sounds to me like a mystery that could be solved over a weekend with a jackhammer and a shovel. But I suppose that's why I'm not an archaeologist.

The City of Tustin's preservation efforts and the 1922 bungalow at 245 South A St. will be featured in the next issue of Cottages & Bungalows magazine. Check your local Barnes & Noble or Lowe's to find a copy.

Ken Stack has started a blog called Outside The Berm. It seems to focus on old images and collectable from local theme parks -- especially Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland. It will be interesting to see how the blog develops. He certainly has some great photos to share.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Southeast Huntington Beach, 35 years ago

Today's photo shows the intersection of PCH and Newland Ave. in Huntington Beach in 1972. The photo comes from the California Coastal Records Project -- an amazing online resource created by Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman. Not only have the documented the whole length of California's coast, but they also provide comparison photos from the 1970s. It's a fascinating way to compare the changes to our coast over the years, both natural and man-made.
In this particular image, we can see the Edison steam plant, some remaining oil tank farms, the green areas of Edison Park and Edison High School, the old Spanish-style buildings on Huntington State Beach, and a few open fields yet to be turned into tract housing.
Note the wide undeveloped strip on the inland side of the highway. That strip was carved out during the 1950s, when there was a plan to develop it into a coastal freeway. The plan was eventually aborted, and much of that land is still vacant through southeast Huntington Beach.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Early Santa Ana

This is Downtown Santa Ana in about 1895. We're looking west along 4th St, with Main St crossing directly in front of us. The tall building on the right is the Otis Building, which -- although seriously remodeled -- still stands. Also note the unpaved streets and the horse-drawn trolley just making the turn onto 4th.

I believe I grabbed this image off an eBay auction long ago, which means it probably originated with either First American Corp. or the Santa Ana Public Library.
I'm afraid the historical news has been a little thin lately, what with the holiday and all. I hope to have something more for you soon. In the meantime, I hope that these photos will help bridge the gap.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dana Point in the 1950s

This is what Dana Point looked like before the marina was built. You may recognize the winding road and the gazebo in the upper right hand corner of the photo. Otherwise, the scene has changed drastically. Today, the Ocean Institute would be visible at the left side of this view. The headlands, of course, are now being covered with houses -- because Orange County clearly isn't developed enough yet.

Buffalo Ranch, Olinda, Chris Epting, and more.

You say you’re not looking forward to Thanksgiving leftovers? Why not join Chief Push-ma-ta-ha and his friends for buffalo burgers, baked beans and coffee at the Buffalo Ranch in Newport Beach? This photo by Bob Geivet is undated, but was probably taken in the mid-to-late 1950s. (Photo courtesy Old Courthouse Museum.)

At their last meeting, the O.C. Historical Commission named the Olinda Oil Museum and Trail an official historic location. They’ll put a plaque up on the site early next year.

Local author Chris Epting will sign his books (including Images of America: Huntington Beach) at Barnes & Noble at Bella Terra Shopping Center in Huntington Beach, Dec. 6, at 7pm.

Yesterland has added press releases from Disneyland’s first birthday, in 1956, along with photos of the park taken that same year.

Today’s Register includes an article about the Dreger Clock, which I wrote about last month.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

A turkey farm somewhere in Orange County, Nov. 1951
The list of things I have to be thankful for is far too long to post here. However, I’d like to share at least some of the list as it pertains to local history: I’m thankful for all our great patrons who visit us at the County Archives. From the family that visits us while on vacation, to our regulars, to the folks we set our watches by -- You’ll never meet a more interesting and enjoyable group of individuals. They are the key reason that my job is SO much more than a job to me.

I’m thankful for all the great people who make local history tick here in O.C. – Historical society members, authors, historians, librarians, archivists, teachers, individual volunteers, journalists who write about local history, and owners of old buildings who catch the preservation bug. It’s a privilege to know these people, and I’m looking forward to meeting many more in the coming years.

I’m thankful that I get to work with Phil Brigandi. I’ve learned more from this guy in four years than I could have learned in any four master’s degree programs. He’s not just the County Archivist and probably our best practicing local historian – He’s also a friend, a mentor, a very amusing guy, and a fine example of how to be a good Christian without being obnoxious about it.

I’m thankful to County Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly, for recognizing the importance of Orange County’s historical resources and maintaining the County Archives.

I’m thankful for the growing number of people who read this blog regularly and for those who send me items to include. It’s especially gratifying when I receive emails that say things like, “I never really thought about Orange County’s history until I stumbled across your blog. Now I’m trying to learn more.” That’s music to my ears.

So, thanks! .

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkeys, a plastic house, and The Great Flydini

Today's photo shows a turkey farm across the street from the Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana, circa 1906. From this angle, we see the back and west side of the Courthouse and the old jail. The upper part of this image was really bad, so I had to do a lot of Photoshopping just to make the tower and jail visible. (As always, click on the image to embigulate it.)
Daveland recently featured a great series of photo features about the Monsanto Plastics Home of the Future at Disneyland. This house was so well built that the wrecking ball had no effect when they wanted to tear it down. It simply bounced off the side of the unaffected house. Eventually, they had to cut the plastic panels apart with hacksaws.

Steve Martin's autobiography, Born Standing Up, was released yesterday. In tribute, my Phoenix correspondent forwarded a link to Martin's interpretation of "El Paso." Also, here are some other links to Martin clips, including The Great Flydini, some classic magic tricks, and a short-subject film: The Absent Minded Waiter. As I've mentioned before, Martin got his start here in Orange County.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ebell Club of Anaheim, Dana Point, Santa Ana, etc

Today's photo shows the ladies of the Ebell Club in Anaheim in 1938. In honor of the 100th anniversary of this club, the Anaheim Historical Society will hold their next meeting at the historic Ebell Clubhouse, 226 N. Helena (at Cypress), across from Pearson Park, Nov. 27, 7pm. The speaker will be Tom Richard, founder of the Old California Lantern Company, who will discuss the history and development of lighting.

On Dec. 11th & 12th the Dana Point Theater Company will present, “The Way It Was,” a look back at early Dana Point. Oral histories gathered by the Dana Point Historical Society will be dramatized and accompanied by a mulitimedia presentation. The program will be held both nights at 7pm in the Samueli Center of the Ocean Insitute at Dana Point Harbor. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for children. 

First Presbyterian Church of Santa Ana is celebrating their 100th Anniversary. One of the highlights of working in Downtown Santa Ana is hearing their carillon. It's about the only place I still hear traditional hymns anymore. (These modern "praise chorus" things -- which feature about two notes each -- wouldn't sound too great translated into bells.)

While it's a little recent to count as history, I think Kevin Yee's new book, Mouse Trap, is the sort of thing future Disneyland/local historians will want to have on the shelf. It recounts Kevin's time working at Disneyland in the 1980s and 1990s. Sometimes collections of memories like this can paint a picture in a way more scholarly efforts cannot. A good example is Charolette Belisle's abundantly-titled Orange County and Life Before Disneyland: The Story of the World Famus Belisle's, 1955-1995. It probably won't be mistaken for a doctoral thesis, but I find there's often a lot more to be learned from reading stories "straight from the horse's mouth."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Villa Park, Dana Point, Capistrano, El Toro & Santa

In response to my last post, alert reader itsnotaplace wrote, "Great photo of Santa on the Log Ride! But, I want to see what he looked like coming down the flume..." Well, here you go. (Photo, again, courtesy the Orange County Archives.)
The Hidden Jewel, a new pictorial history of Villa Park, is now available for pre-sale ($50) at Villa Park City Hall. All proceeds go to the Community Services Foundation's historical, cultural and educational programs. There also seems to be a matching t-shirt available on

The Dana Point Historical Society will celebrate its 20th birthday with a special program on Dec. 5th at the Dana Hills Tennis Center, 24911 Calle De Tennis, 6:30-8:30pm. (For the record, "Calle De Tennis" is the funniest example of Real Estate Spanish I've heard since "Rancho Relaxo.")
The San Juan Capistrano Historical Society recently added three buildings to its original museum on Los Rios St. One of the houses has been rehabilitated and now features a special exhibit of old dolls. The other two buildings await rehabilitation until more funds become available.

The Saddleback Area Historical Society has a number of holiday events on tap early next month at Heritage Hill Historical Park. First they'll host a Victorian Christmas , Dec. 1, 11am-3pm, which will include live entertainment, children’s crafts, living history demonstrations, historical exhibits, Santa Claus, and tours through decorated historic buildings. This will be followed by Candlelight Tours, on Dec 8 & 9, 5:30-8:30pm. These evening events will include luminaria lit paths, historic buildings aglow with holiday lights and decorated with period décor. Also expect Victorian carolers, storytellers, and visits with Santa.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Christmas events, etc.

In today's image, Santa Claus rides the Knott's Berry Farm Log Ride, circa 1969. Why a Santa photo so early? Although we haven't even started defrosting the turkey for Thanksgiving, it's already time to start penciling in those special Christmas events on the calendar...
The historic French Park neighborhood in Santa Ana will host a Holiday Home Tour on Dec. 8th and 9th, 10am-4pm. Tour seven homes (and one church) built between 1885 and 1930 -- all decorated for the holidays. A National Register historic neighborhood, French Park’s architecture showcases Eastlake Victorian, Craftsman bungalow, and Colonial, NeoClassical and Spanish Revival styles. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. For more information, visit the French Park website or email
That same weekend, on Saturday, Dec. 8, the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society will host a Holiday Open House at the Dr. Howe-Waffle House at Civic Center Dr. and Sycamore. Admission will be free the whole day.

The Old Courthouse Museum will hold its own Holiday Open House on the following Tuesday -- Dec. 11, 11:30am-3:30pm. There will be refreshements, live entertainment, and even a craft project that I'm told will borrow elements from my own Googie website. (I'm curious to see what that's all about.) This event is co-sponsored by the O.C. Historical Commission.
Nostalgia-tainment professional Charles Phoenix will bring his "Retro Holiday Slide Show" to Orange County this weekend. Specifically, he'll present his show Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Curtis Theatre in Brea. See hand-picked holiday selections from Charles' amazing slide collection (1940s-1970s) and enjoy his colorful and amusing narration. Tickets are $28, with discounts for kids and seniors.

Earlier this week, the Dana Point Planning Commission discussed the possible addition of the house at 33905 El Encanto to the City's Historic Resource Register. Please drop me a line if you've heard how this came out.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bruce Gordon, Tustin, Old Maizeland School, etc.

Walt Disney poses with hippos destined for Disneyland's Jungle Cruise, circa 1955.
Historian, author, and longtime Disney Imagineer Bruce Gordon has died. In addition to helping create rides like Splash Mountain, Gordon wrote and lectured about the history of Disneyland. His book with David Mumford, Disneyland: The Nickel Tour, is the first book I recommend to anyone interested in the park's development. Gordon also played a big role in writing, ghost-writing, and providing information for other histories of the park. And perhaps just as importantly, he championed worthy publications like E-Ticket magazine. Since leaving Imagineering, he'd been helping create and design the new Walt Disney Family Museum. Gordon was only 56 at the time of his death. (Link to obituary.)

The Tustin Area Historical Society's next meeting will be held at 7:30pm, Nov. 19, at the Tustin Senior Center Lounge, 200 S. C St. Margaret Pottenger of "The Jabberwocky" and Erma Zwirner of "Erma's Gift Box" will present a program entitled, "Two Women Merchants of Old Town Tustin.

The Old Maizeland/Rivera Schoolhouse (California Historical Landmark 729) at Knott's Berry Farm will no longer be used as a "Ranger Station." The many critters now housed in the one-room schoolhouse will soon have new homes, and the building will instead be filled with exhibits depicting the history of the Pony Express. This will match the theme of a new ride now being built at Knott's.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

O.C. Judo Club, Golden Horseshoe & Costa Mesa

Today's image shows the Orange County Judo Club, in 1932, posed in front of chili dryers in Garden Grove. This photo is mentioned in this Register article from last February. (Photo courtesy CSUF's Center for Oral & Public History.)

Were you a fan of [Slue Foot Sue's] Golden Horseshoe Revue, which was performed at Disneyland from 1955 to 1986? Then save the date for a Golden Horseshoe reunion, dinner show and shin-dig at the Anaheim Sheraton Hotel on March 29, 2008. Tickets will undoubtedly go fast, so purchase them now through a website set up especially for this event. The program will include some of the show's biggest stars, including Wally Boag and Betty Taylor.

Useless fact: The Guinness Book of World Records lists the Revue as the longest running musical in history. (Starlight Express just seemed like the longest if you had to sit through it.)

The City of Costa Mesa's Historic Preservation Committee's next meeting will be held Thursday (tomorrow), 5:30pm at City Hall, 77 Fair Dr. Topics will include the restoration of the Estancia Adobe, and a historical mural project.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Nikkei Heritage, Wintersburg & Thurl Ravenscroft

Sowing Dreams, Cultivating Lives,” the current exhibition at the O.C. Agricultural & Nikkei Heritage Museum at the Fullerton Arboretum (at CSUF) is closing on Sunday, Dec. 2nd. This was planned as a temporary exhibit so after it closes, there won’t be another opportunity to see it. It’s free, too. Hours: Saturdays & Sundays, Noon-4pm. The photo above shows an interior view of the museum. The photo below comes from the exhibit, and depicts the congregation of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church in 1920. Rev. Junzo Nakamura is on the upper right. (Both photos courtesy Stephanie George of CSUF.)
Speaking of the church at Wintersburg,... I haven't heard any news about the historic buildings there lately. But if any preservation (or demolition) info comes my way, I'll post it here.

My Phoenix correspondant, Greg Ottinger, discovered a big collection of songs by the late grrrrrreat Thurl Ravenscroft of Fullerton -- All available for download. Although Ravenscroft had a long and wide-ranging career in music, you're more likely to remember his voice booming out of Tony the Tiger, from many of Disneyland's audio-animatronic characters, and from the announcer's booth at Laguna's famous Pagent of the Masters.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Newport redux, Anaheim History Room, etc.

Here's a 1950s photo of the same block of Newport Beach shown in yesterday's photo. You'll notice that the parking wasn't nearly as condensed then as it is today. (I usually end up parking here when I eat at the Crab Cooker.)

Please drop me a line if you have any news about events or projects related to local history. I'll be happy to promote books, lectures, home tours, museum exhibits, whatever... so long as there's a good local history hook. And if you can condense the information down to a couple sentences, that's even better. . 

Researchers, rejoice! The Anaheim History Room is open again! Now called the "Anaheim History Reading Room at the Muzeo," it is located in the big building behind the old Carnegie Library at 241 S. Anaheim Blvd. I have to carve out some time to visit Jane and see her new digs!

You can now have new articles from emailed automatically to you via Feedburner. I may have to look into setting up something like this for O.C. History Roundup too.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Newport Beach, Saddleback Valley & Yesterland

Today's image comes from a postcard mailed in 1942, although I'm sure the photo is earlier. It was taken from the Newport Pier and shows the spot where the Dory Fishing Fleet still sell their fish today.

The Saddleback Area Historical Society's next meeting will be held Nov. 18, 2pm, at Heritage Hill Historical Park in El Toro.

Werner Weiss' latest addition to is a look back at the relationship between Richfield Oil and Disneyland when the park opened in 1955. Much of the article is based on a newspaper ad that came from the Orange County Archives. So visit Yesterland and learn more about Richfield-sponsored attractions like Autopia and The World Beneath Us

Werner will also be in O.C. next week doing research -- both "in the field" and at various research libraries. It sounds like our paths will cross at least three times. I've enjoyed his website since 1995, (when computers were still coal-fired), and he still continues to add great new content.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween, Haunted Mansion, French Park, etc.

Happy Halloween!

Today's photo was taken just before the 1950 Anaheim Halloween Parade. I'm particularly fond of the two-headed cat. I'm not sure what the creature on the far left is supposed to be -- Perhaps a shark with a moustache, or something out of a Peter Max drawing?

For those (*ahem*) who didn't like my "ghost story" yesterday, there's a whole mess of O.C. ghost stories posted on

The ultimate haunted house is Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. And nobody covers the history and mystery of that imposing manse like Webmaster "Chef Mayhem" has been carrying visitors "into the boundless realm of the supernatural" for over a decade now.

Daveland is also featuring a great construction photo of the Haunted Mansion today.

The French Park Home Tour in Santa Ana will be held Dec. 8th & 9th. Visit for details. (I suspect I'll be writing more about this tour in a few weeks.) 

Bowers' blog recently posted some photos and information about the early history of the Santa Ana Fire Department.

Dana Point Historical Society president Carlos N. Olvera has contributed an article to the November County Courier about the old Capistrano Hill Climb (1916-1927), a famously difficult annual motorcycle race.

You can pick up a copy of the Courier at the O.C. Archives or at the next Orange County Historical Society meeting, which will be held Nov. 8, 7:30pm, at the new Muzeo, 241 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim.

Thursday will be the 231st anniversary of Mission San Juan Capistrano. A small celebration will be held there at 10am.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A ghost story (sort of) for Halloween

As you may know, the Old Orange County Courthouse is now a museum, and the original 1901 “Courtroom 1” has been restored to its original appearance, including original furniture and decor. One day, in the early 1990s, the museum staff noticed that the night crew of janitors weren’t cleaning Courtroom 1. At first it seemed like an oversight, but it soon became an obvious pattern. Every night, the entire landmark building was cleaned – except the old courtroom.

When the janitors' supervisor was questioned, he was equally puzzled. But he said he’d get to the bottom of it.
When he came back, he said that his crew wouldn’t enter the room because it was haunted. In fact, he said, the room was haunted by the ghost of a judge who had hanged himself there!
The museum staff were baffled. The Old Courthouse’s history is probably better documented than any other building in O.C. – and nobody had ever heard of a judge hanging himself there.

But the head janitor led the museum staff into the courtroom where he pointed to a small plaque under an old clock. It was this plaque, he said, that sent chills up the spines of his cleaning crew. Although I don’t have the exact date that appeared on the plaque, here is the gist of the inscription:


And so The Honorable M. Clock haunts the old courtroom to this day.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Trick-or-treating, Steve Martin and the Dreger Clock

Today's image isn't actually from Orange County, but it might as well be. John Falter's cover art for the Oct. 1958 Saturday Evening Post looks like a snapshot from any of the Modern housing developments around O.C., like the Eichler tracts in Orange. (I particularly enjoy the gag with the square Modern jack-o-lantern.) 

Our current era of suburban isolation has eliminated most of the traditions that provided a sense of community. Trick-or-treating is one of the few remaining opportunities kids have to see their neighborhood and neighbors at close range. It's not a big thing by itself, but it's one important step toward understanding the place they call home. And without a sense of place or community, where will the next generation of leaders and local historians come from? So don't wuss out -- Take your kids trick-or-treating this year!

The Buena Park Historical Society and Mr. Glenn Frank have teamed up to save an amazing clock built in the 1930s by Glenn's great-grandfather, Andrew Dreger Sr. It is a functional work of art, telling the time in major cities throughout the world. Although the clock was initially displayed in front of the Dreger home in Long Beach, it was purchased in 1954 by Knott's Berry Farm. For decades, the clock stood in Knott's rose garden, in front of the Candy Parlor. In recent years, it welcomed guests as they approached Knott's ticket booth plaza.

But Knott's recently sold the clock and it has languished in a warehouse ever since. Now Glenn is working to bring the clock back to Buena Park and restore it to its former glory. You can read much more about the clock at his website,

Speaking of Knott's, the latest issue of New Yorker magazine includes an article by comedian Steve Martin, describing his start in showbiz at Knott's Berry Farm's Birdcage Theatre. If you have any interest in either Martin or Knott's, it's definitely worth reading. I believe this article is an excerpt from Martin's forthcoming autobiography, Born Standing Up, which is due next month. For the record, Martin also graduated from Garden Grove High School (1963), attended Santa Ana College, and even worked at Disneyland for a while. Orange County can proudly say it was the launch pad for the man who wrote "Picking Out A Thermos For You," and "Pointy Birds."

And just to run this Knott's thread into the ground, I'm also including a link to a site for and by alumni of the Birdcage Theatre.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Pink Lady of Yorba Cemetery, Santa Ana, etc.

Yorba Cemetery, circa 1969 -- before it was completely surrounded by tract housing. (Photo courtesy Orange County Archives)
They say that every two to five years, on June 15th, the ghost of Alvina de Los Reyes (a.k.a. the "Pink Lady") rises from her grave in Yorba Cemetery

It's said the young woman died in a buggy accident on her way back from a dance in 1910. And they say her spirit wears the same pink formal dress she wore on the night of her death. This story has become so popular that hundreds of people will sometimes gather around the cemetery on June 15th to watch for the Pink Lady's return. 

A look at the County's burial records tell us that one Alvina E. de Los Reyes did indeed die on Dec. 2, 1910, at age 31. She was the wife of Francisco de Los Reyes, and she is buried at Yorba Cemetery. However, Alvina died of pneumonia -- not injuries from a buggy accident. So it also seems unlikely that she died in a formal gown. But the next piece of the story is even more interesting. 

At least a few decades ago, Yorba Linda librarian Mary Ruth Erickson (now retired) needed a Halloween tale for children's story time. She put together bits of various old ghost stories she'd heard over the years and applied them to local sites and local family names. She created the Pink Lady story. (I suppose pink was chosen because El Toro Memorial Park already has a spectral Blue Lady, and Capistrano has a phantom woman in white.) 

Amazingly, by the late 1980s the story had grown into something larger, and was treated as "old folklore." Various Yorba Linda Star articles about the Pink Lady are posted online

The City of Santa Ana has already received 28 Mills Act applications this year, which is really impressive progress. One wonders if the City will even know what to do with them all. Most of the new activity is coming from the Floral Park area, so kudos to the folks north of 17th. has added a search function, so you can find the exact hazy memory you were looking for. Topics of recent musings include Garden Grove and Westminster in the 1950s and 1960s, Glenn L. Martin Elementary School in Santa Ana, Saddleback Park, Irvine in the 1970s, Jack Dutton's Jungle Gardens in Anaheim, and the Dreger Clock. . 

The OTPA historic homes tour of Orange this weekend was a lot of fun. Thanks to everyone involved!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cemetery Angels, Orange history tour & Placentia

The "Cemetery Angels," Ann Nepsa and daughter Melanie Goss, volunteer their time to help preserve and research Orange County's historic cemeteries. Their work in identifying exactly who's buried at Yorba Cemetery has been quite impressive, especially considering how many of the grave markers and records were either damaged or missing completely. Moreover, they also give tours at Yorba Cemetery and the adjacent Peralta Adobe. [The photo above shows Ann (right) and Melanie (left) at the 2006 Anaheim Historical Home Tour.] The Oct. 25 issue of the Yorba Linda Star included an article about Ann. A few excerpts follow:
…The 25-year Yorba Linda resident - along with her daughter, Melanie Goss - has been giving tours of the Yorba Cemetery and conducting history research of the families buried there for seven years. …More than 400 members of the early families that lived in the town of Yorba - names such as Peralta, Sepulveda,
Grijalva, De los Reyes, Navarro, Yorba, and about 14 others, are buried at the
private cemetery...
There were 139 headstones identified when Nepsa and her daughter began volunteering, and since then they’ve found the names of close to 70 others…
“We started in the Anaheim Cemetery," [said Nepsa.] "I was doing my genealogy and I discover some of my husbands’ relatives had been buried there. When the new parks ranger came to the Yorba Cemetery, he had never done research at historical sites, so we volunteered and he allowed us to do our thing. Up to then it was only open twice a year and now it’s open 14 times a year.”
In the days leading up to Halloween, I'll also post a ghost story about Yorba Cemetery, so stay tuned.

Tomorrow, I plan to be at the Old Town Preservation Association's historic home tour in Downtown Orange. If you're there, and if you see me before I see you, please stop and say hello. Details about the tour are available on OTPA's website.

Halloween News: The historic Bradford House in Placentia's Bradford Park (136 Palm Circle) has been turned into a haunted house for kids this weekend. It will be open 6:30-9pm and admission is $5.