Saturday, April 28, 2007

Postcards, tiki bars and ghoul-meisters

When local history sage Don Dobmeier showed me this postcard (above) I immediately grokked it on two levels. First, it showed the Polynesian-themed Christian’s Hut in Newport Beach. And secondly, it was rendered in the classic “California watercolor” style that I love so much. But then I noticed a third cool thing about the card: The artist was Yale Gracey, the Disney animator and Imagineer who led the team to fill Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion with 999 ghosts. How cool is that?

Christian's Hut began on Catalina Island in 1935, as a temporary watering hole for the cast and crew of the film Mutiny on the Bounty. When the film was done, the bar was re-opened on the mainland, became popular with the Hollywood set, and eventually grew into a small chain. Their logo character was called the Goof, who can be seen on the roof in this image. A Goof statue can still be seen atop the Bali Hai restaurant (formerly a Christian’s Hut) on Shelter Island in San Diego. Sadly, the Christian's Hut in Newport burned down in the 1960s.

As for Yale Gracey, I continue to be amazed at how well the Haunted Mansion holds up. For all the new technology, money and talent Disney has aquired in the past four decades, they have yet to build a more entertaining ride.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Aliso Viejo, Lloyd Wright, Hobby City, etc.

Today’s photo is a 1968 view of what is now Alicia Parkway in Aliso Viejo. Just look at the total lack of crowded stucco boxes. This photo comes from the Orange County Archives.

Chris Epting has solved the mystery of Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr.’s Huntington Beach shopping center, and he writes about it in his inaugural column for the H.B. Independent. Read it first, and then watch his video on YouTube.

How did the streets, hills, creeks and communities of Orange County get their names? Historian Phil Brigandi will tell you at the May 24th meeting of the Orange Community Historical Society.

I'm writing a short article about Googie architecture in O.C. for Red County magazine. It’s hard do much with only 500 to 600 words, especially when I want to bring something new to the table. Ah well,… Any chance to share the gospel of Googie is a welcome chance.

I just visited the Doll & Toy Museum at Hobby City in Anaheim. Many of the shops at Hobby City are already closed, and the whole complex will probably fold around the end of the year. (It’s making way for condos, because we already have too many charming, family-run, roadside attractions in O.C.) Anyway, the point of my story is this,… The Doll & Toy Museum is worth seeing before it disappears. And you should also stop past the museum’s gift shop, where they still sell ViewMaster reels and packets of slides (depicting the museum exhibits) for 10 cents each.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Quiz answer, Rossmoor, Yorba Cemetery, etc.

Not one person even tried to guess the identity of the kid on the horse in my last post. It's George W. Bush. It must have been traumatic for him, since he's hardly spent any time in O.C. since. (Today's photo of "Dubya" at Santa Ana High School in 2000 is a rare exeption.)
On a completely unrelated note, we send happy belated birthday wishes (1) to Orange County Historian Jim Sleeper.(2)

The Orange County Historical Society is planning a tour of the Yorba Cemetery on May 12. .
The community of Rossmoor is celebrating their 50th Anniversary with a parade (May 5th), picnic (May 6th), and other fun events. For more information, see their anniversary website.
They are also selling 50th Anniversary T-Shirts and other commemorative items.
The Orange County Historical Society is planning a tour of the Yorba Cemetery on May 12. With experts Ann Nepsa and Melanie Goss leading the charge, this should be an educational and fun (yes, fun) event.
1) Since the birthday in question was last week, and since wishes don't work retroactively, these belated good wishes may either be applied to the rest of this year, or may be saved and used all at once on next year's birthday, at the discretion of the wishee.

2) Sleeper's Orange County Almanac of Historical Oddities (3rd Edition) is available again for a limited time through the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society. Price: $15. Visit their online store for details.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Our first contest, and the usual news roundup

Pop quiz: Can anyone (who I haven't already shown this to) identify the lil' buckeroo in the photo at right? This shot was taken many years ago in the Pitchur Gallery at Knott's Berry Farm. No, it's not me. Yes, it's someone you know. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.) I'll post the name of the "cowboy," and the name(s) of anyone who answers correctly in a future post. Winners can stop by the Archives to collect their prize. I'll get you some animal crackers out of the breakroom vending machine or something.

Early Placentia, the new Arcadia book from Professor Larry de Graaf, should hitting the shelves of your local bookstore right about now. The early buzz is good.

"The Sting" will be shown on the side of the historic Fox Theatre in Fullerton, Thursday night at 7pm. For details, click here.

Leland Pound will give a presentation on “Internet Research for Genealogists” at the April 21 meeting of the South O.C. Genealogical Society. The group meets at the corner of Hillcrest and Marguerite Pkwy (behind the LDS Church), in Mission Viejo.

Werner Weiss has posted a Disneyland brochure from 1966 at his Yesterland site. Dig it.

Oh, and I forgot to post a link to this article about the guy who sculpted busts of Andrew and William T. Glassell, Alfred Beck Chapman and Andrew Carnegie for the soon-to-open Orange Public Library.

Seal Beach, El Toro, La Habra, Balboa, etc.

Today's photo shows the Seal Beach pier, in early March 1983, after a big storm system had moved through, leaving flooding and destruction in its wake.

Join the Saddleback Area Historical Society for Rancho Days, held May 5th, 11am-4pm, at Heritage Hill Park in El Toro. The event will feature traditional Indian, Spanish and Mexican music, dance, crafts and costumes. There will also be presentations by local historians.

One of La Habra's ardent preservation advocates, Mel Williams, passed away on April 4th. The Register's obit is posted here. I spoke in La Habra a couple years ago, and afterward spent some time talking with Mel and a few other La Habra citizens about preservation. We drove around town, pointing out buildings and discussing what could be accomplished. Eventually, we all ended up at Marie Callendars talking local history over coffee and pie. In the past few years, La Habra has done more to acknowledge its historic resources, and voices like Mel's were important in getting the ball rolling.

Late O.C. resident John Wayne's 100th birthday will be celebrated with a big lineup of his films at this year's Newport Beach Film Festival. Details are available online. My personal favorite is "The Cowboys," with Bruce Dern as the villian.

To follow up on my earlier Balboa entry, here's a link to more Rendezvous Ballroom information.

Author Chris Epting will be signing his books on Saturday, 1pm, at California Greetings, 301 Main St., Huntington Beach. It's the first signing for his new title, Led Zeppelin Crashed Here - The Rock and Roll Landmarks of North America. But he'll also be signing his earlier books, including Images of America: Huntington Beach.

"Disneyland: Back to 1955" a multimedia presentation with David Koenig, will be held April 18. 7:00-8:45pm at the Barbara J. Riley Community Center in Downey. For reservations, call the Downey City Library (562) 904-7360, ext. 32. (Meanwhile, here's a clip of Walt Disney's dedication of Disneyland to tide you over.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Swing dancing, home movies, H.B. & Tustin

In honor of Spring break and the tradition of "Bal Week," here's a link to an article about dancing the Balboa. (Today's photo shows the Rendezvous Ballroom in 1952.)

I just stumbed across a 1968 home movie of Southern California posted to Google Video. It includes clips of Huntington Beach, the (then) brand new O.C. Airport terminal, (including Bonanza Airlines planes), Disneyland, LBJ's visit to MCAS El Toro, and (early in the film) scenes of what I think may be the Ortega Highway. [Note: Link corrected 4/16/07]

View before (1910) and after (2007) photos of the intersection at Main and PCH in Huntington Beach in my latest post to "Greetings from H.B." Same angle, same spot, but almost 100 years apart.

The Tustin Area Historical Society is holding a "Springtime in Old Town" Home and Garden Tour on Sat, May 19, 9am-4pm. The event will begin at the Tustin Presbyterian Church at Main and C St. Guided architecture and tree walks will be available. Pre-sale tickets are $20. For more information, call the Tustin Museum at (714) 731-5701.

The Tustin Area Historical Society also has a new website, which you can find among the links on the right-hand side of this web page. This project was undertaken by Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society stalwart Guy Ball.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Anaheim, Key Ranch, Lloyd Wright, and a mystery

Steve Faessel's new "Images of America" book, Anaheim: 1940-2007, is coming out this month. It's the companion volume to his first book, Early Anaheim. (Cover shown at right.)

Chris Epting, one of my co-contributors at "Greetings from H.B." presents us with a mystery that involves Huntington Beach and Lloyd Wright, the son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Check out the details at this link.

The Floral Park Home and Garden Tour is also coming up on Apr. 28 and 29 in Santa Ana. For information, visit their website, or call (714) 567-4795.

On May 5th, 1-4pm, the Anaheim Historical Society will host a Victorian tea at the historic Berkenstock Estate in Placentia. The event is presented with the assistance of Lock & Noble Tea Co and realtor Meghan Shigo (who specializes in vintage and historic homes.) Tickets are $25. For more information, contact Joyce at (714) 772-1420.

St. Mary's Catholic Church in Fullerton is celebrating their 95th anniversary.

George Key Ranch, a County historic park in Placentia, is undergoing renovations and will soon have a new staff as well. And yes, Ranger Sam has a nice new gig elsewhere.

Mel's Diner has officially signed the lease to operate the Parasol Restaurant in Seal Beach.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Tikis, cowboys, Capistrano, archives & museums

It sounds like Sam's Seafood in Sunset Beach may survive after all. The owner is refurbishing everything and will open the place as a slightly more upscale restaurant, but fully intact. That's exactly what the place needed! I'm so glad that one of the last great tiki/"Polyneisan-Pop" environments will have a second chance at life. Hopefully we can soon take this O.C. landmark off the deathwatch.

Correction/Clarification: In my last post, I discussed the confusion between the terms "archive" and "museum." It turns out that the blame for this confusion (in this particular case) lies not with schools, nor with general public, nor with "Orange County's watchful newspaper." It turns out that the National Archives themselves are blurring the line between these two concepts in hopes of making themselves more hip and popular. It's that important agencies like the NASA and the National Archives have to alter their missions in order to defend against budget cuts.

Speaking of the Register, they recently ran an article about one of O.C.'s last cowboys.

The Troubleman Cottage in San Juan Capistrano is to be moved again -- This time, from the future Los Rios Park site on Paseo Adelanto to a location in the historic Los Rios District. Originally, the cottage was located at the current site of the Camino Capistrano power station.

The O.C. Natural History Museum in Laguna Niguel has been closed since February because of a policy dispute. Click here for all the gory details.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Disneyland and the "Great Park"

The latest entry at is a retrospective of the Tomorrowland Terrace stage at Disneyland. (See photo at right.)

This summer, the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum will host a Smithsonian exhibit which will commemorate the bicentennial of the U.S. government's first attempt to chart America's coastline.

I'm confused... Today's Register states that Irvine's mayor was in D.C., angling to get a branch of the National Archives at the so-called Great Park. The article goes on to say, "Several officials signed a letter supporting that the museum establish a location in the Great Park." The word "museum" is then used several more times throughout the article.

What museum are they talking about?!? I think they're trying to use the words "archives" and "museum" interchangably. But archives are not museums, and museums are not archives.

Archives house documents and are used for research purposes. Museums house artifacts and generally use those artifacts in displays, in order to tell stories about our past. The functions of the two institutions are quite different, and the skills needed to operate them are also different.

Do I blame the Register for the mix up? No. Sadly, this is a common error that stems from the low level of importance our society (and therefore our schools) place on history.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Laguna Beach, Fountain Valley, Placentia, etc.

I enjoy reading old first-hand accounts of visits to O.C. Today's image a postcard of Coward's Cove in Laguna Beach, dated July 17, 1909. (You know you can click on any image to enlarge it, right?) It was sent from Laguna Beach to Harry Magill of Pasadena. It reads, "Dear Harry: We are having a fine time here. We go in bathing most every day. Daddy went into El Toro to get some apricots. Jack and Dr. Deason went with him. Write soon. With love from Margherita."

People forget (or never knew) that apricots were once an important crop in O.C. For that matter, I suppose people now forget (or never knew) about El Toro.

The Register just ran an article about Dann Gibb, whose Fountain Valley historical photo book should be out in May. I had a lot of fun helping Dann out on his visits to the Archives. He's a nice guy and he's really breaking some new ground.

They also ran Online Archive of California. Quite a few of the photos were taken by late Placentia historian and librarian Virginia Carpenter.