Friday, August 31, 2007

Newport Harbor High School, Brea & San Clemente

The Loftus [oil] Lease in Brea Canyon, 1898.
The beautiful and historic Allison & Allison clock tower at Newport Harbor High School was demolished yesterday morning. Despite claims that it couldn't be made earthquake safe, the tower required quite a lengthy beating from the wrecking ball before it finally came down -- all in one piece. NHHS student Michael Bingham watched the demolition and said, "They were saying it's not earthquake safe and it's just gonna fall over, and then it took them so long to knock it down." Some morons in the crowd of onlookers actually cheered and clapped when it fell. I wonder if these same people are in the habit of dancing jigs on graves during funerals. A $36 million replica of the tower is planned -- But a replica can't replace the original any more than an Elvis impersonator can replace The King. The Register website has an article and video covering the demolition.

On Tuesday evening, the San Clemente City Council will hold a public hearing to discuss the recommendations of the city's Landmarks Preservation Task Force. The Task Force was appointed to recommend which sites in the city should be considered "historical landmarks," and to recommend ways to better protect these sites. City staff are already trying to water down the language in the Task Force's recommendations, so the San Clemente Historical Society is encouraging fellow preservationists to attend the hearing. (A show of force never hurts.) The meeting will be held Sept 4, at 7pm, in the Council Chambers at 100 Avenida Presidio.

The Fullerton Historic Theatre Foundation has been selected to receive a nearly $2 million grant from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE). This CCHE grant, when added to federal historic restoration tax credits, and a seismic stabilization loan from the City of Fullerton brings the Foundation's coffers to $7 million -- about one fourth of the entire restoration project. Both the CCHE grant and the seismic loan are matching grants, so every donor's dollar will now go twice as far.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ed Roth, Huntington Beach, Civil War & El Modena

The remains of the Orbitron -- a noted custom car created by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth -- was just discovered in Mexico. It was being used as a dumpster behind an "adult" book store! Roth was the king of crazy custom cars and also created Rat Fink and other cartoon characters. He used to work at the Cars of the Stars Museum in Buena Park, where he also gave a young John Moorlach his first job (organizing decals and working around the office). Roth later worked in the sign painting department at Knott's Berry Farm -- long a repository of great but little-known artists. In the photo above, Roth checks out a junkyard for spare parts. The inset image depicts the Orbitron as it originally appeared. Today, even a replica of a Roth car body is worth a fortune, so it's a cinch that the Orbitron is well on its way to restoration.

By the way, Rat Fink fans would probably also enjoy the Basil Wolverton show at the Grand Central Art Center. The opening reception will be held Sept. 1, 7-10 pm, and the show will continue through Nov. 11. The Grand Central Art Center is located at 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana.

A Civil War reenactment will be held in Central Park in Huntington Beach this Saturday and Sunday. The event will be held off Gothard St., between Talbert and Slater. Amid all the canon-fire and bugle calls, keep an eye out for Charles Beal's display of local G.A.R. artifacts and photos.

The El Modena biannual reunion will be held Sept. 27, 5pm to midnight, at Moreno's Mexican Restarant on Chapman. El Modena residents past and present are invited. Cost is $20 a head. For more information, call (714) 543-6991. (I've only been to Moreno's once, but I really enjoyed it.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Basler-Twist Home, Phyllis Mueller & Garden Grove

The Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society has updated their website with some suggested steps you can take to help save the historic Twist-Basler Home. Developer Mike Harrah, (who plans to build a 37-story tower on the site,) and the City were supposed to move the historic structure to a new site provided by the City. The house was cut in half seven months ago, in prepraration for the move, but it hasn’t actually gone anywhere. Instead, the plastic covers have been removed from the various pieces of the building, exposing the interior to weather, vermin, and Lord knows what else. This will make restoration of the original materials difficult and expensive, if not impossible. Click on over to SAHPS and see how a few well-placed emails might help.

Phyllis Mueller will retire from the City of Anaheim's Historic Preservation Office on Sept. 1st. As Neighborhood Development Coordinator, Phyllis has been a vitally important part of Anaheim's preservation success story. Everyone who cares about Anaheim’s heritage owes her a major "thank you" and a hug. Residents of Anaheim's historic homes are planning a big party they're calling "Muellerpalooza," in her honor. [The photo of Phyllis (right) is a detail from a shot by Chris Barros from last year's Anaheim Colony 4th of July shin-dig. Those people know how to throw a block party!]

The Garden Grove Historical Society’s annual picnic will be held Sept. 8, 11am-3pm, presumably at their HQ: 12174 Euclid Ave. This year’s theme is the 1950s, so feel free to break out those skinny ties and poodle skirts. Cost is $10 per person. For information or to RSVP, call Brenda or Eva at (714) 530-8871. Please make your reservations by Friday.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tustana redux and the traffic report

Yesterday I posted an image of the Tustana Apartments. Today, it's a 1930s "Tustana" citrus label from the Santa Ana-Tustin Mutual Citrus Association. Yet another example of good design.

Last night, KOCE, ran the first in Chris Epting's series of interstitial "Forgotten O.C." documentary-ettes. The first one was about Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park. Unfortunately, I missed it, so I can't comment. However, I already sent Chris a smart-ass email asking how anyone could have "forgotten" something that only closed a few months ago. I think he's counting on us to have short attention spans.

I finally broke down last week and put a counter on this blog. I wanted to see if there were enough readers to make it worth my time. I have fun doing this, but I'd feel pretty silly addressing an empty room. Anyway, the counter tells me that I have plenty of traffic, which is very encouraging. Thanks to all of you who read this blog. And even more thanks to those who submit your own news and comments from time to time. You can always post a comment here or send me an email if you prefer.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Tustin, Anaheim, Laguna Woods, wookiees, etc.

Carol Jordan's new book, Tustin, An Illustrated History, should be available sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The photo above comes from the O.C. Archives and shows the Tustana Apartments in Tustin, circa 1966. This is a great space age example of the "decorated box" school of design. Still, the flagstone, starburst sconce, and orange accent wall look great, don't they?

The Anaheim Historical Society will hold it's annual Ice Cream Social on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2-5pm. The event will be held at the Claybaugh House, a Queen Anne cottage at 115 S. Olive (at Center St.) The house was originally built for Anaheim's Railroad Station Master.

The Laguna Woods Village Historical Soceity and the City of Laguna Woods have crafted some kind of plan in which they'll work together to make improve residents' access to the community's historical records. Part of this plan includes a website. I'll link to it when it appears.

Repair and restoration efforts are beginning at Anaheim's "Red Cross House." I'm told this house is now properly called the Woelke-Stoffle House, "in honor of the two most significant owners." I'm going to have trouble with that. See, when I was a kid, I had a Star Wars drawing tablet called a "Wookiee Doodle Pad." For some reason, every time I read "Woelke-Stoffel," I think "Wookiee-Doodle." Sad, I know.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday odds and ends

One last image from Don Ballard's collection: The shops at the Disneyland Hotel, sometime around late 1956 (my best guess). The shops shown include Magic Land (toys and souvenirs), The Pirates' Den, Latin Imports and a women's accessories store. Note the "web lighteners" punched in the decorative I-beams -- a hallmark of space age architecture.

Did you know you can get tax breaks for the historical restoration and preservation of your home? I've added a link to the State's website on the Mills Act, where you can find out more about it.

I'm also adding a link to my own site, Space Age City, which is dedicated mainly to Googie architecture, with a special emphasis on Orange County and Southern California. The site is way overdue for an overhaul. I've learned a lot more about both Googie and web design since it was created, but some folks still enjoy it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

O.C. tourism in the 1940s

Here's another image from Don Ballard's collection. This came from a 1940s brochure promoting tourism in Anaheim. This is what I was able to capture with my camera, but I'm hoping to scan it in high-res when Don comes out to SoCal again this Fall. As always, click on the image to enlarge. There are lots of cool details in this one. Note references to little-remembered places like the Anaheim Airport and San Juan Hot Springs.

The Fullerton-Host Lion's Club is holding a Casino Night & Texas Hold'Em Tournament on Sept. 7th. Half the proceeds will go to support the Fullerton Historic Theatre Foundation (a.k.a. the restoration of the Fox Theatre.) More information is available online.

A great image of Tomorrowland the late 1960s was posted to Daveland yesterday. Notice how the Rocketjets don't block traffic flow, and how and both the Peoplemover and Skyway still work.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Disneyland Hotel and the Old Courthouse

Author Don Ballard was in town today, and brought with him a portion of his vast collection of old Disneyland Hotel materials. Don wrote Disneyland Hotel: The Early Years, 1954-1988, which I read, enjoyed, and briefly reviewed last year. Today, Don set up a display near the Hotel’s employee cafeteria, where “cast members” could stop to learn something about the history of the place. He was also kind enough to let me rifle through his collection and make copies of some documents for the Archives. The photo above shows Don and I (right and left, respectively) holding aloft the shovel from the Hotel’s ground-breaking, which hadn’t been on the property in 52 years. (I included an inset image to make the text legible.)

I stopped past the third floor of the Old Courthouse today and it dawned on me that I hadn’t blogged about Old Courthouse Museum’s new Historical Education & Special Events Coordinator, Carey Baughman. Some months ago, she replaced Bradley Flint, who moved out to the Key Ranch historic park. Carey has interned and volunteered for more respectable historical institutions than you can shake a stick at. Her educational background is in history, anthropology and sociology, and she’s currently working on her PhD in Native American History at UC Riverside. Glad to have her for a neighbor.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Laguna Beach, Villa Park and Dana Point

Both Villa Park and Laguna Beach are represented in today's image. This old orange crate label (circa 1930s-1940s) from Villa Park Orchards depicts Three Arch Bay in Laguna. In the past few years, I've been putting together a small collection of some of the best (artistically) local citrus labels, and this one is definitely on my wish list. For a short history of Laguna Beach, check out this excerpt of Karen Turnbull's chapter on Laguna Beach in A Hundred Years of Yesterdays. The new edition of this book -- including chapters on all of O.C.'s communities -- is still for sale in the 3rd floor office of the Old County Courthouse. The Ocean Institute in Dana Point has hired Brent Rudmann to oversee maintenace and educational programs on the tall ships Pilgrim and Spirit of Dana Point. Talk about needing specialized job skills! And speaking of tall ships and Dana Point, the Tall Ships Festival will be held on the 7th, 8th and 9th of September in Dana Point Harbor. This event tends to be a little crowded, but it's a good chance to clamber around a bunch of big wooden ships in a single afternoon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Newport Beach and Capistrano

Today's photo shows a bathing beach on Newport Harbor. I'm not sure of the date, but look at how empty the hills are! I'm sure the water was a lot cleaner too.
The old buildings at Newport Harbor High School -- including the tower -- are now demolished. They claimed it would cost too much to bring everything up to earthquake code. I'm a bit confused by this, since the place held up nicely during the big quake in 1933. For that matter, so did the similar Huntington Beach High School, which was also designed by the noted architecture firm of Allison & Allison. It's hard to believe that a little retrofitting wouldn't have allowed NHHS to hold up to the next big quake. Ah, well,... It's a done deal now. At least the new buildings are supposed to look like replicas of the old ones. (For a Register article about one teacher's memories of the old Robins-Loats Hall, click here.)
It looks like at least the facade of the old Port Theatre in Corona del Mar may be spared after all. Not because it's the right thing to do, of course -- but because the developer can get away with providing less parking that way.
Also in Newport's news, the Lido 14 National Championship sailboat race is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

And finally, down the road in San Juan Capistrano, the City Council has approved plans for a new park in the old Los Rios District. Some locals are very concerned about how well the park will blend into its surroundings.

I've slowly been adding links to local history websites from this blog since the beginning. Recently, I was amazed to realize there are now almost 80 such links lined up over there in the right-hand column! Maybe there's something to this history stuff after all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Enchanted Village, Bowers blog, Jane Newell, etc

Today's photo shows Enchanted Village, a short-lived roadside attraction in Buena Park. This particular image comes from a 1977 postcard. Located on the site of the old Japanese Village & Deer Park, Enchanted Village featured wild animals on display and in shows. Visitors could also ride some of the tamer animal, including camels. There were also a few musical/dance shows starring human beings. There's a short thread about Enchanted Village starting about 2/3 of the way down this page at OCThen. A "fun map" of the park can be found at this link.

While searching the web for photos of old Santa Ana, I stumbled across a pleasant surprise. It turns out that the Bowers Museum has been posting images from their collection to a blog for months now! And the good news is they're dipping into their Orange County collection every so often. It's definitely worth a look.

Some historical preservationists in Anaheim are scrambling madly this week. The Library's Anaheim History Room will be closing for a month, beginning Sept. 1, in order to move into the new Muzeo building. So why the scramble? Well, the Mills Act deadline for Anaheim is the end of October, and these folks usually do their research in the History Room.

To Anaheimers running out of time, may I offer the services of the Orange County Archives? Although we lack the History Room's unbelievable wealth of all-things-Anaheim, we may be able to help you bridge some of the gaps vis-a-vis property records, aerial photos, Sanborn maps, etc. Meanwhile, you still have 8 working days to get your tukus to the Anaheim History Room. So go see Jane Newell while you can!

Speaking of Jane and the Anaheim History Room, how did I miss this interview with her earlier this month? Jane ranks very high on my personal list of "O.C.'s Coolest People." Her knowledge, effort, kindness and enthusiasm have made her a vital and beloved part of the community. In addition to running the popular Anaheim History Room, she is also in charge of the Mother Colony House, the Wolke-Stoffel (Red Cross) House, and innumerable other historical "duties as assigned."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mystery solved, Sam's Seafood, and Tomorrowland

I think the aforementioned Mr. Brigandi has solved the mystery of Friday's "photo of the day." He thinks it's the Spangler Blacksmith Shop, which once stood at 211 N. Main, in Santa Ana. See the circa 1900 photo of Spangler's (above) for comparison. (Photo courtesy Calisphere.) The roof is a little different, but otherwise it matches up nicely. The building began life in 1869 as the home of Robert English -- the father-in law of William H. Spurgeon -- and was the first residence built in Santa Ana. Around 1891, it was heavily remuddled to serve as a blacksmith shop. The City's building survey (1972) says the structure was demolished in 1933, but Friday's photo (which shows the 1935 City Hall in the background), throws that 1933 date into question.

I'm not sure how I missed hearing about this in advance, but one of California's last tiki (a.k.a. Polyneisan Pop) restaurants has just re-opened in Sunset Beach. The previously-almost-destined-for-the-bulldozer Sam's Seafood reopened as "Sam's Tiki" on Thursday night. The crowded grand-reopening event was attended by such Poly-Pop luminaries as Bob VanOosting and Leroy Schmaltz of Oceanic Arts.

I hope the food is an improvement over the old Sam's, although the photos on the site look a little frou-frou for my tastes. But I'm still eager to give it a try. (Any of my fellow tiki fans care to go with me?) Mainly, I'm just very, very happy to see that this outstanding themed environment preserved for future generations.

And finally, my Phoenix correspondent, Greg Ottinger, sends me this YouTube link, providing a look back at the "new" Tomorrowland of 1967.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Knott's Berry Farm, Phil Brigandi, Tustin, etc.

Today's photo (above) shows Walter Knott taking two of his girls on a tour of Ghost Town in the 1940s. The sign on the blacksmith's door advertises an article about Knott's Berry Farm in the latest issue of Reader's Digest. More about Knott's and the blacksmith shop later. But first...

Local historian and County Archivist Phil Brigandi has finally launched his own website about Southern California history. He's the first person you'd WANT to see create a website, but the last one you'd EXPECT to create one. Frankly, I think his claims of luddite-ism are overstated. The site includes information about Orange County, the City of Orange, Anza-Borrego, the Ramona pageant and myth, the backcountry of Riverside and San Diego counties, Temecula, Hemet, San Jacinto, Indians, Lost Valley, and Scouting. The site is short on bells and whistles, but long on substantive content, which is a good thing. If you get the chance, send Phil an email encouraging him to continue and expand the site.

For an O.C. Archives project, I recently had the Blacksmith Shop in Ghost Town (Knott's Berry Farm) make two branding irons. Blacksmith Dan Rick really went above and beyond the call of duty, turning out two beautifully crafted irons, each bearing a historic local brand. Each was scaled down to 3rd-grader size, and will eventually be part of a traveling educational kit. (I'm sure the size added an extra degree of difficulty.) I've known Dan for a while, and he's a great guy, but I had no idea how talented he was until now. If you need any smithing done, I can definitely recommend the guys in Ghost Town.

I'm going to start making the "daily photos" bigger on these posts. Let me know if you like it more or less.

Oh, and I forgot to post a link to the Register article about the tale of Tustin's 1924 bank safe.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

MP3 tours, Yen Ngoc Do, and fun at the beach

Today's photo shows fields near Santa Ana being harvested with a combine, circa 1905.

Mission San Juan Capistrano will soon offer downloadable, self-guided audio tours for your MP3 player. That's a pretty cool idea, and could certainly be replicated at other historic sites throughout the County at a minimal cost.

Dwight's and Jack's beach concessions in Huntington Beach -- both founded and owned by the Clapp family -- are celebrating their 75th and 50th anniversaries, respectively.

And speaking of the beach, the Register ran an article today about San Clemente's Tom Morey, the inventor of the Boogie Board.

A bust of pioneering Vietnamese-American journalist Yen Ngoc Do was unveiled last week. In 1978, Do founded the Nguoi Viet Daily News in Garden Grove, which became the largest Vietnamese newspaper in the U.S. For more information about Mr. Do, here is a link to an article written after his death last year, and another article by his daughter. (No, I haven't learned where the bust is located, as the Register failed to mention it, and no other news sources seemed to cover the story.)

Daveland has been posting a lot of slides from the short-lived Mickey Mouse Club Circus at Disneyland (circa 1955). If you're in the park tomorrow, I may see you there.

Friday, August 17, 2007

O.C. Historical Commission, etc.

Today's photo was taken in 1936 and is marked, "The oldest building in Santa Ana." The peak of the new (1935) City Hall can be seen in the background. If you know more, please share.
Like many in the O.C. historical community, I was shocked to learn that both Don Dobmeier and Ed Coté have been replaced on the Orange County Historical Commission. I have no idea who will be appointed in their place, but they have some big boots to fill.
Personally, this screws up Tuesdays for me. You see, for many years, Don has donated his Tuesdays to the Commission. (I think he’s been on the Commission since it began -- Almost as long as I’ve been alive.) And every week, he stops at the Archives to chat with us. I’ve come to really like and respect Don. I’ve learned a lot from him, and he’s even (indirectly) gotten me hooked on postcard collecting. Tuesdays just won’t be the same.
Likewise, Commission meeting days won't be the same without Ed's whirlwind visits. I hope both gentlemen will still stop by frequently, whether or not they’re on the Commission.

Recently, there was a new post about the old Santa Ana Drag Strip on OCThen. Come to that, there have been a lot of updates at OCThen lately, including posts about Denny's, Chez Cary, Lemon Heights, Santa Ana High School, and more.

The Dixieland Bandstand is the latest ex-attraction to be featured at

And finally, I thought you historians and history fans would enjoy this documentary about hobos. If you've ever rolled your eyes at Ken Burns, you'll get a real kick out of it. I watched it twice and enjoyed it more the second time.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sharing is nice

I hear rumors that another O.C. city wants to turn their historical photo collection into a “profit center.”

Whether this rumor is true or not, it reflects a disturbing trend. More and more, local libraries and city councils see their community historical collections only as a way to make money. This, it turn, reflects a basic misunderstanding of the way local history is done.

Local history is usually collected, researched, written, and sometimes even published by volunteers. Many of these volunteers are retired. Being passionate about what they do, they donate innumerable hours to projects that enrich our community. None of them expect to get rich doing this. In fact, they’re usually happy to break even. But very few of them can afford to sign up for a project they know will leave them “in the hole.”

Creating or jacking up costs for photo use ensures that community history will be relegated to real estate calendars. Local historians are shut out when illustrated books, websites, and A/V presentations become prohibitively expensive.
I'm not kvetching about a small fee to cover reproduction costs, or a few bucks charged by a struggling non-profit. I'm talking about larger fees charged by government agencies (which we already fund through taxes) and even higher fees charged by some historical societies that supposedly want to promote an understanding of local history.

It’s also worth noting that such community photo collections tend to be built over many years, with donations from many families and individuals. In most cases, these donors thought they were giving something to their community – something that would be available to anyone who wanted to learn. These photos belong to the entire community.

And what does a government agency really have to gain by charging steep fees for historic photos? Not much. Even if the fees didn’t drive away business, the profits wouldn’t pay for the gas in one fire engine.
My plea to everyone -- from government agencies, to historical groups, to individual historians -- is to SHARE what you have with anyone who has a serious interest. There is little to be gained by hoarding and price-gouging. There is MUCH to be gained if we all work together.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tongva Tribe

I've had a link the the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians on this site for a while now, but nothing for the Gabrielino (Tongva) Tribe. I wanted to correct this, but it seems that (in a classic case of modern tribal politics), nobody can agree on which website is official. Here are three to choose from:

I guess once they figure out who the real Tongva leadership is, I'll add a more permanant link to the more permanant website.

On Sept.. 30, 2007, from 11 am to 4 pm, a Tongva group will sponsor a free Native American arts and crafts festival, "The Gathering at Kuruvungna Springs." The springs site (and event) is located on the grounds of University High School 1439 S. Barrington Avenue, West Los Angeles. The event will include traditional music, dancing and foods, traditional children's games and crafts, Indian tortilla making, and basketweaving and weaving demonstrations. There will also be tours of the Kuruvungna Village site and springs, and a cultural display of Tongva history and artifacts.

Today's photo (above right) shows a reproduction of a kich (home) as used by the local Indians.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Blimps, frogs, Little Hollywood, two Walters, etc.

As I drafted today's entry, it seemed like there was a lot of Tustin news. So I figured a Tustin photo was in order. The image at right shows MCAS Tustin (the old Lighter-Than-Air base) in 1957. I particularly enjoy seeing all the nothing that surrounded the blimp hangars.

I guess the folks developing this land are now shocked to learn that the ground is sorta squishy in places. In the words of one local historian, "You know, they called it the 'Cienega de las Ranas' [Swamp of the Frogs] for a reason, folks."

Werner Weiss of made use of some of some images he collected on his recent visit to the O.C. Archives. In his latest site update, he juxtaposed aerial views of Disneyland from 1955 and 1960. The differences are interesting, as are the photos themselves. The 1955 photo came from County records and (by total happenstance) was taken the day before Disneyland opened. The 1960 photo actually came from the Knott's Berry Farm collection. I guess Walter was keeping an eye on Walt, even if they were on friendly terms.

Now that the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum is under new management, they also have a new website. Meanwhile, The Nixon Foundation (now called The Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation), still maintains its old site.

Recent renovations to the George Key Ranch historical park in Placentia are complete. The next time you see him, give Key Ranch docent Bradley Flynt a bad time about having to wear a badge and uniform. Throw your hands in the air and yell, "Don't shoot!" He loves that.

The City of San Juan Capistrano is considering the addition of affordable housing units to the "Little Hollywood" area of the historic Los Rios District. Meanwhile, at the Mission, Juaneno basket weavers are again practicing their trade. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Tustin Preservation Conservancy and Tustin Historical Society have teamed up to host trolley tours of local historical sites. I must admit, I wasn't aware of the Tustin Preservation Conservancy until now. I'll be adding a link to their website soon.

While I'm a sports (or sports history) fan, I did notice the Tustin News story about Evelyn Furtsch of Tustin. She won a gold medal in the 400-meter relay as a member of the U.S. women's relay team in the 1932 Olympics.

And rounding out this special Tustin edition, Tustin High School is celebrating it's 85th Anniversary with a historical photo exhibit.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Fountain Valley Drive-In, Yesterland and fossils

The Fountain Valley Drive-In is the subject of today's photo. It's hard to find good images of this place, which is why I'm swiping this crummy little one from the web.
Located on the west side of Brookhurst, this theater opened in the 1960s and closed in 1984.

Recent additions to include retrospectives on the Disneyland Railroad's passenger train, the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through, (which may be coming back soon), the burning settler's cabin on Tom Sawyer's Island, and a local Disney project that never quite panned out: Newport Coast Villas.

This summer, the Ralph B. Clark Interpretive Center in Buena Park has a new exhibit about the prehistoric horses and camels that once roamed this area. The exhibit is the work of paleontologist Lisa Babilonia and young volunteer/padawan paleontologist Charlie Epting (author Chris Epting's son). KOCE's "Real Orange" did a feature about the exhibit which ran tonight and will run again tomorrow at 8:00 am. (Yes, I know this is technically local PRE-history.)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Airport, Doris Walker, COPH, Buffalo Ranch, etc.

At right is the Orange County Airport as it appeared in 1957. The little restaurant on the right is called the Sky Grill and had a soda fountain. (Yes, that one building served as the terminal, the tower, the cafe, offices, etc.)

Author and local historian Doris Walker will be the highlight speaker at the Dana Point Lighthouse Society's quarterly meeting, Aug 9th, 6pm at the Community House, 24642 San Juan Ave., Dana Point. Doris will introduce and sign her latest book, Images of America: Dana Point, from Arcadia Publishing.

Chris Epting points out that the silo from the Buffalo Ranch (once in Newport Beach) is still standing. It was moved to the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. Epting's photos and comments can be found here. I worked at the Ranch on its last day. There were only a couple buffalo left. It was kinda sad.

The Fall issue of the CSUF Center for Oral & Public History (COPH) newsletter includes articles about Dr. Larry de Graaf, CSUF's 50th Anniversary, the MCAS El Toro oral history project, and the new book, Forgotten Patriots: Voices of World War II Mexican American Veterans of Southern California.

Speaking of COPH and veterans,... If you were stationed at or have significant memories of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station and would like to participate in the Oral History Project please call (714) 278-8415 or email your contact information to them.

The private Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace became the federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum on July 10th, meaning it now officially falls under the auspices of the National Archives.

The Orange Community Historical Society offers visitors a peek into the history of downtown Orange with its popular walking tours. Each tour begins at the Ainsworth House, 414 E. Chapman, and lasts about 90 minutes. Suggested donation of $5 supports OCHS. Reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance: (714) 998-0330. For more information, contact Upcoming tours include...
  • Aug. 11, 10 am
  • Aug. 26, 4 pm
  • Sept. 8, 10 am
  • Sept. 23, 4 pm
  • Oct. 13. 10 am
  • Oct. 28. 4 pm
Mission San Juan Capistrano has released a new book by Fr. William Krekelberg, detailing the history of the Basilica Church's Grand Retablo. The book, titled simply The Grand Retablo, is available for $20 at the Mission's Pastoral Center and at the gift shop.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Disney Gallery

I wasn't the only one who stopped past the Disney Gallery today to say goodbye before it closes. Disney legend Alice Davis also stopped by for an informal visit. (See photo above.)

For those who don't know, the Disney Gallery is located above "Pirates of the Carribean" in Disneyland, and since 1987 has featured rotating exhibits of artwork by Disney-affiliated artists past and present. As a local historian, I've especially appreciated the many exhibits that shed light on the history of "Walt's Park" -- from concept drawings to artifacts.

Originally, this space was intended as an apartment for the Disney family, but it wasn't yet complete when Walt died. Even after its conversion into an art gallery, these well-appointed digs and the adjoining courtyard remained a welcome respite of calm in the middle of a crowded theme park. It will be missed.

Alice said she would miss the Gallery and hoped it would re-open elsewhere in the park.

Later, I overheard a fan approach her and ask about her work on "it's a small world." She replied that she'd listened to that song all day, every day, for many weeks (sometimes even backwards), and hinted that something unpleasant would befall anyone who so much as hummed the song to her. She said this with a wink however, and admitted that she still goes on the ride once in a while.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Civil War veterans project and Charles Beal

Local history is done by passionate volunteers from all walks of life. This serves our field well, since everyone brings their own particular strengths and experience to the party. Licensed surveyor Charles Beal provides a fine example of this phenomenon in an article he wrote for the Summer 2007 issue of The Banner: The Journal of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

It started when the Civil War Round Table of Orange County located 730 Civil War veteran graves in nine Orange County cemeteries. Charles suspected there were even more, and he launched his own in-depth effort to find them and learn something about them. Over the years, he has done an enormous amount of research, digging through old newspapers, Grand Army of the Republic records, etc. (The database for the project was maintained by former Santa Ana mayor Gordon Bricken.)

But here’s where the story takes a twist: Charles writes, “… I thought about using my land surveying experience to document these graves. My goal was to determine latitude and longitude coordinates, photograph every grave and to plot them on aerial photographs. …This project would also perpetuate the grave stones forever, as many are becoming very hard to read.”

Charles used a Total Station instrument and data collector, as well as a Global Positioning System unit (loaned by the County Surveyor) that is “capable of obtaining coordinates within the size of a dime.” His project “documented 701 Union (30 unmarked) and 89 Confederate (4 unmarked) veteran graves. The data was stored on a DVD-Data disk that was distributed to local historical groups and local cemeteries.”

Coordinates and grave photos are available on Find-A-Grave, and the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society has posted additional data on their website.

Thanks to Charles and all those who worked with him and loaned equipment, we now know more about our local Civil War history, and future generations will be able to honor these veterans for their service.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Huntington Beach Lifeguards and Bud Higgins

Kai Weisser is working on a book about the history of Huntington Beach lifeguards, and needs our help in tracking down additional photos.

Kai writes, "The Arcadia [Publishing] book Huntington Beach Lifeguards will include the City Beach, State Beach (HB & Bolsa), Junior Lifeguards, competition, surfing the pier, and a chapter titled Extra..."

If you know of any historic or significant photos relating to this subject, please contact Kai at

I posted additional information and photos on the "Greetings From Huntington Beach" blog.

Today's photo comes from this book-in-progress. It's a 1939 shot of Lifeguard Chief Bud Higgins and Lt. Don Winters (who was later a Navy pilot, lost in WWII) on the Department's motorcycle. I'm guessing this was a staged shot, and the "victim" is probably another lifeguard.

Delbert "Bud" Higgins was quite the local hero, and later went on to be Fire Chief and (in his later years) the first City Historian for Huntington Beach. The guidelines he created for city lifeguard operations still serve as a model for lifeguard agencies the world over.

It's also worth noting that Higgins was one of the earliest surfers on the mainland. He learned to surf from Duke Kahanamoku himself in the 1920s and made his own surfboards out of solid redwood.