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.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Modjeska, fire, Tomato Springs, Opal Kissinger, etc

Rob Selway, manager for the County's Historical Parks, tells me that the Santiago Canyon fire got within spitting distance of Arden (actress Helena Modjeska's 1888 home, pictured above). Luckily, the building, like others in Modjeska Canyon, was sprayed down with fire-retardant gel or foam shortly before the fire arrived, and the place was saved.
In the face of widespread fire and tragedy, it seems strange to keep chattering away about local history. But that's what this website is about. I’m worried about the fires too -- But there are hundreds of news sources better equipped to tell you that story than I am. All I can add is the occasional bit of historical perspective.
For instance, the media has frequently referred to "Portola Springs" in their coverage of the fires. This is a new marketing name that housing developers slapped on a historically significant spot called Tomato Springs. In Historic Place Names In Orange County, Don Meadows identified Tomato Springs as “tiny springs in Bee Canyon,… northeast of the El Toro Air Station. They were discovered by Padre Francisco Gomez [of the Portola Expedition] in July, 1769, and named San Pantaleon. Early in the days of American occupation, tomatoes were found growing wild around the springs and the present name was applied.” In 1912, it was also the site of a famous shoot-out between Sheriff’s Deputies and the “Tomato Springs Bandit.”

The National Archives' regional depository in Laguna Niguel is considering a move to the so-called Great Park. The Register ran an informative article about the possible move today.
In my search for more Modjeska photos today, I stumbled across this Polish website that includes photos of beloved local librarian and historian Opal Kissinger playing the roll of Helena Modjeska. Now, like Modjeska herself, Opal is "world famous in Poland!"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stolen plaques, Santa Ana, Brea, and mummies

Now that two thieves... er,... (*ahem*) suspected thieves are in jail, I can finally write about the brou-ha-ha in Downtown Santa Ana last week. (I was asked not to discuss it until now.) Two "urban campers" decided to make some pocket money by prying all the historical plaques off of Santa Ana's landmark buildings. Luckily, the markers were recovered before they were melted down for scrap. Plaques were stolen from the Old Orange County Courthouse, the Howe-Waffle House, the YMCA Building, the Ebell Club, the Episcopal Church of the Messiah, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the Dibble Building, the artist village, and other sites. Unfortunately, a number of the plaques were damaged as they were pried off, although some are still nearly perfect.

Many thanks to the Santa Ana Police Department for a job well done. (The photo above shows a stack of the recovered plaques in the back of a S.A.P.D. car, waiting to be returned to their rightful owners.)

One surprise came out of the plaque thefts: We discovered a dedication carved into the Old Courthouse's cornerstone, which had been hidden under a plaque for many years. Although it's now in rough condition, you can tell that the carved granite included the same information as the plaque. Retired court reporter Lecil Slayback, who knows the Old Courthouse better than anyone, says the plaque was added during the building's 75th anniversary celebration in 1976.

Today's Register includes a story about the opening of the new Brea Museum & Heritage Center's grand opening this Saturday. The museum will include displays on oil, aerospace, sports, and life in Brea in the 1920s.

And speaking of the Register, my thanks to Martin Wisckol for plugging O.C. History Roundup on his Total Buzz blog. This came about after we ran into each other at The Olde Tyme Bento Bowl in Downtown Santa Ana yesterday. (How's that for a restaurant name, eh?)

Halloween News: The mummies will soon be staggering away for good. The Bowers Museum's exhibit "Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt" will be moving out in December after a two-year stay. If you still want to see a lifeless empty husk after December, I would recommend Disney's California Adventure or Costa Mesa's Triangle Square.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Monsters, Santa Ana winds, Fountain Valley, etc.

Did Grace and Howard Wilson see a sea monster at Aliso Beach in 1922? You be the judge. The story is posted about 3/4ths of the way down this page. (What's Halloween without a monster tale or two?)
Local historian and County Archivist Phil Brigandi adds two important pieces to the Santa Ana wind story. For starters, he found an even earlier use of the term "Santa Ana wind" in print, in an 1871 Anaheim Gazette article. But more importantly, he was able to lock down the Santa Ana Canyon as the original source of the name. "The oldest old-timers, including people born here in the 1840s, agreed that the winds got their name because they seemed to come from the Santa Ana Canyon." So much for the devil.
The Fountain Valley Historical Society's annual Founders Day Luncheon will be held Sunday, noon, at Heritage Park next to the public library. The lunch of ham and lima beans will accompanied by a program entitled "Women of Talbert," featuring descendents of the city's pioneer women. (Note that both pork and lima beans were raised in early Fountain Valley.) The event is $7 with reservations, and $9 without. For information call (714) 914-1247.
Author and UCLA professor Barbara Abercrombie will offer instruction on how to write your own life story for posterity. Her presentation will be held Saturday, 2pm, at Laguna Beach Books, 1200 S. Coast, #105. This event is hosted by the American Association of University Women of Laguna Beach. For more information, call (949) 494-4779.

In case you missed it, Stuff From The Park has posted even more photos of Buena Park's old Japanese Village & Deer Park.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ghosts of Capistrano, etc.

On Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, circa 1920.
Meet the ghosts of California's "most haunted city," San Juan Capistrano, in this article by local historian Pamela Hallan-Gibson
The Tustin Preservation Conservancy will hold a meet and greet" at Quinn's Old Town Grill, 405 El Camino Real, Thursday, 4-7pm. If you'd like to learn more about efforts to preserve Old Town Tustin, please attend this free event.
October is California Archives Month. Have you hugged your local archivist today?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Brush fires, home tours, Old Courthouse, etc.

In his first Orange County Almanac (1971) historian Jim Sleeper wrote,
“…Nothing can compare to the devastation wrought by a santana pushing a brush fire. Indelibly seared on the memory of countians are such incendiary nightmares as the Green River Fire (1948), which blackened 46,000 acres and consumed 22 homes; the Stewart (1958), 66,400 acres and 16 homes; and… the Paseo Grande (1967), 47,639 acres and 66 homes.”
Of course, there have been more major brush fires since then, including the current blaze running through Santiago Canyon, Limestone Canyon Park, Foothill Ranch and the Tomato Springs area. As of 7pm tonight, the fire had burned about 15,800 acres and destroyed one outbuilding.

The photo above shows the Green River fire in 1948, bearing down on the canyon town of Silverado. (Photo courtesy Orange County Public Library.)
The historic Courtroom 1 in the Old Orange County Courthouse will be closed through Oct. 25th for painting. The rest of the building, including the County Archives, will remain open for business.
Local historian and Coastline Community College instructor Diane Ryan will present a two-part historical tour in early November. On Nov. 2nd, Diane will present a history of the Homestead Museum, which includes a 1920s Spanish Colonial mansion, the Workman House, and a private cemetery. Also, you'll learn about Hiram Clay Kellogg and the Victorian house he built in 1898. This information will enhance the second day of the program – Nov. 9th – which will feature docent led tours of the aforementioned sites. Fee of $65 includes both days, and a chartered bus and lunch at Brennan's Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney on Nov. 9th. To register or for more information, call (714) 843-5061 before Oct. 30. This event is co-sponsored by the Huntington Beach Adult School and Circle of Friends.
The California Council for the Promotion of History will hold its annual conference Oct. 25-27, in Arcadia.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sinister Seymour, Halloween Haunt & Oingo Boingo

Before Ivonna Cadaver, before MST3K, before Elvira, there was Larry "Sinister Seymour" Vincent (1924-1975). Seymour hosted and heckled low-budget horror movies on channel 9 and channel 5 in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s. He also served as the first celebrity host of the first two big Halloween Haunt events at Knott's Berry Farm in 1973 and 1974. The photo above shows Seymour near the exit of Knott's Haunted Shack. (Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.)
Strangely, the not-so-remote history of Knott's Halloween Haunt is fraught with controversy, with various folks claiming credit for its invention. One website which has gathered a lot of information about the Haunt's history is
In the 1980s and 1990s, another Orange County Halloween tradition was the annual Oingo Boingo concert -- usually at Irvine Meadows Amphetheater. Sadly, the band broke up in 1995, and Halloween has never been quite the same. However, a number of the old band members will be playing some favorite Boingo songs at the House of Blues in Anaheim on Oct. 27th. For another reminder of the old days, YouTube has at least two live versions Boingo playing "Dead Man's Party," here and here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Haunted Shack, baseball & Huntington Beach

Here's an early image of weird and wacky Haunted Shack, which opened at Knott's Berry Farm in 1954. Watching water run uphill was just one of the many optical illusions and strange phenomenon experienced by visitors to this attraction. Sadly, the Shack closed in 2000 and was demolished. Today a carnival ride called "Screaming Eagle" sits in its place. Luckily, the folks out in Calico have preserved their version of the Knotts' Haunted Shack, which you can still visit if you don't mind a trip to the Mojave.
The Brea Museum & Heritage Center will host an Open House on Oct. 27, 11am-2pm. Supervisor Bill Campbell will present for permanent display the Walter Johnson/Babe Ruth autographed baseball that was used during an exhibition game played at the Brea Bowl in 1924. Baseball and pop-culuture author Chris Epting will also be on hand. Admission is free.
Kai Weisser is getting close to finishing his history of the Huntington Beach Lifeguards for Arcadia Publishing. He's done a lot of digging to find not only good photos but also a great deal of solid history from contemporary sources. I can't wait to see the final product.
And speaking of Huntington Beach,... Newly appointed H.B. City Historian Jerry Person will join Native American storyteller Jacque Nunez to talk about the City's early history (and perhaps pre-history as well?) Oct. 27, 9am, at the Shipley Nature Center in Central Park, 17829 Goldenwest St. This is a free event.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Skull Rock, theme parks, and Fullerton events

Spooky Skull Rock has long since disappeared from Disneyland, but naturally, you can still find it in Yesterland. It was built next to Captain Hook's Pirate Ship in 1960 and was removed during the 1982 remodeling of Fantasyland.
Less Halloween-ish, but still cool, Gorillas Don't Blog has posted a series of View-Master slides depicting Disneyland's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea walk-through exhibit from 1955.
Also, Stuff From The Park has posted a great series of 1968 photos from the old Japanese Village & Deer Park in Buena Park. Really impressive, rare stuff.

The Fox Fullerton Theatre will hold a volunteer work party on Oct. 20, to help prepare the historic building for reconstruction. Then, on the 25th, they'll show Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" on the side of the theatre.

The Fullerton Railway Plaza Association's fall newsletter is now available online. This organization is dedicated to building and maintaining a permanent railroad attraction in Downtown Fullerton. They will also show one of my favorite movies, Buster Keaton's "The General," on Oct. 27 at 6:30pm, in the Fullerton Museum Center Auditorium.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The X-Files in Orange County

Earlier generations just had tales of ghosts and goblins to tell at Halloween. But somewhere along the line, space aliens also joined our cultural roster of "things that go bump in the night."

Hoax or not, this 1965 photo is one of the most famous "UFO" images ever taken. Taken near the 5 Fwy and Myford Rd. (now Jamboree Rd.) by traffic engineer Rex Heflin, this photo, along with a couple others, was published in the Santa Ana Register on Sept. 20, 1965. You can see a panorama of three of Heflin's photos stitched together at this site. (You have to squint hard to make out the words, "Marie Callender Pies" on the bottom of the craft.) is also keeping an eye on the "little green men from Mars." Check out their recent thread about UFOs over Orange County.

Thanks to everyone who showed up for my talk at the Old Courthouse today. I really enjoyed the event and hope you did too. Thanks also to the Old Courthouse Museum Society for inviting me and to Carey Baughman for handling the A/V under difficult circumstances.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Googie presentation, State Archives, Dohenys, etc.

Shameless Self-Promotion: I'll be speaking about Googie architecture at tomorrow's meeting of the Old Courthouse Museum Society. The meeting will be held on the third floor of the Old O.C. Courthouse in Downtown Santa Ana at lunchtime. I think the ship has sailed on ordering a box lunch for the event, but feel free to "brownbag it" and show up anyway. (Thanks to "Helidave" for the photo from my Googie talk at the Anaheim Historical Society.)

The Dana Point Historical Society's October newsletter includes an article about Estelle Betzold Doheny. It should be posted to their website soon. Between the DPHS's Doheny Mansion tour (also covered in the newsletter) and the possible partial-destruction of a house built by the family, the Dohenys are getting a lot of press lately.

The California State Archives has a new online descriptive catalog called "Minerva." I haven't checked it out in any detail, but will try to do so soon. And yes, Minerva is named for the Roman goddess on our State seal.

Halloween News: On Oct. 21, the Centennial Heritage Museum in Santa Ana will host The Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off. In addition to enormous orange squash, there will also be arts and crafts, cowboys and Indians, face-painting, food, and tours of the historic Kellogg House. (I have a great story about scaring the bejezuz out of someone at a Halloween party at the Kellogg House, but that's a tale for another time.)

Dana Point lanterns, Southwest Museum, etc.

The Dana Point Historical Society has located some of the original street lanterns "from the original Dana Point development days," in a neighboring city. These are the same lanterns (each a different color) from which many of the city's streets take their names. The Society hopes to save and restore the lanterns for future public display. The 1928 photo above shows one of the original lanterns, with construction on the new Coast Highway taking place in the background. The image comes from Doris Walker's latest book about Dana Point history. (See even more photos of early Dana Point at

The Southwest Museum in Los Angeles will hold an open house to celebrate their centennial on Sun., Oct. 21, from noon to 4pm. There will be music, dance performances and birthday cake.
Halloween News: The Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society's annual Cemetery Tour will be held Oct. 20th. "I see (young actors portraying) dead people."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Halloween approaches, Anaheim, OCMAHS, etc.

The Halloween Parade has been a tradition in Anaheim since 1924, when Babe Ruth was the Grand Marshal. Today's photo comes from the Anaheim Public Library's History Room, and shows the 1928 parade as it passes the intersection of Anaheim Blvd and Lincoln Ave (then called Los Angeles Blvd and Center St, respectively.)

During the rest of this month, I'll include some weird, spooky, and Halloween-related Orange County history and historical news into the posts here at the O.C. History Roundup. IMHO, Halloween is an especially fun holiday because it requires creativity: Making costumes and masks, pretending to be someone (or something) else, building "haunted" mazes in your yard, carving faces into pumpkins, making up scary stories, etc. What's not to love?

The Orange County Mexican American Historical Society's 2008 photo calendar is now available. The calendar is $10 and includes historical photographs for 13 months. Or for only $15, you can join the OCMAHS and get the calendar, the OCMAHS newsletter, and event notices as part of your membership.
Stuff From The Park has posted a brochure from Disneyland Grad Night 1963. The line up of entertainment was quite an eclectic and a lot more interesting than what they'd provide today. Also, Gorillas Don't Blog has posted a image of the Mark Twain steamboat under construction.
And speaking of steamboats, the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum continues to auction off bits of the Reuben E. Lee.

Dana Villa, Anaheim, Orange, Little Saigon & Sam's

Today's image is a 1930s postcard of Dana Villa By The Sea, an early Dana Point motel that called itself "a seaside retreat of privacy." For a history of this place, see last month's Dana Point Historical Society newsletter.
The new "Muzeo" will open in Downtown Anaheim on Tuesday. There will still be a small display about local history in what used to be the Anaheim Museum (and the Carnegie Library before that), but most of the space will be given over to non-local stuff. The first major exhibit will be on Roman antiquities. The new facilities will also be the new home of the Anaheim Public Library's much-loved History Room. I'm looking forward to seeing the new digs.
Reminder: Tickets are currently on sale for the Old Towne Historic Home Tour, scheduled for Oct. 27 and 28. It should be a great event.
The traveling Smithsonian exhibit, "Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon," will (appropriately enough) be on display at Garden Grove's Viet Art Center until Dec. 2nd. The exhibit depicts the stories of Vietnamese Americans from the 1970s through today.
In a recent Register article, surfing legend Corky Carroll wrote about his memories of the newly re-opened Sunset Beach landmark, Sam's Seafood.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Huntington Beach and Santa Ana's Logan Barrio

Today's photo shows Main St., Huntington Beach, in the 1940s. The photographer is standing near the foot of the pier and looking inland across Ocean Ave. (now Pacific Coast Hwy). I've posted a retrospective on the 1980s "redevelopment" of Downtown Huntington Beach over on Joe Shaw's site.
Mary Garcia's new book about the Logan Barrio, is finally available. The Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society is selling it through their website. Guy Ball writes, "The Logan Barrio is one of the several original Mexican barrios in Santa Ana. Its roots trace back to 1886 with the founding of Santa Ana East, a commercial area next to the new train depot. The business prospects may have died but Mexican families soon began to settle in this comfortable area and grow the area into more than just a place to live. Author Mary Garcia writes about the area and highlights many of the early families, stores, and businesses. Over 80 vintage photos. Santa Ana's Logan Barrio: Its History, Stories, and Families is an 88-page book and the newest in our Living History series featuring local authors who speak about the subjects they know well."
Happy Birthday to both Helena Modjeska (who's world famous in Poland) and Marlene Brajdic, who works for the County's historic parks.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Buena Park, El Toro, Capistrano, Mission Viejo, etc

Today's photo shows the Japanese Village & Deer Park, a 1970s tourist attraction in Buena Park. (Thanks to Richard Harris for the image. Get well soon.)

Saddleback Area Historical Society President Will Summers writes that the Society has received a wooden paddle of the kind once used to discipline students. This somewhat mysterious paddle is inscribed with names and nicknames of various El Toro personalities, including "Peacock," Chuck Hillman, Ted Prothero, "Big Feet" Osterman and Ronald Marsile. Will would like to know the paddle's history, and invites folks to have a look at it during the Pioneer Roundup at Heritage Hill Park on Oct. 28th.
There's a brouhaha over the rectory garden at Mission San Juan Capistrano. The City says the garden -- which includes BBQ facilities -- was built without permits and may cover an Indian burial ground. Read more about this issue on the Register's website, here and here. Also, see their earlier A/V presentation about the garden.
The Heritage House Museum in Melinda Park, Mission Viejo, will begin a new exibit entitled "The History of Trees in Mission Viejo," beginning Oct. 13th. It is located at 28951 Melinda Rd, and is open the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month, from noon to 4pm.
The First United Methodist Church, at 420 W. 19th St, in Costa Mesa, will have their 80th birthday next year. They are currently collecting old photos and other momentos of the church's past. If you have anything to contribute, please contact Pastor Julie Elkin.
The Bennett House at Heritage Hill Park in El Toro has a new butter-making exhibit in the kitchen and additional period textiles in the dining room and master bedroom.
Finley Elementary School in Westminster will celebrate its 50th birthday on Monday.
The Dana Point Historical Society's home tour drew about 800 people on Sunday. Way to go! The Register ran an article about the event and posted a short video.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Injun Joe's Cave

What with the holiday and everyone out Columbus Day caroling, it's been a slow news day. But here's a nice 1950s image of Disneyland's Tom Sawyer's Island to tide you over. Specifically, this is the late, great, politically-incorrect "Injun Joe's Cave."

Sunday, October 07, 2007

O.C. Historical Society update, OCC, etc.

Today's image shows a construction project in Santa Ana Canyon in the 1930s. Unfortunately, no other identifying information came with the photo. Undoubtedly, this area is now full of houses, strip malls, and cars waiting to get onto the 91 Fwy.

CORRECTION: The Orange County Historical Society's October 11 meeting will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church in Orange at 7pm. Althought Ronald Glazier will speak about the Past, Present and Future of the Santa Ana Zoo, the meeting will NOT be held at the zoo.

For their following meeting, on Nov. 8, the Orange County Historical Society will meet at the new Muzeo, 241 S. Anaheim Blvd, in Anaheim.

For those who haven't seen it before, Orange Coast College has posted the text from Harwood and Kimes' "Tumbleweeds To Roses", a history of the school, on their website. This is especially cool because it's not always easy to track down the original book.

The Bowers Museum blog's latest entry is Henri Joseph Penelon's famous portrait of Don Jose Andres Sepulveda (circa 1856).

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A new San Clemente landmarks list

[This list and information comes to me from the San Clemente Times and from Mike Cotter of the San Clemente Historical Society.]

On Oct. 2, the San Clemente City Council selected 22 of the City's historic structures to be included on a new City "Landmarks List." This list was established to highlight, enhance and encourage the preservation of the City's finest historic resources, not to provide additional legal protection or burden. The list is just part of a comprehensive new Landmarks Ordinance which includes the reaffirmation of 206 existing official historic structures, the identification of five new non-structure cultural resources, and the establishment of a comprehensive law specifically prohibiting "demolition by neglect."

List of Official San Clemente Landmarks:
  • 304 Avenida Cabrillo, L.S. Frasier House, 1938. Built in 1938 for Thomas Loncono, this home is one of the few remaining adobe buildings.
  • Avenida del las Palmeras, Cotton Estate Gate, 1928. This gate served as the entrance to the Cotton Estate on the south end of town. It's located inside the Cyprus Shores neighborhood.
  • 114 Avenida Del Mar, Hotel San Clemente, 1927. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Hotel San Clemente was built as a three-story, 60-room hotel with a courtyard facing Avenida Del Mar. Today it serves as an apartment building.
  • 415 Avenida Granada, Casa Romantica, 1928. A home built for city founder Ole Hanson and designed by architect Carl Lindbom, Casa Romantica is on the National Register of Historic Places and is today a cultural center and garden.
  • 233 Avenida la Cuesta, Campbell House, 1941. This house was designed by architect Aubrey St. Clair in the Hollywood Regency style, which is rare in San Clemente.
  • 243 Avenida la Cuesta, Goldschmidt House, 1928. Designed by architect Paul R. Williams for Adlai Goldschmidt, this house is on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 105 W. Avenida Pico, Ole Hanson Beach Club, 1927. Another structure on the National Register of Historic Places, Ole Hanson Beach Club was designed by Virgil Westbrook and Paul McAlister as a part of the city's original plan. It's one of three parcels that comprise a potential North Beach Historic District.
  • 140 W. Avenida Pico, Casino San Clemente, 1936. This is also in the proposed North Beach Historic District. In the '30s and '40s, it served as a regional entertainment facility.
  • 611 Avenida Victoria, Municipal Pier, 1928. Over the past 79 years, the pier has been rebuilt many times.
  • 4100 Calle Isabella, Casa Pacifica (Cotton Estate), 1926. Originally built for Hamilton Cotton and designed by Carl Lindbom, this home is also known as the Western White House, as former President Richard M. Nixon bought the estate in 1969.
  • 100 N. Calle Seville, Community Center (Ole Hanson Room and Site), 1927. The Ole Hanson Room is all that remains of the original structure that was destroyed in the early '70s by a fire.
  • 412 Cazador Lane, Warner House, 1929. [See photo above.] This home was built for Judge Warner, founder of the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce.
  • 100 S. El Camino Real, Bartlett Building, 1926. It's estimated that this was the second building constructed in town. Built for Edward Bartlett, it has multiple tenants including Schmid's Fine Chocolates, Hobie and residential space on the second floor.
  • 101 S. El Camino Real, Easley Building, 1929. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, it was built for Oscar Easley and sits at the top of Avenida Del Mar.
  • 104-118 N. El Camino Real, Administration Building, 1926. This building served as Ole Hanson's offices and now houses Gordon James and Baskin-Robbins.
  • 1426 N. El Camino Real, San Onofre Inn, 1928. An apartment building, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
  • 408 N. El Camino Real, Old City Hall, 1928. This served as the civic center.
  • 1209 Buena Vista, Moulton House, 1929. Virgil Westbrook designed this home for H.G. Moulton.
  • 418 Cazador Lane, 1926. Some of the one-of-a-kind design elements of this house include a wood balcony, a Juliet balcony, a chimney and a tile stairway.
  • 420 Cazador Lane, Ann Harding House, 1926. This home was built for actress Ann Harding.
  • 230 W. Marquita, Swigart House, 1929. Virgil Westbrook designed this home for electrician Ralph Swigart.
  • 202 Avenida Aragon, St. Clement's Church, 1930. This church was designed by Virgil Westbrook.
Proposed by Historical Resources Group, Landmarks Task Force, and Planning Commission but not yet approved as City Landmarks:
  • 1700 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente Theatre, 1937. Known as the Miramar Theater, it was the city's first movie theater and is also part of the potential North Beach Historic District.
  • 529-533 Avenida Victoria, Beachcomber Motel, 1947. This is believed to be the oldest continuously running business in town. It's one of few examples of Spanish Colonial Revival- style motels located on a coastal bluff.
  • 402-404 Pasadena Court, Sea Cliff Villas (Robison House), 1927. Overlooking the Pacific and the pier, this home was built for Bertha and Emma Wierk.
Today's photo (above) of San Clemente's Hal Warner House comes from the Conference of Calif. Historical Societies, which has a great series of vintage San Clemente photos on their website.

The Best and the Rest of O.C.

[This post is late on at least two counts. First, it was supposed to be Friday's post, and I'm over two hours late for that. Secondly, it really should have been posted last month. Better late than never, I suppose.]
The Register’s “Best of Orange County” guide is always pretty hilarious – My favorite example being the selection of Mimi’s Café as the best “French restaurant” in O.C. Here are a few entries (some good and some questionable) from this year’s guide that pertain to local history…
BEST MUSEUM went to Bowers in Santa Ana. Yes, it’s one of the most expensive museums in the country to visit, but is it worth it? It’s hard for me to say, since I have very little interest in ancient Chinese nose flutes or the funerary toothbrush holders of the Incas. I liked it better when they still followed their charter and focused on local history.
BEST ANTIQUE MALL went to the Orange Circle Antique Mall at 118 S. Glassell St., in Orange. (I hear my Orange friends yelling “It’s a plaza, not a circle!”) Second place was a tie between Country Roads Antiques & Gardens in Orange, and Gramma’s Attic in Huntington Beach. The guide also cited Old Barn Antiques at 31792 Camino Capistrano, in San Juan Capistrano, as a “Hidden Gem.” I haven’t been to “Gramma’s Attic,” but I’ve found good stuff at the other locations.
BEST THRIFT STORE honors went to Goodwill (#1), The Salvation Army (#2) and the Lutheran High School Thrift Shop (#3) at 686 N. Tustin St, in Orange. Of the three, I like the Lutherans the best. Their stock isn’t as cherry-picked. Actually, my current favorites are the St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Stores. I’m more likely to find odd local publications, LPs of local high school bands, and other items of interest to local historians.
BEST CAMERA STORE went to Ritz Camera, which has super-high prices and a small selection. Number two went to Cal’s Cameras at 1770 Newport Blvd, in Costa Mesa, which has a big selection, knowledgeable staff, and both new and used inventory. Number three went to Samy’s Camera which is badly organized and where they’ve tried to sell me damaged goods at full price. The article failed to mention The Used Camera Store, which is just across Newport Blvd. from Cal’s. The Used Camera Store has an ever-changing selection of older photographic equipment – both “silver” and digital. And watch for their $5 clearance box, which sometimes features old box brownie cameras and the like.
BEST SWAP MEET went to the Orange County Market Place, where ordinary retail outlets drag their stock outside for the weekend. Second place went the Golden West College Swap Meet and third place went to the Orange Coast College Swap Meet. Both are pretty seedy, but you can find jewels in the rough.
The biggest surprise was the glaring omission of a BEST USED BOOK STORE section in this year’s guide. Although the Book Baron is closing, there are still a lot of good shops out there worth haunting, including my recent favorite, The Bookman.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Happy 150th Birthday, Anaheim! (and other news)

Tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 5th, will be the City of Anaheim's 150th birthday. To celebrate, the city officials will hold a party, hand out cake, sing "Happy Birthday," dedicate items for a new time capsule, and generally have a big shin-dig. The fun begins at 11am on the front steps of Anaheim City Hall, 200 S. Anaheim Blvd. (I'll be at work then, but I'll celebrate tomorrow night at the They Might Be Giants concert at the Anaheim House of Blues. I wonder if they serve any German wines?)

Today's photo comes from the Library of Congress and shows part of Anaheim as it looked in 1915.

Tuesday night, the San Clemente City Council approved the remaining items comprising the long-awaited City Landmarks Ordinance, including the renewal of over 206 existing official historic structures, the identification of five new non-structure cultural resources, the designation of 22 brand new City Landmarks, and the establishment of a comprehensive law specifically prohibiting "demolition by neglect." San Clemente Historical Society members and other preservationists rallied before the meeting and filled the Council chambers.

The Orange County Pioneer Council will hold their annual picnic Oct. 14th, Noon-4pm, at the Santa Ana Zoo, 1801 E. Chestnut Ave, Santa Ana. Visit their website for more details, including how to RSVP.

The 8th Annual Dana Point Historical Society Home Tour is this Sunday, Oct. 7, 11am-4pm. This year's tour features five Capistrano Beach homes. Refreshments will be served at two of the locations and shuttles will run continuously all day between the five homes which are in close proximity to each other. The tour begins with registration at Palisades School at 26462 Via Sacrament. Tickets can be purchased for $35 at that time. For more information, call (949) 248-8121.

Mission San Juan Capistrano will hold training classes for new docents, 9am-Noon, every Saturday in October. If you're over 21 and would like to volunteer, email the docent coordinator.

Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church update

The fate of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church complex (1910 & 1934) is garnering a growing amount of concern. (See my original entry on this.) Rafu Shimpo recently wrote about the situation. Some of those now watching this issue with interest include…

  • The California Office of Historic Preservation
  • The California Preservation Foundation
  • The National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • Preserving California's Japantowns (backed by the California Civil Liberties Public Education program and the California Japanese American Community Leadership Council)
  • Members of the Orange County JACL
  • Members of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church (now located in Garden Grove)
  • Dr. Art Hansen, CSUF History Dept.
  • Rafu Shimpo (L.A.’s daily Japanese newspaper)
  • The Orange County Register
  • The City of Huntington Beach Planning Dept.
  • The City of Huntington Beach’s Historical Resources Committee
  • Many local historians, preservationists and community activists

If you’d like to know when the Environment Impact Report for this project becomes available, contact Ricky Ramos, Associate Planner at the City of Huntington Beach, and ask to be added to the list of individuals to receive notice when the EIR is released for public comment. Ramos can be contacted at (714) 536-5438 or

BTW, although I couldn’t tell from over the construction fences, Phil Brigandi (who studied this site in the 1970s) tells me that the Manse is still standing next to the 1910 mission building. For a brief history of the church, click here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Wonderbowl, San Clemente, Capistrano, etc.

Today's photo of the Wonderbowl in Anaheim was sent in by alert reader Mike Spanos. I love the Googie entrance! The Wonderbowl was on the north side of Katella Ave, near West St. Disney purchased the site in the 1980s, closed the Wonderbowl, and turned it into parking.
The City of San Clemente is considering a list of 25 sites proposed as local landmarks. A public hearing will be held tonight (Tuesday), 7pm, at San Clemente City Hall. The meeting will also include a review of the City’s list of historic sites. I’m not sure if this map of historic structures from the City’s website is current or not, but it might be helpful review material for those who plan to attend the meeting. For more information, call (949) 361-8200.
Mission San Juan Capistrano will hold an open house for teachers in the Barracks Gallery, tomorrow, 4:30-6:30pm. The free event will include wine and appetizers. For information or to RSVP, call Regina at (949) 234-1318.
The Mission’s current “featured artifact display” is about the process of making adobe bricks and structures. This exhibit will run through the end of the year.
The Garden Grove Historical Society’s Book & Barn Sale will be held Oct 11-13, 8am-4:30pm, at 12174 Euclid Ave. Despite the name, I don’t think they’ll sell you the barn. They will, however, sell you books, records, and other items to raise funds for their organization.
Amigos de la Colina is looking for potential new members who might be interested in assisting with tours of the four historic buildings at Heritage Hill Historical Park in El Toro. To learn more, call (949) 923-2230.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The SAHPS sees dead people

Yes, we're Orange County, but lemons grow well here too. This Radiant label from Villa Park's Central Lemon Association dates from the 1920s.

The Santa Ana Historic Preservation Society's (SAHPS) 10th Annual Cemetery Tour will be held Oct. 20th. For details or to register, visit their website.

SAHPS's architectural walking tours of Downtown Santa Ana will begin again this coming Saturday. Call (714) 547-9645 to reserve a spot -- Leave your name, number in party, phone numbers, and date you would like to tour.

Werner Weiss has updated his history of the Rocket Jets at Disneyland on

Sorry I've been lagging on the posts lately. I've been down with a nasty cold/flu thing since Friday and haven't felt much like doing anything.