Sunday, December 30, 2007

Natural history, genealogy, architecture & Mr. Toad

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 28, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Date shakes, Landing Hill, lions and wall calendars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Two Main Streets, decked out for Christmas

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

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cold War Xmas, Stephanie George & Yost Theater

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

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

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

Friday, December 21, 2007

Corona del Mar, Taco de Carlos & William Wendt

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

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

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

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Knott's Christmas, Orville Hanson, & Book Baron

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

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas, Tustin, Carol Jordan & Huntington Beach

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

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

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

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Buena Park, Old Courthouse, Seal Beach, etc.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Very Talbert Christmas

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

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Holly Sugar Plant, Huntington Beach

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

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

Friday, December 07, 2007

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

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

Thursday, December 06, 2007

More theme park stuff and Huntington Beach

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

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

Monday, December 03, 2007

Knott's Berry Farm history

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

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

Sunday, December 02, 2007

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

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

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

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

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