Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween, Dracula, and a house of wax

Happy Halloween! Today's first photo shows the Dracula exhibit in the Wide World In Wax museum in Anaheim. No, I don't mean that other place in Buena Park. This collection originated in Europe, and came to the U.S. for the 1962 and 1964 World's Fairs. In 1966, the Walter Amusement Co. (no relation to Disney or Knott), displayed this collection as the Wide World In Wax museum at 1850 S. Harbor Blvd, in Anaheim - just down the road from Disneyland. It featured "31 religious, fictional and historical scenes with over 100 wax figures." The museum closed the following year. Today, the museum building serves as the lobby of the Radisson Hotel Maingate Anaheim.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween, Sam's Seafood, Bob Root & Fullerton

In honor of Halloween, I'm posting the spookiest-looking photo in the Orange County Archives. Actually, it's a scan of three very old negatives that chemically bonded themselves together. They come from a collection of negatives (most of which are in excellent condition) from the Smart Studio in Santa Ana. At least two of the fused images are of Mary Smart, taken in the very early years if the 20th Century. (And yes, I enhanced the color, to make it even weirder-looking.)
Tonight, Halloween, and Saturday night, beginning at 8pm, Kona's (formerly Sam's Seafood) - the last authentic 1960s tiki restaurant in O.C. - will offer free tours of it's "haunted" basement. It's a great opportunity to explore another corner of this amazing Huntington Beach establishment. I understand there's a tunnel that runs from the basement under the highway. Some say it was used to smuggle booze during prohibition. But the building wasn't built until much later. (Sam's existed, but at another location.) That just makes the tunnel that much more mysterious. For more information, click here and read the fourth post from the top.
Former Fullerton mayor Bob Root died on Wednesday at age 88. His obituary reports that "He was instrumental in the redevelopment of the historic downtown and the founding of the Fullerton Railway Plaza Association."
Fountain Valley mayor John Collins has an article in the Fountain Valley View today, discussing and promoting the Fountain Valley Historical Society.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Anaheim, Irvine, OCMAHS calendar, holidays, etc.

Today's image is a scene from the Kiddie Parade at the Anaheim Halloween Festival, sometime in the 1950s.
Retired chief of OC Parks, Eric Jessen, will "click you through the most comprehensive collection of Irvine Family photos ever assembled," during his "Irvine Family Photo Archives" slide show (and Q&A) on Saturday, Nov. 15. The program will be held at the Katie Wheeler Library in Irvine (in the Irvine Ranch Historic Park), and will begin in the garden at 10am. Parking and admission are free, but reservations are required. Call (949) 669-8753.
The Orange County Mexican American Historical Society's 2009 "Images of Orange County" calendar is now available through their website. They can also be purchased at Calacas in Santa Ana. The calendars feature historical images from local Mexican American communities.
The OCMAHS will also host an altar and booth at the Noche de Altares, Nov. 1, (that's el Dia de los Muertos), 2-10pm, at 3rd & Bush St. in Downtown Santa Ana. This might be an interesting event for those of us who feel Halloween is over all too quickly.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wolfman Jack, Halloween, reds, Kona Lanes, etc.

Today's photo shows disc-jockey Wolfman Jack and Marion Knott at Knott's Berry Farm's 1979 Halloween Haunt. During the event, Jack presented a "Shock & Rock Revue," featuring "more than twenty-five musicians, singers, and dancers." I found some interesting background information about the Wolfman on this blog.
Speaking of Halloween, Orion Tippens rounded up some of Orange County's spookiest legends in a recent article for Orange Coast Magazine. (My quote isn't 100% accurate, but close enough.) You may also know Orion as one of the helpful staff at the Katie Wheeler Branch Library in Irvine.
You may have seen yesterday's Register feature on famous people buried in O.C. But did you know there's extended coverage and an interactive map on the Register's website? Well, there is.
For the last couple days, Daveland has been running a feature on the Soviet Olympic team's visit to Disneyland in 1956. I particularly enjoyed the photo of the commies in the monkey cage.
The Long Beach Press Telegram just published its own review of Ron and Elfriede Mac Iver's new La Palma book. (You'll find mine in last Saturday's post.)
At Costa Mesa's recent City Council candidate forum, everyone agreed on only one thing: Tearing down Kona Lanes in 2003 was a big mistake and a significant loss to the community. Where were these people five years ago? Not only did they Costa Mesa lose one of its most popular entertainment venues and landmarks, but Southern California lost yet another of its nearly-extinct classic Googie buildings. Worse yet, it has been replaced only with a vacant lot full of weeds. I was there on closing day, and watched the constant procession of people paying their last respects to this nostalgic landmark. Some had tears in their eyes, including married couples who had met while bowling there. Costa Mesa may someday get another bowling center, but it will never replace Kona Lanes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

El Adobe and the elusive ghosts of Capistrano

With Halloween approaching, I wanted something interesting to say about California's most (purportedly) haunted city: San Juan Capistrano. Last night, my investigative team and I wandered the town's most (purportedly) haunted areas, including Los Rios Street, the Mission, and down along the railroad tracks. Unfortunately, we were unable to spot any ghosts, let alone interview one.
Luckily, we did have an excellent dinner at El Adobe de Capistrano, which brings me (finally) back to local history and the point of the photos posted above.
El Adobe de Capistrano, (or El Adobe as most call it), is housed in the Miguel Yorba/Vanderleck Adobe which began as two separate structures. The north section, including the cocktail lounge, was built in 1797 as the home of Miguel Yorba. It was used as a hospital for vicitims of the 1812 earthquake that destroyed the Mission's stone church. A sign in the lobby claims that "some of the later parts of the El Adobe were build [out] of salvage from the Mission after its destruction."
The south section, including the Portola Room (a.k.a. "Fiesta Room"), was built around 1810 and was used variously as a stagecoach stage depot, a trading post, and the Juzgado (justice court and jail). The below-ground jail is now used as a wine cellar and is open to visitors. According to a sign nearby, "Joaquin Murrietta, the famous California outlaw, who was [hanged] not far from here, was said to have once been a prisoner in this dungeon." Naturally, this is the part of the adobe that generates the most ghost stories. (No, we didn't see any here, either.)
The area between the two buildings - now the lobby - was a passageway for stagecoaches, until the railroad arrived in 1888.
The two buildings were connected in about 1910 by new owners Harry and Georgia Mott Vander-Leck, who used the building both as their home and as their store. They also added a large wing to the back.
In 1946, Mrs. Vander-Leck sold the building to local farmer Clarence Brown, who converted it into El Adobe de Capistrano restaurant. According to El Adobe's website, it opened, "July 8, 1948 with the wedding and reception of the First Commandant of Camp Pendleton, General Fagan."
The site continues, "During his administration, former President Richard Nixon enjoyed the Mexican dishes prepared exclusively for him by El Adobe’s chef. These dishes inspired El Adobe’s change from continental to Mexican Cuisine."
Nixon's favorite was a combination plate featuring a chile relleno, a chicken enchilada, and a taco. It is still on the menu.
Today, El Adobe is owned by the Rancho Mission Viejo and is leased and operated by Richard O’Neill, Tony and Melinda Moiso, Gilbert Aguire, and managing partner Steve Nordeck.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bowling in 1962

I'm nearing the end of my collection of images from the 1962 Garden Grove High School Argonaut yearbook. The first image shows a member of the school's bowling team at an unidentified bowling alley. The second image is an ad for the Freeway Bowl in Anaheim.
Sorry for the short post today, folks.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

La Palma, and Ron & Elfriede Mac Iver's new book

Today's photos are scenes from the City of Dairyland, which incorporated in 1955 in order to keep cows in and people out. Specifically, the local dairy farmers wanted to keep new development from pushing out their farms, as it had years earlier in Los Angeles. Ultimately, the developers won, the farms uprooted and moved again, and the city changed its name to La Palma. (Surrounding cities like Cypress and Cerritos have similar origins.)
Both of these photos are from Ron and Elfriede Mac Iver’s new book, Images of America: La Palma, from Arcadia Publishing. The first shows the dairy farm of the first mayor of Dairyland, Jack deVries. In later years, deVries admitted that the selection of the name "Dairyland" in 1955 was somewhat influenced by the opening of another D-land, just down the road. The second photo shows a group of dairy farmers with their new milking machines in the 1940s.
I just received a copy of Ron and Elfriede's La Palma book this week. The Mac Ivers are a perfect example of how local history is usually done – not by professionals or academics, but by local volunteers who care. They became La Palma's historians when they accepted the task of compiling information about the city’s history in advance of its 50th anniversary (2005). Nobody hired them for the job - They just started doing it.
As a small community of somewhat modest means (by Orange County standards), La Palma has no official historical repository, meaning the Mac Ivers had to spend years collecting bits and pieces from all over. They talked to old-timers and pioneer families, they explored collections in neighboring communities, they publicized their search to anyone who would listen, and they picked the brains of other local historians. Once the anniversary was over, their work continued, but with a book as their new goal.
Although they aren’t professional writers, the Mac Ivers have poured an enormous amount of enthusiasm, research, man-hours and shoe-leather into this project. In doing so, they’ve done a great service to their community and produced as good a photo history of La Palma as we’re likely to see in our lifetimes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Acres more O.C. history photos available online

Today I'm posting two images from the amazing collection at USC's Digital Archive. The first image (top) is labeled "the earliest known general view" of San Juan Capistrano. It was taken from the "hills west of Rio Trabuco" around 1887. The second image is a view of the Holly Sugar Plant in Huntington Beach, from around 1910.
USC's Digital Archive includes tens of thousands of old Southern California photos like these. Whatever your area of interest, they've got something to amaze and amuse. Do, however, watch out for the conditions of use, which generally involve money changing hands. (I'm hoping I don't get a big bill just for promoting their site like this.) Thanks to Don Ballard for calling my attention to this amazing repository of information.
On a far less massive scale, but still of interest, both the Orange County Archives photostream and the Orange County History image pool continue to expand on Flickr. It's worth checking in from time to time and seeing what's new on both.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

O.C. theme park historical update (& Seal Beach)

Here's a full-page ad for Knott's Berry Farm from the 1962 Garden Grove High School Argonaut. Not a one of these four attractions still exists. (Yes, I'm still milking this great yearbook for all its worth.)
The ad reminds me that there is now yet another local theme park history blog, called Let's Talk Knott's. I'm looking forward to seeing it take shape.
Speaking of theme parks, the Register recently ran an interview with Disneyland's first "Ambassador," Julie Riehm-Casaletto. Some of you will remember how Walt Disney introduced Julie on the same television program in which he introduced the Pirates of the Carribean, it's a small world, and the Haunted Mansion.
Also, Daveland has a great feature on the old dioramas at Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle. Imagineer Chris Merritt and company are working hard to restore the original walk-through scenes while adding some new twists.
And finally, a bit of non-theme-park historical news for today: The Seal Beach Historical Society now has a new website. Go take a look for yourself.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A bunch more Orange County history photos!

The postcard above (Newport Beach in the 1950s) is one of more than 70 images added to the "Orange County History" group on Flickr in the past 24 hours. The pool includes old photos of O.C., photos of historic sites around O.C., and photos of local historians and historical groups. Go check it out. Better yet, join the group and add stuff from your own collection. Although the group was initially set up for the Orange County Heritage Coordinating Council, it has morphed into a fun way for anyone and everyone to share their interest in our local history. (Thanks to everyone who's already joined and/or contributed!)
If you'd like O.C. History Roundup to promote your O.C.-history-focused books, projects, or events, please send me an email with all the pertinant details. I'm generally more than happy to share your news with the several hundred people who read this blog each day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Steve Martin, Garden Grove High School, 1962

Here are a few more photos from the 1962 Argonaut ( the Garden Grove High School yearbook). The first photo shows Steve Martin as part of "Jason's Jesters," which appears to have been a comedy troup. The second image shows the junior class officers for 1962. The third shows him in the class production of "Ask Any Girl."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Garden Grove H.S. '62 & Hispanic Heritage Month

Don Dobmeier stopped by today with his copy of the 1962 Argonaut - Garden Grove High School's yearbook. He wanted to show me one particular photo, but I quickly discovered that the book was chock-full of great stuff. I'm posting a couple advertisements from its pages tonight, and will post more images from it soon.
I can totally relate to the photo at Bob's Big Boy, as I've posed for similar shots many times. But I can't remember ever attending high school parties in bomb shelters. Doesn't it look like they're having a FANTASTIC time? Clearly, they are "funnin'" as they have never funned before.
Speaking of high school memories, Laguna Beach High School is celebrating its 75th annual homecoming. Yes, they'll be doing all the usual homecoming stuff. I guess there's no sense messing with tradition at this late date.
On an unrelated note, I've been meaning to mention the Register's recent Hispanic Heritage Month series. They're printing family histories sent in by their readers, including Mary Garcia (author of Santa Ana's Logan Barrio) and Judge Frederick Aguirre. To see the whole series, visit the Latino Life section of the Register's website. And check back again later, because they keep adding more.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Santa Ana, El Toro, Costa Mesa, etc.

Here's a photo of a Santa Ana breadline from the real Great Depression. Things may look bad now, but we've got a long way to go before we match the economy of the 1930s.
Heritage Hill Historical Park in El Toro will host their annual Pioneer Roundup on Oct. 26th, 2-4pm. Members of local pioneer families will attend the Saddleback Area Historical Society meeting to greet old friends and reminisce. Come meet them and hear their stories.
Saturday's Daily Pilot featured an article about the late great movie theaters of Costa Mesa, including the Paulo Drive-In, and the Mesa Theater. I never went to the Paulo, but I remember the long-neglected Mesa as a building with lots of potential for restoration. However, the Mesa is now gone, replaced by the Borders Books at Newport Blvd and 19th. (I posted another photo of the Paulo here.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Disneyland, Willard Smith, old newspapers, etc.

Norman Smith, grandson of the late Orange County Supervisor Willard Smith, recently donated boxes of wonderful photos, news clippings, documents and ephemera to the Orange County Archives. We've only begun to look at this stuff, but I thought I'd share these photos that were near the top of the stack. Both were taken in December 1954 at Disney Studios in Burbank, seven months before the opening of Disneyland. Walt Disney himself is clearly schmoozing the local politicos and giving them a sneak peak at his plans for the park.
In the first photo (top), Willard Smith is on the far left and fellow Supervisor Willis Warner is in the center, sticking his elbow out the stagecoach window. The lineup in the front row of the second photo (left to right) is longtime Anaheim Mayor Charlie Pearson, Willis Warner, Walt Disney, Willard Smith, and Orange County Planning Commission Chairman Dr. W.L. Bigham. I'm not sure who the other folks are, but I'll work on it.
Are the old newspapers grandpa gave you worth a lot of money? Sharon Clairemont helps you find out in her latest ASK post.
I hope to see you at tomorrow night's Orange County Historical Society meeting, 7:30pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. Lou Carlson of Fairhaven will discuss the history of the old Santa Ana Cemetery, including its connections to the Civil War.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Holly Sugar, Julius Schulman, Anaheim, etc.

The photos above show the Holly Sugar plant in South Santa Ana being torn down in 1983. The sugar plant went into production around 1910. These images come from a large set of 1970s-1980s photos recently donated to the Orange County Historical Society.
Julius Schulman, the father of architectural photography, will be the guest speaker at Casa Romantica, 415 Avenida Granada, San Clemente, on Wed., Oct. 8, at 7pm (tomorrow or today, depending on when you read this). Schulman's first assignment in Orange County was to photograph the Lovell Beach House in Newport Beach for architect Rudolph M. Schindler. He went on to become one of the most iconic photographers of the 20th Century. Tickets: $35. Students with ID $18. Casa Romantica Members $25.
On Monday, thousands of Anaheim 3rd graders were brought to the "Gift of History" program at the Anaheim Convention Center. Mayor Curt Pringle, State Sen. Lou Correa, and Angels baseball announcer Steve Physioc each told the children about the importance of understanding history, regardless of what profession they choose to pursue. Each student received a free backpack that included school supplies and a copy of "Anna's Home by the River."

Endangered historic sites and landmarks

In March 2007 I posted a list of endangered sites of historic interest in Orange County. Since then, we’ve lost a number of landmarks, (including the Reuben E. Lee,) and still more landmarks have become endangered. Here’s an updated list:
  • Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission/Church/Rectory and the Furuta House, Huntington Beach (1910 & 1934) - One of the most important threatened sites in Orange County. I've written a lot about this already.
  • Mariner's Medical Arts complex (Richard Neutra, 1963) on Westcliff Dr. in Newport Beach. One of the high-water marks for architecture in Orange County. There are plans to demolish it and replace it with a larger building.
  • Ghost Town (1941) at Knott's Berry Farm - The south side of Main Street is still original to 1941. Several other structures are also historically significant. The north side of Main has already been torn down and rebuilt.
  • Lighter Than Air Hangars (1942) at MCAS Tustin - One is already slated for demolition. The other appears saved for now, but should be watched.
  • Miramar Theater (1937), S. El Camino Real, San Clemente - The theater is on a prime bit of real estate, and developers keep eyeing it and hatching plans for it. (See image above).
  • Casino building, Avenida Pico, San Clemente - Recent plans have called for moving, destroying or substantially changing this iconic building.
  • Villa Park Elementary School (1919 & 1924) - Still in immediate danger.
  • Downtown Yorba Linda - There's not much of a downtown there to begin with. How hard can it be to preserve a couple blocks? Maybe they could just add to what's already there.
  • Sam's Seafood (now Kona), Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach - This is one of the last authentic Mid-Century tiki bars and shrines to Polynesian Pop in the country. The land owners (as opposed to the restaurant owners) discussed bulldozing it when the real estate market was hot. That talk has fizzled out, but keep an eye on this place when the market warms up.
  • Hobby City (1955-1980s), Beach Blvd., Stanton/Anaheim - Again, it seems the slumping market has delayed demolition - but for how long? This may or may not be considered historic yet - but I have a warm spot in my heart for mom and pop roadside attractions, and this landmark is one of the last ones in Southern California.
  • Basler-Twist House (1914), Santa Ana - There's been an effort to save and move it, but it's been executed so badly that I wonder if it will actually survive to see a full restoration.
  • Orange County Hospital building (1914), at the UCI Medical Center, Orange - I haven't heard that this will be demolished, but with all the recent expansion, I wouldn't be surprised. This is probably one of the least-known historic buildings on this list.
  • San Juan Creek Bridge (1930s), Ortega Highway, just above San Juan Hot Springs - Again, I haven't heard that this is going away, but with all the changes to the highway, it's worth watching.
  • Port Theater (circa 1948), Pacific Coast Highway, Corona del Mar - Although the owners seem to have backed away from the idea of demolishing it (which is great news,) their remodelling plan didn't sound like it preserved the historic integrity of the structure. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
  • Movieland Wax Museum (1962), Beach Blvd., Buena Park - Less a historic site than a colorful landmark, the museum is now closed and empty. I hope the site's best remaining elements can be worked into whatever replaces it. It wouldn't be hard to save the footprints of the stars in the front courtyard. The same goes for the replicas of Michelangelo’s David (actually a remnant of the Palace of Living Art) and the façade of Mann’s Chinese Theater.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some important sites and buildings, but this is a start. Please post additions to the list by clicking the “comments” link at the bottom of this post.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Anaheim, Las Flores, Sharon Clairemont, Shirley Babashoff, etc.

Today we have a 1961 view looking east on Katella Ave. in Anaheim, near the Santa Ana River. It's amazing how recently this part of Orange County was still "out in the boonies."

A "Western Hoedown," with music, dancing and barbecue, will be held Oct. 11, 4-9pm, at the Las Flores Adobe to raise funds for the Camp Pendleton Historical Society. For more information, visit the CPHS website or call Gwen at (949) 493-8444.
Sharon Clairemont's "ASK" blog is still fairly new, but already has a lot of interesting posts, including entries about the opening of the James A. Musick Facility, about a historic home in Anaheim Hills, and about Saddleback Plaza.
For you sports history fans, Chris Epting has an interesting article in the current edition of Orange Coast magazine about Olympic swimmer (and Orange County mail carrier) Shirley Babashoff. The October issue also includes short articles about historic homes in Orange County, and about the statue of John Wayne at John Wayne Airport.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Fashion Island (Part II)

Here are the 1977 images of Fashion Island that I mentioned on Wednesday. The first image (top) shows The Broadway, and the central courtyard with its acrobat sculptures. The black and white photo shows the cool Modern display wall of a store called Apropos. And the third image shows the rather unique playground that once stood in the middle of the shopping center.
Except for a couple stores and the koi pond, most of the old Fashion Island is gone. When I was a kid, I'd visit Carl's Toys and the playground and snag a paper pirate hat from the Jolly Roger restaurant. And I'd wait (not so) patiently while Dad picked out a jacket at Silverwoods or while Mom shopped at The Broadway.
We'd usually have lunch in Robinson's cafeteria-style lunch room, which had a view of the ocean and excellent tostadas. The exterior of the old Robinson's building (now Macy's) still features the largest windchimes in the world - an enormous hanging bronze sculpture by artist Tom Van Sant.
Thanks for bearing with me as I drifted out of the realm of history and into the realm of nostagia. The two sometimes overlap.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Anaheim events update

Today's photo shows street paving in Anaheim in 1910. The photo is marked "Fairchild-Gilmore-Wilton."
The O.C. Mexican American Historical Society's next event is tied to a photo exhibit about Anaheim's Mexican community, hosted by the Anaheim Public Library. The program will be held in the Library, 500 W. Broadway, Oct. 11, 10am-Noon. Author Marcelino Saucedo will discuss "Mexican Heritage on Catalina Island." Angelina Veyna, Prof. of History & Chicano Studies at Santa Ana College, will discuss the history of Mexicans in Anaheim. Ms. Saucedo's book and the 2009 OCMAHS Images of Orange County Calendar will be available for sale.
Don't forget the Anaheim Historical Society's 2008 Historic Home Tour on Oct. 11 & 12, 10am-4pm. This tour is only held every other year, so sign up now or feel bad about missing it until 2010. See the AHS website for details.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fashion Island, Newport Beach, SAHS, etc.

I was skimming a 1977 issue of Orange County Illustrated magazine today when I stumbled across an ad supplement for Fashion Island shopping center in Newport Beach. It inspired today's post. (In a day or two, I'll actually post some of the images from the OCI ad itself.)
Today's first image (top) shows the Fashion Island area in 1965, prior to development. Note the great view of Newport Harbor in the background. The second photo shows Fashion Island's grand opening on Sept. 9, 1967. Notice the Santa Ana High School Saints Marching Band waiting to play.
Fashion Island was built on part of the Irvine Ranch, and is still owned by the Irvine Company. In fact, the site (along with much of the surrounding land) was home to the national Boy Scout Jamboree in 1953.
Originally, Fashion Island had 52 specialty shops, two restaurants, and four anchor stores: The Broadway, Robinson's, Buffum’s, and J.C. Penney's. The four buildings housing the big department stores were designed by William Pereira and Welton Becket.
Over the years, stores came and went and parts of the shopping center were expanded and redesigned. The largest makeover came in 1988/1989, when the Modern buildings (with a Spanish Revival twist) were morphed by architect Jon Jerde into a quasi-Italian/Mediterranean style. Suddenly, it seemed like a whole new place.
Lord knows why old shopping malls make me nostalgic, but seeing the original incarnation of Fashion Island definitely does.
Both of today's photos come from the Cye Featherly Collection at the Orange County Archives.