Friday, February 27, 2009

Roy Bryant makes unexpected appearance

About a year ago, Claim Jumper restaurants redecorated. Among their new artwork, I noticed old images from Knott's Berry Farm mixed in with those of real miners. Examples at their Fountain Valley branch included this enlarged 1950s postcard of Roy B. Bryant at the "Pan for Gold" entrance. (Now the entrance to the Ghostrider rollercoaster.) Bryant played the role of an old grizzled prospector at Knott's in the 1950s and '60s.
In response to yesterday's post about Knott's, the always-helpful Jennifer Blazey writes, "We are not tearing down anything on Main Street. We are just re-habing the peek-ins to restore them to their original form (or as close as we can get it.)" That's good news indeed! Thanks for the correction!
OCThen has a new post this week about Escape Country, a privately owned sports park in what's now Rancho Santa Margarita.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Knott's Ghost Town, Sam's Seafood & Don the Beachcomber

Sometime in the last week or so, much of the south side of Main Street in Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Town was torn down. For details, see Let's Talk Knott's. The images above show interiors from some of those buildings as they appeared earlier this month. The buildings were some of the first in Ghost Town and were built in 1940 and 1941. The plan is to replace them with very similar buildings and put all the "peek in" interiors back in place. I hope they remember to make it look old and weathered (as they did 68 years ago) to make it appear like an actual ghost town.
[Update: The always-helpful Jennifer Blazey of Knott's Berry Farm writes: "We are not tearing down anything on Main Street. We are just re-habing the peek-ins to restore them to their original form (or as close as we can get it.)" So perhaps the buildings were just disassembled and moved "backstage" for restoration and rehab. I know they were in very rough shape structurally and needed more than a little shoring up.]
I recieved the following news about Sam's Seafood/Kona (the last authentic 1960s tiki restaurant in O.C.) in an email from operating partners Susan and Chuck Purrington:
"...We have just signed the agreement to partner with the Original Don the Beachcomber! As some of you may know Don the Beachcomber was THE undisputed creator of the Tiki & Polynesian theme restaurants. ...There had once been well over 16 Don the Beachcombers throughout the country and the Islands. We are very happy to ...bring back the first restaurant of this iconic entrepreneur in almost 30 years to the mainland... We will continue to operate as KONA for the next few weeks [and will evolve] ...into Don the Beachcomber over the next few months."
The last I'd heard, Kona was probably closing, and looking for buyers. This partnership with Don the Beachcomber chain sounds promising and could be good for everyone - including Polynesian Pop purists. Let's hope the new management appreciates and maintains the wonderful decor and legacy left in place by Sam's and Kona.

Old Courthouse Museum / O.C. Archives event

Have you wanted to visit the Orange County Archives or the Old Courthouse Museum, but ony have weekends free? Come visit them on Saturday, March 7, 10am-4pm, for a special weekend open-house. Both are located inside the Old Orange County Courthouse at 211 W. Santa Ana Blvd., in downtown Santa Ana.
The Archives will be open for your research needs and will offer tours as time and staffing allow. Stop by and say hello, or stay for hours and get your fill of historical or genealogical information.
Meanwhile, the Old Courthouse Museum upstairs will present “Sing Me Your Story, Dance Me Home: Art and Poetry from Native California,” an exhibition of poetry, painting, basketry, jewelry, printmaking, photography and sculpture inspired by California Indian stories, songs, and dance. They will offer tours of the exhibit and craft activities. Mime and storyteller Abel Silvas will perform as his character, Running Grunion, (shown in the photo above,) introducing young visitors to native culture in an entertaining way.
Admission is free. Reservations are required for Silvas' 1pm performance. Call (714) 973-6610.

Monday, February 23, 2009

O.C. Black history, and Dana Point events

A small exhibit entitled "African American Pacesetters, 1900 to Present" is on display this week at the Old Orange County Courthouse. This display of photo reproductions and text, highlights "men who opened doors for black opportunities in Orange County." It's similar in concept and tone to last year's exhibit on notable African American women of Orange County. The exhibit is a collaboration by the Old Courthouse Museum and the Santa Ana Black Historical Society. The photo above (from the exhibit) shows Leroy Burks, who founded the Santa Ana/Orange County chapter of the NAACP in 1945.
The Dana Point Historical Society's (DPHS) next meeting will be Feb. 25, 6:30pm, at the Dana Point Tennis Center. Noted San Juan Capistrano historian Ilse Byrnes will discuss the preservation of historic homes. Also, Carlos N. Olvera and Barbara Johannes will highlight the history of the "Doheny House" (35101 Camino Capistrano) and the steps currently being taken to save it.
Speaking of which,... The Planning Commission's public hearing about the Doheny House's demolition permit application and EIR certification will be held March 2, at 7pm at Dana Point City Hall. The DPHS is encourages you to "attend this meeting, if you can, or send a letter or e-mail to the City expressing your position on saving this 1920's historic treasure."

More from Orange

Today we have more of Katie Schroeder's coverage of Orange's social event of the season. Half the town awaked in the wee-small hours to watch Immanuel Lutheran's historic parsonage move through the streets of Downtown Orange. Katie writes, "Here are some photos I took during the 1901 Queen Anne Victorian's move through town from 5am until 3pm... The shot [above] is one I was hoping to get -- Between Swift & Swift and the bank. I'm so glad I got up early to see all this.
"At the intersection of North Glassell and Maple Ave..." [Note the old theater on the right.]
"You can see all the phone, cable, and electrical lines that were shut down and moved to allow the house clearance down the street."
And here, finally, is the house at its destination, on Cleveland St. During the move, the roof and one of the windows sustained damage. The house still needs to be placed atop its new basement. That will be followed, of course, by many, many months (or years) of hard work. Bet it'll be amazing when it's finished.
Speaking of historic Orange, Phil Brigandi will discuss and sign his new book, Images of America: Orange, at the Orange Public Library, 407 E. Chapman Ave., March 2, at 7pm. Books will be available for purchase.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Historic parsonage moving update, Orange

As I mentioned recently, the 1901 Victorian parsonage at Immanuel Lutheran Church will be moved through the streets of Orange tomorrow morning, beginning at 5am. From it's current site on Pine St. (just south of Chapman), it will travel to 372 Cleveland St., where it will again serve as a private residence.
Our chief Orange correspondent, Katie Schroeder, went over this morning to see the prep work and take the photos I posted above. She writes, "...They were moving the house to the end of the block so they can get it moving right away tomorrow. All the school kids were lined up on the side of the street, chattering, squealing and giggling. Members of the church lined up with cameras and video cameras, and a few members were up in the bell tower [getting] an arial view..."
If you join the crowd watching the move tomorrow, the route will take you "west on Chapman, through the Plaza, up North Glassell, and hang a right on East Walnut to Cleveland. This route has the fewest problems with [utility] wires, and the streets are wider and don't have as many trees."
Personally, I'd have to set my alarm clock for 4am or earlier to see this, so it ain't gonna happen. I'm reminded of the words of Mike Neun: "4:00 a.m. is a terrible time. Hunters and fishermen get up at 4:00 a.m. That's why they want to kill things."
But I'm sure many of the die-hard Orange folk will be out there early, with cameras.

Orange County International Raceway, Irvine

The million-dollar Orange County International Raceway opened in Irvine in 1967 as the first quarter-mile "supertrack" in drag racing. It closed in Oct. 1983.
There are at least a couple good histories of the OCIR available online, including on on the NHRA website, and another at a website called Competition Plus.
Chris Epting visited the site of the old OCIR and took the photos below. He writes, "I was doing a Forgotten O.C. segment today [for KOCE-TV] at the site of the O.C. International Raceway. It was hard to find a trace of ANYTHING - but the Sand Canyon Ave. gate is still there. ...It's on Sand Canyon right by the entrance to the 133, between Laguna Canyon Road and Burt Road"

"In this shot, [below,] I lay out about where the track sat," writes Chris. "The red dotted line shows the location of Technology Drive."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Celery field near Westminster, circa 1900

Today's image shows celery harvesting near Westminster in about 1900. It's a fairly common postcard image, so it's quite possible you've seen it before. Unfortunately, the image is usually screen-printed and colorized, which is why I was happy to find a nice clear photographic print of the same image in First American's collection. I've posted some details from that photo below, beginning with the background. (As always, click any image to enlarge.) Can anyone identify exactly where this field is based on the buildings? The next image shows how they harvested the celery. Notice the racks for stacking the cut celery. The racks have legs that fit neatly between the rows without damaging the plants. It looks like two strong men could probably pick up and carry even a full rack. Also note that some of the men have bunches of celery tucked under their arms.
This last detail is interesting because it shows how knives were used to cut the bunches of celery from the ground.
In those days, celery was expensive, making it a valuable crop. The damp lands around Westminster and Huntington Beach turned out some of the best and largest celery crops anywhere. In the year 1900 alone, Orange County farmers exported 1800 train cars full of the stuff.
When I was very young, my grandfather told me that bellybuttons were designed as a place to put your salt when you're eating celery in bed. Of course, he also told me that big thing in the oven on Thanksgiving was a giant frog.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy 100th Birthday, Huntington Beach

These images are from tonight's Huntington Beach centennial confab at the pier. As I mentioned before, today marks the 100th anniversary of the City's incorporation.
The real story of the evening can be seen in the photo above. Look how many people showed up for an (only-semi-well-advertised) event on a cold Monday night, in spite of a rainy forcast! Clearly, there's a strong public interest in local history in Huntington Beach just waiting to be tapped. If the politicians on the dais tonight have any savvy, they'll tap into that interest and make it work for them and for their city -- the way they do in places like Orange and Pasadena. That's how cities get the Mills Act passed, how government begins to support preservation, and how city libraries launch new historical collections. What an opportunity to leave a positive legacy to your community!
This kind of large-scale interest is also how community preservation and historical organizations get started. That could also be a very good thing for Huntington Beach.
The photo above and the photo below include a number of long-time H.B. residents, local historians, former mayors, and descendants of pioneer families. How many can you name? (I was surprised to see how many former mayors are currently free on their own recognizance.)

The last photo (below) shows the array of officials lined up to speak. I won't ask how many politicians it took to fill that inflatable birthday cake (at upper left) with hot air. The joke's just too obvious.

Anyway, happy birthday to my home of 36 years: Huntington Beach! I'll post more updates and related items on this blog throughout the centennial year. I'll also be speaking to various H.B. community groups (if they'll have me), about the city's history and how we can preserve it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Huntington Beach, Anaheim, Orange, etc.

These photos show Huntington Beach in the early 1920s - when the oil boom was in full swing. Within a month of striking oil, the City's population grew from 1,500 to 5,000 and the skyline began to fill with wooden derricks. Imagine what a change that was for a small beach town. Today's Register features a new article about the City's centennial celebration.
Other recent Register articles of historical interest include a piece on Beek's Place in Black Star Canyon, an update on the remodeling (or remuddling?) of the Port Theater in Corona del Mar, and the news that one of the old hangars at MCAS El Toro has temporarily been turned into an ice skating rink.
The WalterWorld blog has a "then and now" post about the Crown Motel in Anaheim.
The 1927 gas station at 305 S. Main St. in Orange will be preserved. Although the most recent tenant, the Blue Orchid Flower Shop, has moved out, the building will either be preserved on site or moved to another location.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Huntington Beach Centennial, Feb. 17

A couple weeks ago, I stumbled across this unidentified photo in the Special Collections Dept. at UCI's library. My heart jumped and I knew immediately what I had in my hand. I'd seen the image only once before -- as a tiny, grainy, well-worn, half-toned newspaper cut in the Feb. 19, 1909 issue of the Huntington Beach News. This is the only clear photo I've ever seen of Huntington Beach's first City Council. The men are (from left to right) David O. Stewart, Ed Manning (the first mayor), Matthew E. Helme, C. H. Howard, and Charles W. Warner.
The photo became un-lost at the perfect moment. Tuesday, Feb. 17 will mark the centennial of the incorporation of Huntington Beach. The photo was taken exactly 100 years ago! Consider it a birthday present.
A ceremony to mark the centennial will be held at Pier Plaza (in front of the pier) on Tuesday, starting at 6pm. It will include presentations from the Mayor and City Council, county, state and federal representatives, the City’s Historic Resources Board, and the Chamber of Commerce. The Council will sign a proclamation that will be placed in a time capsule along with other items. The time capsule will be sealed and buried at City Hall towards the end of the Centennial year.
Descendants of Mr. Helme and Mr. Howard still live in town, and I hope they will be at the ceremony. I believe Joe, who owns the homes of both Mr. Manning and Mr. Warner, will also be there. (I hope it doesn't all get rained out!)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


The Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction at Disneyland began at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. Disney created the show as the centerpiece of the State of Illinois Pavilion. The lifelike “audio-animatronic” figure was groundbreaking technology at the time, and paved the way for many future attractions like Pirates of the Carribean. Lincoln’s face was sculpted by Imagineer Blaine Gibson, who based it on a life mask made of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The photo below shows Gibson and Walt Disney and looking at a copy of the life mask next to Gibson's sculpt.

After the Fair ended, Disney brought the show to his Anaheim park, where it opened in July 1966 and ran continuously until Jan. 1973. The show was brought back two years later and ran until Feb. 2005, when it was “temporarily” replaced with a show called, Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years. However, with the park’s 50th Anniversary long since over, Mr. Lincoln has still not returned.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A walk on the beach with flowers and violins

Click to enlarge each half of this large panorama of the Huntington Beach coastline circa 1946. An uncut, higher-resolution version of the panorama is posted to my Flickr account.
The City of Huntington Beach will mark its centennial on Feb. 17, at 2 pm. I thought this image was be a good way to get us thinking about it. Some of the landmarks you'll see (from left to right) include the oil fields, the Huntington Inn, the saltwater Plunge, the Talbert house, the Huntington Beach Co. headquarters building (now El Don Liquor), the original pavilion, the pier, the O'Barr Building (later Jack's Surf Shop), Main Street, the "new" (1930s) Pavilion/Pav-a-lon (later Maxwell's), and Dwight's snack stand.
Author Peggy Ridgway will give a presentation on the area's early floral industry, Feb. 15, 2pm, at the Costa Mesa Historical Society, 1870 Anaheim Ave. Her presentation is called, "Back in Time to 1859: To the Flower Farms & Markets of Southern California."
Jim Comer writes, "I am researching a man named Thomas A. Simons a violin luther, violinist and violin historian of sorts from Garden Grove... Any background information you may have on ...Simons would be greatly appreciated." If you can help, please drop Jim a line via email.
The next meeting of the Orange County Historical Society (OCHS) will be held Feb. 12, 7:30pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. Alexis Tate of the O.C. Water District will talk the new Groundwater Replenishment System (turning treated sewage water into drinking water). Don't ask me what this has to do with local history.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Balboa Island in the 1920s

We're going across the Bay and back a quarter century from my last post to visit Balboa Island in the mid-1920s. The first image (above) is a postcard from Jeff Delaney's website. The other two images were taken around 1924 and come from the family collection of Doug McIntosh.
Balboa Island was subdivided in the early 1900s and became part of the City of Newport Beach in 1916. The 1920s were important years for the island and brought paved streets, gas lines, a ferry, a rebuilt bridge and seawall, and a great deal of new housing development.
This photo was probably taken along Marine or Agate Streets.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Balboa, circa 1950

I just noticed a nice set of 21 old images of the Balboa area on eBay. They seem to be from the late 1940s or early 1950s. Normally, I don't plug auctions, but this gives me an excuse to post the images here. (And maybe this post will help the photos find a good home.)
Is it just me, or does that fire seem a little too close to that dark fence?
Notice how the center of the Peninsula is still mostly open space. You almost expect an old P.E. car roll through in the background. This series really gives us a feel for the kind of laid-back beach town Balboa once was.
Can anyone out there help pinpoint the locations in these photos? (Other than the Pavilion.)
The last image shows a goofly little car from "The Davis Brown Company" of Costa Mesa, which provided "television sales and service."

The Spaceman of Anaheim

Tomorrowland's wandering Spaceman first appeared on Disneyland's opening day in 1955 and was a regular until at least the late 1960s. Based on the photos I've seen, he and his companion, Space-Girl, had innumerable changes to their costumes over the years and were portrayed by many different "cast members." The 1950s costume above has "K7" on the helmet, a reference to Kaiser Aluminum, which sponsored the Aluminum Hall of Fame (1955-1960) and the giant Kaiser Aluminum Telescope - early attractions in Tomorrowland. The telescope is depicted on the Spaceman's chest plate.

Here's the spaceman doing what he did best: Posing for photos with tourists. I'd guess this one is from the late 1950s. Jimmy here is wiping the fruit punch stains off his mouth before posing for Dad's camera. (I believe these photos all came from an eBay auction I stumbled across years ago.)
Man, I'd give my eye teeth for a replica of this outfit to use as a Halloween costume. And maybe a Space Girl outfit for my girlfriend too. Know anyone who sews costumes from scratch? And does anyone have a spare "bubble helmet" or two sitting in their garage?

This last shot is clearly from the late 1960s, with the Astro Jets whirling around in the background. The costumes have been greatly simplified by this point, with the exception of the easy-to-damage antenna atop the helmets. For more about the Spaceman and Space-Girl, see Daveland's excellent post from last November.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Mariners Medical Arts, Neutra, and Orange

It appears that the Richard Neutra's outstanding Mariners Medical Arts complex (1963) is now officially saved! Kudos to owners John Bral and Westcliff Investors, to architect John Linnert, to the O.C. Chapter of AIA, to the City of Newport Beach, and to everyone else who spoke up for one of the great high water marks in Orange County's architectural history. Thanks also to Chattel Architecture for preparing an EIR that impressed even the Neutra family. Of course, I can't help but wonder how this scenario would have turned out had the real estate market still been healthy. (Note: I'm not sure of the source of the image above. It may be one of Julius Schulman's photos from when the complex was newly built.)
The 71-year-old fountain in the middle of Plaza Park in Orange is now repaired after a bunch of Chapman University students broke it. The University is doing the right thing by footing the repair bill.
The Victorian parsonage (1901) at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Orange is about to be moved for the third time. It will be moved to a lot on Cleveland St. at sunrise on Feb. 21, where it will again serve as a private residence.
Orange Public Library will receive a $5,000 grant to continue/expand its "Shades of Orange" barrio oral history and preservation program.

Monday, February 02, 2009

On the runway at MCAS El Toro, 1948

Today's photo shows a FH Phantom jet in front of the tower at MCAS El Toro in 1948. I've included two closeups (click any image to enlarge) to show some of the more interesting details, including the base's flying bull emblem. The press release sent out with the photo reads:
"SPEED KING LEADS MARINE JET FIGHTER FORMATION TO EL TORO.. U.S. Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, California.. July 19.. Lt. Col. Marion Carl, Marine fighter ace and holder of the World's speed record of 650.6 m.p.h. landed his FH Phantom jet fighter at El Toro Marine Base Friday as the lead plane in an eight-jet formation from Cherry Point, N.C.
"The World War II hero who shot down 18 1/2 Jap planes over Guadalcanal is now commander of the first Marine jet fighter squadron, and this marks the first mass flight of Marine jets from coast to coast. No attempt was made to establish any record.
"Colonel Carl will lead his eight Phantoms to Seattle and return to the east coast by way of Boise, Idaho and Omaha, Nebr. 'The world's fastest human' set the international speed record at Muroc Air Force Base [now called Edwards AFB] on August 25 last year, flying the Navy's Douglas blood-red Skystreak. in 1946 the Colonel became the first Marine flyer to take a jet off a carrier dock.
"OFFICIAL MARINE CORPS PHOTOGRAPH BY Sgt. Fred G. Braitsch Jr., Public Information Photographer First Marine Aircraft Wing."