Friday, July 31, 2009

A bit more about J.J. Friis

There was a very nice and very well-attended funeral service for J.J. Friis this morning. At the reception afterwards, there was a table full of photos of him, including this older one (above) with his parents. Since I don't know how long the Register will keep J.J.'s obituary on their website, I'm posting it below:

Friis, James Jessen, of Orange, who was active for many years in Orange County musical and historical organizations, died Monday, July 27, 2009, at the age of 81, from the effects of a stroke.

Friis was born in Santa Ana on March 1, 1928, the son of Leo Jessen Friis and Lena Jane Carlson Friis, who had come to California from Iowa in the 1920s. The family resided in Anaheim.

Musical studies began early in his life, with drums at age 4, later piano, and by the time of his graduation from Anaheim High School in 1946, he also played the organ. He graduated from Pomona College in 1951 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis in music composition.

Friis also held leadership positions in the Musical Arts Club of Orange County, Santa Ana Community Concerts, and was a past dean of the Orange County Chapter of The American Guild of Organists. He also served as organist (and frequently choirmaster) of several local churches, among them St. Michael's Episcopal church, Anaheim, St. Joseph's Episcopal Church, Buena Park, and the Church of Christ, Scientist, Laguna Hills.

With his father, Friis founded Friis-Pioneer Press in Santa Ana, a firm noted for the publication of books of Orange County history. He served several terms as president of the Orange County Historical Society, as well as the Old Courthouse Museum Society, and was a member of the Anaheim Historical Society, the Orange Community Historical Society, and the Historical Society of Southern California.

The Native Sons of the Golden West, a fraternal organization of those born in California, was a major interest of his life, and he served several terms as President of Santa Ana Parlor #74 and as Grand Organist for the statewide organization. Friis was also a member of Anaheim Masonic Lodge, Long Beach Scottish Rite, and Al Malaikah shrine, Los Angeles.

Friis is survived by his wife, the former Harriet Lampert, who is also an Orange County native.

Funeral Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, July 31, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal Street, Orange. Visitation will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 30 at Shannon-Bryan Mortuary, Orange. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Trinity Episcopal Church, the American Diabetes Association , or the Charitable Foundation of the Native Sons of the Golden West (mail to Santa Ana Parlor #74, c/o Treasurer, 14932 Gainford Circle, Irvine, CA 92604).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Huntington Beach's Main St. Post Office (1935)

A number of postal employees are spreading the word that Huntington Beach's Main Street Post Office (1935) at 316 Olive Ave will close in October. Here's some of the traffic from the HBTalk listserv over the past couple days:
Marinka Horack wrote: "...The postal staff ...also said that the...building would be sold to the city. The downtown post office is a beautiful historic building and it would be a terrible loss if it were to be torn down... Does the building have historic status protection?..."
Chris Epting wrote: "That's an interesting building--a WPA project that actually has a sister building, exact same design, in Santa Paula, CA. Any official announcement about the closure yet?"
Mary Adams Urashima wrote: "The California 'New Deal' projects marked their 75-year anniversary in 2008, and they are still trying to identify all sites. The only one noted for Huntington Beach so far is the recreation building. Chris, do you know what year the post office was constructed? I believe the federal government must post a public notice for the sale of surplus property, subject to bids. However, there is a clause that allows for negotiated disposal of surplus property to "tax-supported agencies"-which would be the City. See section 203 of the Federal Property & Administrative Services Act (update 2000).
"With the present economic situation and the federal government trying to cut costs, the City might negotiate a great deal on a historic federal property. I would think a WPA building could easily qualify as a historic building, definitely worth preservation through grants or redevelopment funds."
John Earl wrote: "I wonder if there's a way to prevent this. Closing the downtown post office will create a great inconvenience for many who live in the downtown area."
Chris Jepsen wrote: "With a couple exceptions, the City of Huntington Beach has a poor track record with historical preservation. They've made noises in recent years about improving that reputation, but who knows if that will happen. In short, if you want to save the building, start *now*.
"The Post Office was built in 1935. It was designed by Louis A. Simon and built by L.F. Dow of Los Angeles. I believe it was built as a PWA or WPA project. Simon also designed the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Downtown L.A., the Canoga Park Post Office (1938), the Whittier Post Office (1935) and others.
"I'm very sorry to hear it's closing, because -- from a resident's perspective -- it was one of the last functional bits of Downtown."
[Photo of the building's dedication appears below.]
Mary Adams Urashima wrote: "...Louis A. Simon designed many of the depression-era post offices and other public buildings that are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He also designed the Internal Revenue Building in Washington, D.C., but let's not hold that against him. : )
"Here's the info from the Depew, NY, post office historic register nomination document (it's not as old as HB's downtown post office, but is listed):

"Louis A. Simon served as Supervising Architect from 1933 until 1939, but he had
been associated with the office from 1896. Simon was Superintendent of Architects in the office between 1905 and 1933. From 1915 to 1933...Simon was responsible for the direction of much of the design work. Most of Simon's buildings were designed in the Colonial Revival style and, on occasion, in a restrained or more stylized classically derived style. The use of a standard pattern for these buildings reflects the increasing simplicity of design and standardization of form which are characteristic of post offices of this period, the most prolific era of post office construction in the nation's history.

As early as 1930, the federal government had implemented a massive post office construction program to help offset widespread unemployment caused by the Great Depression. By the end of the decade, however, with the onset of World War II, Congress postponed indefinitely the construction of most post offices not yet under contract."

John Scott wrote: "[The town of Kearney,] Nebraska... was faced with a similar problem with their post office which I would guess was built about the same time as ours... Several retired professors... recognized the treasure that the city had in this old building and decided it must be preserved. ...This Post Office is now an art museum..."
Chris Jepsen wrote: "Huntington Beach needs a non-profit preservation group like the ones in Anaheim and Santa Ana. The group's primary goals would be to educate the public and government about our historical resources and to work toward preserving those resources. They could also promote local adoption of the Mills Act. And occasionally - and especially in the beginning - they might need to hire lawyers to make sure the city is complying with the historical aspects of CEQA.
"We did a program on historical preservation for the City at the Art Center early this year. Unfortunately, only a few people saw it because it wasn't promoted. I'd be happy to give that talk again if there's an audience for it. (I'd need a bit of advance notice, since I'd want to involve at least one additional speaker.)
"Another point: If H.B. is so dedicated to tourism, we should recognize the enormous economic value of 'Heritage Tourism' and put it to work for us. That means playing up our historic resources rather than bulldozing or remodeling them."
Epilogue: The the wake of these emails, I'm now hearing that the City and some postal employees deny knowledge of the situation, while others are verifying that the building is going to close. As things get clearer, I'll keep you posted.

Yorba Linda / Santa Ana Canyon field trip, Part 2

This is part two of my report on Saturday's field trip to see the remains Anaheim Union Water Co. canals in eastern Yorba Linda. (Click here for part one.) Today's photos show some of the interesting, mostly unrelated things we saw along the way. (There will be more about irrigation in what will be the third and final post in this series.)
The photo above shows our group near the "trail head." The construction in the background replaces apartments that burned down during the recent fires.
The photo below shows a few trees from the large Valencia orange groves that still occupy some of this area. They've been mostly neglected for years, but there's a plan underway to revive them as organic groves and start selling the fruit again.
My surveyor friends may have to help me out with the photo below. Does anyone know what a metal disk marked "F P No. 1" in an iron pipe means?
It's been a long time since cattle roamed this land, but here's a brittle bone that turned up in an area where the brush had burned away.
At one point we came across a clearing near the railroad tracks with lots of stone fire rings. Some were old and nearly obscured by hard-packed soil. Others, like the one shown below, were newer and more obvious. There were about seven rings total. I pointed out that this was a lousy place to start a fire. Steve said the rings were probably used by "knights of the road." Then it hit me: We were standing in the middle of a genuine "hobo jungle." If only John Hodgman had been there to appreciate it. I hummed "Big Rock Candy Mountains" most of the way back to the car.

Thanks to Susan Faessel for the first three photos in today's post.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

James J. Friis (1928-2009)

Orange County has lost a good man and a great champion of its heritage. James Jesson “J.J.” Friis died yesterday, July 27, at 10:00 a.m., several days after a stroke sent him to the intensive care unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange.
[Update: J.J.'s funeral will be held at 11am, Friday, July 31, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. Internment will be at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana at 2:30pm, following the service. Visitation will be available at Shannon Bryan Mortuary on July 30, 3pm-8pm]
The only child of noted Orange County historian and attorney Leo J. Friis (1901-1980), J.J. was born on March 1, 1928. He grew up on Clementine St. in Anaheim, near the city park, and graduated from Anaheim High School, Fullerton College and Pomona College.
On Oct. 6, 1973, he married librarian Harriet Jane Lampert in Orange.
Beginning in the 1960s, J.J. ran Friis-Pioneer Press (originally called Pioneer Press), which his father started in Santa Ana. He was first co-owner and then owner of the press and print shop. Under the Friss-Pioneer Press imprint, J.J. published many classic works of Orange County history. (See list below.) He also published books on other subjects, but I’m not as familiar with those. The print shop closed in the 1990s, but he published a reprint of an earlier title as recently as last year.
J.J. was extremely active in local historical organizations. He was the longtime chairman of the Old Courthouse Museum Society, was involved in the historical societies in Orange and Anaheim, and was still on the board of the Orange County Historical Society (OCHS) at the time of his death.
J.J. had also been active in the Native Sons of the Golden West since the 1950s, and served as their Statewide Organist.
Musical and artistic, he was involved in numerous musical organizations over the years and was dean of the Orange Coast Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.
In recent years, J.J. had a number of health problems, but he continued to be active in the community. As recently as our last OCHS board meeting, he was contributing thoughtful advice and giving us the benefit of his experience on a variety of issues before the board.
As Anaheim Historical Society president Cynthia Ward writes, J.J “was something of a legend. His ‘larger than life’ persona will be missed by all.”
Below is a list of some of the Orange County historical titles published by Pioneer/Friis-Pioneer Press:

  • Dr. Herb: Memoirs of Herbert A. Johnston, M.D., by Margaret Johnston (1961)
  • The Village of Garden Grove, 1870-1905, by Leroy Doig (1962)
  • George W. Barter: Pioneer Editor, by Leo J. Friis (1962)
  • Orange County Through Four Centuries, by Leo J. Friis (1965)
  • The Town of Garden Grove, by Leroy L. Doig (1966)
  • Tilda from Tustin, by Inez Pierson (1966)
  • Rawhide and Orange Blossoms, by the Quill Pen Club (1967)
  • The Charles W. Bowers Memorial Museum and its Treasures, by Leo J. Friis (1967)
  • When Anaheim Was 21, by Leo J. Friis (1968)
  • Yorba Linda, Its History, by March Butz (1970)
  • Newhope Days; An Adventure in Living, by Leroy L. Doig (1971)
  • Newport Bay: A Pioneer History, by Ellen K. Lee (1973)
  • David Hewes: More Than the Golden Spike, by Leo Friis (1974)
  • Anaheim's Cultural Heritage, by Leo J. Friis (1975)
  • Kleinigkeiten, by Leo J. Friis (1975)
  • The Olive Mill: Orange County's Pioneer Industry, by Wayne Dell Gibson (1975)
  • Villa Park: Then and Now, by Louise Booth (1976)
  • Anaheim...And So It Was, by Dixie Edwards (1976)
  • John Frohling: Vintner and City Founder, by Leo J. Friis (1976)
  • The City of Garden Grove, by Leroy L. Doig (1977)
  • Three Arch Bay, An Illustrated History, by Karen Turnbull (1977)
  • Historic Buildings of Pioneer Anaheim, by Leo J. Friis (1979)
  • At the Bar, by Leo J. Friis (1980)
  • Jeems Pipes of Pipesville Visits Santa Ana, by Leo Friis (1980)
  • The Ranchos of Don Pacifico Ontiveros, by Virginia L. Carpenter (1982)
  • Campo Aleman: The First Ten Years of Anaheim, by Leo J. Friis (1983)
  • Westminster Colony California 1869-1879, by Ivana Freeman Bollman (1983)
  • A Child's History of Placentia, by Virginia L. Carpenter (1984)
  • Centennial Cookbook, by the O.C. Pioneer Council (1988)
  • History of the Rosenhamer-Oberberger Family, by Dolores Rosenhamer (1990)
The photo at the top of today's post shows Harriet and J.J. Friis at the OCHS "Author's Night" event last December. He was discussing his recent reprint of Karen Wilson Turnbull's book about Three Arch Bay.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Anaheim Union Water Co. field trip, Yorba Linda

On Saturday, a group of local historians went snooping around Santa Ana Canyon in Yorba Linda for signs of the Anaheim Union Water Co. canal, which dates back to the 1850s. (For background on the AUWCO, click here and scroll down a little.) Fires burned away a lot of brush earlier this year, exposing many relics of earlier eras.
Our group gathered in front of the Susanna Bixby-Bryant Ranch House & Museum (1911), which we used as "base camp." The photo above shows the group at the museum, gathered around Carl Nelson, former Director of Public Works for the County of Orange and member of the History and Heritage Committee of the American Society of Engineers. The expedition included (from left to right) O.C. Historical Commissioner Pamela Harrell, author and Anaheim Planning Commissioner Steve Faessel, Anaheim Heritage Services Manager Jane Newell, the aforementioned Carl Nelson, O.C. Historical Commissioner Don Dobmeier, OC Parks Ranger Ron Nadeau, and "Cemetery Angels" Melanie Goss and Ann Nepsa. Susan Faessel and were both taking photos and missed being in the shot.
We carpooled out to the far eastern end of River Bend Dr., went through a small gate and continued east on foot, parallelling the railroad tracks. Almost immediately, we found a hole where the tops of the covered portion of the canal had caved in. Eventually, we found several others as well. The photo above shows Steve headfirst into one of the larger holes. (He was in full Tom Sawyer's Island mode.) Below is a photo of another such hole, uncovered in the fire.
The hike started out quite easily, but became slightly trickier as the trail disappeared. Yes, the fire burned out a lot of brush, but it's growing back quickly in places.
The photo below shows the site of the zanjero's home. There were a number of big burned trees around the site. Note the open ditch running along the base of the bluff.
If you trek out this way, I'd recommend closed shoes, long pants, and a bit of care in avoiding snakes and poison oak. Luckily, I think we all managed to avoid anything worse than a few burrs and a little sunburn. This was especially impressive in Ann's case, since she made the hike in flip-flops!
The images above and below show an interesting concrete structure along the canal. Nobody knew quite what to call it, but it reminded me of a complicated weir box on steroids. Perhaps someone out there will know what purpose it served. Water pipes come out of the bluff above and seem to empty into a small ditch cut *around* the box. The inside of the box isn't terribly deep, and it seems more than a few people have taken shelter in it from time to time. Corrugated metal sheets were placed over the top for shade or privacy.

I'll probably post more photos and commentary from this field trip sometime in the next few days. (We saw a number of other interesting things as well.) Meanwhile, if you'd like a sneak peak, click on over to the AUWCO set on my Flickr site.
My thanks to everyone involved in this short expedition. It's amazing how many bits of history can still be found in the parts of O.C. that haven't been completely covered with tract housing and strip malls.

Support your local historical collection

Chrysler just destroyed their own historical archives.
Admittedly, that doesn’t have much to do with Orange County history, (the subject of this blog,) unless you count the millions of Chryslers that have driven our roads since the 1920s.
However, it serves as a cautionary tale about short-sighted organizations that try to save money by axing their priceless (yet inexpensive-to-maintain) historical archives. After all, who knows what "penny wise and pound foolish" cuts still await California as our economy circles the drain?
According to Bob Elton at The Truth About Cars, Chrysler's new owner, Cerberus (named for the three-headed dog at the gates of Hades), "eliminated its archivist position. They stopped funding the documents’ maintenance. The company limited access to their archives and then stopped it altogether. Worse was to follow. With little notice and no planning, Cerberus literally abandoned the engineering library at the Chrysler Technical Center. The library was shuttered and the librarian laid off. And then the real crime: all the library’s books and materials were offered to anyone who could carry them away… Within a week, a collection spanning decades was scattered to the winds; the books and other materials will never again be available in any coherent, comprehensive form.”
As one reader responded, “Destroying any archival material for the chump change it would take to preserve it is insanity.”
Another wrote, “Heritage is an asset at which the bean counters have never been able to attach an actual $ sign to, therefore, as far as they are concerned, it’s not [important]... The documentation being sold, trashed, lost, stolen, and given away… borders on illegal. At the minimum, immoral.”
Remain vigilant folks.
(The photo above shows the Chrysler Corp. building at, 1111 N Brookhurst St., in Anaheim, during the 1960s.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Yorba Linda, Clyde Fairbairn, Ghost Town, etc.

I'm getting up early tomorrow to join other local historians on a small adventure in Yorba Linda. We're going to hike to some old irrigation canals that were uncovered by brush fires earlier this year. (Yes, I actually plan to be awake on a Saturday morning.) In honor of this event, I'm posting a few Yorba Linda photos today. The image above is from the Anaheim Union Water Co. and shows the Yorba Linda Reservoir around 1907. The photo below is from Yorba Linda Lake in 1910.
Jacob Stern and his fellow investors founded Yorba Linda in 1908. Future president Richard Nixon was born there five years later. Below is an ad for the community from 1909, probably just before the town's marketing efforts were taken over by the Janns Investment Co.
Interested in the history of Olive or citrus labels? Check out Daralee Ota's latest addition to her Olive Through The Ages website. Both she and Gordon McClelland (who I still want to meet someday) contributed new stories about late Olive resident Clyde Fairbairn.
There's an interesting but somewhat esoteric research project going on at the Outside The Berm blog. It seems there's some confusion over the history of the old "Katella Gate" at Disneyland. If you're interested, check out both the first post and the second post (including the comments) on this topic.
I know some of you are fans of vintage Knott's Berry Farm, so I thought I'd pass along the news that a film production wants to turn Ghost Town into a movie. Part of me hopes the film is made, turns out great, and renews interest in Ghost Town in the same way the Pirates of the Caribbean movies gave the original ride a fresh new audience. Another part of me remembers theme-park-inspired films like Country Bears, Mission to Mars, Haunted Mansion, etc., and hopes the whole idea just fades away.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Orange County history!

Depending on the exact location of Portola's camp in Christianitos Canyon, either today or tomorrow is the 240th anniversary of Orange County history itself.
On July 22, 1769, Gaspar de Portola and his expedition camped in the canyon, near what is now the border of Orange and San Diego counties. They found an Indian village there, where Fr. Crespi baptized two gravely ill children -- the first baptisms in California. (Hence, the canyon's name, which means "little Christians.")
The following day, they continued their march northward, and were (by that point) definitively in what is now Orange County.
Both Portola and Crespi kept diaries, and the expedition's engineer, Miguel Constanso, later wrote up the official narrative of the trek. They were the first Europeans in Orange County, and the first to record the experience. And without records you can't have history.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beary Tales, Fun Zone, Laguna Beach, etc.

Remember the Knott's Beary Tales dark ride in the Roaring '20s area of Knott's Berry Farm? Well, a few of the critters from that attraction are making a comeback. Read more about it on the Register's Around Disney blog. (The photo above shows "walk-around" versions of the bears in 1976.)
I did my longest speaking engagement (so far) today at CSUF. I spoke for two hours on the history of Orange County, from pre-historic times to the end of WWII. Given more time, I could have brought it up through the current day. It seemed to be well recieved. If you have a historical group that would like to hear part or all of that talk, let me know. I'd hate for all that prep-time to only be good for one program. I also have a popular hour-long talk on Googie architecture, and a half-hour talk about the Orange County Archives. I prefer not to just be free luncheon entertainment for general interest groups, but if you have a group with an interest in local history, let me know.
Ken at Outside The Berm has posted some swell old photos of Balboa's Fun Zone.
While looking for photos of Laguna Beach "greeter" Eiler Larsen, I stumbed across a blog called Dumb Angel, featuring lots of great old images of Laguna Beach, Balboa and the Rendezvous Ballroom. (Semi-NSFW Warning: There is at least one photo of a nude girl among those Laguna photos.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo 11

Exactly 40 years ago, man walked on the moon for the first time. But you knew that.
You may not have realized how many Orange Countians were involved in making that walk (and other trips into space) possible. From the mid-1950s on, O.C. was chock-full of aerospace industry workers. Everyone, from the engineers to the janitors, at each of the umpteen aerospace businesses involved in the space program can be proud of their contributions -- large or small. Yes, it took a smaller number of geniuses to plan Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, etc.,... but it took tens of thousands of Americans working together to make those plans a reality. And a fair percentage of them lived right here, working for organizations like Douglas Aircraft, Rockwell International, Zenith, Ford Aeroneutronics, McDonnell Douglas, the Aerospace Corporation, and the U.S. Air Force.
Today I'm posting a series of 1960s photos of the Seal Beach construction facility for the second stage of the Saturn rockets that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon.
These buildings were located off of Seal Beach Blvd. Note the sign, "Saturn S-II Production Facility. Under construction by the Bureau of Yards and Docks, U.S. Navy, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration." The photo above is dated 1965. This particular project was connected to Douglas Aircraft, which opened its Space Systems Center just down the road in Huntington Beach in Nov. 1963.
Here's an earlier photo of the construction facility, still under,.... um... construction.
Employment at Douglas' Huntington Beach facility peaked at 10,000 around the time of Apollo 11.
Notice the sign at the gas station across the street: "Minute Man Service." Wrong kind of rockety-type-thing, guys!
The Apollo program was clearly a high point for mankind. But I think we're all still waiting for the fantastic future it seemed to promise. Imagine what we could have accomplished had we kept our focus. Instead, our money goes to pay for giant corporate bailouts, unstimulating "stimulus packages" (both GOP and Dem), bread and circus programs, foreign aid, and a vast assortment of pork. (Not the tasty kind -- I could probably support that.) The good news is, it's never too late to get back on track.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Betty Trichler, O.C. Fair Queen, 1949

Linda Nemchock of Costa Mesa recently stumbled across the photo I posted last year of her mother, Betty Trichler-Ficovic, who was the first Orange County Fair queen crowned at the new permanent Fairgrounds. "I printed her picture from your site, and she was very excited to see it," Linda wrote. "She is 79 years of age. She loves to talk about being the 1949 Queen. She also was an actress in Hollywood for a time... "
Linda continued, "She had a stage name of Betty Dean. She roomed at RKO and I have some pictures of her and Hugh O’Brien during their early acting stuff and photo shoots at Del Coronado. She only did a few Westerns, Two Gun Lady (1955) was one of them. She did date O’Brien, Johnny Stompanado, was very good friends with Vic Damone and Nicky Blair. She wasn’t in Hollywood very long, maybe a couple of years, and then began her family. ...She once re-visited the OC Fair when Bob Hope was there, and got to go on stage with him when he was entertaining quite a few years back. "
Posted below is a recent photo of Betty and Linda together. Linda forwarded the clippings (mostly from the Huntington Beach News) and photos that appear in today's post.
Linda asked if I thought this would make a good story for one of the local papers. I said I thought it would be a great idea and have held off until posting anything until now. (There's no sense killing the story by scooping the paper.) Ultimately, the result was a front-page article in yesterday's Daily Pilot.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

O.C. Fair, SAAAB, Julius Schulman, etc.

This year's Orange County Fair features a great exhibit about the history of the Orange County Fair, the Fairgrounds, and the Santa Ana Army Air Base (SAAAB) that preceded it at the same location. Better still, it's housed in one of the old SAAAB buildings, near the back of the Pacific Amphitheater. The image above is a sketch for the "Gremlins" mural that was once at SAAAB.
The images above and below show other parts of the exhibit.
Earlier this year, I was very disappointed to see the bulldozing the old Administration building. But this time the Fair folks did something really nice.
Martin Brower will discuss his book about the development of Irvine, entitled The Irvine Ranch: A Time For People, at the Katie Wheeler Branch Library, 13109 Old Myford Rd., Irvine, on Wed., at 7pm.
The Fountain Valley Historical Society (which I don't get to write about often enough), will hold an ice cream social on Aug. 1, 2-4pm, at Heritage Park, adjacent to the Fountain Valley Branch Library. Sam Talbert's old real estate office will be open for visitors, and a variety of local memorabilia will be on display.
On a sad note, pioneering architectural photographer Julius Schulman has passed away at the age of 98. He took the once dry-as-toast function of photographing buildings for architects and turned it into an inspiring art form. Personally, I also appreciated his sense of humor.
I remember talking with him once about the Richard Neutra/Ramberg & Lowrey-designed Orange County Courthouse (1969), which he photographed extensively. The building's large water feature once notoriously leaked into the basement file rooms during a big storm -- A glitch the County blamed on Neutra and which Neutra blamed on the County's poor maintenance. When I suggested that I might want to write a book about the Courthouse someday, Schulman didn't miss a beat: "I've got your opening line for you: 'It was a dark and stormy night.'"I also remember an evening lecture and slide show that was largely attended by pretentious snobs. (Their vibe was unmistakable.) I suppose they expected Schulman's talk to be as high-brow as the magazines and galleries his photos appeared in. But along with iconic images and memories of great architects, he also also gave down-to-earth advice to photographers and included many snapshot-like photos of dogs playing in parks and bikini-clad women on the beach. The stuffed shirts in the audience - many of whom brought dates they wanted to impress with their artsyness - turned various shades of red, white and green. It was wonderful.
An exhibit of Schulman's work in Fullerton ends tomorrow (Sunday) at the Fullerton Museum Center.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Bob Thomas

Robert E. "Bob" Thomas, the county’s first (and longest serving) CAO, is celebrating his 90th birthday today. The photo above shows Thomas (at right) with Supervisors Bruce Nestande and Harriett Wieder shortly after his retirement in 1985. The County's Hall of Administration was officially named for him at this presentation. Below is an image of that building under construction in 1975.

Thomas was hired as the county's Building Services Director in 1963. He couldn't actually take the job until early 1964, as he was still on active duty as a U.S. Navy captain stationed in San Diego. (I'm told he's a veteran of Pearl Harbor.) Once on the job, he oversaw the development of many major county facilities, including jails and the new Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana.
He must have impressed the Board of Supervisors, because in Fall 1967 they unanimously selected him to be the County's first Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).
In that position, he oversaw the growth and development of the county in an era of explosive population and budget growth. In fact, the county budget grew from less than $100 million to more than $1 billion during his years at the helm.
Upon Thomas' retirement, Supervisor Nestande call him "a longtime public servant, who has guided this county through its dramatic, unprecedented years of growth, helping this board cope with increasing needs and responding to the desires of various constituents as well as the mandates from the state and federal governments... Bob Thomas kept us on a realistic fiscal basis; he organized and supervised a responsive, aggressive and imaginative county government structure..."
As one former county employee recently told me, Thomas is "a good guy the county should remember."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer in Orange

Today's photo is a 1920s summertime view of S. Glassell St. from the Plaza in Orange.
The Orange Public Library & History Center (OPL) will present two workshops this month that might interest you. To sign up for either of them, call (714) 288-2465. The programs are...
  • Researching the History of Your House: A starting point for Orange home owners to learn more about their home. Workshop held in the History Center (2nd floor), OPL, tomorrow, July 14, 6-7pm. (Sorry about the short notice, but I just heard about it today.)
  • Preserving Your Photographs: Learn how best to identify, store, and display your photographs to ensure their longevity. Workshop held in the Rotary Room, OPL, July 21, 6-7pm.
By the way, if you'd like to know more about researching your home, you can also visit me(shameless plug) at the Orange County Archives. We have historical property records for the whole county from 1889 to 1953 and will help you with the research process if you need it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Orange County Fair, 1948

Until Costa Mesa finally gave it a permanent home in 1949, the Orange County Fair (which opened this weekend), used to move from city to city each year. The last pre-Costa Mesa fair was held in Anaheim in October 1948, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Anaheim's traditional Halloween parade and celebration. The fair ran only four days.
The theme for the 1948 fair was youth. There was lots of 4-H activity and involvement by 12 local high schools. Miss Phyllis Applegate of Huntington Beach High School was named queen of the fair and greeted Governor Earl Warren at an official reception.
The 1948 Fair also featured all the usual country fair standbys, like baked goods, garden and agricultural products, and displays from all the local chambers of commerce. In the photo below, Susan Robinson, 14, kneels amid an exhibit of locally grown fruits and vegetables.
At the beginning of the 1948 Orange County Fair, the L.A. Times wrote, "Fair officials... announced that 40 bombs would be set off throughout the county tonight announcing the opening ceremonies." Can you imagine how many people would be thrown in jail for pulling a stunt like that today?!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Orange County's flag

The Orange County flag was officially adopted by the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 11, 1968. The design was selected in a contest of high school students held earlier that year. There were 80 entries. The winning entry (shown above) was by Laura Shernaman, an 11th grader at Fountain Valley High School. The flag was first flown at the opening of the new Orange County Courthouse on Jan. 10, 1969, at 3:00 p.m.
Note that the flag features a yellow sunburst surrounding the County emblem – an element that is often left out.
The circular emblem at the center of the flag (featuring three oranges, Old Saddleback, and rows of fields) has somewhat mysterious origins. The first usage I’ve heard of was in 1948, but there is no sign that it was ever officially adopted by the County. The official County seal remains a single orange with a stem and three leaves.
Below is another iteration of the County flag. It's interesting how many different shapes the yellow sunburst has taken over the years. Notice also that the text has changed from gold to white and that the mountains look less like Old Saddleback. It seems the flag's design drifts a bit over time.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

D.F. Spangler's wave motor

The drawing above shows portions of Santa Ana inventor D. F. Spangler's wave motor. It comes from the H. Clay Kellogg collection at the Orange County Archives. Wave motors were sort of a trend near the turn of the century, with many clever tinkerers believing they might be a way to tap into the unlimited energy potential of the ocean's waves and tides. None of these dreams panned out the way they were supposed to, but that didn't keep creative folk like Spangler from trying.
From the Los Angeles Times, Feb. 21, 1896:
D. F. Spangler of [Santa Ana] has invented a wave motor that promises to become a "bonanza" to the inventor. Mr. Spangler is just a hard-working blacksmith, but he has ideas that indeed seem to be a benefit to mankind. The motor has been shown to a representative of The Times. It consists of a long lever with a hollow float, and connected with two gear wheels to a large air pump, or air compressor, and the air piped to a large steam boiler, or any strong tank or reservoir, and used the same as steam. The machine is a novel one, and is attracting a great deal of attention now by those who have heard of the use to which it may be put. The machine may now be seen here in Santa Ana at the shop of its inventor."

That shop is seen below, at 3rd St. and Sycamore.
Soon the motor was ready to be tested at the end of the wharf in Newport Beach. On May 1st, the Times reported,
"Messrs. W.S. Bartlett, Benton and Lafayette Flood of Santa Ana and Miss Ross of Fairview will stand by the inventor in the experiment, and if it proves a success the motors will them be manufactured on a larger scale. It will cost perhaps $1000, or slightly more, to put in the machinery for this first trial, but if the test is successful an arrangement will not doubt be made so that the power of the motor will be used by the Newport Wharf and Lumber Company and the Santa Ana and Newport Railroad Company in the handling of large quantities of freight..."
The motor was started in mid-May, and ran well for several days before an "unusually low tide" broke part of the mechanism, requiring lengthy repairs. After that, little was heard about the motor.
For the record, Spangler also had another notable invention. In 1894 he built a boat that was propelled much like a bicycle. It was similar, in fact, to the garishly colored boats that now tool around the lake at Irvine Park. Rather than the sheer joy of paddling about, however, Spangler saw the boat as a way for hunters to approach their game on Newport Bay almost silently.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Santiago Peak, Market Basket, and Disneyland

In response to my post about Old Saddleback, Doug MacIntosh sent me this great photo (above) from his trip to the top of Santiago Peak, on July 4, 1977 -- Exactly 32 years before my own trek. He also found a prehistoric biface stone tool that day, at "the edge of the graded road just below the towers... I must have been in third grade." (See photo below.) No doubt, a find like that must have been a factor in nudging him toward his career in archaeology.
Recent Register articles have included historical background on South Coast Plaza, and a story about the defunct Marine Corps Air Stations at El Toro and Tustin (with a related slide-show on their website).
In the blogosphere, Pleasant Family Shopping shares an old image of a Market Basket grocery store, and Kevin Kidney tells us things we didn't know about the first year of Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Orange County in 1842

The illustrations in today's post are the work of Edward Vischer (1809-1878). He drew them in 1876, based on his memories of visiting what is now Orange County in 1842. Obviously, they aren't perfectly accurate, but how many images of 1840s Orange County are you ever likely to see?
Vischer is known for the sketches he made of California in the 1860s and '70s. His most common subjects were the missions and scenes of nature. His early attempts to reproduce his drawings by lithography proved disappointing, which led to his becoming a pioneer in the area of photographically reproduced artwork. He published a number of well-known portfolios, including Pictorial of California Landscape (1870), and Missions of Upper California (1872).
At age nineteen, Vischer emigrated from Germany to Mexico, where he worked as a supercargo -- an officer aboard a merchant ship, charged with the commercial concerns of the voyage. In that capacity, he made many trips up the west coast of America and to Asia.
According to Palmquist and Kailbourn in Pioneer Photographers of the Far West, "In September 1842, Vischer sailed from Acapulco on the schooner California on a combination business and pleasure trip to Alta California, where he made a tour of Sausalito, Sonoma, San Rafael, and Monterey... Vischer concluded his circuit of California with visits to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Although he apparently did not sketch the missions and pueblos he visited in 1842, in later years he drew many of these scenes from memory."
It was on that 1842 trip that Vischer was introduced to and fell in love with California. But it wasn't until age fifty that Vischer truly devoted himself to sketching and painting. The image below shows Vischer around age 65, in 1874.