Saturday, May 29, 2010

Newport Beach, Irvine, San Clemente, Disneyland

While looking for something else, I stumbled across the "Smith's Uptown Motel" blog and these great 1960s images of the Newport Channel Inn, on Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach. The motel is still there, but sadly this amazing sign is not.
"Anonymous" wrote this great story in the comments section of my Feb. 20, 2009 post about the Orange County International Raceway (OCIR) in Irvine. I thought it should get a bit more exposure here on the front page:
"...The weekend before they tore up the track at OCIR, I was driving by, and noticed the back gate was open. I drove in and had a look around, and then made a few passes down the 1/4 mile in my 1982 AMC Eagle SX/4. I remember there was a lot of rubber in the traps from the burnouts they did in the last big party, and they had already started ripping up the stands. My times weren't good, but I had a lot of fun for a few minutes. As I was coming down the return lane, a woman security guard suddenly zoomed up behind me and pulled me over. She was pretty peeved, and wanted to know how I had gotten into the track. She lectured me about how there was no insurance, and I had to get out. She escorted me to the open gate, and locked it behind me as I left. I always wondered if my Eagle was the last car to run the 1/4 mile at OCIR, as they started tearing up the strip during the following week. I also wondered if I should have asked the woman security guard to lunch."
Casa Romantica, the home of San Clemente founder Ole Hanson, has opened a San Clemente history gallery and a gift shop. Sounds like that might be worth checking out.
Disney has announced plans for the makeover of the Disneyland Hotel. Happily, they have decided to play up the history and the 1950s/60s Modern design aspects of the place. New features will include a tiki/Polynesian style restaurant, water slides that look like the old Mark I Monorails, and a replica of the old Disneyland sign that once stood on Harbor Blvd. That sounds like all kinds of cool. My personal thanks to guys like Don Ballard, Kevin Kidney, Jody Daily, and the late Bruce Gordon, for reminding us (including Disney, it seems) that nostalgia and history are as important at theme parks as anywhere else.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tours, meetings and exhibits all over O.C.

Here's a photo from May 26, 1951, showing divers sent by the County to help clear obstructions from the bottom of Newport Harbor. I love those old helmets!
Rick Gold of the Laguna Beach Historical Society will lead a free tour of historic Downtown Laguna Beach on May 29th, 10am-noon. The tour will begin in front of the library at 363 Glenneyre St.
Speaking of tours, the Dana Point Historical Society has put together great new pamphlets with self-guided historical driving and walking tours of the harbor and downtown areas. Mine came in the mail from the Society, but I imagine they’re available through the Chamber of Commerce too.
The Anaheim Historical Society’s Annual Dinner will be held June 11th at Bella Marri’s on the site of the former Downtown Anaheim. Danny Dunton will be the speaker, and I understand he has some wonderful stories to tell about old Anaheim. Contact Helen at (714) 774-2077 for details.
The Garden Grove Historical Society will hold their annual Book & Barn Sale, June 10-12, at 12174 Euclid Ave.
The San Juan Capistrano Historical Society (SJCHS) will hold an open house on June 10, from 5pm until dark, at the O’Neil Museum, 31831 Los Rios St.. Call (949) 493-8444 to RSVP.
From July through September, the SJCHS will also host a photo exhibit at the Arley Leck House about the life and times of Fr. Saint John O’Sullivan. The well-remembered restorer of the missions came to Capistrano a century ago, on July 5, 1910.
A slide presentation on the history of Seal Beach will be held at the Marina Community Center, 151 Marine Dr., on Oct. 27, 2010. The event is being held to mark the city’s 95th anniversary. For more information, call (562) 598-6492.
An aside to the historical society that complained that attendence is dropping off at their monthly programs: Please consider holding events that have something to do with local history. The sort of folks who joined your society would probably be interested in such things.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Jolly Olde Los Alamitos

I love this undated postcard from the Rossmoor Inn, at 12311 Los Alamitos Blvd., Los Alamitos. It was located just north of Garden Grove Blvd. It's not every day I find an old postcard from either Rossmoor or Los Alamitos -- and this one is both,... sort of.
The text on the back reads, "A charming Old English Hunt Club Atmosphere complete with stained glass windows, lush carpeting, rich upholstery, and authentic hunting shields. A truly beautiful dining room and cocktail lounge with a unique center stage on which appears the finest entertainment available seven nights a week. Max and Howard Schreiber personally extend a warm hospitality to all guests. in addition to Gourmet Dining every night, lunceon is served from 11 am to 2 pm daily."
Am I the only one who sees this place and thinks that Eyvind Earle's art for Disney's Cinderella may have had some influence here?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Talbert/F.V., Anaheim, Orange, Crystal Cove

I gave a talk at Diane Ryan's Orange County History class last week in Fountain Valley, and I stopped to take a few photos. The image above shows what was once the center of Downtown Talbert: the intersection of Talbert Ave. and Bushard St. The general area was already known as Fountain Valley when the Talbert family moved there in 1897 and sparked the beginning of a town called Talbert. When the town incorporated in 1957, Fountain Valley was chosen as the city's name.
"The Center at Founders Village" now sits on the site of the old Fountain Valley School. Outside, you'll find the bell originally donated by the pioneer Wardlow family to the school in about 1900. (And yes, there are still Wardlows living just down the street.)
There's a great article in the Register, entitled, "Anaheim ID's 1,263 'historic gems' to preserve." It says that "Anaheim's Citywide Historic Preservation Plan ...lists guidelines for owners to follow if they want to restore their homes or businesses to original standards. In some cases, homes could be eligible for property-tax breaks through the Mills Act. ...Listed properties cannot be razed for at least 60 days after an owner applies for a demolition permit. That time would allow city staff and preservationists to talk to the owner about buying or moving the property before it's bulldozed."
It fascinates me that while some cities, like Anaheim, have recognized the wonderful "rising tide lifts all ships" effect of historical preservation, other cities continue to actively campaign against it. Improving even a handful of properties increases an area's property values, and ultimately garners more taxes. But some cities can only see that they might have to give up a little something up front. I believe the term for the anti-preservationists is "penny wise and pound foolish." (And of course, you can forget about selling them on the non-monetary benefits.)
As Anaheim has discovered, investing in your city's past means investing in its future.
On an unrelated note, check out these excerpts of the Discover Orange County program featuring Phil Brigandi giving a tour of Orange and Laura Davick giving a tour of the cottages at Crystal Cove.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Morrison Park, Santa Ana

The Morrison Park Neighborhood Association in northern Santa Ana invited me to speak to them on Thursday evening about "How to Research the History of Your Home." What I didn't know was that my presentation would be followed by a fascinating panel discussion by some of the area's earliest residents. Aside from a few farm houses, the area was all orange groves until the first tract went under construction in about 1955. Some of these folks were original owners.
From left to right, the people in the photo above are Don and Deanie Bass, Dick Kirwin, Anne Neidring Haus, Al Glicksir, and Lester and Jean Davis.
Forty-year resident Don Bass said the park was named for Judge Kenneth Morrison, who presided in the juvenile courts and who was very concerned with Orange County's youth. "He used to sit in the bleachers at the Santa Ana Bowl with a bullhorn -- A one-man cheering section for the Saints."
The Davises have lived in their home almost 55 years. A Tustin "farm boy," Lester moved to Santa Ana to raise his family. He bought in the Vista Del Flores tract (now considered part of the Morrison Park neighborhood), and paid $14,500 for his home! He remembers the baby boomer kids taking over the street when school was out -- once counting 76 kids playing touch football in the street together.
Lester Davis also spoke about Morrison Park's most famous resident, Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan, for whom Corrigan street is now named. In 1938, Corrigan, a pilot, filed a flight plan to go from New York to Long Beach, but ended up in Ireland. He claimed it was a navigational error. However, he had previously been denied permission to make a transatlantic flight. The "wrong way" gimmick was his way of getting around the rules. He moved to Santa Ana in 1950, purchasing a home and an orange grove.
Davis said, "Corrigan had a reputation as difficult with the City Council, but I never found him that way. He was a very gentle man and a very concerned neighbor. He had a barn out back with the airplane from his famous flight in it. His son still lives in the house."
Al Glickser, once employed by the Long Beach Press-Telegram, is a well known figure in the neighborhood today. He expressed his heartfelt warm feelings about his neighbors and his neighborhood. "You can't live somewhere 40-some-odd years and not become attached," he said.
Anne Neidring Haus recently moved to Floral Park, but came back to be part of the panel discussion. She said that many of the people who lived on their old street, Fairbrook, worked down the road at State Farm Insurance, where her husband, Gordon, also worked. She said that other ideas for the park's name included Corrigan and Fairbrook. But Morrison was chosen because of Judge Morrison's dedication to helping young people.
Dick Kirwin first saw the neighborhood when he was a driving instructor at Santa Ana High School. He had his students drive all over town, and in the process he noticed this area that he liked. In 1966 the Kirwins left South Santa Ana and moved to Morrison Park.
Dick Kirwin said that Corrigan wanted to sell off his orange grove and have it turned into apartments, but the neighbors didn't like the idea. They went to Mayor Loren Griset and asked him to take the issue before the City Council. The Council voted to let the local residents decide on the zoning. They decided the land would be used for a church (part of the parking lot of Spurgeon Memorial United Methodist Church) and a park. He said that a creek also once ran through Corrigan's property, but no trace of it remains today.
I wish more neighborhoods would get together like this to learn about their own history. What a great idea! My thanks to the Association for inviting me!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Directory of O.C. Historical Organizations

Do you help run a local historical organization? Be sure to send contact information for your organization to the Orange County Historical Commission for the 2010-2011 Directory of Orange County Historical Organizations. To be included, please let them know,...
  1. The name of your organization (i.e. How would you like to be listed in the directory?)
  2. Your organization's mailing address
  3. Your organization's physical address, if it's different from your mailing address
  4. Phone Number
  5. Web Address
  6. Email

There are four ways to respond:

  1. Mail the information to Room 303, 211 W. Santa Ana Blvd, Santa Ana, CA 92701
  2. Send an email to
  3. Call (714) 973-6655
  4. Fill-out a questionnaire at

In order to meet the publishing deadline, the last date for response is June 15. If you have any questions, please call (714) 973-6610.
(The illustration of the Old Orange County Courthouse at the top of today's post is by Duane L. Carter.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hobby City, Before & After (Part 2)

Another thing that's now missing from Hobby City is the Dugout -- a sports card and collectibles shop. The building itself was pretty nondescript (see the before and after pictures below). But click to enlarge the image above and see what the mural on the back of the building looked like. It may have been the most 1980s-ish spot in all of Orange County.
The mural was painted by K.G. Farrah in 1985, one year after the official Cabbage Patch Kid Adoption Center opened immediately across the walkway. Demand in America was so high for these weird little dolls that Hobby City staff actually flew to Europe and other parts of the world to buy more of them and have them shipped back. It was actually worth the cost of the plane tickets and shipping! During the Christmas season, the starting price for Cabbage Patch Kids was $70 each. In 1985, the shop expanded and added “nurses,” a “viewing room,” and “incubators.”
The before and after photos below show the view from the Starr St. entrance to Hobby City in 2006 and today. The buildings that once housed the watch shop, the wildlife museum, Radical Reptiles, and other businesses are now long gone, replaced by additional parking for the White House Events Center.
If anyone knows how I can contact Kevin Dunn or Chris Rayburn, who I believe ran the Radical Reptiles store, I'd appreciate a lead (via email, please: cjepsen at socal dot rr dot com). No, they don't owe me money or an iguana or anything. I just want to ask them a couple things about the building their shop was in.
This last photo shows another building that disappeared from the Hobby City property in the last year or two. I'd figure this to be a 1920s-ish house, and I've always wanted to know more about it. One of the neat things about Hobby City was that it was chock-full of little urban archaeological mysteries like this.
It's slightly less chock-full of them now, but still interesting. I'm sure I'll write something resembling an actual history of the place sometime in the future -- Maybe for a future issue of Orange Countiana?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hobby City, Before & After (Part I)

I love funky roadside attractions, I love local history, and I have a warm spot in my heart for "Mom & Pop" businesses. As such, I was very happy to hear that our lousy economy had spared Hobby City from being demolished to make way for condominiums. Bea and Jay DeArmond started this place, on the border of Anaheim and Stanton, in 1955 -- the same year Disneyland opened. In fact, they passed Walt Disney and his lawyers coming out of the Orange County Clerk-Recorder's office when they went to file their deed. (I need to write a lot more about these enterprising folks sometime later.) In any case, they ran this amalgam of interesting shops in off-beat buildings for many years, and their family continues the tradition today.
I recently stopped by to see how much of Hobby City had survived its near brush with the bulldozer. Many shops have moved out, a couple have moved in, and a number of things are missing altogether. Still, I'd say we're lucky that some of the most interesting bits are still standing and (hopefully) awaiting new tenants. Today is part one of a two-part series on the recent changes to Hobby City, comparing current photos with photos I took several years ago.
The photo at the top of today's post shows the entrance sign. The earlier version focused on "Hobby City" while the update focuses on the "White House Event Center." For those who don't know, the White House replica at the back of the property served as both the DeArmonds' home (upstairs) and the Hobby City Doll Museum (downstairs). First, click here for a video that gives you a glimpse of part of the old doll museum. (I tried to embed the video on the blog, but Blogger is so temperamental.)
.Now, the photo below shows the new events center, which replaced the doll museum. No, I don't know what happened to all the dolls.
For obvious reasons, this series is focusing on what has changed. But there's still plenty left for the roadside connoisseur to enjoy at Hobby City, including buildings that look like a tree, an aquarium, a log cabin, a fairytale cottage, and, of course, the White House. Operating shops include a model shop, a cake shop, a magic shop, a rock and gem shop, an "Old West" gun store, and the popular Adventure City mini-amusement-park for children.
Click through for PART II of this post...

Friday, May 07, 2010

Junior Colleges, WWII, Cathy Thomas & Fullerton

Doug McIntosh sent this photo of the students and instructors at Santa Ana Junior College Civilian Pilot Training program from the 1941 Del Ano yearbook. The caption reads, "During the 1939-1940 academic and summer courses, Santa Ana Junior College had the distinction of being the only one of 30 California junior colleges offering flight training to maintain a perfect survival record. Training was undertaken at the Eddie Martin Airport and the Anaheim city airport. Facilities for instruction included seven 45-horsepower Piper Cub Trainers for preliminary pilots and two new $5500 Timm Trainers for advanced students."
Unfortunately for us local historians, the ever-helpful, friendly and enthusiastic Cathy Thomas retired from the Fullerton Public Library on Monday. She's been running the historical collection for quite a few years and she will be missed. Librarian Cheri Pape will be running the Launer Room from here on out and seems like an excellent choice to take the helm. May both Cathy and Cheri find great fulfillment in all that awaits each of them.
Speaking of Fullerton, I visited Fullerton College for the first time today. What an amazing campus. The early historic buildings are beautifully complimented by newer structures that (in most cases) reflect the 1930s-style Spanish Revival theme. Even the floor numbers in parking structures are spelled out in colorful tiles. It is, as we Disneyland fans say, a fully themed environment. Makes me want to start college all over again.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Bolsa Chica's under the gun again

Joe Shaw at Greetings From Huntington Beach writes, "The Ridge development project, proposed for an important natural and historic site at Bolsa Chica, was approved Tuesday night by the Huntington Beach Planning Commission. Approving bankrupt builder Hearthside Homes’ 22-home residential project required the planning commission to re-zone this site from parkland to residential.
"The Planning Commission voted 4-3 to change the zoning, despite a plethora of evidence that the bluffs are too close to environmentally sensitive habitat and will destroy a sacred Native American burial and ceremonial site.... Both 'The Ridge' and the 'Goodell Property' ...overlap ORA-83 and ORA-86 which are historically and culturally significant to Native Americans and to our understanding of the Bolsa Chica’s ancient peoples. Together they are 'one of the most important archeological sites' in all of California. Both are threatened by residential development."
The photo above comes from the Orange Coast Voice, and shows protesters at Bolsa Chica in 2008. They were there "denouncing the building of houses upon an 8,500 year old village site, which includes at least 174 human burials."
The Bolsa Chica Land Trust will be fighting to save these historic sites in ways that will hopefully be a lot more effective than marching with signs.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Greek, Nixon, mining, Crystal Cove & Orange

Today's image shows Bob "The Greek" Bolen's surf shop on Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach in the 1960s. Bolen grew up surfing in Orange County, and in 1960 opened his shop, where he created and sold surfboards. The shop closed in 1980. These days he sells real estate. His office, at 322 Main St, in Huntington Beach, also features a small "Surfboard Museum." The photo above came from the Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board.
The Research Room at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda will reopen with service on the Nixon Presidential materials on Thursday, July 1.
The Orange County Local News Network (OCLNN) just ran a story about the history of mining in Orange County. They essentially quoted me correctly when I described our local mineral deposits: “There’s a little bit of everything in the Santa Ana Mountains, but not enough [of any one thing] for it to pay.” I was quoting Phil Brigandi. (...who may have, in turn, been quoting Jim Sleeper?) However, I didn't say that "the county’s mining boom was short-lived because the local bedrock is so fractured that valuable ores are difficult to find." I hope that statement is true, so I can seem smarter than I really am.
Laura Davick, founder of the Crystal Cove Alliance, will hold a tour of the historic Crystal Cove District and Cottages on May 8, 10am-noon. (Tours are held on the second Saturday of each month.) Park at Los Trancos parking lot off PCH between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. The 2-hour walking tour will leave from this lot at 10am. There will also be a book signing and a plein air painting demonstration. The tour is free, but parking is $10.
The Orange Community Historical Society will offer a walking tour of historic Downtown Orange on May 8, beginning at the Orange Main Library & History Center, 407 E. Chapman Ave., at 10am. These tours are held on the second Saturday of most months.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Cordelia Knott(?), trains, El Toro, Santa Ana, Fox

Maybe you can help me with this one. It's been a long day, I'm tired, and my judgement isn't as good as it could be. The photo above is from Our Lovely Orange Corespondent, and the woman on the left of the photo is her great-grandmother. Obviously, the photo was taken in the Pitchur Gallery at Knott's Berry Farm in the 1940s, which is why she sent it to me. But what interested me most was the woman holding her great-grandmother's hand. I think the second woman from the left in this photo bears a striking resemblance to Cordelia Knott. Or is it just me? You tell me.
If this is Cordelia, this must be right at the beginning of Ghost Town (circa 1941), based on her appearance. And no, there are no known family stories about being great friends with the Knotts. But who knows? LOTS of people knew the Knotts back then, and it probably wasn't considered a big deal -- Just another nice, industrious family, etc.
Our Lovely Orange Corespondent also shot some video today of the historic Santa Fe 3751 highballing past the Orange Depot . Note the California Zephyr cars tacked onto the back of the train.
I spent much of today at the Rancho Days Fiesta at Heritage Hill Historical Park in El Toro (or Lake Forest for you newbies), and saw a lot of cool stuff. Some of it will undoubtedly become "blog fodder," beginning with this carriage below...
The carriage was in the barn used by the Saddleback Area Historical Society, and stands next to a panel which reads:
This buggy was built by the W.F. Lutz Co. in Santa Ana, California before the turn of the century. It originally sold for approximately $54. This buggy was first purchased and used by a Santa Ana doctor. It was later used by the Plavan family, who farmed in Southwest Santa Ana. It was donated to the Saddleback Area Historical Society by Shirlie Plavan, an El Toro pioneer. The buggy was restored in 1985 by Leroy Evans for $440. He donated many hours of time to returning this piece of Orange County history to [its] former glory.
The Fox Fullerton Theatre will celebrate its 85th birthday on May 11th with a free showing of Citizen Kane on its outside wall, beginning at 7:15 pm. (The inside of the theatre is still being restored/renovated.)