Friday, July 30, 2010

San Clemente, Modjeska, Dana Point Harbor

Here's another circa 1940 postcard from Tom Pulley; this time showing Coast Highway (Route 101) in San Clemente. Click to enlarge and see glimpses of the Miramar Theater, the Casino San Clemente, (both from 1937,) and the Aquarium Cafe.
The Helena Modjeska Society and Polmar Travel are presenting a play entitled "Modjeska: The Artist's Dream" at the Capistrano Center for the Performing Arts, 31776 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano, 8pm, Aug. 13 & 14. Actress Ewa Boryczko will portray the "famous Polish actress Helena Modjeska, who comes to America in 1876 with the dream of performing on the American stage." Modjeska lived locally in Anaheim, Modjeska Canyon, Tustin, and on Bay Island in Newport Harbor. Tickets are $25 each. See their website for details and tickets.
Tomorrow (Saturday) is the 39th anniversary of the dedication of Dana Point Harbor. We'd like to believe that our friend Doris Walker built it herself, using her backyard rock collection and a shovel. It is, however, possible that the County of Orange and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were somehow involved as well.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Orange, Carey Baughman, and Escape from L.A.

Today's image is a view up N. Glassell St. in Downtown Orange. It comes from a postcard in Tom Pulley's collection that was postmarked 1940.
Carey Baughman, the Education & Programs Coordinator at the Old Courthouse Museum is transferring to Heritage Hill historical park in El Toro starting tomorrow. She'll be the new Historic Resources person down there. It's a step up for her, I think, but it's the Old Courthouse's loss. We wish her all the best.
This Sunday, Aug. 1, will be the 121st birthday of the County of Orange. What are you doing to celebrate our escape from the clutches of Los Angeles?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Civil War, using cameras for research, Katella, etc

Another historic point of interest at Irvine Park is the Civil War cannon in front of the Spanish-American War monument on the lake's edge. An adjacent plaque reads:
"Cast in 1853 by the Ames Co. Foundry of Chicopee, Mass., this howitzer was brought to California during the Civil War and assigned to the garrison of California Volunteers at Drum Barracks, Wilmington. Secured from the State Armory in Los Angeles, it was installed on June 20, 1908, as Orange County's first courthouse cannon -- 'a symbol of peace.' Replaced in 1925 by a captured World War I field cannon, the old brass 'seven pounder' was brought to Irvine Park to guard this Spanish-American War Memorial which was dedicated November 11, 1926."
In his book, Bears to Briquets: A History of Irvine Park, 1897-1997, historian Jim Sleeper says the gun is "properly a twelve-pound brass howitzer," and tells us that
"...The gun worked its way west through the Indian campaigns, arriving in California sometime during the Civil War. Here it was assigned to ...Wilmington to defend the coast against Confederate privateers. Later, one story holds, the cannon was sold to Cuba, then captured back during our war with Spain."
Do you find yourself shooting digital photos of documents in archives (or other historical collections) while doing research? I'm helping gather information for an article on this growing phenomenon, and any information or anecdotes you can share (in the comments below) would be appreciated. I started shooting photos of documents myself about five or six years ago, and have noticed a lot more people doing the same recently. Thanks in advance for your two cents.
Old house restorers take note: Pasadena Architectural Salvage will hold a sale, Sat., July 31 & Sun., Aug.1, to celebrate their recent move to our new location. Everything will be at least 20% off the marked price.
Our pal Werner Weiss at Yesterland has posted an article about Katella Ave. and how it got its name.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Irvine Park, Knott's, Huntington Center, and books

Here's an interior view of the 1914 boathouse at Irvine Park. You can see where the rowboat-shaped slips have been modified to fit the peddle-car-raft-thingies. Most of the structure and concrete seems to be original, as do the rings used to tie down the boats -- one of which is shown below. For exterior before-and-after views of the boathouse, see my related post from 2008.
Some time ago, I posted links to video and photos of the historical tour of Knott's Berry Farm that I helped Phil Brigandi conduct back in April. Another video (this time from Mark Eades at the Register) has just turned up online, in case you missed the others.
Pleasant Family Shopping recently covered the 1966 Montgomery Ward store at Huntington Center. I understand that Costco may be coming to that location soon, so if you want photos of the Wards ruins, go now.
O.C. has a new used book store: Copper Penny Books is at 649 W. Imperial Highway Suite J., in Brea. They moved here from Diamond Bar. For information, call 714-990-2033. Here's hoping they have a local history section.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Irvine Park, cemetery book, tourist traps & Googie

Here's a postcard from Tom Pulley's collection, depicting Irvine Park (originally called Orange County Park) in the early 1920s. We spent some more time at Irvine Park this weekend and I may be posting more about its history soon.
Patty Boardman had just finished a small book for the Orange County Cemetery District entitled A Walk To Remember: Mini-biographies of Pioneers Buried in the Santa Ana Cemetery. It's available at Santa Ana and Anaheim Cemeteries and during tours at the historic Howe-Waffle House in Santa Ana. Only about 100 copies were printed, so move fast if you're interested. More information is available at
Stuff From The Park just posted some great material on the Palace of Living Art and the Japanese Village & Deer Park in Buena Park.
Ken at OutsideTheBerm has a great post about the Knott's-inspired Tinker Town in New Mexico. My pal Mike T. tipped me off to this cool roadside attraction years ago, but I've never had the chance to visit. Ken's virtual tour will have to do for now. (I'm particularly fond of the sign there that reads, "Yet there are souless men who would destroy what time and man will never build again.")
On a marginally-relevant note, I'm happy to see that I've been quoted in the same article with MODCOM's Chris Nichols in a Whittier Daily News article about preserving Googie architecture. Good company indeed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Laguna's Gate

I was in Laguna Beach for the Festival of Arts this weekend and noticed this gate-shaped sign, hanging high above the intersection of Park Avenue, Forest Avenue, and S. Coast Highway. It reads,
"This gate hangs well, and hinders none. Refresh and rest, then travel on."
Naturally, I had to research the story behind it. The short version is that there was once a combination drug store and ice cream/refreshments shop near that site which put that gate there. But of course there's a longer version of the story too...

In her book, Images of America: Laguna Beach, Claire Marie Vogel writes,
"In 1915, Carl Hofer opened [his store] on Forest Avenue. As a prize to the person who could suggest an adequate name for the store, he offered a leather pillow. A little girl stopped in and proposed to name it "The Gate," because her father had seen a pub in England with a gate sign that had poetry written on it. The girl won the pillow, and the now-historic hanging gate was made."
It seems unlikely that a little girl would remember the name of a bar. Presumably, her father was there, coaching her and offering his memory of the English pub's sign. . Many pubs throughout England, and later in America, had similar signs. In the July 1800 edition of The Gentleman's Magazine, published in London, the following appeared:
"In traveling through an inland county this summer, I remember to have seen... a small public-house, adjoining to the road. A gate was suspended aloft to a post, for a sign; and underneath was written this... 'This gate hangs well, and hinders none, who chuse to drink, and so pass on.'"
The gate-shaped sign and its poem were pervasive. An 1819 edition of The Gentleman's Magazine (which certainly seemed to take great interest in pub-lore), featured an essay entitled, "Remarks on the Signs of Inns, etc.," which included the following:
"...A little gate itself is a common sign at small public houses by the road side, and on it is generally written, 'This gate hangs well, and hinders none, Refresh, and pay; And travel on.'"
Note the more mercenary tone of the second line. There were variations on the poem, but this "pay and travel on" version was the most popular. . 
 300 block of S. Coast Highway, circa 1920s. Photo by Ed Cochems courtesy UCI Library.

In short, this kind of sign was very common. Unless someone has access to Laguna Beach newspapers from 1915, we may never know which English pub inspired Laguna's gate. 

In a 1996 Coast Magazine article, historian Jim Sleeper noted that while Hofer did indeed first display the sign/gate in Laguna Beach in 1915, he initially did so up the street a bit from it's current spot. 
S. Coast Highway at Forest Ave. (gate visible), Fall 1921 (Photo by Ernest F. Caldwell)
"It was located up Forest Avenue at Carl E. Hofer's confectionery," Jim wrote. "A year or two later, Hofer acquired the Forest and Park corner and installed the gate, but his stay was brief. he sold to Warren & Warren, who removed the gate, when they occupied the site as a drug store. In 1921 the Warrens sold to D. L. Rankin, who resurrected the gate and Hofer's old 'Soda Pop and Cigars' banner."

There are claims that the current iteration of the gate dates to 1935, although it's likely -- considering what damp salt air does to wood -- that some, if not all of the gate has been replaced over the years.
The gate in the 1930s.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Disneyland's 55th Anniversary

Depending on how you count it, either Saturday or Sunday will be the 55th anniversary of the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim. On July 17th, 1955, the press, dignitaries, and Walt Disney's Hollywood friends saw the park for the first time. That was also the day that the big Dateline: Disneyland TV special gave the whole country its first look at the (almost) completed theme park.
The following day, July 18th, 1955, was the first day the park was open to the public.
Which anniversary date you think of as the actual opening is up to you.
The photo at the top of today's post comes from a 1957 issue of Holiday Magazine. The early concept art for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party (a.k.a. "the Teacups"), shown below, comes from a 1955 issue of McCall's magazine. I found both on a neat blog called Gold Country Girls.
Notice how the characters of Alice In Wonderland were to play a much more central role in this early version of the attraction.
Artists Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily of Anaheim have come up with some totally outstanding merchandise in honor of Disneyland's 55th. (And what could be more appropriate than celebrating a Disney milestone with merchandise?!?) Check it out on Kevin's blog and the Disney Gallery's website. Jody and Kevin will be inside the park, at the Disney Gallery (the old bank on Main Street), signing their work on Saturday, the 17th, from 9am to 11am.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Laguna Beach, A&P, candy, and robot gorillas

With all the artsy stuff bringing tourists to Laguna Beach this time of year, I thought I'd post a couple shots of an iconic Laguna tourist attraction. Here are two views of The Pottery Shack on Coast Highway. In 1936, the Childs family opened The Pottery Shack in what had previously been the unfortunately named Yum-Yum Tea Room. The business operated in that location until 2004. Two years later the place reopened as a collection of shops and restaurants called "The Old Pottery Place." According to their website, the whole complex has been "renovated in compliance with The Secretary of Interior’s specifications for historical structures and under the auspices of the Laguna Beach Heritage Committee."
The image above is probably from the 1960s, and the postcard below appears to be from the 1950s. Both images feature statues of Laguna's "Greeter," Eiler Larsen. The UCI Special Collections' blog, "Anteater Antics," recently featured an interesting post about Larsen.

Update, 7-18-2010: In response to this post, alert reader Matterhorn1959 (of Stuff From The Park fame,) writes, "I always enjoyed the greeter. Is the other statue still by the hotel?"
Statue at Greeter's Corner Restaurant. (Photo by author)
Well, the statue isn't exactly next to the hotel, but it's about a block away, in front of Greeter's Corner Restaurant. In fact, it's just across the street from the gate sign. Except for a missing thumb, it's in good condition.
Yesterday's Register featured an article about A&P Collectibles' "30th anniversary that almost wasn't." This well-loved fixture of Old Towne Orange lost its lease recently but at the last minute landed a new space right across the street. May A&P continue to provide for O.C.'s antique china and silver needs for yet another 30 years! (By the way, their handsome new shop is in the Christopher Building (1931), on N. Glassell, which was built by the same Christopher who invented such candies as Big Cherry and Sunkist Fruit Gems.
This blog generates quite a bit of email. But this message from "K.C." is probably the strangest email I received this month:
"I am inquiring about your animatronic gorilla for rent. Do you have pictures and pricing?"

Friday, July 09, 2010

The "Old Mission Cemetery"

I finally stopped to see the Mission Cemetery in San Juan Capistrano the other day. It was hard to find -- tucked away behind an office park -- but it was worth finding.
Most folks think of the cemetery being within the walls of the Mission itself, and indeed there are some early graves there. But according to clerical historian Father Zephyrin Engelhardt, a smallpox epidemic in the early 1860s filled the little church yard to capacity, forcing the expansion to a new cemetery atop a hill about 3/4 of a mile to the east. (Strangely, however, there are earlier burials at this site, beginning with the 1847 grave of one of the Forster children.)
It is this second cemetery that we visited this week. It's located near what is now the intersection of the Ortega Highway and Rancho Viejo Rd. It is a mishmash of unidentified graves with simple white wood crosses, hand-lettered grave markers made of every material imaginable, simple modern memorial plaques, and a few larger, more elaborate monuments. Big old trees provide shade. It is not open to visitors, but you can look through the fence.
Only families with direct ties to the Mission's history can be buried in this cemetery, which is now called the "Old Mission Cemetery." Look around and you'll see the names of Californios, pioneers, and Juaneno Indians. Until very recently, the families were not charged for burials here.
The Diocese of Orange took over this place, in April 2010, fired the guy who'd been in charge, and started charging for burials. At the same time, it was announced that space was running out. Perhaps as few as 10 spaces were still available. Perhaps none. The cemetery was closed, beginning in May, until it could be determined how much space might remain.
Next time you're in Capistrano, visiting the Mission or the downtown shops, be sure to cross over the I-5 Freeway and visit the Old Mission Cemetery as well. It's yet another fascinating symbol of Orange County's deep roots.
(Some historical details in this post come from Pamela Hallan Gibson's book, Dos Cientos Anos En San Juan Capistrano.)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Mystery picnic

This photo appeared on the cover of the Orange County Historical Society's County Courier newsletter from June 1979, and it comes from the Society's photo collection. No location or date are provided. Do you know where the folks are picnicking, or when?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Ocean View School, Joe Musil, and many events

Above is a photo of the Ocean View Grammar School, built in 1886 at what is now the southwest corner of Beach Blvd., and Warner Ave. in Huntington Beach. The photo below shows Mrs. Master's 6th and 7th grade students at the school in about 1927. (I'm not sure if they had a new building by then.)
Doug McIntosh, who supplied the 1927 photo writes,

"Attached is a photo I received from my great aunt Nellie (McIntosh) Hoisington. She and her brothers & sisters attended grammar school at Oceanview School in HB. My aunt is no. 2, and my great uncle Fred McIntosh is no.7. Nellie was born in 1915 at Laws, Calif. Fred was born in 1916 at Bishop, Calif. Fred was killed in a plane that was shot down over Germany in WWII on Sept. 23, 1944. My great aunt Nellie lives in a senior facility in Westminster, Calif. Her mind is very sharp. She is quite a joy to talk to. "You may recognize some of the last names of the picture students....Coker, Gothard, etc."
Doug also included the list of students' names written on the photo. I will try to decipher them below the image.
Here's as much as I can figure out from the list: 1. Augustina, 2. Nellie Mc[Intosh], 3. Agnes Debuck, 4. Alice Breading, 5. Juanita Gothard, 6. Roberta Irwin, 7. F[red] McIntosh, 8. Kenny Vandruff, 9. James Wilmarth, 10. Harley Asari, 11. Boyd Coker, 12. John Pryor, 13. David Gardner, 14. Keith, 15. Coy Rogers, 16. Gerald MacMillan, 17. ______, 18. Wesey Cowling, 19. Thelma Bailey, 20. Mildred Bailey, 21. Va. Kirkpatric, 22. Lydia Jackson, 23. Ruth Stinson, 24. Eva Preston, 25. Sumi Aciani, 26. Irene Robinson, 27. Mildred Moore, 28 Maureen Moore, 29. Elizabeth Wilmarth, 30. Elizabeth Shuthe, 31. Toshiko Furuto, 32. ________, 33. Lily Kikuchi, 34. Grace Isom.
To clarify a post someone made on another website, the Orange County Historical Society will NOT hold a meeting this month or in August. We always take those two months off. Per tradition, the Society will have their "season opener" meeting at Sherman Gardens & Library on the second Thursday in September.
The Orange Community Historical Society and the Crystal Cove Alliance will both offer historical walking tours on July 10. The Red Car Museum in Seal Beach will also be open that day. See their respective websites for details.
Also, the Santa Ana Historic Preservation Society will hold their annual awards meeting on July 10th, 2-5pm at the Howe-Waffle House. Long-time SAHPS board member Guy Ball will receive their Annual Preservation Award. In addition, several other community members and organizations will receive awards for their superior efforts to preserve historic aspects of Santa Ana. Also, Michelle Light, of UCI's Special Collections, will speak about Edward Cochems (1874-1949), a noted Santa Ana photographer, who was also the father of SAHPS founder, Adeline Cochems Walker. Oh, and did I mention the event is also an ice cream social? Tickets are $10. See SAHPS website for details re signing up.
Christopher Crouch of OC wrote to us about the passing of Santa Ana's Joseph Musil Jr.: "Renown architectural designer, art deco expert, and all around champion of classic theatre showmanship, Joseph Musil Jr., passed away on June 29, at the age of 74. Among Mr. Musil’s many career highlights were some of the most awe inspiring cinema designs of the modern era. If you have ever visited Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre, you've experienced the special magic Mr. Musil brought to his work. In celebration of Mr. Musil’s life and work, the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation will host a final open house at the American Museum of Theatre Design & Studio of Theatres, on July 10th. Located in Santa Ana’s historic Santora Building, the museum served as both Mr. Musil’s work studio and home to his extensive collection of cinema memorabilia. With his passing, this will be the final opportunity to see a priceless collection of cinema artifacts, original design models, and Mr. Musil’s ten curtain Strand Theatre. For further information, please visit" The event will take place at
207 N. Broadway, Suite P, Santa Ana, 1-4pm.
The historic Bradford House, 136 Palm Circle, Placentia, will be open for tours 2-4pm on July 11th. The modified Queen Anne Victorian-style home was built in 1902 by rancher Albert Sumner Bradford.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Independence Day

Happy 4th of July! To celebrate, what could be more American than a replica of Independence Hall built by Mr. Patriot himself, Walter Knott? Dedicated on July 4, 1966, Buena Park's version of this iconic structure grew from Walter's desire to honor the American ideals that had made his own amazing success possible, and his desire to share his love of freedom, liberty, and American history with young people.
The photo above shows some of the first young visitors to the building. Since most Orange County kids were unlikely to visit Philadelphia any time soon, this building and its exhibits made the story of the American Revolution come alive in a way school books could not. And it still does.
The photo above shows a newly completed Independence Hall and a narrow, 1966 version of Beach Blvd. The billboard, announcing the attraction's upcoming grand opening, was designed and hand-painted by artists Don Treece and Jerry Nicholson.
The photo below shows the interior of Heritage Hall, next door to Independence Hall, which held additional exhibits highlighting even more American history, including the Westward Movement. (A natural at Knott's Berry Farm.) At one point, Heritage Hall also featured a small theater where films about American history were shown.
Imagine! Teaching children that America is a GOOD thing! Of course, they'd excised that kind of talk from schools long before I got there.
Today we know that "individual freedom" means having a variety of wireless service carriers to choose from. And we evolved and modern folk now understand that "liberty" means no longer having to make decisions for ourselves.
The statue above, by sculptor Claude Bell, still looks out over Highway 39. It depicts a Minuteman -- one of the simple farmers and working folk who took up arms and gave their lives to give us freedom, liberty, sovereignty, and a nation ruled by law and the will of the people rather than the whims of tyrants and kings.
Remember the Minutemen and all who followed in their footsteps this Independence Day. Let's try to be worthy of their sacrifice.

Friday, July 02, 2010

60 years since Pacific Electric's Santa Ana line

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the last day of Pacific Electric Railway ("Red Car") service in Santa Ana. The last day, depicted in the photos here, was July 2, 1950. The line originally opened in 1905.
Speaking of Santa Ana, the Orange County Archives and the Old Courthouse Museum will both be open tomorrow, Sat., July 3rd, 1-5pm. Both are generally open on weekdays (except holidays, like Monday), but are seldom open on weekends. Stop by, say hello, and do a little research.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Dancing Waters

Even as Disney's California Adventure debuts its new World of Color water extravaganza this Summer, a much older water and light show across the street is about to disappear forever. The Dancing Waters show has been a fixture at the Disneyland Hotel since May of 1970, but it can actually be traced back over half a century and across the Atlantic to Germany.
After 20 years of experimentation and research by inventor Otto Przystawik, the Dancing Waters debuted at the West Berlin Industrial Exhibition in the summer of 1952. Some accounts say that parts of the mechanism were built as early as 1948. The Los Angeles Times described the show as being "Composed of several thousand feet of steel pipe, 19 electric motors, 4,000 jets, 60,000 watts of power and 38 tons of water. ...Two New York showmen who saw it promptly booked the thing for Radio City Music Hall... Contracts have been signed for shows in Atlantic City, Toronto and Dallas, following one in London at Coronation time."
Conflicting sources indicate that either Harold Steinman or Hans Hasslach was the original operator of the show in Berlin. But it was clearly Hasslach who traveled with the show for many years afterward. The show had to be "played" almost like a pipe organ. The movements of the fountains lagged behind the signals sent by the operator by a few seconds, so Hasslach had to stay a little ahead of the music and lights at all times.
After being viewed by some 1,500,000 people at Radio City Music Hall, the show traveled to the Los Angeles Home Show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in June 1954. It was such a hit that the program was brought back year after year.
Between home shows, the Dancing Waters traveled from event to event. It was a highlight of the 1954 L.A. County Fair. In early 1955, it traveled to Las Vegas to mark the opening of the Royal Nevada Hotel. The hotel began calling itself "The Home of the Dancing Waters," but it didn't last. By 1956, it was making the circuit of small-time events like Neptune Days in Redondo Beach and the Community Fair in Ontario, California.
In 1957, a special holiday version of the show played throughout December at Pershing Square in Los Angeles. The Downtown Business Men's Association sponsored the event and offered savings bonds as prizes for the best photos of the fountains.
The Dancing Waters made their way to the Southern California Exposition at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego in 1958, and celebrated the 4th of July at Newport Dunes in 1959.
A few years later, the show ended up back in New York. Freedomland, a Disneyland knock-off, advertised the "world-famous Dancing Waters" in 1962. That year, the L.A. Home Show had to settle for a smaller "replica of the famous fountain of dancing waters."
But the Dancing Waters show really hit the big time in 1964, when it was displayed throughout the run of the New York World's Fair. It was located in the "Lake Amusement Area," inside an inflatable "bubble" building.
Almost immediately after the fair, the show returned to Southern California, where it had a one-week stay in Century City, celebrating the opening of the Century Square Shopping Center. "The New Wonder of the Entertainment World!" read the ads. "Waters that actually dance! Combining color, music effects and visual beauty you've never seen before!...The wonder of the New York World's Fair..."
By 1966, the Dancing Waters show was back at the Los Angeles Home Show, where it would return each year until it was installed at the Disneyland Hotel. Oddly enough, in 1967 the show was right across the street from its eventual permanent home when it was part of the dedication ceremonies for the Anaheim Convention Center.
In 1969, as the Disneyland Hotel was preparing a permanent place for the show, the Dancing Waters made a final visit to Las Vegas, for a special event at the Circus Circus hotel and casino.
In May 1970, the Dancing Waters debuted in its new crescent-shaped amphitheater at the Disneyland Hotel. According to Disneyland Hotel expert Don Ballard, "Mike Berkus (one of only nine people in the U.S. trained to play this show) was the Hotel's first director of the Dancing Waters.... While the program was changed frequently over the years, one selection was retained from the original presentation, 'The German Waltz.'"
The photo above comes from, and shows the Dancing Waters as they appeared in 1988.
In 1992, a few years after Disney purchased the Disneyland Hotel, the show was altered by a company called "Waltzing Waters" to become the Fantasy Waters Show. The new program included not only colored lights, water and music, but also fiberoptic displays, light panels, and other elements. The musical score took on a Disney theme.
The Fantasy Waters Show ended a couple years ago, and now even the fountain's pool and backdrop are about to disappear as part of a big makeover of the hotel. I only hope the mechanism somehow survives and reappears elsewhere to continue the story of the Dancing Waters.
The photo above shows the Dancing Waters area as it appeared last weekend.