Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pacific Beach Club, Trabuco General Store, etc.

Next week I'm giving a talk about the rise and fall of the Pacific Beach Club, which once stood between Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. It's a tale of the early civil rights movement in Southern California. It's also a mystery involving Roaring '20s con-men, the KKK, towering Egyptian architecture, bathing beauties, and arson.  This program will be the Orange County Historical Society's "season kick-off" program, held at Sherman Gardens, 2647 E. Pacific Coast Hwy, Corona del Mar, Sept. 8, 6:30pm.

The program is free and open to the public. The event will begin at 6:30pm with an appetizer/dessert potluck (bring enough of something for six people if you'd like to participate). The program will begin at 7:30pm. Hope to see you there!

Want to own your own piece of back-country charm? The Trabuco General Store (1940) is now up for sale. Details appear in the Register.

Casa Romantica's aforementioned "Salute To Hollywood" exhibit opened this evening. Admission is $5. As I mentioned before, it will include some materials and artifacts of movies shot in Orange County from the recent O.C. Archives exhibit.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Marine One, Diedrich Coffee, First American, etc.

One of the more interesting things to see at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda is the presidential helicopter, Marine One, used by Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. It's the same copter Nixon left the White House in the day he resigned. For a vehicle that size, the interior feels surprisingly cramped. But from the limed oak paneling to the retro carpeting to the ashtrays and Modern seats, it really feels like you're visiting the 1960s. The Heritage Museum of Orange County (remember our friends at the Kellogg House?) are now sponsoring a Speakers Series, and some of the talks sound pretty interesting. For starters, on Sept. 11th, Martin Diedrich will talk about the history of coffeehouses in Orange County, and on Oct. 9th, Parker S. Kennedy, Executive Chairman of First American Financial Corp. will talk about his company's long history and its dedication to preserving Orange County's heritage. I'm interested to hear both!

Been to check out the photos on the Orange County History Flickr group lately? (With over 4,000 images!) What could it hurt?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bozo's Birthday at Knott's Berry Farm

No, there's no excuse for this post, except that I'm tired. And at some point I was bound to post this stupid image I saved from an eBay auction. Warning: Creepy clown in Buena Park!

I believe this is Vance Colvig, Jr. appearing as KTLA's version of Bozo the Clown. He was the son of the original Bozo, Pinto Colvig. (Insert your own joke about your least favorite politician being "the original Bozo *HERE*.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Orange book, Gordie Duane, Civil War roots, etc.

Phil Brigandi's brand new book, A Brief History of Orange, California: The Plaza City, is now available for preorder from The History Press' website. The Chamber of Commerce should buy a big stack and give one to everybody who moves to town.

Today's photo shows Orange City Hall in 1921. The current City Hall is at the same location, on Chapman Ave. Boy, if I had a nickel for every time somebody told me how much more they liked the old city hall...

News from Sunset Beach: Famed local surfer and surfboard maker Gordie Duane just passed away. Barbara Haynes of the Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board writes, "he had the first surfbord shop under the Huntington Beach Pier. Then, after a fire, it was moved to the corner of 13th and PCH." Read more in the Surfers Journal.

Want to help with a Civil War genealogy project? Hal Horrocks of the Orange County California Genealogical Society (OCCGS) writes, "We have taken it upon ourselves to do the genealogies of all 500+ civil war vets buried in O.C. The project will probably take from 2 to 4 years to complete. Would it be possible to make an announcement ...about what we are doing and see if anyone might be interested in helping?" Contact Hal via email if you'd like to lend a hand. (Note: This project builds on the great work already done by Charles Beal, Gordon Bricken and their associates.)

Thanks to my readers for all the comments, suggestions and information you send along -- both digitally and in person. Writing this blog is fun, but it's a lot more fun with your input. As our attentive reader (spammer), Cheap Louis Vitton Bags put it recently, "We would find much happiness in reviewing the past."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Home Savings of America

I hear there's an effort underway to have ALL the old Home Savings buildings in Southern California -- as a group -- declared historical landmarks. I've never heard of a group classification like this, but I think these buildings are quite deserving. Why? Mainly because of the work Millard Sheets and the artists working under him applied to these buildings, both inside and out. Sheets was one of California's most important artists, and these buildings remain an amazing way to share art (and often history) with the people of this sprawling Southern California metropolis.

Adam Arenson runs a fascinating blog on this subject. Go and spend a couple hours reading.

Closer to home, artist Kevin Kidney of the Anaheim Historical Society is promoting the restoration of the fountain and John Edward Svenson sculpture, "Child on Dolphin," in front of the old Home Savings (now Chase Bank) at Harbor and Lincoln in Anaheim. The work was commissioned in 1970. The photo at the top of today's post shows the whole facade of the building shortly after it opened.

When Kevin says something should be restored, it's not just a passing thought. He and the also-enormously-talented Jody Daily have restored more than a few works of public art including the beloved Mr. Bali Hai statue at the Bali Hai Restaurant in San Diego.

I love the fact that these buildings and their art are finally getting the recognition they deserve. How refreshing and surprising, considering our reputation in Southern California, that they haven't been torn down already.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fox Fullerton, Disneyland Hotel, and Bowers

The still-under-renovation Fox Theatre in Downtown Fullerton recently took on a whole new look when the distinctive triangular marquee and the ticket booth were removed from the front. They've both been there for almost 60 years. However, the plan is to replace them with a 2-dimensional marquee like the one that was in use in the 1930s. See the Fox Theatre's website for more information.

I hear the D23 (read Disney fanatic) Convention in Anaheim this weekend was a bit toned-down from earlier years. Still, I hear there was some sort of ceremony for recently inducted "Disney Legends," including the late Jack and Bonita Wrather, who created the Disneyland Hotel. Our pal Werner Weiss recently wrote about their induction on his Yesterland site.

On a related note, Don Ballard's second book on the history of the Disneyland Hotel is now available for order. His first book was a beauty. I expect no less from this one.

Catching up: I missed this post on the Bowers Museum blog about Mrs. Ada E. Bowers and her memorial fountain. (The one in need of repair.) They mention how the Bowers left their land and money for the purposes of building a museum. Can you guess what details of the Bowers bequest are not mentioned in the article? Drop us a note in the "Comments" section if you know the answer.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fatty Arbuckle and O.C. Archives film exhibit

Roscoe C. "Fatty" Arbuckle (1887-1933) was one of the silver screen's first big comic stars. Best known as an actor, he also worked as a screenwriter and director. Raised in Santa Ana, he got the nickname "Fatty" from his school mates. (Aren't the little nippers charming?). In 1921, he was accused of raping and killing a girl. He was acquitted of these crimes, but his career was ruined. The still above shows Arbuckle wielding a mallet in the 1915 film, "Fickle Fatty's Fall," which was at least partially shot at the Joy Zone in Seal Beach. (Arbuckle's cousin, Santa Ana native Al St. John also appeared in this Mack Sennett film.)

It looks like many of the contents of the recent exhibit about silent films shot in Orange County, (assembled by the Orange County Archives, with funding from OC Parks) will reappear soon as part of a film exhibit at Casa Romantica in San Clemente. There's a possibility that it will also move on to the Fullerton Museum at a later date. Who knew we'd get this much mileage out of it?

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Enchanted Tiki Library

Since they've been desperately trying to pitch themselves as "Surf City" for the past decade or so, you'd think Huntington Beach would be more proud of what may be the world's only "Enchanted Tiki Library." The photo above shows the 2,400-square-foot Banning Branch Library, which began life in 1962 as the tract office for the housing developments being built all around it. Several of those tracts, including Newport West, featured some Polynesian-themed roof lines and street names, and the tract office was built to echo that theme. It was located at 22171 Bushard Ave.

On March 26, 1968 the whole building was moved just down the road and around the corner to 9281 Banning Ave., and was turned into a neighborhood branch of the Huntington Beach Public Library. In 2007, the City hired an architectural firm to draw up plans for a new 12,500 square-foot building to replace the current one. The economy has stalled this plan for the time being, but the intent is still there.

I'm all in favor of libraries, and certainly I'm in favor of bigger, better libraries in my own backyard. But I do hope the new building pays some homage to the old one. It's a great example of 1960s Polynesian Pop Architecture and an extremely rare remaining example of the offices that were once such a central part of Orange County's historically important boom years. Maybe they could even find a way to incorporate some of the old building into the new one. I could definitely see playing up the theme more, with interiors by Oceanic Arts and subtropical plants for landscaping.

"Surf City" indeed!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pacific Coast Highway and Huntington Beach

Here's an ad from the Nov. 24, 1916 edition of the Huntington Beach News, proclaiming the impending arrival of the new Coast Boulevard, (now known as Pacific Coast Highway. A few interesting points: The wide spot in the road called Los Patos was at the top of the bluffs just above the point where Warner Ave. crosses the highway.

Also note the zig-zaggy path from the bottom right corner of the map up toward Santa Ana. That was the short-lived Pacific Electric route that ran from H.B. to Talbert (now Fountain Valley), to Greenville and on to Santa Ana. When a flood knocked out the bridge over the Santa Ana River, it was never rebuilt. However, portions of the track from Santa Ana down through Greenville still exist.

The rest of the ad reads,...

"It is estimated that more than 500,000 people with at least 100,000 automobiles visit Long Beach annually. With the completion of a Coast Boulevard, Huntington Beach is sure to get a good share of this travel. Many are going to be impressed with our fine, high townsite and decide to stay here. Why not?
"Our three and a half miles of beach is second to none. We have back of us the richest farm lands in California, and OUR PRICES ARE THE LOWEST. Now is the time to invest before the completion of the Coast Boulevard. We have only a few close-in lots left on our special terms of NO TAXES AND NO INTEREST. Come in and see us before it is too late.

Speaking of Huntington Beach, Snake Gabrielson's online "Surfing Library" has posted local hero Bud Higgin's memories of the earliest days of surfing in the area. Link on over.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Smoking at the beach and drinking at the helm

The image above, taken from the Sept. 1, 1927 issue of the Los Angeles Express, is an ad for Motor Transit Stages. (Click image to embiggen.) In 1920, this service took over the old White Bus Line, which began in 1916. The Motor Transit Stage line, in turn was taken over by the Pacific Electric Motor Transit Lines, which operated from 1930 to 1953. These services were similar to the stagecoaches of the Old West in the sense that they took passengers to places the railroads (or trolleys) could not. An example of such a location is Laguna Beach, which never did get a line on the Pacific Electric Railway.

As far as the ad itself goes, I'm particularly taken with the fact that the man is enjoying the clean ocean air with his wife and child while puffing away on a cigarette. More than the old touring car, and more than the outmoded beach attire, that cigarette shows how much times have changed.

The Register recently reported the theft of the century-old school bell that served Buena Park's first school and which more recently stood in front of the Buena Park School District's office. One reader responded, "From now on when we catch these aholes I want their hands chopped off..." Sounds fair to me.

An article about the Los Rios Historic District in San Juan Capistrano also made the Register recently. Glad to see them promoting some fun historical sites lately.

I recently heard that The Helm has finally closed in Costa Mesa. Personally, never entered the place. It looked like the kind of joint where people go strictly to get drunk and stay that way. (A concept nearly as out-of-date as the smoking beach-goer at the top of today's post.) However, one also got the sense that The Helm was a time capsule. The exterior, at least, looked like it was locked in time in about 1958. For a description of the interior, I refer you to Gustavo's colorful article in the O.C. Weekly. I should point out that this closure came on the heels of an ADA lawsuit. (Can't historical landmarks be grandfathered in?)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Detour through Los Angeles

I know, I know,... WRONG COUNTY! But the land that is now Orange County was once part of Los Angeles County. That all changed in August of 1889, when we left the fold and set up shop for ourselves. Today's image is the cover of an old (1920s?) promotional brochure from the impressive collection of William Hockinson.

Orange County Historian Jim Sleeper once told me about an L.A. newspaper reporter who came to him to ask questions about Orange County's "provincialism." Jim answered his questions the best he could. Near the end of the interview the reporter asked one more question: "So, how often do you visit Los Angeles?"

"Hell," Jim replied, "I wouldn't drive to Los Angeles to watch Jesus Christ wrestle a grizzly bear!"
I'm told that quote ended up on the front page of the newspaper.

I can understand Jim's sentiments. Growing up in Southern California, most of my experiences with Los Angeles built a picture of a dangerous, smoggy, dirty place with way too much traffic.

But author, artist, neon expert and Los Angeles enthusiast J. Eric Lynxwiler recently convinced me to visit Downtown L.A. for a tour of its historic sites. I figured any tour Eric gave would be more than worth battling the traffic, but I remained wary.

Then he threw in an offer to visit "behind the scenes" of L.A. Public Library's massive History & Genealogy Collection. This sounded even better than watching Jesus wrestle a grizzly bear! I was in.

What I didn't realize was that Eric would bring along yet another L.A. expert and L.A. Conservancy tour guide, Shannon Simonds. I was suddenly a tour group of one, with TWO of the city's best tour guides. And for our tour of the library, we were led by yet a THIRD expert, Christina Rice, Acting Senior Librarian of the Photographic Collection.

My visit to our "mother county" was fascinating and a lot of fun. (Major thanks to all three of my guides!) I would try describing the whole day to you, but I think my photos tell the story better. To see them, check out this link to my Downtown L.A. photo series.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Festival of Arts

Looking for something to do this weekend? The Festival of Arts is on in Laguna Beach. Here's an event program from the 1950s.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Nixon exhibits, Anaheim's Founders' Park, etc.

Today's photo takes some explaining. You see, the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda was started by the Nixon Foundation, which is composed of Richard Nixon's friends and supporters. But the National Archives wouldn't send Nixon's presidential papers to the Library unless they were given control of the place. It's my understanding that in the end, the Foundation only ended up with control over a few areas of the facility, including the lobby and at least part of the gift shop.

Recently, the National Archives folks opened a new permanent exhibit on Watergate that some Nixon supporters saw as an attack. Soon thereafter, the Foundation placed this sign (shown above) in the lobby. It's a quote from President Clinton, which reads, "May the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career come to a close."

Belated congratulations to Anaheim on their new Founders' Park, which opened to much fanfare two weeks ago. The park includes the beautifully restored Woelke-Stoffel House (1894), the Mother Colony House (1857), a carriage house, a pump house, a windmill, other samples of Anaheim's agricultural past, and a ginormous fig tree which served as a model for Disneyland's Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. I've been watching the park's progress, and can't wait to see what the final product looks like! A lot of good people put a lot of long hours, blood, sweat, and tears into this project.

The Register covered the Founders' Park grand opening, but used different headlines for the online and print editions of the story. The print edition's headline was, I think, correct in calling the Mother Colony House the oldest wood frame home in Orange County. The headline for the online version simply called it "O.C.'s oldest home." There are quite a few people living in adobes who would be surprised to hear that. Let that be a lesson to us all: The act of putting an article -- even the exact same article -- on the Internet immediately makes it less accurate. What chance does a blogger have?

The Dana Point Historical Society has announced Oct. 2nd (11am-4pm) as the date for their annual home tour. Keep an eye on their website for forthcoming details.

DPHS also has an article on their website about William Goodwin Dana, (a relative of town namesake Richard Henry Dana, Jr.,) who ran the prosperous Rancho Nipomo and served in public office in early Santa Barbara. His adobe home is currently undergoing restoration work, but it seems that tours are still available. Okay,... The Orange County link here is a bit tenuous. But any excuse to visit California's central coast is a good excuse.