Thursday, February 23, 2012

Modjeska, more Modjeska, and Mother Murphy

Here's an odd image of famed actress Helena Modjeska (former resident of Anaheim, Modjeska Canyon, Tustin and Newport's Bay Island) puffing away on a cigarette. I just need to Photoshop a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon into her right hand. Oh well, I'm sure the cigarette seemed "sophisticated" at the time.

Modjeska's Standford White-designed 1888 canyon home and its grounds are undergoing some improvements these days. The fountains -- which have been heavily altered over the years -- are currently being restored. The adjacent meadow, which was washed away by floods a couple years ago, has been repaired and stabilized. The entrance gates have been replaced with attractive new wrought iron featuring an "HM" logo taken from Modjeska's stationery. Kudos to the folks at the South County division of O.C. Historic Parks!

Speaking of Modjeska, Dr. Beth Holmgren will be at Katie Wheeler Library in Irvine on April 21st to sign her books, including Starring Madame Modjeska: On Tour In Poland and America. I believe there's some sort of Spring Fair going on at the Modjeska Historical Park and the nearby Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary the following day.
How many people can identify the original source of the image above? (People with the initials CDM, JEL, PKB, and JS are asked not to answer, but are welcome to leave other remarks.) And yes, it's from Orange County.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Capistrano, the Viejos, ice cream and Nixon

This is the 1918 power substation on Camino Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano. San Diego Gas & Electric owns the building and is planning to bulldoze it. But historical preservationist Ilse Byrnes (a dynamo in her own right) is at a city meeting tonight, doing her best to save it. Based on her past efforts, I'd say she has a good chance. Ilse says San Juan Capistrano's historical community is also making progress working with the city on historically sensitive modifications to the new Master Plan.

And that's not all that's going on in Capistrano these days. Archaeological digging has turned up the horno (oven) and the old well at the historic Blas-Aguilar Adobe, and steps are being taken to preserve them.

Over a few blocks, in the Los Rios District, (California's oldest continually-occupied neighborhood,) the Silvas Adobe (ca 1796) is also being restored. However, the old Oyarzabal House, which has been deemed hazardous, will have to be torn down and rebuilt. Ilse says it's only still standing "because the termites are holding hands. Barely."

And for the City of San Juan Capistrano's big 50th Anniversary Banquet, Ilse says dryly, "We had Governor Brown for dinner. He was delicious."
 Before I forget,... Special thanks to Bob Bunyan (shown above) for a great presentation about the history of Mission Viejo and Aliso Viejo at this month's meeting of the Orange County Historical Society. Next month's meeting will feature a presentation by Daralee Ota on the history of the community of Olive. (I'll post more details soon.)
 I could tell you a long story (with eye-rolling) about why the Orange County Archives is in semi-exile for a few days while layers of liquid plastic are poured on our floor. But I'll just point out that we'll be moving back to our regular office tomorrow. Meanwhile, we've been camping out in the offices of the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society (PCAS), just down the hall. On the plus side, PCAS has a LOT of fascinating stuff, including a very useful library and many interesting artifacts. One non-archaeological artifact in their office is the enormous ice box shown in the photo above. It came from the old ice cream stand in Irvine Park and is one of my favorite little-known bits of history hidden away at the Old Orange County Courthouse.
 Today I attended the Orange County Historical Commission's meeting, which was held at the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda. After the meeting, we were given a lengthy "backstage tour" of the archives and museum, which was rather impressive. I've never had a burning desire to research Nixon's life, but collections and facilities like these make me want to think up an excuse or two.

The enormous climate-controlled room full of compact shelving, (with names like Haldeman and Kissinger on the shelves), the audio-video room, and the facility where artifacts are curated were all rather impressive and full of interesting details. We were shown strange things like a formerly top-secret State Department file describing Mao Zedong's personal tea-drinking habits.

However, in the photo below I'm sharing one of the least inspiring but most humorous things we saw. Yes, they DO have at least one of those once-ubiquitous rubber Nixon masks in their collection.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Huntington Beach grab-bag

I've been scouring some old CDs of photos, looking for a few specific things and finding (instead) a lot of other things I'd forgotten about entirely. Among those forgotten things are various images I snagged from eBay auctions many years ago. Here are a few of those images from Huntington Beach, starting with an old travel agency poster. Dig that longboard, man! 
 Above is the cover of a Chamber of Commerce brochure from the 1940s. I've seen the water at H.B. when it was a similar shade of red. I believe that's caused by the annual bloom of a form of algae.

Below is an advertising card for Eader's Home Bakery -- long a staple on Main Street. In addition to baked goods, the Eader family were also very involved in local civic affairs. Although their bakery is long gone, their name lives on at Eader Elementary School
 The next image is a poster for the Huntington Beach Speedway, which was also known as the Talbert Race Track, after its owner, Tom Talbert. It was a small arena just southwest of the intersection of Atlanta Ave. and Beach Blvd. It was a challenging loop for full-sized vehicles, which could easily spin out of control on the tight, barely-banked turns. Perhaps that's why Midget Auto Racing was so popular. (The cars were "midget," not necessarily the drivers.)
Speaking of Huntington Beach, the power went out to a good portion of the city for a few hours tonight, including my neighborhood. Consequently, I didn't have time to prepare a PowerPoint presentation for my talk to the Bowers Bells docent group at Bowers Museum tomorrow. As such, I'll present "A Complete History of Orange County" with finger puppets tomorrow. Sadly, I only have five finger puppets. And two of them are Big Bird. Tigger will be playing the parts of Cabrillo, James Irvine II, and County Treasurer Robert Citron.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Disneyland: Steps In Time, King Arthur Carousel

 The 1954 concept illustration above, by Disney artist Bruce Bushman, shows Disneyland's King Arthur Carousel. One of Walt Disney's inspirations for Disneyland was watching his girls ride the merry-go-round at Griffith Park, so it's no surprise that a beautiful version of this classic ride would be one of the first attractions in his own park. The photo below (again courtesy Daveland) shows the King Arthur Carousel as it looked in March 1956, not long after Disneyland opened.
The carousel was hand-crafted in 1922 by the famous Dentzel Carousel Co. of Philadelphia. It was previously located in Sunnyside Beach Park in Toronto. Walt had it converted from a merry-go-round with many kinds of animals to a carousel with just horses, re-purposing many of the other animals over on the Casey Jr. Circus Train
As part of the massive make-over of Fantasyland in 1983, the carousel was -- as you can see in the photo I took last week (above) -- moved a bit farther back from Sleeping Beauty's Castle. However, it retained its position at the heart of Fantasyland, and is still the first thing guests see as they walk over the drawbridge.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Ziggurat, Doris Walker, and Louise Booth

Brent Walker just posted an interesting story and related photos (including the one above) about his mom's involvement in the making of the sci-fi movie, Death Race 2000, which was filmed at the Ziggurat Building (now the Chet Holifield Federal Building) in Laguna Niguel in 1975. (Read the article.) His mom, of course, was local journalist, author and historian Doris Walker, who died tragically last year. The photo above shows Doris with the film's star, David Carradine.

I understand discussions are underway in Dana Point, with civic leaders deciding what should be named in Doris' honor: A park, an island, or some other notable local site. Aside from Richard Henry Dana himself (who already has the whole town named after him), I can't think of anyone more appropriate to receive such an honor in that city.

Update on Louise Booth: I just added a bunch of additional information about the life and passing of local historian Louise Booth on my previous post about her. (Click to link back to that post.)

Friday, February 03, 2012

Mission Viejo and Aliso Viejo history

 The birth and early development of the communities of Mission Viejo and Aliso Viejo will be the topic of the Orange County Historical Society's general meeting on Feb. 9thBob Bunyan, President of the Aliso Viejo Community Foundation (AVCF), and former executive with the Mission Viejo Company, will give us his first-hand account of the creation of these master-planned communities that once were grazing lands for cattle. (The photo above shows cowboys branding cattle on the Moulton Ranch in 1913.) The program will begin at 7:30 pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange

The photo below shows a portion of Alicia Parkway in what's now Aliso Viejo, as it appeared in 1968.
 Mr. Bunyan has served as President of the AVCF since 1999. Previously, he was a vice president in charge of sales and marketing with the developer during the acquisition, planning, and development of properties within Aliso Viejo. Prior to that he worked with the Mission Viejo Company helping to plan and build the Mission Viejo community. He continues to be engaged in the completion of the Aliso Viejo master development plan, and through the AVCF, is also involved in the city’s affairs and activities.

The photo above shows the intersection of Avery and Marguerite Parkways, in Mission Viejo, as they appeared in 1976.

Like Mission Viejo, not too many years ago, the area now called Aliso Viejo was a working ranch. The land had changed little since Mexico granted it to Don Juan Avila in 1821. The Moulton family bought it over 100 years ago and formed the Moulton Ranch. In 1976, the Mission Viejo Company, purchased the last acres of the ranch for the planned Aliso Viejo community. The first residences were sold in 1982 and the burgeoning area became Orange County’s 34th city in 2001.

This is a unique opportunity to hear from someone involved in the evolution of both Mission Viejo and Aliso Viejo. The story of how they went from ranchos to growing towns to modern cities should be fascinating.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Stan Cramer, 1925-2012

Those of you who have spent much time working in Orange County history will undoubtedly know one of our best historians, Esther Cramer, and quite possibly her husband, Stan, who was also involved in a number of local historical organizations. Stan is seen in the photo above, sitting between Esther (left) and Margrit Kendrick (right) at a Hispanic heritage symposium in 2004.

I'm sad to report that Stan passed away last month. The following is his obituary, from the Register:
     Stanley Edward Cramer passed away Saturday, January 7, 2012 at the age of 86 with his wife of 63 years, Esther, at his side. A native of North Orange County he was born in Fullerton on July 29, 1925 to Hattie and George Cramer.
     Stan grew up in Fullerton and was captain of Fullerton High School's 1943 CIF Championship basketball team. He was also a star of the football team and the 220 runner on the track team.
     Drafted upon graduation, he joined the U.S. Army and was sent off to basic training in Mississippi. The Army sent him to the Ruhr in Germany as a sergeant and machine gun squad leader where he and his squad were involved in many intense battles.
     At the end of the war, the Army assigned him to play football and basketball for the 407th Infantry division known as the Ozarks. In 1945 he was named Football Player of the Year for the European Theater of Operation.
     After he was discharged from the Army, USC invited Stan to play football and basketball. He played freshman football and basketball and played left end on the varsity football squads of '47, '48, and '49 which included playing in the 1948 Rose Bowl Game. While at USC he was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity.
     Stan graduated from USC in 1950 with a Bachelor's degree and went on to earn a Master of Arts degree. He coached with Bob Blackman at Pasadena City College and he taught and coached at Whittier High School, California High School and Cerritos College. Mount San Antonio College hired Stan as head football coach of the Mounties and he coached there for a number of years. Eventually Stan moved into the counseling department at Mt. SAC and became the Dean of Guidance and Counseling at the junior college.
     When not on the football field with his players or in the film room with his coaches preparing for a game, Stan could be found fishing in the Sierras or in Baja California. A committed Christian from his youth, he was very active in his church, La Habra Untied Methodist. He was involved in the La Habra Kiwanis as they raised funds to support local schools and students.
     Stan and his wife, Esther traveled to all corners of the world and to every continent, but they always returned home to La Habra, and the friends they had acquired since childhood.
     Stan is survived by his wife Esther, his daughters, Cynthia Freeman, Melinda (Ward) Ching, and Janet Buddle and their children, Bri and David Freeman, Christopher and Andrew Ching, Patrick Esguerra and Chanel Brooks.
     A private family burial has already taken place at Rose Hills Memorial Park. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m Saturday, February 25, at La Habra United Methodist Church.
     In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Stan's name to The La Habra Historical Museum or the La Habra United Methodist Church.
The Cramers have long been a very important part of our historical community in Orange County. Stan will be missed and Esther, of course, continues to be in our thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Tiki mystery solved!

In 2008, I posted the above photo, asking if anyone could identify this tiki-themed Orange County apartment complex.  All I knew was that the photo was taken by folks from the Orange County Planning Dept in November 1961.

Finally, four years after my post, we have an answer. Mike Skinner of the excellent Tiki Architecture blog wrote that it was probably the Hana Kiki Garden Apartments at 1147 W. Memory Lane, in Santa Ana (just east of Bristol Ave.). 

I've been to the Hana Kiki before, and I took photos (which I'll share below). The complex is even featured in my Orange County Tiki presentation. But I never made a connection between the complex and our mystery photo. So I went back today, on my lunch break to prove it to myself and to take an "after" photo.
 Sure enough. It's the right place. The tikis are gone from the landscaping and everything looks like a jungle now. It's actually quite an attractive place, but you can see how the buildings are obscured by the foliage.
The only tiki still to be found in the complex is the pole holding up the A-frame pool house. And even that is showing a lot of damage from either termites or wood rot. A detail is supplied below. (Also note the thatch on the rear wall.)
Mike writes that the complex was "constructed in 1960 and began renting apartments (adults only) in November 1960." In the newspapers of the day, ads for the Hana Kiki read, "New, deluxe,... bungalow apartments near Fashion Square in a big avocado grove with lush landscaping, private patios, Gold Medallion kitchens, real fireplaces, 1 1/2 bath, color plumbing fixtures, carpet, drapes, large recreation lanai and pool. 1 and 2 bedrooms, unfurnished."

Man, that sounds great! And a later ad pointed out that this "ultra modern" complex had its own private street, which "assures quiet seclusion." I'd move there myself, except that avocado grove is gone -- and in its place is,... well,... Santa Ana.
 Additional Mid-Century, Polynesian-Pop remnants from 1960 include the Asian/Modern motif iron fencing, the textile cement block wall around the "lanai," the lava rock chimneys on each unit, and of course the 51-year-old subtropical plants.
Anyway, my thanks to Mike for finally solving this mystery. We "urban archaeologist" types make a lot more progress when we can work together on this stuff.

P.S.- Also be sure to see my post on the Islander Apartments -- another tiki paradise that's just about a block away from the Hana Kiki.