Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas at Newport Beach, 1910

Holiday greetings from Newport Beach, in 1910.
Christmas is a good time to get friends or family together and do something fun. In 1910, the folks above apparently decided that "something fun" meant taking the Pacific Electric Railway to the end of the line (Newport Beach/Balboa) and spending the day on the strand.

This image was found in Tom Pulley's postcard collection and comes courtesy the Orange County Archives. I was just going to post it because of the Christmas/O.C. connection. But then I noticed how colorful these people are. (Click on any photo to embiggen.) It called for a couple close-ups.
The Rockettes do not feel threatened by this group.
Note the "Three Musketeers" pose, but with feet instead of swords. That, combined with wearing of dapper suits on the beach, is sort of a hoot.

But the real gem is the dandied-up, cigar-chompin' palooka shown below. Just look at this character! Did he escape from a movie? Was he related to the Bowery Boys or a Dick Tracy villain? Who is this guy? There's a shiny nickel in it for the first person to identify him!
"Make wit da Christmas cheer, youse mugs, or I'll moiderize ya!"
Without much more to say about this photo, I went looking for an extreme example of how different the world of December 1910 was from that of December 2013. I initially thought this was a pretty good example, from the Dec. 18, 1910 New York Times, regarding a new health catastrophe caused by modern technology:
"The aeroplane and automobile have caused a new disease,... When men pass rapidly through the air, the pressure on the face from fast driving prevents the expulsion of poisoned air from the lungs. The carbonic acid gas is forced back into the body. Only a little of it can get away, because of the air pressing on the face. The gas is rebreathed and poisons the system. [This may be remedied with] a mouthpiece... strapped to the face with tubes extending from it on either side to the back of the head."
Today, of course, we're much more evolved. The media no longer trumps up phony health scares or preys on our fear of new technology to generate sensational headlines. And naturally, with all the real threats in the world, we'd never waste our time worrying about the hazards of a ubiquitous natural substance like carbonic acid gas.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Join us for "Show & Tell"

So,... What are you bringing to Show & Tell this Thursday? Because you are invited, after all!

As you may have noticed in today's O.C. Register, the Orange County Historical Society will hold its annual Show & Tell Night this Thursday, Dec. 12, 7:30pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. Rummage through your garage, files, scrapbooks, or trunks for a choice artifact or bit of memorabilia or ephemera that helps tell us something about Orange County of yore.

Maybe you have a local orange crate that connects to a story about a parent who worked in a packing house. Perhaps you have your name badge from when you worked at Disneyland on opening day. What about great-grandpa’s branding iron, or a piece of flatware with the name of a favorite old local restaurant on it? Or maybe you just have an outstanding photo or map of early Orange County that hasn’t seen the light of day in many years. Surprise us! (The photo above shows me with the cogstone I brought last year.)

The event is open to the public. There will be a sign-up sheet when you arrive at the meeting. People will be called up in order of their position on the list. If we run out of time, we’ll save the list for another meeting, so you’ll still get your chance to share your “piece of history” and a bit of the story behind it. (We're a pretty friendly and informal bunch, so don't be intimidated!)

Afterward, refreshments will be served and there will be an opportunity for socializing and seeing some of the night's interesting Show & Tell items up close. For more information about the event see the OCHS website. Hope to see you there!
Judy Moore brought an item from First National Bank of Santa Ana to 2011's Show & Tell.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Strawberries in Orange County

Famed berry grower Walter Knott inspects strawberries with one of his employees.
Strawberries have been grown in Orange County since at least 1880, but for many decades they were grown by few farmers and usually in small quantities. Not that our soil and climate weren’t perfect for strawberries. Those that did grow here thrived. In 1882, George R. Hinde, founder of the Placentia's vegetarian cult, Societas Fraterna, (nicknamed "the grass eaters") exhibited a strawberry that measured 11 ¾ inches in circumference! But commercial production of berries of any kind was negligible in Orange County until the 1910s and 1920s. Land that wasn’t planted in citrus generally went to popular crops like beans, alfalfa, celery, and sugar beets.

Although strawberries were a fairly profitable crop when weather and disease cooperated, they were also very labor-intensive. This is part of why it took a while for them to catch on. They remained a small crop here in 1910s to 1930s – with 200 to 500 acres at most. They grew particularly well in the sandier soils of the western part of the county.
A plastic owl guards a local strawberry field in the 1950s.
Starting in the late teens or twenties, Japanese-American farmers in our area found they could grow small patches of strawberries in unused parcels and turn a significant profit. In some cases, it proved to be a good crop to rotate with some other primary crop: One year tomatoes, one year strawberries.

But it wasn’t until after WWII that strawberries really took off in a big way in O.C. Beginning around 1968, they were clearly our most profitable crop. That year, we had 1,775 acres, which was probably our biggest year for strawberries.
Anglos, Japanese and Latinos work together in an O.C. strawberry field during the Great Depression.
As more and more of Orange County has been paved, strawberries have continued to be a crop that survived in the margins. It was common to find a small field tucked in between housing tracts or shopping centers. Even a small field could be profitable, and growers often had success selling the berries to local residents from roadside stands. But now even these last small pockets of strawberries are dwindling. In 2012, for instance, we lost the last strawberry field in Garden Grove: The home of the Strawberry Festival.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Even more holiday historical happenings!

The Pilgrim, decked out for Christmas at Dana Point.
The Heritage Museum of Orange County will host Family Day, Dec. 8, 11am-3pm. See the Victorian Kellog House Museum "decorated in period holiday finery," tell Santa your Christmas wishes, and check out an exhibit about Sibyl Kellogg Mauerhan. ($5 per family up to 4 people. $2 each additional person.) The museum is located at 3101 W. Harvard St., in Santa Ana.

Looking for gift ideas? Historian Phil Brigandi will sign copies of his new book, “Orange County Chronicles,” on Sun., Dec. 15, 1-3pm at the Costco in San Juan Capistrano. His book traces 200 years of county history, from the earliest Spanish explorers to the explosive growth of the 1960s. For details, call (949) 240-3558.

Mission San Juan Capistrano will host "Christmas at the Mission" in conjunction with the city's annual Tree Lighting Ceremony and community-wide holiday celebration, on Dec. 7, 5:30-8pm. The Mission will feature a ringing of the historic bells, Dickensian carolers, chamber singers, orchestra musicians, ballet folklorico, mariachis and other local musicians. Ther will also be a “Santa’s Workshop” with cookie and ornament decorating for kids, and food vendors serving tamales, pizza, hot cocoa, sweets and more.

The Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton will host their annual Winter Holiday Festival, Dec. 22, Noon-4pm. The event includes "historic home and gallery tours, performances, and an arts and crafts fair. The family-friendly event also provides free art workshops for kids, a children’s play area, and a special appearance by Santa Claus."

The Fullerton Arboretum is hosting "Moonlight & Mistletoe: Victorian Christmas Traditions," Dec. 7 & 8, at 6pm. (Please arrive by 5:45.) "Begin the Christmas holiday season as twilight falls on a December evening in the tranquil setting of the Fullerton Arboretum. Watch as costumed Victorians reveal the stories behind the many traditions that have become a part of the season’s celebrations. Enjoy a full evening’s entertainment as you partake of hors d’oeuvres and wine. Join in songs and laughter; listen to Christmas tales and short stories; meet Father Christmas and “the missus” and dance the Grand March. Seating is limited. $25 per person. Reservations Required. No tickets will be available at the door!”

The Nixon Library is doing their elaborate annual exhibit of model trains and international Christmas trees.

Orange's Old Towne Preservation Association is holding a Holiday Home Decoration Contest. Residents of historic Old Towne "are invited to deck the halls and decorate your house in this annual tradition. Awards are given to Best Block, Most Old Fashioned, Best Use of Lights, Most Original and Most Beautiful. Judges will be cruising Old Towne to view the festive homes" beginning at 6pm, Dec. 15.

The Placentia Founders Society will host a docent-led tour of the historic Bradford House on Dec. 8, 2-4pm. A $3 donation per person is requested for non-members on these days. Group tours are $5 per person.

And if all the usual holidays aren't enough for you, celebrate "Ole Hanson Day" with the San Clemente Historical Society on Dec. 8 "with a chicken dinner, 'The Speech' by Ole Hanson, and 'The Ole Hanson Story' which is a motion picture of San Clemente under construction in the 1920’s. We are encouraging 1920’s clothing. A prize will be given for the most authentic outfit." $12 for members and $15 for non-members. Call Mary Ann Comes at 498-0116 for reservations. The event honors the founder/developer of the city and will be held at the San Clemente Community Center, 100 N. Calle Seville.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The holidays in O.C.'s historical community

Odds are, your local historical society, museum or historical park is hosting some kind of holiday party or event of some kind in the next few weeks. Go check out their website or newsletter and get those Christmas sweaters out of mothballs. Some examples:

A free Holiday Open House & Boutique will be held at the historic Howe-Waffle House (decked out in all its Victorian holiday finery), at 120 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana, this Saturday, Dec. 7, 11am to 4pm.There will be refreshments, socializing, carols on a rare 1870s Weber piano, and sales of various items of interest to history buffs and historians alike. At 1pm, actors will perform a scene from That Christmas Feeling, "a funny and touching play about regaining the true spirit of the Holidays."

The Dana Point Historical Society will hold a Holiday Open House on Dec. 8, 2-5pm, in Suite 104 at City Hall. If you'd like to participate in their pot luck, please bring an appetizer, dessert or bottle of wine.

The Orange County Historical  Society will hold their annual holiday social in conjunction with their annual Show & Tell Night, Dec. 12, 7:30pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. Bring an artifact or item from Orange County's past that helps tell a story about our history. This event is free to the public and refreshments will be served. See the OCHS website for more information.

Heritage Hill Historical Park in El Toro will hold a Victorian Christmas event Dec. 7, 11am-3pm. See the park's buildings decorated for the holidays and enjoy holiday entertainment, children's crafts, historical exhibits, and visits with Santa. The park will also hold holiday candlelight walks Dec. 14 and 15, 5:30pm-8:30pm. "Experience an enchanted evening with luminaria-lit paths, historical buildings aglow with holiday lights and period decorations. There will be performers in each building along with strolling carolers and visits with Santa." (Admission for any of these Heritage Hill events is $3 for children, $4 for adults.)

Do you have another local historical holiday event to share? Send me an email and I'll try to post it here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Anaheim Halloween Parade: Then & Now

2013: Witches and a scary tree replicate the S.Q.R. Store float from 1957.
1957: The original!
The 89th Annual Anaheim Halloween Parade, held last Saturday, was a real corker! Not only did it have all the home-town charm you'd expect (e.g. high school marching bands, Shriners in mini-jalopies, etc.), but also a bunch of impressive new features supplied by a new crop of volunteers, including my friends Jody Daily and Kevin Kidney. (Certainly, many more people were involved in these parade, but I don't know their names. My apologies.) From an enormous rolling haunted house to a towering vampire, they came up with all kinds of new ideas. But being history geeks like me, they also went back and looked at the coolest entries from Anaheim Halloween Parades long ago and brought a handful of them back to life.
2013: A "Flying Sasser" is part of the Anaheim Historical Society's parade unit.
1950s: The original "Flying Sasser" invades Anaheim at the dawn of the Space Age.
I'm not sure, but I suspect that even more 2013 parade highlights were direct references to favorites from decades past. I should have taken better notes at last year's Orange County Historical Society presentation on the history of the Halloween Parade.
Vintage, Disney-designed Anaheim mascot "Andy Anaheim" leads the parade.
I've never been to this parade before, so I can't honestly compare this year to earlier incarnations. But I did enjoy the heck out of it! I particularly liked how it evoked an old-fashioned Halloween: Grinning jack-o-lanterns and sheet-draped ghosts instead of blood and gore. And the combination of history, community and creativity was very, very Anaheim. My thanks to EVERYONE involved.

I've posted a BUNCH of photos from the parade (and even some video) on my Flickr account.
The Anaheim Historical Society marches down Broadway.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Champions of O.C. history: Phil Brigandi and Ilse Byrnes

Phil Brigandi has a new book out! Orange County Chronicles includes ten essays that cover a pretty wide span of our local history, from the Portolá expedition of 1769 to our post-WWII boom years. Chapters include:
  • The March of Portolá
  • Drought, Debt & Development: The Story of the Stearns Ranchos
  • The Birth of Orange County
  • Chinese Pioneers in Early Orange County
  • Red Cars in an Orange County
  • King Citrus & Queen Valencia
  • The Good Roads Movement
  • The Great Depression in Orange County
  • Breaking New Ground: The Early Years of Knott’s Berry Farm
  • Boundary Battles of the Post-War Boom
You can order the book via The History Press or look for it in your local bookstore (assuming you still have one).

This Wednesday, historical preservation superstar Ilse Byrnes will speak at the Dana Point Historical Society, Oct. 23, 6:30pm, at the Dana Point City Council Chambers. The public is welcome to attend. If you didn't see the article about Ilse in the L.A. Times last month, do take a look!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Last of the Old West

The forgotten tale of the 1907 shooting of Los Alamitos Deputy Constable Juan Orosco will be told by historian Phil Brigandi at the Orange County Historical Society’s general meeting, Oct. 10, 7:30 pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. The program is entitled, "Last of the Old West: Los Alamitos Lawman Gunned Down and Forgotten." Over the course of two years, Brigandi has uncovered the details of this intriguing story from the waning days of Orange County’s wild and woolly pioneer era.

Surrounded by freeways, condos and strip malls, it’s easy to forget that Orange County was once part of the Wild West, complete with bandits and horse thieves, tough lawmen, Indians, cathouses, rough-and-tumble saloons, false-front stores, blacksmiths, shoot-outs, cattle round-ups, prospectors, and nearly any other “Old West” cliché you’d care to conjure up. Los Alamitos was such a stereotypically tough and rugged Western town that movie directors would later use it as a location set for their “oaters.” (The movie still above is not actually from Los Alamitos, but you get the idea.)
Rustic downtown Los Alamitos, 1910. Note the sugar factory in the background.
“Orosco seems to have been the first Orange County law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty,” says Brigandi. “The story has been forgotten mostly because we don’t have constables anymore -- or any successor agency to keep a list of their own fallen officers. This is a story I ran across a couple years ago, and there are still some questions to unravel. But the basic facts are clear.”

Brigandi, a longtime local historian, has written more than 20 books, thousands of articles, and a website: So Cal Historyland. His resume of historical bona fides is too long to list here, but I'll point out that I was lucky enough to work with him and learn from him for five years while he was Orange County's Archivist. His new book, Orange County Chronicles should be available later this autumn.

This will be the first time Brigandi has spoken about the story of Deputy Constable Orosco. An article about his research on this subject appeared in the May 28, 2013 issue of the Orange County Register. The OCHS program is free to the public.

Your photographic time machine awaits!

The 72nd anniversary of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in 1891 was marked by their Santa Ana Lodge with a parade. This is a view of W. 4th St, looking northeast from Broadway.
If you read this blog, you almost certainly dig cool old images of Orange County. In that case, BOY are you in luck! Long hidden away in the recesses of the Archives & Special Collections at Cal State Fullerton's Pollak Library, the Smart Studio Collection is getting a chance to shine! An exhibit entitled "An Orange County Portrait:  The Smart Studio Collection," just opened in the Salz-Pollak Atrium Gallery, (just off the main lobby of the Pollak Library at CSUF), and will run through Dec. 20, 2013.
Judge James W. Towner (1823-1913) in his bathing suit at Newport Beach, circa 1890.
This unique collection of more than seventy-five black-and-white photographs selected from the Smart Studio Collection examines a fascinating cross-section of American life as seen through the lenses of prominent Orange County landscape and portrait photographers Benjamin F. Conaway, Lou Hickox, and Mary Smart. This exhibit chronicles the transformation of Orange County and its people from before the establishment of the county through the mid-twentieth century.  People depicted in the photos include such notables as aviation pioneer Glenn Martin,  Orange County’s first judge, J. W. Towner,  and President Benjamin Harrison during a visit to Santa Ana
Each summer, local apricots were harvested, halved, sun dried, and treated with sulfur before shipment. This photo shows an apricot drying crew in Tustin, circa 1890.
Sponsored by the Pollak Library, this exhibit of previously hidden gems is produced by Stephanie George, archivist at the Center for Oral and Public History; Phil Brigandi, Orange County historian; and Gail Griswold, graphic designer, all of whom will be available to discuss the project at a special Open House—to which the public is invited—on Thursday, Oct. 10, noon to 3pm in the gallery.

It's really bothering me that I can't figure out how to get out of work to go to the grand opening, but I will definitely be going to see the exhibit ASAP.
Carlota Haider hard at work, helping install the exhibit at CSUF.
Go and see this exhibit! Yes, I know you can look at photos online, but there's nothing quite like looking at a large quality print of a photo to appreciate the details that can otherwise be lost.

For more information about the exhibit, contact Trish Campbell.

Friday, September 20, 2013

O.C. agriculture in 40 words

Upon learning that I'm writing a brief sketch of Orange County's agricultural history for a talk on Saturday, historian/archivist Stephanie George tells me, "Oh, that's easy: They grew things, but then there was a blight. So then they grew something else, but that got wiped out by another blight. Then they grew different things, but we bulldozed all that and covered it with houses. The end!"
Do I have great friends, or what?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

More of Alan Hess on Dana Point

If you missed Alan Hess' outstanding lecture about the design of Dana Point Harbor at the Orange County Historical Society's last meeting, you still have a chance! First, check out his excellent article, "The Beauty of Authenticity" either online, or in the pages of Orange Coast Magazine. Then, on Oct. 5th, the new Southern California Chapter of DOCOMOMO will host Alan for a similar lecture (along with some additional speakers), and a self-guided walking tour of Dana Point Harbor. See docomomo-socal.org for information and to get tickets.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Design and Dana Point Harbor

A view of the north turning basin at Dana Point Harbor today.
Architect and historian Alan Hess will discuss Dana Point Harbor's architectural design and development at the Orange County Historical Society's season kick-off meeting, Sept. 12, 2013, at the Sherman Library & Gardens, 2647 E. Coast Highway, in Corona del Mar. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. with an optional appetizer and dessert potluck, followed by the program at 7:30 p.m. (Everyone participating in the potluck is asked to bring a dessert or appetizer for six people.) The program is free to the public. Additional program details and updates will be posted to OrangeCountyHistory.org.

Dana Point Harbor is one of the most successful mid-century master-planned developments on the West Coast. Alan Hess will speak on "why it is such an important example of 1970s architecture, how it captures a unique time in Orange County history, and why its integrity is worth preserving."
Dana Point Harbor on its dedication day, July 31, 1971.
Hess is the architecture critic of the San Jose Mercury News and a contributor to the Architect’s Newspaper. He has written nineteen books on Modern architecture and urbanism in the mid-twentieth century, the most recent being, Frank Lloyd Wright: Natural Design, Organic Architecture. Hess was a National Arts Journalism Program Fellow at Columbia University and has a M.Arch degree from the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, UCLA.

(On a personal note, let me say that I've never heard Alan give anything less than a fascinating talk. And it's no exaggeration to say that his books about Googie Architecture changed my life in very positive ways.)
Jetty construction, Dana Point Harbor, Jan. 1967.

This program will be followed with a related lectures and a self-guided tour of Dana Point Harbor on Oct. 5th, sponsored by Docomomo SoCal. (See their website for details.) This will be the inaugural event for this new chapter of Docomomo, an international organization dedicated to the "documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the Modern movement."

I hope to see you at BOTH events!
Dana Point Harbor, seen from the Doris Walker Overlook at Heritage Park.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Santa Ana, history classes, and mystery signs

The photo above was taken near the corner of Broadway and Fourth Street in Santa Ana, probably around the late 1910s. Can you tell which direction we're looking or recognize any landmarks that still stand? The photo comes from the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society and is indicative of some of the cool stuff on display in their Howe-Waffle House Museum.

Diane Ryan is again teaching a class on the "History of Orange County." Topics include "early occupants of this territory, Spanish and Mexican influences and the development of some of our cities. ... There will be a field trip to a local historic site." The class will include 8 meetings, on Tuesdays, Sept. 24 to Nov. 12, 2013, 12:30 to 2:30pm, at the Huntington Beach Adult Education District Campus, 17231 Gothard St., Room A103. To sign up, call 714-842-4227 or visit hbas.edu and register for course #088133. ( Early bird $49,  After Sept. 16 $59.)

Diane will also teach a class on "Historic Southern California Landmarks & Early Pioneers" at the OASIS Senior Center, 801 Narcissus Ave. (Room 2B), Corona del Mar, Thursdays, from Sept. 26 to Oct. 31, 2013, 1:30-3:30pm. Sign up online newportbeachca.gov (click on Recreation Classes) or call 949-644-3244 for course #684042. The Landmarks and Pioneers class will meet six times, and the cost is $55 plus $2 material fee.
Recently, I was walking in a coastal O.C. neighborhood and noticed these signs decorating someone's front yard. I'm curious about where these originated. (Click image to enlarge -- as always.) My first thought was Knott's Berry Farm, but my usual Knott's contacts seem to think otherwise. So I put the ball in your court, dear readers. Any guesses?

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Fires in Santa Ana

The fire that wiped out Santa Ana Lanes.
In case you weren't convinced by my last post that the Santa Ana Fire Museum has some cool stuff, here are a few photos from their displays. Consider this the "sampler platter."
A fire near the historic Yost Theatre in E. Main Street, Santa Ana.
I think the photo above was taken from the fire escape of the old First National Bank building at 4th St. and Main.
Parade of emergency vehicles heading down Main Street at Santa Ana Blvd.
Some of these photos are interesting not only for the events they show, but also for what appears in the backgrounds. Note the old hotel in the photo above, for instance, which stood where the Presbyterian Church's parking lot is today.
Bad things happening at the Thrifty Drug shopping center.
If you know more about the stories behind any of these photos, please post in the "Comments" section, below.
S.A.F.D. Training Center & Engine Co No. 4 (Burrows & Allen Architects)
Okay,... That's enough Fire Museum posts for a while.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Fire Museum recap

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the upcoming grand opening of the new Santa Ana Fire Museum. Well, the grand opening was last Saturday, and although I could only attend the last hour of the event, I did get to go on a tour. I thought I'd share some photos here.
Firefighter Luis Fernandez did a great job with the tour. The tour takes you through three floors of the building, as well as the garage and the basement. There are things to see pretty much everywhere. 

Personally, I saw two key facets to the tour: 1) The museum is still primarily a working firehouse (now for the Orange County Fire Authority) and it's fascinating to see how a firehouse works and how firefighters live; and 2) They have a lot of interesting old firefighting "stuff" all over the place, with the centerpiece being a 1926 Seagrave fire engine. Either facet could make an interesting tour all by itself, although the interpretation of the artifacts is still sort of in the beginning stages.
I have the feeling that more than a few of the older artifacts may have been from other fire departments, and simply depict the kinds of equipment that were used in different eras. But there was plenty of original local material as well.
Cold War buffs (is there such a thing?) will appreciate the various exhibits on Civil Defense. The largest collection of such materials are appropriately displayed in the old fallout shelter basement.
Keep an eye on the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society's website for information about hours when the Fire Museum will be open. The folks involved have a lot of enthusiasm and a willingness to work. They also have a lot of cool artifacts, which, as the museum develops,could definitely be displayed and interpreted to great effect. In short, they're off to a fine start and the future seems full of potential.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Downtown Midway City, 1932

The Midway City tract was launched in 1923, halfway between Long Beach and Santa Ana. Tim Castroreale, Broker Associate with Realty One Group, sent me the photo above, depicting the southwest corner of Beach Boulevard and Bolsa Ave. -- the heart of "downtown" Midway City -- in about 1932. It's a bit low-res, but it's still one of the best old Midway City images I've seen.

The image below (from Google Maps) shows the same corner as it appears today.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

See you Saturday at the Archives!

The Orange County Archives will be open this Sat., Aug. 24, from 10am-3pm, for all your local history needs. The Archives are located in the Old Orange County Courthouse, 211 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Room 101, in Santa Ana. (And bring quarters for those infernal city parking meters.)

This may be the only chance you'll have (for at least a month) to visit the Archives if you're normally at work during their regular Monday through Friday hours.  This event is part of the Orange County Clerk-Recorder's new agency-wide, once-a-month Saturday hours. (So if you want to get married or file a deed or something, this would also be a good time to get that taken care of.)

And of course, the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society is also holding the grand opening of their new Fire Department Museum just down the street -- so you'll want to check that out too.

See you at the Archives!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Santa Ana Fire Museum grand opening

Santa Ana Fire Station on Sycamore between 3rd and 4th Streets (Photo: Bowers Museum)
In February of last year, the Santa Ana City Council extinguished the 128-year-old Santa Ana Fire Department, outsourcing services to the Orange County Fire Authority. But the legacy of the Department will live on thanks to some dedicated volunteers.

The Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society (SAHPS) invites you to attend the grand opening of the Santa Ana Fire Museum, which will also serve as their annual member meeting, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 11am-4pm at Fire Station #75, 120 W. Walnut St. The festivities will kick off with presentations and awards from 11:30 to 12:30, and light refreshments served at 12:30.  Guided museum tours will be conducted from 1:00 to 4:00 and the public is cordially invited to attend this free event.
Restored 1926 fire engine in front of the Santa Ana Fire Museum.
Recently acquired by the SAHPS in an agreement with the City of Santa Ana and the Orange County Fire Authority, the museum is housed in an active OCFA fire station. Firefighter Lou Fernandez, who helped create the museum, is curator of the extensive collections, which include vintage firefighting equipment, photos and memorabilia which ranges from the 1880s to the 1960s. A fully restored 1926 Seagrave fire engine is also part of the collection.

Please RSVP your attendance at (714) 547-9645 or rsvp@sahps.org. For more information see the Society’s website at SantaAnaHistory.com or the museum’s website: SantaAnaFireMuseum.com

The Orange County Archives will also be open for special Saturday hours (10am-3pm) on Aug. 24th. The Archives are located only a short distance from the new fire museum, in the Old Orange County Courthouse at 211 W. Santa Ana Blvd. Stop by while you're in the neighborhood and do a little historical research!

The Old Missions of Buena Park, Part V

Leon Bayard de Volo shows his miniature of Grauman's Chinese Theatre to actresses Jane Greer and Myrna Dell.
(Continued from Part IV...)  Just when I thought I'd completed my series on the Knott's mission models and their creator, Leon Bayard de Volo, I heard from the artist's son. I am happy to report that there is more to the story, and it's all worth sharing...

Nicolo "Nick" Bayard de Volo, writes, "My brother and I found your recent blog about the California Mission models at Knott’s Berry Farm to be particularly interesting and were pleased to hear about the plans for their refurbishment and reintroduction to the park."

He pointed out that their full surname is "Bayard de Volo," rather than "De Volo." He also set the record straight on several other counts: "Although both our maternal and paternal grandfathers were counts and the name is a noble name, we are not sufficiently familiar with the heraldic rules governing title succession to validate our father’s claim to the title of Count.  Furthermore, we don’t know of any connection to the King of Italy."
News clipping from the Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 6, 1929.
Nick also shared more information about his father's background: "My father grew up as a son in an aristocratic, religious family (his father was secretary to Pope Leo) and his education received in the Vatican didn't include any formal art training. His life was surrounded by great art however, inside his home and out, and that instilled in him an instinct for creating art as a profession. His greatest aptitude in this regard was creativity which spawned the ideas that allowed him to earn a living. So what he did wasn't great art but it was creative and accomplished."

This information mostly confirms an article found in the Jan. 3, 1947 issue of the Catholic Northwest Progress: "Leon Bayard de Volo was born in St. Peter's Parish, Rome. His father, Count Joseph Bayard de Volo, was special secretary to Pope Leo XIII, and the boy was educated at St. Peter's Seminary. But his mother, recognizing Leon's special gift, engaged Professor Toeschi to give him art instruction in the home; and at the age of 17, he was named art critic of L'Osservatore Romano. Incidentally, his mother -- called to her eternal reward three years ago at the age of 88--was decorated twice by Pope Pius XI in recognition of her charitable work among the poor of Rome, and by the Italian Government for her Red Cross activities during World War I.
Header from article about Bayard de Volo in the Catholic Northwest Progress, Jan, 3, 1947.
"Bayard de Volo came to the United States in 1908 on a six-months visit, but he has never returned to his homeland. His wife is a Russian, and the artist recalls their wedding with some amusement since 'neither of us spoke English very well.' However, it was his knowledge of other languages that enabled him to make a living until the time when he became established as an artist...

"A very special job of his was the carved and gold inlaid ivory floor of the chapel in the Colleen Moore Doll House--a replica of a floor in the Vatican palace."
The Fairy Castle commissioned by silent movie actress Colleen Moore holds many surprises, including a painting by Walt Disney and tiny 2,000 year-old statues.
Nick confirms this last detail too, saying his father "was one of the artisans that created the Colleen Moore Doll House, completed in 1935 and on permanent display in the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry.  This magnificent fairy tale castle was world famous and toured the world’s capitals for many years.  Around the same time, he was very involved with the wine industry in the bay area (including Sonoma) for which he designed exhibits for trade shows, floats for parades and projects for wine festivals."

That makes it especially appropriate that a set of his mission models is now on display at a California winery.
The chapel of the Colleen Moore Doll House includes a copy of the throne at Westminster Abbey.
Leon Bayard de Volo also was art director for the Greek Theater, made floats for 1931 La Fiesta de Los Angeles electrical pageant, and was involved in innumerable other creative endeavors around Southern California.
A float La Fiesta de Los Angeles electrical pageant, 1931.
Nick writes that his father's work included "the design of floats used in the Motion Picture Electrical Pageant,  performed in the Coliseum in 1936; the design and construction of the Santa Claus float used for decades in the annual Hollywood Christmas Parade; and the design and construction of all 15 floats, one for each movie star, used in the NBC-Santa Claus Lane Parade in 1947.
New Santa Claus float at the 1931 Hollywood Christmas parade.
"He did make the missions that were first exhibited in the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco and currently reside in the California Mission Museum in Sonoma. As surmised in your blog, he subsequently made at least two additional sets of the California Missions.  The first of these (the second set) was constructed for Miniature Fabricators, Inc. in the 1945 time frame and subsequently toured the country for a period of time including being exhibited in Atlantic City in the summer of 1946. The same financial backer, John Author Productions, also commissioned my father to make selected miniatures of Hollywood to go on tour with the mission miniatures."
The main portion of "Hollywood in Miniature," by Bayard de Volo, as it appeared in 2007.
To be continued with the Return of the Mission Models!