Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween in the Santa Ana Register, 1910-1920

Halloween spot art from the Santa Ana Register, 1911.
As a local historian, I spend a lot of time rummaging through the old Santa Ana Register (now known as the Orange County Register) and other newspapers of yore. In the process of looking for specific things, I always end up running across other cool stuff that seems worth copying and saving for future reference. Some of latter is related to Halloween because,... well,... because I love the holiday!  Here are a few glimpses of Orange County Halloweens past...
Dragon Confectionery ad, Santa Ana Register, Oct. 11, 1912.
The Dragon Confectionery had a great name -- One that was especially well suited to a holiday full of scary imaginary creatures. As of 1912 this stalwart Downtown Santa Ana business was offering a wide array of holiday-specific goodies and decorations. Most of the advertised goods above are familiar, but I had to turn to Merriam-Webster to discover that Jack Horner Pies are "an ornamental pie-shaped container from which favors or toys are extracted often by pulling a ribbon at a party." So that would go nice with the party favors, baskets for salted almonds and assorted Halloween candies, pies and cakes. I want to go to a party like this on Halloween!

Balboa Pavilion ad, Santa Ana Register, Oct. 28, 1910.
The Balboa Pavilion isn't the first place I think of at Halloween. Today, it's the folks across the water on Balboa Island who get all the attention with their elaborate holiday "yard" displays. (Sans yards.) But in 1910, and for a number of years before and after, the Pavilion was host to a big annual Halloween Dance. Sounds like fun! 
Party decorations ad, Santa Ana Register, Oct. 25, 1920.
Halloween and book stores are both pretty high on the list of things I'm fond of, and here they are together in the same place! In fact, the Santa Ana Book Store was long a major local supplier of Halloween decorations and party favors in the early Twentieth Century.

By the way, this year's Anaheim Halloween Parade  -- a local tradition since the 1920s -- was a real corker. (Photos here.) Hope you didn't miss it. If you did, see it next year!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

O.C. narrowly averted counter-culture uprising

Crazed beatniks Lera Chapman and Bobby Schaal stick it to the man!
How did Orange County survive the tumultuous youth movement and violent social upheaval of the 1960s? It wasn't easy, as this Oct. 1, 1965 Los Angeles Times article by Jack Boettner starkly illustrates...

The wide tie fad has been stopped before it could get rolling in the Orange Unified School District’s junior high schools.

Students in the 9th grades at Yorba and McPherson junior high schools began showing up in dad’s old four-in-hands of the mid-1940s with the opening of the fall term. But it did not set well with the administration.

Thursday was the last day the broad and bold neck wear could be worn at Yorba.

Homer Jurgens, Yorba vice principal, said the ties “just don’t fit in with the school’s dress code. We feel they are inappropriate for school wear. They are apt to be disturbing in the classroom situation. We know fads do exist, but we have to be careful with certain ones. The dress code was established by a combination of parents, faculty and students last year.”

Jurgens said there has been no formal announcement that the ties must be discontinued, but that the administrators had made the decision after conferring with several teachers. He said he has been breaking the word to the students individually.

George Osborn, principal and McPherson, said the wearing of the wide tie was brought to a halt because they are unacceptable and might cause a “commotion” in class. He said they did not meet the criteria of a dress code drawn up by staff and students.

 “We try to keep the dress within reason,” he said, “yet leave the individual his freedom. If we allowed the  ties, pith helmets might be next.”

Portola Junior High School reported none of its students had joined the wide-tie trend.

Bobby Schaal, 13, one of the Yorba students who has taken to the ties, said one student brought 84 ties to school and was selling them at 10 cents apiece.

Why does he wear them?

“It’s something different,” Bobby said. “I guess you could say it’s a way to chop the old timers.”

He said he was not disappointed that the school had put an end to the mounting fad.

Thus was chaos and rioting averted in Orange County. And indeed, pith helmets never got a chance to wreak their special brand of counter-cultual mayhem. But the kids in Orange were ahead of their time. The following year, British fashion designer Michael Fish would bring back wide, loud neckties. By the late 1960s and early 1970s much of the Western world was wearing them. Even (or perhaps especially) junior high school vice principals! Along with avocado-colored appliances, brutalist architecture and bad men's hairstyles, it was part of what historians now call the "Uglification of America."

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Knott's Halloween history event at OCHS

Boot Hill, Knott's Berry Farm, 1990. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.
Love Halloween? Love theme park history? Boy, have I got the event for you! Join the Orange County Historical Society and authors Ted Dougherty and Eric Lynxwiler for some Halloween fun and holiday history on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. This event is open to the public at no cost.

Halloween is now a multi-billion dollar industry. Yet long before costume-shop chains and Halloween stores cropped up every October, the Halloween season was far more innocent and simple. Many remember when the season entailed trick-or-treating in home-made costumes among a few illuminated porch decorations. That all changed in the 1970s when Halloween's popularity began to explode. One of the pioneers of the now-global Halloween industry was Orange County's own Knott's Berry Farm. Take a trip back in time with authors and historians, Ted Dougherty and Eric Lynxwiler as they share how the family-friendly Knott's Berry Farm theme park was at the forefront in creating a spooky form of entertainment that has been emulated at theme parks around the world.
Ted Dougherty is a historian and author of the award-winning book, Knott's Halloween Haunt: A Picture History. In addition to scaring thousands of guests for ten seasons as a "werewolf" at Knott's, Ted has also consulted, provided historical tours and trained characters for the longest running Halloween theme park in the world, Knott's Scary Farm's Halloween Haunt. Due to his expertise of things that go bump in the night, Ted has worked as an Associate Producer for the documentary, Season of Screams, and featured in numerous media outlets, including Newsweek, the History Channel and CNN. 

Urban anthropologist J. Eric Lynxwiler is the co-author of Knott's Preserved:  From Boysenberry to Theme Park, The History of Knott's Berry Farm, and Wilshire Boulevard:  Grand Concourse of Los Angeles.  Neon enthusiasts may know Eric as the affable host of the Museum of Neon Art's Neon Cruise. Downtown L.A. preservationists know him as an L.A. Conservancy docent for the Broadway Theater district.  While attending UCLA, he spent one school year behind the counter of Knott's shooting gallery and, more recently, worked as theme park's graphic designer on signage, brochures, and its new series of Berry-Market-labeled preserves.