Friday, November 30, 2018

Juanita Lovret and Don Tryon

Orange County recently lost two more excellent local historians: Don Tryon of San Juan Capistrano and Juanita Lovret of Tustin.

I only spoke to Lovret briefly once or twice, but I've cited her articles many times. In addition to retelling important but oft-told tales, she also frequently and commendably delved into corners of Tustin's past that no one else had ever tackled. Lovret's fellow Tustin historian, Guy Ball, writes:

"It is with regret and sadness that [I] report Juanita Lovret’s passing recently at age 92.

"Juanita lived in the Tustin area her entire life, taught at Tustin High, was Tustin Woman of the Year in 1996 and was very active in the Tustin Area Historical Society. Juanita also wrote a weekly column ["Remember When"] in the Tustin News for many years and wrote two books about Tustin history.

"Her columns in the Tustin News focused on growing up in early Tustin as well as the earlier histories of so many of our leaders, institutions, and buildings. The [Tustin Area Historical] Society has republished a good number of her columns at

"Details about a public memorial gathering will be forthcoming. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the [Tustin Area] Historical Society in Juanita’s memory. The family has also asked for people who knew her to send letters or cards to them describing their favorite memories of Juanita. These cards and letters can be mailed to: Remembering Juanita Lovret – c/o 13711 Yorba Street – North Tustin CA 92705."

Another great loss to our historical community this month was the passing of Don Tryon, who was always my "go-to guy" at the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society. No study of a Capistrano-related topic was complete without a call to Don to see if he had more on the subject. He was always friendly and helpful. Don co-authored the book Images of America, San Juan Capistrano and wrote the regular "Old San Juan" column for The Capistrano Dispatch. His obituary from the Orange County Register follows:

"Don [Tryon] was born and lived most of his life in California, working primarily in the oil industry and raising a family. In retirement, he and his late wife, Mary Tryon, moved to San Juan Capistrano where they became active with the Historical Society, Mission Archeological team, and Fiesta Association.

From about 1990-2015, Don was the Archivist for the Historical Society, preserving the photographic legacy of San Juan Capistrano. During his tenure, the collection grew to over 9,000 photos. Don also served as a Cultural Heritage Commissioner, served on the County Historic Commission, was a Kiwanis; a longtime Chamber of Commerce member, and was a writer of historic facts and stories for various local newspapers. Don was selected as the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce 1999 Man of the Year and was commended in 2000 by the California Legislature for his exemplary record of civic leadership.

Don is survived by his wife since 2009, Penny, by his children Gail and Michael, and four grandchildren. [Ed - He was also married to Mary Ellen Tryon for 58 years until her death in 2008.] In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the San Juan Historical Society Building Fund,"

Goodbye to two more of the good ones.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Autumnal Updates

Irvine Park, circa 1920s. (Don Dobmeier Postcard Collection)
The good folks at Preserve Orange County asked if I'd add a link to their (very impressive) website on links roster. That made me realize that I hadn't updated those links in at least a year. So, after much weeding, pruning, and updating, the links on the right-hand side of this page are mostly up-to-date and functional again. Please browse and perhaps discover a few gems you'd missed in the past.

In addition to Preserve O.C., other new additions to the list include the Orange County California History group on Flickr, the Old Courthouse Museum Society, the Yorba Linda Historical Society,, and a link to a sampling of articles from my old "O.C. Answer Man" column at Orange Coast magazine.

By the way, the Rancho Santa Margarita Historical Society seems to have fallen off the radar. Does anyone know if they're still active?

Friday, October 26, 2018

1880s-1890s Halloween: All tricks and no treats

Trick-or-treating is a rich American tradition, but it wasn't until the 1930s that it began to catch on as replacement for the just plain tricks (no treats) that were part of Halloween in earlier generations. A few examples from Orange County follow:
1884 -- In one of the earliest references to Halloween celebrations in Orange County, the Anaheim Gazette announced, "HALLOWEEN DANCE at Placentia School House on the evening of October 31st. The proceeds are for the benefit of the school bell fund. All are invited... Tickets...(including lunch), $1.00."
1891 -- John Gould of Tustin, confined to his bedroom all night for having caused trouble the previous Halloween, slipped out the window, went downtown and climbed a tree to sneak into the bell tower of the Presbyterian Church. He rang the bells as long as he dared, waking most of Tustin, and then rushed back home and back in through the open window before the authorities arrived. His grandfather told the cops that John "was up in his room all night." 
1891 -- The Anaheim Gazette reported that "mysterious witches came to town at midnight and amused themselves by changing signs and carting off several of the wagons awaiting repairs at Schauman's blacksmith shop. The witches must have been muscular cusses." The wagons at Schauman's remained a target of youthful Halloween troublemakers for years, sometimes being disassembled and then reassembled on the roofs of other downtown buildings.

1892 -- Among the reports from Santa Ana in the Nov. 6 edition of the Los Angeles Times: "Several businessmen of this city are still being inconvenienced by the questionable pranks of a gang of boys on Halloween." Halloween pranks that take five or six days to clean up after sound pretty serious.

1895 -- Some of the boys in Garden Grove decided to "round up" all the wagons and buggies of farmers in the surrounding countryside and leave them all at the blacksmith shop in town. It was dangerous business, as some folks couldn't tell the difference between a prank and out-and-out theft. In fact, one of the Garden Grove boys -- Seventeen-year-old Oscar Ingram -- took a shotgun blast from farmer Ira Woodman, whose carriage he was stealing. At first it seemed Oscar might die. He pulled through, but doctors never could get all the lead shot out of his back.

1895 -- Anything in Santa Ana that wasn't nailed down was moved to an unexpected spot during the night, including a spring wagon placed atop an outhouse at the grammar school. At least one lad, Ray Jones, was injured during the shenanigans when he was hit in the head by a large piece of lumber he was "liberating."

1898 -- Santa Ana boys took the nuts off the axels on a wood and hay delivery wagon, rendering it dangerous and useless until it could be repaired. Some of the pranks were pretty costly.

1899 -- "Halloween was celebrated in Santa Ana in the usual way by mischievous lads, and as a result many gates and other loose paraphernalia about the door-yards were missing this morning," reported the L.A. Times. Gates were a common target on Halloween. Pranksters would neighbors' garden gates from their hinges and then hide them elsewhere. Some were never found.

Attempts to deter young people from such behavior by distracting them with alternatives began early. At first parties were held -- sometimes by families and sometimes by organizations. Events sometimes included bobbing for apples, games involving fortune telling,and dinner involving special foods like tamales and pumpkin pie. Later, larger events like the Anaheim Halloween parade (1923) were held as a fun and harmless way to enjoy the season. And finally, trick-or-treating offered beleaguered citizens a chance to bribe their way out of mayhem with candy and other treats.

Not that plenty of people don't still cause trouble on Halloween, but most of that involves adults with alcohol, not kids with costumes.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Buena Park's mystery monster

Watch for falling arches. (Photo by Gnashes30)
In one of my old April Fools Day posts, I told you about Santiago Sam, the world's shortest bigfoot, who lives among the scrub brush of the Santa Ana Mountains. Now, here's another local bigfoot tale, but I promise I won't make stuff up like I tend to on April 1. (Or at least, I'll only doctor the last photo a little.)

On the night of Monday, May 10, 1982, five people called the Buena Park Police Department to report seeing an eight-foot tall, stinky, hairy, man-like creature walking through a concrete storm drain tunnel on Brea Creek behind Executive Park Apartments (7601 Franklin St.) Witnesses included three teenagers: Bennie Hinsley (18) and brothers Raymond (16) and Chris Bennett, who noticed the creature around 9:30 p.m. and watched it for about an hour.

“We could see the monster's shadow in the drainage ditch," Bennie told a UPI reporter. "We heard the water splash and then we smelled something awful."

It all matched what they knew about bigfoot. The young men also heard the creature made terrifying noises, like a cross "between Godzilla and a gorilla," before it headed west and out of view.
The delightfully mid-century-esque Executive Park Apartments, as they appear today.
Frank and Lorraine Missanelli, managers of an adjacent apartment complex, said they’d heard but not seen the creature. "It roared and growled just like the dinosaurs in the movies,” said Frank.

Disappointingly, the monster didn’t show up for the "monster watch" attended by about a hundred people the following night. However, unexplained phenomenon investigators Dennis Ruminer and Tom Muzila of Special Forces Investigations claimed to have found giant footprints and handprints near the mouth of the tunnel by using a divining rod and that they had made a cast of the handprints.

They had less luck with the footprint. "We were looking around the mouth of the tunnel when someone shouted, "There's a track,'" recalled Ruminer. “There were a lot of people around, and as we went to look a kid stepped on the track. So we only saw the front part of the track. It was a humanoid foot with five big toe marks, about seven inches across the ball of the foot. Before we got a good clear look at it, another kid stepped on it and completely obliterated the track."
John DeHerrerra with his hobo photo.
The Buena Park Police Dept., annoyed with hundreds of calls from concerned monster-phobes, held a press conference and announced that they had investigated the area but found nothing out of the ordinary.

The police also introduced freelance photographer and "unexplained phenomenon" buff John DeHerrerra, who presented a photo of a "hobo" he'd taken while waiting for a chance to photograph the creature people had begun to call "Buenafoot." The hobo was only about 6'4", but DeHerrerra suggested that the hobo may actually have been the mysterious hairy hominid in question. The man in the photo was shirtless, covered in dark grease, and according to DeHerrerra, stank to high heavens. The public hubbub died down considerably when it was discovered that the cryptid creature was likely just a filthy bum.

Well, MOST were satisfied with the explanation. "A hobo doesn't walk in water, he walks along railroad tracks," said Frank Missanelli. "Plus, he smelled so bad that if he was on a freight train the engine would uncouple and go off by itself."

Already losing steam, the story still got enough attention that even Dan Rather covered it on the national CBS Evening News.

The story received one more small flash of attention in July 1982 when the County of Orange's County Roundup employee newsletter reported that the staff of what 's now Ralph B. Clark Regional Park "found a footprint measuring 15" in length by 6 1/2" in width, west of the office and cast it in plaster shortly after" the nearby "Buena Foot" sightings. 
1960s photo at Knott's Berry Farm may indicate presence of cryptids.
Six years later, on the other side of Buena Park, Knott's Berry Farm announced its new Bigfoot Rapids ride. It was themed to the sort of wooded habitats where bigfeet (bigfoots? bigfootses?) supposedly are most common. (Sadly, the original incarnation of the ride lacked any animatronic monsters leaping out of the woods at the passing ride vehicles.) Did Buenafoot provide any of the inspiration for this attraction? Will Buenafoot return to Buena Park any time soon? Does Buenafoot have as much trouble finding shoes in his size as I do in mine? Stay tuned.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Orange County Plain Dealer

Our Anaheim/Nixon/Disneyland friend Jason Schultz just added another 4,000 scanned pages of the Anaheim Gazette to the many old Anaheim newspapers he’s digitized and made available at This amazing resource includes a brief history of the Gazette, and I thought Jason might also appreciate brief histories of some of the other Anaheim papers. Naturally, I began with the most obscure.  Here’s a slightly longer version of my history of the Orange County Plain Dealer, which Jason may or may not decide to use…

The Orange County Plain Dealer was launched in January 1898 – briefly in Fullerton, before moving to Anaheim, depending on which accounts one reads. Although it covered North Orange County generally, the newspaper’s focus was Anaheim-centric to the point that it was often incorrectly called the Anaheim Plain Dealer. The paper was originally owned and edited by James E. Valjean, the former editor of the Portsmouth (Ohio) Blade, a Republican, and the inventor of an improved stomach pump. He bought a small local paper called the Independent and built the Plain Dealer on its bones. The name of the new paper may well have been inspired by the Cleveland Plain Dealer in his previous home of Ohio. Once the new Orange County Plain Dealer became established, Valjean’s wife, Sarah Jane, moved from Ohio to Anaheim to be with him. In 1913, he made Earl R. Abbey (future Orange County Coroner) manager of the paper.

Shortly after a destructive fire at the newspaper plant and just prior to Valjean’s death in 1914, Abbey became the Plain Dealer’s publisher. Fred A. Chamberlain, also an employee of the paper, became editor. They purchased the paper and remained until 1916, when Paul Vincent Hester (editor) and Rolla Ward Ernest (manager) became the paper’s new co-owners and operators.

Ernest, going through an ugly divorce and looking for ways to lower his alimony, tried to sell his interest in the paper to Hester in 1923.  But Judge Cox put the kibosh on the sale.

On May 8, 1925, publishers Ernest and Hester sold the entirety of the Plain Dealer (by now an afternoon daily paper) to John S. Baker and his son-in-law, Anaheim Bulletin publisher Lotus Harry Loudon, for $35,000.  The afternoon daily was purchased with financial help from Loudon’s friends, developers Alfonso Bell (tennis star, oil tycoon and namesake of the communities of Bel Air, Bell, and Bell Gardens) and Phillip A. Stanton (politician who founded Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and Stanton). Louden and Baker immediately merged the Plain Dealer with the Bulletin.

Lotus H. Louden
A $90,000 libel suit against the Plain Dealer by Rev. James Allen Geissenger of the White Temple Methodist Church contributed to the newspaper's sale. The Plain Dealer had accused Geissenger of supporting the Ku Klux Klan’s recent takeover of Anaheim’s city government. However, hard evidence to support this claim could not be produced in court. The court forced Ernest and Hester to make a large payment to Geissenger, print a retraction on the front page (of the very last issue) of the Plain Dealer, and agree not to engage in newspaper work for at least fifteen years. Handing the reigns over to Loudon as publisher may have been one final slap at Geissenger and his associates, since Loudon was also an ardent adversary of the KKK. (Loudon was also a co-founder of the Anaheim Halloween Festival – where, he reckoned, dressing up like a bed-sheet ghost was more acceptable.)

Today, scattered issues of the Plain Dealer, beginning April 1898, can be found at the library at University of California Irvine's Special Collections. More complete runs of the Plain Dealer, from Sept. 1902 to March 1903 and from Jan. 1919 to May 1925, can be found on microfilm at the Anaheim Heritage Room. Of this latter collection, all but the issues from April 30, 1919 through December 1920 are now available at

Monday, August 20, 2018

More than a Big Boy combo plate

Bob's Big Boy, quite literally, gave me my first vision of what the world was like.

No, really.

I was born legally blind, but nobody (including me) knew it for a while. Unintentionally, I disguised the problem behind surprisingly effective coping mechanisms. And of course I didn't know that vision COULD be anything other than a haze of fuzzy shapes and colors. So I had not complaints.

I was three when the problem was identified. My mother was *horrified* that she hadn't caught the problem earlier, even though the pediatric ophthalmologist told here there was no way she could have done so.     
An example of Bob's "Chula Vista" building design. This one in L.A.
When the big day arrived, my parents and I drove down to El Toro (that's Lake Forest to carpetbaggers) to pick up my very first pair of uber-thick prescription glasses, which would (and still do) correct my vision from horrible to 20/20.

We immediately went just down he street to Bob's Big Boy for lunch. There -- unlike the short ride over in the backseat of my parents' Olds Cutlass -- I could finally SEE something! In fact, I could see EVERYTHING!

We'd been to identical Bob's restaurants many times before. It was one of architectal firm Armet & Davis' earthy "Chula Vista" designs for Bob's, which combined the design genius they'd perfected in earlier googie coffee shops with a strong theme of Early California and the Western Ranch House.

But every detail was new to my eyes! The first clear visual impressions I had were of my parents, subtropical plantings, a big George Nelson clock and benches, stained glass windows, "Spanish" wrought-iron light fixtures, decorative Lucite booth dividers, spacious Naugahyde booths, rotating racks of refrigerated desserts, and intriguing framed art depicting the vaqueros, dons and adobes of Early California. Every image was new and amazing to me.
Bob's bank and comic book. The comics were dumb, but I always wanted one.
I kept pointing out the simplest things to my mother, in awe -- Restaurant features I'd walked past dozens of times before and never noticed, like the simulated wood grain of the tabletops and the shiny metal air conditioning vents.

"Look! Look! There are plants INSIDE the building!"

Mom had tears in her eyes. But I was too busy LOOKING at EVERYTHING to notice.

Leaving the restaurant after lunch, I noticed (also for the first time) the large outdoor statue of Bob and ran over to give him as big a hug as my three-year-old arms could muster. It was a ritual I would repeat many time in my early childhood, (and possibly a few times as an adult).
Phil Brigandi and I visiting a Bob's on Glenoaks Blvd, Glendale in 2008.
Through dumb luck, I grew up surrounded by great architecture, including many gems by the Neutras: The Huntington Beach Central Library, Orange Coast College, the Mariners Medical Arts Building (where my pediatrician's office was located), and even a Neutra-knock-off elementary school. I regularly rode my bike past Schindler's Lovell Beach house and I enjoyed the breathtaking designs of Disneyland.

And of course I've been to restaurants with better food and service than Bob's. Even in its golden era, Bob's was never trying to be a fine dining experience -- just a top-notch coffee shop.
Bob and I on my 44th birthday -- In Toluca Lake, California
But still,... No building quite hits me emotionally like a Bob's Big Boy in original condition.

Oh, I know the franchises are now inconsistent and sometimes disappointing. (The one in Orange deserved to close.) And they don't serve my favorite silver goblet milkshakes nor the julienned vegetable (with barley) soup I loved. But just being IN a vintage Bob's is always a bit of a happy homecoming.

Can I trace my love of coffee shop architecture, double-deck burgers, colorful roadside signage, giant fiberglass advertising figures, and George Nelson clocks back to my first clear visual impressions? Can I trace my first step toward a career as a California historian to that moment?

Well, it certainly didn't hurt.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Bud Hurlbut exhibit at Orange County Archives

A proud Bud Hurlbut in front of his new Calico Mine Ride, 1960.
Buena Park’s Wendell "Bud" Hurlbut (1918-2011) was an entrepreneur, designer, and unsung giant of the amusement park business. He introduced ideas that became industry standard, he restored vintage attractions, he created Riverside’s Castle Park, and he crafted beautiful miniature trains. Only Hurlbut’s modesty prevented him from being as famous as Disney’s Imagineers. Locally, he is best remembered for the many rides he designed, built and operated for Knott’s Berry Farm, including the Calico Mine Ride and the Timber Mountain Log Ride. Such attractions were foundational to the engineering, business operation, and artistic design of the modern theme park. Walt Disney himself borrowed ideas from his friend Bud, as did later generations of Disney theme park designers.

(You can find the obituary I wrote for Bud on
Bud shows model of proposed Log Ride to Walter Knott, 1968. (This model is on display as part of the current Archives exhibit.)
The Orange County Archives’ new exhibit, “Bud Hurlbut: Master of Amusement” is now open in the first floor lobby of the Old Orange County Courthouse and continues inside the Archive’s office in room 108. Photos, drawings, models and artifacts help tell the story of Hurlbut’s colorful career and mark what would have been his centennial year. The Hurlbut Collection is just one of countless collections held by the Archives detailing the history of Orange County. This particular collection includes Hurlbut’s diaries, home movies, photos, business records, and much more.
Bud Hurlbut with one of his miniature trains at Knott's Lagoon, circa 1960.
The exhibit will be open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday (except on holidays) at the Old Courthouse at 211 W. Santa Ana Blvd, in Santa Ana, California. The exhibit will also be open from 10am to 3pm on the following Saturdays: Aug. 18, Sept. 22, Oct. 20, Nov. 17, and Dec. 15. It will run through at least the end of 2018.
Tony Baxter of Imagineering, me, Bud Hurlbut,and artist Kevin Kidney in 2007.
My personal thanks to Steve Oftelie, who spraymounted more photos and text panels for this project than any human being should ever have to spraymount. Thanks to the Old Courthouse Museum for giving us the exhibit space. Also thanks to Ken Stack of Stack's Liberty Ranch for loaning us two of the many miniature carousel horses that once graced Bud's desk as well as a framed blueprint of the Calico Mine Train engines. Thanks also to Adam England of the Muckenthaler Cultural Center for loaning me a (fake) box of dynamite. You'd be amazed how animated the security folks in a government building get when you stroll in with a wooden crate marked, "Danger! Explosives!"

Monday, June 11, 2018

Gus' Sea Shell Cafe, Balboa

Balboa Bikes 'N" Beach Stuff, 601 E. Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach.
Seeing this old building in Balboa with the “Green Fence of Death” around it set off all kinds of alarm bells for me. However, it seems the front portion of the building is being saved even though the back portion is being rebuilt with additional stories added. That beats total demolition by a bunch.

I remember stopping in here in the early 1990s, when it was still a bike rental shop, and finding the staff extremely helpful. I’d ridden my own bike (as I did most weekends) down from Huntington Beach and was on my way toward the Balboa Island Ferry and the rest of my journey down the coast when I got a flat tire. The folks in this shop graciously helped me patch the tire, put it back on the bike, and got me on my way at no charge. Aside from that, all I knew about the building was that it was old and that it had interesting wood floors that sounded a bit hollow and creaky. Now, having my attention drawn back to the building by this construction, I wanted to know more. Here’s what I found,…
Gus' Sea Shell Café, Balboa, circa 1929
The building was constructed around 1929 as the latest incarnation of a popular Balboa café owned by Gus Tamplis (a.k.a. G.B. Temple). Tamplis was born Kostantinos Basilion Tempelis in the small village of Kastria, Greece in the early 1890s and came to America around 1907. When he was naturalized in 1918, he legally changed his name to Gus Basilion Templis. It was under this name that he soon enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served as a ship's cook during World War I and was honorably discharged in late 1921.

In 1922, Tamplis opened “Gus and Tony’s The Sea Shell” near the Balboa Pier at 105 Main Street. The café specialized in Mexican (“Spanish”) and Italian fare and rapidly gained a large following. By 1923 it was known simply as Gus’ Sea Shell Lunch. By 1924, it was called the Sea Shell Café, and had moved to a somewhat larger space next door at 107 Main. According to the L.A. Times’ (Celebrate!, Vol. 2 historical supplement, Oct. 16, 1988), "…Everybody called him Gus Gus... He spoke with a thick accent,… and usually he only answered direct questions with a 'Yes Yes’ or a 'No No.’ Hence 'Gus Gus.'"

In 1929, Gus Gus moved again to a new location at the Corner of Palm Street and Central Ave. This move was a wise and calculated decision. This put the café directly across the alley from the new and wildly popular Rendezvous Ballroom. The Ballroom played host to some of the biggest musical acts in the country, as well as providing a home for new talent on the way up. By the late 1930s, the Sea Shell café (now serving mostly seafood and) and bar was well-established as was the place where the ballroom crowd congregated.
The Rendezvous Ballroom (the Balboa Pier would be to the right)
During World War II, Gus' cafe was also often the meeting place for the local USO executive committee. It also was the site of the first meeting of the Newport Harbor chapter of the Kiwanis Club in early 1941.

By 1952, Gus was living on Balboa Island and still owned a café somewhere, but it didn’t seem to be called the Sea Shell, and it definitely wasn’t at the corner of Palm and Central (by now called Balboa Blvd) anymore. The building at that location was now selling bamboo and rattan gifts. Later in the 1950s and into the early 1960s, the space was an Italian restaurant called Grandolfo's. And as mentioned above, it later became a bicycle rental shop.

Gus Gus died Aug. 22, 1954 and is buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana.

Update: Here's a photo of the building as it appeared in April 2019, after it (in the great Newport Beach tradition) "had work done":

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Anaheim's Original Pancake House

Something about fluffy pancakes, crispy bacon and fresh squeezed orange juice really fires up the imagination. Perhaps that’s why the lore behind Anaheim’s Original Pancake House (1418 E. Lincoln Ave.) has evolved rather fancifully over the years. Urban legends range from the building dating to the 1800s to the building having once been a mortuary. Nope and nope. But the real story is interesting, too.


The home that eventually morphed into the Original Pancake House was built in 1910 by Fred W. and Maria M. Lee.

Fred Lee had been a prominent merchant, sheep rancher, and investor in mining, timber and real estate in Yellowstone County, Montana. He’d also served as a County Commissioner, Grand Jury member and County Clerk there. Assuming there weren’t two men named Fred W. Lee in that part of Montana in the early 1900s, it appears he got  entangled in the infamous range wars between the sheep farmers and cattle ranchers. In any case, a local Fred W. Lee ended up spending 1903 in the state penitentiary for setting fire to a neighbor’s stockpile of hay.

Perhaps because of that awkward situation, or perhaps for his asthma, he and Maria left Montana for California around 1910 along with his ailing mother, Harriet Malvina Lee. It appears Fred had the little house built for his mother, and they lived there with her for some or all of the remaining two years of her life. She died of senility in Anaheim in 1912 and was buried across the street, at the Anaheim Cemetery.

The house was then bought and sold several times until someone finally really settled in for any length of time. Citrus rancher Frank (Francis) Norbert De Cock (1864-1939) and wife Mary (Maria) De Cock purchased it in 1920. The De Cocks were from Iowa, had seven children (including future Anaheim policeman Frank, Jr.), and would live in the house for fourteen years. 
Norbert (Frank Jr.) DeCock, 1954 (Photo courtesy Anaheim Heritage Center)
In 1936, with Frank in poor health and the economy in the tank, the property soon fell into the hands of the First National Bank of Santa Ana. It was then purchased by Casper C. and Nellie A. Reinert who in turn gave it to their son, Afton, and his wife, Mary.  But the Reinerts weren’t there for long, and the house sat vacant for several years during the Great Depression. The house became a rental again in the later 1930s and early 1940s and tenants included Marion E. and Lydia E. Shafer, and Marjorie (Mrs. Clifford B.) Chalenor and her children.

James H. and Anne S. Johnston bought the house in 1942 but sold it in 1945 to the couple who converted the first floor into a restaurant.


Wilber Wade Parker (1909-1947) of Anaheim had married soda jerk Dorothy May Close of Santa Ana on Aug. 25, 1939. They settled into a home on Philadelphia St. in Anaheim with his two children from an earlier marriage, Arthur and Sharen. In Oct. 1942, Dorothy purchased Finch’s Café at 242 W. Center St. Later Wade and Dorothy ran the Parker House Café at 120-122 E. Center St. In 1945, they also bought the property at 1418 E. Center. They initially just lived there and continued to run the Parker House Café. But in November they sold the business, presumably to focus on opening a new restaurant at 1418 E. Center.
The Dorothy-Wade Café (Photo courtesy Original Pancake House, Anaheim)
Sometime in 1946, their Wade Dorothy Café began operating in the future Original Pancake House. In the directories of the day, Dorothy Parker was listed as the proprietor of the café, which went by a variety of names: The Dorothy-Wade Café, Dorothy & Wade's Restaurant, the Dorothy & Wade Dinner House, etc.

By 1953, the proprietor signed her name as Dorothy Parker Ford on building permits for an addition to the building. She expanded the café 18 feet west, enlarging the kitchen and dining area. Public restrooms were in a separate building out back.


Meanwhile, up in Portland, Oregon, the groundwork was unwittingly being laid for the café’s future. Alpenrose Dairy salesman Ray C. Birkland had just found a pair of friendly regular customers in Lester Earl “Les” Highet (1897-1985) and Erma Emma Marie Hueneke (1908-1968) – the owners of a popular new restaurant called the Original Pancake House.
Les Highet and Erma Hueneke
Although Highet had only a second-grade education, he learned the restaurant business working his way up through the kitchens in hotels and taverns across the Pacific Northwest. By 1953, he’d saved enough to open the Original Pancake House. Two years later, the first franchise has was spun off in Salem, Oregon by his initial business partner, Erma Huenke and her family.

“My father, [Les Highet,] figured out how to market the food of middle-class European housewives to a mass audience,” Ron Highet told Portland Monthly magazine in 2009. “The average person at that time had never seen big, fluffy pancakes with apples and cinnamon—at least not in a restaurant.”

In contrast to the self-taught Les, his wife, Doris Highet, was a medical doctor with a PhD in biochemistry. Her expertise, the Highets claimed, was the secret to their success. Doris found a way to break down the gluten in the wheat flour used in their batter. Her secret formulas for the restaurant’s five main batter types (German, French, Swedish, buttermilk, and waffle) resulted in pancakes that were consistently “light, airy,” and with excellent “flavor and body.”  Only franchise owners and prep cooks are allowed to see these recipes.
Les Highet serves breakfast at the original OPH.

Birkland watched the growth of the Original Pancake House with interest – especially when the they began to spin off franchises in 1955.

That same year, back in Anaheim, Disneyland had opened and a booming local tourist industry was beginning to unfold. But old fashioned roadside cafes and hash houses weren’t bringing in the traffic they once had. In 1957, Dorothy tried to rekindle public interest in her business by redecorating and rebranding her place as Dorothy Wade's "Gay 90s" Restaurant.
Newspaper ad, 1957.
But the new name and theme didn’t help, and in 1958 Dorothy (now also known as Dorothy M. Brothers) sold both the property and all the cafe's fixtures and equipment to Ray and Anita Cadonau Birkland, who by then had purchased the rights to open what would be the fifth Original Pancake House franchise from Highet and Hueneke. (Today there are more than 100 in the chain.)

The Birklands did major reconstruction and remodeling before opening their restaurant, although the bones of the old 1910 house were still under there somewhere. Ray and Anita lived upstairs and handled every detail of the restaurant’s operations personally downstairs. Ray was great with the customers and a well-liked figure, but was a bit of a tyrant in the kitchen according to even some of his most admiring employees. Things had to be done a certain way – the right way!

The Birklands hired Ronald A. “Ron” Voll as a cook. Years earlier, Voll, fresh out of the Marine Corps., had started washing dishes at the original Original Pancake House location and quickly moved up the ladder. He later moved to Southern California and they sought him out to help them at their new franchise. Voll started work at the Anaheim restaurant on opening day as a cook and would have a long career there. 

When Anaheim’s Original Pancake House began advertising heavily in early 1961, their hours were 6am to 8pm. Over time, it must have become clear that it didn’t make financial sense to remain open after 2pm -- their now long-standing closing time. But for those who love breakfast food for dinner, it seems a cruel twist that one of the best restaurants in town isn’t open at night.

On May 25, 1963, a major fire broke out in the kitchen, heavily damaging most of the first floor interior. Everyone escaped unharmed, but portions of the building had to be reconstructed. While they were at it, a large new addition to the front of the building was added, including the current entry room and waiting area, restrooms, front dining area, and a large A-frame façade that makes the building easily identifiable from the street.
Detail from elevation for 1963 redesign of the building. (Click to enlarge)
When the Birklands finally retired in 1986, they continued to own the property and to live upstairs. But Ron and Nancy S. Voll took over the business. Ray Birkland continued to help out and acted as unofficial greeter. Meanwhile, Voll expanded the business and added another location in Yorba Linda.

Around 2000, the Birklands moved back to Portland, and in 2002 Ray Birkland died, leaving the property to Anita. She sold the property to the Volls two years later. The Volls retired in 2006 and transferred ownership to their sons, Adam and Gary. "I'm going to miss a lot of it," Ron Voll told the Orange County Register. "I've made an awful lot of friends.”

Anita Birkland passed away in Portland in 2013. As of 2018, the owner of the Original Pancake House property in Anaheim was Apache Productions Inc., of San Juan Capistrano.
Original Pancake House, Anaheim, 2014 (Photo courtesy ARG)

Around 2014, a report on the Original Pancake House’s historical status was compiled by Architectural Resources Group for the City of Anaheim. The report noted that although the 1963 addition may prevent the old house underneath from being considered a “Historically Significant Structure,” the fact that the addition itself is more than 50 years old may qualify the whole shootin’ match as a “Citywide Historically Significant Structure.” The report also indicated that the circa 1958 pole sign out front may, on its own merits, qualify as a Historically Significant Structure “due to its representation as a significant style of signage and its being a significant visual feature of the City.”
Panoramic view from the waiting area, OPH, Anaheim (Photo by author)
[Thanks to Jane Newell of the Anaheim Heritage Center, Christine Nguyen of the Anaheim City Planning Dept., Anaheim City Councilman Steve Faessel, the Orange County Archives, and historian Cynthia Ward for their help with this article.]

Monday, May 14, 2018

Neon History (Event!)

La Palma Chicken Pie Shop sign enters Museum of Neon Art. (Photo by Adriene Biondo)
The art and history of neon on our local roadsides will be the topic of author J. Eric Lynxwiler’s eye-popping program at the Orange County Historical Society’s Annual Dinner, June 14 at the Phoenix Club, Anaheim.  He’ll also highlight the work of the Museum of Neon Art, which saves favorite signs like La Palma Chicken Pie Shop’s giant chicken. Enjoy good food, fun, a silent auction, and an amazing speaker. Members and non-members welcome. Register by May 31. To register or for more information, visit
Linbrook Bowl, Anaheim. (Photo by Chris Jepsen)
 I'm really looking forward to this! Hope you can be there!
Restored sign at Fun Zone, Balboa, Newport Beach.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 10)

Senaida Sullivan, 1965
 [Continued from Part 9]

More than twenty five years after Silverwood's death, Senaida Sullivan, state music chairman of the Native Daughters of the Golden West, with support from her organization and the Al Malaikah Shrine, led the lobby to have "I Love You, California" made the official state song. Many other state songs had been posited over the years, but none of the others had staying power. Senator Jack Tenney and Assemblyman Frank Lanterman (who loved playing the song on pipe organ) made the case to the California State Legislature. In 1951, their resolution passed. However, equivocating politicians had reworded the language to make "I Love You, California" “an” official state song, but not “the” official state song, leaving room for future waffling.
Silverwoods president Stephen C. Bilheimer (right) cuts ribbon at first Orange County store, at the Broadway Center on Euclid Ave. Anaheim, April 5, 1957.
In 1984, Assemblyman Dan Hauser authored a bill to officially make “'California, Here I Come,” our state song. It was defeated 41 to 30. Hauser complained that “I Love You, California” should be relegated to “state hymn or even better, funeral dirge.”

In 1987, to honor the memory of Frank Lanterman, (but because the song was falling out of copyright the following year), freshman Assemblyman Tim Leslie proposed a bill to unequivocally make “I Love You, California” THE state song. The idea was not universally loved. “I can't believe we're doing this,” said Assemblyman Dave Elder. “It might've sounded great on Frank Lanterman's organ after about four drinks -- if you had them, not him.” Assemblywoman Jackie Speier flat-out called it “a terrible song.”
Frank D. Lanterman at the organ.
Yet somehow the measure passed and was put into effect in 1988. It had been seventy five years since Silverwood published the song, but it finally fulfilled its intended roll. It may have sounded leaden to 1987 ears (accustomed as they were to modern talent like Whitesnake, Wang Chung and Kenny G), but its time had finally come.

Silverwood’s chain of stores grew along with Southern California, added women’s professional apparel to their repertoire, moved their headquarters to Santa Ana, and became part of the family of Hartmarx Specialty Stores. They closed after the 1991 Christmas season due to slumping sales.
Silverwoods (on left) at Fashion Island, Newport Beach, circa late 1970s.
In 1924, the year of his death, Frank Silverwood wrote a poem entitled “Just Tell Him Now” that was not only prescient but also seemed to capture his philosophy.

Just Tell Him Now

If with pleasure you are viewing any work a man is doing,
If you like him or you love him, tell him now;
Don't withhold your approbation till the parson makes oration,
And he lies with snowing lilies o'er his brow;
For no matter how you shout it, he won't really care about it,
He won't know how many teardrops you have shed.
If you think some praise is due him,
Now's the time to slip it to him,
For he cannot read his tombstone when he's dead.

More than fame and more than money,
Is the comment, kind and sunny,
And the hearty, warm approval of a friend;
For it gives to life a savor, makes you richer, stronger, braver--
Gives you heart and hope and courage to the end.
If he earns your praise, bestow it;
If you like him, let him know it;
Let the word of true encouragement be said.
Do not wait till life is over and he's underneath the clover,
For he cannot read his tombstone when he's dead.

Indeed, Daddy Silverwood isn’t reading many tombstones (or blogs) these days, either. But we Californians really should return his love by at least remembering him and by singing our state song.
Francis B. "Daddy" Silverwood, 1920.
[Click here to return to Part 1]

Friday, April 27, 2018

Thar she blows!

Okay,... So this has nothing particularly to do with Orange County history, unless you take into account that whales were once hunted off our coast. But I'm posting it specifically with my friend Bob Minty of Dana Point in mind. Bob portrays Richard Henry Dana at events on the Pilgrim, and he's a great collector of information about whales and the old whaling industry. If there's something he hasn't seen yet, perhaps it's this: Whale bone toilet seats!

Yes, we once slaughtered the whales wholesale -- not just for oil and ambergris, but also as something to poop on.  I stumbled across the ad in the pages of the Feb. 1922 issue of The American School Board Journal, which advertised nearly every product a school could want, from fire escapes to crayons.

Update: Bob has already responded: "The term 'whale bone' referred to baleen (not skeletal bones).  They used baleen for anything where we use plastic today."

I then asked him if that meant "whale bone corsets" were actually made of baleen.
Bob Minty at the Dana Point Historical Society, circa 2016.
"Yes," he replied. "Corsets, combs, policeman’s saps, buggy whips, bedsprings, fishing poles were all made from whalebone (baleen). When baleen is heated, it can be bent or twisted to any shape. The only use for skeletal bone, other than fertilizer, was to whiten cane sugar during the refining process.  (C&H Sugar -Terminal Island)."

"Another odd idea was  Mr. Wrigley (of gum and Catalina Island fame) wanted to develop a whale milk farm. They would use Orca whales as 'sheep dogs'.  I have the newspaper article."

Thursday, April 26, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 8)

Frank B. "Daddy" Silverwood, circa 1920.
 [Continued from Part 7]

By the early 1920s, Francis B. Silverwood’s menswear chain had five stores throughout Los Angeles County, and it would continue to grow. Every Monday he set out letters (a.k.a. “wise talks from the office boy”) to his sales staff, sharing his thoughts on how business should be conducted, professional self-help tips, and how customers should be treated.

“I want the man in overalls to receive the same polite attention as the man in the silk hat and frock coat," he wrote in 1915. "I want the looker to be accorded the same attention as the buyer: A looker to-day is a buyer to-morrow. What is needed most in business to-day is more kindness. I want you to do unto others as tho you were the others. I want you to love your work and cultivate a happy disposition: happiness is a habit and I want every Silverwood employee to get the habit.”
Silverwood's store at 6th St. & Broadway, Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy
In another such letter he promised, "If your heart is in your work you won't have to proclaim your progress: you'll be so conspicuous I'll discover it long before you do. If you outgrow your job I'll make a bigger one for you. Don't think because you don't see me every hour of every day that I'm not keeping a line on you..."

In 1920, Silverwood opened a large new flagship store on the northeast corner of 6th St. and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, replacing a smaller one at the same intersection.  The new store was said to be the largest retail clothing store in the United States.
Silverwood's at 6th St. & Broadway, circa 1905. Note sign reading, "Home of Silverwood's Office Boy." (Photo courtesy L.A. Public Library)
Next time: Departures

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 9)

Frank Silverwood's 1922 passport photo.
[Continued from Part 8]

In early 1922, Silverwood handed over the reins of his company to his longtime business partner George E. Nagel and planned the vacation of a lifetime. Having already been around the world twice, this time he applied for a passport that cleared him for visits to India, Constantinople, Java, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Borneo, Burma (Myanmar), Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Greece, the Society Islands, Italy, France, the British Isles, Spain, Egypt, Switzerland, Belgium Holland, and part of what’s now Malaysia. In reality, he spent most of the next two years in Australia.

In January 1924, Silverwood suffered a stroke in Honolulu while headed back toward California for a visit. It was the beginning of the end for him. George E. Nagel – now head of the F.B. Silverwood Co. – left for Hawaii to attend to him and to bring him back to Los Angeles.
George Nagel in 1931.
For all his business success and charitable work, Silverwood’s most famous contribution would remain “I Love You, California.” Silverwood wrote other songs, of which he once said, “Oh, I'm no poet. I just want to keep the cheer-music going, so I write jingles.” (And none of those jingles proved as popular as his ode to the Golden State, which he’d felt so strongly about.) His other works included "The Golden Poppy" (1922, with music by Raymond Hubbel), a number of Hawaii-influenced numbers like “Honolulu, I’m Coming Back Again” (music by David S. Lindeman), and the more philosophical "We Want the Flowers Now" (1917, with music by Byron Gay). After suffering a stroke in 1924, lying on his deathbed, he turned to a relative and quipped, "Well, I'm getting my flowers now, anyhow."

Francis B. Silverwood died on March 11, 1924, in Los Angeles, with less than $10,000 to his name, having shared much of his business' success with his employees via profit-sharing, having spent a good deal on travel, and having given much more of his personal wealth to charity. He also gave many large gifts to friends and loyal employees in his later years.

Next time: We Finally Get A State Song!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Pioneer Preacher Puts Gospel in Gospel Swamp

Rev. Isaac Hickey
Isaac Hickey was born to John and Sarah Hickey in Marion, Tennessee on May 29, 1819. At the age of 20, he married Malinda Jane Marshall in Tennessee and the couple soon moved to Titus County, Texas where they began their family. Over the course of 25 years they had 15 children.

Sometime between early 1863 and the beginning of 1866, Rev. and Mrs. Hickey and some of their many children trekked from Texas to California along with twenty-five other families in ox-drawn wagons. The arduous trip took nine months. They initially stopped in San Bernardino and and settled in the Rincon ranch area near Chino in 1868. Isaac, an ordained Baptist minister, became the founding pastor of a Baptist congregation that met in the El Rincon schoolhouse.

Soon thereafter, the family uprooted to Julian, California, where Isaac again served as a preacher.

In those days, unclaimed public land was considered open for homesteading. The Santa Ana River - which had long been used as the boundary line for several ranchos - had changed course in 1825, leaving ownership of the rich and damp land between the new and old channels hazy. In 1870, the Hickeys, like many other families, saw an opportunity for free land and moved to this apparent no-mans land.

Specifically, Isaac and Malinda Hickey moved to the marshy southern outskirts of the new township of Santa Ana. Some of their children settled on adjacent parcels. Together the property was known to locals as Hickey's Settlement.

Isaac Hickey listed himself as a “Trader” on his voter registration entry, but he made his mark in the community as a bible-thumping preacher. Hickey, said historian Jim Sleeper, "sloshed his way into this rich over-flow land" to bring salvation to anyone who'd accept it. He had a fire and brimstone style of preaching, which he said was his way of "paving the way for the kid-glove men who would come in the future." Hickey volunteered his services without pay at a small nondenominational church that served most of Santa Ana and he was said to be the first to preach a sermon in the town.
Malinda Jane Hickey
He would also serve as the first pastor of what became the First Baptist Church of Santa Ana, where the parishioners called Isaac and his wife “Father and Mother Hickey.” There were initially only thirteen Baptist Church members: Rev. Isaac and Malinda Hickey, son John Hickey and hiswife, a young “Miss Hickey,” G. L. Russell and his wife, Robert English and his wife, Mrs. William Tedford, Mrs. Orma G. Vance, Miss Annie Cozad (Santa Ana's first school teacher), and Mrs. Lizzie Sears.

Until March 1871, when services began to be held in the newly built schoolhouse at Sixth and Main St., most services were held in members' homes. After one of these animated residential gatherings, a well-known local grumbler named George Lynch declared that "Gospel Swamp" would be a good name for the community. The name stuck and was reinforced by others (mostly protestant Southerners along with some Reorganized L.D.S.) who also came to the marshland and preached, held revival meetings and practiced their faith among the tule weeds. Even today, one occasionally hears the name Gospel Swamp attached to the South Santa Ana area (or sometimes erroneously to less gospel-y/swamp-y parts of Fountain Valley or Huntington Beach).

The Hickeys and their neighbors came in for a rude awakening when the Stearns Rancho Co. claimed ownership of the land they'd be living on. The company owned the Rancho Las Bolsas, from which the river had cut the disputed territory. Largely fruitless attempts were made to shoo the squatters off the land. Finally, in 1877, the federal government decided that the land between the old and new river channels was still part of the Rancho Las Bolsas. Legal challenges raged for several years until eviction notices were issued in October 1879. A few squatters were able to buy the land they'd lived on, but most moved away. One of the most popular resettlement spots was Julian, where the Hickeys had lived prior to Santa Ana.

But the Hickeys weren't headed back to Julian. From at least 1878 through at least 1882 they lived and farmed just outside Phoenix, in Arizona Territory. In July 1879, Isaac and Malinda were called as witnesses in the trial of their teenage son, Price L. Hickey, who had been arrested for robbing the Wells Fargo stagecoach. (Price was not found guilty, went on to become a prospector, and returned to Santa Ana prior to 1900 to raise his own family.)

Isaac Hickey died on January 11, 1893, in Creston, California. A street in Santa Ana was named for him, but has since been renamed 8th Street.

A 2013 Orange County Register article declared that Hickey was "a man lost to time," and that "his existence is now condensed to a few passing references in history books and essays." Let's hope this blog post helps raise his profile a little.

[Addendum: Anyone wanting to do further research on Isaac Hickey would probably be well served to check with the Santa Ana History Room at the Santa Ana Public Library. When the First Baptist Church of Santa Ana was closing up shop, I helped shepherd their records over to SAPL. I'm not sure if that collection is processed and available for research as of this writing, but if not, it should be someday soon. Another good resource would be historian Carolyn Christian, who's done a great deal of good work on Gospel Swamp, albeit more often from the RLDS side of things.]