Friday, March 30, 2018

Hurlbut, Knott's. Tiki, OCHS, etc...

On the heels of my two-parter about Bud Hurlbut's unrealized Polynesian boat ride at Knott's, Chris Murray was kind enough to send a long these aerial photos he purchased at Bud's estate sale seven years ago. As he points out, they really show how developed things were on that side of Highway 39.
Speaking of my Tiki Lagoon website, I posted a little tribute to the Sam's Seafood/Don the Beachcomber there a couple days ago. It's so sad to see this O.C. landmark disappear. I'll write a longer piece about it soon.

In other news, the Orange County Historical Society's office and archives will be open tomorrow (Saturday) from 10am to 2pm. Feel free to come by if you have research you'd like to do. We may not have time for idle chatter tomorrow, as there's still a lot of work to do on the collections.

Special thanks to Joan at the Cheney Washington Historical Society for her help with a bedeviling detail or two in researching my ongoing F.B. Silverwood series of articles. Turned out I was barking up the wrong tree, but thanks to her at least I know that now. Also thanks to Stephanie George for assisting me with her mad genealogy skills. (For the two history folk in the world who don't know this yet: The tools of genealogy work equally well in researching long-dead people you're NOT related to!)

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 2)

If it says "state song" on the cover, it must be true, right?
[Continued from Part 1]

Even as his marriage fizzled out, F. B. Silverwood was writing and promoting what would eventually become California’s official state song.  He was not the first to write such a number. Many others had already tried and failed to promote their own proposed state songs. In doing so, they paved the way for Silverwood.

For example, "Hail California" (1896) by recent New York transplant Josephine Barrelle Howard Grow (a.k.a. Josephine Gro) sold at least 25,000 copies to public schools before fading into deserved obscurity. Gro simply printed “State Song” under the title on the cover of the sheet music rather than taking steps to obtain official status.

Describing Gro’s song, Ambrose Bierce wrote, "On the music I forgo judgement, lacking the gift and faculty devine of the musician; but the words are about the meanest, mangiest yellow dogs of words that ever scampered ki-yi-ing out of the cerebral kennel to lay waste the night and desolate the day."
Josephine Gro, circa 1895
The lyrics to “Hail California” follow:
O California--Hail to thee!
And to the day that gave thee birth!
With countless mines and fruitful vines,
Thou art a land of wonderous worth;
Thy Native Sons give homage true,
And glory in thy golden frame;
Thy foster children bless thee, too,
And sound they praise with loud acclaim.

Hail! All hail to California!
Shout from her Sierras to her Golden Gate;
Richest gem in fair Columbia's crown--
Hail to California, the Goden State.

Where once thy deserts lay in waste,
Now, scent of blossoms fills the air,
And fertile plains of golden grains
And groves of vast extent are there.
Since first thy rugged border-land
Gave entrance to the pioneer,
With steady stride and triumph grand,
Hast thou marched on thy proud career.

Oh, El Dorado--treasure land!
Of goodly gifts thou hast a store;
Thy yellow show'rs of fruit and flow'rs
In free profusion round us pour;
Thy flocks graze on a thousand hills,
Thy cattle roam o'er poppied plains,
In every breast a true heart thrills,
And over all contentment reigns.

O, Queen of the Pacific, with
Thy throne upon its golden sands;
Thy ships defy its billows high,
And bear thy wealth to other lands.
Thy South 'neath ever-smiling skies
Is a perennial garden fair--
Caressed by breezes soft, she lies
In luxury beyond compare.

Thy motto, "Watch and Guard," adorned
The banners of thine early days;
Thy record tells 'twas heeded well,
And each, its mandate still obeys.
And should the nation be in need,
Thy sons in all their loyal might,
To its defense will boldly speed,
Beneath Old Glory's colors bright.
Beirce was right about it being “insufferable stuff.” It would be more than a decade before anyone had the guts to broach the topic of a California state song again.
Next time: Westminster and the Land of the Setting Sun

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 1)

Sheet music cover for I Love You, California, 1913.
You know that antiquated-sounding ode to California used in Jeep TV commercials? That’s a slightly mangled version of our state song: “I Love You California” (1913) – with lyrics written by Silverwood’s clothing store founder, Francis Beatty "Frank" Silverwood (1863–1924), also known as “Daddy” Silverwood.

Most Californians are surprised to learn our state song isn’t "California, Here I Come" (1921) – made popular by Al Jolson, Huell Howser, and your fourth grade teacher.

The intertwined stories of Silverwood and California's adoption of his song are colorful and convoluted to say the least. The tale involves Shriners, a Westminster poet, petty political tomfoolery, failed romances, high fashion, an operatic diva, world travel, legions of poor newsboys, and a place called Happyland.
Francis B. "Daddy" Silverwood
A native of Oakwood, Ontario, Canada, Silverwood first came to the United States in 1877 as a child and sold newspapers for a pittance on the rough-and-tumble streets of New York City. He returned to Canada, but came back to the U.S. at age 18, worked his way across the Pacific Northwest, and eventually arrived in San Francisco around 1886. But he couldn’t find a job there, and he only had $2.50 to his name. So he pawned his watch to pay for steamboat transportation to Eureka, where the Crocker Bros. store had offered him a job selling men’s clothing. It was the start of a career and a lifelong business partnership with fellow clothier George Edward Nagel, and it was also where Silverwood would gain American citizenship in 1892. He worked for Crocker Bros. for five years and rose to the position of manager before leaving to co-found McNamara & Silverwood clothiers with William A. McNamara.
Homeless New York newsboys, late 1800s.
Two years later, in the Spring of 1894, Silverwood left Eureka, with a plan to open his own men’s clothing store in Los Angeles with help from Nagel. First, however, he took a trip to New York and then to see his family in Canada.

Silverwood and Nagel opened their first Silverwood store on May 13, 1894 at 124 South Spring Street in Los Angeles. (Orange Countians may remember some of the chain’s branches, much later, at Anaheim Plaza, La Habra Fashion Square, and Newport's Fashion Island.)
Among the first advertisements for Silverwood's store, from the Los Angeles Herald, May 12, 1894.
"Mr. Silverwood is a big, good hearted, genial whole souled fellow,” wrote the San Bernardino County Sun when a Silverwood store later opened in their city. “Although he weighs 250 pounds, he plays golf, was one of the end men in the Jonathan Club minstrel show, and sees the sunny side of life."

Already, Silverwood was a proud Californian who signed his letters, "Yours to the end of the trail, Daddy."

On Jan. 27, 1897, Silverwood married Miss Marie L. Funk, a 23-year-old Illinois native. Previously, she was a clerk in the Charles A. Lang millinery shop in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The wedding was a simple affair conducted at the bride’s uncle’s home in Los Angeles, and she carried a bouquet of orange blossoms down the aisle. They initially lived in a room in a boarding house on Hill Street until Frank’s business really got rolling. By 1910, things were going so well that the Silverwoods had money for a trip around the world, including stops in Japan, China, and Hawaii. But something may have happened on or around that trip that took the romance out of their marriage.
Mrs. Marie L. Silverwood, 1909
Later that year, Marie took off to Europe with no return trip planned. She only came back to the U.S. when World War I began in earnest, and even then did not return to her husband. In 1915, Frank Silverwood filed for and received a divorce on grounds of desertion.

By then, his life had already taken an interesting new turn.

Next time: Part 2 - Hail, California!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Who was Alton?

Looking east on the original segment of Alton St. near S. Main St., in Santa Ana.
Fellow history dudes Rob and Cliff send me a question from the "Growing up in Irvine" Facebook group about the origins of the street name "Alton Avenue" in Irvine.

I didn't know where the name came from, but I was able to dig up the answer.

The first segment of Alton was a stretch less than half a mile long called Alton Street in Santa Ana. It extended east from South Main St. In 1945 it was still an unnamed dirt road, or at least the name didn't yet appear on maps. However, the street appeared in the 1952 Rene Atlas of Orange County, as Alton St.

Prominent dairyman and rancher James E. Alton (of the J. E. Alton & Sons Co.) had been living and ranching along S. Main St. in the Greenville area since at least the early 1900s. James primarily made the newspapers when involved in Knights of Columbus activities or when he was picked up for public intoxication.

In 1952, James’ son, Joseph W. Alton, took charge of the business. At that point, James and his wife Frances lived at 15032 Alton St., Santa Ana.

Later, little Alton Street would be extended east to Newport Blvd. and then southeast into what's now Irvine. It was bisected when that segment of Newport Blvd. became part of the 55 Freeway.

As Irvine was developed and grew in the 1960s, 1970s and even into the 2010s, Alton St. was extended yet further and became Alton Ave. and (east of the 55 Freeway) Alton Parkway. Several more unconnected segments of Alton were also added to the west in South Santa Ana as more land was developed. Today, the western terminus of Alton Ave. is at Susan Street.

"It is amazing how such a small road became a major street," says Cliff.

Friday, March 09, 2018


Longtime local historian Phil Brigandi has built you a new website: I know just how much he loves computers (and how much they love him back), so you should appreciate this all the more. He jammed all those ones and zeroes into place with his bare hands to create a site that's professional-looking, interesting, and a useful reference. (With Phil's writing, you never have to wonder if the facts are really the facts.)

Phil has already posted some of his old articles, a bunch of new ones, a bit of primary source material, and is working on still more content to be uploaded soon. It's a very welcome addition to the growing family of online O.C. historical resources. The more good local history we can get into the public's hands, the better.

Phil's old website is still online too, at It also has a lot of great content, but it was mostly static and in retrospect seemed like a placeholder for the site he's debuting now.

"At its best," Phil writes on the new site's introduction, "local history can help give all of us a sense of connection to the past, a sense of belonging, a sense of place. We are all part of a larger story. If I can help build a growing appreciation of Orange County’s past, my work will be worthwhile."

It is very much worthwhile, my friend!

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Orange County Press Club writes again (and again)

Famed local cartoonist Virgil “VIP” Partch serenades Pam Bennett at an Orange County Press Club event, April 1962. Photo courtesy County of Orange.
There is undoubtedly an amazing history to be written of the Orange County Press Club. What follows ain't it. However, these colorful stories about the early incarnations of the Club (and its delightfully goofy mascot) might be considered a little step in the right direction.

Journalists from Orange and Santa Ana gathered on the evening of May 26, 1916, at the James Café in Downtown Santa Ana, to launch the Orange County Press Club. Representatives from newspapers in Anaheim and Fullerton sent letters of support, but were unable to attend the first meeting. Terry E. Stephenson of the Santa Ana Register (also a local historian) acted as temporary chairman and W.O. Hart of the Orange News acted as secretary. Hart pointed out that the organization, "even if formed for social purposes at the outset, eventually [will] result in much good to the newspapers of the county in a business way."

It was decided that not only news writing and editorial staff could join, but also front office staff. The drafting of a constitution and bylaws was left to a committee and were adopted at the Club’s first banquet, a few months later.
The Jewel City Café, Seal Beach, as it appeared in 1922. Photo courtesy
At that time, the Bayside Land Company still owned much of Seal Beach and was using every trick in the book to draw attention to its young community and to spur further real estate sales. Sensing a good PR opportunity, they graciously played host to that first O.C. Press Club banquet and threw quite a party. The event was held Oct. 7, at Millers Famous Sunset Dollar Dinners in the Jewel City Cafe building in the heart of Seal Beach’s brand new pier-side “Joy Zone.” After a short business meeting, there was dancing, aerial acrobatics by aviator Joe Boquel, and fireworks over the pier. Those arriving early were also welcomed to enjoy the Bayside Land Co. beach resort privileges at no cost, including swimsuits, bathhouse privileges, etc.

Despite the impressive kick-off, the Press Club immediately disappeared. Organizations as obscure as the Santa Ana Typographical Union’ Women’s Auxiliary and the Wrycende Maegdenu continued to run regular announcements of their activities in the local newspapers, but there was no further sign of the Orange County Press Club. It makes one wonder exactly what went on that night in Seal Beach! (Considering the reputations of both journalists and early Seal Beach, it’s hard to imagine.)
Almost exactly a decade later another attempt at starting an Orange County Press Club was made, this time with a bit more success.

At that time, the Orange County Harbor Chamber of Commerce was using every trick in the book to promote a positive outcome for an impending ballot initiative that would provide bond money for the development of Newport Bay into a harbor. Sensing a good PR opportunity, they graciously played host to Orange County’s newspaper publishers, and they threw quite a party. On May 11, 1926, the evening began with a cruise around the bay, followed by a deluxe steak dinner at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club.
Pro-Harbor cartoon by Santa Ana Register cartoonist and local war hero Jack Fisher.
During the meeting, Horace Fine of the Register suggested that an Orange County Press Club be formed. Some of the same personalities that had been part of the original group in 1916 were in attendance and may or may not have spoken out about “history repeating itself.” Just like a decade before, a committee was created to draft a constitution and bylaws and a temporary board was set up to instigate the Club's formation. This time, the group in attendance included reps from newspapers in every corner of the county. Newport News publisher (and local historian) S.A. Meyer was made temporary chairman, and A.V. Douglass of the La Habra Star was elected secretary.

Of the bay tour, the Register reported the newsmen being “deeply impressed with the expanse of water and the possibility of developing, at the bay, a first class pleasure and commercial harbor."
After dinner, in the Yacht Club’s smoke-filled drawing room, it was decided to hold another meeting in early June, and plans were discussed for a county-wide advertising campaign to promote the harbor bonds. Later, the Press Club would issue a resolution supporting the bonds, which were "in every way advantageous to the county." This may not be as bad as it sounds, considering the harbor project already had broad support among the county’s movers and shakers. But the optics were certainly bad.

The second meeting of the 1926 incarnation of the Orange County Press Club was held on the evening of June 8, at the Southern Seas Club in Balboa, at the invitation of Newport Beach mayor Conrad Richter.
Concept art for the Southern Seas Club by architects Allison and Allison.
At that time, the Southern Seas Club was in the middle of a major marketing blitz, trying to sell $600 life memberships to support their plans for an elaborate 10-story beach resort on the Balboa Peninsula. They were using every trick in the book to promote sales. Sensing a good PR opportunity, they graciously played host to the O.C. Press Club’s second meeting on June 8th. Newport Beach mayor Conrad Richter coordinated the event.

During this meeting, they decided that the Press Club would be primarily a social group. In keeping with that, their next meeting was a picnic dinner (again with steak!) at Hewes Park on July 21. From there on, it seems they met every two to four months for evening events at various locations throughout the county.
H.S. Webster, president of the California Publishers Assoc. (L) and D. Eyman Huff (R) at an O.C. Press Club event at Hewes Park, welcoming Senator J.F. Burke (center) as the new publisher of the Register.
Although it lasted longer than the 1916 version of the Club, the 1926 version seems to have eventually evaporated also. The last scant references to it in the local papers appear around 1937. In March 1941, a group of high school newspaper staffers started their own organization, which they also called the Orange County Press Club. Apparently nobody from the former group of professionals bothered to ask that they add the word “Student” to their moniker.
Circa 1940s matchbook cover art for the “Press Club of the Pacific Coast,” (no relation) which was actually a seedy bar on a  seedy part of the State Highway (now the I-5 Freeway).
The Great Depression, World War II, and the beginnings of Orange County’s explosive post-war growth were already history by the time anyone tried forming an Orange County Press Club again. The first meeting of the current incarnation of the club was held in 1953 at the behest of Register city editor Harry Harvey, who hosted the event not in the lap of some eager PR-seeker, but in his own living room.

In a 1986-87 issue of the Club’s Add One newsletter, Tom McCann wrote, “Those in attendance included Gale Ellis of the Garden Grove News, Bob Gettemy of the Los Angeles Times, Phyllis Jackson of the Newport Harbor News-Press, Dale Kroesen of the Cypress-Los Alamitos Enterprise, Beth Kroesen the Buena Park News, and Carmela Clark (Martin) and Carrie Lou Sutherland of the Anaheim Bulletin.

“A second meeting was held April 29, 1954 at Santiago Park in Santa Ana with eight additional journalists attending, including Sky and Velma Dunlap of the Times, and Fred Allen of the Newport Harbor News Press. They drew up a nine-point outline of what the club would be and how it would operate. Finally, on May 27, 1955, the Orange County Press Club held its first official meeting at the seedy Savoy bar (now gone) on Fourth St. in Santa Ana. Bob Gettemy was elected the first president, Fred Allen vice president, and Carmela Martin secretary-treasurer.

“The ‘speaker’ that evening was famed cartoonist Virgil ‘VIP’ Partch, who according to a 1980 retrospective article by Vi Smith, ‘alternately drank and drew original cartoons for those present.’
“Smith also recalled that many publishers were nervous about the new club, fearing the journalists might ‘get together and compare salaries or form a union,… They needn’t have worried. Most of the members were too embarrassed to let anyone know how little they received.”

At that time, Disneyland was just months away from opening, and the success of the theme park was still very much in doubt. Walt Disney, in debt up to his eyeballs, was using every trick in the book to draw attention to his wonderland. Sensing a good PR opportunity, Disney graciously sponsored some of the first O.C. Press Club events at the nearby Disneyland Hotel. Disney Studios also provided the club with its logo/mascot.
The author (left) with Orcop (right) at the Los Angeles Archives Bazaar.
“As the club began to dole out annual press club awards, Disney offered to provide the award plaques,” wrote McCann. “But the plaques seemed sort of naked without some sort of Press Club logo. So the Disney artists created “Orcop” – the cliché-riddled mascot of the group. Initially, the character was nameless. Superior Court Judge Franklin G. West collected name nominations for a couple months, but none were worth putting to a vote. Finally, one submission seemed passable. Since then, both the character and the annual journalism awards have been called Orcop. Orcop first appeared in three-dimensional form as a gold broach with blue sapphire eyes, presented to outgoing president Vi Smith.”

In the decades since, the Orange County Press Club has retained its social aspects, but has seemingly become more professional. Smokers and “Miss Orcop” beauty contests have given way to more opportunities to recognize quality journalism.
Tustin’s Gigi Dahl, named Miss Orcop 1965 by the O.C. Press Club. She appears here with her parents and the Orcop trophies.
The club also expanded to include PR and PIO professionals. This was a bit controversial, but it’s true that many good writers find themselves hopping back and forth between public relations and journalism. (It would be odd kick people out and then reinvite them as they switched back and forth between jobs.) Moreover, with the dwindling number of local news outlets and the current generation’s lack of interest in community organizations, it was probably necessary to admit PR folks just to keep the Club stocked with members.

According to their website, “The Orange County Press Club exists to support, promote, and defend quality journalism in Southern California. We seek to encourage journalists by providing networking opportunities and by hosting regular events with topics of interest to a broad spectrum of journalists.

“Our members include Orange County based publishers, editors, journalists, reporters, broadcasters, public information officers, public relations professionals and journalism students.

“The primary mission of the club is to provide a networking opportunity for those employed by news organizations, magazines and new media in Orange County. The club's goal is to foster relationships among the members of the OC Press, to support those interested in entering the profession, and to recognize excellence in writing and reporting in Orange County.”
2014 Orange County Press Club Awards Banquet. Photo courtesy O.C. Register.
The way the business model for journalism is eroding in this country, one hopes there’s someone left to keep some version of the Press Club afloat in another hundred years.

Friday, March 02, 2018

The Islands of Knott's

Ride concept based on input by Bud Hurlbut.
On my other blog, Tiki Lagoon, I've just posted a two-part article about Knott's Berry Farm's attempts at cashing in on the South Seas/Tiki craze. Proposed elements included an elaborate South Seas Island Boat Ride, which was never realized, and Jungle Island, which would later open with a very different look than originally planned. Part one of the article is posted here. And part two is posted here. If you're interested, go take a look!
The entrance to Jungle Island, circa 1964. Photo courtesy O.C. Archives.