Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Barbara A. Milkovich (1939-2019)

Barbara Milkovich "in the field," working on the excellent Huntington Beach Historic Resources Survey (1986).
Historian and preservationist Dr. Barbara A. Milkovich passed away June 6, 2019. Locally, she was known best for her work in discovering, describing and preserving Huntington Beach’s history. Indeed, her 1988 masters' thesis for California State University Long Beach – focusing on Huntington Beach from 1900 to 1930 – was the first significant look at that city's history by a graduate-level scholar. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Specializing in community history, Barbara was a serious academic historian who also understood the methods and purposes of the traditional local historian. Combining these approaches, she unearthed forgotten narratives and put them into thorough context before providing her own analysis. She was equally at home in halls of academe or collecting stories from old timers on a porch over lemonade. And although some newcomers to Orange County’s historical scene may not remember her, her work provides important foundations on which we continue to build.

She was born Barbara A. Hoeft to George and Francis Hoeft in Colorado in 1939. She went to East High School in Denver, and went on to receive a B.A. in Political Science at the University of Colorodo (Boulder), an M.A. in history and a post baccalaureate certificate in urban studies from CSU Long Beach, and a Ph. D. in history from the University of California, Riverside.
University of Colorado senior Barbara Hoeft, 1961.
Barbara married Joseph J. Milkovich in Los Angeles County, Dec. 29, 1962. In 1964 they moved to their new home at 832 Dundee Dr, in Huntington Beach, where they would live until 2002.

Barbara taught public history at CSU Fullerton and California history and oral history at Goldenwest College. She worked as a consulting historian and archivist, established the Carl Kartcher Enterprises, Inc. archives, was the founding chair of the Huntington Beach Historic Resource Board, and was a reader at the Huntington Library. As a member of the Orange County Historical Commission, she fought to have the County Archives reopened (after it was de-staffed in the wake of the County’s municipal bankruptcy) by going to the media and bending the ear of every county official she could corner.

Barbara also wrote innumerable articles, gave scores of public historical presentations, edited the Orange County Historical Society’s journal, and wrote at least one book, It's Gone; Did You Notice, A History Of The Mesabi Range Village Of Franklin, Minnesota, 1892-1994 (2000).
Photo Main St. at Walnut, Huntington Beach, 1984, by Barbara Milkovich.
Today, the folks who want to destroy every last historic structure and site in Huntington Beach have largely won the war. But Barbara made them fight for every inch of territory. At a time when all of historic Downtown was first threatened with demolition, Barbara, led the good fight to save the city from itself. Barbara could be pretty tough-minded about preservation, but she had to be in such a town. "I wish,” she told the Los Angeles Times, “they would understand that preservation is redevelopment."

Sadly, she could not defeat the solid wall of ignorance and developer campaign dollars she encountered. That said, Barbara is still remembered by those who love their hometown as someone who fought for them. She is also well-remembered by various morons and rotters as having been a major thorn in their side.

Back in the late 1980s, Barbara was one of the first people to help bring me into the world of local history. I’d put together a display of my own photos of historic Huntington Beach buildings for my high school photography class and had already received some pointers and background information (for captions) from City Historian Alicia Wentworth.  But once the display was complete and the grade given, I wanted to put it somewhere that could do some good. I took it over to the Huntington Beach Historical Society, where a diligent volunteer – Barbara Milkovich – accepted it and put it on display in the parlor. I was thrilled, but had little idea that this was a gateway for what would one day be my career.
Photo of the Golden Bear, Huntington Beach, 1984, by Barbara Milkovich.
I’m certainly not the only one she inspired. Through her tenacious research, teaching, community activism and volunteer efforts, Barbara Milkovich laid essential groundwork for the future of historical preservation in Orange County and scholarship on Huntington Beach. And while she did not live to see all her goals achieved, she should be remembered as a central figure who made such goals achievable in the future. Progress is already being made, and the current generation stands on her shoulders.

In 2002, the Milkovichs – much to Orange County’s detriment – moved to Hayden, Idaho. Some years later, Barbara very graciously sent her extensive papers to me, which I, in turn, donated to the same Orange County Archives she once fought to reopen.

Unfortunately, I haven't found an obituary for Barbara and only found out about her death very recently. As such, this small tribute is based entirely on an old resume (for which I thank Joe Milkovich and Diane Ryan-Wiegand), records on Ancestry.com, newspaper clippings, and (primarily)
my own memories. If you have more memories or better photos, please let me know. I'm happy to update and expand this post.


BeeBeeBeeLeaves said...

Oh, wow. Thank you for sharing this. Thank you Mrs. Milkovich. Godspeed on your next journey.

CalifDiane said...

Thank you Chris for a wonderful tribute. I first met Barbara in the 1980s. At the time, I was teaching through the Huntington Beach Adult School and she came to one of my classes to talk about the history of the Newland House. I have always been interested in local history & it was through her mentoring that I developed classes on the History of Orange County that I taught through the Adult School and Coastline Community College for over 20 years. Barbara was always very generous with her time and she often loaned me books from her extensive local history library. Her influence lead me to join the Orange County Historical Society & become a member of the Huntington Beach Resource Board. Even after she moved to Idaho, we occasionally exchanged emails & I always looked forward to her Christmas cards. Barbara was a dedicated historian & a good friend. I will miss her. Diane

Unknown said...

Politics included mandic, oil, missing good times w Jack Mandel, corrupt politics. 46 yrs history says so.