Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Stephen Gould (1947-2020)

The byline from Gould’s Tustin News column, “Tustin Remembrances.”
 Stephen Louis “Steven” Gould passed away August 22, 2020, at age 73. He was a member of a pioneer Tustin family, a prolific self-published author of local history, and the founder of One-by-One Ministries. He was also perhaps the most persistent student in CSUF’s History Department. He began taking classes there sometime in the 1960s and continued well into the 2010s – eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in history. Indeed, Gould seemed a permanent fixture on campus, haunting the History Dept. and the Center for Oral and Public History and giving out free hamburgers to hungry students in the quad every Friday through his ministry’s “Hamburger Fellowship” program. 

Gould and his ministry also worked to help those overcoming addiction to drugs and alcohol and made regular trips to Mexico to feed the hungry and spread the gospel.

From one of Gould's articles in the Tustin News.

Most, if not all, of Gould’s books were printed and bound either at copy shops or by Professor Gary Shumway’s genealogical vanity press. Most of them covered ground already well-trod by historians rather than expanding significantly on the topic at hand. But Gould did go back and dig out the original sources himself. It seems to me that most of his books were artifacts of his ongoing personal learning process rather than an attempt to be the first to break new ground.

This pattern changed somewhat in the 1990s, when he began to write more about the history of his own family, which came to Orange County in 1888. His father, Jack, had farmed on the Irvine Ranch and the Goulds attended the little Irvine Community Church on Sand Canyon Ave. His family stories and personal anecdotes provided snapshots of life in Orange County not recorded elsewhere.  

Books written by Stephen Gould include…

  • The Economic Religious History of Tustin from 1868 to 1894 (1988)
  • An Annotated Bibliography of Orange County Sources (1988)
  • The Effect of the Railroads on the Development of Santa Ana and Tustin (1988)
  • Chinese in Tustin (1989)
  • Orange County Before it was a County (1989)
  • Orange County, its Towns and Cities: an Annotated Bibliography (1989)
  • Fourteen Eras in Orange County History: an Illustrated Catalog of the Centennial Exhibition, September 1 - October 31, 1989, University Library Gallery, California State University Fullerton (1989)
  • 1990 Directory of Orange County Historical Agencies, Historical Societies, Museums and Historical Libraries (1990)
  • Californiana: A Bibliography of California Bibliographies (1990)
  • An Illustrated History of Modjeska, Sienkiewicz and Salvator: the Polish and German Speaking Writers of Los Angeles and Orange County from 1870 to 1910 (1994)
  • The Burning of Santa Ana's Chinatown (1994)
  • Politics, Government, Labor, Racism and Segregation: California, Southern California, and Orange County Sources (1995)
  • Growing Up on a California Mini Farm (1995)
  • California, Southern California, and Orange County an Illustrated and Annotated Bibliography (1995)
  • Tales of California: True Stories from Three Generations of Californians (1996)
  • Life in Southern California: An Illustrated History of the Pre-1930's Era (1996)
  • Walter Knott and His Knott's Berry Farm (1998)

Rather than working through a publisher or distributor, Gould would periodically go on road trips, driving up and down the coast of California, peddling his books (and those of other organizations) to libraries, museums and universities.  This echoed his approach to researching his bibliographies – by driving up and down the coast visiting libraries and archives rather than tapping into the usual library resources. It was, said one of his professors, an “expensive and rather unorthodox way to proceed.”

I never actually met Stephen Gould, but many in our local historical community were well-acquainted with him. Certainly, if you were involved in history at CSUF, he was a constant presence. In earlier decades he was also very involved in the Orange County Historical Society and even served on the board in the early 1970s. But with the whole world focused on COVID-19, his death seems to have gone somewhat under the radar. Although I'm probably not the best one to do it, it seems only right that someone in our community mark his passing and highlight some of his efforts.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Bob's Men's Shop, Knott's Berry Farm

Bob's Men's Shop, December 1966

Bob and Patty Anderson opened Bob’s Men’s Shop on Grand Ave. at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park on November 1, 1956. Bob was the brother-in-law of Marion Knott. Over time, the Andersons doubled their floorspace and brought their three children into the business. Their longtime store manager, Max Moore, had been friends with Bob Anderson since childhood in Iowa.

Bob Anderson (left) and Max Moore, 1986. (Photo: Los Angeles Times)

Bob’s Men’s Shop was one of the last survivors among the once numerous individually-owned businesses located at Knott’s. The transition to the current situation – where Knott’s Berry Farm itself operates most of the on-site shops and concessions – arguably began when the Knott family put up a fence around the property in 1968 and started charging admission. The process really ramped up in the 1980s, when Knotts brought in a general manager from outside the family who really began to purge the little mom-and-pop businesses from the “farm.” Perhaps because it was outside the gate, Bob’s somehow managed to survive the purge. 

In 1997, several important changes happened at Knott’s Berry Farm that would impact Bob’s Men’s Shop. First, construction began on the huge, wooden Ghost Rider rollercoaster, which required a reconfiguration of the fence around Knott’s and changes to the unfenced California Marketplace area in which Bob’s was located. At that time, Bob’s moved a couple doors down within the same building. 

Also in 1997, the Knott family sold Knott’s Berry Farm to Ohio-based Cedar Fair. This set the stage for many additional changes on the farm. Over time, almost all of the remaining small businesses on Knott’s property would close.

Bob's Men's Shop, shortly after opening, in 1956.

The Anderson family closed Bob’s on May 2004. It did not reopen elsewhere or under another name, although a few product lines (notably some of the Pendleton products and a selection of hats and footwear) were picked up by the World Market shop, across the street.

Bob’s carried some great brands, like Pendleton, Reyn Spooner and London Fog, as well as quality western wear. I was sad to see them go.

Bob Anderson retired to Newport Beach. He is in the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame for swimming. (He recieved a B.A. in economics from Stanford University, where he also played football.)

Monday, March 08, 2021

Orange County in 1849

C. C. Parry

Here's an excerpt from the journals/notebooks of naturalist Charles Christopher Parry (1823-1890), written as he traveled south-to-north through Orange County along the El Camino Real in 1849. This leg of his travels ultimately took him from San Diego to Monterey, and he documented what he saw along the way. The following narrative picks up near the southernmost point of Orange County, near today’s border of Camp Pendleton and San Clemente:

March 15 -- …The best road follows the beach, but as the tide was up, we were obliged to take to the plain following along the base of the hills. The road occasionally cut up into steep gullies. About three miles on, we descend on the beach and follow under the high beetling cliffs, some 80 ft. of layers of hard clay when the tide is down. The beach where the waves roll in is hard and affords a smooth wagon road. We next follow along the beach four miles to the mouth of the San Juan River, and following up the valley three miles come to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The bottom of this river is very rich soil, and [there are] several ranches with fenced fields about them and peach trees in blossom. The road to the Mission passes over some spurs of hills on the south side of the stream and comes down upon the Mission which lies between two forks of the stream. 

The Mission buildings are in the usual style, a façade of 16 arched pillars enclosing a court and passing into the usual variety of rooms. The out-buildings are mostly dilapidated. The large and spacious church built of sandstone and cement was destroyed by an earthquake… its roof fallen in, and when I arrived its altar was being used as a pen for cattle. The Mission’s grounds are quite extensive [with] a large fine grove of olives. The grape vines have been entirely destroyed. There is a fine orchard of pear trees, also peaches, a few apple trees, pomegranates, a few scattering palm trees, and the tuna cactus complete the present assortment.

The Mission building is now occupied and owned by Mr. [John] Forster, an Englishman, twenty year resident in the country. I partook of a sumptuous dinner with his family consisting of five or six courses of different dishes. He apologized for the lack of meat on account of it being Lent. I thought it was unnecessary. We had salmon from the upper Sacramento and shell fish. Mr. Forster is an extensive landholder, his wife a Mexican or Californian. Camp in an outside court attached to the Mission. Distance 9 miles.

John Forster

March 16 – Leave San Juan at 9 a.m. after a clear evening. A sprinkling of rain fell in the night and the morning [was] cloudy, clearing by noon, which has been the usual character of weather for some time. 

We pass up the valley of San Juan, the stream beautifully bordered with Platanus mexicanus and quite sizable trees of Sambucus, the bottom-ground bedded luxuriant pasturage. Continue up the valley following its left branch till it ascends over rolling ground, soil continuing of a fine loamy character. About nine miles come upon “Rancho Alisos” (Sycamore) [a.k.a. Rancho Cañada de los Alisos] on the left bank of a small stream. From this we continue on our course and soon emerge on a continuous plain stretching out as far as the eye can reach, shut out from the sea by hills and bounded on the east by the mountain ranges. Its entire surface was dotted with herds of cattle and horses luxuriating in the rank pasturage of Erodium, Medicago, etc. This continues with a slight descent about ten miles, when we come to an edge of scattered sycamores and alder. Passing a small branch of [the] Santa Ana River, we encamp at the ranch near the main stream. High peaks of snow-covered mountain are on our right hand, which set off with the verdant hills at its base and flowering plain make a picturesque view. Distance 27 miles.

March 17 (Sunday) – Remain camped to rest and recruit the animals. The ranch is owned by Don Jose Yorba.

March 18, 1850 – We leave the ranch of Don Jose Yorba and cross the Santa Ana River, about 200 ft. wide. Its channel is bedded with quicksand through which our mules flounder, the water reaching to the saddle skirts. The wagon followed close after, the passage of a drove of mules settling the sand. The bottom is a little depressed below the surrounding plain. First after crossing the soil is sandy and the plain mostly covered with wild sage and other arid-loving plants. Passing this the depressed plain is composed of a stiff clay and our proximity to the ocean is evidenced by a saline efflorescence. [We] pass several muddy gullies, sometimes with a running stream of clear water in which a succulent plant is floating. The edge of the plain is swampy and the road then rises to a rolling ground of hard gravelly soil and good road. Here some ranches are situated. The plain continues pretty much of this character till we reach the San Gabriel River, marked by a line of trees.

If you’re interested in reading more about Parry’s trek through California, find a copy of Parry’s California Notebooks, 1849-1851 with Letters to John Torrey, edited and annotated by James Lightner and published by San Diego Flora in 2014.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

The naming of MacArthur Boulevard

General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), U.S. Army

On February 6, 1942, disabled war veteran and former Santa Ana Valley Hospital manager Martin Bernard Alexander Noren (1898–1955) suggested that the “South Main Extension” (a.k.a. California State Route 73) – which had officially opened to the public the previous day -- be renamed in honor of the commander of the U.S. armed forces in the Philippines: General Douglas MacArthur

Sgt. Noren himself had served in the Medical Detachment of the 254 Aero Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Service during World War I. At some point during his service, he ended up with a “crippled spine.” He spent a while at the base hospital at Camp Merritt, New Jersey and later lived at the Sawtelle Veterans Home in Los Angeles before making a new life for himself in Santa Ana.

On March 10, 1942, County Supervisor N. E. West of Laguna Beach took up the cause of Noren’s suggested street name change, moving that the name MacArthur Boulevard be adopted for the new southern leg of Main Street. The resolution read, in part,…

"WHEREAS, the national crisis calls for maximum intelligence, courage and sacrifice and these qualities should be recognized and appreciated wherever found, and that

"WHEREAS, General Douglas MacArthur has exhibited a degree of intelligence, courage and sacrifice as to inspire all Americans, and that

"WHEREAS, it is deemed by this Board that the least that may be done as a lasting recognition of his courageous effort, be to name a permanent monument for and on his behalf so that full remembrance may be had as an inspiration.

"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Supervisors of the County of Orange respectfully request the State Highway Commission to give and designate the name of "MacArthur" to South Main Street Extension, as a small but lasting remembrance and deserved tribute to General MacArthur, that those that may travel this highway be forever reminded of his courageous performance as a soldier."

Unofficially, West also suggested that other roads intersecting the boulevard could be named after Orange Countians serving in the Philippines. But this idea never caught on.

The Board passed the MacArthur resolution unanimously. But soon their plans melted, like sweet green icing in the rain. The State Highway Commission turned down the request on March 23, saying that only the state legislature could change the name of a state highway.

Undaunted, the Board of Supervisors decided that the name MacArthur Boulevard would be used locally, regardless of the state’s decision. By late August, the name MacArthur Boulevard was already in regular use.

Around the beginning of 1968 the segment of the road from Pacific View Drive to Palisades Road (now Bristol), was designated “Veterans Memorial Freeway,” while simultaneously retaining the name MacArthur Boulevard. (It was noted that General MacArthur was among the veterans honored by the additional designation.)

At about the same time, the City of Santa Ana changed the name of their portion of Talbert Ave. to MacArthur Boulevard to make the freeway exit less confusing. The idea being that far more drivers would be headed east/south to Santa Ana, Irvine, Newport, and the airport – where the MacArthur Boulevard name was in use – rather than west to sleepy Fountain Valley/Talbert.

Today, MacArthur Blvd. runs through portions of the cities of Santa Ana, Irvine and Newport Beach.

Office park at MacArthur Blvd and Fairview St., Santa Ana, 2021

[Thanks to the staff at the City of Santa Ana and to Phil Bacerra for providing additional information.]

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Don Dobmeier retires from O.C. Historical Commission

At the 75th anniversary of Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant, Don Dobmeier holds up a photo of himself from a 1977 Knott's historical plaque unveiling. Steve Adamson and Marion Knott in background. (Photo by author) 
The retirement of Don Dobmeier from the Orange County Historical Commission in late January 2021 marks the end of an era. He was appointed in 1974, missing being a charter member by only a few months. He stayed for 47 years. Don also served as the Commission’s chairman for numerous terms including throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. As a Commissioner, he was deeply involved in the battle to save and restore the Old Courthouse as well as Key Ranch, the Peralta Adobe, Modjeska’s Arden, and the oaks in Irvine Park. He was also involved in the publication of A Hundred Years of Yesterdays (both editions), Visiting Orange County’s Past, the O.C. Centennial Map (1989), and AAA’s O.C. 125th Anniversary Map of historical sites (2014).

Never one to blow his own horn, Don calls himself an “avocational historian” and “a collector of Orange County material, especially postcards.” Actually, he has served as the institutional memory and the connective tissue of the local history community for more than four decades. When a “new” idea is raised, Don’s the one to say, “We tried that 25 years ago, and let me tell you how that went.” Or when someone sets about writing an article, Don will remember otherwise long-forgotten sources of relevant information.

“Don has a deep and abiding interest in the history of Orange County, and a rich connection to the place he calls home,” said historian Phil Brigandi. “His decades-long service on the Orange County Historical Commission shows a level of commitment few people can match. During those years he had doggedly advocated some of the Commission's most important projects -- sometimes despite real opposition. While not an author himself (though he has published a few brief articles) he has been a great help to other authors and historians. He is always eager to share what he knows and encourage the work of others.”

Don is probably thanked in the acknowledgements of more Orange County history books than anyone else. He has also provided historical and photo research for publications like Steve Emmons’ now-ubiquitous book, Orange County, A History and Celebration (1988).

Born in Orange on July 5, 1944, Donald Joseph Dobmeier attended both parochial and public elementary schools in Westminster and Garden Grove. He graduated from Garden Grove High School in 1963 and then went to Orange Coast College for a couple years, followed by California State College, Fullerton (now CSUF). 

Don’s friends will appreciate knowing that his unique style has been “a thing” since an early age. Morris Walker, who attended Garden Grove High School at the same time as both Don Dobmeier and famed comedian Steve Martin, wrote, “There was a particular fellow named Donald Dobmeier who was such a distinct individual that Steve really admired him. Despite social attitudes toward clothes and styles, Donald would wear a vested wool suit with a neat watch and chain draped carefully from one vest pocket to the other. He also sported spats occasionally.”

Don at Peters Canyon, 1964 (Courtesy Don Dobmeier)

Martin, later noted for his thoroughly original approach to comedy (and banjo music), learned a thing or two from Don about successfully marching to the beat of your own drum.  

Today, Don only disputes one part of Walker’s anecdote. “I never wore spats,” he says. “I tried a pair on once, but the price was kinda high.”

Don married Sue Anne Stoecker of Tustin in 1967 and they would have five children and eventually eight grandchildren. Don and Sue live in the historic heart of Garden Grove.

Don joined the Orange County Historical Society in 1968 and became a member of the Society’s board of directors in 1971. He served on the board with only a few breaks until retiring in 2016. His work for the Society has been extensive. He was Vice President and Curator of the Society in 1977 and was still V.P. in 1981. Beginning in 1992, he took an “at large” position on the board and served as the Society’s “History Advisor.” He served as OCHS’ Historian in 1994 and 1995, and in the late 1990s served the Society’s Membership chair. He also helped create the Society’s booths for the Orange County Fair in the 1990s.

Over the decades, Don has also spoken occasionally (often as part of a panel) before the Society on topics ranging Orange County’s wine industry to postcard images of the Old Orange County Courthouse.

Although Don’s historical interests encompass all of Orange County, no local historian can help but have a warm spot in their heart for their own hometown. He was already active with the Garden Grove Historical Society by 1970 and shortly thereafter served a term as that organization’s vice president. More recently, he served on a City committee to identify historic sites in town.

I initially met Don during my first week of work at the Orange County Archives in 2003. Over the years he’s remained a regular at the Archives, visiting every Tuesday morning before heading upstairs to work on Orange County Historical Commission projects, and again on his way back out to his truck in the afternoon. With his soft-spoken thoughtful manner, distinguished appearance, corduroy sport coat, and memory for all things historical, I was under the impression for months that he was a college professor or perhaps a professional researcher (the kind who has his own reader’s card at the Huntington Library). I was later surprised to learn that he was none of those things but had both a bartending business (Don the Bartender) and a gardening business – both catering primarily to doctors, business leaders and other well-to-do folk around Orange County and particularly in the North Tustin area. He’s a man of many skills, but his heart is in local history.

Jim Sleeper, Don Dobmeier, Lecil Slaback and (unknown) at Blue Light Mine ruins, Silverado, circa 1983. (Courtesy Don Dobmeier)

His gardening work helped put him in touch with some of that history, as he met and worked for various pioneer families (like the Grahams of Huntington Beach) and other local notables (like Mr. Carbon C. Dubbs of Easter Hill).

Don also combined his gardening and history interests in helping propagate and tend a number of Mission grape arbors around Orange County – the same variety of grape grown by the padres at the California Missions and by the pioneers of Anaheim. 

“In January 1978 a grape arbor was dedicated behind the Mother Colony House,” said Jane Newell, the City of Anaheim’s Heritage Services Manager. “Presented by the Ebell Club of Anaheim in honor of Sarah Fay Pearson, the arbor featured Mission grapevines provided by the University of California, Davis. I’m not sure of the details of how or when Don Dobmeier became the caretaker for these grapevines [Anaheim’s Opal Kissinger and Elizabeth Schultz both served on the O.C. Historical Commission], but when I became Heritage Services Manager in 1993, Don had held that unofficial position for several years. He certainly deserves the credit for the vines continued health and annual crop of grapes through the development of Founders’ Park.  And during that time, he never accepted any payment or public credit for his work.”

Although he’s now retired from boards and commissions, Don still plans to keep a hand in the world of Orange County history. I’m very glad. It wouldn’t be the same without him.