Thursday, August 24, 2023

O.C. Q&A: Huntington Beach Edition

Helme-Worthy House (right) and M.E. Helme Furniture Co. Building (left) prior the construction of The Strand.

Q: What are those old buildings that are now nearly surrounded by The Strand shopping center in Downtown Huntington Beach?

A: Those buildings are still owned and occupied by the descendants of the man who put them there: Matthew E. Helme, a furniture dealer, Socialist, and one of the town's original councilmen. His efforts helped bring paved roads, streetlights, a modern fire department, municipal gas and water systems, and cityhood to Huntington Beach. His house, at 6th and Walnut, was originally built at 5th St. and Euclid in Santa Ana around 1880. He used mules to roll the house on logs to its current location in 1903. The following year, he built the M.E. Helme Furniture Co. building behind the house. In a city that's bulldozed most of its history, it's heartwarming to know these buildings are now on the National Register of Historic Places and are currently (if slowly) being restored.

Q: Why do locals call Golden West College "UBL?"

A: Until about 15 years ago, there was a large discount furniture store between the college and Edinger Avenue. "UBL" stands for "University Behind Levitz." Plenty of other institutions of higher learning have similarly cheeky nicknames. Santa Ana College is "UCSB:" the "University of California at Seventeenth and Bristol." And some say "UCI" stands for "Under Construction Indefinitely." Yours truly transferred from Tangerine Tech (Orange Coast College) to Cal State Disneyland (CSU Fullerton). 

Q: The Huntington Beach 4th of July Parade is great, but the crowds can be terrible. How do we solve this?

A:  We could take a tip from the Huntington Beach Fish Parade of 1926. The brainchild of City Councilman E. B. Stevens, this fishing-themed parade wound 85 miles through the county, reaching La Habra, Olive (the north end of Orange), and even over the county line into Norwalk.  The parade's bathing beauties, bigwigs, and bands -- all piled into open-topped vehicles -- were undoubtedly frazzled by the end of the day. But there were plenty of good seats available along the route.