Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Thursday, October 23, 2014
|Fairgrounds, Aug. 1: Giant walking "fair foods" add gravitas to the national anthem.|
|Fairgrounds, Aug. 1: Jim Washburn celebrates with a little flag waving.|
A few OC125 tchotchkes have emerged from this year's celebrations, including two very-limited-edition pins, official OC125 mason jars(!?) from OC Parks, and some OC125-branded postcards and bookmarks from the Orange County Archives. I think everyone who came up with stuff like this was essentially working with no budget, so this is pretty good for an off-beat anniversary like 125. Centennials and sesquicentennials are easier sells.
|Phil Brigandi discusses O.C.'s 125th birthday at the Old Courthouse., 7-17-2014.|
Posted by Chris Jepsen at 10/23/2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
|Vodie's bear, Santa Ana, hours before moving to his new home at MONA.|
- The Los Angeles Archives Bazaar (which also includes Orange County) will be held at the beautiful Doheny Library at USC. This is a great place to learn about many, many historical archives, collections and libraries you never knew existed. If you have an interest in researching or writing Southern California history, you need to go.
- The Santa Ana Historic Preservation Society will hold their 17th Annual Historical Cemetery Tour. This year's theme is, "A Hot Time in Old Orange County Tonight; Santa Ana’s Firefighting History.” This is a popular event, and cemeteries are always an interesting "prop" for discussing the people who founded and built a community.
- The Anaheim Halloween Parade -- which isn't about history, but which is certainly a historic Orange County tradition in its own right -- will once again ply the streets of Downtown Anaheim.
|Happy Bear watched over 17th and Bristol.|
The story of the Happy Bear sign begins with brothers Will and Henry Damman, who invented an electric starter for the Model T in the 1910s. Although Henry Ford came up with his own version and ended their venture, the Dammans turned around and started the Bear Manufacturing Company, which built auto repair equipment. According to the Rock Island Preservation Society, "Bear equipment became the standard for diagnosis and repair of wheel, steering, and frame alignment. Later, the company expanded [into] auto safety equipment of all types."
Beginning in the 1920s, Happy Bear's image appeared at innumerable mom-and-pop auto shops that used alignment equipment built by Bear Manufacturing. I'm told Bear Manufacturing would sometimes install a free bear sign for their customers at the same time they installed the alignment equipment in their shop and trained the staff on how to use it.
Happy Bear signs of different sizes were made, but Vodie's was one of the largest and -- at this late date -- among the best-preserved. Vodie's Alignment & Brakes was founded by Vodie Edgar Clemmons (1914-1997) of Garden Grove.
Happy Bear signs started disappearing from the American landscape in the 1960s and '70s. Bear Manufacturing became part of Automotive Diagnostics, and the brand faded away.
In 1973, the Grateful Dead used slight variations of the bear's likeness on the cover of their album "History of the Grateful Dead, Volume One." Soon, the bears were a symbol of the band, appearing on shirts, decals, etc. Deadhead lore says the bear was printed on blotter acid produced by soundman and "underground chemist" Owsley "Bear" Stanley before it appeared on the album cover. Deadhead lore also claims the bear was an old piece of clip-art that pre-dated even its use by Bear Manufacturing. (If anyone sees a pre-1920s use of the bear, let me know.)
Anyway, Santa Ana's Happy Bear, being an especially good example of Bear Manufacturing signage, was something MONA seemed very pleased to receive. Plans are being made to restore it and get the neon elements working again.
Another Happy Bear sign (at another Vodie's) still stands at 9891 Garden Grove Blvd. in Garden Grove.
Posted by Chris Jepsen at 10/22/2014
Thursday, August 07, 2014
|Southern California citrus, as shown in Sunset Magazine, March 1911|
We seceded for the usual reasons: It was too hard to get to the county seat to do business, all our tax money was spent in the “big city,” we had a strong enough economy to survive on our own, and we wanted the right of self-determination. L.A. wanted to hang onto us, not out of love and affection, but out of financial and political expediency. We’ve been wary of L.A. ever since.
Asked if he got to Los Angeles very often, Orange County’s “last rustic,” historian Jim Sleeper, once told a reporter, “Hell! I wouldn’t drive up there to watch Jesus Christ wrestle a grizzly bear!” (An L.A. newspaper printed the comment on their front page.)
For their part, Angelenos have invented an imaginary “Orange Curtain” dividing our counties, which I suppose explains why so many of them think they can’t venture south of Coyote Creek. Many also cling to the claim that there’s “no culture” down here, and therefore no reason to visit.
|The old plaza in Los Angeles, circa 1869 -- our previous county seat.|
Unlike Los Angeles, with its delusions adequacy, we're not accustomed to gloating and bragging. But since this month marks our 125th birthday, perhaps a bit of comparison is in order,...
Let me start by pointing out that the "HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH" is in Orange County! Really!
Also, Orange County is friendlier, cleaner, and less cramped than Los Angeles. We have better governance, air quality, public safety, school districts, parking, and water conservation. We enjoy cheaper gas, better drivers, a more user-friendly airport, and even a more interesting Spanish Mission. We have lower taxes and less violent crime. We call it a riot when kids get unruly and knock over trashcans in Huntington Beach.
|Early 1920s Southern California postcard. (Images courtesy O. C. Archives)|
And if that wasn’t enough, Sacramento clearly hates us – Which is perhaps the ultimate proof that we’re doing things right!
Feliz cumpleaños, Orange County. ¡Viva la independencia!
Posted by Chris Jepsen at 8/07/2014
Tuesday, August 05, 2014
|This eagle (sans color) appeared in the Santa Ana Standard in 1889, to mark county secession.|
|A scene from this morning's pre-meeting birthday reception.|
|I was graciously asked to speak at this morning's meeting by Orange County Clerk-Recorder Hugh Nguyen.|
|The chosen county seal design did not honor Anaheim's vintners.|
Posted by Chris Jepsen at 8/05/2014
Friday, August 01, 2014
|Created by County Surveyor S. H. Finley in Aug. 1889, this was the first official map of Orange County. (Courtesy the Library of Congress)|
On the day Orange County separated, we had about 15,000 residents, three incorporated cities, and no paved roads. Our growth was slow and steady, reaching only 34,000 by 1910. But in the following decade, our population nearly doubled. In the roaring '20s, it doubled again, to 120,000.
Prior to WWII, Orange County was centered on agriculture. Many crops would do well and bring prosperity, taking advantage of our ideal climate and soil, until a disease would wipe them out and force us to find something new, beginning the cycle again. Along the way, we had enormous success with grapes, apricots, walnuts, celery, sugar beets, chili peppers, avocados, strawberries, beans, lemons, and, of course, the once-ubiquitous Valencia orange.
The manpower behind all that bounty was provided by a diverse population, including Americans, Mexicans, Germans, English, Japanese, Chinese, Basques, Indians, and the descendants of the Spanish Californios.
Our first half-century brought the Pacific Electric Railway, colleges, new cities, highways, parks, floods, earthquakes, multiple oil booms, an airport, Knott's Berry Farm, and the aviation innovations of Glen Martin and others. Those decades saw the growth and development of our schools districts, churches, civic organizations, water management and other infrastructure.
With the Depression and the war, growth slowed, and it took more than two decades to double our population again. World War II brought us military bases, most notably at El Toro, Tustin, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach and Costa Mesa.
Things went bananas in the postwar boom, and the population more than tripled between 1950 and 1960, reaching 700,000 - a number which was more than doubled just a decade later. A combination of the "quick decline" disease and demand for more housing brought an end to the age of orange groves and changed our landscape forever. The massive growth and development never stopped.
The last half of the 20th Century brought us Angels, Rams, Ducks, and Mickey Mouse. We became the home of megachurches, freeways, universities, modern venues for the arts, major tourism and aerospace industries, planned communities, a brush with municipal bankruptcy, and waves of immigrants from Mexico, Vietnam and elsewhere.
Today we have 34 incorporated cities and a population of 3.1 million - a more than 22,000% increase since our founding. Orange County also has a cohesive sense of place, identity and community that our older sibling, Los Angeles, never will. Whether we're from San Clemente or La Habra, we're Orange Countians first, and we're proud of our home. We have done well with our independence.
Happy 125th Birthday, Orange County! You don't look a day over 100!
Posted by Chris Jepsen at 8/01/2014
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
For instance, there's no record of famous lawman Wyatt Earp visiting Orange County, but some of his famous family definitely spent time here. Wyatt’s father, Nicholas, youngest brother, Warren, and other family members lived near Lake Elsinore and would sometimes find their way to the other side of the mountains. Warren did farm work for H.S. Pankey, in the Gospel Swamp area, south of Santa Ana. Warren wasn't with his brothers at the famous O.K. Corral shoot-out in 1881, but he helped Wyatt hunt down the man who killed their brother, Morgan. Warren was shot dead in 1900 during an argument with a cowboy at a saloon in Wilcox, Arizona.
It may be a thin thread connecting O.C. to the O.K. Corral,... But it's interesting that a thread exists at all.
Posted by Chris Jepsen at 7/08/2014
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
|From the exhibit: A scene at the Hotel Laguna, circa 1889.|
|W. A. Connoly's blacksmith shop, Fullerton, 1889.|
Posted by Chris Jepsen at 6/25/2014