Friday, August 05, 2016

Santa Ana's wishlist, 1881

Fourth St., Santa Ana, circa 1887.
On Dec. 14, 1881, the Santa Ana correspondent to the new Los Angeles Times newspaper shared some of the pros and cons of her growing town and set forth a sort of community wishlist:

"Santa Ana is certainly coming to the front. We are bound to be and will be something yet. We have already enough and to spare of some  things. For instance, if you want a few preachers, or school teachers, we can supply you., and as for doctors we could supply the whole county. [Ed - Orange County was still part of Los Angeles County then.] We have all sorts: the old, the young, the half-breed Indian, the street corner loafer, the aristocrat, the little pill, the big pill, yes any kind of a pill. Every second man on the streets of Santa Ana is a doctor.

"...Mechanics of all kinds are very busy, [and] more could find employment if here, as there is much improvement going on and much more to be done both in town and country.

"...Wild geese are very plentiful just now. Come down, some of you city sportsmen, and take a few. We don't want them all.

"...Santa Ana wants:
A first-class hotel.
A first-class public hall.
A few less doctors, preachers and lawyers.
A stop to building more churches at present.
A much larger school house.
A few good servant girls.
A few more marriageable gentlemen.
A few less street corner loafers.
A good heavy rain."

So, 135 years later, how's Santa Ana coming along with its wish list? Let's take a look:
  • There seem to be plenty of mechanics now. (Check)
  • The doctors have mostly moved to places like Newport Beach. (Check)
  • The lawyers also mostly have their homes and offices elsewhere now, although the courts are still in Santa Ana. (Check)
  • Santa Ana still has plenty of "pills" -- But probably no more than most places. (No change)
  • The churches are mostly drying up and fading away. Only the Catholics seem to be thriving these days, and their cathedral is in Orange, not the county seat. (Check)
  • We've definitely thinned out the wild geese, although I still see a few hanging around Centennial Park. (Check)
  • Santa Ana has some pretty nice hotels, especially down by the airport (e.g. the Doubletree), although it lacks the kind of iconic hotel it had when the Saddleback Inn was at its peak. (Check)
  • The city may still not have a great "public hall," but for large public gatherings and performances there's the Santa Ana Bowl and the Yost Theatre. (Maybe half a check)
  • Schools continue to be a top priority for Santa Ana, and scads of teachers have been hired and schools have been built. But the district's academic rankings generally leave something to be desired. (Work in progress)
  • Santa Ana undoubtedly has an outsized number of "servant girls," although most commute out of Santa Ana to work. (Check?)
  • Does Santa Ana now have more "marriageable gentlemen?" I will live that for the ladies to decide. Single doesn't mean marriageable. (Unknown)
  • As for "street corner loafers:" At last check we had about 500 homeless people living among the landscaping at the Santa Ana Civic Center alone. And who knows how many folks in any given community are home watching TV (the modern street corner) during the work week. (Fail)
  • And all of Southern California is once again anxiously awaiting a "good heavy rain." (Status quo)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Fiesta de Luz, Sam Stein, and the Almazzadeluzoresquibo

From "High Lights In Civic Parade & Carnival", Popular Mechanics, Jan. 1917
Short, 353 pounds, bald, and wearing a pink cheesecloth gown, costume jewelry and a woman’s wig, businessman Simon Samuel “Sam” Stein hoisted himself into the gold carriage which traditionally carried Santa Ana’s petite parade queens. The carriage creaked and groaned, but held together – much to the relief of Stein’s retinue: A group of “Zulu” warriors and that rarest of animals, an Almazzadeluzoresquibo. 

It was June 15, 1916, and the City of Santa Ana was celebrating its fancy new street lights with a “Fiesta de Luz.” This nighttime event included a band concert at Birch Park, vaudeville performances, a fundraiser dance (or “Jitney Ball”), streets lined with sundry amusements and community group booths, and a parade with dozens of units.

At the start of the parade, on a reviewing stand at City Hall, Mayor Augustus J. Visel welcomed Stein eloquently and, with great ceremony, presented him with a crown and scepter, naming him the queen of the Fiesta. “Subjects, behold your queen" he called to the crowd as Stein powdered his nose dramatically and assessed himself in a hand mirror. Then Visel pressed a button, turning on the city’s new electric street lights to the accompaniment of cheers and applause.
Stein's dress was displayed in the window of Rankin's Dry Goods prior to parade. (L.A. Times, 6-16-1916)
The Queen’s parade unit was led by the “Queen’s Band.” The “Zulu” warriors – walking alongside the carriage – were actually Santa Ana High School boys wearing black tights, raffia skirts, and burnt cork on their faces. A unique imaginary animal known as the Almazzadeluzoresquibo was somehow brought to life and brought up the rear of the Queen’s entourage.

As the carriage rolled through the streets, Stein got big laughs as he primped and preened before some 25,000 onlookers. In fact, he was so popular that he and his "Zulus" were invited to take part Long Beach’s “Carnival of States” parade the following month.

(One wonders, in today's climate, which would generate more outrage: White kids in blackface, or a whole crowd laughing at a man in women's clothes.)

Stein had been part of the planning committee for the Fiesta de Luz and had volunteered to be a figure of fun. But despite the gales of laughter directed at him along the parade route, he was a beloved local personality.
Pin-back badge promoting attendance at the Fiesta de Luz.
Sam Stein was born in Russia on Sept. 5, 1884, the second of five children born to Samuel H. and Lena Stein. The family immigrated to New York when he was very young. In 1902, while still in his teens, Sam came to California and went to work for the Lazarus Stationary Co. in Los Angeles. He worked for this company for twelve years, including as a traveling salesman. One day, while going door to door in Santa Ana, he recognized the town’s need for a local stationary store.

He moved to Santa Ana with his wife Celia; children, Arthur and Helen; and his younger brother, Ivie. And in 1914, he opened Sam Stein Stationery in the Spurgeon Building. The shop, which was also a book store, began with one employee, but the business grew rapidly.

The Santa Ana Register called Stein “a thorough businessman of congenial and happy disposition… keenly interested in civic affairs,” and described him as “one of the best known and most popular men in Santa Ana."

He was the founding secretary of Congregation B'nai B’rith of Santa Ana and was involved in the Masons, Shrine, Elks and other local fraternal organizations. He was also active in the Los Angeles Young Zion's association.

Rev. F.T. Porter, pastor of Santa Ana’s First Christian Church, later remembered, “Mr. Stein was a man of activity, a man who massed his forces, his thought, his energies on a point and made the point, which accounts for his success in business life in Santa Ana... As a citizen he had the welfare of the city at heart and was active in civic affairs, throwing his great personality and force to those things that were for the best interests of the city. He was an honest man, honest with his business associates, his friends and his family. His interest in school athletics and other of the various activities of the school evidenced that he was delighted to do such thing and that they were done because of his interest in delight in helping in the schools and not purely from a business and selfish motive."
Unfortunately, the portly Stein had diabetes and in early 1922 developed a carbuncle (usually caused by a bacterial infection) on his neck. He had just finished moving his business into a larger space at 307 W. Fourth St. (now with about fifteen employees) when he had to check into Santa Ana Community Hospital. His condition worsened and he was sent to St. Vincent's Hospital in Los Angeles for further treatment. He died there in March 1922.

Jewish tradition dictates that a person’s body be buried as soon as possible after death. There was no time to distribute notices or print announcements in the newspapers for Stein’s funeral. But word of his death got out and spread like wildfire through town. Ultimately, a very large crowd attended the memorial at Santa Ana’s Smith & Tuthill Mortuary, including many public officials, local business leaders, students and faculty from the local schools, B'nai B’rith members and many other friends and family. Masses of floral arrangements were on display.

Sam Stein was buried at Beth Israel Cemetery in Los Angeles.

However, the final disposition of Stein’s faithful Almazzadeluzoresquibo remains unknown. I will pay a dollar to the first person to find me a photo of the creature. I will double that if you bring in the creature itself -- dead or alive.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Red Car anniversary

On June 17, 1904, the Pacific Electric Railway opened a "Red Car" line from Long Beach to Huntington Beach. It was an important moment that really breathed life into the new little beach town.

Henry Huntington owned the Pacific Electric. He also owned Huntington Beach. These things were not coincidental. Anyway, today is the 112th anniversary of the Red Car's arrival in Huntington Beach.

I have no time for a full-fledged post today, but I thought I'd share these two photos. The photo above shows the current "Red Car Museum" which sits on a remaining section of track along the Long Beach to Huntington Beach line in Seal Beach. The image below shows an early Pacific Electric excursion car at the foot of the pier in Huntington Beach. The large brick building stood roughly where Huntington Surf & Sport stands today.

Monday, June 06, 2016

O.C. in the British Library

Here are a couple images of old Orange County from the Flickr feed of the British Library. It just goes to show you haven't done all your research until you've looked EVERYWHERE.

Both images are taken in 1893 and used in an early issue of Land of Sunshine magazine. The image one above is a scene from Tustin, and the one below depicts what was probably Atherton's Ostrich Farm in Fullerton.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Counterculture in Orange County

Handbill promoting Yippie Day at Disneyland, Aug. 6, 1970.
While the monolithic notion of Orange County as an ultra-conservative bedroom community has long been laid to rest, little has yet been said about the small but active counterculture that flourished here for generations. O.C. has seen quasi-utopian colonies, Timothy Leary’s Laguna adventures, bohemian artists' colonies, Aldous Huxley’s visit to Trabuco Canyon’s Ramakrishna Monastery, the Yippies’ “liberation” of Disney’s Tom Sawyer’s Island, "Happenings," the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, subversive bookstores, and many more examples of local free-thinkers, beatniks, non-conformists, cultists, Communists, iconoclasts, and unclassifiable wingnuts. 

 Curious to learn more about this part of our past? Register for the annual dinner of the Orange County Historical Society, June 10th, 2016. There, journalist/author/commentator Jim Washburn will “discuss the leftish side of the county, in a manner that shows just how entertaining history can be when the speaker has no regard for facts.” (Ed: Don't tell Jim I said this, but he's really quite good about getting his facts straight.)
Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley and Linus Pauling at the Ramakrishna Monastery, Trabuco Canyon, 1960.
Washburn has written about music, popular culture and politics for the L.A. Times, O.C. Register, O.C. Weekly and publications from Rolling Stone to Reader’s Digest. He co-authored the book Martin Guitars, an Illustrated Celebration and the John Crean autobiography, The Wheel and I. He has curated four exhibits at the Fullerton Museum Center, on such topics as O.C.’s rock music history and O.C. in the disco era. (If you attended his earlier OCHS talk on the history of rock music in Orange County, you know why you need to hear him speak again!)
Timothy Leary: "Rec'd from Orange County 3-18-70."
This year's OCHS annual dinner will be held in the Historic Friends Church (1888), which is now part of Moreno’s Restaurant in El Modena. For more information or to sign up, see the OCHS website. As of this writing, there's about a week left in which to register. There will be no walk-ins allowed.(Yes, I know,... all these rules are a real drag, man. Just another example of "the man" trying to keep you down.)
Tim Morgon performs at Balboa beatnik hangout The Prison of Socrates.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A couple events this weekend...

...and if you can't make it to this event in Costa Mesa on Sunday (or even if you can), also consider the big Vintage Postcard and Paper Show and the Glendale Civic Auditorium, which runs BOTH days this weekend!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pioneer Andres R. Arevalos

Andres Arevalos turns first shovelful of dirt at Arevalos School groundbreaking, 1964.
In the 1950s and 1960s, during Orange County’s unprecedented population boom, schools were being built at a shocking rate. Each school district had its own naming conventions. The policy of the Fountain Valley School District (which also overlaps the City of Huntington Beach) was to name schools for local pioneers like William T. Newland, Hisamatsu Tamura, Robert B. Wardlow and William D. Lamb. Today, many of those schools have closed and in some cases only the adjoining parks – also bearing the pioneers’ names – remain. Now that there’s talk of changing the names of some of those parks, I thought it worthwhile to share a little bit about each of their original namesakes.

Researching Lamb’s biography for my March 22, 2016 post proved pretty straightforward. But it was much more difficult finding information about the namesake of Arevalos Elementary School, built at 19692 Lexington Lane in Huntington Beach.

Andres Reynoso “Andrew” Arevalos (sometimes spelled “Arebalos”) was born Nov. 30, 1880 in Mexico. He left Jalisco for the United States in 1905. He married Guadalupe (“Lupe”) Garcia, also a Mexican national, in Indio before they moved to the Fountain Valley (a.k.a. Talbert) area in 1908.
Superintendent Baubier and Andres Arevalos at Arevalos School opening, Feb. 1965.
The Long Beach Press-Telegram would later describe Arevalos as “little man with courteous ways." Despite his size, he was strong and hard-working. He worked for twenty years as a section hand for the Engineering Department of the Pacific Electric Railroad. This meant he was part of a crew of laborers who maintained a particular section of track. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Arevalos worked for the Pacific Electric for twenty years – roughly the same length of time that the P.E.’s Santa Ana-Huntington Beach line was operational (from 1909 to 1930). 

But most of Arevalos’ attention went to farming and family. He raised sugar beets, corn and peppers in the fields around Talbert, including the land across the street from what would eventually become Arevalos Elementary School. Meanwhile, in the Arevalos home, he and Lupe would raise nine children.

In the early 1920s, the Arevalos were among the first residents of the Colonia Juarez tract in Fountain Valley – a neighborhood specifically created in 1923 as affordable and accessible housing for Mexican-American laborers. After apparently renting for some years, Andres Arevalos bought Lot 42 (10332 Calle Madero) of Colonia Juarez on October 1926. He would live there the rest of his life.
Arevalos Park today.
Andres Arevalos never became a U.S. citizen, and he never learned to speak, read, or write in English. He seldom appeared in the local directories – probably because he could not communicate easily with the directory companies’ canvassers. Likewise, he seldom appeared in the newspapers.
Guadalupe Arevalos died in 1957 – the same year Fountain Valley incorporated as a city.

The Fountain Valley School District broke ground for Andres R. Arevalos Elementary School in January 1964. Andres and his 7-year-old grandson Rodney Arevalos joined School District Superintendent Dr. Edward W. Baubier for the ceremony.

The school was officially dedicated at another ceremony on Feb. 9, 1965. “It doesn't bother us that we named a school after a man who is neither rich nor famous,” Baubier said. “We are honoring the man because he was a pioneer in our community and has been a credit to it all these years. You can't measure what a man is by money but by his success. Arevalos' success is that he provied a good education for his family and knitted his family together with strong ties that are lacking in many families today.”

Among the speakers at the dedication was Dr. Susan J. Freudenthal, who the Register called an "internationally known teacher from the Netherlands," and the school’s first principal, Bruce Sinclair.
Shyly speaking through an interpreter, Arevalos said he never imagined there would be a school named after him. "I was very surprised when they told me they wanted to honor me," he said.
Andres Arevlaos died of emphysema on Feb. 28, 1966 at Orange County General Hospital, where UCI Medical Center stands today. He is buried at Westminster Memorial Park. His obituary in the Register called him the "Beloved father of Fred, Gilbert, Andrew, Michael, Joe and Rudy Arevalos, Mrs. Nettie Aguiliera, Mrs. Esther Garcia and Mrs. Jovie Lara."

Was Arevalos really a Fountain Valley pioneer?  After all, farmers were already settling in Fountain Valley at least thirty-three years before Arevalos arrived. And the Talbert family, who eventually laid out the town site at Bushard St. and Talbert Ave., arrived eleven years before Arevelos did. 
Modern view of the well-marked Arevalos Park.
But Andres Arevalos was clearly one of the first to put down permanent roots in the Colonia Juarez area, south of what’s now Mile Square Park. Today we think of Juarez simply as part of Fountain Valley. But until the city incorporated in 1957, Talbert and Juarez were distinct communities with their own personalities, histories, and pioneers. As such, Arevalos was a Juarez pioneer who later became a Fountain Valley pioneer by dint of annexation.

Sadly, the Fountain Valley School District trustees voted to close Arevalos Elementary School in 1988. In the decades since, the school buildings have been leased to the private Pegasus School. The adjacent park has continually been included on the City of Huntington Beach’s inventory of parks as Arevalos Park. The park features a playground, benches, a swing set, and a greenbelt. If the park is to be renamed, it is unclear what the new name would be.

My thanks to Stephanie George, Crystal Bracey and the Arevalos family (many of whom still live in Fountain Valley) for their help with this article over the past couple months. Click here to see the first part in this series.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Before and After: The Old Courthouse

The image above shows the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana around the 1910s. We're looking across the intersection of Sycamore St. and Santa Ana Blvd. (then called 6th St.). The image below shows a modern version of the same scene, from the same angle.
Okay,... Let's take a look at the details!

First, you'll notice that the cupola is now missing from the Courthouse. The popular story is that it was damaged during the 1933 earthquake and had to be removed. Indeed, it was removed while other repairs were being made to the building, post-quake. But that just provided a good excuse to remove the part of the building that was the most difficult to paint, clean, and otherwise maintain.

That said, those will keen eyes will notice that the stone work around the attic windows is different too -- And that WAS a direct result of 1933 quake damage. Those with impossibly good eyesight might also notice that parts of the curbs surrounding the courthouse block are still made of cobblestones, as they were in the early 1900s.

Next, notice that there's a lot more foliage in the modern view. The good news is that most of those trees are the same in both photos. I admire them every day, as I walk to and from my office. (And these days, they're often full of noisy green parrots.)

Most of the other buildings seen on the periphery and in the background of the early photo are long gone, but First Presbyterian Church remains. One of it's dome-topped steeples appears on the right of the older photo. The post-quake remodeled version can be seen in the modern photo as a white building with a gray roof.

The block across the street from the front of the Courthouse has changed completely since the first photo was taken. Today, a shiny glass office building and its white concrete parking garage fill the entire block. Prior to that, the block at various times held Santa Ana's old Carnegie Library, the Elks' Lodge, a garage, and more.

In the older shot, many of the surrounding buildings are churches. In fact, part of today's Civic Center Drive, behind the Old Courthouse, was originally called Church St. because of all the churches lined up there. In the 1950s, the car culture took over and people moved into the suburbs. Many of the churches followed, building big new sanctuaries on large parcels of land (with their own parking lots) further out amid the tract houses and orange groves.

That's it for today. Happy Friday!