Duke Kahanamoku in Orange County

Author Mark Zambrano will discuss the life, legacy, local impact of the “father of surfing” – Duke Kahanamoku – at the Feb. 10, 2022 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. The public is welcome.

While surfing defined much of his history, Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku also led a storied life as a lifeguard, Olympic athlete, Hollywood actor, Hawaiian sheriff, and world ambassador. A Native Hawaiian, he played a key role in spreading the popularity of his homeland and its culture. He left a significant positive impact most places he traveled, and particularly in Orange County. Our speaker will discuss this impact, which spanned nearly fifty years and which continues today. “It all started when Duke ignited the surf craze in Orange County and rode the wave from there,” says Zambrano, “leaving an indelible mark on our history.”

 

Mark Zambrano lives and works in Huntington Beach. He is the author of Surfing in Huntington Beach, an in-depth visual history of the generations of surfers who helped make this community one of America’s most iconic surf towns. He is an avid advocate for the preservation and education of surfing throughout Orange County, working with museums and archives throughout the area to that end, and as a member of the Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board. He also works with Corky Carroll’s Surf School and Board Members surf shop, helping visitors and locals alike learn to surf and “get stoked on surfing.” When not working and writing, Mark spends his time free surfing around Orange County.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A. Otis Birch: The Strange Saga of Santa Ana’s Oil Tycoon

Historian Paul Spitzzeri will discuss “A. Otis Birch: The Strange Saga of Santa Ana’s Oil Tycoon” at the January 13, 2022 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.

Albert Otis Birch was an early Santa Ana resident who became an oil tycoon during the early 20th century, with gushers in Brea Canyon. 

He also owned a furniture company in Los Angeles and was an insurance company executive, among other business endeavors. After living many years on a hilltop estate in South Pasadena, an aging Birch and his wife Estelle fell into the clutches of Pearl Choate, a Texas-born nurse with a penchant for having older husbands die not long after marriage and who served prison time in one instance. Not long after she began “taking care” of the Birches in the mid-1960s, Choate spirited them off to Texas where both died within a short period of time. But that’s just part of their strange story.

Paul R. Spitzzeri is Museum Director at the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, was raised in Orange County, and lives in Carbon Canyon, a stone’s throw from the county line in Chino Hills. He has written extensively on the history of greater Los Angeles through articles, a national award-winning book on the Workman and Temple families, and blog posts and has spoken several times to the OCHS.

May 9 Meeting: Women in O.C.’s Punk Rock Scene

Author Stacy Russo and two of the amazing women from her book We Were Going to Change the World: Interviews with Women from the 1970s and 1980s Southern California Punk Rock Scene.

The punk rock scene of the 1970s and 1980s in Southern California is widely acknowledged as one of the most vibrant and creative periods in all of rock and roll history. Orange County was a key focal point of that scene.

Russo’s book captures the stories of thirty-seven women who were active in the punk scene through interviews with musicians, journalists, photographers, and fans. She will begin the evening with an overview of her oral history project that resulted in the book, followed by a discussion of the experiences and influences of growing up in the early punk rock scene in Orange County and beyond. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.

Panelist Bios:

Laura Beth Bachman lives in Los Angeles where she plays drums and sings in the all-girl, surf/punk trio, The Neptunas. She leverages her education, work ethic, and business experience to help provide healthcare to those in need.  Laura Beth is a liberty lover, truth seeker, and a beat keeper who believes it takes grit to be a woman in this world.

Angelita F. Salas is an Orange County native and has lived in London and Berkeley. She got hooked into punk rock back in the late 70s for its energy and acceptance of all the weird kids – regardless of race/ethnicity. She is now a counselor and faculty member at a community college in Southern California and still loves to go to the occasional punk show – albeit now sitting in the back.

Stacy Russo, a librarian and professor at Santa Ana College, is a poet, writer, and artist. She grew up in the punk rock scene of the 1980s, which was a major influence on her life, while living in Fullerton. Her books include A Better World Starts Here: Activists and Their Work (forthcoming, Sanctuary Publishers); Love Activism (Litwin Books), Life as Activism: June Jordan’s Writings from The Progressive (Litwin Books); and The Library as Place in California (McFarland).

Thursday, May 9
7:30 p.m.
Trinity Episcopal Church

This is a free event and open to the public.  

October 2014 Meeting – Bruce Gelker and the Saddleback Inn – Speakers: Chris Jepsen

Chris Jepsen with Bruce Gelker

Chris Jepsen will present the story of Santa Ana’s famed Saddleback Inn and its founder, Bruce Gelker, at the Oct. 9, 2014 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

The path of Bruce Gelker’s life is completely intertwined with the very fabric of Orange County: From the adobe home he grew up in at Olive, to cowboys, Indians, citrus packing, Santa Ana College football, roadside attractions, the Marine Corps., the post-war development boom, the rise of the Disneyland resort area, the Nixon administration, El Viaje de Portola, and professional sports teams,… just for starters. But probably his most significant Orange County moment was in 1964 when he opened his $1.5 million Saddleback Inn. It had a distinctive style, was much more than just a hotel, and swiftly became a key local landmark and gathering place for businessmen, government officials, politicos, professional athletes, and Orange Countians in general. Celebrities and dignitaries often stayed there when visiting the area.

The Saddleback Inn was located at 1660 E. First St., near the Santa Ana Zoo. It featured an architectural look based loosely on Bernardo Yorba’s home, and was decorated in a style Gelker called “Orange County Americana.” In addition to the hotel, restaurant, lounge, and meeting and banquet rooms, the Inn also featured a variety of shops including The Coachman (men’s clothing), the Western Art Gallery (fine art and antiques), Joan Buck (ladies’ fashions), a wine cellar, a barber shop, a beauty salon, a travel agency, an investment company, the Gelker, Riffle & Rohrer Insurance Agency, and the radio station KYMS 106.3 FM.

The Western Art Gallery was a very high-profile feature of the Inn, drawing all the top Western artists of the day. Gelker’s love for art depicting the Old West continues today, and we will also see samples of some of his favorite works by artists once shown in his gallery.

In the 1980s, the movers and shakers moved and shook their way to newer digs in Newport Beach and Irvine. Meanwhile, the area around the Saddlback Inn was not faring well. In 1984, Gelker sold the Saddleback Inn to a group of investors that included former President Nixon’s Chief of Staff (and key Watergate figure) H.R. Haldeman. From then on, the Inn went into a steady decline, and a series of owners, culminating in a string of fires and the demolition of the majority of the buildings in 2013.

Lobby of the Saddleback Inn

But between its rise and its fall, the story of this landmark Orange County business was full of twists, turns, fascinating personalities, and historic moments.

Our speaker, Chris Jepsen is a local historian and the Assistant Archivist at the Orange County Archives, in addition to serving as president of the Orange County Historical Society. He also maintains The O.C. History Roundup blog and writes the “Ask the O.C. Answer Man” column for Orange Coast magazine.