Anaheim’s Little Arabia

The Story of Anaheim’s Little Arabia will be the topic of speaker Amin Nash of the Arab American Civic Council at the May 12, 2022 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. Nash will discuss local immigrant communities from the Middle East and North Africa, how they established Little Arabia from the 1960s, and how the area has grown and developed in the decades since.

President of CSUF receiving food from Nader, a baker at Forn al Hara

Tucked along a busy Brookhurst Street in West Anaheim, Arabic signs advertise services from restaurants to lawyers to doctors. Some signs are explicitly in Arabic, such as Forna al Hara, which translates to “The Neighborhood’s Oven,” while others are English transliterations, like Al Tayabat, meaning “Wonderful Things.” The businesses and many others like them are regularly patronized by thousands of Arabic-speaking consumers who have made this part of Anaheim their center of business and culture. This neighborhood has been affectionately named Little Arabia by Arabs and non-Arabs alike and offers a rich perspective of Orange Country’s – and Southern California’s – diverse history. Little Arabia’s story reflects the challenges the Arab community has faced and reveals heartwarming aspects of how Anaheim has supported the Arab community through the years.

Little Arabia Plaza sign

Amin Nash is a Ph.D. Student at Claremont Graduate University, where he studies the Arab and Muslim American experience through literature, culture, and history. He is also a Fellow for the Arab American Civic Council located in Anaheim, where he regularly advocates for the Arab community and provides educational materials to the Anaheim population. Amin grew up in Las Vegas, the third child born to Iraqi immigrants, and recalls regularly traveling to Anaheim’s Little Arabia to purchase halal meat during the 1990s and early 2000s. Amin feels that Orange County – and Southern California – has challenged Arab and Muslim Americans and brought an opportunity to the community. He hopes that his work will allow the experiences of this unique American community to be recognized and understood as positive contributors to Orange County and America.

Sammy Khouraki, the owner of Al Tayabat (the oldest market in Little Arabia), giving a kiss to a young girl (the future of Little Arabia!)

Shifra Goldman: Godmother of Latin American & Chicano Art

 

Historian Manny Escamilla will discuss Professor Shifra Goldman of Santa Ana College – one of the first academics to seriously study Chicano/a and Latin American art – at the April 14, 2022 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.

 

Dr. Shifra Goldman’s pioneering work in the field of Chicano and Latin American art was paired with a lifetime of activism, an encyclopedic knowledge of artwork, an eagerness to teach others, and a willingness to vocally defend threatened Chicano/a and Latin American art.

 

She was a driving force behind the preservation of Siqueiros’ 1932 “La América Tropical” mural on Olvera Street. She taught courses in Mexican Pre-Colombian, Modern and Chicano Art at Santa Ana College for 21 years where she organized the college’s first mural program. She personally documented thousands of works of art across the country (including here in O.C.) and her collection at UC Santa Barbara remains a starting point for researchers. This presentation will highlight her work and a slide show of murals/paintings from her collection.

 

Manny Escamilla is a local historian, urban planner, and lifelong Santa Ana resident. He graduated from Santa Ana College, from UC Berkeley with a BA in History, and from UCLA with a Master of Library and Information Science and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning. Manny worked for the City of Santa Ana from 2005-2019 as a local history librarian, management analyst, and urban planner. He was also on the board of the Orange County Historical Society. In 2020 he was appointed to the City’s Art and Culture Commission and is currently working as an urban planner with the City of Oakland. Over the past 14 years he has assisted with, led, and implemented a range of projects covering the areas of urban planning, government administration, digital humanities, historic research, and place-based art.

Two Families and Mendez v Westminster

Janice Munemitsu, author of The Kindness of Color: The Story of Two Families and Mendez, et al. v. Westminster, the 1947 Desegregation of California Public Schools, will discuss her book at the March 10, 2022 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in the City of Orange. The public is welcome.

The Kindness of Color tells the true story of two immigrant families who came to Southern California for better lives, only to face their own separate battles against racism during the 1940s. One family came by land from Mexico and the other by sea from Japan. Little did they expect their paths would meet and lead to justice and desegregation for all the school children of California in Mendez, et. al v. Westminster (1947) – seven years before Brown v. Education (1954).

Despite the discrimination and racism the Mendez and Munemitsu families encountered, there was one thing that helped them persevere. Acts of kindness by friends, neighbors and strangers encouraged their hearts and souls, opened paths to solutions, and created communities of support and kindness. This is the family story behind the case, highlighting the beauty and power of the Kindness of Color that made the landmark case possible. Photos show Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez on the left and Masako and Seima Munemitsu on the right.

The book tells the story of how racism against the Japanese-Americans led to Tad Munemitsu leasing his family farm to Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez during the forced evacuation and internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II. When the Mendez family moved to the Westminster farm, the Mendez children were denied entry to the “white” school and forced to go to the “Mexican” school with inferior academics. Racism by the government and school districts denied both families of their constitutional amendment freedoms and rights, but acts of kindness along the way created the path to justice.

Janice Munemitsu is a third-generation Japanese American Sansei. A native of Orange County, California, Janice worked on the family farm from age five through high school. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California and Biola University.

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.

Show & Tell Night

It’s time again to rack your brain and rummage through your garage and your scrapbooks in preparation for the Orange County Historical Society’s annual Show & Tell and holiday gathering, Thursday, December 9, 2021, 7:30 p.m at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. Bring a choice artifact, photo, or a bit of memorabilia that connects to an interesting story about Orange County’s past.

Maybe it’s an orange crate from the packing plant mom worked in. Or maybe it’s great-grandpa’s branding iron, an early redwood surfboard, a plate from an old local restaurant, or Don Juan Forster’s toothbrush. Everyone’s looking forward to seeing and hearing about the item you bring.

We’ll have a sign-up sheet when you enter and participants will be called up one at a time. The public is welcome.

Tails from Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery

This history of Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery will be the subject of guest speaker Kathie Schey at the Orange County Historical Society’s Nov. 11th, 2021 meeting, 7:30 p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.

People have always cherished their animals.  In modern western history, their relationships are revealed in art, literature, and even in popular culture. The human-animal bond is especially demonstrated through the practice of pet cemetery burial. Exploring and documenting this at Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery in Huntington Beach over number of years has revealed a fascinating story of animal memorials and human mourning.  Be they hero dogs, beloved cats, hapless hamsters or a childhood chicken, their grave markers, grave goods and the sheer longevity of remembrance tell us much about their roles in our lives.

Kathie Schey is the Archivist for the City of Huntington Beach and a former OCHS board member. She has a Masters Degree in history, and holds numerous certifications in archives, history and historic preservation.  She has won a number of awards including two nationally-competed visiting research fellowships. While still in college, she received the Nicholas Perkins Hardeman Prize for Outstanding Achievement by a Graduate Student for her work on the history of human-animal relationships.

Schey is the current chair of the Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board and of the city’s Design Review Board.

Olinda’s History & Pioneers

The historic oil boom town of Olinda (now part of Brea) and some of its forgotten pioneers will be the subject of OCHS’ Oct. 14, 2021 meeting, 7:30 p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. Guest speaker and Olinda native Chris Farren was raised on the Santa Fe oil lease, is a fourth generation Olinda oil worker, and is a docent at Olinda Oil Museum.

CALIFORNIA POLITICAL HISTORY: THE VIEW FROM O.C.

Whether inspiring, maddening, confusing or shocking, politics in California are never dull. Our state has always marched to its own drum and been a place to try new things. And our government and politics have always been part of that. The effects of our experiments over the past 170 years continue to affect us – and the rest of the country – in profound and sometimes surprising ways. Dr. Barbara Stone, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at CSU Fullerton will be the Orange County Historical Society’s featured speaker on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, at 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. She will be looking at the scope of California’s political history with an emphasis on Orange County’s role.

Dr. Barbara S. Stone was a political science professor at CSUF for 32 years and served as Department Chair. She is a former member of California’s Little Hoover Commission and the Governor’s Commission on Educational Quality. She is the author of the California Politics Supplement for American Government and co-author of California’s Political Process and has written numerous scholarly journal articles.

Corrie ten Boom: A Dutch Holocaust Survivor in O.C.

Corrie ten Boom helped many Jews in the Netherlands escape the Nazis during World War II, was eventually sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp herself, survived, and spent the rest of her life helping others, speaking before large audiences, spreading the Gospel, and writing popular books. She spent her latter years living in Orange County, and her inspiring story will be the topic of her good friend Dr. Ron Rietveld’s program at the Orange County Historical Society’s June 10, 2021 meeting at 7:30 p.m., online via Zoom.

To register, visit https://tinyurl.com/OCHStenBoom

Ten Boom told her story of her family involvement in their World War II work in her bestselling 1971 book, The Hiding Place, which was made into a movie in 1975. Two years later, in 1977, this beloved spiritual pioneer, at age 85, moved to Placentia. She continued writing books, making films, speaking, as well as her Christian Ministry in various prisons. It was a more restful time than traveling the world, here she died after her third stroke on her 91st birthday on April 15, 1983. With a simple marker inscribed “Jesus is Victor,” Corrie is buried today in Santa Ana’s Fairhaven Cemetery.

Dr. Ron “Doc” Rietveld is an Emeritus Professor of History at California State University, Fullerton. After completing his A.B in history from Wheaton College [Illinois] in 1959, he completed his Bachelor of Divinity Magna Cum Laude from Bethel Theological Seminary [St. Paul] in 1962.  Upon completing his Ph.D. at Illinois in 1967, he returned to his Alma Mater at Wheaton and began teaching History-Political Science that same fall. In the fall of 1969, Dr. Rietveld began teaching American History at California State University, Fullerton [CA], then a ten-year old college. For 50 years, he has continued to serve as a History Department Faculty Member and Academic Advisor to Cal-State Fraternities.