Historian Steve Lech will tell the story of the Ortega Highway at the Orange County Historical Society’s season kick-off event, Thursday, September 8th, at Sherman Library & Gardens, 2647 E. Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar. Social hour, light refreshments, and silent auction begin at 6:00 p.m. Members and guests please do not bring any food items to share. Program begins at 7:30 p.m.
The creation of the Ortega Highway, linking Orange and Riverside Counties, was a hard-fought effort by residents on both sides of the Santa Ana Mountains. Many wanted it, but getting it was another story. Riverside County historian Steve Lech will discuss the thirty-year struggle that led to the eventual opening of this scenic road – a turning point in transportation history for both counties.
Steve Lech is a native Riversider who has been interested in the local history of Riverside County for more than forty years. He has written or co-written thirteen books on various topics related to Riverside County history, including Along the Old Roads – A History of the Portion of Southern California That Became Riverside County, 1772-1893, considered to be the definitive history of Riverside County. He co-authors the weekly “Back in the Day” column for the Press-Enterprise newspaper in which he explores many aspects of local history throughout western Riverside County. He has been a docent at the historic Mission Inn hotel for over 30 years, is currently the Director of Docent Training for the Mission Inn Foundation, and is the past chair of the Riverside County Historical Commission and the City of Riverside’s Cultural Heritage Board.
To our knowledge, no one had ever researched this story in depth prior Steve’s extensive work while putting together this program for us. We hope you’ll join us for what should be a fun and enlightening evening.
Parking is free at the Sherman and there are two available parking lots: Lot A located at Dahlia Ave at Pacific Coast Highway & Lot B located at Dahlia Ave at 3rd Avenue. Handicapped parking is located in Lot A.
For more information about the lovely Sherman Library & Gardens please click here.
The Orange County Historical Society regrets to let you know that our 2022 June Annual Dinner has been cancelled. If you’re already registered, you will be reimbursed.
We apologize for the inconvenience and look forward to seeing you at our September 8th meeting at Sherman Gardens. More information will be shared later, but our speaker will be Riverside County Historian Steve Lech, speaking about the history of the Ortega Highway.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Join Orange County Historian Eric Plunkett on a hike that explores several sites in Weir Canyon — in the hills above Anaheim and Orange. Once home to an Indian village, traveled by vaqueros from the Yorba and Peralta family ranchos, and perhaps used as a hideout by bandits, Eric will offer interpretations of the former Indian village and archaeological site, the missionization of the Indians in the village and the rise of the rancho era, and the American Era and the rise of bandit gangs – the story of Juan Flores being captured at the mouth of the canyon.
The route is 2.5 miles in length with an elevation gain of 600’ and considered a moderate climb. The trail is clearly marked; in addition, there are some steep sections with loose dirt. The entire loop should take about 1.5-2 hours.
You’ll need to complete and submit a liability waiver (sent with your confirmation) in order to participate.
**There are no restrooms on this route.**
Date: April 23, 2022
Meet at 8:45 a.m. Hike leaves promptly at 9:00 a.m.
Additional information (directions, parking meeting location, liability waiver) will be provided as part of your email confirmation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.