The Yost Theater / El Cine Yost

The history of Santa Ana’s Yost Theater (El Cine Yost) and its important role in Orange County’s Mexican-American community will be the topic of Professor David-James Gonzales’ program at the Orange County Historical Society’s April 8, 2021 meeting at 7:30 p.m., online via Zoom. To register, visit the OCHS website or https://tinyurl.com/OCHSYost.

Opened in 1913 as The Auditorium, the Yost Theater is Orange County’s oldest and most historic entertainment venue. During its early years, the Yost was considered Orange County’s finest playhouse, as it hosted vaudeville performers and musicians. With its massive stage, 970-seat capacity, and full array of backstage props and dressing rooms, the theater was a popular site for the performing arts, film exhibitions, charitable events, religious services, and political gatherings throughout much of its hundred-plus year history.

But to the ethnic Mexican community, the Yost was much more. The Olivos family, who purchased and then ran the Yost for 33 years, not only introduced Spanish-language cinema to Orange County, but also gave Mexican Americans a public place to gather and “feel proud of their ethnic heritage,” writes Gonzales. “During the early-to-mid-twentieth century when schools, neighborhoods, and parks were segregated throughout Orange County, Latinos could enter the theater and feel a sense of community.”

The theater was, wrote Louis Olivos, Jr., “our answer to the Grand Ole Opry.”

A Southern California native, David-James Gonzales completed his Ph.D. in History at the University of Southern California in 2017, writing his dissertation on the Mexican American struggle against segregation in Orange County from 1920 to 1950. He went on to teach at USC, UCLA and is currently an Assistant Professor of History at Brigham Young University. He is also a producer and host of the scholarly book review podcast “New Books in Latino Studies.”

His article, “El Cine Yost and the Power of Place for Mexican Migrants in Orange County, California, 1930–1990,” was published in the Journal of American Ethnic History in the Summer of 2020. He is currently preparing a book manuscript on the effect of Latino civic engagement and politics on the metropolitan development of Orange County throughout the 20th century.

Caption: The Yost Theater on Spurgeon St. in 1974. Photo by Werner Weiss, courtesy Orange County Archives.

Modesta Avila

The story of Modesta Avila – Orange County’s first convicted felon and a celebrated symbol of protest – is an enduring Early California legend that has long warranted further historical research. Author, attorney, and educator Richard Brock will tell Avila’s story at the Orange County Historical Society’s March 11, 2021 meeting at 7:30 p.m., online via Zoom.

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

Brock’s lecture will include the findings of his article, “Modesta Again” (California History, Fall 2018) as well as even more recent significant findings about Avila’s life.

The tale of Modesta Avila has long been a potent metaphor used by scholars and activists to illustrate themes of social injustice, ethnic intolerance, railroad intransigence, the decline of the Californios, and the treatment of Hispanics following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Because her story is used to explain serious historical themes, accuracy is important. However, the story as it’s always been told was inaccurate and incomplete. Brock’s new research—using original land titles, Mexican land grants, genealogy, trial transcripts, applications for appeals to governors Markham and Waterman, the personal notes of the historian Jim Sleeper in the UCI Special Collections, and hundreds of contemporary news articles—results in a revised and compelling story that has even stronger metaphorical import.

Richard Brock holds a BA from UCI in Classical Civilization focused on Greco-Roman History, Literature, Art, & Myth. He earned an MA in Folklore and Mythology from UCLA and focused on San Juan Capistrano where he did field work with descendants of the Acjachemen, Spanish, Mexicans, and early European settlers. He also holds a JD from Western State University of Law and deploys all of these disciplines in his published papers and novels. He currently teaches law in an ABA program for paralegals at UCR, and also teaches Folklore and Mythology, the Spanish Mission System, and the Pacific Crest Trail through the Osher Foundation.

At the end of the lecture, Brock will also briefly discuss his new work of historical fiction, Laguna Diary, which features such local personalities as Delfina Olivares (storyteller and Matriarch of San Juan Capistrano) and Paul Arbiso (Mission bell-ringer and Patriarch of San Juan Capistrano).

The Enchanted Quest of Dana & Ginger Lamb

If adventure has a name, it must be,…. Lamb? Author and researcher Julie Huffman-klinkowitz will tell the story of Orange County authors and adventurers Dana and Ginger Lamb at the Orange County Historical Society’s Jan. 14, 2020 meeting at 7:30 p.m., online via Zoom.

Visit https://tinyurl.com/OCHSLamb to register.

Almost 90 years ago, Dana and Ginger Lamb made headlines as they adventured their way through life, creating experiences and stories that thrilled and entertained their audiences. Followed by young and old alike, the Lambs presented themselves through the media of the day to an international following. Married in 1933, the Lambs became popular authors, lecturers, documentary filmmakers, entrepreneurs, amateur archaeologists, and spies for the U.S. government. Their best-selling books included Enchanted Vagabonds (1938) and Quest for the Lost City (1951). Huffman-klinkowitz will speak about the Lambs’ personal histories, their lives and work, and their impact on several generations of followers.

Julie Huffman-klinkowitz is an independent scholar whose work focuses on local history, genealogy, and popular culture. She holds an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and a MA in Spanish. She is Collections Manager of the Cedar Falls (Iowa) Historical Society. She is co-author of the book, The Enchanted Quest of Dana and Ginger Lamb, and is currently working on an annotated index to the Lambs’ voluminous correspondence, which is held at the Sherman Library in Corona del Mar.