December 2014 Meeting: Show & Tell! – Thursday December 13th, 7:30 p.m. – Trinity Episcopal Church

It’s time to search your attic, closets and garage for an artifact, photograph or object that helps tell us something about Orange County’s past. The Orange County Historical Society’s popular annual “Show & Tell” program will be held December 11, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

What about great-grandpa’s branding iron, or a piece of flatware with the name of an early local hotel stamped on the back?

Perhaps you have a roof tile from a long-gone adobe, or a radio from Leo Fender’s shop, or a prop from an early Disneyland attraction. Maybe you have a cup from Daniger’s Tearoom, a witch trophy from the 1935 Anaheim Halloween Parade, or a menu from a late lamented Orange County restaurant.

Or maybe you just have an outstanding photo of early Orange County that few have seen before. Whatever vintage Orange County curio you may have tucked away, now’s your chance to trot it out, show it off, and tell us something about it.

There will be a sign-up sheet when you arrive at the meeting. People will be called up in order of their position on the list. If we run out of time, we’ll save the list for another meeting, so you’ll still get your chance to share your “piece of history” and a bit of the story behind it.

We can’t wait to see what you bring!

November 2014 Meeting: Author’s Night 2014 – Thursday November 13th, 7:30 p.m. – Trinity Episcopal Church

The Orange County Historical Society’s annual Author’s Night event will be held Thursday, November 13th, at 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N Canal St., in the City of Orange. Topics this year include Huntington Beach, the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, a notable member of the Bixby family, the local impact of the New Deal, and more! After each author speaks briefly about their books, attendees will have an oppurtunity to purchase books, have them signed, and speak with the authors.

Author’s set to appear at OCHS Authors Night 2014 include:

Marcia Lee Harris
Chris Epting
Charles Epting
Zoot Velasco
and Phil Brigandi

This event is open to the public, free, and refreshments will be served.

For more information on this year’s authors, check out this month’s County Courier by
clicking here.

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.

September 2014 Meeting – Museums in the 21st Century – Speakers: Mark Hall-Patton

Mark Hall-Patton

Mark Hall-Patton – Administrator of the Clark County museum system, and star of TV’s Pawn Stars – will speak on “The Importance of Museums in the 21st Century” at a special Orange County Historical Society program marking the county’s 125th birthday.

This event will be held Sept. 11, 2014, at the Sherman Library & Gardens, 2647 E. Coast Highway, in Corona del Mar. A social hour and optional potluck of appetizers and desserts will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by the program at 7:30 p.m.

The event is open to the public, but space is limited, so please complete an online RSVP form at

As Administrator for the Clark County, Nevada, museum system, Mark Hall-Patton oversees the Clark County Museum, the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum, and the Searchlight History Museum. He has been with Clark County for twenty years, and was previously the Director of the San Luis Obispo County Historical Museum and was the first Director of the Anaheim Museum (now the Muzeo). He has worked for both public and private nonprofit museums, and has consulted with numerous start-up and established museums and museum boards.

He is the author of two books, over 400 published articles, and has written and produced 48 local history videos, and is regularly seen on the History Channel’s hit show Pawn Stars as a visiting expert. He has also appeared on American Restorations, The United Stuff of America, America, Facts and Fallacies, and Mysteries at the Museum.

He has been in the museum field for over 37 years, having also worked with museums in California and South Dakota.

May 2014 Meeting – Program: Don Meadows’ Archaeological Research and Documentation of the Bernardo Yorba Adobe – Speaker: Phil Brigandi

Bernardo Yorba adobe, circa 1900
Photo courtesy Orange County Archives

The exploration and documentation of the ruins of Bernardo Yorba’s home by Don Meadows in 1919 will be the topic of the next Orange County Historical Society meeting. Historian Phil Brigandi, a longtime friend of Meadows, will tell us about this early adventure in local archaeology. This program will be held Thursday, May 8, 2014, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in the City of Orange.

Our previously announced speaker, Jeannine Pedersen, is unable to attend. We apologize for the scheduling error.

April 2014 Meeting – Program: History of the City of Cypress – Speaker: John Olson

Walker St. at N. Vonnie Ln., Cypress, circa 1960
Photo courtesy Orange County Archives

Local historian John Olson will discuss the history of the City of Cypress at the Orange County Historical Society meeting on Thursday, April 10, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. Olson’s talk will begin with the little western Orange County town of Cypress in the 1940s, tell the story of its incorporation as Dairy City in 1956, and will, he says, “with any luck get to the wild times of 1960-61” (at which time it had been re-re-named Cypress again).

Although Cypress’ origin dates back to about the turn of the 20th century, by the time it incorporated in 1956, it still only had a population of 1,616 people… and 24,000 cows. Today the 6.61-square-mile city boasts 49,647 human residents and not a single bovine. In place of the old dairy farms are housing tracts, schools, Cypress College, shopping centers, the Los Alamitos Race Course, and the offices of such notable businesses as Vans, United Health Group, Fuji Film USA, Mary Kay, Yamaha Motor Corporation USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Bandai America, and Siemens Medical Solutions. The story of the community’s transition from agriculture to suburbia in some ways reflects the story of much of Orange County, but it also features many curious, unique, and sometimes surprising twists and turns.

Dairy in the City of Cypress, 1969
Photo courtesy Orange County Archives

John Olson’s interest in researching history began in 1971, after he started a baseball team. When his mother found out he’d named the team “The Baseball Blues” (after a song he liked), she said, “Oh, you named it after your father’s team.”

“My father,” Olson said, “had died in 1954 of a botched surgery when I was just five years old and no one in the family had bothered to tell me much about him, most specifically that he had ever played my favorite sport professionally. I asked a bunch of questions, but basically got no answers. So, I started researching, and I never stopped.”

Thus began his love of ferreting out forgotten stories of the past.

Olson, who holds a degree in Communications from CSUF, was hired in 1986 to create and run a television program for the City of Cypress. He has worked for the City ever since, running their cable access channel and meeting their other video production needs.

“When I applied for the job, I didn’t know where Cypress was,” said Olson. “But after producing hundreds of video programs about the City over the last 26 years, and attending more than 600 council meetings, plus the research habit I developed back in 1971, I got to know a lot about the little town of Cypress.”

Olson is currently working on a book about the history of Cypress—the first of its kind—and has become a familiar and welcome face in Orange County’s local history libraries and archives.

March 2014 Meeting – Program: What’s New (and Old) at the O.C. Archives – Speaker: Chris Jepsen

O.C. Archives, courtesy Chris Jepsen

Get a “virtual backstage tour” of the Orange County Archives, learn about some recent additions to its collections, and see a new selection of rare historic photos at the OCHS general meeting on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 7:30 p.m., 2400 N. Canal St. in Orange. Our speaker is OCHS president Chris Jepsen, whose day job finds him serving as Assistant Archivist at the O.C. Archives.

Although its mission is partly to identify, collect, preserve and make available records of the county’s history, the Orange County Archives is more than its name might imply. A central hub for Orange County history, the Orange County Archives is a research center open to the public, and its collections belong to the people of Orange County.

The majority of the Archives’ records come from county government, beginning with Orange County’s separation from Los Angeles in 1889. However, the resolution that created the Archives also provides for the collection of “historical materials which are not official County records but which document the history of Orange County.” This has allowed the Archives to build a collection that is not only extensive but diverse.

Chris Jepsen at O.C. Archives

The Archives is a division of the Orange County Clerk-Recorder Department, located in the Old County Courthouse, 211 W. Santa Ana Blvd. It is open on weekdays (except holidays), 9:00 a.m. to noon, and 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. During these hours, Archives staff members are on hand to help anyone and everyone find their way through more than 120 years of records in order to solve various historical, genealogical, and legal mysteries.

In addition to these duties, staff members also organize historical exhibits, speak in public on subjects relating to county history, and sometimes help provide guidance for historical projects undertaken by county agencies or commissions.

Our speaker Chris Jepsen has served as the Assistant Archivist at the Orange County Archives since 2003. He loves his work, collecting and preserving historically significant materials, and helping people discover the history of their families, homes and communities. Chris, a local historian who is author of the O.C. History Roundup blogspot and the “O.C. Answer Man” columnist of Orange Coast Magazine, is also an avid photographer and president of OCHS since the 2011-2012 membership year.

For more information about the Archives, visit, call Chris at (714) 834-4771, or just stop by for a visit.

February 2014 Meeting – Program: History of Carbon Canyon – Speaker: Paul Spitzzeri

Old Carbon Canyon post card

Paul Spitzzeri will give a lecture about Carbon Canyon on Thursday, February 13, 2014, 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

Tucked in the northeastern corner of Orange County, Carbon Canyon is mostly known as a commuter alternative to the busy 91 and 60 freeways to and from the Inland Empire. The canyon and its surrounding areas, however, have a varied and interesting history, dealing with oil development, mineral hot springs, concrete outdoor ski slopes, hippie hangouts, hit jobs, and much more.

While the canyon was certainly a place for native peoples to gather plant material, hunt for game, and serve as a trading spot between coastal and inland regions, little is known about how the area was actually used over time. During the Spanish and Mexican eras, neighboring rancheros used Carbon Canyon as part of the common public land set aside for grazing and watering of cattle.

Map showing Olinda/Carbon Canyon area

In the late 1880s, William H. Bailey bought land outside the canyon’s mouth and named his domain “Olinda Ranch,” after his family’s Hawaiian pineapple plantation. Several years later, Edward Doheny, developer of the famed Los Angeles oil field, brought in a still-operating well that inaugurated Orange County’s oil industry.

Oil workers, it is said, used the natural hot springs in the canyon for pain relief, and by the 1910s the La Vida Mineral Springs resort was opened. For nearly a half-century, the Miller family operated La Vida’s baths, pools, motel, and café, and its water was bottled and sold widely. After most of the facilities closed, the La Vida Roadhouse continued operation until the early 2000s. Little remains of the original site to date, except a water tower with the faded “La Vida” logo still emblazoned on it.

Paul Spitzzeri

In recent years, sub-urbanization has crept into the canyon and has transformed it. Wildfires, traffic and other concerns remain ongoing issues as the area faces an uncertain future in this century.

Our guest speaker is the Assistant Director at the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, California, where he has worked since 1988. He received his B.A. and M.A. in History from California State University, Fullerton and has published pieces on local, regional and state history in many journals and anthologies. His book, The Workman and Temple Families of Southern California, won the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History in 2009. A resident of Sleepy Hollow in Chino Hills within Carbon Canyon, Paul has blogged extensively on the history of the canyon on

January 2014 Meeting – Program: History of the Santa Ana Fire Department – Speaker: Roberta Reed

Restored 1926 fire engine in front of SA Fire Museum. Photo courtesy Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society

Guest speaker Roberta Reed will lecture on the history of the Santa Ana Fire Department on Thursday, January 9, 2014, 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. Founded in 1883, SAFD’s first fire house was built on the west side of Sycamore Street, between Third and Fourth Streets. By 1970, SAFD included 200 members and nine stations. The fire department was disbanded by the City of Santa Ana on April 20, 2012 due to budget constraints, and fire services were contracted with the Orange County Fire Authority.

Roberta has had a connection to SAFD from her early years, with Santa Ana Station 5 being the station where her father spent a good part of his career. A long-time treasurer of the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society, she was instrumental in negotiating the agreement between the City and Orange County Fire Authority to transfer the Santa Ana Fire Museum to SAHPS and continue to house it in Station 5. In May 2013, a signed license agreement between SAHPS and OCFA allowed the Museum to operate in OCFA Station 75. A grand opening for the Museum was held on Saturday, August 24, 2013, and the public was invited to view its extensive collection of artifacts from the 1880s to the 1960s.

Born in St. Joseph Hospital and raised in Santa Ana, Roberta is an Environmental, Health and Safety manager at 3M where she has been employed for the past 15 years. Her deep involvement in the history of Santa Ana is evidenced in her numerous “outside” efforts. Author of Arcadia Publishing’s Santa Ana: 1940-2007 (Images of America: California), Roberta organized the City’s first walking tours; chaired numerous home and garden tours, and cemetery tours for SAHPS, and was involved in the grassroots effort to save the Howe-Waffle House during the Orange County bankruptcy.

Roberta celebrates her 23rd wedding anniversary with husband Nathan in the week she delivers her program to OCHS. The family’s home includes canines Max, Cliff and Samson; a collection of glassware from the Depression era up to the 1960s; antique furniture; Santa Ana memorabilia, and fire-related items.