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.