Map of Southern Orange County (courtesy of Chris Jepsen)

Historian Chris Jepsen will share the story of Al Capone’s attempt to buy the Rancho Santa Margarita — including much of South O.C. and all of today’s Camp Pendleton — at the Thursday, September 14, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. (Note that unlike most OCHS season kick-off meetings, this one will be held in Orange.)

Tales of Chicago gangster “Scarface” Capone’s desire to buy the Rancho Santa Margarita have circulated since 1931 but were dismissed by historians for lack of evidence. But for twelve years, Jepsen gathered evidence from newspapers, real estate brokers’ correspondence, Mission San Juan Capistrano’s archives, family members of those involved, and much more. Taken together, it painted a clear picture of Capone’s effort to buy this huge, unguarded swath of California coast, which would have been perfect for landing shiploads of booze from Canada and Mexico. During his program, Jepsen will tell this tale along with related stories of California rancheros, local bootlegging, and Capone’s face-off with the padres of Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Al Capone pulp magazine 1931 pub (courtesy of Chris Jepsen)
OC Sheriff Jernigan destroys contraband liquor, March 31, 1932(courtesy of Chris Jepsen)

Chris Jepsen has been involved in local history work since the 1980s and has been president of OCHS the past twelve years. As an independent historian and “local history evangelist” he has organized tours and seminars, lectured frequently, developed museum exhibits, documented endangered historic sites, organized non-profit groups, and served on the Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board. He writes articles for historical journals, his own O.C. History Roundup blog, county publications, and was Orange Coast Magazine’s “O.C. Answer Man” for six years. For the past twenty years, his day job has been serving as the Assistant Archivist at the Orange County Archives. Chris is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton, but says his greatest education came from five years of daily mentorship as assistant to California historian Phil Brigandi.

See you on September 14th at 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange! 

Saving Historic Sites with Adaptive Reuse

Balboa Theater, Balboa Blvd, Newport Beach (Courtesy Orange County Archives)

Hear some of Orange County’s greatest recent historical preservation success stories directly from Linda Sadeghi – who made them a reality – at the May 11, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. “Adaptive Reuse” of historic buildings (repurposing them to make them functional for a new generation) is one of the most reliable means of ensuring their long-term survival, making this the perfect topic for National Preservation Month.

Linda Sadeghi is the owner/operator/designer of Little American Business (LAB), Inc. Some of her past projects she’ll discuss include The Anaheim Packing House (1919), The LAB (factory built 1955 in Costa Mesa), The Casino San Clemente (1937 dance hall), and Cottage Industries (housing small businesses within residential homes in Garden Grove, built 1914-1950). She also plans to discuss her forthcoming project: The Balboa Theater (1927).

Anaheim Packing House, 2014 (Courtesy Chris Jepsen)

A Pratt Institute of Brooklyn graduate, Linda is a self-described “artist in search of medium” whose career started in the fashion industry. After twenty years designing for apparel brands like Ocean Pacific and her own children’s clothing line, Itigraffiti, Linda and her former partner started both a family (three sons) and a family business with the creation of The LAB Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa, finding a new design medium in brick and mortar. The LAB became an iconic addition to Orange County – a youth driven haven/hangout for aspiring creatives as well as a community of budding entrepreneurs. “Our ongoing goal was to feature small, creative, unique businesses in a synergistic environment; almost as an incubator, full of support, comradery and creative energy,” says Linda. “It helped that we didn’t have a rule book for commercial real estate development and were just ourselves; artists.”

Linda and her team continue to rehab and repurpose commercial real estate across Orange County, breathing new life into significant sites that otherwise would have met with the bulldozer.

Casino Building, San Clemente (Courtesy Orange County Archives)

Anaheim Orange and Lemon Association packing house, 1928 (Courtesy USC Digital Library)

In addition to championing historical preservation, throughout her career Linda has also championed the female business owner and is proud of almost 40% of her tenants being female owned and/or managed. “I know firsthand the challenges of raising kids while building a business and keeping creativity alive – not easy!” Please join us for this program!

Vans: An O.C. Institution

Vans-factory-1966 (courtesy Vans)

A panel of experts will discuss the story of Orange County-born Vans and their famous shoes at the April 13, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 pm, Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

The history of globally renowned sneaker and action sports brand Vans, which was originally founded as the Van Doren Rubber Co. in 1966 in Anaheim, will be presented by Vans’ archivist and brand historian Catherine Acosta. Acosta founded Vans’ official archive at their headquarters in Costa Mesa in 2019. Her presentation will be followed by an intimate talk with Steve Van Doren, Vans’ VP of Promotions and Events and the son of Vans co-founder Paul Van Doren; and Bob Provost, one of Vans’ Global Ambassadors, who has been at Vans for over 40 years.

From 1966 until the mid-1990s, Vans owned and operated its own factories in O.C. and has operated stores here since its founding. Creating a unique cultural identity for itself in the mid-1970s when the company embraced and supported the development of skateboarding with its first skate shoe designs, Vans has become a part of Southern California culture.

Skateboarding with Vans!

Annual Dinner for 2023: Classic California Restaurants with author/lecturer George Geary: June 8th, 2023! SOLD OUT!


June 8, 2023 at Spring Field Banquet Center, 501 N. Harbor, Fullerton (The former Fullerton Masonic Temple — 1920, Spanish Revival)

Social Hour / Silent Auction / Cash Bar: 5:30 p.m.

Dinner: 6:30 p.m.

Presentation: 7:30 p.m. 

Join us for an evening with author, educator, TV personality, and lecturer George Geary as he presents Made in California: The California-Born Diners, Burger Joints, Restaurants & Fast Food that Changed America (1915-1966). 

California has long been at the forefront of food. Car culture and our fast pace of living resulted in fast-food restaurants, coffee shops, diners, and other casual chains. Most were born in Southern California, some were born in Orange County, and many made O.C. their headquarters. Learn about the entrepreneurs, the buildings, and foods that made these places famous. 

George was an award-winning pastry chef for the Walt Disney Co. for ten years. Since then, he’s celebrated his 29th year in morning television on L.A. stations, WGN-TV Chicago, NBC Tampa, and Fox5 San Diego. He lectured for eight years aboard Holland America ships in 118 countries. For 35 years, he’s conducted food tours of major cities in America and Europe. 

Our Americana buffet includes your choice of roasted chicken and spinach-stuffed meatloaf with gravy OR vegetarian lasagna, served with green salad, mashed potatoes, mac’n’ cheese, rolls, drink station, and assorted cookies and brownies. This event is open to members and non-members alike, so bring your friends.

SOLD OUT- no more reservations taken!

Jewish Orange County, Part II: 1940-1980

Orange County Jewish Historical Society archivist Dalia Taft will present “1940-1980: The Jewish Community Comes Together,” at the March 9th, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society (OCHS), 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. This program is a follow-up to her December 2020 presentation before the Society, which spanned history from 1857 to 1940.


This second program follows the Orange County Jewish community from just before WWII through 1980, when the tiny population more than doubled in size and started to build up community organizations, synagogues, youth groups, and more. Ms. Taft will show how many of Orange County’s Jewish residents were, and continue to be, actively involved in local commerce, culture and politics while still maintaining their Jewish identities. The lecture includes a montage of old photos, period newspaper announcements and vintage advertisements.


Prior to attending this event, OCHS suggests also viewing the half-hour documentary, California Orange Jews: The Story of Jews in Orange County, by Josh Friedman and Dalia Taft of the Orange County Jewish Historical Society. It is available on Youtube. (See

A Bar Mitzvah celebration at Temple Beth Emet, Orange County’s second synagogue, 1950s. (Courtesy OCJHS)

As archivist for the Orange County Jewish Historical Society, Taft is responsible for increasing the awareness of the role Jews have played in the development of Orange County from 1857, when the first Jew settled in Anaheim, to now. She maintains the Society’s archives and is constantly researching and digitizing the growing collection. She lectures regularly and writes a monthly column in JLife, Orange County’s monthly Jewish magazine, highlighting images from the society’s archives. She is also the author of the book Jewish Pioneers of Orange County, which she will be available to sign and sell at the end of her program at OCHS.

Transforming the Irvine Ranch

Irvine, 1960s Photo courtesy O C Archives

Author and former Irvine Co. executive Mike Stockstill will share the history of the Irvine Ranch at the February 9, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.

Michael Stockstill’s presentation is based on the book he co-authored, Transforming the Irvine Ranch: Joan Irvine, William Pereira, Ray Watson, and the Big Plan (2022). He’ll tell the story of Irvine Ranch’s transformation from an agricultural empire into the most successful New Town in the U.S. Along the way, the colorful and tragic history of the Irvine family, especially Joan Irvine Smith, will be featured, along with key insights based on the writings and oral history of Ray Watson and a look at the man who created the first master plans for Irvine and UC Irvine, William Pereira.

Michael Stockstill is a native Californian who moved to Orange County in 1972 where he worked for newspapers and magazines before joining the Irvine Co. in 1978. He graduated from Humboldt State University in 1971 with a degree in journalism. After leaving the Irvine Company in 1991 he worked in a variety of public affairs positions before retiring in 2010. He lives with his wife Colleen Clark in Irvine.




Mission Viejo aerial view, circa 1988

Robert David Breton will speak on the history of Mission Viejo at the January 12, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. The public is welcome!


Mission Viejo, CA logo

Former Mission Viejo Mayor and Mission Viejo Heritage Committee member Robert Breton will share the history of the master-planned community he calls home. He will focus on the early rancho days, the formation of the Mission Viejo Company, its purchase of the land from the O’Neill family, the master planning process, and the city’s incorporation and growth.

Lake Mission Viejo, ca 1988

Robert and his family moved to Mission Viejo in 1976. He has served as a member of Mission Viejo’s City Council, Planning Commission, Municipal Advisory Council, Community Services District, Community Services Commission, Friends of the Library, and many other local task forces and boards. As mayor of Mission Viejo, Breton formed the City’s Heritage Committee and assisted Doris Walker in writing its first history book, Mission Viejo: The Ageless Land. He is currently at work on a new history of Mission Viejo, to be published soon.

Company L at the Mexican Border & During WWI

A few members of Company L. circa 1917. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.

Santa Ana’s historic National Guard unit, Company L, and their service at the Mexican border and during WWI will be the subject of Richard Hartman’s presentation at the Dec. 8, 2022 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in the City of Orange. The public is welcome.Company L of California’s 7th Infantry was called to active duty in June of 1916, along with the entire National Guard in the United States, to assist the Regular Army, guarding the US southern border.  It was a time of many changes to the National Guard, when it developed into the force we know today.  Nelson Holderman began 1916 as a Sergeant in Company L and by the end of the year he commanded the Company as a Captain.  He would go on to receive the Medal of Honor in World War 1, while a part of the action known as “The Lost Battalion.”  Several other young men from the Santa Ana company would lose their lives in that same action.  We also have an eye-witness account of the aftermath of the battle from a man from Santa Ana as a member of the first Company to relieve those surrounded men.Our guest speaker, Richard Hartman, served in the California Air Guard as a Chief Master Sergeant and the Maintenance Superintendent of the 222nd Combat Communications Squadron in Costa Mesa.  Richard spent seven years on active duty in the Air Force in Montana and Wyoming as a Systems Analyst on Minuteman 2 and Minuteman 3 missile systems.  In his civilian life, he was a control systems engineer, building flight simulator systems and motion rides.  After retiring from his civilian job, he entered the Master’s History program at Cal State Fullerton.  Richard also volunteers at the Orange Family History Library, helping patrons navigate their research.

Please join us on December 8th!