Thursday, March 31, 2005

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Back in 1912, a man by the name of St. John O'Sullivan wrote a short book entitled, "Little Chapters About San Juan Capistrano". About four years ago, I transcribed the book word-for-word, and reprinted it on the old website. Today, I reformatted the pages, and linked them up to the present-day blog site. Click the link above to see it.

O'Sullivan was the first resident priest of Mission SJC since its restoration in 1895. He was actually the one who started the restoration.

It was around the 1880's when Californians rediscovered the missions lining the coast. A "renaissance" period started which lasted until around the 1930s. During this time, people fell in love with the California missions, and saw them as beautiful oases in the middle of savage wilderness. They saw the missionaries as gentle souls, who wanted nothing more than to teach the native indians about Art, Science, and Agriculture.

O'Sullivan was very much caught up in the "romanticism" of the period, and his writing very much reflects this perception. Throughout the 20th Century and into today, schools use this same perception when teaching California students about the mission system.

However, it was only until the last 10-20 years that historians have been telling the true story of the mission system, its purpose to support the military bases (Presidios), the torture and slavery of the native indians, the abolishment of their language and culture, and the political in-fighting between Father Serra and the Governor of California.

One of the best books I've read thus far on this subject is "Life in a California Mission", by Malcolm Margolin. The book is actually a transcription of the journals of Jean Francois de La Perouse. Perouse was an explorer dispatched by France in 1786 to learn about what the Spanish were doing along the California Coast. He landed in Monterey Bay, and met with Father Fermin Lasuen, the man who took over for Father Serra. Serra had died two years before Perouse landed in Monterey. He recorded everything he saw into his journals. To say the least, this book competely changed my perception of the California missions, and of Father Serra.

Anyone wishing to learn more about how Mission San Juan Capistrano was built, and what each of the buildings and structures mean, might do well to start with "Little Chapters About San Juan Capistrano".

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Reuben E. Lee

The Reuben E. Lee was a 19th Century style paddle wheel boat docked in Newport Bay, right along Pacific Coast Highway, between Dover Dr and by Bayside Drive, as you cross over the bridge. The boat is still there, though it's no longer named "Reuben E. Lee". In 1995, it was renamed "Pride of Newport".

But the REL was a floating restaurant. It opened in 1964. It closed up for service probably 10 years ago. There is a similar "Reuben E. Lee" in San Diego, that shut down in 2003. Today, it is home to the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum. There is still a restaurant inside called, "Anthony's Riverboat Restaurant".

Below are memories of REL submitted to us back in the old days of

By: Curtis Lofgren, 11 Aug 2002

Worked at the REL from 82-83...worst possible place to work in the entire world, universe, galaxy get the picture. 100 degrees in the summer, 40 below in the winter and the plumbing?....there was none....just flush and see it go overboard....the powers that were placed hidden tapes of frog noises outside the gangplank...overall, the most amatuerish and scummiest of jobs...oh yeah, and the fish?...FROZEN!!!

By: Terry, 2 Apr 2002

I remember driving by the REL and seeing it tilted to one side. My husband stopped the car and we watched while the fire department tried to figue out how to get a VW bug out from UNDER it. Well, they waited for the tide to change a pulled it out with one of those really big tow truck What I always wanted to know was ...How it get there in the first place

By: Andrew Musselman, 29 Nov 2001

My friend scott Hollender and I used to pull a small boat up to the Ruben E Lee and have a meal. Great times!

By: Jerry Parker, 12 July 2001

In 1967 I was a buss-boy at the Ruben E. Lee, for a short time. It was quite a boat. When the Newport Beach Fire Boat zoomed past, the whole restaurant would rock and sway. I never saw any plates slide off tables, but the patrons would stare intently at their coffee or water glasses.
If you have any memories of the Reuben E. Lee, please click on "Post a Comment" below and share them with us here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Orange County History by Kenny Kao

Kenny Kao has written a condensed history of Orange County on his website. I think it's a pretty good resource for folks wanting a basic overview of the major events that took place in the County.

Kenny also has a very comprehensive set of links to other websites touching on Orange County History.

He also has a page called "Trivia" where you'll find tidbits about Orange County streets and what names they used to have.

The Origins of Katella

A man named John Rea started a ranch in Orange, or was it Anaheim? He named it after his two daughters, Kate and Ella. I'm not sure of the history of Katella Avenue, but that's where the name came from.

Below is an e-mail we received back in the old days of, that relate to the name "Katella":
By: Brad, 15 Aug 2002

My grandma took care of Kate Ray. Kate had a sister named Ella. Katella's namesake. My grandmother told me when I was a little boy in the 60's that Katella grammer school was no longer there. But to answer your question about Ball Jr high. Yes it is still there.
If you have any to share about the Rea family and the name Katella, please click on "Post a Comment" below.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Japanese Village and Deer Park

In the late 1960's, a place called "Japanese Gardens and Deer Park" opened up in Buena Park. I don't recall the exact location of where it was, but I want to say it was located along Beach Blvd, perhaps near La Palma, in the vicinity of Movieland Wax Museum.

I remember going there sometime around 1971 or 72, with my mom and dad. We actually lived in San Diego then. I don't recall what the place looked like. I was just only 5 or 6 years old, and too bored with the place.

Justin Allen, a visitor to this website, sent us several photos, check them out.

Below are some e-mails we received by us some years ago during the old days of
By: Cheryl Worth, 16 Aug 2002

I remember when my parents took us to the Japanese Deer Park (in the late 60's, early 70's) and my sister Lori and I each got to pick out a Japanese Umbrella that was made out of beautiful paper along with a flute-type musical instrument made out of some type of bamboo or wood. We had a wonderful time feeding the deer and always wondered what happend to the park, since we never visited it as I got older and moved out of state. I had wanted to take my son there to visit on our summer vacation this year, and that's how I found this web site looking for information on it because I wasn't sure where it had been located.

By: Annette Cano, 3 Aug 2002

My memories as a little girl it was a yearly event to go to Japanese village. It was so beautiful all the bonzi trees and the little bridges and the animals and the shows. I wish that this village still existed because of its innocents, beauty, and realizm.

By: Anonymous, 2 Aug 2002

The fuji folk character brings back memories of the park. I remember that the fuji folk costume got a wee bit dirty after awhile. I am not sure if the costume was washable or not. I do remember feeling sympathy for the person who had to put it on during the summer because it got very very hot inside. I don't remember his name(brown belt) but usually the person working the character also was in the samarai & karate show. I believe they trained under sensei demura in santa ana. the park was a fun place to work & one was able to meet people.

By: Bob Hilts, 25 July 2002

Both Japanese Village "JV" and Movieland Wax Museum were founded by Allen Parkinson and subsequently both sold to Six Flags, Inc. in the early 1970s. JV was closed exclusively due to falling attendance and resulting revenue declines during the 3 year period that Six Flags was actively trying to promote this unique Southern California attraction. D. Canchola, as part of this list, indicated that "there hasn't been another amusement park since that can compare to Japanese Village" and that is certainly true. Japanese Village was beautifully landscaped in a traditional Japanese method with serene music, cultural artifacts, grommet type Japanese food and a myriad of animal shows including: lions, tigers, dolphins, deer, macaws and bears not only on a swing but bears that played basketball and could out shoot/muscle Shaquille O'Neal at any inside position. I worked in the "JV" accounting/finance department and was there during operations, closure and the through final days! . During these last few days I was interviewed by a UCLA grad student doing her Ph.D. work on USA amusement parks and the importance of their viability being directly associated and tied to the overall cultural of the area in which they are located. OK... but I do miss the "Fuji Folk".

By: Tamara, 5 July 2002

I carried a pearl that I got from the oyster diver with me for 30 years and just three years ago had it made into a necklace. I lost it last year in my back garden and was totally distraught about it - but, hey, the memory of the place is still there. I remeber that the deers decided that my leather fringed vest and my mum's fringed suede bag were a delicacy and we were absolutely swarmed by manic fringe mad dear - they really went wild, as though they'd never been fed. It makes me laugh just thinking about it. None of my friends remeber this place, nor does my sister - I started to think perhaps it didn't either. Funny how you happen upon others who have memories of obscure places.

By: Linda R. Johnen, 29 Apr 2002

I was in my late teens when going there with my family. I thought it was one of the nicest attractions in Orange County. I always admired the Japanese culture; I always thought it was so beautiful. So when I visited there several times I just enjoyed the atmosphere of quietness, charm, and beauty of that the park had to offer. It was a sad day for me to see it close down. I felt that this was the closest I could see Japan in my own backyard!

By: T. Jennings, 1 Apr 2002

I remember the Japanese Deer Park as a fun place to visit. They had Japanese Pearl divers, diving for cultured pearls, which you could buy on the premises. I also recal an avery in the shape of a gazebo where you could feed the white doves that flew to you for food, as they would just eat right out of your hand. The deers in the park were sweet as they gracefully walked around. I was very disappointed to see it close, but if my memory serves me well, as soon as it closed, they erected another adventure park called "Enchanted Village" which also didn't last long. I remember seeing a giraffe there and also recal seeing a wildlife shows with tigers. They also had Hawaiian or Polynesian type dancers and a western musical show as well.

After the Japanese Deer Park closed or perhaps it was next door to it, I recal another theme park called "Enchanted Village" which also didn't last long. I remember seeing a giraffe there and also seeing wildlife shows with tigers. They also had Hawaiian or Polynesian type dancers and a western musical show.

By: D.Canchola, 7 Feb 2002

There hasn't been another amusement park since that can compare to Japanese Village. It seemed like back then that Knott's Berry would have bought out the the struggling Japanese Village Park and kept it operating and restructured it's finances since at the time Knott's sure wasn't hurting for business. But they just let Japanese Village sink and the only people interested in buying it were developers who just wanted to turn it into an Industrial and Business park. I'll always miss Japanese Village there will never be another park like it to replace it.

By: Bruce Tovar, 30 Jan 2002

I worked there in the early 1970's doing karate/samurai demo's. It was great fun! The reason it closed was purely financial. I remember being sent out in a gi (karate uniform) with "Fuji Folk" for promotions at malls and schools. Most of the deer were destroyed but not because of illness. It was do to lack of placement options. What a great place it was!

By: Mark Wallace, 31 Dec.2001

I remember the deer park well! It was my fist exposure to foreign culture and was like traveling to a different world. Walter T. Foster art book publishers was near there also. I now live in Ventura and can't believe what's become of OC! It's really a mess.

By: Bob Miller, 27 Dec 2001

For some reason the Japanese Village just popped into my mind recently. I remember it as a very peaceful and clean place, so quiet and subdued compared to the flashy, noisy world we live in now. I would love to see some pictures of the place. It seems so very distant now, almost as though it was never really there.

By: David Vallandigham, 25 Nov 2001

My wife mentioned Feeding the deer by hand at Shasta Dam near Redding. That made me recall my grandmother taking me to Japenese Deer Park and how much I enjoyed feeding the deer around 1965. The Japanese lanterns hanging in the air were beautiful. Knowing my wife and I enjoyed the beauty of the animals at opposite ends of California was a nice thought to share with her - Dixie.

By: David Canchola, 31 Oct 2001

I remember where Japanese Village and deer park was it was on Knott Ave Adjacent to the I-5 Freeway near the Nabisco warehouse in Buena Park I really Miss Japanese Village and deer Park it was an Unique Place I heard the reason they Closed was because they were losing money and not making it. I also miss Marineland of the Pacific they also Closed their doors too.

By: fuji folk, 29 July 2001

Japanese Village and Deer Park was located on Knott Ave in Buena Park Calif. The reason why it closed because the park was losing money. Not because of the deer becoming sick. It could not compete against Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, and Magic Mountain.

By: Daniel S. Garcia, 16 Jun 2001

As a child my father took us to this park, we recently put our 8mm film to tape, and had some scenes from the park, I remember feeding the deers, and getting the feed from the dispensers, and the Koi ponds. What I don't remember is where the location of the park was, and why it was closed. We had such a good time there that summer, if any one remembers where the park was and why it closed please drop me a line, thank for letting me share my memories
If you have any memories of Japanese Gardens and Deer Park, please share them us on this page, by clicking on "Post a Comment" below.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Buffalo Ranch in Newport Beach

Does anyone remember the old Buffalo Ranch in Newport Beach? Well, I don't remember it. I came to Orange County after it was long gone. I found some stories submitted to the old OCThen website, and decided to repost them here on the new OCThen:
By: Anonymous, 3 Apr. 2002

HERD OF 72 BUFFALOES ARRIVES TO ROAM NEWPORT BEACH RANCH This community now provides a home for the buffalo to roam. A heard of 72 arrived over the weekend to take up occupancy on the Newport Harbor Buffalo Ranch, a mile north of Coast Hwy. on the east side of MacArthur Blvd. The buffalo ranch, comprising 115 acres, has been leased by Gene Clark from the Irvine Co. He's put in a blacktopped winding road through the grazing range for benefit of visitors. The herd was trucked in here from Independence, Kan. The unloading was witnessed by hundreds of persons. The largest buffalo, a 2,7000 pound bull, lost its footing on the ramp leading from his truck into the fenced pasture and somersaulted into his new home. The herd includes two Brahmalos. Both are the crossbred products of a Brahma bull and buffalo. Clark also plans to bring four Indian families here from Kansas to add color to his promotion. The Indians will bone up on tribal dances and present them at frequent intervals for tourist enlightenment. They will live in teepees. But, contrary to other traditions, the Indians will not be permitted to hunt the buffalo. 1955 June 6. Southland Magazine.

By: Anonymous, 3 Apr. 2002

Buffalo Ranch was located on McArthur on the way to Fashion Island. As the center developed and more businesses located in that area, the ranch was reduced in size. The rides and gift store were gone by the late 1960s, and by the late 1970s, the small ranch and few buffalo that were left, closed up shop and left. They were squeezed out by residential development from two sides. I remember the archway over the entrance off McArthur.

By: Rip Rense, 13 Jan. 2002

My father used to take me to The Buffalo Ranch in the 1950s. I don't recall too much, except an Indian trading post-type store, a few buffalo,and a ride for kiddies consisting of miniature tractors. I'm curious how long The Buffalo Ranch was there, because I recently saw a Buster Keaton movie from 1924, "Sherlock Jr.," which was shot around Newport and adjoining environs and features one shot with a sign reading "Buffalo Ranch."
The above are e-mails submitted to a few years ago. I'm going to go through all the archives and repost them here on the new OCThen. If you have any memories of the Buffalo Ranch, click on the "Post a Comment" link below.

Hey, do you think this is why there is a "Bison Street" in Newport Beach?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Relieving Congestion on Orange County Freeways

Steve Vallely wrote a letter to the editor of the Orange County Register, arguing that building more freeways is not the answer to relieving congestion on the freeways. He wants to know why light rail and monorails would not work:
I know the light-rail project has recently been scrapped, and I can see why. Still, it seems to me the $600 million would go a long way toward building a system of quietly running, elevated, Disneyland-type monorails throughout Orange County, alongside, or in the middle of, the freeways, with elevated stations and parking areas every so often.

I am not the first person to think about this way to "fix gridlock." I would like someone at OCTA to explain why it would not work.

If people ride the freeway in a motor vehicle, why wouldn't they ride it in a monorail? I would, if given the opportunity.
First, mass transit doesn't offer convenience. The train doesn't stop at your house; you have to drive your car to the depot. If you're driving your car to the depot, you may as well drive the rest of the way.

Second, cars offers personalization. You can't smoke on a bus. You can't play your radio loud on a train. If you're riding the train, you can't make a quick stop at Home Depot to pick something up.

Third, mass transit is more expensive than driving a car. Assuming you're driving an average sized automobile, you'll spend less money on fuel than if taking a train. This is mainly because when driving a car, you'll take the quickest route.

The only way you can get the average commuter to take a train, is if the train stops at their block, and drops them off a block from their work, and if the train can be summoned immediately after pressing a button.

Otherwise, you can't change peoples' habits. It's like that old saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." Just because you build a commuter train, doesn't mean people will ride it.

My solution is to build more freeways, and build them wider. Go ahead and build more toll roads.

Another thing I'd like to see are fewer laws on motorcycles. For example, I'd like to see the State eliminate registration fees for motorcycles, as an incentive for buying motorcycles. Motorcycles are highly fuel efficient, getting 40-60 MPG, and take up less room on freeways. I'd like to see the State eliminate the "Class M" licensing for motorcycles with 650cc engines or smaller, as a way to encourage people to drive them.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Accident at Disneyland Forces Ride Closure

The Storybook Canal Ride at Disneyland was shut down because a boy injured his finger. According to the OC Register:
The child's fingers were pinched between the boat and the dock while passengers were unloading, a state report says.

The ride remains closed while state officials investigate whether any corrections need to be made, said Dean Fryer, spokesman for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
And this requires a State investigation??

The kid got his finger pinched between the boat and the dock. Is this Disneyland's fault, or his parents' fault? It seems like we've moved to the point where getting hurt at Disneyland is like winning the lottery. If not for the litigious atmosphere that plagues Disneyland, there wouldn't be a state investigation.

But better yet, is this the first time a child got his finger broken on the Storybook Canal ride, or any of the other boat rides, in Disneyland's 50-year history? I bet this has happened before, but was always accepted to be the parents' fault.

And of course, such an investigation would only occur at Disneyland. I mean, what if a door got slammed on some kid's finger at school? Would that prompt state officials to shut the school down pending a safety review? Of course not; I imagine more fingers have been broken in Orange County Schools than at Disneyland. So, why pick on Disneyland?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Holly Sugar Plant

Found on eBay:

This is what the seller of the above photo said:
8" X 10" black & white glossy photo. Untitled, someone has written on the covering shrink wrap, "HOLLY SUGAR PLANT - SANTA ANA c1952. No doubt that this IS the Holly Sugar Plant in South Santa Ana with the view to the SW across acres of farmland towards what is now South Coast Plaza. One corner is creased otherwise this photo is nearly perfect.
I'm curious to know if any of you out there remembers the Holly Sugar Plant? I moved into Santa Ana in 1978, and it seems at that time, homes were already built along the north side of Sunflower Street.

Monday, March 14, 2005

A Kinder Gentler Cook's Corner

An article written by Los Angeles Times writer Daniel Yi describes changes taking place at Cook's Corner.

A few months ago, it was bought by a couple of Greek business partners. They've replaced the paper plates with dishes, hired a new cook, and apparently improved the pastrami sandwich.

According to the article, they:
are focused on cleaning up the place. They've ordered 170 new barstools, and the graffiti-ridden bathrooms are next in the list of improvements.

"We are keeping it the same," said Katelaris, "but making it nicer."
It's actually pretty good read. There's quite a bit of history going back to the 1930's.

I last visited Cook's Corner a few weeks ago, having ridden there with a few of my riding buddies. The place was just packed solid. There was easily 300 bikes there, maybe 400, along with cars parked all the way up Live Oak Canyon road. A bluegrass band was playing there.

As the article said, they've replaced the paper plates with "real" plates. I hadn't noticed it that day, but having read the article now, sure enough, I remember everything being on paper plates. The place could definitely use a bigger restroom.

Cook's Corner is only to become more popular as the popularity of motorcycles and riding clubs increase. I imagine something's going to give between them and the executive homes being built all around there. The new owners will probably seek building permits to make improvements to the parking lot and patio, and nearby homeowners may seek to block such attempts.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

El Toro Marine Corp Air Station to Become Housing Development

Last month Lennar Homes bought the land at the El Toro Marine Base. Looks like it's all going to become homes.

I suppose that's good for the area. I used to live near there, in Lake Forest. We moved in back when the town was still called "El Toro". When the town voted on incorporation, it also voted to change the name to Lake Forest.

Lake Forest was the name of a small housing development built around an artificial lake, located along Lake Forest boulevard. For whatever reason, the folks who lived there didn't want the stigma of having to live in "El Toro". The name "El Toro" conjured up images of military housing and military families. And God forbid, would any of the tight-wads in Lake Forest want to be associated with that.

You gotta remember, the El Toro cityhood movement started back in the 1980's, before the Persian Gulf War started, before the terrorist attacks on the USA, and before supporting our troops was fashionable.

And then folks in Newport Beach wanted to convert El Toro Marine Base into a commercial airport. They tried to convince us and everyone else that would it be in our best interest to build a commercial airhub in our backyard. But gee, folks in Newport Beach already have a commercial airhub in their backyard. Why would they want to build one in all the way out in El Toro? Hmmm.

However, I think it would be great if the County along with Lennar Homes could build a "Marine Corp Memorial" within the new development that preserves the memory of what was there. My wife's grandfather installed plumbing at the Marine Base. The construction of that entire Marine Base brought workers and their families from all over, and that started a new generation of native Californians. The memory of that ought to be preserved there, somewhere.

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