Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Santa Ana High School

Santa Ana High SchoolI didn't attend Santa Ana High School, but many readers of OCThen have. I wanted to create this post as a place where all SAHS alumni can post their memories of attending the oldest high school in Orange County.

I remember while attending Santa Ana Valley, I'd hear some teachers or faculty talk about how our high school always had to play second-fiddle to Santa Ana High. They'd say stuff like, "Santa Ana High always attracts the better teachers", or "Santa Ana High always gets more funding". That kind of talk gave us students at Valley High a sense of hating Santa Ana High.

I'd read the sports section in the Orange County Register, and see more press attention being given to the SAHS' football team, "The Saints", and rarely see Valley's team mentioned. The Saints always got to play at Santa Ana Stadium (Eddie West Field).

At one time, when we lived in Santa Ana, off of Flower and Wilshire streets, I would walk past Santa Ana High School on my way to the Santa Ana Library, where I worked. I always thought it was a cool looking school with that "old school" architecture.

When I attended Santa Ana College, I majored in music. One the activities I participated in was the college choir. Dr Larry K. Ball, who directed the choir, would use the theater at Santa Ana High School for performances, and I sang there once.

That's pretty much the extent of my experience with Santa Ana High School.

If you attended, or worked at, Santa Ana High School, click on "Post a Comment" at the end of this article, and tell us what you remember.

Which Mexican Restaurant in Santa Ana or Orange?

An OCThen reader named Kathryn King write to us about a Mexican restaurant she used to go to, and now can't remember the name of it...

I actually have two questions regarding restaurants. My family used to go to a Mexican restaurant that was just east of Main but I can't remember if it was on 1st, 4th or 17th. It was run by a family. The father usually sat at the register and would give us lollipops when we left. They had the best food. I remember this meatball soup. In fact I have only had a similar soup one other time and that was at a small Mexican restaurant in Venice. Anyway I would love to know the name of the restaurant. Also there was a smorsgabord and (i think) miniture golf restaurant near/across from Hart Park. Anyone know what I am talking about?

The soup she's referring to is probably "albondigas".

It sounds like this restaurant is in Santa Ana, based on the cross streets of Main St and either 1st, 4th, or 17th. However, she also mentions Hart Park, which is in Orange.

Anyone wanna try to name this restaurant?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lemon Heights in the 1950's and 60's

Lemon Heights is a small unincorporated community located off of Skyline Drive and Foothill Blvd, just north of Tustin. When I grew up in Orange County, Lemon Heights was known to us an upscale community, where the "rich folks" lived, to get away from the noise and commotion of the city. It apparently was a much different place decades earlier.

An OCThen reader named Steve (no, a different Steve), submitted his memories of growing up in Lemon Heights during the 1950's and 60's. Eventually, he moved away from Orange County, and then just recently returned for a reunion, only to find a Lemon Heights that looks much different than what he remembered...

Hi Steve!

Tustin California was a very small place back then, the year 1956! My folks had bought a new home in a small secluded neighborhood right in the middle of an orange grove! The area was Lemon Heights.

I went to Tustin Elementary for seven and eighth grade and then to Tustin Union High School. The area was pretty much "laid back" to say the least! Seventeenth Street was a two lane road running east and west from Newport Blvd all the way to Santa Ana, alot of it covered over with giant fir trees. The area smelled of lemon and orange blossom, eucalyptus and weed oil! The sound of bees filled the air no matter where you might go.

Saturday nights would be filled with dancing at the Wanger Studio on Main street in Santa Ana or get togethers at some classmates house, this was the norm!

After graduation, I joined the Navy and was gone for several years. I could not beleive how fast the area had developed into housing tracts upon my return just three years later, 1961-1964!

I married a gal I went to Tustin High with and we moved into the Viking apartments off of Tustin Ave and Seventeenth street. This was a small village of sorts as there was Walkers Market, Hahns Hardware, Village Cleaners, Lemon Heights Realtors, Market Basket, Fathers Bar(really great sandwiches and ice cold beer) and several other little shops and places of business.

It didnt take long for the growth pattern to take off like a wild fire and destroy the charm of a different time and place! I moved out to Huntington Beach and lived on Grove Circle, this little spot was just off of Warner Road and about a mile from PCH and the state beach. Truck farms were up and down Warner road with vegetable stands offering the best fresh produce around. Needless to say that area became another enity of packed home sights shopping malls and thousands of people all with in a very few short years!

Years went by and I had long sinced moved away from Orange County, I went to a couple of high school reunions and attended a getogether in 1987 with some classmates at the home Mr. and Mrs. Knaack of Cowan Heights. The house was located on a bluff over looking the Redhill and Skyline Ranch neighborhoods. The evening was filled of talk about Tustin, Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar, Santa Ana, Orange County history and rememberance.

The next morning I drove to my old neighborhood and very slowly made my way from one street to another the houses were freshly painted for the most part, beautiful lawns and close cropped shrubs, everything looked as if it were from another era! There was not a person on the street or in a yard, almost as if it was deserted, stone quiet! I lingered for a while and finally drove out and headed for home, McCammon Idaho.

One thing for certian, having lived in "that time and place" always brings back the most pleasant of memories, what a time and what a place, Orange County back then!

Best Regards!

If you have memories of Lemon Heights, click on "Post a Comment" at the end of this article, and share them with us.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Growing up on El Toro MCAS

El Toro MCASHaving lived in El Toro from 1988-2001, I can remember driving around the El Toro MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) and seeing the base housing. I also remember the old fighter jets on display alongside Irvine Blvd as it cut through the base housing.

Today, Irvine Blvd no longer cuts through there since they re-routed the road, and for the most part, it's hard to even notice El Toro MCAS these days.

Only once did I ever set foot inside El Toro MCAS. My father, being in the Navy, was able to go into military bases and shop at the commissary and exchange, and one time when I was about 10 years old, we went in there. But I don't remember much at all.

The OCTD Bus used to drive into the base as it took passengers from Irvine into El Toro (the community). My wife remembers travelling with her grandmother on the bus enroute to El Toro.

We found some memories submitted by OCThen readers and wanted to group them here, and start a new thread about folks who lived on El Toro MCAS base housing...

Hi Steve - I stumbled across this site, and glad I did. As far as I can remember, my family moved to El Toro sometime in 1965/1966 - our father was an enlisted Marine. We lived in base housing - Wherry Housing, and later moved towards the end of the housing area on Trabuco Road. Next to our house on Trabuco was a field full of carrots, and we used to sneak in there to pick carrots and take them home. And, I don't even like carrots! We later moved to Stanton, off of Beach Blvd, then to Santa Ana on Custer Street, across Santa Ana on Wilshire, then to Cypress, Irvine, Westminster, and finally Garden Grove when I left California and joined the Army. I have many memories of growing up in Orange County, many good, but some not so good. If it weren't for the high prices, millions of people, and the horrendous traffic, I would love to live there again. It was a special time growing up there, and it makes me sad when I go there now and see all those places we hung out as kids all paved over, concrete jungles, etc. Some call it progress...does anyone remember when Featherly Park was out in the BOONIES!!!! :)

By Lee, at June 11, 2007 2:31 PM

Thanks for this web site, Steve! I wasn't born here but my family and I arrived in Orange County in the summer of 1958 when I was almost 7. There were orange groves and eucalyptus trees everywhere and most cities were "islands" between one orange grove or ranch to another. My dad was stationed at El Toro Marine base, becoming the Manager of the Staff NCO club. He used to book entertainment acts for Friday and Saturday nights. I remember my dad getting us a signed copy of a photo from Tex Ritter (John Ritter's dad) after he performed there one night.

We even lived in the military housing on base for a couple of years while I attended 4th and 5th grades. Stanley Cook, the son of the owner of "Cook's Corner" was the pitcher on our little league team. Another pitcher, Dan Peavey, was such a baseball fanatic (he had the best collection of baseball trading cards that I ever saw), that he impressed Joe Dimagio enough that he came to visit us at the El Toro Elementary School in 1962. Our team even took a photo with him that was blown up and mounted in our school cafeteria. I wish I knew what happened to it.

By Gary Zaremba, at August 17, 2006 7:40 PM

Hey steve,
I just found this website and man was it interesting. I was born in Santa Ana California and it says Orange County on my birth certificate. I was born at St. Joseph hospital which I believe was a military hospital. I lived on El Toro base within that community for years. Some of my fondest memories were there on Longstaff way within El Toro. My dad was a marine and worked there on base during my childhood. I was born in 1968 and had many friends there. I was little so I don't remember alot of the hot spots there in Orange County like most people that have left comments but I do remember that I loved the Santa Ana winds and I have longed to go back ever since I moved in 1976. My father was transferred to DC after we left the good old state of Cali...and later retired out of DC. I often wonder if my house is still there where I grew up at with that huge nectarine tree in the back. If anybody out there lived on El Toro military base during the late 60's and early 70's comment this site.

By Patricia "Cole" Vail, at May 21, 2007 12:23 PM

Click on "Post a Comment" at the end of this article, and share your memories of El Toro MCAS.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Santa Ana Drag Strip at Orange County Airport

Santa Ana Drag RacingBefore it was called "John Wayne Airport" it was called "Orange County Airport", and during the 1950's it was the place for drag racing.

A man named C.J. "Pappy" Hart was credited as having built the world's first commercial drag strip, named "Santa Ana Drag Strip" or "Santa Ana Drags", and held races there every Sunday. The drag strip operated from 1950 to 1959, until the County of Orange forced it closed due to increasing air traffic.

When Hart passed away in 2004, several newspapers rans articles that documented his fame in racing circles and told the story of how he started the first commercial drag strip. A site called, "We Did it for Love" has archived them all...

While going through the e-mails we received during the old days of OCThen, I found one that talked about the Santa Ana Drags...

Before it was called the John Wayne airport and before it was called Orange County Airport, it was just a sleepy little landing strip used by private planes, charters and the Martin Aviation Company. When I was a teenager in 1955 the airstrip would close down on Sundays and NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) sanctioned drag races were held on the runway. I remember seeing the "Green Monster", Art Arfons jet powered drag racer, screeming down the runway. It was probably the first jet to ever "land" at SNA. The drags moved to Lyons Speedway in Long Beach sometime in the late 1950's. They did return later on, for a few years, as the Orange County Raceway located at the I-5 and Sand Canyon.

By: Richard M. Cowan, 10 Aug 2002

If you can remember the drag races at Orange County Airport, click on "Post a Comment" at the bottom of this article, and share your memories with us.

Monday, July 09, 2007

History of Denny's Restaurant

Denny's restaurant signThe Denny's Restaurant chain did not exactly originate from Orange County, though pretty close. It's first location opened up in Lakewood, CA in 1953. Back then it was just a donut shop named "Danny's Donuts".

But being that it started here in Southern California, many Orange County residents got to experience Denny's long before the rest of the world did, and got to experience first hand the makings of perhaps the most iconic full-service restaurant chain in America.

Denny's did, however, have a connection to Orange County in that it's national headquarters was located in Irvine up until 1991, when it moved to Spartanburg, SC, after it was bought out by TW Services, Inc. TW Services, Inc. went through a series of name changes until it finally decided to call itself, "Denny's Corporation". I guess you can't keep a good Southern California phenomenon down.

I decided to create a blog post about Denny's after an OCThen reader named Ward Hollesen posted a comment (under a Knott's Berry Farm article of all places) explaining how he helped build some of the earliest Denny's restaurant, and explained how Harold Butler, the founder of Denny's, had once owned Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas...

My first wife and I moved from Clovis Ca (near Fresno) to Orange in 1960. Her uncle was one of the founders of Denny's Coffee shops. They were called Danny's at that time. The first one was at Florance and Lakewood in Downey. Her uncle was in charge of the building part and I worked as a framer for them. I helped build three of them. One in Gardena,One in Lancaster, and one in San Bernadino. We lived on Pepper street in Orange. Danny's at that time had a little donut shop in the right hand corner where you could stop at a window and order Donuts or go inside to the coffee shop area. We didn't have much money in those days so we would go to Knott's berry farm because it was free and we could picnic on the lawn. Then the hippies started camping out there so they built a fence and started charging to get in. During that time for corporate reasons they changed the name to Denny's My wife's uncle was not only corporate but he and his wife owned the franchise for the one in Downey and also the one on White Lane in Bakersfield. Harold Butler was the main man I guess he was the CEO he even owned Ceasers Palace in Las Vegas for 48 hours in a stock manipulation. Those were the good old days. Ward Hollesen

By Ward Hollesen, at May 29, 2007 11:23 PM

There were several Denny's restaurants that my wife and I visited going back into the late 1980s when we started dating. We had our favorites, including the one in Costa Mesa, on the corner of Red Hill and Bristol, and more recently the one in Foothill Ranch, when we lived in Lake Forest.

Post a Comment at the end of this article, and tell us about your memories of Denny's Restaurant in Orange County.

Chez Cary Restaurant

In Santa Ana, near the border with Orange, there used to be an upscale restaurant called "Chez Cary". It was located on Main Street, next to the old Buffum's store.

In it's time, it spared no expense in trying to be as upscale as possible. They provided foot rests for women, and they had a "women's menu" with no prices listed on it. They served many distinguished guests.

I wanted to make separate blog post for Chez Cary because we received so many comments from people who remembered it on our earlier post about Favorite Orange County Restaurants.

Some people seem to think that Chez Cary later was converted into another restaurant called, "Ambrosia". Apparently, this is not the case. However, the two restaurants share a connection, which the commenters pointed out.

Here are the comments. Click on "Post a Comment" at the bottom of this article, and submit your memories of Chez Cary...

Please, please, someone help me out here! It was the fanciest, priciest restaurant in Santa Ana, just across from Buffin's on Main Street. The women's menu had no prices. Two short words, think they were French. The mind is rotting away, so I really need your memory. Thanks.

By Anonymous, at April 09, 2006 8:07 PM

The restaurant is Chez Cary (prounounced shay ka'ree').

By Anonymous, at April 09, 2006 8:16 PM

Chez Cary later became Ambrosia (I think) it was also a very upscale resturant at the time.

By stuart wallach, at May 09, 2006 1:11 PM

The April 9th writer mentioned a pricy restaurant across from Buffums on Main in Santa Ana. It was Chez Cary, but it was across from what is now Main Place in Orange. The location is now a parking lot. It was owned by Cary Sinclair. The menu was very expensive at the time...around $10-$15 per person...strictly a special occasion place. It was not related to Ambrosia in Newport Beach. Chez Cary also featured a weekly musical showcase. One regular performer was Jennifer Warnes (Time of My Life with Bill Medley). Prior to it becoming the Chez, it was called The Parisiene. Very upscale, dark, and themed like an outdoor Paris Cafe. This would have been in the late 50's or early 60's.

By Anonymous, at June 25, 2006 1:43 AM

So now we know that Chez Cary is not currently Ambrosia, but there IS an Ambrosia restaurant in Santa Ana at the OC Pavillion. Any reviews of that restaurant?

By Anonymous, at June 29, 2006 1:43 PM

I worked for the Chez Cary Restaurant from 1975 to 1979. It was a great time. Daily I cooked real Dover Sole from the English channel, Froglegs, Abalone,Sweetbreads, etc etc. I was 16 when I started there and was trained by Swiss Chef Fred Hossli. One of the best Sauciers that I had ever known.

Names like Gabby, Henry, Johny Ahn, Hanz, Sean, Ray, Klauss, Doug Cull, James Sly all come to mind. The good old days!

By joeymac, at August 28, 2006 10:45 PM

One of my mom's favorites was the Chez Cary. She loved that her menu did not have prices and they also provided a little footstool for her feet.

By Linda (Hermon) Hayes, at November 01, 2006 9:53 PM

The Chez Cary was awesome, the bartenders made the best "Pousse Cafe's" - a beverage with leveled colors of alchohol. Unfortunately it was torn down for an ugly parking lot.

The new Ambrosia is located in the OC Pavilion - it is probably the best/fanciest restaurant in OC right now, even over The Ritz. I was just there and they seem to know you and take care of you as soon as you park the car and walk to the building. The atmosphere is quite nice inside and I love the small trio band that plays while you eat. Be prepared to spend at least $100 per person - easy... but it is worth it.

By Anonymous, at November 17, 2006 2:36 PM

there seems to be a lot of confussion over the chez cary and the ambrosia,the chez cary was first opened under the mgt of cary sinclair prior to that sinclair had managed the villa fontana. sinclair left the villa and opened the chez cary for nathan rosental, a big wig I believe in the teamsters . ask guido to be continued

By Anonymous, at December 01, 2006 9:58 AM

joeymac this is guido falco I worked with you at the chez Im in woodstock Ga. Im in the book lets talk

By Anonymous, at December 01, 2006 10:09 AM

Sinclair left the chez cary under suspicious circumstances, geril and gus muller took over the helm of the chez cary a few years later they openned ambrosia a carbon copy of the chez cary down to the crushed red velvet chairs. I actually worked in both restaurants, the ambrosia in the early seventies and the chez in late 70's . they were the most high end eateries of there time I believe both of the muller brothers are gone now. and by the way cary is pronounced like drew cary the guest were allways changing it to Karee it was never pronounced as a french word. Everything was prepared tabele side or finnished at the table 6 tables and 3 servers the likes of which nyou will rarely see anywhere today. the check average was well into the 60 $ range or more the wine list looked like a bible. more later ask guido any old friends out thier

By Anonymous, at December 01, 2006 10:19 AM

the ambrosia was started by geril and gus muller both danes gus was cool geril was a bit of a prussian but if you proved yourself you did ok by him. they had a capitol partner {no idea who} . geril had a son who I believe is still in oc the restaurant was set up just like the chez I think it was just a tad smaller than the chez cary and it had originally held karems an upscale restaurant of similar style both the chez cary and ambrosia catered to the shakers and makers of oc society, on any given sunday or monda y tues... you could run into the duke{john wayne} chuck heston or the reverend shuller with the like of diva beverly sills burl Ives and many more, richard nixon and even the governor {regan} . more later ask guido

By Anonymous, at December 02, 2006 10:17 AM

I dined regularly at the Ambrosia restaurant in Newport Beach. The Ambrosia was created by brothers Gus and Geril Muller who brought fine dining to Orange County. These two restaurateurs were innovators and created dining experiences which have never been duplicated since it was closed in the mid 80's. I had many enjoyable evenings at the Ambrosia from Geril's narrated la Chaine des Rotisseurs dinners to political fund-raisers; every dinner was flawless. Every time we were at the Ambrosia someone interesting was having dinner from politics, film or business. Geril and Gus groomed their nephew Howard Kent to one day take over the restaurant. I recently ran into Howard who still lives in Newport Beach and he told me that Geril doing great. My wife and I wish that the original Ambrosia was still around.

By Anonymous, at February 09, 2007 11:11 AM

There hae been several comments about the Chez Cary & original Ambrosia. They indeed were the creation of Geril & Gus Muller. And yes, Geril is doing well. I just wanted to clarify that the new Ambrosia in Santa Ana is not related to the original Ambrosia as many articles have claimed. The trademark was copied from the original Ambrosia and some of the amenities, but it does not have the creativity or the heart of the Muller brothers in it.

By Anonymous, at March 18, 2007 2:38 PM

I was married to Cary Sinclair in 1970. I visited the Chez Cary on our honeymoon and met the Rosenthals. I never knew about his wrong-doings in California. Can anyone tell me?

One day he showed me a newspaper where they quoted: "Drop charges against Sinclair" Not knowing enough English limited me to understand what this meant. He opened a sucessful steak and lobster operation in Acapulco, Mexico where I am from, with his partner Carlos Mendoza. After our divorce in 1977, I moved to Texas. He opened 4-5 more restaurants. His original Black Beards was very sucessful. I remember him welcoming Henry Kissinger, Roger Moore, Johnny Carson (I never knew until later, who they were)... :[

I learned from friends in Acapulco that he went broke.

I think he still operates one of the restaurants... I am in contact with him off and on through the Internet... Ex wife, Elvia

By Elvia Wallace-Martinez, at May 28, 2007 7:29 AM

Geril Mueller was a great guy, my Dad supplied both the Chez Cary and the Ambrosia and he and Geril were very good friends, the Muellers were nice enough to have us over to their home one time. Whenever Geril needed an emergency delivery, my mom and sister would ride along with my Dad and I and Geril would bring out a long stemmed, chocolate covered strawberry for each of them as a thank you!

By teeoc, at June 28, 2007 12:28 PM

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Old Hamburger Stands of Orange County

Dave Smith submits a few memories of living in Santa Ana during the 1950's and 60's.

He mentions Kenny's Hamburger Stand in Tustin. I wasn't around back then, and have never heard of this place, but wanted to know if anyone else did...

I Lived on West 17th Street in the Alladin Apartments during the late 50's and early 60's. Went to Wilson Elementary and Smedley Jr. High School before leaving California.

Santa Ana was a great place to live! Orange groves and Walnut Groves all over. My dad was a plasterer that helped build Disneyland....

Remember going To Tustin on the weekends, which was then, considered to be way out in the country! Kenny's Hamburger stand was there and what a treat it was to have one of those great burgers on the weekends...

There was a corn field on 17th and Flower where my Mom used to buy vegetables. Hard to believe it was there when looking at that area today....

Some great memories of a fun childhood in Santa Ana!

I did a search on the Internet to see if I could find more information about Kenny's, and ended up finding a reference to it here on OCThen! A year ago, I posted an article about people's favorite OC restaurants, and someone mentioned Kenny's in a comment, dated June 25, 2006. It was located on 17th St and Tustin, and it seemed like they always gave you a pound of potato chips.

For that matter, who remembers any of the old burger joints of Orange County that don't exist anymore? I know there was a small chain called "Hamburger Handout" that has since bit the dust. In Garden Grove, the Pink Spot, located on Chapman Ave and Brookhurst. In front of the Garden Grove Theater, there was Zesto's. And then of course, Wimpy's in Huntington Beach.

Post a comment, and let's hear your memories of Orange County hamburger stands that have since went out of business.

Santa Ana Valley High School, the Early Years

Today we received letters from two people writing about their memories of attending Santa Ana Valley High School in the early 1960s. Both of these people graduated from Santa Ana Valley in 1962.

The first is from Sharon...

Hi Steve.........a friend of mine sent me you site, and it sure brought back memories. Just for information:

I was born in Santa Ana in 1945. Went to Valley High School the first year it opened. Went to Lathrop on south Main, way before it was a closed campus. It reminded me of the movie 'American Grafeiti'. We could go across the street to the malt shop and to the record shop and listen to 45's for the lunch hour. Then down to Al's drive in for a burger. For me jr. high was almost better then high school. I have kept in contact with several of the gals that I went through school with. And my husband and I actually went to Tenn. and stayed for three weeks in that area with one, Sharon Shaw. Anyone remember her out there. We graduated from Valley in 1962, the second graduating class. Boy have things changed!! As for Disneyland, my father worked there when they were building it, right from the start. He use to see Mr. Disney on the property watching things being built, and sometimes changing the plans to somethingelse. I lived in the south end of town and in those days you could walk downtown to the 'West Coast' theater for a movie for 50 cents. So much to remember and such changes now.
The second is from Lynda...

I've been reading the comments from SAVHS alumni on this site and only found one person who graduated with me in 1962. We were the first class to attend all three years at Valley. The class of '61 only attended their Junior and Senior years. We '62 grads started as Sophomores the first year Valley opened, when it was just us and the Juniors, NO SENIORS! If my memory serves me right, I believe our football team of Sophomores and Juniors were also in the CIF Championships that first year coached by the best, Coach Dick Hill, who passed away last October.

I attended Edison Elementary and Lathrop Jr. High before entering Valley High. Half of my 9th grade classmates leaving Lathrop entered their Sophomore year at Valley High and the other half entered Santa Ana High as Sophomores. The Santa Ana Valley High School Class of 1962 is celebrating our 45th Reunion in August and many friends from the classes of '61 and '63 are also joining us this year. The first three graduating classes were very close, many classmates have kept in touch through the years, including those who went to Santa Ana High. I don't remember any of the negative things I've read here, our memories are great, it was a good time and place to grow up.

Lynda from the Class of 1962!
Any others out there that graduated from Santa Ana Valley High School in the early 1960's?

Also, check out another article we published about Santa Ana Valley, which has already received over a hundred comments...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Knott's Miniature Doll Museum and a Santa Ana Grocery Store

Caydea, an OCThen reader, submitted a couple of questions for other readers. One involved the name of the grocery store located on 17th Street, just past Santa Clara St.

The other question was concerns the Miniature Doll Museum at Knott's Berry Farm. There was a wooden chain hanging from the ceiling made from a single piece of wood. She wanted to know what happened to that chain.

You can read her full post for the details...
I lived from 1953 to 1969 in Santa Ana. Graduated from Santa Ann High School in 1969. I went to Willard Junior High and Hoover Elementary School. Growing up I lived in three houses in Santa Ana. Two on Avalon St. off Santiago and then my folks third and last house was on Poinsettia about 4 blocks away, off Edgewood. From 1969-1974 I lived all over OC. Until I took off for good. In the mid 90's I had my folks join me where I landed, Charlotte NC. My last trip 2 years ago was to the other California to visit my step-son, he lives in SF. I have remained in Charlotte with my husband and our daughter and my Mother. We love Charlotte but Orange County holds such a warm place in my heart. We will be coming back that way next Spring. Does any one remember the Orange County Academic Decathlon?

I discovered this blog while trying to find the name of a grocery store in Santa Ana. My brother was no help! He didn't even seem interested. Since my Father's death my Mom and I spend many hours reminiscing. Our favorite ethnic restaurants Koo's Chinese Food on Main, La Fonda Mexican on Main too? Kono Hawaii the first time I was introduce to Yam noodles and Tofu in Sukiyaki. Back to my reason -the grocery store was on 17th Street on the right side of the street. It was just past Santa Clara Street. Many of the High School fellows worked at the grocery store when I was growing up. I think it might have closed in 70's and then it became a Discount Toy store. I remember my Mom had an account and she was billed for her groceries. You just went in and signed your name. Well if you can remember that would be great!

Reading the blog I have a question for those Knott's folks. In the 80's I brought my husband to see Knott's Berry Farm. We had Chicken, rhubarb, bread and butter pickles, and the best boysenberry jam, pie and syrup. My Dad loved that restaurant. Did I mention Biscuit oh my! While we are talkin food my first and last waitress job was Marie Calendars on Tustin 1969-1971. Back to my question there was an exhibit in the Miniature Doll Museum (that was amazing) from the ceiling they had strung chain links all carved from one piece of wood. We did have a picture and I will look it up. It was something to see and my husband does some amazing things in wood and he was very impressed. I wonder what happened to the chain.

I will prompt my Mom and see if she can add to any of the memories. They were well connected in OC. My Father was Principle of two schools, in Santa Ana Lincoln and Logan at the same time! That was back in the 50's.

BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse

BJ's Restaurant and BrewhouseDid you know that the popular pizza chain, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse started in Santa Ana?

I remember going there with my family when I was a kid.

It was located on 17th street, just a block east from the corner with Bristol St. It opened up in 1978.

According to BJ's website, it was called, "BJ's Chicago Pizzeria", but my family always called it "Chicago Pizza". It had sawdust all over the floor, and they indeed made some great chicago-style pizza. The lighting was always dark inside, and my parents would always get a pitcher of beer. I want to say that they used to have red and white checkered tabled cloths.

In 1996, BJ's began offering their own line of beers, and then switched their name to "BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse". I remember in the late 1990's seeing BJ's springing up everywhere, but it never dawned on me this was the same "chicago pizzeria" that my family went to in the late 70's.

Our family would pack up inside my dad's Chevy van, with some friends of ours, and we'd have a great time there.

Interestingly, BJ's no longer operates a restaurant in Santa Ana.

I sent an e-mail to the people at BJ's and asked if they had a photograph of the original Santa Ana restaurant, and I got a reply from Rob DeLiema, the President, that they did not. If any of you happen to have one, contact me, and I'll put it online.

Otherwise, click on "Post a Comment" if you remember going to the original BJ's.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Avocado and Orange Groves of old Villa Park

Here are some recollections from a fourth-generation Orange County native about living the rural life in Villa Park as the tract homes starting coming in...
I was born in Anaheim in 1961 and was taken home to our tiny 3 bedroom tract house on Clinton Ave. in Orange. My big sister and I are fourth generation OC, and a lot of our family's lemon, orange, and avocado orchards uliimately became groves of homes. Santiago Middle School was built on one of my grandmother's last citrus holdings. My grandfather's last 13 acres of oranges in Villa Park, which were woefully damaged in one of the many canyon fires of the 1950's and 1960's, was sold and subdivided in 1975. Both sets of grandparents lived in rural Villa Park, "across" the street from each other on Mesa Drive. My mother used to ride her horse down from the Villa Park ranch to our elementary school, Handy, for an annual show and tell.

We were quite the popular kids as we lived a city life, yet we had a lot of country living still available to us. When I was three we moved, using our little blue wagon as packing box and furniture transport, up the street to the stately old ranch house next door to Handy Elementary School. The tract houses in the Handy Elem area were once part of the ranch that Big House, as we called it, oversaw.

We kept dozens of rabbits on our one acre of suburbia, as well as an angus calf that we raised from a bottle. The kids next door at school thought the calf was a big dog. We gave tours of our "dog" to many a neighbor kid. We also went door to door selling avocados, from original trees from the ranch, for 5 cents apiece. Last time I went past Big House I noticed at least one of the ancient avocado trees were still alive and producing. It must be nearing 100 years old.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tinkerbell, Buster Brown Shoes, and Santa Ana Winds

Cary Stolpestad submitted some nice memories of growing up in Orange County, including Disneyland, Tinkerbell, roller skating, television, and x-ray machines at the Buster Brown store...

Since Big House was two stories, towering over the one story tract homes, we had a perfect view of Disneyland's fireworks everynight out of the upstairs windows. My dad, an Orange County fire captain, once went on a call to unstick Tinkerbell, whose cable tangled midway between the castle and the Matterhorn. He broke our Disney bubbles when he announced at dinner that Tinkerbell was really a man.

On payday my mom went to the main firestation to get Dad's paycheck. I've heard the station became a youth center and later burned, but in the 1960's it was a child's dream come true as it had a brass firepole that would quickly trasport you from the upstairs dorm to the firetrucks parked below. Neither Knott's nor Disneyland had a better ride.

Life was grand in the old days. When the Santa Anas blew we'd put on rain slickers and roller skates. On the sidewalk we'd open up our rain slickers like giant outstreatched wings, and then -zoom! - the wind would propell us down the street at frightening speeds. Often our metal wheeled skates would catch a little rock, and we'd experience the worst scabbed knees and palms imaginable.

My dear neighborhood pal, Carol, was named after Christmas Carols as her parents were listening to them on the hi-fi when they received a call that a baby was available for them to adopt if they could come down and pick her up now - Christmas Eve. They did, but I'm not sure her mom ever adjusted to children as every stick of upolstered furniture was covered with plastic and there were plastic runners throughout the house for us to walk upon. Her mom always had the best kid snacks, such as Moon Pies and Otter Pops, but Carol's mom dolled them out through the kitchen door so we could receice and eat them in the garage. They moved out of Clinton Ave. tract house to the first developments going in at Knoll Ranch.

After dinner car trips to the Carnation Ice Cream Parlor on Tustin Ave., Sunday dinners st Knott's, experiencing "lung burn" from swimming during smoggy afternoons, watching Hobo Kelly and hoping she'd put on her magic glasses and say, "I see a present under Cary's bed!"... yet she never did. To this day I still sometimes get the "Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal" commercial stuck in my head, and I still wonder if Cal ever had a real dog in his backyard or if his kids had to play with bears and alligators and monkeys.

My sister and I also wonder if we will die an early death as we always were taken to the Buster Brown shoe store, just off The Circle, for our shoes. They had an x-ray machine that you put your foot into to check to see if the new shoes fit properly. As Mom paid for our shoes we'd stick our newly shod feet in and out of that x-ray machine over and over and over again. Radiation maximus.

We moved from OC in 1967. Our one acre of paradise, surrounded by oceans of tracts, wasn't the OC life my parents remembered, nor the smog choked life they wanted us to lead. They bought a plum and peach ranch in the San Joaquin Valley, and moved us, two dogs, four cats, and 47 rabbits (who traveled in cages systematically stacked inside our ski boat) to start farming anew.

Visiting OC in the 1970's and 1980's always seemed a little too busy, smoggy, crowded. Visiting Villa Park stilled seemed low key and country, yet in the 1980's the old dump road, that ran up the canyon behind one grandparents' house, became a road leading to million dollar houses, not a road leading to the dump. Go figure.

Cary Stolpestad
(part of the Thomson, Popplewell, Workman, Smith, and Bennett clans)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Anaheim in the 1960's and 70's

An anonymous OCThen reader living in Australia sent us some memories of his growing up in Anaheim during the 1960's and 70's...
I was born in "The Valley" in '56 but my parents moved to Anaheim in '57. Our neighborhood was one of the new housing tracts built on a former orange grove bordered by Ball, Western, Orange and Knott.

I was a "charter student" at Twila Reid Elementary; Kindergarten the first year it opened to the 6th grade. The current site of Twila Reid Park was strawberry fields and we were chased by the owner on a Honda 50 when we'd trespass to pick berries.

Our brand spanking new neigborhood had no grass nor trees. I remember playing in numerous vacant fields and also remember Anaheim General Hospital and Cypress College being built. Ball Road had few sidewalks and Cypress had many cows.

On the way back from Huntington, in our gas-guzzling, seatbeltless Plymouth Suburban wagon full of sunscreenless kids, my mother would stop at the drive-thru Reliance Dairy on Beach Blvd to buy half gallon glass containers of milk and bright red fruit punch.

As a young teenager, I took guitar lessons at Kay Kaylie Music in Buena Park Mall from Frank Krajerbrink guitarist from early '70s OC band "Utopia". Anybody remember "Wigouts"? (I still play by the way).

I have lived in Sydney, Australia for 30 years now and have fond memories of my childhood in an emerging modern Orange County. Sydney has many of the good aspects of Southern California that has made it easy for me to settle here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Fullerton in the 1950's and 60's

An OCThen reader named "Tol Bert" submitted his memories of growing in Fullerton during the 1950's and 60's...
I moved to Fullerton with my parents in 1955 and still live in Orange County.

I remember going to Disneyland the first summer it was open on perhaps the hottest day of the year. The only place to escape the heat was in the movie theater on Main St. which I have forgotten the name of. I still have some of those 85 cent "E" tickets.

In the 60's cruising up and down Harbor Blvd was popular - from Hillside Drive in ( now a parking lot) to Taco Villa and back. Gas was 30 cents a gallon. You'd pass under the Welcome to Fullerton bridge where Berkeley street now intersects Harbor. I'd like to find a photo of that bridge. Sunny Hills High School would open soon.

Drag racing was popular both on and off the streets in the 60's . Lions Drag strip in Long Beach was great for Saturday night and then Pomona on Sunday. The eastern edge of the 91 freeway ended and began at Lemon street in Fullerton so it was a good place to start a short street race with no traffic behind you. I don't recall any accidents that occur ed from street racing. Perhaps that was because then everyone had to take drivers education in high school.

The Model Market was on the western side of Harbor Blvd off Valencia Mesa in Fullerton. It was an old wood floor place with hitching posts outside. Before Bastanchury road was built connecting Harbor and Euclid there were horse trails through the orange groves.

Going east on Yorba Linda Blvd you were out in the country by the time you got to the old Nixon House. Driving west on Artesia past Buena Park would take you through Dairy Valley and its aromatic cow pastures. To get to Newport Beach you had to snake along Newport Blvd and right by the old blimp hangars at the Tustin Marine base. Jamboree Road near the Santa Ana freeway could be a little slow at times when farmers were taking their sheep across the road.

Orange County was a nice semi-rural area then. Great to grow up in, but you knew it would change. Nothing that nice could avoid the inevitable urban growth.

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