Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bank of America Irvine & Placentia Burning 1970

In 1970, the Bank of America in Irvine burned down at the hands of arsonists. It happened only six months after the Bank of America in Isla Vista was burned down by protestors, and just a couple months after another branch in Placentia. After the Irvine burning, people began to refer to 1970 as the year of the BofA Burnings.

An anonymous OCThen reader submitted the following memory, which caused me to do some research...

Who out there remembers in the 1960's in Irvine across the street for UCI there was the Town Center. It had a Tick Tock Market, one of the first Kinko’s, a Jolly Rogers restaurant and a Bank of America. The Bank was bombed as a protest to the Viet Nam war. I was just a little kid, but I remember seeing the bank destroyed.

I found a couple of LA Time articles that tells the story of the bank burning...

Front Page of LA Times, Tuesday, October 27, 1970

Photo of burned bank, caption:
`BANK RUINS AT UC IRVINE - A revolutionary slogan adorns wall at Bank of America branch where arsonists poured flammable liquid under a door and set it afire just after midnight Monday.

Arsonists Leave Radical Signs After Burning UC Irvine Bank
by Bob Gettemy and Dial Torgerson
Times Staff writers

Arsonists painted revolutionary slogans on the Bank of America branch at UC Irvine early Monday, then set it afire and fled. The bank burned to a shell at an estimated loss of $125,000.

It was the third Bank of America branch attacked in California this year. The Isla Vista branch near UC Santa Barbara was burned by rioters last February. Fire bombers damaged the Placentia branch last August.

UC Irvine's student and offical community condemned the latest arson.

The Irvine branch on Campus Drive, facing the entrance to the main part of the UCI Campus, was set afire shortly after midnight.

Handwriting on the Wall

Firemen at the University Fire Station, a quarter mile east, got the call at 12:13 a.m. They could see the flames when they rolled from the station. When they got to the bank two minutes later it was burning wildly.

The arsonists were gone. But they had left their handwriting on the wall: "All Power to the People." it said in spray paint on the tile facade of the burning building.

Firemen could not save the bank, but halted the flames before they could reach a bookstore adjacent to it.

Investigators found that in inflammable liquid-probably gasoline-had been poured under the west door of the bank and set afire.

Bank officials reacted quickly when informed of the bank's destruction. The head of a firm which provides temporary structures was awakened at 2:30am and told to get a replacement rolling.

Sheriff's detectives took into custody two signs carefully posted on the lawn of the bank branch. One, referring to a confrontation between young people and police Sunday at a Fullerton park closed by city offials read "Pigs Get Out of Hillcrest."

Another, apparently referring to Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, charged with murder in Connecticut, said: "Free Bobby and Police Prisoners."

The bank was still smoldering as students began to appear for classes in the 6,000 student campus. The smell of wet ashes drifted across the campus. Students watched firemen salvaging amid the ashes and student spray-painted slogans on the concrete shell.

"Oink of Amerikkka" it said, in the triple-K, radical version of the word America. "Death to the Pigs." The writing was neat, and the handwriting style almost feminine.

"This is ridiculous," said one student, Karen Cruise of San Clemente, a senior in drama. "The people who work in the bank shoudn't suffer for anything that maybe some dissidents think of the Bank of America may be doing in an imperialistic way."

As the worlds's largest commercial bank, the Bank of America has long been a target for antiestablishment factions. The Associated Students of UC Santa Barbara referred to it as "a symbol of capitalistic exploitation" and withdrew its funds from the Isla Vista Bank branch prior to the fire there.

After the Isla Vista Arson, Bank of America Board Chairman Louis B. Lundborg told a news conference a temporary structure would replace it. "We refuse to be intimidated," he said.

Later, a larger, fireproof Isla Vista branch was opened.

The reaction by bank officials to the Irvine arson was immediate. By morning, Vic Wahlman, foreman of the Santa Rosa firm which provides temporary bank structures, was bringing four trailerized modular units to the lot next to the gutted bank.

The four pieces were fitted together to make a 40-by-60-foot bank branch which was the duplicate of the one used earlier at Isla Vista.

Bank officials said crews would work all night paving the parking lot and getting the bank ready to open at 10 a.m. today. There were two reasons. The stated reason: for the convenience of depositors. Unstated was the bank's determination not bo be intimidated by arson.

"All our records were in safes. So was all the currency. The records and currency were temporarily moved to the Corona del Mar branch, and will be moved back in time for the opening," a bank spokesman said.

On the campus, meanwhile, students reaction to the burning was equally prompt and, seemingly, unanimously opposed to the vandalism.

Chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich (later UCSB acting Chancellor after Huttenback) was joined by executive officers of the Associated Students; the executive council of the Academic Senate; the UCI Black Caucus; Mecha, a Mexican-American student group; the Irvine Chicano Employees Organization; the Council of Campus Employees, and the student resident hall Council of Presidents in a statement condemning the arson. It said:

"It is abhorrent to me, as I am sure it to all responsible members of the campus community, that anyone, whether students or others, would engage in senseless destruction and terrorist activity of this kind.

"We are mindful that there are those who will simply condemn the university and its students without regard to the fact that the university and its students are also the victims. We feel it is necessary to assure the community at large that acts of violence against persons or property are inimical to the university and ar not condoned."

The UCI Student Senate passed a resolution concerning the bank fire.

And several hundred students signed a petition stating thy "abhorred destruction" of the bank and offering their help in cleaning it up.

Page C1 of LA Times, Tuesday, October 27, 1970

UC Irvine Students Disgusted, Apprehensive
Over Bank Arson

Destruction Widely Condemned as Senseless, Thought to
Be Work of Outside Forces; Further Incidents are Feared

By Scott Moore
Times Staff Reporter

IRVINE-Reaction Monday at UC Irvine to the Bank of American burning was a mixture of disgust and apprehension.

Few tears were shed for the bank itself, but the apparent act of arson was widely condemned as senseless. And may feared it may presage further incidents.

It was commonly thought ont he 6,000-student campus that the bank incident was not the work of Irvine students.

Some campus activists suggested it was the work of the far left Weatherman organization, a militant group which has been linked to similar incidents throughout the nation.

Several factors were mentioned as indications UCI students probably were not involved.

--UCI students never have been known to advocate terrorism. In recent months terrorism has been considered by many radicals as counterproductive to social change because of the repression it produces.

Wall Slogans

--Spray-painted scrawlings such as "All Power to the People" on the bank's walls during the burning incident are not characteristic of UCI activists. "We like more witty, sophisticated things," noted one student.

--Since classes began earlier this month issues fostering studnet activism have been largely absent from the campus. "I thought this was such a placid campus," remarked one professor.

Radical students appeared particularly upset because they have been arguing against acts of terrorism for some time. "The revolution isn't going to start here at UCI," said one activist.

Ironically, a group of students had met shortly before the burning took place to plan a campuswide forum in two weeks on the subject of "Terrorism and Social Change." Purpose of the program was to disclaim acts and advance other means of achieving social change.

As a result of the burning, the program was moved up to Friday from its original date.

Numerous student and faculty groups, as well as the school administration, issued strong statements condemning the burning.

Several hundred students signed a petition stating they "abhorred destruction" of the bank and offered their help in cleaning it up. The petition was circulated during morning lecture classes by Jeff Swarz, a 20-year-old senior in biology, who said he accumulated between 500 and 1,000 signatures.

Throughout the day Monday, students wandered by the gutted bank building to view the destruction for themselves. They watched silently as workmen erected a wooden barricade around the building.

The bank is located in the Irvine town center, a cluster of private businesses directly adjacent to the campus.


  1. I'm not sure if I'm remembering the same area, but near there in the place where The Buffalo Ranch was, there was a little square- it had a strange name- I think there were offices there- architects or somewhat. I just looked it up, they named it Urbanus Square.

    The Buffalo Ranch was a landmark- I wonder where they took all the buffalos?

  2. That was an interesting piece of information on handwriting analysis. Please post more about graphology. thank you !

  3. I was invited to the Spritzgarten for some beers that evening ... as i recall they used an emptied fire extinguisher to spray gasoline or some other inflammable liquid under the doors and into the bank ... really senseless act

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