Text by Greg. Click on any image for a larger version.....
Conversely, too see the full picture album (unfortunately not in much of a chronological order) click here
Saturday March 24, 2007 I flew over to Orange County airport and met up with Cole, who had also flown in that morning, and with Steve, who met us at the airport and had been there with the Mt View Choir and Orchestra Disneyland trip that Mandy Jo was also on. The three of us drove to the Santa Ana Library parking lot on Flower between Santa Ana Blvd and Civic Center Drive where we met up with Dad who had driven his little mini cooper car from Malibu. He's been there at a trailer park overlooking the sea in his motor home for the past couple of weeks. He goes there each year for a vacation and to prepare his income tax returns. Dad took his first group picture of "us" at 9:08am , the second attempt at 9:10am was a bit more balanced . We spent an hour or so at the back of his car going through a picture album he had brought. It had black pages, was very old and contained period pictures from his youth in Santa Ana. He also had a disintegrating 5 year journal that he kept from 1951-1954 when he was 14-17 years old I'm holding the small red journal in the picture of us at the back of the car. Dad moved to Thatcher in the summer of 1952 at 15 years old, turning 16 that October. I recorded much of the conversation we had while huddled there around the back of the car, and I took some short video as well. The journal is a wonderful record and insight into his sociality and zest for life. I've borrowed the diary from him and have digitized all of the entries. Here's a map of the major places we stopped at in Santa Ana. (We headed to Balboa later.)
After poring through the artifacts in the back of Dad's little car, we all climbed into the rental car and Cole drove us to the area where Dad used to live (806 W 2nd St). His house is now gone, as well as his entire block, which has been replaced with an apartment complex. Later in the day we returned and explored the apartment complex, but at that point we drove West along 2nd street looking at similar period homes to his. I took a picture of a dilapidated house that he said was typical of the square homes with an added porch and steps just like Glen had added onto their home. While stopped at this home, in response to a question from Steve, Dad said that Glen worked construction installing drywall. During the weekends of tourist off season he would also run the Balboa Fun Zone concession he invented. During the summer's peak tourist season he would work the Fun Zone concession full time since his construction job was flexible. Dad described the details of how the game worked, which I've included below where we visited the Fun Zone later in the day.
We then drove farther down 2nd street to the West, to an area Dad said he’d never been to as a kid, only a few blocks from his home. He was searching out at old classmate at 1206 W 2nd st, but no one answered the door. Pretty neat how small his world was - not to have been just six blocks westward. He spent most of his time within a couple of miles of his home, except for his trips to Balboa and to work as a caddy at Santa Ana Country Club. I guess when I was 14 I was the same way.
Next we headed to Santa Ana High School and the LDS Church.. In addition to it just being neat to have aerial pictures, all of them that are in this summary were taken by Steve's airplanes. Steve subcontracted his plane's services to Pictometry International Corp, who processed the images and leased the rights to Microsoft for their use on www.local.live.com, where I downloaded them from. Thanks Steve ! The LDS Church (no longer LDS) is on the NE corner of Flower and Myrtle. This is where Dad was baptized and he attended church, Boy Scout, and Sea Scout meetings. The building has no markings on it now but neighborhood kids said it was a Christian church. It was locked so we couldn’t go inside. Dad said the font was located under the floorboards of the stage at the North end of the building. Next door (Westward) are two smaller buildings where he would attend Boy Scout and Sea Scout meetings. We then walked East along Myrtle a couple of blocks to Santa Ana High School and stood next to the track where dad had played football. We paused on the way at the corner of Myrtle and Parton and I got this picture Dad, Steve and Cole . Then we walked a half block North on what used to be Parton to the back of one of the High School buildings at the NW corner of the football field. I took a couple of pictures there, one of Cole, Steve, and Dad with a building behind with “Home of the SA Saints” written on it , and the other at the same spot from a different angle that showed the football field . We walked back to the car at the church, and drove downtown looking for something to eat and parked atop the parking garage just South of 4th St and West of Main. I took a picture of Dad from there with the Clock Tower in the background. . We walked South down Main street looking for an old café he used to eat in that’s now gone. We stopped on the NW corner of Main and 3rd St and Dad told us about the building cattycorner to the SE which used to be the police department that he unwillingly visited as a paperboy. As we stood on the corner he told us that back then the drug stores had soda fountains and sold fresh donuts. Each morning the bakers would put the fresh donuts inside the screen door of a particular drug store along his paper route. He would get up at 4:30am to deliver papers and wouldn’t eat anything before starting. The temptation eventually overcame him and he took a donut... more than once in a row... and one morning the police were waiting. So he hid in the bushes until they searched him out with a flashlight. They asked if he’d taken any donuts and he replied, with donut crumbs falling from his mouth, that he’d never do anything like that ! He was hauled down and taken into the back of the building and his parents were called, much to his embarrassment. Glen was very disappointed in him, but his mother got up from then on and fixed him hot chocolate before he’d leave on his paper route. I took a picture of Dad and Cole as Dad was telling the story at 11:47am.. We then wandered south on Main another 2 blocks and ate at "Original Mike's" on the SW corner of Main and 1st street, which used to be a tire or auto store where Dad bought his first bicycle, for $50 ! That was a lot of money back then. We walked to the former location of the Open air Farmer’s market on the SE corner of 2nd street and Broadway where Dad used to wash dishes in an eatery for a Mrs. Hart (as recorded in his journal). I took a picture of Dad, Steve, and Cole in front of the now-enclosed building at 1:34pm, then on to Vandermast’s Men’s store. The multi-story brick building still stands on the SE corner of 4th and Broadway, but is now partitioned into several shops. Dad had a credit account with them at the age of 14 and has several journal entries detailing his purchases of nice clothes and of paying down his bill upon receipt of various earnings. I took a picture of him in front of the store at 1:41pm . Steve took one too - He figured out how to get the whole building in ! Cole got this shot of with 3 of us in it; . We went West on 4th Street to the SE corner at Birch, where the former ‘State Theatre’ building still stands, but has also been partitioned into several businesses. Here Dad would come for 10 cent movies. The price included a Dill pickle and piece of candy. Steve took a picture of Cole and me and Dad in front of the building at 1:54pm . Then we walked South down the East side of Birch to the former American Legion building where Dad had taken a date, Marilyn, to see a black jazz singer. He said, and recorded in his journal, that he felt bad for having taken her there since it turned out to be kind of a sweaty black-jazz type of atmosphere. We went inside the building and saw pictures of when it had burned, leaving just the original brick shell which was retained when it was rebuilt. Birch Park was the next stop which is just a half block to the South. The park is where Dad would shine shoes for 10 cents. He would approach businessmen on their lunch breaks and offer his service, using a shoe-shine box complete with a footrest, which Glen had made for him. He’d use his earnings to enjoy a pickle, candy and a movie at the State Theatre. I took a picture of Dad, Steve and Cole in front of the Birch Park sign at 2:04 pm . Cole also took a picture further inside the park at 2:07 pm . We then headed back to the car.
Our next stop was to drive to the location of Dad’s boyhood home on 2nd street and Flower. The portion of 2nd Street that he lived on is now gone, replaced by an entire apartment complex that occupies the NE corner of 1st Street and Flower. The complex is fully fenced but we were able to talk a maintenance man into opening the gate for us. I had previously reviewed aerial internet photos of the neighborhoods and determined with a fair degree of confidence the location of Dad’s home and back yard. It appears that it’s not covered by any buildings. It’s located just East of the West swimming pool. The front of the house would have faced up to the current South side of one complex, the house would extend to the South across the concrete drive and the back yard is in a grassy area just West of the complex to the South. It’s kind of neat to think that his home and back yard where he played are not buried under a building. We talked there for several minutes and I took some informal pictures of the 3 of them and Steve took a picture of Dad and I at 2:30pm standing where the back of his house probably was and where his back yard began . He buried a time capsule cigar box in that back yard when he was a kid that contained a Captain Marvel ring and some other things. I suppose it’s still there somewhere.
We then drove over to Willard Jr Hi on the corner of 15th Street and Ross. . This was where he played football as the center and tight end and the plays were called in Spanish. It’s also where he would play in the still-existing tennis courts with his girlfriends. Several instances are recorded in his journal. The original school was demolished after being weakened by an earthquake and it’s replacement is not very attractive. All that’s familiar to him is the football field, the tennis courts, and the very large Gum Tree that still stands there. Dad remembers chewing on the sap. It was Saturday and the school was entirely fenced and locked, but Cole and I squeezed through a gap and inspected the gum tree up close. It is massive. I picked up a few seed pods thinking it would be neat if I could grow another tree from this tree that Dad remembers from his childhood. Steve got some pictures of the huge trees that line the street in front of the school. They were certainly there when Dad was in school her in 1951.
Leaving Willard Jr High we drove to 809 N Main Street, which was the former location of the Maroon building which Dad would maintain for a Mrs. Edith M. Maroon who lived at 414 Cypress Drive, Laguna Beach. He would mow the lawn and do general cleaning. From his journal it appears that he would typically work there on Sundays after Sunday School. Dad gave me a letter Mrs. Maroon had written to him on March 14, 1952 where she wrote “I would like you to sweep out the basement and keep things tidy there.” It would be in that basement up on the wall where there was an earthen crawl space beneath the 1st floor, that Dad, intrigued by some debris piled there, would crawl up into the cramped area and find the beautiful ceramic vase that has always been in Dad's home. The building is now gone and replaced with other businesses. The De Pietro Performance Center, in the middle of the picture, currently bears the 809 address.
We drove to Balboa to visit the location of Grandpa Glen's Fun Zone concession - we had a hard time finding parking. We were finally able to park on Bay Avenue on the West side of the street in a green 30 minute zone right at the corner of Adams. We walked on Adams East to the boardwalk and headed South down to the Fun Zone.
Grandpa Glen had invented and built 6 or 7 copies of a mechanical (non-electronic) arcade game that he operated at his concession in the Fun Zone. The intent of the game was for a monkey to climb a pole in competition with other players on adjacent copies of the game. The first monkey to the top was declared the winner, and it's player received a coupon which could be redeemed for prizes. The monkey climbed the pole via a bucketed wheel, gravity driven by a hard rubber blue or red ball that would fall into the buckets. The ball was fed by the player into the bucketed wheel via one of 3 portals. The goal was to skillfully feed the ball into the center portal, which was the shortest route to the bucketed wheel. After rotating the wheel the ball was returned to the player for another cycle. Each cycle through the bucketed wheel would ratchet the monkey a notch higher up the pole, and a notch closer to being the winner over the other adjacent players. Each player paid 10 cents per game, and each game resulted in a coupon being awarded to the single winner. Glen's greatest profits resulted when all 6 or 7 stations were occupied by players who had each paid 10 cents and amongst whom only a single coupon would be awarded. It's easy to see why the peak seasons were the most desirable times for the game to be in operation. Glen began building an upgraded 2 player game that was electronic and featured 2 monkeys climbing in competition. He built 2 copies of the game but they were never introduced at the Fun Zone because, due to Pop Porter's failing health, Glen and his family had to move back to Thatcher in 1952 to work the Porter Farm. I have the glass front from one of the 2 electronic games, decorated with a now-faded water color palm tree and the names of the two competing monkeys at the bottom; "Fussy" and "Butch". The 1/4" thick glass measures 26" wide by 34 3/4" tall. Dad doesn't believe any remnants of the original 6 or 7 mechanical games survived - except for a few of the hard rubber balls, of which I have two .
At the Fun Zone Dad showed us where Glen’s arcade game was located . It was just West and North of the current merry-go-round and the building backed up to Bay Avenue. It was on the SW corner of an East-West walkway about 70 feet South of Palm Street. The SE corner of Palm and Bay was occupied by a bumper car concession, then the walkway on the South end, and then Glen’s concession on the South side of the walkway. In this picture, looking North, the corner of the concession would be just off Steve's right shoulder, with the walkway beginning just behind Steve and extending to the left of picture out onto Bay Ave. . Glen’s concession had a 2nd story apartment above it where the Fun Zone owner, Mr Anderson, lived. The apartment, and Glen’s concession, were accessed via 2 doors along the North side of their building, which was the South side of the East-West walkway. The portion of the building that faced West onto Bay Ave was occupied by the sign man who had a small studio where he made all the artwork signs in the fun zone. Dad would spend time with him and learned some drawing skills under his tutelage. At that time the area was on the same level as the rest of the fun zone, not elevated as it is now. The ferris wheel was located on the West side of the sidewalk from where it is now, directly behind Dad in the same picture. Apparently tragedy struck at some point, with the Ferris Wheel falling and killing someone. Mr. Anderson went bankrupt and the fun zone was closed for some period until the city permitted it’s refurbishment in the current configuration. The Bay Arcade a block South is in the same original location and configuration, including the Bay Arcade sign over the sidewalk, which is the same as in Dad’s youth. Cole bought Steve and I a Balboa Bar and Dad a frozen banana from the snack shack across from the Bay Arcade where I always get a Balboa Bar. I took a picture of Dad at the snack shack with his frozen banana at 4:07pm . We walked South along the boardwalk and stopped at the South corner of the Bay Arcade entrance for a bit and talked. As we were talking and eating our rapidly melting Balboa bars, Cole and I had a great laugh when Dad uttered in jest the ominous words that Cole said he'd always dreaded hearing as a kid in the car... "If that drips it's going out the window !". While we were laughing we quickly finished our Balboa Bars, just to be safe !
We then walked on Southward toward the Pavilion. Before getting there I asked Steve to take a picture of Dad and me with the historic Bay Arcade sign behind us. It was 4:16pm . Then we walked into the breezeway of the Pavillion where they have historical photographs displayed behind glass. Dad pointed out a 1940-50 era beach picture of the Fun Zone . I've seen the picture on previous visits but for the first time learned that it's more relevant than I'd realized. Dad pointed out that, in the picture, Glen’s concession can be seen under Mr Anderson's the 2nd story apartment . The door was closed on the concession, but the picture could very well have been taken when Glen’s arcade was there.
Steve took a picture of the street as it was well before the 50's , and as it is now . Note the building on the right is still there. I also took some short video of Dad, Steve and Cole walking the boardwalk.
We next drove to the Sea Scout base on PCH that Dad frequented in 1951 & 52. It’s on the South side of PCH just West of the bridge we crossed to get to Darvil and Jo’s old home. We walked with Dad along the walk above the Sea Scout docks. I took a picture of Dad and Cole at the railing at 4:56pm. . Cole enlisted someone to take a picture of the 4 of us with Steve’s nice camera at 5:00pm, just before we left.
We drove back to the parking lot at the Santa Ana library as it was time for Cole, Steve, and I to head to the airport for our flights home. We talked for a while in the parking lot as we got Dad and his things into his car . Cole spent some time talking with him about his mini cooper since Cole has the same type of car . I took a final shot of Dad as he was getting in his car at 6:06pm.
Us three boys drove to the airport, Cole headed for his plane bound for San Jose and we said bye to him at the outside the East baggage claim doors. Steve and I wandered over to the John Wayne statue to check it out. Then had some great conversation in the terminal, on the plane, and driving home from Sky Harbor in Phoenix. We agreed it had been a wonderful, wonderful experience being together with Dad. I dropped Steve off at about 9:40pm and headed home. This was one of the best days I can remember.