Friday, April 9, 2021

The mayor who took a stand against the Klan

 When Samuel Bowen decided to run for Huntington Beach board of trustees (city council) in 1928, there were a couple issues troubling local residents.  One was municipal restrictions about where oil drilling could occur and the encroachment of oil drilling in residential areas. With the discovery of oil in 1920, the booming proliferation of oil wells and sumps created a concern the residential areas would become blighted.

   Another growing issue was the presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Orange County. During the 1920s, the Klan made efforts to integrate into local government, churches and civic organizations.

LEFT: Samuel R. Bowen, prior to his stand against the Klan in 1925 and his run for city council in 1928. (Image, Huntington Beach News, April 27, 1923)  

   In August 1924, a couple weeks before the Klan organized a community "spectacle" in Huntington Beach, Reverend Horace Lackey, a lecturer for the Klan, stirred up a large crowd at the corner of 3rd and Birch streets in Santa Ana "from a truck which bore the fiery cross and the American flag" ("Thousands here listen as Klan called organization built up on Americanism", Santa Ana Register, August 12, 1924).  The City of Santa Ana had refused him a permit to speak in Birch Park.

   The Santa Ana Register reported Lackey's stated purpose was "to preserve the rights of the white race." Lackey critized newspapers as being owned by "Catholics and Jews and 'not a single line of news that reflects credit to the klan is ever sent over the wire.'" 

   Lackey credited the Klan for passage of recent immigration laws, which would have included the alien land laws prohibiting property ownership by Asian immigrants, but not immigrants from other countries. He stated the Klan was opposed to Catholic school teachers teaching in public schools "until after they made their first allegiance to the flag of the country." At the same time, Lackey stated "the klan was not fighting the newspapers, as they were not fighting the Catholics, Jews, or negroes."

   "The Ku Klux Klan is not in politics," Lackey continued, "and will resist every effort that is made to drag it into politics, but the 8,000,000 men and the 3,000,000 women who belong to the organization are in politics, and I want to say that no man opposed to the klan's ideals will ever be elected to office in Orange County, or in the United States."

BELOW RIGHT: A Klan meeting advertised in the Santa Ana Register, December 5, 1924.

   By January 1925, the Klan's efforts to take over local political offices had become the subject of an Orange County Grand Jury report. Local Klan leaders Reverend Leon Myers and William Starbuck had been instigating rumors about elected officials at public events. The Grand Jury released a special report "notable for its cool and dispassionate form of expression...that laxity charges made by klan leaders against public officials (were) wholly groundless and responsible for 'much injustice.'" 

   The 19-member Grand Jury unanimously agreed on the findings of their investigation that statements made by Klan leaders Myers and Starbuck at mass meetings were hearsay and "discounted to the vanishing point."

   Read more about Myers and Starbuck, and their efforts to slander local officials in Huntington Beach, "Prohibition and booze under the cornerstone" (January 8, 2018).

ABOVE: Samuel R. Bowen is responsible for hiring the City's first landscape architect to undertake a beautification program. The arches that once stood at the west end of Main Street at Pacific Coast Highway were installed at his direction. (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

Taking a stand against the Klan

   Bowen's stand against the Klan became public in 1925, when he was president of the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce. The Klan was thought to be behind a recall of elected city council members. Bowen called upon the Chamber to vote on a resolution opposing the Klan's involvement and affirm their confidence in the elected office holders.

   "The troubles that seem to assail us are traceable  to the door of the Invisible Empire, the Ku Klux Klan," stated Bowen ("Huntington Beach Chamber Flays Ku Klux Klan Recall Movement Against Trustees," Santa Ana Register, April 7, 1925). "Immediately after a recent election, pressure was brought to bear upon city officials to have certain appointed offices declared vacant and klansmen appointed."

Bowen continued, "The Ku Klux Klan would take away the rights of American citizenship, and substitute instead secret political plots and methods by dictating to their members what they shall do. We should set ourselves against being dominated by an organization governed by prejudice, hatred and intolerance." 

LEFT: The Chamber of Commerce stand against the Klan came about eight months after the Klan "spectacle" in Huntington Beach on Labor Day 1924. (Santa Ana Register, August 30, 1924) 

   The Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce unanimously adopted the resolution, which also was to be introduced for adoption by the Lions Club, Women's Club, Rotary Club and Realty Board. The Santa Ana Register characterized it as "taking a determined stand against the Ku Klux Klan" and "an active stand in the political fight which is looming in this city."

  Three years later, Bowen ran for city council in 1928 with a winning slate of three candidates--including former newspaper man Elson Conrad and pharmacist Bayard Butcher--all of whom were aligned on enacting oil drilling restrictions and anti Klan positions.  They were sworn into office on April 16, 1928.

A diverse community

   Bowen's mother, Emilia Miranda--married to newspaper man Nathan Streeter Bowen--was Mexican American, Bowen had been tutored by a Belgian priest, and his neighbors were from all over the world. Spanish was his first language.  His granddaughter, Beverly Bowen Moeller, recalled him meeting "with a small group of friends on Wednesday nights to read Don Quixote in the original 17th Century Spanish and laugh at the adventures of the hapless knight."

RIGHT: Beverly Bowen Moeller, daughter of Mayor Samuel R. Bowen, Huntington Beach Grammar School class photo, 1934. (City of Huntington Beach archives)

   Bowen Moeller fondly recalled in her 1984 hand-typed history, titled Fifty Years Ago in Huntington Beach held at the Orange County Archives, that Huntington Beach was a diverse and close community.

   "...I would walk along the high-crowned oil road past the chili pepper drying houses, past an old wooden derrick with the fields of the small farms belonging to German, Japanese and Italian neighbors," wrote Bowen Moeller. "Across the street from our house was my favorite place in my small world, the nearly self-sufficient farm of the Armenian neighbors...These memories are akin to the proverbial fly caught in amber, caught and preserved unchanged..."

Remembering Samuel Bowen

   Samuel Bowen created a successful business producing oil production fishing tool technologies in Huntington Beach, with the S.R. Bowen Company. His company later moved to Texas and exists today, as NOV - Bowen. Bowen's Huntington Beach manufacturing business was steps away from present-day Huntington Beach City Hall, at Yorktown and Lake streets. 

LEFT: The S.R. Bowen buildings that stood at Yorktown and Lake streets, near present-day Huntington Beach City Hall. The Bowen buildings were lost to a fire in 1989. To this day, locals question the nature of the fire, as preservationists had mobilized an effort to create an oil museum utilizing the historic structures. (Photo, courtesy of Dennis Masuda). © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   Today, where the S.R. Bowen buildings once stood, is a little-noticed, small bronze plaque next to the sidewalk. People drive by it every day. The identity for who the plaque honors is only visible from a couple feet away.

Inscription on the plaque:
   Three industrial buildings were located at 1980 Lake Street and were operated by Samuel R. Bowen and his partner, Sisti Siracusa, as the S.R. Bowen Company and the Bowen Fishing Tool Company

   The S.R. Bowen Company was founded in 1920 and was credited with numerous developments of tools used in oil production in Southern California and worldwide. Some noteworthy tools produced included the Bowen L&L Spear (used to retrieve pipe from oil wells). 

   The S.R. Bowen Company remained in Huntington Beach until the mid 1950's when they moved to Santa Fe Springs, CA. 

RIGHT: The small bronze plaque at Yorktown and Lake streets across from Huntington Beach City Hall for former Mayor Samuel Redman Bowen, who took a public stand against the Ku Klux Klan in April 1925. (Photo, M. Urashima, August 16, 2013) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The S.R. Bowen industrial buildings were locally significant because of the elaborate, interior exposed wood truss roof supports and corrugated metal ("Tin"), exterior siding and roofing. The buildings contained machine, welding and blacksmith shops, warehouse space and offices. The buildings were constructed in 1920-1928 and dismantled in July 1989.

Samuel Redman Bowen was born in Martinez, CA and spent his early life in the San Francisco area. he came to Huntington Beach from Coalinga, CA in 1920. In 1928 he was elected Mayor of the City and served one term. 

   He was a veteran of World War I and a member of the Huntington Beach American Legion Post. He was also a past president of both the Huntington Beach Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce. Samuel Bowen died August 6, 1944.  

   Presented to the City of Huntington Beach by the Huntington Beach Company - 1989

What monuments say about us

   The small plaque at the corner of Yorktown and Lake streets holds a much bigger story about Huntington Beach, its oil history and the fight against the Klan in the 1920s.  Samuel Bowen took his fight against the Klan public in April 1925. In April 2021, Klan flyers were distributed around downtown doorsteps advertising a "white lives matter" rally.

   It's time to create a larger monument at the corner of Yorktown and Lake, as a more prominent reminder for today's and tomorrow's generations that Huntington Beach can, in the words of Samuel Bowen, "set ourselves against being dominated by an organization governed by prejudice, hatred and intolerance."

© All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Huntington Beach blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.  

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans camp at Arbamar in Huntington Beach

Rows of tents for a Chautauqua at Arbamar in Huntington Beach, Calif. with a car parked in the distance. Arbamar, meaning "the Grove by the Sea," was named for the sheltering eucalyptus trees. The campground extended from 11th to 13th Street, between Orange and Acacia streets, and closed after the 1920 oil boom. (Photo, Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives)
   A century ago, veterans from the Civil War were joined by veterans from World War I for the first time at Arbamar, the tent city in Huntington Beach.   It was the thirty-second annual encampment of the Southern California Veterans Association and they expected a crowd of around 2,500.

   The Santa Ana Register reported the two-week encampment at the end of July through early August was "the time for the assembling of the defenders of the Union flag of '61" and noted "with the ranks of the Grand Army of the Republic being depleted year by year at a rapid rate, many who were there last year will not be with their comrades this year."

   The annual encampment would be "enhanced this year by the presence of many young veterans of the war with Germany". The first Armistice Day in the United States was held on November 11, 1919, marking the first anniversary of the end of World War I and the armistice signed between the allies of World War I and Germany at Compi├Ęgne, France.

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Huntington Beach blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival 2018

The annual Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival is Sunday, March 18, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., behind the Central Library at 7111 Talbert Avenue and Goldenwest Street.  The event includes live entertainment and music, Japanese cuisine, cultural exhibits and performances. Early arrival is recommended for free parking in the Central Library parking lot and nearby lots. This event celebrates Huntington Beach's multi-decade Sister City relationship with Anjo, Japan, and supports the student ambassador program. (Photo, M. Urashima, 2015) © All rights reserved.

  It took two attempts to bring the first gift of cherry trees to the United States from Japan.  The first shipment of 2,000 trees in 1910 were not healthy enough to plant.  The second shipment of 3,000 trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C. in 1912 were a success!  It is the recognition of that gift that sparked the National Cherry Blossom Festival along the Tidal Basin.

LEFT:  In Japan, the face of the moon is a rabbit mochi-tsuki: rabbits pounding cooked rice in a mortar to make mochi, the confection enjoyed at special holidays and festivals. Dango, or mochi, is often shaped like a rabbit at the time of the fall moon festival and like cherry blossoms during hanami, or "flower viewing" season. (Image, National Diet Library, Japan)

   It was an idea with roots in the late 19th century, with the writer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore. Scidmore was an aberration. She wrote the first travel book for Alaska and was the first woman to write for National Geographic. Scidmore wrote about her experiences traveling in Asia and lived in Japan. She would write about Asia for decades, introducing American readers to the Japanese moon festival, and explaining that, while Americans saw a "man in the moon", in Japan the image on the moon's face was seen as "rabbits making mochi." 

RIGHT: Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, described as a writer of "sparkling travel sketches" by the Minneapolis Journal, March 16, 1901. She was the first to advocate for the planting of cherry trees in Washington, D.C. Washington Post writer Michael Ruane wrote in 2012 about Scidmore's appearance at a Capitol society bal in the winter of 1894, "she wore a gown of green under a black silk robe embroidered with gold and silver  Japanese characters. And when the young woman walked into the Dupont Circle mansion that night, she turned every head...She was 37, an author, journalist, traveler and collector of the lore and artifacts of far-off lands." (Photo, Wisconsin Historical Society)

   While she wrote about cultural traditions and flower festivals--such as the festival in Japan for asagao, or the morning glory flower--Scidmore also was acknowledged as an insightful observer of the social and political environment in Asia, publishing works like, Java: The Garden of the East in 1987, and China: The Long Lived Empire in 1900.

   The U.S. National Park Service credits Scidmore as the first to advocae for cherry blossom trees in 1885.

LEFT: Cherry trees in bloom in Aakasaka, an area of Tokyo, in the 1890s. (Photograph, The New York Public Library. ID 109995. Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs)

   "Upon returning to Washington from her first visit to Japan," reports the National Park Service, Scidmore "approached the U.S. Army Superintendent of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds, with the proposal that cherry trees be planted one day along the reclaimed Potomac waterfront. Her request fell on deaf ears. Over the next twenty-four years, Mrs. Scidmore approached every new superintendent, but her idea met with no success." 

   In 1909, Scidmore made the request of the wife of President William Howard Taft, First Lady Hellon Herron Taft, suggesting she would fund raise to buy the cherry trees and donate them to the Capitol. The National Park Service explains that the First Lady had lived in Japan and was familiar with the sight of the cherry trees in bloom.

RIGHT: Tanabata Festival, or Star Festival, kazari on display in Huntington Beach Central Park during the 2017 Cherry Blossom Festival. (Photo, M. Urashima, 2015) © All rights reserved.     

    Hellen Herrron Taft responded to Scidmore in two days, writing, "Thank you very much for your suggestion about the cherry trees. I have taken the matter up and am promised the trees, but I thought perhaps it would be best to make an avenue of them, extending down to the turn in the road, as the other part is still too rough to do any planting. Of course, they would not reflect in the water, but the effect would be very lovely of the long avenue. Let me know what you think about this."  

   The Washington Post continues the history, explaining that the day after Scidmore received the letter from the First Lady, "she told two Japanese acquaintances who were in Washington on business: Jokichi Takamine, the New York chemist, and Kikichi Mizumo, Japan's consul general in New York. The two men immediately suggested a donation of 2,000 trees from Japan, specifically from its capitol, Tokyo, as a gesture of friendship" and asked Scidmore to find out if the First Lady would find the gift acceptable. She did. 

LEFT: A program for the 1949 Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. 

   With First Lady Taft's support, things moved quickly. Although the first batch of cherry trees could not be planted, the second  group arrived from Japan just in time for Valentine's Day, February 14, 1912. Over three thousand trees were shipped from Yokohama to Seattle, then in insulated freight cars went on to Washington, D.C. And, on March 27, 1912, the First Lady and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted two Yoshino cherry trees on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin. 

ABOVE: Cherry blossom trees burst with color in Huntington Beach Central Park. Most of the trees are gifts from Sister City Anjo, Japan. Each year, a new tree is planted with a delegation from Anjo and with the Consulate General of Japan, near the Secret Garden. (Photo, M. Urashima, March 2017) © All rights reserved.

   That year, the Washington Star reported a "Washington woman who has been decorated is Miss Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, whose home is at 1837 M Street northwest, and who in 1908 was given the cross of the Order of the Eastern Rising Sun by the Emperor of Japan in recognition of her writings in Japan." (Editor's note: Scidmore's home remains standing at the address reported in 1912, a stately, restored Victorian, now living a new life as a restaurant.)  

LEFT: The United States has long been fascinated by the traditi9on of hanami, or "flower viewing" of the sakura (cherry blossoms) in Japan. (It's Cherry Blossom Time In Japan, San Francisco Call, April 21, 1907) 

   The National Cherry Blossom Festival reports that several years later in 1915, the United States reciprocated with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. In 2012--a century after the planting of Japan's gift of cherry blossom trees in Washington D.C.--the United States sent 3,000 flowering dogwood trees to Japan as an anniversary gift. The dogwood trees were planted in the Tohoku region of northern Japan and in Yoyhogi Park of Tokyo.  

  To preserve the original genetic lineage of the first cherry trees, the National Park Service reports that "approximately 120 propagates from the surviving 1912 trees around the Tidal Basin were collected by NPS horticulturists and sent back to Japan (in 2011) to the Japan Cherry Blossom Association...Through this cycle of giving, the cherry trees continue to fulfill their role as a symbol and as an agent of friendship."

RIGHT: Look for the large stone among the cherry blossom trees in Central Park, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sister City friendship with Anjo, Japan, dedicated in 2002. The stone reads, "Each spring in Japan, cherry blossoms are enjoyed as a symbol of renewed live and vitality. In this spirit, Anjo, Japan, has given fifty cherry trees to the City of Huntington Beach to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sister City relationship between Anjo and Huntington Beach. (Photo, M. Urashima, March 2017) © All rights reserved.

   This year in Huntington Beach, we will again plant new cherry trees in Central Park--and celebrate an international relationship that began with the first Japanese pioneers in Orange County in 1900 and with a Sister City bond beginning 36 years ago. Come join us for good food, music, cultural performances, good friends, and the simple art of viewing flowers.

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Huntington Beach blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Prohibition and booze under the cornerstone

ABOVE: The First Baptist Church, circa 1913, with a beautiful bell tower and canopy trees along 6th Street and Orange Avenue. The Church, constructed in 1913, received approval from the Huntington Beach city council in March, 1959, "for removal of trees from around the church and permission to cement from the sidewalk to the curb in front of the church on both Sixth and Orange streets".  The church structure--with some alternations--remains standing today and is now the Community Bible Church of Huntington Beach. (Photograph, City of Huntington Beach archives)

   If you have seen the initials "J.E.B." marked on a curb in the historic downtown, then you have seen the work of James E. Brunton. He was a contractor for the city in the early 1900s as the Huntington Beach Township grew, gradually adding sidewalks and paving streets.  Brunton's name shows up regularly on the board of trustees minutes (the early city council) for approval of payment for his work. He also worked as a private contractor on major projects, such as the construction of the Holly Sugar Company factory.

ABOVE: Not much of the original sidewalk and curbing is left in the original Huntington Beach Township area. The initials J.E.B. mark the work of James E. Brunton, who was a longtime resident, local contractor, and civic leader. He served on the election board determining whether or not a bond issue to rebuild the pier would go on the ballot in 1912. (Photograph, M. Urashima, 2014) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   Brunton is a figure in a rumor published 92 years ago on this date by the Santa Ana Register, during the thick of the Prohibition years in the United States.  The Eighteenth Amendment mandating national Prohibition law began on January 16, 1920.  The myth of the whiskey-under-the-cornerstone grew legs on January 8, 1925.

ABOVE: Orange County Sheriffs dumping illegal booze in Santa Ana in 1932, with supervision from some determined looking ladies. (Photograph, Courtesy of Orange County Archives, March 31, 1932)

   The Huntington Beach board of trustees (city council) did not enact Ordinance #223 enforcing Prohibition until August, 1921, over a year and a half after the national law went into effect. The discovery of oil in 1920 may have slowed down the local enforcement, but by 1921---with hundreds of oil workers descending on the town---things were getting a bit rowdy.  By late 1921, Huntington Beach was technically dry (doctors could still prescribe whiskey for "medicinal purposes").

   To put it mildly, banning anything has never been too popular in Huntington Beach, from fireworks to plastic bags. Although the city has a history of imposing restrictions on alcohol--with the first ordinance regarding "public drunkedness" enacted in 1911 (#72), and many more in the years that followed--there doesn't appear to have been a fondness for Prohibition

   Private alcohol stockpiling was rampant prior to Prohibition taking effect in January 1920. So was bootlegging alcohol or moonshine after the law was enacted.  By 1925 and five years in, the American public, journalists, and humorists, were fairly certain Prohibition was not working.  People found creative ways around the law and alcohol was still available, leading humorist Will Rogers to remark, "Prohibition is better than no liquor at all."

LEFT: The birth of a myth. The Santa Ana Register published an unverified "story" that cement contractor James E. Brunton "put a full bottle of whisky under the cornerstone of the First Baptist church of this city" when it was constructed in 1913. (Santa Ana Register, January 8, 1925)

   The myth circulated by the Santa Ana Register in 1925 was that Brunton had placed a full bottle of whiskey under the cornerstone of the First Baptist Church when he laid the foundation in 1913, seven years before Prohibition. With tongue-firmly-in-cheek, the Santa Ana Register upped their game by adding that there also was a petition asking "that the Pacific ocean be  dried up".  It was the "wets" versus the "drys".

   There is a more serious back story to the Santa Ana Register poking fun with their whiskey-under-the-cornerstone story.

   The Santa Ana Register was hinting at a heated public feud between the pastor of the First Baptist Church, Rev. Luther A. Arthur, and the Huntington Beach Lions Club of which he had been a member. Rev. Arthur publicly stated he had found empty bottles of "Jamaica Ginger...smelling strongly of booze in vacant lots all over the town" and that he had also found a bottle in the back room of his church.  

RIGHT: Jamaica Ginger, a remedy for stomach ailments and cramps, had an alcohol content as high as 90 percent (Source: "Alcohol as Medicine and Poison", The Mob Museum,

   "When I found a bottle in the back room of this church, you bet I got hot," the Santa Ana Register reported the pastor's remarks on January 5, 1925.  Prior to this, Rev. Arthur had spoken to the Lions Club and, as he put it, had worked "against two of its members politically, because I believe them to be mixed up with booze."  

   In a small meeting, the Lions Club quietly removed him from their membership.  Then, Rev. Arthur made it loud.

LEFT: Rev. Luther A. Arthur delivered a fiery sermon against alcohol and the local Lions Club on the evening of Sunday, January 4, 1925. Angered that he was booted out of the Lions Club, his sermon revealed that he had brought a leader of the Ku Klux Klan to Huntington Beach. While Rev. Arthur denied the Klan's involvement, it was well known that Rev. Myers was the Exalted Cyclops of the Anaheim klavern. Myers had embarked on a series of public meetings at which he made unsubstantiated accusations against various community leaders. Three years later in 1928, Huntington Beach mayor Samuel Bowen would run successfully for office on an anti-Klan slate. ("Sin is centered in booze, asserts Huntington Beach parson in Sunday sermon", Santa Ana Register, January 5, 1925)

   In his January 4, 1925, sermon, Rev. Arthur asserted that Huntington Beach was the veritable capital of alcohol violations in Orange County.  To support his fight against alcohol---prior to being booted out of the Lions Club---Rev. Arthur had brought to town the Reverend Leon Myers, pastor of the First Christian Church of Anaheim 

   Myers had another role: he was the Exalted Cyclops of the Orange County klavern of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan had taken an active position supporting Prohibition and Myers had been enlisting pastors and bible clubs to spread their message. 

RIGHT: The Santa Ana Register detailed the visit by Rev. Leon Myers, Exalted Cyclops of the Anaheim Ku Klux Klan and noted that ousted Huntington Beach newspaperman Frank Swann was departing to work for the San Jacinto Register, "owned by  Chester M. Kline, state senator and prominent klansman." The Santa Ana Register pointedly ran this article next to a feature, "School work to get Lions Club help", touting the Lions work on the betterment of Huntington Beach elementary schools. ("Ousted Lions glad to get out of club", Santa Ana Register, January 2, 1925)

   In November 1924, raids on suspected bootleggers had been organized by Dr. W.S. Montgomery with the California Anti-Saloon League and William Starbuck, a colleague of Rev. Myers. While not reported, it is inferred there may have been members of the Lions Club caught up in the raid and that Myers had instigated the raid. Hence, the action taken to remove Rev. Arthur from their membership.  

   The Lions Club--along with the Kiwanis, Rotary, Elks and the Anaheim Masonic Lodge--already had taken public positions against the Klan in 1924. 

   In a rather pointed editorial decision, the Santa Ana Register published the story on Rev. Arthur's sermon immediately adjacent to an article reporting "Prohibition made little headway in 1924 if arrests for drunkenness may be taken as an index".  It appears both the Santa Ana Register and the community had enough of this Prohibition nonsense, temperance vigilantes, and, enough of the Klan. It was the beginning of a push against the Klan, which had taken root in Anaheim and was attempting to get a toehold in other cities.

LEFT: The Orange County Grand Jury found in January 1925 that the "charges hurled by Rev. Leon Myers and William Starbuck at various public mass meetings were thus discounted to the vanishing point...merely hearsay and without corroboration." Starbuck was a rancher from Fullerton and its first druggist. ("Charges by leaders of Klan found groundless", Santa Ana Register, January 14, 1925)

   Less than a week after the Santa Ana Register ran its whiskey-under-the-cornerstone story, the Orange County Grand Jury published their findings that the charges made by Klan leaders at public meetings were groundless and had no merit.  The Santa Ana Register published the Grand Jury report to clear the names of those maligned.

   By February 1925, several Orange County newspapers refused to report on any Klan-related subjects, denying them coverage.  Anaheim passed a series of laws to remove the Klan's influence and organizing ability, including prohibiting the distribution of handbills.  But, it would take the rest of the 1920s and 1930s to effectively send the Klan back underground.

   There is no whiskey under the cornerstone of the First Baptist Church building in Huntington Beach. No need to dig that up.

Editor's note: The 18th Amendment was repealed with the ratification of the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933.

© All rights reserved. No part of the Historic Huntington Beach blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

75 years ago: Armistice Day in Huntington Beach

ABOVE: The Armistice Day parade near the intersection of Olive Avenue and Main Street on November 11, 1942.  An honor roll plaque for the approximately 300 Huntington Beach men then serving in the military was located where Starbucks is today.  The International Surfing Museum at 411 Olive Avenue--then an emergency hospital--is near the top center of the photograph. This photograph matches the Armistice Day events described in the Santa Ana Register and City records from 1942. (Photograph courtesy of City of Huntington Beach archives)

   Seventy-five years ago this week, the impact of the second world war was significant on a coastal communities in California.  In Huntington Beach, the military took positions near the pier, with the Army taking residence in the clubhouse at Lake Park.  Civil defense volunteers took shifts watching the coast from the rooftop of the Memorial Hall.  Young men had left for war and those at home were determined to remember them.

   The Santa Ana Register described the plans for the 1942 Armistice Day parade as a patriotic event to which military from the Los Alamitos Navy Base, the Santa Ana Naval Air Station and the Marine base would be invited.  Armistice Day--now Veterans Day--had been a major event in Huntington Beach prior to 1942, with parades held on Main Street during the first world war.  The 1942 Armistice Day would honor the the Blue Star families with a public honor roll plaque.

LEFT: The Santa Ana Register described the planned events for Armistice Day 1942. (Santa Ana Register, "HB to honor service men Armistice Day", November 4, 1942)

   "Officers and men are to be invited from the Santa Ana Army Base and plans are being formulated to have one of the Army chaplains deliver the main address and the firing squad will be assigned to Huntington Beach by the United States Army," reported the Register. "Approximately 300 men from this city are now serving with the armed forces and their names have been inscribed upon the honor roll."

   "Mayor Thomas B. Talbert, in unveiling the plaque on Armistice day (sic), will present to the families of the men serving from Huntington Beach, the plaque honoring their sons, brothers and husbands," noted the Register

   It's the details of the photographs documenting the 1942 Armistice Day parade that tell a story of the Huntington Beach of 75 years ago, with a few landmarks that remain that help us retrace the steps and remember.

ABOVE: An enlargement of the area near the honor roll of men serving in the military, as of November 1942.  Mayor Thomas B. Talbert (second from right, holding hat) was the keynote speaker, with Chamber of Commerce president George Wheat (far right) acting as master of ceremonies. (Photograph snip courtesy of City of Huntington Beach archives)

ABOVE: The building that today is home to the International Surfing Museum was, in 1942, the Huntington Beach Emergency Hospital, referred to in the City's historic resources survey as the "Dr. Hawes Medical Building", which had been built six years earlier in 1936. (Photograph snip courtesy of City of Huntington Beach archives)

ABOVE: The Huntington Beach High School band, led by Everett Crosby, joined the military for the Armistice Day parade in 1942.  As the band and military units approached the honor roll plaque, they formed a giant "V" for the ceremony. (Photograph snip courtesy of City of Huntington Beach archives)

ABOVE: Just past the Huntington Beach Emergency Hospital, an automobile service station and garage at the corner of 5th Street and Olive Avenue, where Pristine Motorsports is located today. Oil derricks fill the background in the oil field north of the downtown. (Photograph snip courtesy of City of Huntington Beach archives) 

ABOVE: Among the debris in the 5th Street alley near Olive Avenue, a Cole Bros. Circus sign.  The Santa Ana Register reported the semi-annual arrival of the Cole Bros. Circus in October 1942, promising "clowns, sawdust rings, and pink lemonade...The big show will arrive here from Hollywood, a mile-long trainload of bespangled wonders and marvels, with three great herds of elephants, a trio of Asiatic pangurs (big cats), over 250 horses and ponies, a giant chimpanzee and a flock of baby animals in a big double menagerie that circus officials say would make Noah jealous if he were alive to see it." One of the largest circus organizations in the West, the Cole Bros. Circus set up a 26-tent camp at South Main and Pomona in Santa Ana, employed a crew of 650, and provided two performances daily under a "big top" which seated nearly 10,000 people. (Photograph snip courtesy of City of Huntington Beach archives) 

LEFT: Off to the side, a boy runs toward a trio of boys in overalls, a popular and practical article of clothing during World War II, a time when advertisements emphasized frugality and the work ethic needed to win the war. Women also wore overalls or coveralls, as they entered the work force to replace men who had left for the military. (Photograph snip courtesy of City of Huntington Beach archives)

On November 12, 1942, the Santa Ana Register reported "simple but impressive was yesterday's 11 a.m. Armistice Day ceremony dedicating the Victory Plaque at the corner of Main Street and Olive Avenue.  Nearly 1500 people witnessed the colorful, snappy ritual directed by the Huntington Beach chamber of commerce and carried out by a score of top ranking military officials and 300 U.S. Army, Navy and Marine corps in dress uniform." 

   There was a moment of silent tribute, followed by "Retreat" played by an Army bugler. The Huntington Beach High School band then played the Star Spangled Banner, followed by a salute by the Army firing squad.  After the ceremony, the procession continued down Main Street to Ocean Boulevard (Pacific Coast Highway), then up Fifth Street to city hall, which then was located at the Old Civic Center near where Triangle Park and the Main Street Library are today.

   What happened to the honor roll "Victory Plaque" dedicated on Armistice Day in 1942? Was it moved to the Memorial Hall at the Old Civic Center, demolished in 1974? We hope someone out there knows.

ABOVE: The Armistice Day ceremonies dedicating the "Victory Plaque" at the corner of Olive Avenue and Main Street on November 11, 1942, attended by a reported 1,500 residents and 300 military personnel. ("Impressive Ceremonies Mark Dedication of Service Plaque", Santa Ana Register, November 12, 1942)

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