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)

© 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.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Newland House: Saving our pioneer history

ABOVE: The Newland House Museum after a rain. Once endangered and in disrepair, it was a decades-long community effort to save and restore the 1898 structure as part of the development agreement with the Newland Shopping Center.  As of 2017, the recent refurbishment of the Newland Shopping Center reflects design elements complementing the National Register of Historic Places-listed house museum. (Photograph, M. Urashima. October 24, 2016) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED     

   History takes a long time to make. And, a long time to save.  In the case of this local and national historical landmark, it took decades of community volunteer effort--and near loss to neglect, vandalism and disrepair--to save a historic site now considered a treasure.
   It was 1964 when local residents began voicing a concern about the Newland House, calling for it to be saved and restored to its former glory as the headquarters of the 1,000-acre Newland Rancho.  In the fast-paced, mid 20th-Century building boom, the community discussion is reminiscent of most historic preservation efforts: What is historic?  Why did the original owners sell it?  Should the Newland House be demolished to allow for the construction of a new shopping center?  Why should historic preservation be part of community planning?

   The Newland family--no longer farming or ranching--had already sold their property and, in 1964, it was owned by Signal Oil & Gas Company.  The Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce manager, William Gallienne, advocated moving the house to get it out of the way of progress.   

RIGHT: Mayor Don Shipley with Miss Huntington Beach Rosemary Southward, in front of the Newland House in 1964. Shipley advocated for its historic preservation.  (Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1964)

   Mayor Don Shipley--for whom the Shipley Nature Center is named--advocated working with the property owner and developer to save the Newland House and make it a centerpiece of a public park site.  Shipley acknowledged the challenges of restoration, preservation and ongoing stewardship, but advocated his vision for historic preservation.  

LEFT: The Newland House with its outbuildings and the original Newland barn in 1948.  The outbuildings included a bunk house for ranch labor and a sizable barn that almost dwarfed the house.  The barn on the property today is not original and was constructed to provide event space. (City of Huntington Beach archives, 1948)

   Shipley told the Los Angeles Times in 1964 that the Newland House "would make an excellent historical tie for the City".  Shipley's unflagging advocacy of the elements that are important to retain in community planning--history, open space, natural landscapes--led to him being honored in perpetuity at the Shipley Nature Center in 1974.  

   The Shipley Nature Center--off Goldenwest Street--explains on their website, "Dr. Shipley’s vision was to have a place which reflected what California was 100 years that children would be able to see what Huntington Beach may have been like before intense development began..."  The Shipley Nature Center is today a center for community and school educational programming, and a respite in an increasingly urban environment that has removed most of Huntington Beach's early history.

LEFT: Delbert "Bud" Higgins in front of the Newland House. Behind him, the exterior paint is peeling and windows are either open or boarded up. Higgins advocated for saving the community's pioneer history and the pre-history of California's indigenous people. (Los Angeles Times, April 27, 1976)

   Twelve years after the first article, the Los Angeles Times published another article about the grassroots historic preservation effort to save the Newland House.  It featured a photograph of Delbert "Bud" Higgins, a long-time local and community historian, standing in front of the Newland House again.  The Newland House looked more neglected, but those involved in the preservation effort refused to give up.  By then, community residents had formed the Huntington Beach Historical Society and began holding fundraising events to generate funds and friends.

   Higgins--who, with his brother, Gordie, began making the first redwood surfboards in Huntington Beach after watching Duke Kahanmoku and "the Hawaiians" surf Corona del Mar in the 1920s--had seen radical changes to the Huntington Beach historical and cultural landscape in his lifetime.  He talked about the pre-history of the indigenous people of California and the 19th-Century pioneer settlement history represented by the Newland House.

   "Indians lived on this mesa more than a thousand years ago," Higgins, who was Huntington Beach's first lifeguard and first fire chief, told the Los Angeles Times, after picking up a clam shell in the yard of the Newland House while taking the reporter on a tour. "They'd go down into the tidal basin mud flats below, gather clams and cook them."

RIGHT: An example of the Native Californian basketry that was part of the Newland family collection of Mary Juanita DeLapp Newland.  The majority of the collection is held by the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.  The Works Progress Administration helped with an archaeological investigation of the Newland House property in the 1930s, resulting in "two wagon loads" of artifacts removed from the mesa and "housed in Santa Ana", according to local historian Bud Higgins.  Some artifacts were reported by the Times as dating to 5,000 B.C. In 1980, another archaeological investigation documented a native American burial on the property. (Image, Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1980) 

  A major breakthrough came to the historic preservation effort in April 1974, when Signal Landmark Homes donated the Newland House and land to the community for a historical public park, as mitigation for their housing development.  The original plans were to encircle the house with a retail center.  After community objections, Signal Landmark changed their plans and lowered an office buildng by ten feet to retain the Newland House's view  of the Pacific Ocean and promised that the retail center's architectural features would complement the historic structure.

LEFT: The Newland House in 1970, missing an exterior wall.  The old wooden garage structure--which no longer exists--can be seen in the yard. (Photograph, City of Huntington Beach archives, circa 1970)

   A dozen years after the historic preservation effort was initiated in 1964, the community was rallying behind the effort.  Students at three local junior high schools holding a bike-a-thon as a fundraiser.  Descendants of the Newland family offered support by donating a few artifacts, historical ephemera, and helping locate furnishings to re-create the dining room as they remembered it.  

   Very little of the original furnishings remained, as family members did not realize their home would be considered historic.  Community members scoured antique markets and asked for donations of period-appropriate items to furnish the house museum.

RIGHT: A table set for pioneer holidays inside the Newland House dining room.  The Huntington Beach Historical Society and Huntington Beach's Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force will roll the clock back 100 years again at their fourth annual "Holidays in Huntington Beach" at the Newland House on Friday, December 1.  This year, it will be 1917! (Photograph, M. Urashima, November 30, 2014) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED    

   Like most historic preservation efforts, the call to save the Newland House was initiated by people other than the family whose history it represents.  Historic preservationists took the larger view that the property's significance was important to the community and region, and that the community would undertake saving it.

   The Newland family had ten children, two of whom were born in the house.  The family had sold the property and had not lived in the home for more than 20 years.  The Los Angeles Times interviewed one of the descendants born in the house, Helen Newland Tarbox, in 1976.

LEFT: The Newland House, as it appeared prior to its stabilization and preservation, with barbed wire security fencing and in disrepair. (Photograph, City of Huntington Beach archives, October 15, 1976)

   Helen Newland Tarbox--then 75 years old and living in Newport Beach--remarked, "More power to the Historical Society! What they are doing is great. They've had a hard time of it with no city money. It's going to take time to do the restoration, but they are going to do it."

   Volunteers from Orange Coast College re-roofed the Newland House, while volunteer carpenters and electricians worked to restore the structure.  A crew from the Huntington Beach Fire Department installed a flagpole on the distinctive cupola.  The second floor of the Main Street Branch Library was used to store historical items, while the Newland House was undergoing stabilization and preservation work.  

   Higgins told the Los Angeles Times that the original estimated cost for the historic preservation effort was far less than projected, due to community volunteers and donations.  Once the historic preservation effort was permitted and the project had site control, everybody became a preservationist.  The effort to save local history brought residents together, rolling up their sleeves to help as a point of community pride and civic contribution.

RIGHT: By 1980, over fifteen years after the historic preservation effort began, the Los Angeles Times recounted the Newland House journey through neglect, blight, vandalism (which cannibalized historic fixtures), and the pressures of urbanization.  Members of the community persisted in their work to save the structure for future generations. (Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1980)

   Huntington Beach City Councilman Ted Bartlett told the Los Angeles Times in 1976, at the height of the country's bicentennial, "I'm 100% behind the society's restoration work.  I'm going to donate my money, just like the others."  

   Like Don Shipley, Ted Bartlett's leadership regarding the retention of historical places and open spaces in the city's planning and development prompted a grateful community to honor him in a permanent manner.  The natural wilderness area behind the Newland House--Bartlett Park--is named after Bartlett, who served five four-year terms on the city council.

LEFT: Alice Jumper, a member of the Huntington Beach Historical Society, inside the Newland dining room in 1980.  She is one of the many volunteers who donated countless hours to save the Newland House, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She described seeing the house from Beach Boulevard and stopping to take a closer look.  By 1980, Jumper said she was "up to my ears" in her volunteer efforts to help restore the Newland House.  When asked why she cared so much for a place to which she had no familial connection--a question often asked of historic preservationists--she told the Los Angeles Times, "how do you describe love?"  (Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1980) 

   By 1982, the 19.5-acre Newland Shopping Center had opened and was 75-percent leased.   The City of Huntington Beach committed $400,000 for the stabilization and preservation of the Newland House, including associated infrastructure for water and power to the property.  Community members had contributed more in their volunteer labor and donations.

    In 1985, the then 87-year-old  Newland House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  

LEFT: A new addition to the Newland Shopping Center in 2017, Miguel's Homestyle Mexican Food includes an artful rendering of the National Register-listed Newland House as part of its architectural decor.  The rendering reminds of local residents and visitors of Huntington Beach's agricultural past.  Miguel's is located on ground once occupied by the chile pepper dehydrating warehouses of Masami Sasaki, who was known as the "chile pepper king" and one of the largest chile pepper processors in Southern California prior to World War II. (Photograph, M. Urashima. July 2017)  © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

    The City of Huntington Beach's financial commitment to the preservation effort led to the construction of a new barn on the Newland House property and the restoration of landscape for a cumulative bid of $272,733.  The barn was built to provide public event space to generate revenue to support the Newland House property.  Today, the "Newland Barn" is a popular site for weddings, birthday parties and other events, and is booked months in advance.  

   Currently, the barn--a single, 1,100-square foot structure with a "patio" area of 22 square feet--generates an average of $53,000 annually, per revenue records provided by the City of Huntington Beach for the years 2000 through 2014.  During those years alone--not including revenue for the mid 1980s through 1990s--the Newland Barn generated close to three-quarters of a million dollars for the City.   The City's Community Services department now holds a lottery to determine who gets reservations on available dates.

RIGHT: A view from Bartlett Park of the Newland House and the "Newland Barn", a new structure constructed in 1983 to provide event space a the Newland House Museum.  The 1,100 square-foot Newland Barn has generated well over a million dollars for the City since its opening. (Photograph, City of Huntington Beach, circa 1986) 

   The City of Huntington Beach's investment in the Newland House property has been repaid many times over.  The ongoing maintenance and continual improvement at the Newland House Museum is born by the Huntington Beach Historical Society, who also provide historical tours, train docents and provide events at the Museum.  The Society improved the property with the back yard gazebo and the reconstruction of the historic water tower, as well as restoration of the garden.  Each year, the Huntington Beach Historical Society awards a "Newland Rose" to community members who make contributions to the preservation of local history.

LEFT: The garden on the south side of the Newland House contains bricks rescued from the demolition of the Holly Sugar Factory, a 1911 sugar processing plant near the original Huntington Beach Township, once located off what is now Garfield Avenue and Holly Lane. Local residents had wanted to save the pioneer-era Holly Sugar Factory for adaptive reuse; it was demolished with little warning on a Saturday. (Photograph, Newland House garden, M. Urashima. November 30, 2014) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
   Eighty-one years after the incorporation of Huntington Beach, the City appointed Michael Mudd as the new cultural affairs director, following a historic resources survey in 1986.  Mudd told the Los Angeles Times that "cultural concerns and historic conservation haven't evolved in Huntington Beach."  He advocated devoting some City investment to organize the various historical organizations and create a long-term plan for preserving local history.  Alas, his position did not last.

   The Newland House rose garden was dedicated in 1987 and grew over the years through the work of volunteers.  The garden's present-day design was developed with input from the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society in order to avoid archaeological sensitivities on the grounds. 

RIGHT: Newland House trustee Virginia Whipple on the brick walkway of the rose garden in 1996. (Los Angeles Times, November 23, 1996) 

   In 1996, the garden was renovated by the Master Gardeners of Orange County as a volunteer contribution.  The garden has been used for master gardening classes and cooking demonstrations, and is in keeping with the 19th-Century intent of Mary Newland to be both useful as a kitchen garden and a beautiful spot to linger.

LEFT: Darrell Rivers, president of the Huntington Beach Historical Society,  in a photo frame at Holidays in Huntington Beach 1916, an annual joint event with the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force.  The event recreates the community's holiday celebrations of 100 years ago.  It will be 1917 at this year's Holidays in Huntington Beach, on Friday, December 1. (Photograph, Darrell Rivers at the Newland House Museum. M. Urashima. December 2, 2016) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Present day 
   The Huntington Beach Historical Society--in addition to organizing the annual Civil War Days in Central Park, along with other events at the Newland House Museum--continues to provide the stewardship, ongoing maintenance and improvements for the Newland House and garden.  

   The lasting legacy of the Newland family--as well as the efforts of community volunteers who have worked over half a century to save, restore, and maintain this local gem--continue to provide a sense of place and heritage for Huntington Beach, as well as a place for local celebrations.  It is, as Don Shipley predicted in 1964, an "historical tie" that binds our community together.

ABOVE: One of the many cultural events at the Newland House reflecting local heritage, Dia los Muertos, in October 2014.  A group of event-goers, with Huntington Beach Historical Society president Darrell Rivers (far right in top hat) flashed a "W" for Historic Wintersburg, a present day historic preservation effort in Huntington Beach. (Photograph, Dia los Muertos at Newland House Museum. M. Urashima October 2014) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Newland House Museum is located at 19820 Beach Boulevard, in Huntington Beach, California, in the Newland Shopping Center, and is open to the public. Call 714-962-5777 for more information and hours.  The Newland House barn rental information through the City of Huntington Beach can be found at

© 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.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

1920s: Fight Club in downtown Huntington Beach

ABOVE: Huntington Beach, circa 1920s, when downtown boxing was reaching its heyday. The Pacific Electric Railway line ran along the beach and oil wells dotted the landscape. (City of Huntington Beach archives, circa 1920s)

   Orange County boxers in the 1920s had names like Walloping Wilson, Kid Africa, Buzz Saw Burrows, Spike Kelley, and Kid Mack of Wintersburg.  In Huntington Beach, the boxing world centered around Kid Mexico.
RIGHT: Todd Faulkner, aka Kid Mexico, shown in a 1922 feature, was of Scots-Irish ancestry.  In a history on Latinos in U.S. Sports by Jorge Iber in 2011, it was noted that "Mexican spectators were rather surprised to see a blond kid entering the ring". (Image, Santa Ana Register, August 22, 1922)

   Referred to by the Santa Ana Register in 1922 as "the pride of Huntington Beach", Kid Mexico--aka Todd Faulkner-- wasn't from Mexico and he wasn't Mexican American.  Faulkner reportedly was born in Hope, New Mexico, and was dubbed with the nickname at around age fourteen when a fight announcer called him the "kid from New Mexico".  Along the way, it was shortened to Kid Mexico by boxing announcers.

   Todd Faulkner is reported to have earned the titles of bantamweight champion in 1914 (when he was fourteen years old) and welterweight champion in 1925.  The Signal Tribune newspaper reported in 2014 that out of 387 career fights, Kid Mexico lost only 11. His rise to the top was part tenacity and part showmanship, and a lifelong tendency to gamble on himself, and, well, gamble in general. More on that later.

   "He isn't very old, but his experience far outstrips that of his opponent. He began fighting when he was a little kid," explained the Santa Ana Register in 1922. Kid Mexico had "battled his way up" from a bantam weight to middleweight and "hasn't much of a punch but he is always digging in."

LEFT: An advertisement in the Santa Ana Register in 1922 promoting Kid Mexico as the "big feature" at a boxing event in Delhi. This same year, Huntington Beach trustees decided Delhi shouldn't have all the action and revenue from boxing, and directed a City ordinance be amended to allow it for a fee. (Santa Ana Register, June 14, 1922)

   For a couple years between 1922 and 1923, the big rivalry was between Kid Mexico and the "Santa Ana mauler" Jack Iman.  At their first match in Delhi (now part of Santa Ana) in 1922, the Santa Ana Register's Drew Moffat wrote it was a "torrid, goofy main event" with a sold-out crowd.

   By 1923, Kid Mexico was promoting fights--and fighting in matches--at a boxing arena in downtown Huntington Beach.  The Santa Ana Register reported on a "Clash in Oil City Pavilion" in October 1923 wherein the "blond battler" Kid Mexico would take on "the dusky" Ted Frenchie.  At that time, Kid Mexico had a reported 275 fights of which he had lost only eight.

   At first, the City of Huntington Beach wasn't sure boxing was a good fit for a beach town in the middle of an oil boom with oil workers who had a bit of cash in their pocket.  There was plenty of rowdiness already.

   A proposal came before the Huntington Beach trustees (city council) in 1921 for "boxing contests within the City under the auspices of the Huntington Beach Athletic Club".  The board of trustees took it "under advisement" but denied it  at their next meeting.  

   The next year, another proposal came before city leaders to allow boxing matches to be held on July 4th in the Airdome at Huntington Beach "in accordance with the laws of the State of California".  The trustees were advised by the City attorney that this was prohibited by Ordinance No. 141 and the request was denied.  

RIGHT: Huntington Beach Ordinance No. 141 was amended on July 21, 1922, to allow for "athletic or sparring exhibitions" by permit and fee. The Board of Trustees reserved the right to determine if the event was not "detrimental to public morals". No alcohol allowed and peace officers would be allowed to attend any exhibition free of charge with powers to stop an event that became "boisterous, brutal or improper". (City Charter and Ordinances 1909 - 1940, Published as a project of the Works Project Administration, City archives)

   As one does in Huntington Beach when there is the possibility of revenue, the City trustees--just moments later during the same meeting--directed the City attorney to "draw up an ordinance amending ordinance No. 141 to permit boxing contests as provided by the laws of the state upon special permit from the Board of Trustees and the payment into the City treasury of a fee of $5.00 for each such exhibition."  Each boxing match would require a special event permit and fee. Cha-ching!

LEFT: Fidel La Barba, former flyweight champion of the world, came to Huntington Beach in 1925 to fight in Kid Mexico's "arena" on Fifth Street, inside the City Garage. Like Kid Mexico, La Barba--who later attended Stanford to obtain a journalism degree--began boxing young, at around age 12 or 13. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of fame in 1996. (Photo, Wikicommons) 

   Now that the dam broke and boxing was mainstream in the downtown, more permit applications followed. The respectable Antlers Club requested a permit to hold a boxing contest in the Odd Fellows Hall, permit application and fee in hand. Boom. Permit granted.  More boxing matches were held in the City Garage on Fifth Street by the Nonpareil Athletic Club.

   By 1925, boxing was so much part of the local culture that the American Legion organized an exhibition at "Kid Mexico's arena" on Fifth Street with Fidel La Barba, flyweight champion awarded the gold medal at the 1924 Olympic games. We were kind of a big deal.

   Sports columnist Eddie West commented that Kid Mexico spent his "busier moments at his Huntington Beach arena collecting ducats from Orange County boxing enthusiasts."  If Kid Mexico was making money off boxing matches--he later commented he averaged $10,000 per event--so was the City.

RIGHT: Striking a familiar pose, Kid Mexico is featured as "back from 'Frisco to promote scraps at Oil City House" in Huntington Beach.  The 158-pound Faulkner--reported as "in the best condition of his career and prepared to battle any man his size in the West"--would headline a grudge match fight against Young 'Dynamite' George who had bested him "for the count of ten" three years earlier. (Santa Ana Register, March 22, 1924)

    Kid Mexico won his March 26, 1924, grudge match against Young "Dynamite" George, who had bested him three years earlier. But, the fight conditions and the crowd in Huntington Beach wasn't  the stuff of boxing dreams and there were only "a handful of cash customers in the barn."  

   The Santa Ana Register's report about the fight the next day--Mexico Gets Lucky Decision at Beach--was more blistering than the fight.  The writer was apparently disappointed "there were no hard blow struck, no gore spilled or anything like that."

   "With rain oozing down through the roof to make the ring slippery enough for skiing and a chilly Westerly blowing breezes along the rafters, the setting at the Huntington Beach boxing arena wasn't right for thrillers last night," reported the Santa Ana Register. "So there just wasn't any cauliflower ear melodramas."

   Three years later in September 1927, Kid Mexico dropped by the sports desk at the Santa Ana Register to announce he was dropping the nickname and would be going by Todd Faulkner and focusing on boxing promotions.  

   Register sports writer Eddie West, explained in his West Winds column, "he has banished that fistic pseudonym forever for his more legal, rightful and dignified handle Todd Faulkner."  The back story to this is that Faulkner was suspended indefinitely by the State Athletic Commission in April 1926 for "failure to keep in condition".  

   The Santa Ana Register noted at the time that Kid Mexico "was a popular main-eventer here during the heyday of the Delhi arena and at one time was considered one of the best middleweights on the Pacific Coast."

LEFT: Santa Ana Register columnist Eddie West fueled the local boxing scene with gossipy tidbits and personal observations. In one column he noted that "Todd Faulkner's best friend's first name is Todd". (Source, Santa Ana Register)

   He did make a comeback in 1928, although by then the newspapers were calling Kid Mexico the "old Huntington Beach warhorse".  He makes yet another comeback in 1930, challenging his old nemesis Jack Iman via proxy with Santa Ana Register sports columnist Eddie West (who seemed to enjoy his part in stirring the pot). Kid Mexico wrote a letter to be published in the June 5, 1930, West Winds column challenging Iman.    

   Kid Mexico wrote, "I'm sure Iman would be kayoed in--oh, say three rounds--but he and I will cram more action into those three rounds before I stop him than these other fighters give in 10 full rounds."  

LEFT: An excerpt of the response from boxer Jack Iman to a letter written by Kid Mexico to Santa Ana Register columnist Eddie West. This served the same purpose as television-era interviews with boxers challenging their opponents: to generate public interest in a future match-up. (Santa Ana Register, June 10, 1930)   
   Local boxing enthusiasts grabbed their popcorn and waited for the response from Iman.  It came a few days later in Eddie West's June 10 column.  Iman, reported as a man of few words, wasn't having any of it.

   "I hope in the near future to give him a chance to learn that it is harder to k.o. me with a boxing glove than it is with a pen," wrote back Iman. "Let's say it with leather."

  Faulkner is frequently reported in local newspapers as putting together fight "cards" or matches in the 1920s and 1930s in both Orange and Los Angeles counties. They still called him Kid Mexico, often never referencing his real name.  Faulkner knew the value of promotion.  But as the years passed and despite his resiliency, the heydays of loosely regulated local boxing were passing.

   His friend and Santa Ana Register columnist Eddie West lamented the fading of Kid Mexico from the boxing scene in 1931, writing that Faulkner "who refers to himself as a perennial gigolo is doing one of his annual fistic 'comebacks'" at the Wilmington bowl.   

   "The Kid was the best fighter Orange County ever produced," wrote West. "The rest promise much, never get anywhere."

RIGHT: A token from Kid Mexico's bingo parlor in Signal Hill. His entertainment businesses in Signal Hill included a taxi dancing hall, saloon and movie house. (Source:

   What makes Kid Mexico's story even more interesting is what he did later in life, after he closed up shop at his Huntington Beach boxing arena.

   Faulkner was working as an oil driller in Long Beach, still fighting the occasional fight, and still promoting boxing matches into the 1940s...sometimes without a license (a problem for the boxing commission).

   In reality, the 32-year-old Faulkner was just catching his second wind. In 1932, he met 16-year-old Edna, his future wife, who was half his age at the time.  He began successfully investing in entertainment-related enterprises, calling on his boxing promotions experience.

ABOVE: Kid Mexico, then only 48, was wealthy, having invested in oil property and entertainment enterprises.  Meeting his wife, Edna, seems to have been a turning point. (Los Angeles Times, October 25, 1949)

    Faulkner moved with his bride to Signal Hill, where he built Edna a 14-room house and they raised two children.  He is remembered as a larger-than-life character, opening an eight-lane bowling alley, taxi-dancing hall, restaurant, cocktail lounge, and movie house.  He also ran a bingo parlor that "was ignored by the local police for many years", according to his obituary. 

RIGHT: Todd Faulkner, aka Kid Mexico, in 1938, six years after he met his wife, Edna, at the Long Beach Pike. (Image, 

   Faulkner was referred to as the "Baron of Signal Hill" in a feature by the Los Angeles Times in 1949, which noted he was "a guy with a less than grammar school education" who made it big and hosted parties at his house every weekend for local children. His wife, Edna, was named "Woman of the Week" by Eleanor Roosevelt for her work on behalf of juvenile delinquency.

   In 2014, Ashley Fowler wrote of Faulkner in the Signal Tribune newspaper, "in 1951, he was accused of registering voters who didn't live in Signal Hill to defeat an anti-gambling initiative that would put an end to his bingo parlor. He plead guilty to the charges, was fined $500 and given three years' probation. The initiative passed and, without the gambling, his business quickly dried up." 

   Fowler reports Faulkner and his wife moved to Laguna Beach in 1952, but she was lost to cancer at age 36 three years later.  Faulkner would return to Signal Hill, to the oil fields and friends he knew, opening a private Kid Mexico museum and charging a few bucks to visitors.  As of the posting of this feature in June 2017, a framed photo of Hopalong Cassidy from the Kid Mexico museum is selling for $499.00 on eBay.  Kid Mexico would have loved it.

   In 1949, decades before his death in 1985, the Los Angeles Times' Cal Whorton reported, "there's a rumor that Kid Mexico's life story is beginning to interest several motion picture companies. Whether the flicker moguls go for the story, I can't say. Chances are they won't because it's so fantastic.

ABOVE: Boxing was still part of Huntington Beach culture at the time of the annual Twins Convention in 1940.  Old timers in Huntington Beach may remember Latka's Golden Gloves Tavern at 5061 Warner Avenue, owned by former professional boxer George Latka, who opened it in 1975. The Los Angeles Times wrote of the tavern in 1991 that "your first instinct is to hit the deck before the coppers bust the joint" and that "a fern would still probably die a fast death here".  The Times conceded that while the tavern was "rough around the edges", it was full of nice people. (Photo, Twins Convention, City of Huntington Beach archives, circa 1940)

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