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CELEBRATE! : ORANGE COUNTY'S FIRST 100 YEARS : FORGING AN IDENTITY : Fads, Fashions & Facts : HAPPENINGS : In the decades spanning its first 100 years, Orange County has in many ways been a mirror of the national scene. But, fiercely independent from the start, it also has been a trend-setter, a place with an identity very much its own.

May 22, 1988|SHERRY ANGEL | Angel is assistant editor of Celebrate! and a native of Orange County


THE GASOLINE auto and modern bicycle are invented, but Orange County residents are more enamored of nature than machines. Quail and rabbit hunting in the Laguna hills are popular pastimes, and ostrich farming is big in north Orange County. An ostrich-plume hat is a must for fashionable ladies.

THE BIG CRIME chases are on horseback, often led by the Anti-Horse Thief Society.

THE PLACENTIA Grass Eaters, also known as Societas Fraternia, lead a controversial communal life on a diet of uncooked fruits and vegetables. Spiritualist George Hinde, founder of the commune, is acquitted of charges that he was responsible for the starvation death of a baby in the commune. Still, the Grass Eaters' rejection of marriage makes the group a juicy gossip item among those convinced the commune is a haven for "free love."

THE AREA'S population grows from about 5,000 in 1880 to 13,000 in 1889, when the county is officially formed. There are three incorporated cities by the end of the decade--Anaheim, Santa Ana and Orange.


THE COUNTY'S beaches are a magnet for vacationers, who buy beachfront lots for as little as $1 a foot and build summer cottages or simply put up tents. Suntans aren't in style, so most ladies wear sunbonnets. Among diversions for guests at Hotel Laguna is tennis--a leisurely game for women, who play in long skirts.

SAN JUAN HOT Springs, 13 miles east of Capistrano on what is now Ortega Highway, is promoted as "the Fountain of Youth." Farmers of the Santa Ana Valley go to the springs to unwind, while others try to tap the springs' therapeutic powers to cure a variety of ills.

A GROUP of women forms the Ebell Society in Santa Ana. Their studies of European art and history mark early interest in the county's cultural development.

MEANWHILE, some of the men take a breather from their farming duties and visit Glass-eyed Mollie's "Second Street Hotel" in Santa Ana. Mollie (Mrs. Mary Wright) and "Mysterious Bill" (William Wright) are arrested for maintaining a house of ill repute and selling liquor without a license. They are sentenced to up to six months in jail, but the case is overturned in Los Angeles Superior Court because of "the obvious bias of the Santa Ana judge." The building later becomes the county's first hospital for "the incapacitated."

LOCAL NEWSPAPERS are filled with advertisements promoting remedies to cure everything from the tobacco habit to croup and consumption. There are stomach bitters to "tranquilize the nerves, tone the system, enrich the blood," "cathartic capsules" for those delicate intestinal problems, headache wafers and powders, and sarsaparilla, a "blood purifier" that is supposed to "remove that tired feeling and languor so many people complain of."

THE ELECTRIC AUTO is invented in 1892, but Orange County doesn't see its first auto until a circus comes through in 1897. By 1900, there are only three cars in the county.


POPULATION reaches 19,696 by 1900. About 60% of the residents live on farms.

EVERY GOOD BOY has a pair of knickerbockers, and dad wears a handlebar mustache and a Panama hat. Mom, still shielded from the sun by fancy parasol and hat, now has a fur stole, alligator handbag and silk petticoats. And her fur-lined sports dress for Sunday carriage rides reveals a bit of ankle.

GIOVANNI SCARPA, a Venetian gondolier brought to Southern California to promote the city of Venice, goes into business in Newport Beach offering gondola rides around the bay. He also starts a small, nighttime parade of illuminated boats that is to become the annual Tournament of Lights.

CHINESE workers are smuggled across the Mexican border to provide cheap labor on farms and railroad lines.

NO PARTY is complete without a game of horseshoes. Swimming races are the rage among sports enthusiasts.


IN THE YEARS before World War I puts many young men in uniform, the fashion is a three-piece sack suit with high vest and wide lapels--and a pocket watch. Ladies become more daring: Skirts rise a few inches above the ankle, and swimsuits start hugging the body, encouraging less "bathing" and more swimming.

SPARKLING mountain water and a mountain resort hotel draw visitors to the former home of Madame Helena Modjeska in Santiago Canyon. The stage actress, who died in 1909 at her cottage in Newport Beach, was part of a Polish Colony in Anaheim before she built her "Forest of Arden" canyon home.

THE MEN OF National Guard Companies E and L are called to service in 1917 as the United States enters World War I. More than 1,600 Orange County men will enlist. Meanwhile, Orange County residents roll bandages, knit socks and mend used clothing to send to Europe. Horses are purchased in Fullerton for shipment to the Allies overseas. The homes of those with relatives in the service post American flags in their windows. And when the men come home in 1919, a victory party is held in Orange County (Irvine) ark.

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