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C.W. Camp, Historian for La Mirada, Dies

April 08, 1990|LEE HARRIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LA MIRADA — City officials, developers or just plain folks with historical questions about the city usually went to C.W. (Bob) Camp. A self-taught historian, Camp had the answers.

"He had all the (historical) maps and research. He could tell you if there was a water well or oil well on the land," Dave Peters said.

The city's historian for more than 30 years, Camp died April 1.

Peters, a professor of political science and a veteran member of the La Mirada City Council, said the city valued Camp's ability so much that he was appointed city historian in 1984.

Camp was given a stipend of $50 a month as the official historian of this residential city of 45,000.

"When developers had questions, they could have gotten the information from the city administrative staff, but we sent them to Bob because he was faster. He had much of the information in his head," Peters said.

The hundreds of artifacts and memorabilia he collected are stored at the Neff House and George Home, historic sites located in Neff Park in the city.

The items are farming equipment, including hammers, saws and shovels used in the 1800s on the 2,300-acre Los Coyotes Rancho that would later become La Mirada. The city was incorporated in 1960.

Camp was instrumental in having the Neff and George homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The homes were built in the late 1800s by Andrew McNally of the Rand McNally map-making company.

For more than 24 years, Camp conducted tours through the houses that he fought to preserve, said Sheila Krotinger, chairwoman of the city's Historical Committee that Camp established in 1960 to protect historical sites.

Camp received many honors for his efforts, including an award of merit in 1988 from the California Historical Society for the preservation of local history.

Born in Chattanooga, Tenn., he moved to Norwalk in 1949, then to La Mirada in 1957 and immediately started his collection.

Quoted in a local newspaper a couple of years ago on why he was interested in history, Camp said, "I do it for self-satisfaction. It is rewarding. I didn't make my bread and butter doing this."

He was a manager and administrator for a Los Angeles electrical supply company. He was the author of a book, "La Mirada: From Rancho to City," and co-author of another one, "The City of La Mirada, A Silver Anniversary History."

He also wrote, "They Walked Before Us," an unpublished novel about the city and the Indians of the area.

Camp wrote more than 50 articles on city history. Most of the features appeared in the Lamplighter, a local newspaper.

The historian's full name was Clarence William Camp but he preferred to be called Bob, friends said.

They describe him as a quiet and serious person who tried to answer all questions put to him about the city.

However, there was one question he was never able to answer. Several years ago, a letter writer asked Camp if his home was located on Indian burial grounds. The writer said an Indian ghost occupied the house.

"He was polite but he couldn't answer the question," Peters said.

The 77-year-old historian died of an aneurysm at La Mirada Community Hospital. His wife, Iris, died five years ago. Survivors include two sons, a daughter and 11 grandchildren.

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