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Neighborhood Profile: Eastern Westminster

August 07, 1990|ELENA BRUNET

Eastern Westminster's most prominent symbol of its heritage is, of all things, a farm implement. The Post Brothers' Plow was built by Charles R. (Hap) and Norman R. Post in 1937 to reclaim farmland ruined by the flooding Santa Ana River. Measuring 37 feet long, 12 feet high and 11 feet wide, with a blade of 86 inches, it is considered to be the world's largest plow.

In a series of floods during the 1930s, the river had spilled over its banks, spreading silt. With its nutrients leached out, the land, no longer suitable for farming, was often abandoned. The plow, however, enabled farmers to bring the rich topsoil back to the surface after the floods, said Joy Neugebauer, chairman of the Westminster Historical Society. It brought back to life 6,000 acres of important farmland.

Weighing 15 tons, the carbon steel plow is mounted on a heavy frame with steel wheels more than six feet in diameter. It took five tractors to move the plow, which could dig a furrow 6 feet deep.

The plow was rented out at $100 per hour or per acre, and was sometimes used to cut a single deep furrow for a drainage ditch or a pipeline. And during the 1940s it was taken to Nevada to dig the trenches for cables at bomb testing sites.

The Post Brothers' Plow is on display at 15261 Brookhurst Ave., at the southwest corner of Bishop Place. Even though it is painted a bold shade of yellow, the plow is nearly hidden from view by an equally bold orange banner spread on the chain link fence surrounding the monument. The banner, advertising the Windmill Rental Office in large black lettering, is there simply to create interest in the 20-year-old Windmill apartments at Belgrade Street and McFadden Avenue.

The land on which the Post Brothers' Plow is displayed was once Rancho Bolsa, the Warne family ranch "since 1900," as the sign says. The Windmill apartments are also owned by the extended Warne family.

Tom and Miriam Warne acquired the plow from Hap Post as a way of preserving the area's agricultural heritage, Neugebauer said. At one time the Warne family owned several hundred acres. "It (farming) was a way of life for so many years," Miriam Warne said at the Westminster Harvest Festival 10 years ago. "Things are changing now, but we want to preserve that way, so that children and future generations see how it used to be."

This neighborhood is a microcosm of changes occurring in central Orange County--Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Westminster. The Post Brothers' Plow, an Orange County historical site, is only blocks away from Little Saigon.

The Vietnamese have made their mark here. On Bolsa Avenue, a strip shopping center called Little Saigon Plaza features a music and video store, cleaners, supermarkets--with Vietnamese names and signs. Most prominent among them is the Little Saigon Supermarket, featuring staples of Vietnamese cuisine among its offerings, and such favorites as pork feet, oxtail, black chicken, freshly severed catfish heads and soybean juice.

Agriculture gave way to shopping malls and housing in Westminster, and the choice of residence is varied. Immediately north of Edinger Avenue (actually a part of Fountain Valley, not Westminster), there are mostly single-family homes.

North of McFadden Avenue, though, the apartment complexes begin. The aforementioned Windmill apartments overlook Elden F. Gillespie Park (named for a former parks and recreation commissioner and the first elected mayor of Westminster), which is to the west just across Belgrade Street. North of Bishop Lane are the Cinnamon Creek Apartments.

Bishop Lane features two schools within two blocks. Bushard Street is the site of the Leo Carrillo School (named after the actor who played Pancho in the '50s TV series "The Cisco Kid"), an elementary school and home of the Carrillo Lions. The Sarah McGarvin Intermediate School (the McGarvins were the original landowners) and fields the McGarvin Owls.

For those hesitant to lay down foundations, the Mission del Amo mobile home park offers another mode of living. The 25 1/2-acre (217-space) park opens onto both Bolsa Avenue and Bushard Street, north of Bishop Place. At the corner of Bushard Street and Bolsa Avenue lies the only undeveloped land in the neighborhood, other than two parks.

But this tract of open land is slotted to meet its predictable fate: a new shopping mall.

Population Total: (1990 est.) 4,123 1980-90 change: +2.2% Median Age: 36.2

Racial/ethnic mix: White (non-Latino), 76%; Latino, 8%; Black, 1%; Other, 15%

By sex and age: MALES Median age: 35.4 years FEMALES Median age: 37.1 years

Income Per capita: $22,619 Median household: $44,305 Average household: $49,291

Income Distribution: Less than $25,000: 24% $25,000-49,999: 35% $50,000-74,999: 22% $75,000-$99,999: 10% $100,000 and more: 9%

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