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October 05, 1990|JANICE L. JONES

On a map, Midway City looks like tiny islands surrounded by Westminster. Founded in 1922, it is one of the oldest independent communities in the county.

In that role, it has naturally drawn the attention of its larger neighbor. The city of Westminster has attempted to absorb Midway City or include it in its sphere of influence, but residents have fought to retain an independent identity.

Art Horne, who lives in its northern section on Monroe Street, moved to Midway City in 1948. And he remembers what befell other "independents."

"There was another community out here called Barber City, and in 1952 Westminster tried to incorporate Midway City and Barber City into a tri-city arrangement. But we banded together and fought it off," Horne said.

Barber City was eventually absorbed by Westminster, and in March, 1981, the Local Agency Formation Commission placed Midway City under Westminster's sphere of influence. But just a few months later, the decision was reversed. Residents opposed the plan since it would clear the way for another annexation attempt.

As an unincorporated area, Midway City relies on the county for road repair, fire and police protection.

"We're satisfied with the quality of service we get from the county," Horne said. "If we became part of Westminster, we'd just end up paying more taxes."

When Midway City had its own volunteer fire department, Horne served as assistant chief. The area was mostly pasture and cropland then.

"There was a siren on the top of the water tower, and when it sounded all the volunteers went off to fight the fire. There were about 19 of us. The hay fires at the dairies were the worst. You could see them burning for miles around," he said.

Horne is now executive director of the Midway City Community Center and president of the Chamber of Commerce. The community center provides activities and hot lunches for local senior citizens and houses a 21-child day-care center. It is located adjacent to the neighborhood's only park, which is named in honor of Orange County Supervisor Roger R. Stanton, whose district includes Midway City.

The Midway Meadows Senior Apartments are nearby. The 92-unit clapboard and stucco complex was built in 1986 and received awards from national and state housing agencies for its innovative design.

The neighborhood's western portion includes the Westminster Memorial Park Cemetery, one of Orange County's oldest and largest. The 145-acre cemetery was founded in 1923. It is managed by descendants of the McWhinney family, early settlers of Westminster who originally established the property as ranchland. Derrick McWhinney operates a mortuary and funeral chapel in a home built by his grandfather, Clyde Calder McWhinney.

In recent years, McWhinney found it necessary to adapt his funeral home to accommodate Vietnamese burial customs, due to the influx of Vietnamese residents in the area.

"I realized there was just no place for them to carry out their long-established traditions," McWhinney said. "Many of their practices are completely foreign to us, like their ideas on what time and what day a burial must take place. Many (Vietnamese) believe that the deceased should not be buried until a week after death and that someone must be with the body at all times. So we set up a living quarters for the relatives and provided a place for them to cook."

McWhinney hired a Vietnamese counselor to assist with arrangements and remodeled two chapels with a pagoda motif.

"The Vietnamese are very much a part of our community, and we've tried hard to learn their customs," he said.

Population Total: (1990 est.) 3,969 1980-90 change: +5.4% Median Age: 31.1

Racial/ethnic mix: White (non-Latino): 64% Latino: 23% Black: 1% Other: 12%

By sex and age: MALES Median age: 31.0 years FEMALES Median age: 31.2 years

Income Per capita: $14,672 Median household: $39,270 Average household: $40,553

Income Distribution: Less than $25,000: 29% $25,000-49,999: 36% $50,000-74,999: 27% $75,000-$99,999: 6% $100,000 and more: 2%

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