Orange County, California


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Orange County
1946 to 1962


Santa Ana Junior College opens, temporarily using barracks moved from the closed Santa Ana Army Air Base. School segregation ends in OC.


James Irvine Jr. dies in Montana. His son Myford assumes control of the Irvine Company. The yacht owned by Walter and Beulah Overell of Los Angeles blows up in Newport Harbor, killing the couple. Their daughter Beulah Louise Overell and her boyfriend Bud Gollum are charged with homicide, but are acquitted after the five-month trial. The trial is the longest in OC history. As a result of the case, new regulations are enacted regarding the sale and purchase of explosives. James Irvine II dies in Montana.


Orange Coast College opens on the site of the former Santa Ana Army Air Base with 500 students. The Green River fire starts in Santa Ana Canyon and burns 46,000 acres. The first Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race opens. The race goes on to become the world’s largest yacht race. The O'Neill family donates 278 acres of land to OC for use as a park. Geologist E.S. Larsen identifies the Bedford Canyon Formation on the eastern slope of the Santa Ana Mountains. It is the oldest known rock formation in OC, dating back 180 million years.


First snow since 1881 falls in OC. The U.S. Navy ends blimp operations at the Tustin "Lighter-Than-Air" base and decommissions the base. Joseph Edward Prentice donates 16 acres of land for Prentice Park to the City of Santa Ana. He stipulates that at least 50 monkeys, his favorite animal, be kept in the park at all times. The animals become the first residents of the Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park. The Santa Ana City Council passes a resolution defining the official Civic Center as the area between Sycamore and Ross streets and from Sixth to Church Street (later renamed Eighth Street and finally Civic Center Drive). The First Corn Festival is held in La Habra.


The U.S. Census puts the population of OC at 216,224. OC adopts its first air pollution regulations. Oil income in OC matches the income from agriculture. Pacific Electric Railway Red Car service to Newport, Huntington Beach and Santa Ana ends. Construction begins on the "Santa Ana Parkway" (future Interstate 5), providing a highway link between Los Angeles and Santa Ana. The highway roughly follows the old El Camino Real and was seen as an extension of the Hollywood Freeway (U.S. 101) from Los Angeles. Raymond Hoiles founds freedom Communications Inc., as a holding company for his newspaper properties, including the Santa Ana Register. Southern California Bible College (future Vanguard University) moves from Pasadena to Costa Mesa to become the first four-year college in OC. Heavy amounts of oil smoke from orchard smudging prompts efforts to curtail the practice.


The U.S. Navy reactivates the Tustin air base to support operations in the Korean War. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens moves to Claremont in Los Angeles County.


The Los Alamitos Race Track opens. The first scheduled airline service at OC Airport is launched by Bonanza Airlines. The Southern California Fruit Exchange is renamed Sunkist.


Walt Disney purchases 160 acres in Anaheim from the Paul Dominguez family, descendents of Juan Pacifcio Ontiveros, original 1837 grantee of Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana. Buena Park, with a population of 5,483, and Costa Mesa, with a population of 16,840, incorporate as cities. The Third International Boy Scout Jamboree is held at Irvine Ranch. It is the first Jamboree held west of the Mississippi River with 50,000 scouts from all 48 states, Alaska, Hawaii and 16 foreign countries. The California Alligator Farm moves from Los Angeles to Buena Park.


The Santa Ana Freeway (future Interstate 5) opens between Los Angeles and Santa Ana. It was then designed a part of U.S. 101. Newport Beach outlaws oil drilling within its city limits. Hesperian College, renamed Chapman College in honor of its entrepreneurial benefactor, C.C. Chapman, moves its campus to downtown Orange. Ground is broken for the construction of Disneyland. 160 acres of citrus trees and 15 houses were cleared for the new theme park. The OC Philharmonic Society is incorporated.


OC adopts its first water pollution ordinance. Opening day for Disneyland in Anaheim draws 28,000 visitors (many holding counterfeit tickets). The Santa Ana Freeway is backed up with a line of cars approaching the new theme park. At the same time, OC begins baking under a 15-day heat wave with temperatures reaching 110 degrees Fahrenheit that, along with a plumber’s strike resulting in few operating water fountains, brings a very hot experience to Disneyland visitors. Eight weeks after opening, however, the park counts its one-millionth visitor. The City of Dairyland is incorporated, later changing its name to La Palma. UCI opens a 200-acres agricultural research station in El Toro (future Lake Forest). The Santa Ana Register newspaper is renamed The Register. The 115-acre Buffalo Ranch opens in Newport Beach. Aviation pioneer Glenn Martin dies. County takes over administration and operation of Newport Harbor.


Garden Grove, with a population of 42,000, Stanton (for the second time), with a population of 1,500, and Dairy City, with a population of 1,500, (later Cypress) incorporate as cities. Dairy City is a major dairy center for OC and decides to name itself after this industry. The city decides to later change its name to Cypress. The U.S. Army temporary bases the Nike-Hercules antiaircraft missile system at Santa Ana Army Air Base until permanent missile bases were completed in the Los Angeles area. Fiberboard boxes replace the old wooden orange crates and citrus labels are discontinued., the first of the OC electronic-aerospace industry. The OC Office of the Public Defender becomes a full-time office.


The communities of Westminster and Barber City combine to incorporate as the City of Westminster (population 10,755). Fountain Valley, with a population of 597, incorporates as a city to keep developers out and avoid annexation by Santa Ana, naming itself for its natural underground water wells. The Santa Ana Freeway (future Interstate 5) opens between Santa Ana and Tustin. It continued to be designated U.S. 101. An influx of new residents to Newport Beach causes prices of oceanfront lots to rise to $15,000.


The Santa Ana Army Air Base is declared surplus by the military. A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) control tower begins operations at Fullerton Municipal Airport. The first tall ship ever built in OC is the square-rigged Columbia, built for Disneyland. It is a replica of the original Columbia that sailed from Boston in 1787 to trade with the California coast. It was the first American vessel to circumnavigate the world. The Stewart fire starts on Ortega Highway and burns 66,300 acres. Dunes Resort opens with plans to rival Disneyland. The Santa Ana Freeway is completed through OC. O'Neill Park is dedicated. Howard Hughes' semiconductor plant and Aeronutronics open in Newport Beach, launching the electronics-aerospace industry in OC.


Myford Irvine, the third generation leading the Irvine Company, dies. His death is ruled to be a suicide. Disneyland introduces the first daily operating monorail in the Western Hemisphere. OC State College (future California State University Fullerton) opens in Fullerton with 450 students. The new "San Diego Freeway"(Interstate-405 and 5) is built through San Juan Capistrano. Fairview State Hospital opens in Costa Mesa. The Santiago Girl Scout Council unites the multitude of Girl Scout councils and troops in OC.


The U.S. Census puts the population of OC at 703,925. The Democratic Party is the dominant political party in OC. Los Alamitos, with a population of 1,750, incorporates as a city. The new San Diego Freeway(Interstate-405 and 5) reaches the OC/San Diego County line. The Riverside Freeway (91) is completed through OC. Construction begins on UCI. Wycliffe Bible Translators is established in Santa Ana. Two U.S. Navy destroyers (Ammen and Collett) collide in heavy fog off Newport Beach. Eleven of the Ammen's crewmembers are killed and the ship is damaged beyond repair. The first Newport Beach high-rise is built. The Moulton Ranch is sold to a syndicate to develop Laguna Hills and Leisure World. The Irvine Company donates 1,000 acres of land a new University of California campus (future UCI). The Newberry (Mojave Desert) to Placentia gas pipeline is completed, bringing a vastly increased supply of natural gas into OC from West Texas and New Mexico.


Robert Schuller and his Garden Grove Community Church move into their walk-in/drive-in church on Chapman Avenue. San Juan Capistrano, with a population of 1,287, incorporates as a city in order to avoid annexation by San Clemente. The first residents move into Ross Cortese’s Leisure World in Seal Beach.


Villa Park, with a population of 830, incorporates as a city in order to avoid annexation by Orange. OC State College in Fullerton is renamed Orange State College. The Costa Mesa/Newport Freeway (55) is completed. The Movieland Wax Museum opens in Buena Park.



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