People's Guide IG (Re)Posts
by Shannon Anderson
The following excerpts were originally written for the “This Day in OC History” series posted on the Instagram page for A People’s Guide to Orange County, written by Elaine Lewinnek, Gustavo Arellano, and Thuy Vo Dang. Each excerpt is a summarization of select entries included in the book that offer a better look into Orange County’s diverse past.
To see additional “This Day in OC History” posts, follow @pg2oc on Instagram.
Jan. 28, This Day in OC History: Murder of Thien Minh Ly at the Tustin High School Tennis Courts
On January 28, 1996, Thien Minh Ly, a young Vietnamese American man, was brutally murdered by two white supremacists while rollerblading through the Tustin High School tennis courts. Initially, the district attorney’s office falsely speculated the murder to be gang related, but Ly’s death was eventually classified as a hate crime due to advocacy on behalf of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the local Vietnamese American community.
Within the context of increased anti-Asian hate occurring on a national scale, the memory of Ly’s murder strikes a particularly painful chord in OC. Ly’s senseless death not only highlights the lasting patterns of racist sentiment that have plagued the county’s past, but also reminds us of the work that still needs to be done.
To learn more, see Site 3.14 in A People’s Guide to Orange County.
Feb. 10, This Day in OC History: Reagan Protest at CSUF
On February 10, 1970, California governor Ronald Reagan paid a visit to Orange County, which he’d later refer to as the place “where all the good republicans go to die.” Reagan was set to give a speech at California State University, Fullerton, hoping to connect with conservative students in the wake of the uprisings taking place at Berkeley and San Francisco schools. However, Reagan’s arrival was met with a similar resistance.
Student protested the politician’s presence by shouting obscenities, making signs, and occupying the building now referred to as McCarthy Hall on the CSUF campus. Police arrived in riot gear and arrested 17 students and 2 professors, but the protests continued with a group of students stealing a giant American flag and posing nude in front of it. The photos were published in a booklet, which was then sold by the students to raise money for the activist organization, Students for a Democratic Society.
To learn more, see Site 2.9 in A People’s Guide to Orange County History.
Feb. 12, This Day in OC History: Opening Day of Pacific Beach Club in Huntington Beach
February 12, 1926 was the date scheduled for the grand opening of Huntington Beach’s Pacific Beach Club, Orange County’s first and only private resort for African Americans. In the previous year, African American lawyer E. Burton Ceruti purchased seven acres of land along Pacific Coast Highway and proceeded to lay out his plans for the elaborate resort and boardwalk that would finally grant African American citizens safe access to the Southern California shore.
While African Americans celebrated their right to coastal leisure in OC, local white residents took steps to shut down construction. White citizens petitioned the OC Board of Supervisors to condemn the resort and the Huntington Beach and Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce moved to pass resolutions in opposition of the establishment. Then, just weeks before Pacific Beach Club was set to open its doors, the resort burnt down under mysterious circumstances. Following the destruction, investors pulled out and the business collapsed before opening to the public. No one was ever caught or charged for setting the fire.
It is important to think about how the right to public space has played a role in forming Orange County’s racial demographics. Decades after Ceruti attempted to carve out a place for the Black community in Huntington Beach, African Americans only account for 1.2% of the town’s population.
To learn more, see Site 6.9 in A People’s Guide to Orange County.
Fed. 18, This Day in OC History: Mendez et al. v. Westminster et al. Decision
In 1944, Lorenzo Ramirez attempted to enroll his children in Roosevelt Elementary School in El Modeno. Although this happened to be the same school Ramirez attended as a child after immigrating from Mexico, his children were denied entry years later because they were Mexican. Rather, they were expected to enroll in one of the Mexican-only schools that had been established in Orange County.
Ramirez banded together with four other fathers—Thomas Estrada, William Guzman, Frank Palomino, and Gonzalo Mendez—and sued the El Modeno, Westminster, Santa Ana, and Garden Grove school districts for discrimination in the federal case known as Mendez et al. v. Westminster School District et al. On February 18, 1946, the U.S. District Court decided that the segregation of Mexican students in the public education system was unconstitutional.
Though the lawsuit was nearly forgotten from history for quite some time, Mendez et al. v. Westminster is now frequently cited as the inspiration for other landmark civil rights cases, such as 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education. However, the majority of literature and public commemoration surrounding the lawsuit focuses only on the efforts made by the Mendez family, neglecting to give recognition to the others involved. Over the years, the Ramirez family has fought to honor Lorenzo’s place in OC history. Today, the library at Santiago Canyon College has been renamed after Ramirez and a large bust created in his likeness was placed outside the building.
To learn more, see Site 1.20 in A People’s Guide to Orange County.
Feb. 19, This Day in OC History: Japanese Internment in Wintersburg Village, Huntington Beach
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into action Executive Order 9066, which authorized the evacuation and relocation of anyone deemed to be a threat to national security. As a result, 100,00 individuals of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and forced into internment camps in various locations on the West Coast.
In Orange County, Huntington Beach’s Wintersburg Village had long served as a cultural hub for Japanese Americans with its Japanese Presbyterian Mission, Japanese language school, Japanese market, and goldfish farms. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Wintersburg community became a target of the FBI, who feared espionage and military plots disguised as cultural and economic practices. Innocent community membered were arrested and the village fell into disarray until its residents were finally able to return after years of imprisonment.
Today, the Wintersburg Village holds great significance as a community center for Japanese Americans in OC. Historic organizations have pushed to preserve the 4.2-acre property over the years. However, the former site of the Furuta koi farm in the village was named one of OC’s most endangered historic places by The National Trust for Historic Preservation. Unfortunately, in February 2022, a fire destroyed one of the remaining structures. Historic and preservation societies of OC rallied together to demand a formal investigation of the blaze.
To learn more, see Site 6.10 in A People’s Guide to Orange County.
Additional info provided by National Archives and The Rafu Shimpo.
Feb. 22, This Day in OC History: K.K.K. Initiation Ceremony
In the early 20th century, the Ku Klux Klan maintained a strong presence in Orange County with members holding city council positions in Fullerton, Brea, La Habra, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Placentia, and Anaheim. Though Klan activity festered throughout the county, Pearson Park in Anaheim became a prominent public space in which multiple struggles against white supremacy would play out over the years.
In 1924, when the location was still known as City Park, the Klan used the space to hold a rally that ended up attracting the attendance of over 30,000 people. This turned out to be one of the largest KKK rallies ever held this side of the Mississippi. Nearly a century later in 2016, members of the modern-day Klan tried to hold another rally at Pearson Park but were met with heated resistance from angered protestors. A violent mass altercation erupted that resulted in three stabbings and thirteen arrests.
While the contemporary resistance against the Klan in Pearson Park indicates a shift in Orange County’s public opinion towards the racist organization, the presence of hate groups persists within the region. In April of 2021, KKK fliers and propaganda were found in Huntington Beach following a “White Lives Matter” rally. Then in late 2022, a mural honoring Latinx women in Costa Mesa was defaced with the words “white power.” These recent incidents direct attention to the existence of lingering white supremist ideology in OC.
To learn more, see Site 1.14 in A People’s Guide to Orange County.
Additional info provided by Los Angeles Times and Hyperallergic.
Mar. 3, This Day in OC History: Santa Ana River Flood of 1938
The Santa Ana River, which run 110 miles from Big Bear to the Pacific Ocean, has been responsible for multiple major floods over the years. One of the river’s worst floods occurred on March 3, 1938, when a 6-foot-high wall of water washed through Orange County in the middle of the night. 38 people were killed and countless were impacted by the disaster, especially the Mexican Americans who lived in the racially designated barrios of Placentia, Fullerton, Anaheim, and Santa Ana that were located in high-risk areas of the flood plain. In the aftermath of the destruction, survivors spent months living in tents.
The disastrous flood of 1938 hastened the construction of the Prado Dam which was completed in 1941. Thanks to addition of this dam, no lives were lost the in Orange County during the Santa Ana River’s next major floor in 1969.
To learn more, see Site 4.4 in A People’s Guide to Orange County.
Mar. 8, This Day in OC History: Glover Stadium Anticommunist School, 1961
On March 8, 1961, Glover Stadium hosted Fred Schwarz’s School of Anticommunism for OC’s youth. Over the course of five days, 16,000 “young freedom fighters” gathered at the stadium from 9:00am to 9:30pm to listen to speakers warn about communist infiltration of public schools, advocate for the removal of suspected communists in the U.N. and support the John Birch Society. William Brashear, a local dentist and committee organizer, explained, “What we are trying to do [is] to wake people up…We must realize that we are at war NOW and HERE in Orange County.” The success of the event helped to advance the New Right in Orange County and convinced Schwarz to take his 5-day anticommunist crusade across the nation.
In June 2020, 2,000 community members rallied outside Glover Stadium in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, indicating a political shift in connection this OC site.
To learn more, see Site 1.9 in A People’s Guide to Orange County.
Shannon Anderson is a lifelong resident of Orange County and graduate student of American Studies at Cal State Fullerton. She has served a Co-Editor-in-Chief of her department’s student-run journal, The American Papers, and worked as a grad assistant for the National Endowment for the Humanities’ “Mapping the Gay Guides” project. Shannon currently manages social media for the book A People’s Guide to Orange County. At present, she is in the process of writing her thesis about the public memory surrounding the Bernal house in Fullerton.