The Town I Live In: a History of Fullerton (a work-in-progress)

by Jesse La Tour


In researching the history of my hometown (Fullerton, California), I have encountered two basic types of history books.

The first is what I would call "nostalgic" books. These books treat the past in a rather idealized way. A good example of this is Ostrich Eggs for Breakfast, which is the history of Fullerton I had to read in third grade. An adult example is Fullerton: A Pictorial History by Bob Ziebell. Books like this, usually written by amateur historians (like me!), tend to gloss over or ignore completely the more unpleasant aspects of history, like racism and discrimination. These books tend to avoid critical thinking, preferring to celebrate local politicians, businesses, and cultural traditions. This is their main flaw, in my opinion.

The second type of history book I've found are "academic" ones. While there are no academic books I've found that focus exclusively on Fullerton, there are a handful of academic books and articles on Orange County, and they sometimes discuss Fullerton. These books usually do not ignore the unpleasant aspects of history, but dive deeply into them. A good example of a book like this is Postsuburban California: The Transformation of Orange County Since WWII. This book is a collection of articles by university professors on a wide range of social, economic, political, and cultural issues in Orange County over the past 50 years. The problem with books like this, however, is that they are written for a very small (i.e. academic) audience and are quite inaccessible to the average reader. Writers will use terms like "decentralized multinucleated metropolitan region" and expect their readers will know what they're talking about. These books and articles may offer fantastic insights into history, but if only a handful of highly educated readers can understand them, what's the point?

In writing my local history, I have sought a third path. I want to write about the past with honesty and critical thinking, AND I want the average reader to be able to read, understand, and enjoy my book. I take as my inspiration historians like Howard Zinn who, in his People's History of the United States, writes about the past in a way that promotes serious reflection AND is quite accessible to a wide audience. That is my goal.

Chapter 1: The Ground Beneath Our Feet

Professor Richard (Rick) Lozinsky has taught geology at Fullerton College for the past 30 years. He recently published the third edition of his book Our Backyard Geology, which is about the geology of Orange County (including Fullerton).

I sat down with Lozinsky to learn more about the geologic history of this area and why it matters.

JL: I recently read your book Our Backyard Geology (which is about geology in Orange County), and I found it fascinating. I think it’s important for people to understand the geology of the area where they live. Could you briefly explain the geology of Fullerton?

RL: Here in Fullerton we live on an interesting spot at the edge of the Coyote Hills. There are some active faults in our area, like the Whittier Fault. Because of the faulting, we’re susceptible to earthquake hazards—liquefaction, landslides, fires. In fact, today is the day of the Great Shake-Out [a statewide campus earthquake preparedness drill].

JL: What can you tell me about the geologic history of Fullerton?

RL: Our geology is fairly young. Up until recently [geologically speaking], Orange County was part of the ocean. If you go to places like Ralph Clark Regional Park, you can actually see some of the fossil evidence of when we were part of the ocean, and then afterwards when we were dry land and had giant mammoths, mastodons, and sabre-tooth cats roaming around.

Here are some photos from the natural history museum in Ralph Clark Park:

JL: How old are the rocks here?

RL: The oldest rocks we have in the Fullerton area are up in the Coyote Hills, and they only go back a few million years. If you go into the Santa Ana Mountains, like Silverado Canyon, you find some rocks that are 180 million years old. But, from a geologic standpoint, that’s still not that old.

JL: Why are the rocks so “young” here?

RL: Basically, because we were mainly ocean, and not a lot of deposition was
occurring at that time. But you can go to other areas where there was mountainbuilding. There were actually times when we had exploding volcanoes in the area.

JL: When was that?

RL: About 100-150 million years ago. We had a different kind of plate boundary then, more like Oregon and Washington, and had volcanoes like Mount St. Helens around here.

JL: I find it interesting that here in California, we’re on the Pacific tectonic
plate, and basically the rest of the country is on the North American tectonic plate.

RL: I tell my classes that, being west of the San Andreas fault (which is the boundary between the Pacific and North American plates), we’re on an Alaska cruise. We’re slowly, by about an inch a year, heading up toward Alaska.

JL: And that’s also why we’re more susceptible to earthquakes?

RL: Right, if you’re on a plate boundary, you’re going to have more big earthquakes.

JL: What are some of the kinds of rocks and formations that are unique to this area?

RL: A lot of sedimentary rocks: sandstone, shale, conglomerate. There’s a big bend in the San Andreas Fault that formed the San Gabriel and San Bernadino Mountains. That compression creates the rippling of the hills around us, and the LA Basin. We live in a hole that’s about 4-5 miles deep, which is filled full of sediments.

JL: I know that, historically, this was a very oil-rich area. Aside from oranges, oil was the main product of Fullerton and Brea. How does this relate to our local geology?

RL: Brea Canyon is an interesting place, because that’s where the Whittier Fault goes through. The reason the oil wells are there is because the fault is acting as a trapping mechanism. It also has to do with the fact that we used to be part of the ocean. Petroleum is formed when millions of marine organisms settle on the ocean floor, get buried at just the right depth and temperature, and it changes to petroleum.

JL: Aside from just increasing one’s knowledge, why do you think it’s important for people to understand their local geology?

RL: Well, because some people fear where they live. They fear an earthquake, they fear a flood. We have been flooded here before in Fullerton. Back in 1938, we had a major flood, where you couldn’t get to Fullerton College by street because Chapman Ave. was under a couple feet of water—students were coming by canoe. So, I think it’s better to understand your local geologic setting to get an idea of how safe it is, and things you can do to make it safer.

JL: How safe are we?

RL: From an earthquake standpoint, I think overall we’re probably fairly safe if
we take precautions. It’s important to stabilize objects where you live because it’s not usually earthquakes that hurt you—it’s things that fall on you. So, if we can stabilize things that would fall on us, we can almost look forward to the next earthquake.

JL: What are some local geology groups or societies?

RL: We have the South Coast Geological Society, which is kind of the Orange County geology group. There’s a National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the far western section, which includes California. There are periodic meetings where we go and hear presentations on research that people are doing locally or internationally.

JL: Are there any current discoveries being made that you find particularly interesting?

RL: They’re trying to develop an Early Warning System for earthquakes here in
California, particularly in LA. That’s pretty exciting.

JL: What do you love about geology?

RL: Geology is my life. It’s not just a job. I travel to see geology, not only locally but worldwide. I enjoy taking students out and opening their eyes to geology, particularly outside the classroom because that’s when things really can open up. I’ve been teaching here for close to 30 years, and still enjoy it quite a bit. And my roots are here in Southern California, so kind of fun to see the changes that have happened.

Chapter 2: First Inhabitants

The tribe that originally occupied North Orange County and Los Angeles has been called different names over the years. Historians often refer to them as Gabrielenos or Gabrielinos, because that’s what the Spanish missionaries (like Father Junipero Serra) called them, after Mission San Gabriel.  The Spanish adopeted a policy of re-naming California Indian tribes after nearby missions.  According to Wikipedia, the local tribe is called the Tongva.  But is Wikipedia always correct? 

Growing up in Fullerton, I was required to read a book in 3rd grade called Ostrich Eggs for Breakfast, which is a history of the town, written for children.  I recently re-read this book, and was somewhat disturbed by this passage:  “Sometimes people ask, ‘What happened to the Indians?’ As far as anyone knows, there are no Gabrielenos Indians left in Fullerton.” 

While this may be technically true, it implies a great lie: there are no more local native people left anywhere--no more Gabrielenos.  I know this is a lie because I’ve actually met the chief of the local tribe. His name is Ernie.

A few years back, I attended a fascinating event at the little Paleontology Museum located inside Ralph Clark Park in Fullerton. The event was about Orange County's "prehistory," and (to my astonishment) actual, living Gabrieleno Indians were there, including their chief, Ernie Salas, and tribal historian, Timothy Poyrena-Miguel.

Ernie Salas, Chief of the Kizh

I sat down with the tribal historian, Timothy.  I didn't have any agenda or prepared questions.

"Tell me about your people," I said and, man, did he have a story to tell.

The history of the Kizh people goes back thousands of years.  For millennia, they had developed a complex and beautiful culture, which included religion, astronomy, rich and varied cuisine, economy, and social structure.  They developed ingenious ways to live sustainably off the land and its natural resources.  The name of the tribe, Kizh, comes from the dome-like dwellings they lived in.  They had tools, technology, clothing, handicrafts, dances.  They were one of two California tribes who mastered boat-building, and traveled along the coast of Southern California.

Ernie blows the concha, to gather the tribe together.

In the 1700s, Spain began to colonize California, and thus began the long journey of suffering for the Kizh people.  Contrary to what we learn in school and on field trips to California Missions, the Spanish were not a benevolent presence in California.  The missions they established were like concentration camps, where Indians were forced to live as slaves, and abandon their three thousand-year tradition of sustainable living.  Violence and disease decimated the local native populations.  Many Kizh women were raped by Spanish soldiers and died of syphilis.  Timothy compared Spanish figures like Father Junipero Serra to Nazis, in the way they systematically destroyed native cultures and lives.

Both Timothy and I expressed our frustration that the California Missions are taught to children in public schools as benevolent, even quaint examples of California history.  The California Missions were west coast slavery for Native Americans.  Why don't we tell our children the truth?

Things did not improve for Native Americans when Mexico won its independence, nor when the United States conquered California.  Under American rule in the 1800s, Indian scalps would fetch a nice reward.  Timothy told me the story of a whole Kizh village rounded up into a valley near where the Rose Bowl is today, and blasted with guns and cannons.  Some children managed to escape, and found shelter among Mexican-American families in the San Gabriel area.  Children of slain parents were adopted by Mexican-American families, and this is why Many Kizh people today have Spanish/Mexican surnames.

Due to widespread racism, these children feared to identify themselves as Indian, stopped speaking their native language, and learned Spanish or English.

One result of all this suffering and bloodshed was the eradication of the Kizh language.  Timothy told me they have some words and songs that were passed down orally, but no one alive today speaks their native language.

As I listened to Timothy tell the story of his people, I felt a heaviness in my chest, a complex mixture of sadness, outrage, and compassion.  It is this last bit, compassion, that I hope to evoke with my writings.  If we don't know their history (and most people don't know Kizh history), we do not feel compassion.  But, in listening to their stories, harrowing and horrific as they are, we develop a strong sense of compassion.  We pay for the crimes of our ancestors, but we do not have to repeat those crimes.  The act of storytelling can be a powerful, healing force.  It is my hope that, in listening and sharing stories like this, a new chapter in the Kizh story may open, one of understanding, healing, and reconciliation.

Archeological Origins

The Kizh are the descendents of the first peoples to migrate to North America across the Bering Strait during the last Ice Age.  Archeologists still debate the exact dates of this migration, but the largest wave is believed to have occurred between 16,000 and 13,000 years ago.

The oldest archeological data from Southern California comes from the Channel Islands, and shows that human culture existed there at least 10,000 years ago. Additionally, San Clemente Island was occupied by 7,785 B.C. and San Nicolas Island by 6,210 B.C.

Evidence suggests that the Kizh were not the original inhabitants of the Los Angeles/Orange County basin, but in fact were part of waves of migration of Uto-Aztecan peoples from the Great Basin region of Utah, Nevada, California.  Archeologists disagree about the time of this arrival, placing in between 2,000 B.C. and 500 A.D.

During this period, archeologists have discovered increased use of bows and arrows, larger settlements/communities, and regional subcultures. The Kizh/Gabrieleno were one of the largest of these Uto-Aztecan groups.

In his book The First Angelinos, historian William McCawley describes the Kizh as “a people of material wealth and cultural sophistication.”

As for their territory and population, McCawley writes, “They inhabited a vast tract of some of the most fertile and productive land in California, and prior to contact with Europeans their population may have grown to more than 5,000 people living in 50 to 100 towns and settlements on the mainland and on the southern Channel Islands. Their territory stretched from Topanga Canyon in the northwest, to the base of Mount Wilson in the north, to the San Bernadino vicinity in the east, and to the Aliso Creek vicinity near El Toro Road in the southeast, encompassing in all more than 2,500 square miles…the prestige and political strength of the Gabrielino were enhanced by impressive achievements in pre-industrial technology and economics, as well as religion and oral literature.”

Chapter 3: First Contacts

For thousands of years, the native Americans who inhabited the Los Angeles basin and North Orange County (called the Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians Kizh Nation, or just Kizh) had no documented interactions with Europeans. Beginning in the 1500s, waves of explorers, conquistadors, settlers, and missionaries would forever alter their way of life. Here are some of the first recorded contacts between the local tribe and Europeans.

The Cabrillo Expedition (1542)

The first recorded contact between the Kizh and Europeans is the 1542 expedition of Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who led a crew of sailors up the California coast, perhaps searching for a waterway across North America. 

First contact happened at Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island. According to one account:

"As the boat was nearing land a great number of Indians came out of the bushes and grass, shouting, dancing, and making signs to come ashore. As from the boats they saw the women fleeing, they made signs to them not to fear; so shortly they became assured and put their bows and arrows on the ground. Launching into the water a fine canoe containing eight or ten Indians, they came out to the ships. These were given some beads and presents with which they were well pleased, and shortly went back. The Spaniards afterwards went ashore and both the Indian men and women and everybody felt very secure. Here an old Indian made signs to them that men like Spaniards, wearing clothes and having beards, were going around on the mainland. They remained at this island only until midday." (Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo: Discoverer of the Coast of California by Henry R. Wagner, 1941)

The next day, they landed at a place they called the “Bay of Smokes” (likely present day San Pedro harbor). They called it this because of smoke coming form Kizh fires.

The Spaniards took some natives aboard their ship and tried to communicate with them. Then they headed north to Monterey. Cabrillo died during this expedition.

The Vizcaino Expedition (1602)

The next recorded contact between Spaniards and the Kizh happened 50 years later in 1602, with an expedition led by Sebastian Vizcaino, who was seeking a northern harbor for Spanish galleons returning from Manila.

The expedition stopped at Catalina Island. The Kizh welcomed them warmly and “began to raise smokes on the beach, and when they saw they had anchored, the women, children, and old men began to shout and make demonstrations of joy in proof of their happiness. They came running to the beach to receive the guests who were arriving.” (Wagner)

Accounts of this expedition were written by both Vizcaino and Father Antonio de la Ascension, who admired the natives’ plank canoes, fishing tools, baskets, and pitchers.

Father Antonio records an interesting interaction between the Spanish and the Kizh, which demonstrates a certain degree of religious intolerance, which would come to characterize Spanish-Native relations. Near a cove on Catalina, the Spanish found a Kizh place of worship. He describes the following scene:

“They had what we would call an altar, there was a great circle all surrounded with feathers of various colors and shapes, which must come from the birds they sacrifice. Inside the circle there was a figure like a devil painted in various colors, in the way the Indians of New Spain are accustomed to paint them. At the sides of this were the sun and the moon. When the [Spanish] soldiers reached this place, inside the circle there were two large crows larger than ordinary ones, which flew away when they saw strangers, and alighted on some nearby rocks. One of the soldiers, seeing their size, aimed at them with his harquebus [matchlock rifle], and discharging it, killed them both. When the Indians saw this, they began to weep and display great emotion. In my opinion, the Devil talked to them through these crows, because all the men and women held them in great respect and fear.” (printed in Spanish Voyages to the Northwest Coast of America in the Sixteenth Century by Henry R. Wagner, 1929).

Basically, these Spanish soldiers shot two birds which the natives considered sacred.

The Portola Expedition (1769)

150 years would elapse between the Vizcaino expedition and the next one, which occurred in 1769, led by Gaspar de Portola. 

The impetus for the expedition was concern by the Spanish crown that English and Russian explorers would encroach on “their” territory (Alta, or upper, California). 

The Portola expedition was the first attempt at actual colonization, not just exploration. Portola was accompanied by soldiers and Franciscan missionaries, including Father Junipero Serra.

This was also the first land expedition into California, during which the settlers established two outposts at San Diego and Monterey. This was also the beginning of the establishment of California missions by Serra.

Three members of the expedition kept journals: Portola, Miguel Constanso, and Father Juan Crespi.

Crespi often commented on the friendliness of the Kizh. On one occasion, he wrote, “the Indians from a village in the valley came to visit us. They came without arms, and with a friendliness unparalleled; they made us presents of their poor seeds.

On another occasion, he wrote that the Spanish made camp near “a populous village of Indians, who received us with great friendliness. Fifty-two of them came to the camp, and their chief told us by signs which we understood very well that we must come to live with them; and that they would make houses for us, and provide us with food.”

The arrival of the Spanish onto native California land coincided with heightened ritual activity and earthquakes. In his book The First Angelenos, William McCawley writes, “The expedition coincided with a period of extraordinarily frequent earthquakes, which undoubtedly increased the awe, and perhaps the apprehension, felt by the Indians.”

With the Portola expedition of colonization came the beginning of the Mission Era, which would ultimately prove disastrous for the Kizh and many tribes of California. 

Chapter 4: The Dark Legacy of the California Missions

In fourth grade I, like every other kid who attends public school in California, had to build a model of a mission. The state-sponsored curriculum taught me that these were sites where kindly Spanish padres and California Indians lived together peacefully and happily.

This was also the impression I got when, as an adult, I visited Mission San Juan Capistrano. There, a nice lady dressed as an “old Californian” told pretty much the same story.

In school, I was also taught that no one knows what happened to the native Californians of Southern California. They, like the wooly mammoths who used to roam these lands, were gone, extinct.

Imagine my surprise, then, when a few years ago, I happened to meet actual, living members of the local tribe (which has historically been called the Gabrieleno, but they prefer the name Kizh). I met the chief (Ernie Salas) and others at a special event at the little paleontology museum at Ralph Clark Park in Fullerton. Speaking to these native Californians, I learned a completely different version of the California mission story.

They described the missions as sites of slavery, disease, brutality, and death. The missions, according to the local natives, were places of horror and trauma.

After meeting and befriending these living native Californians, I became fascinated with this other side of the California mission story. Based upon my research, I made some startling discoveries.  While there are plenty of books written about the missions, they seem to be pretty well divided into two categories: “nostalgic” books (which perpetuate the “happy” mission story), and academic books (which tell a darker and more complex story).

At present, there seem to be more books available to the general public of the nostalgic type than the academic type.

Thankfully, this appears to be changing. Quite recently, a new batch of scholarship (and even popular histories) have come out which dive deeply into California history from the native point of view.

Such a book is Elias Castillo’s A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions, which came out in 2015.

His book, based upon a bedrock of research and primary sources, strives to shine a light on the real story of the missions, and the tragedy they wrought upon the native peoples of California.

In the interest of sharing knowledge and ideas, and to hopefully correct some widespread historical misconceptions, I have decided to present some of the historical evidence Castillo provides.

Some may ask: “Why does this matter? The past is the past. Get over it.” To that, I would respond that it matters very much to living descendants of those who were killed, enslaved, and mistreated. Understanding their stories helps us to better grapple with ourselves as a State and as a society.

It’s also important for people to better understand this because many California tribes (like the Gabrieleno) are still striving for official federal recognition, which will afford them certain benefits and a proper place in our historical understanding. 

To that end, I here present some documentary evidence for the tragedy that was the California mission system. These are all primary sources, with a bit of context given for each.

Whipping and Death as “Spiritual Benefit”

On July 31st, 1775, Father Junipero Serra sent a letter to Spanish military commander Fernando Rivera y Moncada, requesting that four Indians who had tried to flee from Mission Carmel be whipped. He also offered to send shackles, in case the commander didn’t have any:

“Two or three whippings which your Lordship may order applied to them on different days may serve, for them and for the rest, for a warning, may be of spiritual benefit to all; and this last is the prime motive of our work. If your Lordship does not have shackles, with your permission they may be sent from here. I think that the punishment should last one month.” 

On January 7th, 1780, Serra wrote a letter to then-governor of California Felipe de Neve, defending his practice of whipping the natives:

“That the spiritual fathers [friars] should punish their sons, the Indians, by blows appears to be as old as the conquest of these kingdoms.”

Governor Felipe de Neve envisioned a secular future for the missions, where the Indians would be freed and granted basic human rights. He wrote that the Indians fate was “worse than that of slaves.” 

Due to mistreatment, confinement, and widespread diseases for which the natives had no immunity, the mission Indians began to die in huge numbers. Rather than mourn them, however, Serra was happy to see so many newly-baptized souls go to heaven. In a report dated July 24, 1775 to Friar Francisco Pangua, his superior, Serra wrote:

“In the midst of our little troubles, the spiritual side of the missions is developing most happily. In [Mission] San Antonio [de Padua, about 60 miles south of Mission Carmel] there are simultaneously two harvests, at one time, one for wheat, and of a plague among the children, who are dying.” 

“A Species of Monkey”

The Franciscan padres generally considered themselves to be culturally, intellectually, and spiritually superior to the native peoples, which tended to provide a justification for mistreatment.  Friar Geromino Boscana (stationed at Mission San Juan Capistrano) writes:

“The Indians of California may be compared to a species of monkey; for in naught do they express interest, except in imitating the actions of others, and, particularly in copying the ways of the razon [men of reason] or white men.”

Father Serra’s successor, Friar Fermin, also considered the Indians to be akin to “lower animals.”  In 1786, Fermin wrote:

“They satiate themselves today and give little thought to tomorrow…a people without education, without government, religion or respect for authority, and they shamelessly pursue without restraint whatever their brutal appetites suggest to them.” 

An Enlightened Point of View 

Sometimes, travelers and explorers visited the missions, and their writings provide a unique, first-hand account of the actual conditions. Such was the case with French Navy Captain Jean-Francois de Galaup, Comte de Laperouse, who was the leader of a major scientific expedition. His ships sailed into Monterey Bay on September 14, 1786, and Laperouse describes his shock at seeing the conditions under which the Indians were forced to live. He compares the mission to slave plantations he’d seen in the Caribbean:

“Everything…brought to our recollection a plantation at Santo Domingo or any other West Indian island…We observed with concern that the resemblance is so perfect that we have seen both men and women in irons, and others in stocks. Lastly, the noise of the whip might have struck our ears.”

Laperouse continues, “Women are never whipped in public, but in an enclosed and somewhat distant place that their cries might not excite too lively a compassion, which might cause the men to revolt.”

The men were whipped “exposed to the view of all of their fellow citizens, that their punishment might serve as an example.”

It’s interesting to contrast the worldviews of a French explorer like Laperouse, imbued with the spirit of the Enlightenment and the rights of man, with a Spanish missionary like Serra, still imbued with the ideas of the Middle Ages. Serra was actually a part of the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Laperouse laments the ideas and methods of the Spanish missionaries, writing, “I could wish that the minds of the austere charitable, and religious individuals I have met with in these missions were a little more tinctured with the spirit of philosophy.”

Laperouse and other writers of the time show that violence and brutality toward native peoples wasn’t “just the way things were” or “just how everyone thought back then.” There were people living at the time who believed in the notion of human rights

De Facto Slavery

Writings from the time demonstrate that the California Missions were basically west cost slavery.

Laperouse writes: “The moment an Indian is baptized, the effect is the same as if he had pronounced a vow for life. If he escape to reside with his relations in the independent villages, he is summoned three times to return; if he refuses, the Missionaries apply to the governor, who sends soldiers to seize him in the midst of his family and conduct him to the mission, where he is condemned to receive a certain number of lashes with the whip.”

Overseers called alcaldes were also tasked with capturing, returning, and punishing runaways. Indians were not allowed to leave mission grounds without permission.

American Sherbourne F. Cook, who visited the missions, described women being locked up at night in unsanitary, cramped quarters: “There can be no doubt that the women were packed in tightly, and that the accumulation of filth was unavoidable…it is unbelievable that they (Indians) should not have resented years of being confined and locked in every night in a manner which was so alien to their tradition and nature.”

Cruel and Unusual Punishments

American farmer Hugo Reid, who was sympathetic to the Indians, describes the strange barbarism of a Friar Jose Maria Zalvidea at Mission San Gabriel:

“He was not only severe, but he was, in his chastisements, most cruel. So as not to make a revolting picture, I shall bury acts of barbarity known to me through good authority, by merely saying that he must assuredly have considered whipping as meat and drink to them, for they had it morning, noon, and night.” 

Friar Ramon Olbes of Mission Santa Cruz, in an incident recounted by former neophyte (baptized Indian) Lorenzo Asisara, attempted to force a childless Indian couple to have sex in his presence to prove that they had potential to conceive [probably because Indians were dying at alarming rates]. The husband “refused, but they forced him to show them his penis in order to show that he had it in good order.”

Olbes sent the husband to a guard house in shackles. He made the wife enter another room in order to examine her private parts. She resisted him and there was a struggle between the two. Olbes ordered the guards to give her fifty lashes and lock her in the nunnery. He then ordered that a wooden doll be made like a newborn child, and ordered her to present herself in front of the church for nine days. Olbes had the husband shackled and made him wear cattle horns affixed with leather. 

Taking Mass at Gunpoint

Ludovik Choris, an artist traveling with a Russian expedition, visited Mission San Francisco in 1816, and described how attendance at church services was compulsory: “All the Indians of both sexes without regard to age, are obliged to go to church and worship…Armed soldiers are stationed at each corner of the church.”

Captain Frederick William Beachey of England’s Royal Navy visited Mission San Jose in 1826, and described how Indians there were rounded up and forced to go to church twice a day: 

“Morning and evening Mass are daily performed in the Missions…at which all the converted Indians are obliged to attend…After the bell had done tolling, several [Indian overseers] went round to the huts, to see if all the Indians were at church, and if they found any loitering within them, they exercised with tolerable freedom a long lash with a broad thong at the end of it; a discipline which appeared the more tyrannical as the church was not sufficiently capacious for all the attendants and several sat upon the steps.”

Thus, Indians who chose not to attend church were whipped. Beachley continues, describing a similarly grisly scene inside the church:

“The congregation was arranged on both sides of the building, separated by a wide aisle passing along the centre, in which were stationed several [overseers] with whips, canes, and goads, to preserve silence and maintain order, and…to keep the congregation in the kneeling posture. The goads were better adapted to this purpose than the whips, as they would reach a long way, and inflict a sharp puncture without making any noise. The end of the church was occupied by a guard of soldiers under arms, with fixed bayonets.”

Church services were given in Latin (which the Indians could not understand), and (against the goal of educating them), the official mission policy was, as with slaves, not to teach the Indians to read or write. 

In a letter written in 1769 to Father Serra’s close friend Friar Francisco Palou, Spanish Visitor-General Jose de Galvez writes, “I stress my request to your most reverend person that you do not teach the Indians how to write; for I have enough experiences that such major instruction perverts and hastens their ruination.”

Followers of St. Francis Living Like Kings

The friars who founded the California missions were of the Franciscan order, which was founded by St. Francis of Asisi, the famous saint who took a vow of poverty. Like their founder, Franciscans were obliged to take a vow of poverty. However, accounts exist of Franciscans living luxuriously in the missions, while the Indians did not share in the great wealth the vast mission lands amassed.

Pablo Tac, a Luiseno Indian who grew up at Mission San Luis Rey, wrote an account of his experiences and described how the “Father is like a king. He has his pages, alcaldes, majordomos, musicians, soldiers, gardens, ranchos, livestock, horses by he thousands, cows, bulls by the thousand, oxen, mules, asses, twelve thousand lambs, two hundred goats, etc.”

In addition to being religious institutions, the missions also grew to be large commercial enterprises, with hundreds of thousands of acres for crops and livestock, where the fathers amassed great wealth, and often traded with the English and Americans.

Meanwhile, according to Indian Lorenzo Asisara, the friars “were very cruel toward the Indians. They abused them very much. They had bad food, bad clothing. And they made them work like slaves. I was also subject to that cruel life. The Fathers did not practice what they preached.”

Death and Despair

Due to mistreatment, disease, and deplorable conditions, nearly half of the missions’ populations died each year. From 1779 to 1833, the year the missions were effectively dissolved, there were 29,100 births and a staggering 62,600 deaths.

Russian explorer Otto von Kotzebue, who visited mission San Francisco in 1816, wrote that “the uncleanliness in these barracks baffles description, and this is perhaps the cause of great mortality: for of 1,000 Indians at St. Francisco, 300 die every year.”

Because of all this death, combined with the tragedy of being cut off from their culture and traditions, depression and despair took its toll on the mission Indians, as evidenced by accounts from visitors.

British Navy Captain George Vancouver visited Mission San Francisco while exploring the California coast in 1792, and described the demeanor of the Indians: “All the operations and functions both of body and mind appeared to be carried out with a mechanical, lifeless, careless indifference.”

The Russian artist Choris wrote that he never saw an Indian laugh: “They look as though they were interested in nothing.”

Spanish Accounts of Abuses

Some may argue that these outsiders descriptions were motivated by opposition to Catholicism or Spain, but there are ample records in the mission archives themselves which corroborate the picture.

Friar Antonio de la Concepcion Horra, assigned to lead Mission San Miguel in 1798, wrote a letter to the Viceroy of Mexico expressing his dismay at mission life:

“Your Excellency, I would like to inform you of the many abuses the are commonplace in that country. The manner in which the Indians are treated is by far more cruel than anything I have ever read about. For any reason, however insignificant it may be, they are severely and cruelly whipped, placed in shackles, or put in stocks for days one end without receiving even a drop of water.”

The governor of California, Diego de Borica looked into Horra’s complaints and wrote: “Generally, the treatment given the Indians is very harsh. At San Francisco, it even reached the point of cruelty…I also know why they have fled. It is due to the terrible suffering they experienced from punishments and work.”

Fleeing For Their Lives

Due to the misery of mission life, Indians sometimes attempted to escape. For example, between 1769 and 1817, there were 473 documented cases of Indian fugitives from Mission San Gabriel alone. 

A group of Saclan and Huichin Indians who had fled Mission San Francisco in 1797 were asked by Spanish officials why they had run away. Here are some of their answers, dutifully recorded by Lieutenant Jose Arguello:

Tiburcio: He testified that after his wife and daughter died, on five separate occasions Father Danti ordered him whipped because he was crying. For these reasons he fled.

Magin: He testified that he left due to his hunger and because they had put him in the stocks when he was sick, on orders from the alcalde.

Malquiedes: He declared that he had no more reason for fleeing that that he went to visit his mother, who was on the other shore.

Liborato: He testified that he left because his mother, two brothers, and three nephews died, all of hunger. So that he would not also die of hunger, he fled.

Timoteo: He declares that the alcalde Luis came to get him while he was feeling ill and whipped him. After that, Father Antonio hit him with a heavy cane. For those reasons, he fled.

Magno: He declared the he had run away because, his son being sick, he took care of him and was therefore unable to go out to work. As a result, he was given no ration and his son died of hunger.

Prospero: He declared that he had gone one night to the lagoon to hunt for ducks for food. For this Father Antonio Danti ordered him stretched out and beaten. Then, the following week he was whipped again for having gone out on paseo (to visit his village). For these reasons he fled.

Russian hunter Vassili Petrovitch Tarakanoff, who was taken prisoner by the Spanish in 1815, recalls witnessing the treatment of Indians who had fled their mission and were recaptured:

“They were bound with rawhide ropes, and some were bleeding from wounds, and some children were tied to their mothers…Some of the runaway men were tied on sticks and beaten with straps. One chief was taken out into the open field, and a young calf which had just died was skinned, and the chief was sewn into the skin while it was yet warm. He was kept tied to a stake all day, but he soon died, and they kept his corpse tied up.”


Aside from running away, another reaction to death and mistreatment at the missions was armed revolt.

Diegueno Indians rebelled and burned down Mission San Diego in 1775. When asked why they had burned the mission, the Indians later said “they wanted to kill the fathers and soldiers in order to live as they did before.”

A female Gabrieleno (Kizh) shaman named Toypurina planned a revolt at Mission San Gabriel in 1785. Unfortunately, the plot was discovered and stopped. At her trial in 1786, Toypurina (who is a hero to the Gabrieleno today, sort of like Joan of Arc), said to her accusers: “I hate the padres and all of you for living here on my native soil, for trespassing upon the land of my forefathers and and despoiling our tribal domains.”

Perhaps the most successful uprising involved Quechan Indians who wiped out a mission and two settlements founded by the Spaniards on the California side of the Colorado River in 1781. 

There was also the Great Chumash Uprising of 1824, which involved Indians from three Missions (Santa Ines, Santa Barbara, and La Purisima) taking arms against their Spanish oppressors.

After the Missions

In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain. Missions were secularized in the 1830s. The vast lands were supposed to be re-distributed among the Indians, but things didn’t work out that way. Many were cheated out of property, or lands were seized by corrupt officials. Many Indians became ranch hands on Mexican ranchos. Under Mexican, and then American rule, the Indians would continue to suffer in new and traumatic ways.

Reflecting on the legacy of the missions, Friar Mariano Payeras wrote to his superiors in Mexico City in 1820: “I fear that a few years hence on seeing Alta California deserted and depopulated of Indians within a century of its discovery and conquest by the Spaniards, it will be asked where is the numerous heathendom that used to populate it?…even the most pious and kindly of us will answer: the Missionary priests baptized them, administered the sacraments to them, and buried them.”

Between 1769 and 1890, the Native American population declined from an estimated 300,000 to 16,600.

Whitewashing History

Despite this documented record of oppression, disease, cruelty, and death—the California Missions experienced a revival in the late 19th and early 20th century as a way to market oranges, real estate, and a romantic myth of California’s past.

Castillo writes, “The missions, where thousands of Indians remain buried in unmarked mass graves, were resurrected in the 1890s and early 1900s and rebuilt as monuments to a concocted past that featured a loving, cooperative relationship between the friars and the Indians. Many California leaders, either ignorant of the truth or choosing to ignore what happened, joined in this duplicity.”

In his book Orange County: a Personal History, in a chapter entitled “Our Climate is Faultless: Constructing America’s Perpetual Eden” local writer Gustavo Arellano discusses how American businessmen and early 20th century mass media contributed to the myth of a Spanish Mission past that never existed.  

On orange crate label art like Charles Chapman’s Old Mission Brand and in films like Douglas Fairbanks’ The Mark of Zorro (and all the Zorro stories that followed), the mission myth was born—ignoring the ugly historical reality. 

This myth continues today. “Across California, streets, playgrounds, and even schools have been named after Padre Junipero Serra,” Castillo writes, “Yet Serra is still revered by many in California as a kindly friar who loved and treated the Indians as if they were his children.”

In Sacramento, on the grounds of the state capitol, there is a bronze statue of Serra. In San Francisco a gigantic statue of Serra overlooks the entrance to Golden Gate Park. And in Washington D.C., in the National Statuary Hall of the nation’s Capitol Building, there is a statue of Serra holding a model of a mission in one hand and a large cross in the other. Not to mention the numerous statues of Serra at the missions themselves.

“For decades, the California State Department of Education has required every elementary school in the state to teach fourth grade pupils of the supposed contributions of not only Junipero Serra, but of the missions themselves,” Castillo writes.

In 1988, Pope John Paul II conferred beatification on Father Junipero Serra, a major step toward becoming a saint. 

It seems that, as with American history in general, California still has much reckoning to do with its real past. 

Chapter 5: These Lands Used to Be Mexico

Any history of a human settlement must begin with "first families."  In the history of Fullerton, this "first family" is often considered to be the Ameriges, the brothers George and Edward, two commodities merchants from Boston who "founded" Fullerton in the year 1887.  But this was not really the first family here.  The landscape they found was not empty or devoid of people or history.  In fact, the Amerige brothers were relative latecomers to this region.  Before they arrived, there was another lengthy history, involving pioneers, great expeditions, wars, and conquest. 

The true "first families" in this region were Native Americans, specifically the Kizh tribe, who had many settlements in the landscapes that would become Los Angeles and Orange Counties.   In 1769, the first Europeans passed through what would become Orange County--it was the expedition of Gaspar de Portola, the Spanish soldier sent to make the first explorations and settlements of California, which was then a part of New Spain.  Twelve years later, in 1781, another group of settlers arrived to found the town of Los Angeles.  That's right, Los Angeles was founded in 1781!

Among the settlers on this expedition was a farmer from the Sinaloa region of Mexico named Josef Antonio Ontiveros.  Josef's grandson, Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, would in time become a very important landowner and rancher in the area that would become Orange County.  His Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana included the land that would become Fullerton.  And so, in the interest in telling the complete history of this region, I've decided to tell some of the story of this first family--the Ontiveros family.  The source of this information is a well-researched book called The Ranchos of Don Pacifico Ontiveros by a woman named Virginia Carpenter, who is quickly becoming my favorite Orange County historian.  Here's the story of the Ontiveros family...

The Founding of Los Angeles

Los Angeles was founded in the year 1781 by a group of settlers from Mexico.  At this time, Spanish settlement in California was pretty sparse, and so the government financed pioneer parties to populate the region, sort of like how the United States would later create Homestead Acts to encourage settlement of its western regions.  An important early settlement party of this type was led by Fernando de Rivera y Moncada, Lieutenant Governor of Baja (lower) California.  He was commissioned by the government to recruit soldiers and settlers to found a pueblo (town) near Mission San Gabriel.

One of the settlers recruited was a farmer from the Sinaloa region named Josef Antonio Ontiveros, who was 36 years old at the time.  Ontiveros was born in Pueblo San Pedro de Chametla (in Sinaloa) in the year 1744.  At age 22, he married Ana Maria Carrasco y Birviescas.  Of their children, we know they had a boy named Juan Patricio and a girl named Juana de Dios.  His wife and children would accompany him on the difficult expedition into California.

Thankfully, the Spanish were pretty good record-keepers, and in the files from this expedition we find a cool description of Josef Ontiveros: "His stature 5 feet 4 inches and 9 lines, his age 36 years, his religion Roman Catholic Apostolic. His characteristics were chestnut colored hair, blue eyes, brown skin, reddish thick eyebrows, curved or hooked nose, a gash in the eyebrow of the right eye, another one above the chin, or beard and another one on the left side of the forehead, a thin beard."

The expedition to Los Angeles consisted of two parties: one traveling overland, and the other by boat.  The Ontiveros family traveled by boat.  It took them six months.  Along the way, two soldiers deserted and three people died of smallpox.  Meanwhile, most of the overland party was massascred by Yuma Indians, including the expedition leader Rivera.

Amazingly, all of the Ontiveros family made it safely to their destination.  On September 4, 1781, with the blessing of Governor Felipe de Neve, the settlers officially founded the town of Los Angeles.  The full, original name of the town was El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reyna de Los Angeles (The Town of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels).  For a time, Los Angeles was the only town between San Diego and Santa Barbara.  Interestingly, however, Josef Ontiveros would not stay there long.  The following year, 1782, he was transferred to the Presidio (military fort) of Santa Barbara.

Trouble in the Army

My source for all this material, Virginia Carpenter, does not say why Josef Ontiveros was transferred to Santa Barbara shortly after he arrived in Los Angeles, for which he was recruited as a settler/soldier.  Perhaps he was just transferred there because he was needed.  It also appears that his wife and children may have stayed behind, in Los Angeles and San Gabriel, while the father was away on military duty.

While at Santa Barbara, Ontiveros was arrested as part of a desertion plot, and sent further north, to Monterey, as punishment.  Why would Ontiveros desert?  Carpenter provides a possible explanation: "In the 1780s desertion became a problem for the army.  Because conditions were so miserable (food, clothing, and other rations were sparse), many soldiers made the attempt to return to their homes in Mexico (there was no place else to go), in spite of the fact that it was almost impossible for a man to go alone.  Even if he was lucky enough to steal a mule, there were the hundreds of miles of desert to cross and Indians to dodge or fight.  If a man did reach Mexico, he had to live in hiding, for to be found was to be returned to the army--and California."  I can't help but wonder if Josef wanted to return to Sinaloa or to Los Angeles, where his family was.

In either 1787 or 1788, Josef was discharged from military duty and rejoined his family in Los Angeles, where he was given a plot of land and became a shoemaker.  Ten years later, in 1798, he died at age 54, which was probably about the average life span of the time.

Rise of the Ranchos

In 1784, the governor of California, Pedro Fages, received petitions from three soldiers for land grants for the purpose of raising cattle.  These were the first of the famous Spanish Land Grants, the largest of which went to Manuel Nieto, who received the land that would eventually contain the Ontiveros Rancho.

When his father Josef was transferred to Santa Barbara in 1782, nine-year-old Juan Patricio Ontiveros was left with the padres at the San Gabriel Mission.  He was confirmed that same year.  As soon as he was old enough, he joined the army, and reached the rank of corporal.  In 1794, he married Antonia Rodriguez y Noriega, who was 14.  This was considered a proper age to marry at the time.  Antonia's parents were both Indians from Sinaloa.  The couple had eight children for whom we have records.  The eldest son was Juan Pacifico, who will become the most important person in this narrative.

In 1814, when he was 42, Patricio was Mayordomo of the San Juan Capistrano Mission.  I'm not sure what a mayordomo did--it sounds like a leadership position of some sort.  Then, in 1825, he moved to Rancho Santa Gertruedes, which was owned by the Nieto family.  There, he held the position of Encargador de Justicia, which was sort of like the Justice of the Peace.  Shortly before he died, in the mid-1830s, Patricio petitioned governor Figueroa numerous times for a land grant, but was ultimately unsuccessful.  That task would fall to his son, Juan Pacifico Ontiveros.

Juan Pacifico Ontiveros Becomes a Ranchero

Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, son of Juan Patricio Ontiveros, was born in Los Angeles on September 24th, 1795.  In 1814, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, he enlisted in the army, and served for 20 years.  In 1825, he married Maria Martina Osuna of Santa Barbara.  He was 30 and she was 19.  The couple had an astonishing thirteen children in their fertile marriage.

In 1835, after his father's death, Juan Pacifico took up the matter of applying for a land grant.  After two years of legal negotiations between Ontiveros, the Nietos family, and the Mexican government, Juan Pacifico was granted the 36,000-acre Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana, wbose boundaries contained the present-day cities of Anaheim, Fullerton, Brea, and Placentia.

I'd like to include Carpenter's description of the landscape in those days of the Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana, as this landscape is almost completely lost in my day.  The last remnant of it in my town is a former oil field now called Coyote Hills, which the Fullerton city council recently approved a massive development project on.  But these words evoke something wild:

"The ocean, 20 miles away, could be seen and occasionally heard.  Fairly level, there were hills on the northern part and in the east where it included part of Brea Canyon.  The soil varied from sandy, the diseno (map) shows a large sand wash through the center, to red clay near the Brea end.  It was covered with chapparal (low bushes), mustard and large patches of cactus.  The wildlife included snakes, gophers, ground squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, wild cats and mountain lions, quail, ducks and geese during their migrations.  Bears and deer stayed in the canyons.  There were many, many insects from fleas to ants.  Trees were so few that they were used as landmarks, there were sycamores and poplar where there was water, and live oaks in the canyons."

Now I would like to quote some fragments of Carpenter's description of life on the rancho, as this is also a lost way of life in my day: "Families arose about three a.m. prayed and ate breakfast...The boys and young men slept out of doors...As the Indians did all the work, the rancheros had only the management to do...Men talked and gambled and rode over their land--Boys practiced riding and roping skills and played games, while women had much work to do...Older women dressed in black, as there were so many deaths to mourn in the large families...The important things were births and deaths, wedding, everyday and seasonal events and always the church...There were no schools, so few people could read or write...There was hunting, particularly bear hunts; but no fishing, all their sports being on horseback...The father, as head of the family, ruled it.  He often arranged his children's marriages and what they would do...all houses were made of adobe (sun dried bricks)...roofs (were made) of tule reeds and tar until so many were set afire in Indian attacks that the missions began making clay roof tiles, shaping them in wooden molds...everyone, even women, carried their own knives...Juan Pacifico lived quietly on his rancho taking little part in public events."

Damn Yankees!

Alas, this way of life was not to last long, for already American businessmen had set their sights on southern California markets and real estate.  As early as the 1820s, Yankees were immigrating to California.  Carpenter writes: "They came for business, a new market.  The New England clipper ships built to bring tea and spices from the Orient stopped in California and found that the vast herds of cattle were a source of tallow for candles and for the leather needed by the eastern shoe factories. About the same time a demand for beaver hats in the East brought the trappers, or mountain men, as they were called, overland into the west...Many of the Anglos who camein the late 1820s and 30s stayed and became Mexican citizens so that they could own land; they married Spanish girls and thereby inherited shares in ranchos as well.  They opened stores and loaned money on cattle and land at ruinous rates, foreclosing when payments could not be met.  The easy-living rancheros knew nothing about Anglo business methods, nor compound interest."

One of these immigrants was an Italian named Giovani Batiste Leandri (or, as he was called in Mexican California, Juan Bautista Leandry).  He moved to Los Angeles in 1827 and opened a store in an area with the unfortunate name "Nigger Alley."  He prospered as a businessman, became a citizen in 1839, married a Mexican woman named Francesca Uribe, and bought Rancho Los Coyotes from the Nietos.  Next, Leandry brought suit against Juan Pacifico Ontiveros over the boundary between their ranchos, and managed to get a valuable water spring.  Leandry died in 1843, but more losses were on the horizon for the Ontiveros family.

Between 1846-1848, there was the Mexican American War, which Ulysses S. Grant called "one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.  It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory."  This war ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which Mexico was forced to cede half of her country to the United States.  This included California, which was admitted to the Union as a free (as opposed to slave) state in 1850.

Conquest by Bureaucracy

In 1849, in the intermediary period between the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Statehood of California, Bernardo Yorba (owner of the neighboring Rancho Canon de Santa Ana) bought an area of the Ontiveros rancho called Canada de la Brea (which included modern day Brea Canyon).  Yorba paid $400 for the land, which amounted to about 30 cents per acre.  This sale was actually part of a more complex land deal, in which Yorba then traded Canada de la Brea to an Englishman named Isaac Williams, who'd married into a Mexican rancho family, and been given Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.  If things start to get confusing at this point, I'm sorry.  After the American conquest of California, things got notoriously confusing when it came to land ownership.

Carpenter explains the new and unfortunate situation for rancheros like Ontiveros in the early years after California became a part of the United States, an era which I will call Conquest by Bureaucracy: "The greatest difficulty which the rancheros experienced was to be in the matter of their land titles.  The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guaranteed Mexican citizens possession of their property; but the United States did not consider a declaration of ownership sufficient; there must be official records.  A 'Board of United States Land Commissioners [was] appointed to settle private land claims in California' and every ranchero was ordered to present proof of his ownership and the location and size of his rancho.  This was disastrous for many of them and contributed to the break-up of the rancho system, because of the casual way the grants had been handled and their indefinite boundaries.  Few of the rancheros could read or write, so a man's word had served in business, and as many had lost their papers, most of the claims had to go through the courts, a time-consuming and expensive process...The Land Commission of three men handled over 800 cases between 1852 and 1856."

Carpenter does a valiant and detailed job of explaining and summarizing the lengthy and frustrating legal battles that Juan Pacifico Ontiveros faced in an effort to hold onto his rancho.  I will spare you the details and explain it as simply as possible.  In 1854, the United States Land Commission rejected Ontiveros' claim to the rancho he'd owned for 20 years.  He appealed the decision and, in 1856, the Court of Appeals reversed the Land Commission's decision.  But the attorney for the Land Commission didn't give up.  He took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme court, who in 1857 upheld Ontiveros' claim.  

The End of the Rancho, and the Founding of Anaheim, Placentia, and Fullerton

In 1856, Juan Pacifico Ontiveros purchased another rancho called Tepusquet near Santa Barbara.  Within a few years, he would sell off all of his Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana and move to his new rancho.  This period is really interesting because, in this era, we see the birth of the present-day towns of Anaheim, Placentia, and Fullerton. 

First, Anaheim.  In 1857, Ontiveros sold 1,165 acres of his rancho to a George Hanson, who was employed by a group of Germans in San Francisco who were interesting in forming a colony to raise grapes.  These Germans formed the town of Anaheim.  

Second, Placentia.  In 1863, Pacifico and his wife deeded 3,900 acres of their rancho to their two sons Patricio and Juanito.  Family tradition says that these brothers lost the land in a gambling debt to their brother-in-law, Augustus Langenberger.  This guy then sold then land to a man named Daniel Kraemer, who was one of the founding members of Placentia.

Third, Fullerton.  In 1863, Juan Pacifico sold the lion's share of his rancho to Abel Stearns, who (at the time) was the largest land owner and cattle baron in Southern California.  He paid $6,000 for 30,672 acres.  In 1868, beset by financial problems, Stearns and his friend Alfred Robinson, along with businessmen in San Francisco, formed a syndicate called the Stearns Rancho Company.  It was from the Stearns Rancho Company that George and Edward Amerige, two merchants from Boston, in conjunction with the Santa Fe Railroad, purchased the land upon which they founded the town of Fullerton in 1887.


For the conclusion of this post, I'd like to quote Virginia Carpenter, local historian extrordinaire: "The orange groves and mainly rural life remained until the 1960s when the boom made Orange County the fastest growing county in America reached the area.  The five towns grew until their borders touched and the trees were pulled out to make way for houses, apartments, condominiums, business and industry.  Stearns Ranchos Company and the Anaheim Union Water Company continued in business until the 1970s.

The price of land has increased ever more than the population which has grown from one family to over 400,000.  Juan Pacifico Ontiveros paid nothing for his land; the first purchasers $2 per acre; Langenberger in 1864 only .95 cents per acre; Daniel Kraemer the next year $1.18; McFadden four years later, $10.  By 1876 the price had risen to $50; orange groves were hundreds, then thousands of dollars an acre and now the price of an acre is in the hundreds of thousands and lots grow smaller."

Juan Pacifico Ontiveros died in 1877 on his Rancho Tepusquet.  According to the existing records, Pacifico had 88 grandchildren and 103 years elapsed between the birth of the first child and the death of the last one.  Thus they lived through California history from its Mexican days to modern times.

Abel Stearns: A Transitional Figure

Just as Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California, represents an important (and representative) transitional figure in California's history, stretching from the Native American Era to the Spanish Era to the Mexican Era, to the American Era, so does Abel Stearns, who once owned nearly all the lands that encompass present day Orange County, including Fullerton.  Who was he?  To answer this question, I just read a very interesting chapter on him from local historian Phil Brigandi's book Orange County Chronicles.  Here's a little bit about Abel Stearns, aka Horse-Face.

Abel Stearns, aka Horse-Face

He was born in Massachusetts in 1798, but was orphaned at age 12.  After spending his adolescence traveling on trading ships, he settled in Mexico in the early 1820s, where he became a Mexican citizen.  This was just after the Mexican War for Independence, and about 20 years before the Mexican-American War.  Stearns eventually moved to Los Angeles in the 1830s.  This was when Los Angeles (and all of California) was still a part of Mexico.  This was the era of the Californios--Spanish-speaking residents of Alta ("Upper") California.

In LA, Stearns opened a store dealing with cow hides and tallow (oil), which were the main exports of California in those days.  The wealthiest California landowners at this time were almost all cattle ranchers.  Abel became a sort of "middle-man" between the producers of cow hides, and the merchant ships.  He was very successful at this, eventually establishing a warehouse near present-day San Pedro in 1834.  The following year, he got into a knife-fight with a drunken sailor, who cut up Stearns' face pretty bad.  His ugly face earned him the nick-name "Caro de Caballo" aka "Horse Face".

What he lacked in beauty, he made up in wealth.  In 1841, at age 43, he married the 14-year-old daughter of a wealthy rancher.  Her name was Arcadia Bandini.  The following year, Horse-Face purchased his first rancho from governor Jose Figueroa, the 28,000-acre Rancho Los Alamitos, the first of many large ranchos he would purchase from debt-ridden Californios.  The loss of the Mexican-American War proved disastrous to Californios, but provided a nice business opportunity for the Yankee Abel Stearns.  By the late 1850s, Horse-Face had acquired the following ranchos: Los Coyotes, La Labra, Las Bolsas, Yorba, and San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana.  At the height of his weath, Stearns owned around 200,000 acres of Southern California land.

Several factors contributed to Stearns' decline.  The dwindling of the Gold Rush hit him pretty hard--he'd made a fortune selling beef to gold-hungry miners in the 1850s.  Then, there was a massive drought in 1863-64, which took a major toll on his cattle.  By the late 1860s, Stearns began selling off his vast holdings to pay off debts.  Along with his friend Alfred Robinson and other businessmen, he formed a real estate company, which sold off subdivided acreage to prospective settlers and town-builders.  Two of these town builders were George and Edward Amerige, who bought the land which would be called Fullerton.

Abel Stearns died a rich man in 1871.

Chapter 6: The American Conquest

“The land we occupy today is the very same ground on which these terrible crimes took place. We Californians are the beneficiaries of genocide. I suspect few Californians today contextualize their homes as sitting upon stolen land or land gained by bloody force or artful deceits, nor do they likely consider the social and political questions of present day Native American affairs in this light.”

—Brendan Lindsay, Murder State: California’s Native American Genocide, 1846-1873

In fourth grade, attending a public school in Fullerton, I learned about the history of California. One aspect that was not covered in this curriculum was the fact that in the first three decades of American statehood, California’s Native American population experienced a genocide at the hands of white American citizens.

This was not just an accidental by-product of disease or “natural” forces—many thousands of Indians in California were violently massacred by legal state-sponsored militias. These roving death squads operated under color of law and with the support of politicians, the press, and local citizens. Other Native Americans perished due to starvation, slavery, and planned neglect.

This tragedy, often overshadowed by nostalgic recollections of the Gold Rush, has only recently been making its way into public consciousness. I would wager that most Californians today have no idea.

The first comprehensive treatments of this subject were published very recently, in 2012 and 2014. These are An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873 by Benjamin Madley, and Murder State: California’s Native American Genocide, 1846-1873 by Brendan Lindsay. Both authors are professors of history in California.

Over the past few months, I’ve read these books and have been working on this report. More than any other aspect of local history I’ve written about, this has been the most difficult. This is not because these books are not well-written. It is because this topic is, to quote Madley, “unrelentingly grim.” This project has taken me longer than normal because it is emotionally very heavy. It is profoundly disturbing and unpleasant.

So why, then, is it important to understand this history? The answers to this are many, but for Lindsay, they are actually very practical and relevant.

“The motive for this book rests upon a very practical foundation,” Lindsay writes. “Native Americans in California today are making inroads in matters of health, cultural renewal, sovereignty, and the reclaiming of lost lands and other rights. California voters, teachers, courts, and lawmakers thus continue to make choices that affect Native American people in the state.”

Over the past few years, in the course of researching and writing about the local Native American tribe (the Kizh), I’ve actually befriended living members of this tribe. They are a kind and generous people with a sad history, and they are still seeking official federal recognition today, in 2020.

An honest assessment of the way California and the United States have treated the Kizh and other California tribes (of which there are around 100) is essential in making fair public policy decisions about justice for living tribal members.

And so, in a spirit of honesty, empathy, and justice, I present a summary of what I’ve learned about California’s Native American genocide.

When scholars like Madley and Lindsay use the term “genocide” they are not being sensationalistic, but rather are referring to something that is clearly defined by international law, specifically the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide. Using this legal framework, it is clear that what Euro-Americans did to Native Americans in California meets the legal criteria for genocide.

A notable difference between what happened here and what happened in other genocides like the Holocaust is that, instead of being directed by a central authority, genocide in California was largely conducted by ordinary citizens through the democratic process (more on this later).

The Ideology Behind Genocide

Early in his book, Lindsay poses the question: “How did unthinkable acts, such as the purposeful murder of infants, become thinkable, thinkable in fact to people who valued freedom, had deep faith, loved their own children, and sought to make better lives for themselves and their families? How could otherwise good people commit such heinous atrocities, and indeed honor and celebrate those atrocities?”

A similar question was posed by Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: Notes on the Banality of Evil, in which she explores the 1960 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. During the trial, Eichmann appears to be a painfully ordinary bureaucrat, not a bloodthirsty monster. Arendt’s explanation is that most people who commit atrocities, past and present, do so because they uncritically accept a popular ideology, and act in accordance with this.

In the case of the California Native American genocide, two main ideologies lay behind the catastrophe: Manifest Destiny and racism against Indians.

“Manifest Destiny,” a term coined by Stephen O’Sullivan in 1845, was the popular notion that it was America’s God-ordained destiny to expand all the way to the Pacific Ocean. This despite the fact that, at that time, the west was part of Mexico and peopled by hundreds of indigenous nations.

This ideology, combined with a pervasive racism against Native Americans (as inferior savages), allowed for what Troy Duster has called “conditions for guilt-free massacre…the denial of humanity to the victim.”

Lindsay cites numerous examples of 19th century historians, politicians, and journalists expressing these twin ideologies of Manifest Destiny and racism to support territorial expansion of the US (and the resulting genocide).

Caleb Cushing, an influential politician and supporter of expansionism said in 1859, “We belong to that excellent white race, the consummate impersonation of intellect in man, and loveliness in woman, whose power and privilege it is, wherever they may go, and wherever they may be, to Christianize and civilize, to command be obeyed, to conquer and to reign. I admit to an equality with me, sir, the white man, my blood and race, whether he be the Saxon of England or the Celt of Ireland. But I do not admit as my equals the red men of America, the yellow men of Asia, or the black men of Africa.”

Cushing was not an outlier, but expressed commonly-held beliefs of the era. Newspapers and popular publicans in the 19th century routinely portrayed Native Americans as inferior savages. To quote but a few examples:

From Parley’s Magazine of New York: “Equally inanimate and filthy in habit, they do not possess ingenuity and perseverance…sullen and lazy, they only rouse when pressed by want.”

From the Chico Weekly Courant: “They are of no benefit to themselves or mankind…If necessary, let there be a crusade, and every man that can carry and shoot a gun turn out and hunt the Red Devils to their holes and there bury them, leaving not a root or branch of them remaining.”

Wagons West

From 1846-1848, guided by the ideology of Manifest Destiny, the United States waged an expansionist war against the fledgling Republic of Mexico. The US won and under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, acquired half of Mexico’s territory—all the way to California.

In 1848, gold was discovered in California, sparking what became known as the Gold Rush. Tens of thousands of Americans flocked westward seeking their fortunes.

The influx of tens of thousands of Americans into California proved disastrous for native Californians. In 1848, the indigenous population of California was estimated at around 150,000. Within 60 years, this population would collapse by nearly 90%.

The Real Gold Rush was Land

While the original impetus for massive westward expansion was gold, the commodity of more lasting value turned out to be land.

The US government offered “public” lands to Americans at the tiny sum of $1.25 per acre through many programs such as the School Land Warrant Program.

The War Department also decreed that up to 160 acres per person could be had by all veterans of the Mexican American War.

Upon claiming all this cheap or free land for grazing, timber, minerals, water, and farmland, some American Californians faced a problem.

As it turned out, much of the land was already occupied by Native Americans who had been there for millennia.

What to do?

Democratic Death Squads

While both Lindsay and Madley’s books cover much of the same material, Madley’s is more comprehensive in its documentation of direct massacres of Indians, primarily by white settlers in the form of militias.

In the appendices to An American Genocide, Madley documents dozens of specific massacres, taken largely from primary sources.

Madley was able to document these because those committing these mass murders were not ashamed. The unfolding genocide was not a secret, but something openly celebrated and called for by newspapers, politicians, and local leaders up and down the state.

The pattern became a familiar one, as Lindsay describes: “This cycle of starvation of native peoples, their stock theft for food, and the bloody, retaliatory vengeance by settlers and ranchers, exacted often with self-righteous fury, was the key sequence of events leading to the Euro-American claim that extermination of Indigenous populations was a practical necessity.”

That was the term often used at the time: extermination.

The Marysville Evening Herald proclaimed in 1853: “Extermination is no longer even a question of time—the time has already arrived, the work has been commenced, and let the first white man who says treaty or peace be regarded as a traitor and coward.”

Anthropologist Robert Heizer estimated that “for every white man killed, a hundred Indians paid the penalty with their lives.”

Many of these retaliatory massacres of Indian villages were conducted by democratically-organized militia of local volunteers with names like the Eel River Rangers.

In these punitive expeditions, the brave volunteers didn’t just kill men; they killed women and children.

U.S. Army Lt. Edward Dillon “reported to his supervisors in 1859 that he had received intelligence that during a twoweek expedition led by [a man named] Hall and other citizens, some 240 Indians were killed.”

Hall later recalled, “We took one boy into the valley and the infants were put out of their misery and a girl 10 years of age was killed for stubbornness.”

These “volunteers” were usually reimbursed for their expenses by the state and federal governments.

Here’s a list of some of the murderous “expeditions” documented in Madley’s book, along with how much the “volunteers” were reimbursed by the state of California:

Gila Expedition (1850) in Quechan country near the Colorado River: 12 Indians reported killed at a cost of $113,482.

First El Dorado Expedition (1850) in Nisenan territory: More than 19 Indians reported
killed at a cost of $101,861.

Mariposa Battalion (1851) in the southern mines: Between 73-93 Indians killed for $259,372.

Second El Dorado Expedition (1851) in Nissan territory: 21 Indians killed for $199,784.

Siskiyou Volunteer Rangers Expedition (1852) in Modoc territory: Between 73-200 Indians killed for $14,987.

Shasta Expedition (1854) in the McCloud River Valley: 58-63 Indians killed for $4,068.

Coast Rangers and Klamath Mounted Rangers Operation (1854- 1855) in Del Norte County region: “Hundreds” of Indians killed for $0.

Klamath and Humboldt Expedition (1855) in Northwestern California: 45-80 Indians killed for $99,096.

Let me pause here for a moment for those tempted to think that these expeditions constituted “war” and were thus justified. In the vast majority of cases, the number of non-Indians killed was zero. This had to do with superior firepower of the militias and a strategy of opening fire from a distance upon unarmed villages. Again, the most common motive for these massacres was theft of cows or horses by starving Indians. Okay, on with the list.

Siskiyou Expedition (1855) in Modoc Territory: 25-45 Indians killed for $14,036.

Tulare Expedition (1856) in Tulare County region: Over 59 Indians killed for $12,732.

Modoc Expedition (1856) in Modoc country: 185 Indians killed for $188,324.

Mounted Volunteers of Siskiyou County: 59-72 Indians killed for $5,149.

Second Klamath and Humboldt Expedition (1859): 100-125 Indians killed for $52,185.

Pit River Expedition (1859) in Achumawi, Atseguwi, Maidu, and Yana territory: 200 Indians killed for $72,156.

Mendocino Expedition (1859-1860) in Yuki territory: 283-400 Indians killed for $9,347.

Humboldt Home Guards Expedition (1861) in Humboldt County: 77-79 Indians killed for an unknown amount of money.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

“Perpetrators, bystanders, survivors, and secondary sources indicate that non-Indians killed at least 9,492 to 16,094 California Indians, and probably more, between 1846 and 1873,” Madley concludes.

In Humboldt County, the citizens of Uniontown and Eureka voted for a tax to be levied on residents “to prosecute the Indian war to extermination.” Indian hunting could be a profitable endeavor.

“Scalp and head bounties were instituted in some towns and counties. In one example, a county paid 50 cents for every Indian scalp and $5 for every Indian head brought in…One man brought in as many as 12 Indian heads in one trip alone,” Lindsay writes. “Perhaps the most shocking bounty opportunity was one suggested by the editors of the Lassen Sage Brush in 1868, a $500 bounty for “every Indian killed.” This would be such an incentive as to make killing Native Americans tantamount to California’s new Gold Rush.”

This “war of extermination” was not just the result of some callous locals, but found sanction at the highest levels of government.

In an address to the state legislature in 1852, California governor Peter H. Burnett, said, “That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian becomes extinct, must be expected; while we cannot anticipate this result with but painful regret, the inevitable destiny of the race is beyond the power and wisdom of man to avert.”

Meanwhile, his administration reimbursed the Indian-killing militias hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“By January 1854, the state of California had already spent $924,259 on Native American genocide,” Lindsay writes. “Some of the money had been reimbursed by the federal government, but much remained unpaid. The state resorted to issuing war bonds to pay for the costs of campaigns against Native Americans.”

Under California law at this time, Indians had little recourse or protections for crimes committed against them. California’s criminal code prevented Native peoples from serving as witnesses against whites, stating “No black or mulatto person, or Indian shall be permitted to give evidence in favor of, or against, any white person.”

Indian Slavery in California 

Although California was never officially a slave state, white settlers created a system of de facto slavery for Native Americans.

“Destroying Native lifeways, economies, and people, EuroAmericans created an economy based on stolen land worked by what was, in many of its essentials, slave labor,” Lindsay writes.

In the early 1850s, the California legislature passed the ill-named “Act for the Government and Protection of Indians.” According to Lindsay, this act made California’s indigenous population “practically legal non-entities and the objects of legalized kidnapping, enslavement, and murder, ensuring that access to Native labor would not only continue, but increase.”

In Los Angeles in the 1850s, there was actually a de facto slave mart for Native Americans.

“Euro-Americans harnessed laws contained in the act against Indian vagrancy and drunkenness to obtain a form of short-term slave labor from Native Americans,” Lindsay writes.

A lack of Native resources created an “economy of slow starvation” for native peoples.

In addition to this legalized slavery, “the legal system placed Native workers in homes all over Southern California through apprenticeship laws, also contained in ‘An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians.’ Scholars have estimated that white Americans enslaved as many as 20,000 Native Americans in California. This slave system, disguised as an apprenticeship in advanced civilization for inferior peoples, contributed to the genocide of Native peoples tremendously. By separating families, depriving children of Native linguistic and cultural education, and inflicting mental and physical hardships, Euro-Americans destroyed Native families, lowered birthrates, and committed physical, cultural, and economic genocide.”

Broken Treaties and Neglected Reservations

In 1850, the year California became a state, three federal treaty commissioners were sent to the new state. They were able to negotiate 18 separate treaties with various Native American tribes.

Unfortunately, under pressure from California senators, the US senate voted not to ratify these treaties. They also voted for an “injunction of secrecy on the treaties, which were hidden from the public until 1905.”

With no ratified treaties, the federal government allotted no land to California tribes, but instead created reservations that were “federal property where Native Americans were housed.”

“Native Americans living east of California had for centuries been pushed westward but in California that option was unavailable, lest one push California’s population into the Pacific Ocean,” Lindsay writes.

Lacking official treaties which might have guaranteed rights and sovereignty, California Indians were left at the mercy of federal Indian commissioners.

The first superintendent of Indian affairs in California was a man named Edward F. Beale. Upon his arrival in 1852, he sent this report back to Washington:

“Driven from their fishing and hunting grounds, hunted themselves like wild beasts, lassoed, and torn from homes made miserable by want, and forced into slavery, the wretched remnant which escapes starvation on the one hand, and the relentless Americans on the other, only do so to rot and die of a loathsome disease, the penalty of Indian association with frontier civilization. This is not idle declamation—I have seen it; and I know that they perish by the hundreds; I know that they are fading away with a startling and shocking rapidity, but I cannot help them. Humanity must yield to necessity. They are not dangerous; therefore they must be neglected.”

Beale, like later Indian commissioners, was eventually fired for mismanagement and fraud.

His replacement, Thomas J. Henley, was even worse.

“In 1855 John Ross Browne, a US Treasury agent empowered as a special investigator for the federal government, was sent to inspect Indian affairs and conditions on California’s reservations…Brown excoriated Henley and other federal agents associated with Indians affairs in California. In a series of reports to the commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, he described the corruption apparent on the reservations he visited and the utter waste of federal funds. In particular he noted the shady dealings of the officials, including Henley. In one telling report, Brown said that private enterprises by the officials were seen on the reservations and seemed to make use of Native labor, federal funds, and land set aside for the care of Native people on the reservation. Timber from federal land was being harvested without recompense, and the discharges of a sawmill were destroying the fisheries Native people depended on. Much of this, Brown charged, was for the profit of Henley and other whites living on the reservation. Indeed his many reports charged that those empowered to carry out the operations were inept, ineffective, and downright corrupt,” Lindsay writes.

Under Henley’s leadership “funds in the thousands of dollars meant for the subsistence of Native peoples were being expended on for-profit ventures of federal employees and white settlers on reservation lands.”

Many on the reservation were being slowly starved to death or died of disease brought on by malnutrition or their weakened state.

Henley, like his predecessor, was eventually fired for mismanagement and fraud.

There also existed a lucrative trade of kidnapping women and children from the reservations.

Army Lt. Dillon reported in 1861 “that he knew of at least 50 instances when Native children were kidnapped and sold to local settlers.”

Despite being fired from their positions as Indian commissioners, both Beale and Henley “obtained land near reservations and used Native Americans as unpaid labor to make their fortunes.”

By 1860, the seven reservations in California “were either reduced or closed altogether.”

Lindsay concludes that “genocide in the state of California in the 19th century was planned by white settlers, miners, and ranchers who used extermination, either physical or cultural, to obtain Indian land and resources...Hopefully this study is sufficient to generate shame and outrage, today at least, and help in the process of revitalizing, rebuilding, and enumerating Native communities by educating all Americans of the genocidal past of the shared place that Native and non-Native persons now call home.”

Chapter 7: Founding Families

Domingo and Maria Bastanchury

Continuing my research into the history of my hometown of Fullerton, I've begun flipping through Samuel Armor's massive 1,600 hundred page book History of Orange County: With Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men and Women of the County who Have Been Identified with Its Earliest Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present (1921).  Here's what I learned from reading the section on Fullerton pioneers Domingo and Maria Bastanchury.  Fellow locals will recognize Bastanchury Road, one of Fullerton's main thoroughfares, named after the Bastanchury family.  

Domingo was born in Aldudes, Basses-Pyrenees, France in 1839, son of Gracian Bastanchury.  He never received any formal education, but instead made his living as  sheep herder.  At age 21, he sailed for America, around Cape Horn, and landed in California.  The difficult voyage took six months.  He continued working as a sheep herder, gradually acquiring lands.  At one time, he was the largest sheep herder in LA County (before the formation of Orange County in 1889), owning between 15,000 and 20,000 head.  He eventually acquired over 6,000 acres, in and around present-day Fullerton, and  switched his business to citrus cultivation.   At one time, the family owned the largest citrus grove in the world.  He and his sons (Gaston and John) formed the Bastanchury Ranch Company.

In 1874, he married Maria Oxarart, who was born in 1848, also in Basses-Pyrenees.  She obtained a limited education in her home country before immigrating to America.  Biographer Samuel Armor writes: “Mrs. Bastanchury shared with her husband all the trials and hardships incident to pioneer life on the plains of Southern California and while he was in the mountains with his sheep she was alone with her little family, her nearest neighbors being several miles away.  She well remembers the country when there was no sign of the present town of Fullerton; all the trading was done in Los Angeles or Anaheim…There were only two houses between her home place and Los Angeles, and where now hundreds of autos travel the main road between Los Angeles and Fullerton, in the early days there would not be more than one team a week.”

Evantually, Domingo and Maria had four sons: Dominic (who owned a 400-acre ranch in La Habra), Gaston (manager of the Bastanchury Ranch Company), as well as Joseph and John (who also oversaw the ranch).  Domingo died in 1909, leaving the vast family holdings to his wife and sons.

The story of the founding of most American cities is a complex mixture of business interests, ingenuity, and tragedy. So it was with the founding of Fullerton.

As I walk along Harbor (which used to be called Spadra Road, and before that El Camino Real, and before that there was no road), over concrete sidewalks and asphalt streets, I can't help but try to envision this land before it was "developed": acres of mustard plants, coastal sage scrub, rolling hills, coyotes, quail, other plants and animals. And Native Americans. In this case, the Kizh.

Any American history, local or otherwise, must, in good conscience, acknowledge that Euro-Americans were relative latecomers to this place. One tends to forget this fact, as the land has been molded and developed to reflect Euro-American interests. In the case of American history, "might" has usually made "right." 

My telling of the story of my hometown of Fullerton, California is as much a labor of sorrow as it is a labor of love.

George and Edward Amerige, two wealthy commodities merchants from Boston, are generally credited as the "founders" of Fullerton, but they were not the first ones here. They were simply the ones with the wealth and audacity to divide the land into small tracts for development and sale, which they did quite successfully.

Before the Ameriges, the land which came to be known as Fullerton was "owned" by ranchers. Before that, it was "owned" by Mexico. Before that, Spain. Before that, the land had no owner. It was inhabited, occasionally, by the Kizh, for whom the notion of land ownership was deeply offensive.

Too often, history books celebrate the founders of a place simply because they founded it, without pondering why. But let us ponder this question: Why did George and Edward Amerige "found" Fullerton? It was to make money, plain and simple. They saw an opportunity to cash in on real estate in Southern California, and they did. To me, this is not cause for celebration, merely quiet acknowledgement.

The man for whom Fullerton was named, George Fullerton, is equally unimpressive. He was president of the real estate arm of the Santa Fe Railroad Company. All he did was take a bribe from the Ameriges (a one third interest in their real estate ventures), so the train would pass through Fullerton and make them all richer.

George Fullerton

When viewed in this light, Fullerton's founders are no more impressive than America's founders like Washington and Jefferson. These men were smart, but they were also super wealthy, slave-owning aristocrats who wanted to get richer.

In the case of the Ameriges, we must pause again to consider the cost of land commodification and development: destruction of natural habitats, relocation of Native Americans, and later, subjugation of immigrants and pollution. I cannot, in good conscience, praise these men for being "forward-thinking" or any such nonsense. They were simply astute business men who cashed in.

Having said that, I also acknowledge that these men were human beings with loves, interests, families. They were not simply profit-minded. Evidently, George and Edward were fond of fishing and quail hunting. However, let us consider the first buildings they built here: Their real estate office, and a mammoth hotel called the St. George Hotel, named after George.

Anyhow, that is how the present-day city of Fullerton was founded: two wealthy merchants from Boston making lots of money from real estate, and bribing the railroad company man, George Fullerton.

The Amerige Family

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the City of Fullerton, some local residents interviewed many early pioneers of the city in 1937. These interviews were paraphrased and compiled into a document entitled "The Story of Fullerton and Its Founders" which is available in the Local History Room of the Fullerton Public Library.

The following information is taken from a series of interviews with George Henry Amerige, one of the founders of Fullerton. The interview was conducted by Darrel A. McGavran, whose father worked for the Chapman ranches.

McGavran begins with this statement: "Any organization, community development or social improvement is usually but 'the lengthening shadow of one man,' and so it is with the founding and growth of the community of Fullerton, California. That man is George Henry Amerige, who with his brother, Edward, founded Fullerton. Thus it is appropriate that this story of Fullerton first consider the biography of the Ameriges."

The Amerige family is of ancient Italian origin, being one of the oldest protestant families of Italy. The name, in Italian, Amerigo, is from the same derivation as that of Amerigo Vespucci (1451-1512), Italian explorer after whom the American continents were named.

Because of religious persecution (Italy was catholic, the Ameriges were protestant), the Amerige family moved to Germany. Maurice Amerige, grandfather of George Henry Amerige, came to Boston, Massachusetts around 1807. Maurice Amerige was a dealer in horses, and the Ameriges became one of the prominent colonial families of New England. Maurice Amerige and his wife Sarah had three sons:

George Brown, who went to California during the gold rush of 1849 and became the owner and editor of the Alta Californian, the first paper ever published in California.

William Amerige, who went to China as a trader, and died there in 1839.

Henry Amerige, father of George Henry Amerige, who became a prominent sail-maker and ship outfitter in Boston. Among the ships outfitted by Henry Amerige was the "Star of the East," which carried missionaries to Honolulu, Hawaii. Henry Amerige outfitted the ship for the arctic explorer Dr. Elisha Kent, for his trip to the North Pole in 1852. In his early years, Henry traveled extensively and visited almost all of the continents of the world.

Henry Amerige helped develop the Boston suburb named Malden (after which Malden street in Fullerton is named), and became a leading citizen and city planner. There is a park in Malden called "Amerige Park."

Henry Amerige married Harriette Elizabeth Russell, who also came from an old and prominent New England colonial family. Her great great grandfather, Eleazer Giles, lived in Salem, Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials. Her grandfather, also named Eleazer Giles, fought in the American Revolutionary War, commanding the armed brig "Saratoga." He was a seafaring man and actually had a wooden leg. Her father, Benjamin Russell, was a slave trader.

Harriette and Henry Amerige had five children, of whom George Henry Amerige was the second born.

H. Gaylord Wilshire: Speculator, Socialist, Con-Man

In the decades following the United States' conquest of California, there followed a huge influx of people and companies hoping to buy and sell the newly-acquired lands and make a nice profit.

Two such speculators were George and Edward Amerige, who purchased the land that would become Fullerton. Because they didn't have the cash to buy the land, they partnered with speculator H. Gaylord Wilshire and the Pacific Land Improvement Company, the land development arm of the powerful Santa Fe Railroad Company.

The Amerige brothers and Wilshire formed the Fullerton Land and Trust Company and began selling off lots, and did quite a lucrative business.

Interestingly, H. Gaylord Wilshire was quite a colorful character. He ran unsuccessfully for congress on the Socialist ticket. He made a pile of money buying and selling lots of land in Southern California. Wilshire Ave. in Los Angeles is named after him.

In his later years, Wilshire became a successful con man, promoting and selling something called "The Wilshire Ring" which he claimed could heal all manner of diseases. He was called "one of the really suberb con-men of his time."

Chapter 8: Orange Empire

Charles Chapman and the Citrus Industry

Charles C. Chapman was Fullerton’s first mayor, and he has been called “The Father of the Citrus Industry.” He was hugely influential in shaping the early direction of Fullerton. But who was he? Where did he come from? What was he all about?

Charles C. Chapman

Apparently, he thought pretty highly of himself, because he wrote his own biography and called it Charles C. Chapman: The Career of a Creative Californian. Streets, schools, and a University were named after him. There is a giant bronze statue of him at Chapman University. One of Fullerton’s first newspaper editors called him “Czar Chapman.” And yet his entire wikipedia page is only two paragraphs. This is what it says:

Charles Clarke Chapman (1853–1944) was the first mayor of Fullerton, California and a relative of John Chapman, the legendary "Johnny Appleseed." He was a native of Illinois who had been a Chicago publisher before settling in Southern California.

Chapman was a supporter of the Disciples of Christ, who was a primary donor and fundraiser for California Christian College, which in 1934 changed its name to Chapman College, and is now Chapman University, in his honor.

I knew there had to be more than that. And there is..vastly more. In the Local History Room of the Fullerton Public Library I found a Master’s thesis entitled “Citrus Culture,” by Laura Gray Turner. There is an entire section entitled “Charles C. Chapman: Determined Agriculturalist and Rancher Elite” which tells the fascinating and disturbing story of this man.

Charles Clarke Chapman was born in Macomb, Illinois in 1853, into a culture and family charcterized by “a hardy protestantism, fundamental in doctrine, puritanical in tradition, and capitalistic in economic dogma.” These combined values of fundamentalist Christianity and capitalist zeal would drive the future career of Charles C. Chapman.

After a series of economic ventures and failures, Chapman entered the history business in 1876, at age 23. Chapman and his brothers founded Chapman Brothers, Printers and Publishers and they began writing and printing local history books. What sort of history did he write and publish? According to Turner, they were, like much amateur history of the era “celebrations of Anglo-Saxon origins. Individuals accorded grandest adulation in these volumes were the successful businessman, the manufacturer, and especially the hardworking farmer.” These 19th century amateur histories were often informed by what historian John Higham calls “nativist tradition fostered by an attitude of racial superiority.”

This celebration was made manifest by the 1893 “World’s Columbian Exposition” in Chicago, a massive fair “in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage.” The fair grounds were called, appropriately, “White City.”

This fair lasted six months, attracted some 27 million visitors (about half of the U.S. population) and was spread out over 633 acres. Because of its size, this Exposition “shaped the way the nation saw itself and the world…[it was] a kind of tract, an argument for the superiority of our civilization…It saw itself as American destiny made manifest.”

Charles C. Chapman was intensely involved in this exhibition. He and his brothers, “always ready to seize an opportunity for profit, made plans for the construction of several hostelries [and]…an eight story luxury hotel.” I guess their history business had paid off.

Chapman described the World’s Columbian Exhibition as “the most stupendous and beautiful display ever made of the world’s achievements in art, industry, architecture, soil products, science, religion, and in the whole realm of man’s accomplishments.” Social critic Edward Bellamy, author of the classic Looking Back saw the Exhibition quite differently: “The underlying motive of the whole exhibition, under a sham pretense of patriotism is business, advertising with a view to individual money-making.”

Charles Chapman did indeed make a lot of money off the Exhibition, but his fortunes were short-lived. In 1893, the United States plunged into an economic depression, in which Chapman lost almost everything. In 1894, his wife died. Turner writes, “Resolutely, Chapman turned his face westward, where now at mid-life he would begin anew.”

One interesting aspect of American history is that the economy has almost collapsed a number of times. With economic downturn come strikes and social unrest. But always, without fail, a wealthy elite manages to reclaim power and “set things right.”

So it was with the great economic crash of 1893. Charles C. Chapman, wealthy publisher and property owner, lost almost everything. So he packed up and headed west from Chicago, seeking new markets. And he found them in the fields of Orange County.

Charles Chapman was possessed by a single-minded focus and obsession with making money, and lots of it. Turner writes, “With characteristic industry, Chapman applied his indefatigable discipline and business savvy to the task of restoring profitability to his newly acquired and rechristened Santa Ysabel Ranch.”

He studied handbooks of citriculture, met regularly with other local growers, and established “contacts among the nation’s financial, commercial, and political power brokers.”

Like most business endeavors, Chapman’s early years as an orange rancher were met with limited success and sometimes outright failure. Pests and disease among the trees proved major obstacles. He experimented with fumigation methods, sometimes using cyanide to kill pests, which for a time was common practice. Cyanide is a deadly poison that kills insects, but isn’t too good for people either.

But Chapman’s real challenge was competition with other local growers. He needed an edge, and he found this edge with clever marketing and branding, relatively new business practices, but ones that would transform American consumer culture in the 20th century.

Drawing upon his advertising and publishing experience, Chapman elevated the orange crate label to an artform which used “vivid symbols and scenes, careful constructs of fact and fantasy, [which] evoked memory and anticipation in a contrived assault upon the senses.”

Chapman was a pioneer of the idea that consumers do not just buy products, they buy ideas, they buy fantasies. And that is what Chapman’s Old Mission and Golden Eagle orange brands created. The images on Chapman’s Old Mission brand labels offered a “sanitized vision of the Spanish past…the mission myth of paternalistic displacement by a superior culture…an Anglo-Saxon approbation of the Spanish mission heritage.” The Old Mission labels featured peaceful padres in a pristine California utopia, a fantasy totally disconnected from California’s real history, which was full of violence, conquest, racism, and oppression.

Conspicuously absent on the Old Mission or Golden Eagle labels were “the ranks of workers whose backs and hands plowed, planted, watered, picked, and packed the fruit on its way to consumers’ lips.” The exploited masses whose labor made the citrus industry profitable (Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans) were not a part of Chapman’s advertising fantasy world.

But it was the unacknowledged labor of these masses who made Chapman the business and political titan he became. It was their backs who bore him into the Mayor’s seat, into the ranks of the Republican power elite, who might have carried him into the White House. Calvin Coolidge and the Republican Party wanted Chapman to be their Vice Presidential candidate in the 1920s, but Chapman declined, preferring instead to reign over his Southern California business and political empire.

On April 7, 1904, two articles were printed side-by-side in the Fullerton Tribune, the local newspaper.

One was an anonymous letter signed “One of the Laborers.” It was basically an appeal to Charles C. Chapman, local orange tycoon, for fair treatment of his workers. This laborer calls the conditions and wages of the workers a “regular outrage” and “slavery.” He ends with this appeal: “We are not permitted to sleep in the house after a hard days work. We are brothers in Christ Jesus, born of one flesh and blood, and we ought to have a tender feeling for all. But after all of that the cold-hearted rancher sends his hired man to the barn to sleep with the living creatures that inhabit therein.”

The second article was called “The Chapman’s Entertain Their Friends and Neighbors,” and describes a lavish dinner party at the three-story, thirteen-room Chapman mansion. The article reads, “the guests were given the opportunity to inspect the beautiful rooms on the first floor, consisting of library, reception hall, music room, dining room, breakfast room and kitchen. The rooms on the second floor were then shown. The guests were then invited to the third story which proved to be a hall strictly in keeping with the rest of the house.”

Here, on one newspaper page, is summed up power relationships in Chapman’s Citrus Industry.

Some of the first orange laborers in Orange County were “native sons of now divested old ranchero families.” Before the United States conquered California and took it from Mexico by force in the Mexican-American War, much of the land was subdivided into large ranches, owned by Mexican families. When the U.S. took over, many of these ranchers lost their lands. Their children, stripped of property, wealth, and land, ended up becoming laborers in the groves of a new wealthy, white American elite, like Fullerton’s own Charles C. Chapman.

The Roots of Inequality: The Citrus Industry Prospered on the Back of Segregated Immigrant Labor

It’s no secret that Orange County, including Fullerton, was built on oranges. During the first half of the 20th century, the County became a major producer of citrus for both the United States and the world.

Between 1890 and 1960 “citrus produced more wealth than had gold in California history and ranked second only to the oil industry in California’s economy,” according to historian Gilbert Gonzalez.

By 1938, Orange County had 75,000 acres of citrus groves. In Fullerton, the Sunny Hills ranch alone contained over 4,000 acres of orange groves. The Bastanchury family, which owned the ranch, claimed that it was the largest orange grove in the world. This agricultural history is often remembered fondly in local histories, old post cards, and colorful orange crate labels, which can be found at antique stores.

However, there is an aspect of the citrus story that is often left out—the fact that its massive success was made possible on the backs of a segregated Mexican immigrant labor force.

Picking Labor

Perhaps the seminal work written on the subject of Mexican citrus workers in Orange County is Labor and Community: Mexican Citrus Worker Villages in a Southern California County: 1900-1950 by Gilbert G. Gonzalez, professor at UCI.

The history of farm labor in California generally, and Orange County in particular is a history of successive waves of immigrants who were recruited, generally exploited for their labor, and often excluded either through direct deportation or legal pressure.

In the late 19th century, there was widespread employment of Chinese farm labor. Unfortunately, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 cut off this labor supply. Thus, to fill the labor vacuum, Japanese immigrants were recruited for a couple of decades, until they were excluded through various “Alien Land Laws.”

The decline of Japanese farm labor coincided with a sharp rise of Mexican
immigrant labor, who were recruited by growers and were fleeing the violence
of the Mexican Revolution.

“Fortunately for the citrus grower, acreage expansion occurred simultaneously with the first great Mexican migration to the United States. Nearly 750,000 Mexicans moved north between 1900 and 1930, escaping the violence, destruction, and destitution wrought by the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Indeed, economic development throughout the Southwest proceeded on the availability of Mexican immigrant
labor,” Gonzales explains.

Unlike other crops which could be harvested with large machines, oranges had to be harvested by hand, which required an enormous number of workers.

The California Fruit Growers Exchange (a cooperative of orange growers) lobbied congress for an “open border policy” in the early 20th century to fill their labor needs.

Workers were paid more than they could earn in Mexico, but wages were low by American standards.

According to historian Cletus Daniel, “farm employers, with few exceptions, sought to squeeze the last measure of profit out of their businesses by cutting labor costs to the bone.”

While men were employed as orange pickers, women were employed in the ever-growing packinghouses along the railroad tracks of Orange County.

Social Hierarchy

The presence of a large Mexican labor force in the Anglo-dominated towns of Orange County, including Fullerton, led to policies of segregation and second class citizenship for the Mexican workers and their families.

“Mexicans in citrus towns were invariably the pickers and packers; and consequently they were poor, segregated into colonies or villages, and socially ostracized, even though they were economically indispensable to the larger society,” Gonzalez writes. “The class structure in rural areas has generally divided along lines of nationality. At the top, the growers, native-born white; at the bottom, the foreign-born migrants, or his or her children.”

“A lid on the possibility for economic change and social progress tethered the Mexican community to function as cheap labor. Legal restrictive covenants segregating residential zones mirrored the division of labor. In public parks, swimming pools, theaters, restaurants, bars, dance halls, clubs and societies, Mexican immigrants and their families were either systematically excluded or segregated,” Gonzalez writes.

Housing Segregation

Beginning in the 1920s, a pattern of segregated housing was established, separating the orange worker families from the dominant community.

“Mexican houses were often tiny, wooden, adobe, or hollow-brick buildings constructed on the less desirable and often dangerous sections of the association property,” Gonzalez writes.

On the Bastanchury Ranch, six small villages of some 30 families each were scattered about the property.

One of the six settlements, called “Tiajuanita” by residents, was built with “scraps of sheet iron, discarded fence posts and sign-boards, and served by one lone water faucet and a few makeshift privies.”

Another worker camp in Fullerton, called Campo Pomona was located at Balcom and Commonwealth.

The head of the Fullerton Unified High School “Americanization” Department [charged with educating picker children and adults] stated that the “American neighbors who felt their property had been devaluated [sic] by its close proximity to the Mexicans treated them with humiliating scorn.”

School Segregation

On the camps, there were schools built exclusively for the Mexican children.

“Segregated schooling assumed a pedagogical norm that was to endure into the fifties and parallels in remarkable ways the segregation of African Americans across the United States,” Gonzalez writes. “By the mid-1920s, the segregated schooling process in the county expanded, matured, and solidified, was manifested in fifteen exclusively Mexican schools, together enrolling nearly four thousand pupils. All the Mexican schools except one were located in citrus growing areas of the county…Distinctions between Mexican and Anglo schools included differences in their physical quality.”

There was a school on the Bastanchury Ranch and on Campo Pomona.

Unlike at the white schools, curriculum at the Mexican school was generally limited to vocational subjects, and junior high was considered the end of schooling for most students, many of whom accompanied their parents in the groves and packinghouses.

One woman who taught at these segregated "Mexican Schools" was Arletta Kelly.

Kelly describes her struggle to convince her colleagues that Mexican students had the same potential as whites.

"Some of my colleagues here would laugh at me and say, ‘Are you a wetback?’” she said.

In addition to educating children, teachers at the “Mexican schools” also taught “Americanization” classes to adults—to assimilate the workers to American society.

“Whereas the Americanization programs in the local villages appear unique, in reality
they reflected a generalized expression for the eradication of national cultural differentiation across the United States,” Gonzalez writes.

Under the California Home Teachers Act of 1915, Americanization programs focused on the teaching of English.

Louis E. Plummer, superintendent of the Fullerton High School District, staunchly supported Americanization because in his view the persistence of “Little Italys, Little Chinas, Little Mexicos” stifled the development of a “homogeneous people.” In particular, the failure of Mexicans to live in a “model way” or as “first class citizens,” which was produced by “a hangover of lazy independence” made it imperative that rather than merely learning skills, Mexicans had to learn and live within the fundamental cultural norms of the United States. His perspective summarized much of the Americanization spirit in the larger community during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“Many a surviving villager resident has not forgotten that in their youth the ‘Anglos never wanted to have anything to do with us except that we pick their oranges.’ Such was the nature of the dominant contours in the Mexican and Anglo social relations in the citrus towns,” Gonzalez writes.

Village Culture

Despite the hardships of poverty, segregation, and discrimination, the Mexican workers and their families managed to establish a vibrant local culture that included religious and patriotic events, as well as sports.

A major annual celebration was the 16th of September, or Mexican Independence Day, which included a parade, music, and festivities.

Popular community Christmas activities included Las Posadas (a community-wide reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s nine-day journey in search of lodging), and Pastorelas (a morality play depicting the struggle between good and evil, Jesus and the devil).

"Perhaps the most elaborate religious procession occurred on December 12, Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe, the patroness of Mexico, commemorating the appearance of the Virgin Mary before the Indian boy Juan Diego on a Mexico City hilltop in 1598,” Gonzalez writes.

For these occasions local bands, like Fullerton’s Rancho de los Panchos, and The Joe Raya Orchestra from Placentia would play at different camps.

Baseball was also popular in the camps, and many teams were formed such as the La Habra team Los Juviniles, and the Placentia Merchants.

Chapter 8: The Ku Klux Klan in Orange County

On January 14th, 2019 the Brea School Board voted on the controversial question of changing the name of Fanning Elementary School, because it is alleged that William Fanning, the school’s namesake, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s (along with many prominent Orange Countians).
In order to give some much-needed historical context, and to better understand this strange and disturbing topic (the Ku Klux Klan in Orange County in the 1920s), I spent my winter break reading the definitive work on the topic, a 700-page doctoral dissertation entitled The Invisible Government and the Viable Community: The Ku Klux Klan in Orange County, California During the 1920s by Christopher Cocoltchos. I present here a summary of what I learned.

The Second Ku Klux Klan
Many folks tend to think of the Ku Klux Klan as a monolithic organization; however, it’s important to recognize that the KKK has actually had three main incarnations throughout American history.
The first KKK was formed in the aftermath of the Civil War by disgruntled and defeated Confederate soldiers who were upset about newly freed African Americans and other changes happening in the South during the period known as Reconstruction. They, like all subsequent versions of the KKK, believed in white supremacy. This first Klan had died down by the 1870s.
Then, in 1915, the Ku Klux Klan was re-born in Georgia by a man named William Joseph Simmons, who was inspired by the first major American blockbuster film, The Birth of a Nation, directed by D.W. Griffith. This hugely popular film was based on a best-selling novel called The Clansman by Thomas Dixon.
The Birth of a Nation, while an important technical achievement in the history of cinema, is also a profoundly racist movie—the heroes of the film are the Ku Klux Klan. This film was so successful that it re-kindled Americans’ interest in the KKK, and sparked a massive resurgence.
By the mid-1920s, an estimated 2-4 million Americans had joined their local Klavern, in cities and towns all over America—not just in the South, but also in the West. One of the places where the KKK proved quite popular in the 1920s was Orange County, California.

The KKK Comes to the OC
Contrary to popular stereotypes, the folks who joined the KKK in Orange County in the 1920s were not psychotic “hillbillies” or outsiders. They were, in fact, prominent members of the community. Using a valid membership list of the Orange County Klan (obtained from the Library of Congress), Cocoltchos shows that the KKK attracted a wide range of some of the county’s most respected leaders.
“The Klan’s leadership was a stable, successful, middle class group of people whose religious leanings, if they had any, centered on the major evangelical Protestant denominations and whose political affiliations were predictably Republican in a traditionally Republican county,” writes Cocoltchos, “More importantly, the Klan’s leaders had a strong, enduring involvement in their town’s civic affairs.”
Take Brea, for example. According to Cocoltchos, “Five of the town’s first eight mayors were Klansmen as were six of the ten councilmen who sat on the board of trustees from 1924 to 1936. Klansmen dominated the other civic offices during these years, providing 50% of the city’s treasurers, 25% of the city’s engineers, 50% of its city clerks, 50% of it city marshals, and 67% of its fire chiefs.”
And then there was Fullerton: “Councilman W.A. Moore, Judge French, and Superintendent of Schools Plummer [yes, that Louis Plummer] joined the Klan in the latter part of 1923, and R.A. Mardsen entered in mid-1924. Civic leaders were especially eager to join. Seven of the eighteen councilmen who served on the council between 1918 and 1930 were Klansmen,” writes Cocoltchos.
But the real hot-spot of KKK activity in the OC was Anaheim. On the night of July 29th, 1924, in the city that would become home to The Happiest Place on Earth, this went down:
“Anaheim, now advertised nationally as a model Klan city, was chosen as the site for one of the largest Klan gatherings ever held in California. On the night of July 29, up to 20,000 persons from as far away as Bakersfield, San Bernadino, and San Diego gathered in Anaheim City Park to witness the initiation of over 1,000 new Klansmen. The ceremonies began with a parade from the nearby Santa Fe station…Led by the 75 piece Los Angeles Klan Marching Band, a long line of robed Klansmen, walking five abreast, solemnly proceeded down the Main Street and through the business section, to the tune of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.’
The ceremonies were begun with an impressive fireworks display, dropped overhead by a couple of airplanes rented especially for the occasion. On the ground a huge cross nearly thirty feet high, and several other smaller crosses, were ignited and left to burn throughout the evening. Inside the rectangle a series of Klan leaders came forth and addressed the gathering, explaining the principles and purpose of their organization. Outside the rectangle Klansmen, their wives, and little Kluxers (junior Klansmen twelve to eighteen years old) circulated among the crowd, passing out or selling anti-Catholic literature and soliciting new members for their organization.” (“The Activities of the Ku Klux Klan in Anaheim, California 1923-1925” by Richard Melching published in Southern California Quarterly, 1974, by University of California Press on behalf of the Historical Society of Southern California.)
This was by no means the only Klan rally in north Orange County. Klan leaders and lecturers were drawing crowds in the thousands in Anaheim, Orange, and Fullerton. In 1925 a well-known Klan speaker addressed a crowd estimated at 5,000 people, in what is now Amerige Park in Fullerton. His topic was ‘What’s the Matter With America?’ Apparently “the alien influence” was the primary cause of America’s difficulties, and a solution was “limitation or a complete halt to immigration.”

Why Did People Join the KKK?
According to Cocolthcos, the KKK had at least 1,200 members in Orange County at the height of its power in 1924. While the organization only allowed white Protestant Christians to join, its member- ship reflected a broad cross-section of the community’s white Protestant Christians, who joined the hooded order for a variety of reasons.
Fred B. Kern, a bicycle shop owner, was active in the Klan’s recruiting efforts, as a “kleagle.” He feared Catholic domination of the town.
Car repair shop owner Fred Davis was a member of the Masonic Lodge and loved secret organizations for their ritual. He was the Klan’s ritualist, and several Klansmen later said that Davis did a “beautiful job.”
R.W. Ernest was the editor of the Orange County Plain Dealer, one of the main newspapers in Anaheim. Ernest used the pages of his newspaper to promote Klan ideas and activities.
“Members of the Klan were urged to use their private influence in getting people to join the Klan,” said one former Klansman. According to another member, the KKK did its job so quietly and effectively “that a lot of people did not know who was a Klan member and who was not.”
According to Cocoltchos, although the KKK ideology was based on the racial supremacy of white Protestant Christians, it wasn’t exactly racism that separated Klan members from non-Klan members, because white Protestants dominated Orange County, and racism was pretty much normalized everywhere.
Take, for example, the way all white people in Orange County at the time treated the largest ethnic minority in the area, Mexican Americans:
Mexican Americans had to attend segregated schools and lived in segregated housing. On February 10, 1917 the board of trustees of the Anaheim School District voted “to segregate all the Mexican children and to maintain two grades for them.” The “Mexican School” was completed in 1921 and the segregation of Mexican school children became the norm throughout Orange County, until the landmark Supreme Court Case Mendez v. Westminster in 1947, which ended school segregation in California.
“Racist attitudes were an integral part of the perceptions of the entire white population of the county,” explains Coclotchos. Mexican Americans were generally seen as a subservient, cheap labor force, the unacknowledged back-bone of the county’s well-known citrus industry.
Japanese farmers were also the targets of the white population’s racism: “As early as 1919 the Orange County Farm Bureau advocated the total exclusion of Japanese immigrants and forever barring these immigrants from acquiring American citizenship.”
So, if racism wasn’t really the dividing line between Klan and non-Klan, what was? For some, it had to do with the threat of liquor (this was during Prohibition). The Klan was “dry” (or so it claimed) and its members often charged that the civic leaders of Anaheim and other towns were “wet” and “soft” on bootleggers and other crimes. The Klan saw itself as a strict “law and order” group.
The Prohibition issue was also connected with a fear of crime and an alleged, though non-existent, “crime wave.” Throughout 1921 and 1922, the Anaheim newspapers ran headlines such as: “Crime Epidemic Sweeping the County”, “No Abatement of Orgy of Crime”, “Criminality in County Increases”, “Criminals Coddled too Much, Murders Too Common!”
In fact, a closer look at actual crime data revealed that the alleged “crime wave” was basically non-existent; it was more the product of sensational journalism than social reality. Yet, fear is a powerful motivator.
Another component of the Klan’s ideology was anti-Catholicism. At a Klan rally in Fullerton in 1924, the speaker spoke against “the banning of the Bible from the public schools; attributing this to the influence of Rome.”
Fullerton businessman Dan O’Hanlon, an Irish Catholic, was infuriated by the speakers remarks. He stood up and called the speaker a “liar.”
“Several Klansmen and their friends began encircling O’Hanlon and yelling, ‘get that guy’ and ‘where is a tar bucket?'”
Fullerton police officers took him away from the angry crowd before fighting broke out and booked him for “disturbing the peace.” Some friends, including city attorney Albert Launer, interceded to obtain his release.
On that night, a fiery cross was burnt on the O’Hanlon lawn.
Another factor influencing the Klan’s rise, according to Cocoltchos, was a series of political confrontations between the Klan and the more established political and economic leaders of Orange County, who may be called “the elite.” These folks included people like Samuel Kraemer, Thomas McFadden, Charles C. Chapman, and the Chamber of Commerce.
The anti-labor attitudes of the elite played a substantial role in the Klan’s development in Northern Orange County.
In Brea, the demise of an oil workers’ union coincided with many Brea oil workers joining the Klan.
“When they [oil workers] faced the prospect of wage reductions, job insecurity, and the loss of solidarity and control over their lives, the overtures of a group like the Klan, whose entire existence was rooted in a certain vision of civic betterment, seemed more welcome than they might otherwise have been. 23% of the Klan were oil workers,” writes Cocoltchos.
According to Cocolthcos, members of the Klan “believed the disorders in their community would be stopped only by the efforts of a civic-oriented group which would balance boosterism with a strict community moral order.”

Reverend Leon Myers: Leader of the Klan
In fact, there were actually two Klans in Orange County—a small and relatively ineffective one that lasted from around 1920-1922 (it had about 200 members), and a much larger and more effective one that achieved real social and political power in 1924. This Klan was led by the charismatic Reverend Leon Myers, pastor of the First Christian Church in Anaheim.
“To Myers, the moral fervor of evangelical Protestant Christianity compelled the creation and maintenance of a more moral sense of community,” writes Cocoltchos, “Myers moralistic missionary tendencies were the heart of his character.”
Myers assumed charge of his Anaheim congregation in late June, 1922 and he “gained an aura of authority because of his ability to evoke strong feelings of inner conviction and commitment in his congregation.”
Under Myers’ leadership at the First Christian Church, four of seven members of the lay board of trustees became Klansmen as did three of six elders and seven of the twelve deacons.
On February 13, 1923, the Klan visited a sermon given by evangelist C.L. Vawter at Myers’ church: “A silent hooded procession to the altar presented the minister with a donation and a letter of gratitude…Vawter then praised the hooded order, and he read the letter to the congregation: ‘Wrong rules the land and waiting justice sleeps. God give us men! Men who serve not for selfish booty, but real men, courageous, who flinch not at duty…Then wrongs will be redressed, and right will rule the land.’”

In the next couple of months KKK crosses were burned in Anaheim, Fullerton, and Yorba Linda to alert the general populace to the Klan’s existence.
Evidently, Myers and the other Klan leaders wanted to “make a Christian crusade out of it.”
According to Myers, the purpose of the Klan was “the creating in Anaheim of a better environment in which to promote the cause of Jesus Christ. For thirty years, as all the older citizens of Anaheim know, Anaheim’s record was a record of wild parties, saloons, booze, and crime. A ring of politicians ruled Anaheim. These leading citizens were of the lowest type. They were Rome controlled and liquor souzed.”
In 1924, four Klan members were elected to the Anaheim city council.
Flushed with success, the Klan became more overtly active. The Plain Dealer noted that three days after the election “a white covered auto bearing four figures in white drove through the streets…announcing an address at the Christian Tabernacle” by Colonel J. Rush Bronson, an official Klan lecturer.
The Anaheim council began firing city employees and replacing them, in most cases, with Klansmen. The Klan tightened its control over the city by putting their people in power.
Then the council added eleven policemen, increasing the force from four to fifteen men. Ten of the eleven appointees were Klansmen.
According to Lafeytte A. Lewis, who was opposed to the Klan, “Soviet Russia had nothing on Anaheim…You were judged as to whether you were a Klansman or not, by the grocery store you went to or the dry goods store…If you are not a member of the Klan and brushed an automobile in parking, you were immediately taken up to jail.”
The first ordinance passed by the Klan council “prohibited the manufacture, sale, purchase, storage, gift and transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes.”
The U.S.A. vs. the K.K.K.
Following the rise of the Klan to overt political power in Anaheim (and other neighboring cities), a group of civic leaders and Orange County District Attorney Alex Nelson, planned to take them down. Some of these leaders formed the U.S.A. club, in an attempt to counter the Klan’s claim of being “100 percent American.”
The anti-Klan coalition consisted of L.A. Lewis, Thomas McFadden, Reverend James Geissinger, Lotus Louden (editor of The Bulletin, Anaheim’s other newspaper), and members of the local Knights of Columbus such as Ernest Ganahl and Samuel Kraemer, as well as Father Patrick Browne of St. Boniface’s Catholic Church.
The anti-Klan forces reasoned that if the Klan’s secrecy had been a powerful factor in its successes, then unmasking it might take it down. They needed a list of members.
Different stories exist about how the list was obtained. Lewis’ claims he bought it directly from the “King Kleagle” of the Klan of the State of California for $700.
Armed with the list, the anti-Klan forces made effective use of it to expose and take down “The Invisible Empire,” the KKK.
Nelson revealed that some of the Anaheim councilmen who had been elected were Klan Members. The anti-Klan forces “based their attack on small town America’s tradition of free, open government as opposed to what they claimed was the Klan’s secret, corrupt, dictatorial government.”
Anaheim Methodist pastor Geissinger criticized the Klan as “revolting and totally un-American” and stated that bigotry and religious hatred had no place in Anaheim.
The local Lions, Rotary, and Elks clubs and the Masonic Lodge denounced the Klan as a menace to prosperity and an agent of bigotry. The American Legion post in Anaheim was the only civic or social group that the Klan dominated.
Nelson charged that the Klan, all across the country, was a “venal and commercial adventure” which always brought vigilantism in its wake, even to the point of condoning murder.”
The U.S.A. club then submitted a petition to recall the Klan councilmen in Anaheim.
On recall election day Orange County Sheriff Sam Jernigan and District Attorney Alex Nelson provided extra armed guards to protect polling booths.
It was a decisive victory for the anti-Klan candidates. All the Klan councilmen and the Mayor were recalled by large margins.
Recalled Mayor Metcalf blamed the result on “ineligible Mexican” voters.
The whole Ku Klux Klan debacle deeply divided the citizenry of Anaheim for the remainder of the decade.

The pro-Klan newspaper The Plain Dealer folded after settling a libel suit against it for $90,000. Myers charged that a Catholic conspiracy had destroyed The Plain Dealer and praised the Klan as the “only hope of America.”
Later that year, however, Myers announced his resignation from the First Christian Church and accepted another church’s offer in Dodge City, Kansas.
Although it dealt the Klan a serious blow, the loss of Myers didn’t end the Klan in Orange County.
“From 1926 until 1930 the feud between the Klan and anti-Klan elements in Anaheim remained as intense as ever, particularly during the biennial elections in 1926, 1928, and 1930,” writes Cocolthcos, “In Brea, La Habra, and Fullerton, the Klan remained in power during the rest of the decade.”
In assessing the meaning and goals of the 1920’s Ku Klux Klan in Orange County, Cocoltchos comes to some startling conclusions. The Klan was responding to trends in their overwhelmingly white Protestant communities that were, in fact, not alien or “foreign” at all, but were the natural consequences of their own values and ideas.
“Klansmen, to avoid criticizing the basic values and traditions of white Protestant culture, or more accurately because they could not conceive of the possibility that their basic values were contradictory or often led to harmful results, perceived that the people espousing such disturbing trends could not be people like themselves, but were somehow different,” writes Cocoltchos.
I have sub-titled this article “Notes on the Banality of Evil” because it is a reference to philosopher Hannah Arendt’s groundbreaking book Eichmann in Jerusalem: Notes on the Banality of Evil which is about the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, who was one of the chief facilitators of the Holocaust.
In Arendt’s book, she avoids the easy cliche of Eichmann as a “monster” or as someone entirely different from ordinary people. Instead, what makes her book so insightful (and disturbing) is that Eichmann is a painfully ordinary bureaucrat who, because he accepted, unthinkingly, certain popular premises, became complicit in atrocities.
Rather than portraying Eichmann as a vicious, bloodthirsty monster, Arendt portrayed the man as he was—ordinary. The fact that a man such as this could be involved in the destruction of millions of human beings shatters our neat categories, and forces us to consider profound moral questions like: what are the conditions under which an “ordinary” person can become complicit in atrocities? The book is haunting in its implications and relevance for our times, as is a serious reflection on the Ku Klux Klan in Orange County during the 1920s.
The picture that Albert Launer paints of the Ku Klux Klan in Fullerton differs from the stereotypes we might have of the Klan in the south. Klansmen in Fullerton were not necessarily uneducated “rednecks.” They were on the City Council, they were judges, police officers, teachers, local business owners. They went to church. For a time, the Klan was a powerful civic and cultural force. And the Klan was not limited to Fullerton. Launer recalls when Fran Richardson ran for California governor in 1924, he was officially endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, and he won. I will quote a somewhat lengthy section from Launer’s interview, because I think it gives insight into the makeup of the Fullerton Klan in the 1920s:
“There were two groups in the Klan as I now recall it. One of them was a church group, a school group. They were tied in with the activities around what now represents Plummer Auditorium [Superintendent Louis Plummer was a member of the Klan] and its directives toward good morals and good culture. This group was represented by the WCTU [Women’s Christian Temperance Union] results [Prohibition]. They felt that you must preserve and protect these youngsters. They opposed dancing, and were against exposure of any kind. The whole school concept was the sort where the parents turn the children over to the teachers and the teachers must be pure as the dickens. If they wanted frolic at all, they had to get out of town to do it. They were a law enforcing group, not realizing that they’d never get anywhere with this type of stuff behind the Klan and its reputation.

We had this other group, mainly oil workers who were seeking an opportunity to be part of the enforcement agency. They were good workers who worked ten hours, prior to that twelve hours a day. My first work in the oil field was hoeing and in a year’s time I was up in the garret for twelve hour shifts. But there was a good industrious class among them. And then there was the riff-raff among them. The Klan picked up, so far as I could see, the better part. Many of these fellows in the Klan I had met when I entered the Masonry in 1918.

And so, the Klan had two different ideologies or objectives. Some of them felt they could use the Klan to improve and protect (not so much improve as protect) youth and the purity of the community. They didn’t use the church as they use it today, either. There was fundamentalism that, so far as our church is concerned, is lost today. The Klan was apparently presented to the prospective members as an agency through which you could keep this community growing safely and morally, in the right direction.”

The KKK and "Patriotism"

I’ve often wondered what factors would motivate someone to join the Ku Klux Klan, as it was so obviously filled with hate, racism, and violence. In an interview for the CSUF Oral History Program in 1975, Edna Welton, who lived in Fullerton during the KKK’s “hey day” in the 1920s, said, “It’s my recollection that the Ku-Klux-Klan was put out as a patriotic thing. I think that a lot of folks got into it with the idea that it was patriotism on their part.” The KKK members had a certain vision of America as a land of white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants, and they wanted to enforce this vision.

Fred Strauss, a Jewish merchant in Fullerton at this time, agreed. “They [KKK members] thought it was a new American organization,” he said. At this time in America, fraternal organizations like the Masons, the Elks Club, and Rotary were a very important part of the social life of communities. It is not unreasonable to assume that rural, uneducated folks saw the KKK in much the same light.

Albert Launer, a former Fullerton City Attorney and School Board member, said, “Some of them [Klan members] felt that they could use the Klan to improve and protect...youth and the purity of the community. The Klan was apparently presented to the prospective members as an agency through which you could keep this community growing safely and morally, in the right direction.” According to Launer, the Klan included a church group and a school group who sought to preserve “good morals and good culture.” Wait a minute! Church groups seeking to impose their morals and culture on everyone else? They still do that today! Only they don't wear hoods and burn crosses anymore.

Of course, the KKK ended up doing some pretty awful things. “Once in a while, they burned a cross on some Catholic’s home,” Strauss said. He also hinted at the fact that some residents of Fullerton would not go to his store, because he was Jewish. “If they didn’t want to come in our place, they didn’t have to come in.” The main targets of the KKK in Fullerton, those deemed morally or culturally inferior, were Catholics, Jews, and Mexicans.

"They Burned Their Crosses in Front of Our House"

The following is an excerpt from an interview for the Fullerton Community History Project with former Fullerton resident Margaret O’Hanlon. The interview was conducted and recorded by Anne Riley in 1971. Margaret’s husband, Dan O’Hanlon, was a prominent figure in early Fullerton. He was a charter member of the Kiwanis Club, the Elks club, the first president of the Fullerton Realty Board, and an insurance agent. Margaret recalls a conflict between her husband and the Ku Klux Klan in Fullerton in 1923:

Margaret O’Hanlon (MO): Then, of course, you have heard about this business with the KKK [Ku Klux Klan].

Anne Riley (AR): I read about that. Can you tell me something about it?

MO: Yes, you know they came really from Anaheim, I think. I don’t think they’re local people very much, but there was one night they came into the park and there was a bandstand in the park in those days.

AR: This would be what, Amerige Park now?

MO: Yes. It was 1923 and they held forth getting very bitter about we Catholics. And, of course, Dan was a very religious man and he thinks a great deal of his faith which I do, too. And this fellow was damning the pope and so on and so Dan could not stand it, so he called him a liar. And the police came and they thought, they said he was disturbing the peace. Well, there wasn’t any peace to disturb because they were getting quite strong. They had put patches of paint across the main street and K something. I don’t know what they were. I don’t know if I should be telling you this but it was all in the paper.

AR: It was something you could probably read up on.

MO: Well, if you got all the papers it would be a load of papers that it would be in. I think we have some of the papers around here, still. And of course they searched him (chuckles). They got some keys and I think a pair of rosary beads in his pocket, a crucifix or something like that was all they found. Someone said, Oh, he had a gun, and he didn’t have a gun. He never brought a gun from England at all and never had a gun. And so anyway, Mr. Launer who was a friend of his, he belonged to the Kiwanis club then, and Mr. Launer came and kept them at the police station for a little while, not over night. I was waiting at home. I knew he was there over at the park; the park was crowded you know. They were strangers, they weren’t Fullerton people that were crowded around and they were all dressed in their…

AR: Their hood?

MO: It was scary, you know?

AR: Did they carry torches?

MO: I don’t remember the torches.

AR: I see pictures of them.

MO: But they were in their uniforms, whatever you call them. Yes, they were. They were beginning to be quite strong, and anyway, the police just held Dan for an hour or two. Mrs. Rothermal, they used to have a butcher store on Harbor, she called me up and she said, “Do you know where Dan is?” I knew he’d been to the park , and it was late. It was eleven o’clock. And she told me where he was but then he came home.

AR: You must have been upset.

MO: Mr. Launer...Oh, I don’t know about being upset. He just knew it was the thing he had to do. He just couldn’t stand it. He’s not that type of person. [Dan was] some person that he thought a great deal of blasted and not truthfully either.

AR: Tell me now, was the only thing that the Klan was against at the time Catholics?

MO: Well, they’re against black people, too, I think.

AR: Jews and blacks and catholics.

MO: Yes, they’re against Jews.

AR: Of course, Fullerton didn’t have many black people at that time.

MO: There was just one family, I think, when we came; they were kind of nice people really. They lived on Wilshire when I remember them first. I think they moved away…

Unnamed Person (UP): Somebody called up Father Murphy, threatened to burn the church down and put KKK on the side of it.

AR: That was the same night as this?

UP: Around the same time, I think.

MO: Yes. Well, this is what I remember. After that you see on the couple of days afterwards, I think it was the next night or very early in the morning, they burned their crosses in front of our house in the middle of the night. It scared me to death.

AR: Oh, it would have.

MO: And I don’t know who, but I heard a couple of shots that went off and that waked me. Dan wanted to go out and I said, “No don’t,” and I said “Just stay indoors.” So in the morning before it was light, I went out and moved this burnt cross and threw it out. And then they had plastered this K across Harbor, great big things across Harbor. But you know, we never heard of them again, not in Fullerton. Never after that in Fullerton…They just couldn’t stand it…

Chapter 9: Fullerton During the Great Depression

A little-discussed aspect of The Great Depression was the fact that thousands of Mexican-Americans were illegally deported because white people needed jobs. This phenomenon is discussed at great length in the 1995 book Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s, by Francisco Balderrama and Raymond Rodriguez.

Fullerton was no exception. In Fullerton: A Pictorial History, Bob Ziebell quotes Gruzilla Mackey, a Fullerton teacher who taught in the Mexican work camps in the 20s and 30s:

“The American Community no longer spoke of ‘our’ Mexicans. They no longer considered that no ‘whiteman’ could pick oranges. Instead they felt that the jobs done so patiently by Mexicans for so many years should now be given to them. ‘Those’ Mexicans instead of ‘our’ Mexicans should ‘all be shipped right back to Mexico where they belong...And so, one morning we saw nine train-loads of our dear friends roll away back to the windowless, dirt-floor homes we had taught them to despise” (120).

The U.S. government has historically treated Mexican immigrants as more of a commodity than as human beings. For example, when the economy was booming in the early 20th century, “Mexicans poured into the USA, welcomed by U.S. factory and farm owners who needed their labor. Until entry rules tightened in 1924, they simply paid a nickel to cross the border and get visas for legal residency” (USA Today). However, when the stock market crashed in 1929 and white people needed jobs, "The government undertook a program that coerced people to leave," says Layla Razavi, policy analyst for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF).

This policy had far less to do with legal status than with skin color. “Employ no Mexican while a white man is unemployed," wrote George Clements, manager of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce's agriculture department, in a memo to his boss Arthur Arnoll. He said the Mexicans' legal status was not a factor: "It is a question of pigment, not a question of citizenship or right." (USA Today).

Born on the Bastanchury Ranch: The Life of Manuel Rivas Maturino

Manuel Rivas Maturino, who witnessed one of the largest mass deportations in Orange County’s history in the early 1930’s, celebrated his 90th birthday this year. His life journey began in the Los Coyotes Hills on the Bastanchury Ranch in Fullerton, California. His parents Salvador and Josefa had just recently arrived to Fullerton from Mexicali, Mexico to visit family and close friends. Manuel was born on the Ranch, with only a mid-wife present and he was baptized at the nearby Saint Mary’s Catholic Church.

His father worked on the Bastanchury Ranch for five years, with its thousands of rolling acres of the largest citrus groves in the world. The Bastanchury family allowed their workers to live in camps throughought their massive ranch. These camps, or ‘colonias’ had names like Tijuana, Los Coyotes, Los Olivos, Colorado, and Pomona. In his book Labor and Community: Mexican Citrus Worker Villages in a Southern California County 1900-1950, local historian Gilbert Gonzalez describes in detail this housing situation on the orange ranches in the OC. Manuel recalls the distinct aroma of the rows and rows of the Valencia orange and lemon trees that permeated the air. He remembers staring out the kitchen window as a young boy where those luscious oranges hung within arm’s reach.

Manuel recalls, “Almost half of Fullerton was part of the ranch. It went all the way up to [what is now] Imperial, to Beach Boulevard area, and to the east went all the way to State College area, way up on the hill, and came as far down as Chapman, by the high school.” Though citrus was the main crop, the ranch also grew tomatoes, walnuts, lemons, avocados, and other fruits.

It seemed like overnight, the Great Depression threatened the security and foundation of his community, family, and friends. As money and jobs were scarce, the era of the Bastanchury Mexican workers was about to end.  Federal agents began raiding neighborhoods and ‘colonias’ across Southern California, rounding up legal residents and American citizens of Mexican descent and deporting them back to Mexico. This was part of one of the largest mass deportations in American history, as described in painful detail in the book Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation During the Great Depression. In his 2013 article, “The Lost Mexicans of the Bastanchury Ranch,” author Gustavo Arellano gives the context:

“The Mexicans who lived on the Bastanchury Ranch in the early 1930s were subject to one of the largest mass deportations in Orange County history, with hundreds of them in late March of 1933—single men and families, Mexican nationals and American citizens—thrown onto trains bound for Mexico, carrying with them only the clothes on their backs and whatever belongings they could lug along. Almost overnight, a vibrant community vanished, the homes of former residents demolished, its memory bulldozed into wealthy neighborhoods, the few surviving scraps locked in university archives or in the recollections of those few families that escaped exile. Eighty years ago this spring, officials deported hundreds of legal residents whose only crime was being Mexican during the Great Depression—and Orange County has tried to forget ever since.”

As oranges rotted on the Bastanchury Ranch, Manuel’s family, along with all the Mexican-American workers on the Ranch, boarded passenger trains with one-way tickets, bound for Mexico. They could go voluntarily, or be forcefully deported. Riding these crowded trains back to his parents’ mother country, the Maturino family was filled with uncertainty. The long journey to return to Durango, Mexico took several days of hardship and anguish. His parents Salvador and Josefa firmly clutched onto their three small children, Manuel, Leonardo and their infant daughter Luz, with only the few belongings that they could carry. This long and difficult journey eventually brought the Maturino family to La Lagunita, a small farming village of a few dozen families.

As months turned to years, Manuel learned to raise and care for a wide variety of farm animals and worked long hours in the fields, planting and caring for crops that included; corn, beans, and hot peppers. He successfully helped manage the family’s General Store, and attended the one-room school up to the highest grade it went, which was third.

After the untimely death of his mother and his father’s remarriage, his life at the ranch became unstable. So, at the tender age of fifteen, he made the decision to leave the village and headed upwards to work in the mines, deep in Sierra Madre Mountains. Eventually he returned home and agreed to stay with his godmother, Ana Maria Meras.

When his uncle Jesus and Aunt Luisa sent him money to join them in California, the thought of having a better life for himself in the United States became an achievable dream. After all, he was an American born child. However, trying to obtain the proper legal documents to cross the border presented lengthy challenges and disappointments. He had no other option but to stay in Mexicali and work for six months, hauling huge bricks of ice on his back, in order to make a living.

He painstakingly waited and eventually gathered his birth certificate and the testimony from legal witnesses, proving his birthplace on Bastanchury Ranch, in the City Fullerton.   In 1945, as Nazi Germany was surrendering to the Allies in Europe and the United States was dropping atomic bombs on Japan, young 17-year-old Manuel crossed the border to begin a new life in California.

His first job began with cleaning military and merchant ships in San Pedro. He eventually joined the stream of migrant workers in processing plants and fields across California, from Salinas, to Fresno, to Redding, to Shasta, Dunsmuir and even parts of Oregon. He remembers trying to fit in with other people his age by purchasing a zoot suit and going to dances.

A few years later, after receiving word that his godmother had died, Manuel made the choice to return to La Lagunita, Durango, Mexico where he fell in love with a beautiful young lady in the village, Maria de los Angeles Botello. Maria remembers Manuel as the popular young shopkeeper of the general store. “He dressed nice, with a good sombrero,” she recalls, “He was a good dancer.” In a small, rustic, hilltop, church, overlooking their village, surrounded by dozens of loving family members, they married on February 28, 1949. By the end of that same year, they welcomed their first-born child, Lucia.

When the Korean War started, the U.S. government sent a letter to people Manuel knew in the Untied States, who forwarded the letter to La Lagunita, summoning him for military duty because he was an American citizen. Thus, instead of deporting him from the U.S. (like in the 1930s), Uncle Sam now wanted Manuel back. “The only reason I didn’t have to go to war,” Manuel recalls, “was because I was married with kids already, and they weren’t taking married people to Korea. So, I was saved.”
Soon after, his wife and daughter joined him in the United States. Within a few years, the birth of Mary, Manuel, and Gilbert completed the Maturino family. Manuel continued working the fields, and for Union Pacific Railroad, traveling up and down the west coast as jobs became available.

This migratory life was not good for his young family, so Manuel decided to settle down in the town in which he was born, Fullerton. “I figured it was time to settle down, because my oldest daughter Lucia was ready to go to school,” he recalls, “And you get tired going form one town to the next--whatever savings you have, with every move, you spend your money. So I thought I better start doing something different. So, I settled here and got a job working for the city of Fullerton.”

Manuel got a job installing water pipes in Fullerton in the early 1950s, right in the middle of the post-war housing “boom.” Getting a job for the city was a step up from migrant worker, and Manuel attributes it to changing attitudes after the war. “World War II opened opportunities for most of the Latinos,” he said, “Before that, people only saw us as orange pickers. They thought that was the only thing we could do. But I thought I could go to school, learn, and have more opportunities in life.”

As he worked to install water pipes for a booming Fullerton, Manuel remembers watching the orange groves he played in as a child being replaced by houses and freeways: “They were building, building, building. When they started building the 91 freeway, they stopped irrigating the oranges and let the trees die. They started bulldozing the orange trees. They used to pile all the trees in the middle of night, like 3 or 4 in the morning, and they would burn them.”

But, while more job opportunities were opening up for Latinos in southern California, housing remained highly segregated and restricted. Manuel recalls, “We tried to buy a house in east Fullerton, and they didn’t want us there. If you were a Latino and wanted to buy a house in the early 50s, the houses weren’t for you. When Latinos first moved in here (near Woodcrest School), some neighbors got a petition with signatures to get them out. We were the second Latinos on this block.”

Thus, despite obstacles, by the early 1960s, Manuel established a permanent home in Fullerton, and his children began attending school. His daughter Mary recalls, “Our parents could now expose us to beach camping, visits to the L.A. Zoo, sports, scouting, Mexican music, dancing, and frequent travels to Durango, Mexico. This helped us maintain our ability to speak both languages fluently, as well as respect a wide variety of cultures and foreign languages in our community.”

Mary also recalls experiencing discrimination as one of the first Latinos at Woodcrest school in the 1960s: “They thought I couldn’t be from Mexico because I was light-skinned. They said I was too pretty to be Mexican. And I was shocked. I asked my dad, ‘Aren’t we from Mexico?’ They said I can’t be from Mexico because I’m pretty. Back in the 50s and 60s there was a lot of discrimination.”

Manuel worked for the Water Department of Fullerton for over thirty-three years.  Meanwhile, he completed his GED and earned his Real Estate license at Fullerton Community College. His children became college graduates who have given back to the community as an Elementary School Teacher, a community liason officer for the police department, a High School Assistant Principal and an Attorney. The family continues to grow with eight grandchildren and nineteen great grandchildren.

Now that he’s retired, Manuel enjoys golfing, visiting with family and friends, being a taxi driver to anyone needing a lift, walking two miles a day, gardening, and watching over grandchildren and great grand-children. After a long a difficult journey through life, Manuel is happy to live and have roots in the place where he was born, the town he calls home…Fullerton.

Manuel Rivas Maturino.

A Bank With a Human Face

When the Depression hit Fullerton in 1930, Fred Strauss could have lost his home. He could no longer afford his mortgage. The reason he didn’t lose his home is because his lender, The Fullerton Building and Loan, chose not to foreclose.

Strauss recalls, “When the Depression came, I couldn’t even pay my $40 a month, so all I paid was $8.88 for about one year and a half, just the interest. The Fullerton Building and Loan had a mortgage on it and they were very lenient with it and told me as long as I paid my interest I would be all right.”

The Depression slowly got better, Strauss was able to continue his regular payments, and eventually ended up paying for the house completely. “I don’t owe any money on the house anymore,” he said, “I’ve been living here 45 years and I like it very much here.”

Those were different times. Building and Loan companies were often localized, so they knew their customers personally. How different things are today, where banks foreclose so quickly and there is often no leniency. I have an idea for banks today that might cut down on the number of foreclosures, and restore the faith of an increasingly angry public, as demonstrated by the growing OccupyWallStreet movement.

Here’s my idea. Whenever a bank decides to foreclose a home, the president of the local branch of that bank must make dinner for the homeowner and their family, go to their house and explain to the family exactly why they are losing their home. No e-mails. No phone calls. No form letters. Face to face. The president has to look the family in the eyes and say, “We are taking your home.” Then maybe bank presidents would begin to see their customers as human beings with families, hopes, dreams, and fears. I think that would be a nice change.

Oral History: Omie Jensch

Omie Jensch was born in 1915, and moved to Fullerton in 1928, after her father (a citrus foreman in La Habra) died. She was an only child, raised by her mother. In an interview for the Fullerton Union High School Historical Society, she recalls growing up in Fullerton during the Great Depression.


"All the ranchers were losing their ranches at that time because they couldn't even pay the taxes on them...there was just not any money for anything. A lot of kids couldn't even buy uniforms for school."


"The school (Fullerton Union High Shool) had to stay almost the same, becaue there wasn't any money. You know, the government wasn't coming up with anything but the absolute necessities. In fact, they really pushed kids going to school, because of the dollars they were losing on a kid being put a real hardship on the school. You really got punished if you were ditching."

"Maple school...was predominantly Mexican, becuase the Mexicans lived around there. We called it the Maple-Truslow area...It was south of the tracks and east of Harbor."

"One incident, the Kraemer family, they had a Hawaiian boy living with them, and he went to school with us. I can't remember the girl he was going with, but her family was kind of perturbed and everybody thought it was terrible."

The Great Flood of '38

"There was one of the biggest floods that has ever been through here...The Santa Ana River just completely overflowed its banks. There were hundreds of people killed...and everyone just came together to help everyone else. We didn't have, at that time, Natural Disaster, where they brought in help and money for them. Everyone that was able to help did. In fact, we had four or five families sleeping with us; people slept on our floor. They slept in shifts until they could find a place to live.

Citrus Labor

"I can't remember when they started having Mexican pickers and didn't have the Filipinos anymore. They had bunkhouses, these Filipino workers. And at that time, I had never seen a Filipino person before! And there could only be men. There couldn't be any Filipino women here. I guess that's one of the reasons they had those big bunkhouses. So the men could all come and live together...for a while Chinese women weren't allowed to come in either. That's the way the Filipino deal was. I can't think of the ranch where these big housese were. But the workers worked for everybody. Any ranch that needed them."

When asked, "So they worked accordingly, just like everybody else, for pay?" Jensch replpied, "They didn't get as much pay."

When asked, "So they were probably more welcomed workers?" Jensch replied, "Oh, they stayed together, they didn't bother anybody, just there in their'd never see them downtown, only maybe for groceries or on a Saturday night."

When asked, "What was the minimum wage for the orange pickers and the walnut pickers?" Jensch replied, "I don't remember exactly."

Hawaiian Punch

Like most medium-sized American cities, Fullerton has spawned a few companies over the years that have risen to national prominence and become household names. Fender Guitars is probably the most well-known. But a close second is Hawaiian Punch.

The story of how Hawaiian Punch started is really not all that interesting, I’m sorry to say. Some guys made a product in their garage, it became popular, they sold it.

What is WAY more interesting to me is how Hawaiian Punch got swallowed into a giant corporate conglomerate, as is the case with most successful American products.

Here’s the story:

1934: A.W. Lee, Tom Yates, and Ralph Harrison develop the first Hawaiian Punch recipe in a converted garage in Fullerton, CA. It was originally meant as an ice cream flavoring, but people apparently liked to add water and drink it straight up.

1946: Reuben P. Hughes, with other investors, buys Hawaiian Punch and re-packages it as a beverage.

1963: Tobacco giant RJ Reynolds acquires Hawaiian Punch under its RJR Nabisco subsidiary.

1981: RJ Reynolds transfers Hawaiian Punch to another of its major food subsidiaries, Del Monte.

1990: Proctor and Gamble, one of the largest corporations in the world, acquires Hawaiian Punch.

1999: Cadbury Schwepps, which becomes a subsidiary of Kraft Foods, acquires Hawaiian Punch.

Today, Hawaiian Punch is operated by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, a subsidiary of Cadbury Schwepps, a subsidiary of Kraft Foods.

Hawaiian Punch used to be made largely from fruit concentrate. Now it is 95% high fructose corn syrup and water, and 5% fruit juice. Hooray for the corporatization of American food!

Chapter 10: World War II

Forced Re-Location of Japanese Americans

In 1942, during the second World War, thousands of Japanese American citizens were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in "internment" camps, which is what Americans called their “concentration” camps.

With the approval of the U.S. government, General De Witt “issued his Exclusion Orders Nos. 59, 60, and 61 directing all Japanese, both American citizen and alien, to be moved out of Orange County (Germans and Italian aliens were never evacuated). Local Japanese strove desperately to arrange their financial affairs. Many sold their property at a sacrifice. Some entrusted their business to others who in some instances proved dishonest or deficient in managerial ability.”

In other words, many Japanese Americans were not only relocated, but they lost their homes and businesses. Orange County Japanese Americans were sent to the Poston Relocation Center in Arizona under military escort.

What were conditions like for the Japanese Americans? According to Orange County historian Leo Friis: “The buildings that were to serve as their homes were roughly constructed. Water was bad tasting and within a few days after their arrival most of the evacuees were suffering from diarrhea. Separate comfort stations for men and women were supplied with rows of unpartitioned toilet seats. No privacy was afforded those taking showers. Many of the evacuees were employed at the center at wages ranting from twelve to nineteen dollars a month. Residents of the center dug into their savings to purchase clothing. Those of meager means were forced to rely upon shipments from churches and other charitable organizations.”

It is an important bit of historical irony that, while United States servicemen were oversees fighting to free the world from Hitler’s fascism, the U.S. government was implementing policies that were, at core, fascist.

Local Impact of Japanese Internment

“Given our community’s experience, we have a special obligation to stand up when others are persecuted. Given the current wave of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim fear-mongering and immigrant scapegoating, we must not remain silent. It is our duty as Americans who endured one of America’s ugliest missteps to ensure the civil, human, and Constitutional rights of all people be protected during times of crisis. This is the real lesson we, and all Americans, must learn.”

—from “Remembrance and Redress” by Bruce Embrey, Co-Chair of the Manzanar Committee

A 2019 exhibit at the Muzeo in Anaheim, “I am an American: Japanese Incarceration in a Time of Fear” featured an in-depth exploration of the Japanese Internment experience from the perspective of local residents living in Anaheim before, during, and after President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 in 1941, which caused thousands of Japanese-Americans to be forced into concentration camps during World War II.

The Japanese-American Community in Anaheim

Japanese pioneers of Anaheim began to immigrate to the city in the late 1890s, with numbers steadily increasing as the years went by. By 1940, there were 567 Japanese people living in the city.

Before and after WWII, Anaheim was a center for local Japanese American business, religion, and social life in Orange County. There was the Orange County Buddhist Church (on Dale St.), a center of social and cultural life.

Yoshimasa Shigekawa was instrumental in the establishment of the Japanese Free Methodist Church in Anaheim in 1921, serving as a minister from 1924-1936. His family’s life was interrupted in May 1942 when the couple and four of their children were sent to the Poston Incarceration Camp.

Even prior to WWII, Japanese Americans experienced waves of anti-immigrant laws. In 1894, a U.S. district court ruled hat the Naturalization Act of 1790, allowing white immigrants to become US citizens, did not apply to Japanese immigrants.

From 1913-1920, Alien Land Laws established in Western states prohibited Japanese immigrants from owning land. The Immigration Act of 1924 prohibited all immigration to the US from Japan.

By 1940, 127,947 Japanese Americans lived in the mainland US, with the majority on the West Coast, plus 157,905 lived in the Territory of Hawaii.

Fear Leads to Mass Incarceration

On Dec 7, 1941 Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The following day, the US declared war on Japan and entered WWII. After the attack, fears ran high among the American people. That month, the FBI and police began raiding Japanese American homes and businesses, arresting and detaining community leaders and people deemed a threat to national security.

On Feb 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the creation of “military exclusion zones” from which anyone could be excluded for protection against espionage and sabotage. It was primarily used against people of Japanese ancestry, both citizens and legal residents.

Waiting at the train for evacuation to Poston.

The Poston Experience

After president Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were removed from their homes and detained in a system of “relocation” centers.

Most Japanese-American residents of Anaheim were sent to the Poston Relocation Center in Arizona, which was actually located on the Colorado River Indian Reservation. The peak population at Poston was 17,814, making it the third largest city in Arizona in 1942.

Official notice of Japanese internment.

While living at the camp, Japanese American laborers participated in construction of the irrigation system that provided water for landscaping of living areas, established agricultural programs, and created recreational and educational facilities.

The harsh climate featured hot and humid summers and cold winter nights. Dust was a constant problem.

Ruth Akiko (Ikeda) Matsuda attended Anaheim High School and was in her sophomore year when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and she and her family were sent to Poston.

Construction of barracks in Poston.

She later recounted to her son, Michael Matsuda, how scary the long train ride was to the Poston Incarceration Camp: “She recalled that when they arrived, the camp was desolate, cold, and windy. The barracks were poorly constructed, allowing the wind and dust to penetrate. The early food was horrible, including canned items like Spam. And she particularly disliked the communal bathrooms, which offered no privacy.”

And yet, in the midst of these harsh conditions, the people living at Poston did their best to create community life. Activities of teenagers like Ruth included school, dances, sports, and movies. She met her future husband, Jack Takeo Matsuda, while incarcerated at Poston.

John Hiroshi Iwashita was just finishing fourth grade when his family was forced to evacuate in May 1942 to Poston. He recalls that prior to incarceration the family had to sell their belongings including a car and a trailer, for whatever they could get for them.

Upon arriving in the camp, Iwashita recalled having to fill bags with hay to serve as mattresses. His father worked as a fireman in the camp. In Poston he attended fifth through seventh grades, and participated in sports, including basketball and baseball.

Miwako “Miko” Yoshimine attended Horace Mann Elementary School in Anaheim. When she was 13, she was evacuated to Poston with her parents and three siblings.

Miko remembers working in the fields, picking cotton. On a positive note, she said that she had fun playing soccer and participating in musical programs, such as “Singspiration.”

Carl Yoshimine had started attending college when Pearl Harbor was attacked. In May 1942, after turning in the family’s car to the Dodge dealership and selling off their personal goods, the Yoshimine family was evacuated to Poston.

Carl remembers that he was very angry that his family was relocated “because we were American citizens.” In an attempt to deal with his anger, Carl attended church and became interested in the ministry. He eventually went to divinity school and became pastor of the Anaheim Japanese Free Methodist Church.

“My mother was five months pregnant when our family arrived in the desolate desert of Poston where temperatures reached 120 degrees,” remembers Marlene Shigekawa. “The drinking water was full of mud due the newly installed pipes. Mattresses had to be filled with straw. The quickly-made barracks were full of walls with knot holes, allowing fierce desert dust storms to invade the barrack with dust.”

In additional to numerous personal stories, memorabilia, and photographs documenting life at Poston, the exhibit features a full-sized replica of a room in the barracks of the internment camp.

Life-size replica of interior of barracks at Poston.

Camp Art

Before the war, Gene Isao Sogioka worked for Walt Disney Studios as an animator for such films as Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi.

In 1942, he and his family were sent to the Poston camp. During the two years he spent in detention, he produced more than 150 watercolors, depicting daily life in the concentration camp.

Painting by Gene Isao Sogioka.

In the late 1980s, Sogioka’s camp paintings were discovered in the archives of the Cornell University Library. As a result, Sogioka and several other artists who produced work in the camps were interviewed and their work published in a book entitled Beyond Words: Images from America’s Concentration Camps in 1987.

Painting by Gene Isao Sogioka.

Some of Sogioka’s paintings were exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution exhibition, “A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the US Constitution” and were on display in Washington DC from 1987-2004. He died in 1988.

Mendez v. Westminster, the Mendez Family, and the Munemitsu Family

Mendez v. Westminster, the landmark California civil rights case that desegregated California schools, took place during WWII, and has a unique local connection to the Japanese Internment Experience.

Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez, who were the plaintiffs in the Orange County lawsuit that would ultimately lead to desegregation of schools, would never have been in Westminster, nor would they have been able to afford the lawsuit, if they had not been leasing the farm from the Munemitsu family, who as Japanese Americans were being incarcerated during WWII in Poston, Arizona.

Because the Mendez family lived in the white district in Westminster, they came face-to-face with the segregated policies of the Westminster school district, which turned their children away. Because they were entrusted by the Munemitsus to care for and lease their farm, Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez were not struggling laborers but fairly affluent farmers who had the finances to support a costly and lengthy lawsuit.

Without the Munemitsu family and the lease agreement, there would have been no Mendez v. Westminster. The vast majority of Japanese Americans lost their property as a result of the mass incarceration, but the Munemitsu family’s case is one of the rare instances in which leases were signed and honored.

In the gift shop of the Muzeo, there’s a children’s book available called Sylvia and Aki, which is about the relationship between Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu—both of whom experienced different types of institutional racism in Orange County—segregation (Sylvia), and internment (Aki).

Book which tells of the friendship between two girls during Japanese internment.

The Famous 442nd: Japanese Americans Fought Fiercely for America

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up nearly entirely of Japanese Americans, was the United States Army’s most decorated infantry regiment ever. One was Daniel Inouye, who would later go on to serve four decades in the US Senate. In the end, more than 14,000 served in the 442nd. Between them, they were awarded 18,143 awards.

The 442nd was the most decorated infantry unit ever.

Many members of the 442nd were recruited from various internment camps, including Poston. The exhibit includes photographs and memorabilia commemorating these highly-decorated soldiers, who (despite their internment) chose to fight for the ideals of America, and against the forces of fascism in Europe.

Rebuilding Their Lives in Anaheim

Following the closure of the incarceration camps at the end of World War II,  those who returned had to build lives that had been dramatically altered by their experiences in the camps. In Anaheim, non-Japanese businesses and residents had moved into sections of the town previously occupied by Japanese Americans.

1945-1950 was a period of intensive efforts to re-establish Japanese-American communities across California. In Anaheim, the Japanese Free Methodist Church, which had stored items for returning families, re-instituted its usual activities and services.

The 1950s and 1960s in Anaheim saw an increase in the Japanese American population as the city transitioned form an agricultural based economy to one that was industrial-based, including a booming aerospace industry.

Attracted by the economic opportunities offered by the City of Anaheim, a new Japanese American community was established in a square mile block around the Ball Rd, Dale St, and Beach Blvd sector west of Anaheim’s downtown, including the East West Shopping Center on Ball Rd, which opened in 1966. The center included the Asahi Beauty Salon, Nippon Foods grocery store, Miki’s Tea House Restaurant, Masumi Confectionary and the East West Furniture Store.

The exhibit contains numerous photos of families whose lives were affected by the internment experience.

Nancy (Sakayeda) Eagan opened Asahi Beauty Salon, one of the East West Center’s first tenants in 1968. After 51 years in business, Nancy still owns and operates the Asahi Beauty Salon at its original location. She credits some of her success to her bilingual skills, since older Japanese American customers were more comfortable conversing with her in Japanese.

In 1977 the Pear Tree Center officially opened at on Ball Rd. with Tomoko Shiseido Cosmetics, Kunimatsuya Toys, Tsutsumi Do Books and Cards, Mikawaya Confectionary and Asahi II Beauty Salon. Across the street was the Tabiji Restaurant and Toyo Fish Market.

This area also featured several Japanese American nurseries, such as the FS Nursery, the Natanaka Nursery, Sugano’s Egg Ranch, and the Fujishige Farm.

From the late 1960s through the 1980s this area of Anaheim was the center of the Japanese American community in Orange County.

The exhibit features numerous stories of individuals and families who successfully re-built their lives, even as they continued to experience discrimination.

For example, after their release from Poston, Ruth and Jack Matsuda moved to Chicago, Illinois and then retuned to Orange County in 1949,  where local prejudice against Japanese Americans made it very difficult to rent an apartment, due to racially restrictive housing covenants that were widespread until they became illegal in the 1960s.

Ruth and Jack’s son, Michael Matsuda, went on to receive a Masters degree and eventually served as Superintendent of the Anaheim Union High School District in 2014.

In the late 1990s, Michael Matsuda persuaded the AUHSD to present diplomas to former Japanese American students, like his mother, who were sent to incarceration camps during WWII. At the age of 71, Ruth Ikeda Matsuda received her diploma 52 years later, marching alongside hundreds of seniors form the Anaheim High School class of 1997.

Another post-WWII success story is that of Frank C. Hirahara, who was incarcerated at Heart Mountian, Wyoming. He was only 16 years old when he went into camp and he and his father are now renowned for their over 2,000 black and white photograph collection that they took and processed in a secret underground darkroom in Heart Mountain from 1943-1945. This is the largest private photo collection taken there during the war.

After the war, Frank earned a degree in electrical engineering and eventually moved to Anaheim in 1955 with his wife Mary and daughter Patti to pursue a career in the aerospace industry.

He went to work for North American Aviation in Downey, where he worked on missile programs, then the Apollo Space program as supervisor of the systems integration unit. He worked on the Space Shuttle and other NASA programs, and received numerous awards.

Frank’s daughter Patti has spent 20 years working with the City of Anaheim to ensure the legacy of the Japanese pioneers in Anaheim will be preserved, not only through this exhibit, but at her alma mater of Anaheim High School. The Hirahara Family is the only four generational family in the City of Anaheim’s Heritage Collection and their family story can be found on the Anaheim Public Library’s web page

On August 24th, she helped coordinate “The Poston Experience – Paving the Way for the Next Generations” educational program presented by the Anaheim Union High School District and Anaheim High School. This two-hour event helped introduce the history of the Japanese American incarceration through video interpretations of current local students from both the Anaheim Union High School District and the Anaheim Elementary School District at Anaheim High School’s historic Cook Auditorium. 800 people attended, including students who found the subject fascinating and are now asking their teachers for more information about what happened to Japanese Americans and their descendants from 1942 – 1945 and their forced incarceration. Patti was the event’s MC and panel moderator.

Redress and Reparations

The exhibit also documents the multi-decade process though which the US government, at the urging of dedicated activists and politicians, came to reckon with and try to make amends for the bitter mistake that was Japanese mass incarceration during World War II.

In 1976 President Gerald R. Ford issued a proclamation entitled “An American Promise,” formally ending the relocation program that began 34 years earlier with Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The executive order had remained on the books years after its directives had been abandoned.

A list of the hundreds of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated at Poston during WWII.

There’s a profound essay on the wall entitled “Remembrance and Redress” by Bruce Embrey, Co-Chair of the Manzanar Committee.

“The decision to evacuate and then imprison 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry during World War II capped a century of exclusionary race-based policy that either barred Asian immigrants or denied those already settled in the United Staes such basic rights as owning property or enjoying opportunities to participate in American society,” Embrey writes. “Only after these exclusionary policies were peeled away one by one did the nation come to terms with the legacies of discrimination and face the historic injustice of internment.”

In 1969, the first community-wide Manzanar Pilgrimage was organized, led by Victor Shibata, Warren Furutani, and Jim Matsuoka.

“Those returning for the first time since the war all recognized the profound import of remembering what happened on those grounds,” Embrey explains.

Beginning in 1970, various Japanese American civic groups began to call for a formal recognition of the illegal nature of Executive Order 9066 and for reparations for the damage inflicted on the community.

Beginning in 1971, the Manzanar Committee advocated for the state of California to establish Manzanar (former internment camp) as a state historic landmark.

In 1980, leaders like Senator Daniel Inouye helped to form the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians—to explore the issue through community hearings.

“A coming together of our community and the painstaking development of a nationwide grassroots movement was only possible because of the willingness of those who were incarcerated to tell their stories, first at Pilgrimages and community meetings, and then before an entire nation during the hearings of the Commission on Wartime Internment and Relocation of Civilians in 1980-81,” Embrey explains.

A 1982 Congressional commission later noted in their report “Personal Justice Denied” that “the broad historical causes which shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”

The passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was a victory of the Japanese American community and for all democratic minded people everywhere.

Embrey writes, “Executive Order 9066 and the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 are more than a Japanese American story. They serve as a profound lesson of what can happen when a group is profiled and scapegoated in the name of national security. It is an American story, capturing both the strengths and weaknesses of our nation’s democracy, its fragility and its resilience.

Redress will be a hollow victory for our community if we stand idly by while others are threatened. Given our community’s experience, we have a special obligation to stand up when others are persecuted. Given the current wave of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim fear-mongering and immigrant scapegoating, we must not remain silent. It is our duty as Americans who endure one of America’s ugliest missteps to ensure the civil, human, and Constitutional rights of all people be protected during times of crisis. This is the real lesson we, and all Americans, must learn.”

On the Poston monument there is a statement that reads: “May it serve as a constant reminder of our past so that Americans in the future will never again be denied their constitutional rights and may the remembrance of that experience serve to advance the evolution of the human spirit.”

Local author Marlene Shigekawa has written two children’s books about the Poston experience: Blue Jay in the Desert and Welcome Home Swallows.

Shigekawa states: “We still have friends from those days and attend many of the high school reunions. Anaheim is our home regardless of where we now live. It lives in our hearts due to the strong community connections we experienced then and also now. Beyond serving as a reminder to avoid repeating the past, our Poston history and the entire Japanese American incarceration experience has given us the opportunity to reclaim our history, our identity, and who we are as a community.”

Iney Sato (center), who was incarcerated at Poston Internment Camp during World War II, at the current Muzeo exhibit “I am an American: Japanese Incarceration in a Time of Fear” with her family.

Oral History: Betty Oba Masukawa

Betty Oba Masukawa, was a Japanese American woman born and raised in Fullerton. In an interview for the CSUF Oral History Program, she recalls her experiences in an internment camp during WWII:

CSUF: You mentioned evacuation. What was your major concern at the beginning of the war?

Betty: Honestly, I didn’t think anything of it, because I was born here. I didn’t pay any attention to any of the rumors, until it was really happening.

CSUF: How were you told about the evacuation?

Betty: It was in the newspaper.

CSUF: And what were your feelings at the time that you found out about the evacuation?

Betty: If we had to evacuate, we had to evacuate (laughter).

CSUF: What sorts of provisions did you make?

Betty: You mean our home?

CSUF: Yes.

Betty: The mayor of Fullerton, William Hale and his son Harold took care of all our things. We gave him power of attorney and he took care of our ranch; we had a ranch at that time. Well, it was my parents’ ranch. He took care of all our personal belongings for us, so we had no worry.

CSUF: Was he a friend of your family?

Betty: Yes, a very good friend. The whole family was very good. My personal things he took to his house, and he stored it up in his room, which he didn’t have to; he could have just put it in the garage. But, no, he put it in his house, and really took very good care.

CSUF: Where were you then sent?

Betty: We were sent to Poston, Arizona.

CSUF: From Fullerton?

Betty: From the Anaheim train station. We were the last family to go from Orange County.

CSUF: Were you notified in some way that you were to…

Betty: Yes. At that time my daughter…We were supposed to go at a certain time, a certain date. But we could not make it, because my daughter had chicken pox or measles, one of the two. So we asked if we could wait and be the last ones to go. So they were very kind and let us wait so I wouldn’t have to leave her at the Orange County Hospital, by herself and then we’d be gone. So they let us stay ten more days, anyway.

CSUF: And you went on the train?

Betty: Yes.

CSUF: What were you able to take with you?

Betty: Just your personal belongings. One suitcase. But I told the Army fellows that, “I have a child, and I have to have more than one suitcase.” So they passed it. I got to take more…We took a trunk then. But they said, “Don’t tell everybody that you’re taking a trunk.” (laughter)

CSUF: And what was it like when you arrived in Arizona?

Betty: Terrible.

Betty’s husband (Mas): It was hot and dusty. Rattlesnakes all over.

Betty: If it wasn’t rattlesnakes, it was scorpions.

CSUF: What was the physical building that you lived in at Poston like?

Betty: Like barracks, a lot of cracks in it, you know, so the dust could go through.

CSUF: Oh dear. What time of year was that?

Betty: In May. A really hot time. It was really hot.

CSUF: You were in a barracks with how many people?

Betty: Well, each barrack had four rooms; it was all partitioned. We had the font, and it was a larger one. The dust blows, and everything gets dusty inside. You can just have tears, you know. But gradually, we were getting mail orders, like Sears or Montgomery Ward, to make it look more like a home. Eventually they gave us linoleum for the floor, which is very good. Or course, we had to buy all our window shades and things like that. And dinner sets, also, because sometimes we’d go to the mess hall and bring the food home to eat.

CSUF: What was your occupation while you were there?

Mas: She worked at the beauty shop.

Betty: To begin with, I knew the police chief; he was from Anaheim. He (Kiyoshi Shigekawa] asked me if I’d like a job. So he gave me a job as police matron. That’s a laugh, isn’t it? (laughter) So I was in the police department for a while, and then I got into the beauty work. They had classes. I met the two girls; there were only two girls who had a license. They were leaving for Chicago. Eventually everybody could go out from the camp, you know. So they went to Chicago, and I took over as head of the beauty shop in Poston.

CSUF: Had you ever done anything like that before?

Betty: No. But since they were licensed girls, they showed me everything…

CSUF: And what about your husband? What was he doing?

Mas: I was in the police department.

Betty: He took care of the baggage.

CSUF: Of the people that were coming in?

Mas: Coming in and going out.

CSUF: So your little girl was how old when you went to Poston?

Betty: Four years old. There was a class in front of our barracks, so she went to school there.

CSUF: Was there a social life going on in camp?

Betty: Yes. There were dances.

Mas: Outdoor baseball.

Betty: Outdoor theater.

CSUF: Do you have any special memories about that period of time?

Betty: Well, a group of friends would come over to our apartment, and we’d play cards and stuff for the evening. That’s about all we could do in the evening.

CSUF: And how long were you in Poston?

Betty: Three and a half years.

Fullerton During the Holocaust

Fred Strauss was a German/Jewish immigrant who moved to Fullerton in 1909. For many years, he worked for the Stern and Goodman’s store, the first general store in Fullerton.

During the 1930s, when Hitler came to power in Germany, his Jewish relatives in Germany began to write him letters, begging him to help them escape. “Everybody was crying that they wanted to come, come, come,” he recalled. They were hard times for Jews in Germany. “My brother was standing on the sidewalk one time and the storm troopers put him in a concentration camp,” he said.

During the Depression, Strauss did not have a lot of money to help out his suffering relatives, but he did manage to help many of them come to the United States, with great difficulty. He recalls the story of how he managed to help them escape the Holocaust:

“I decided I was going to bring them over and I had such a time. I had to go to the judges; I had to go to the police department; I had to go to everybody else. I had to have a photostatic copy of my bank account, which I had to lie a little bit about because it wasn’t what it should have been. It cost me quite a little sum of money and I couldn’t get them out. I had a friend by the name of Howard Irwin who was very well-acquainted with our governor [Frank] Merrian who was our governor of California then. Howard was living in Long Beach and he went to bat for me. He went to the governor and asked if he could help me. So the governor sent a wire to the American Consul in Stuttgard, Germany to release my folks at once. In fourteen days my mother, my brother, and his wife were on their way to this country. Of course, Hitler took everything away from them, they didn’t have anything at all.”

As dramatic and inspiring as this story is, it disturbs me that it was so difficult for Strauss to get his suffering family out of Germany. If he did not know a guy who knew the governor, his family would most likely have died. “If it wasn’t for Governor Merriam, not one of them would have been here,” Strauss recalls, “They would have all been killed.” I wonder how many Jewish Americans during the Holocaust were not so fortunate as Strauss to have this rare connection. I wonder how many people died because of bureaucratic red tape.

War is Never Glamorous

Of all the American wars of the past century, World War II is perhaps the most glamorized. Tom Brokaw desribed the heroism of our troops in his famous book The Greatest Generation. But war is never glamorous, and any discussion of it must be tempered with the very real trauma it inflicts on those who fought. Archer W. Kammerer Jr, of Fullerton, fought in WWII. He was in the infantry in Germany mostly. His father, Archer W. Kammerer Sr, a Republican business man, describes his son after the war:

“The first night he came home I guess we sat up until about three or four o’clock in the morning asking him questions and talking to him, but after that he didn’t say anything and never has. He used to wake up at night, occasionally, and was pretty excited. He was fighting before you could snap him out of it. He got married, that’s his picture up there, and shortly after he got married he came pretty close to beating his wife up because he had another one of these dreams. He’s all right now.”

I have a cousin who fought in the first Gulf War. Before going to war, he was a model student, with a bright future ahead of him. When he returned, he was addicted to drugs, and has struggled with addiction ever since. He is not a “bad guy.” I believe he used drugs to self-medicate the very real trauma he experienced.

War is never glamorous. It makes me really mad when I see recruitment ads for the military on television and before movies, depicting war as this great adventure. I would rather they show videos of soldiers talking about their real experiences, and how it affected them. Once, when I was having a drink at The Continental Room, I met this guy who was about to be deployed to Afghanistan for his second tour of duty. He was terrified. He said that he joined the army to clean up his life, but that what he experienced had messed him up more. He said, "Joining the army was the worst decision I ever made."

Schools at War

In a fascinating paper entitled “Mobilizing for Victory: The World War II Home Front in the Schools of Fullerton, California,” Kathleen M. Traeger looks carefully at the impact of the war on school curriculum.

Two programs were created in the United States during World War II whose purpose was to get students behind the war effort: The High School Victory Corps and the Schools At War Program. These programs were implemented in schools all over the United States, including Fullerton (see also The Impact of the War Upon American Education by I.L. Kandel).

The purpose of the High School Victory Corps, according to Traeger, was “to encourage reform of secondary school curriculum and promote full participation of youth and personnel in war-related extra-curricular activities.” This war-based curriculum was meant to “emphasize the meaning of democracy, our own American history and traditions, and American heroes.” Courses “assigned books that highlighted patriotism and American values and ideals.”

History, English, and Social Studies courses were assigned books like Education and the Morale of a Free People, that celebrated America, justified the war, and “emphasized observing patriotic rituals for boosting morale.” Teachers were forbidden from discussing negative aspects of American history. Traeger writes, “The reporting of history in textbooks was carefully evaluated by the teachers and staff in the reporting of the war, in order not to raise any agitation.”

These curriculum changes were not just ideological; they were also practical. The purpose was to prepare students “for service in the armed forces and in industry.” For example, the “Four-Four Plan” was participated in by many high school students. Under the Four-Four Plan, “students attended regular school classes for four hours daily and worked four hours daily at the Douglas plant, to help build planes.”

In addition to the High School Victory Corps, the Schools At War program got elementary school children directly involved with the war effort, collecting scrap metal, and selling war stamps and bonds. Traeger writes, “Any school student who would collect over 100 pounds of scrap metal for the war effort would be given an award by the War Powers Board.” A seventh grade class in Fullerton put on a play called “Line Up For Victory,” which emphasized “the need to collect metals in order to defeat the “Japs.”

From the Bracero Program to "Operation Wetback"

In researching the history of Orange County, I have noticed wild fluctuations in how Mexican immigrants have been received. During the Great Depression, when white people needed jobs, hundreds of thousands of Mexican Americans were illegally deported, or as president Hoover put it, "repatriated" back to Mexico. This historical reality is documented in tragic detail in the book Decade of Betrayal, by Francisco E. Balderrama and Raymond Rodriguez.

During World War II, with American servicemen overseas, American companies needed labor, so they looked to Mexico again. The U.S. Government, in conjunction with big business, put together the "Bracero Program." (Bracero is Spanish for 'hired hand'). So, when we needed them, Mexicans were again welcomed into the Untied States, as a source of labor.

These workers were instrumental in keeping the war economy going. In Orange County Through Four Centuries, Leo J. Friis writes, "On February 11, 1943, representatives of 41 of the 45 orange packing houses of the county met at the Anaheim Elks Clubhouse where the committee presented a plan to import seasonal workers from Mexico." And that's what they did. Under the "Bracero Program" thousands, perhaps millions, of immigrants from Mexico were welcomed to the United States.

But what about when the "real" (i.e. white) Americans returned home from the war and wanted jobs? Enter "Operation Wetback" of 1954. I wish I was making this up, but I am not.

In her fascinating book The Mexican Americans, Alma M. Garcia writes, "The INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) developed 'Operation Wetback' in an effort to reverse the tide of 'illegal aliens' from Mexico. In June 1954, the INS began a program to deport undocumented Mexicans living in the United States, specifically in the Southwest. The Border Patrol employed questionable paramilitary tactics in rounding up Mexicans and deporting them back to Mexico."

La Perla

Jennie Reyes and her husband Johnny owned and operated a Mexican restaurant in Fullerton called La Perla for almost 40 years. It was located at 247 East Truslow. Reading a transcript of an interview with Reyes from 1975, I am overwhelmed at how much she cared about her community, and contributed in very tangible, practical ways to the lives of her customers. She recalls:

“In those years that we worked, the Nationals, the Mexican people that used to come from Mexico to work here, used to go to our restaurant and we used to make very good money. We made good money in the restaurant by working hard, too. I feel that we earned it. We didn’t try to cheat the boys or anything. We used to help them in sending money to Mexico for them. I remember I used to get five and six hundred dollars just for the money orders because they had to send the money to their families. They were working here and I hated to see them spend it and not send it home. It really wasn’t my business, but I felt sorry for those people back home and I could imagine what they were going through, hoping and praying and waiting for the money to come from their husbands over here, so I used to tell them, ‘Okay, just bring me the money. I’ll send it.’ Every Monday I used to spend about four hours at the bank to make all those money orders and to get the money orders ready to send, and to register their letters and all that.”

At a time when there was tremendous racism against Mexicans and other minorities in Fullerton, Reyes’ restaurant welcomed everyone and treated them fairly and warmly: “I used to tell them, ‘I don’t care if you are colored, an American, a Mexican, a bracero, or a Japanese, whatever your nationality; whatever you are, you are welcome here. Just behave like a human being and respect the place.’ That’s all I asked of everybody and it worked because I used to treat everybody the same. I used to be nice to everybody, I tried to do my best for everybody.”

Reyes saw herself, her family, and her business as a part of her community. She was deeply connected to her customers’ lives. Speaking of recent immigrants from Mexico, she said, “They couldn’t speak English. They didn’t know where to go, who to go to, who was going to take advantage of them, who was going to be honest to them. That’s why I used to feel sorry for them. If I would go to town shopping and I’d see somebody there, and some of them didn’t know English they'd say, ‘Could you interpret for me?’ I’d say, ‘Sure.’”

How different this business mentality is from a large, faceless corporation who only cares about profits and the bottom line. It’s kind of ironic. Once a corporation goes “public” and starts having to answer to shareholders and not customers, that business loses its connection to the real public and the local community.

I think businesses today would do well to emulate the model of La Perla restaurant.

Chapter 11: The Post-War Boom

For many years, the development of the United States could be understood as rural vs. urban growth. Industrial workers lived in urban cities and agricultural workers lived in rural farming areas. Fullerton was, at first, a rural/agricultural city.

However, by the turn of the century, America saw the rise of a third type of living space...the suburb. In their 1980s study "The Multinucleated Metropolitan Region," M. Gottdiener and George Kephart wrote, "By the 1930s it was well-recognized that the suburban areas possessed commercial and industrial facilities that made them somewhat autonomous from central cities." Orange County in general, and Fullerton in particular began to emerge as one of these new types of population centers.

This trend has continued to the point where now nearly half of the total U.S. population resides in suburban areas.

What were the reasons for this suburban growth? Gottdiener and Kephard cite many forces, including "military-related spending in the permanent war economy, the growth of high technology, the robust real estate market, racism, the flight of the white industrial working class, the construction of traditional (non high-technology) manufacturing plants, the expansion of service-related industries, and new arrangements in the corporate business structure...have all combined to produce the new form of settlement space."

While each of these reasons deserves its own chapter, I would like to focus on the first one, "military-related spending in the permanent war economy." The phrase "permanent war economy" is discussed in depth in Ernest Mandel's book Late Capitalism. This reality is disturbing on many levels, as it suggests that the United States has a structure in place to be permanently at war.

Unfortunately, looking at the 20th and 21st centuries, America has indeed been at war pretty much permanently.

What is Fullerton's role in the "permanent war economy"? One example is the corporation Raytheon, one of the United States military's largest contractors. They build weapons and develop military technology. At present, they are the fifth largest employer in Fullerton.

Chapter 12: Protest and Change

In the early 1960s, when Cal State Fullerton was selecting its mascot, students chose an elephant. One of the main reasons for this was the First Intercollegiate Elephant Race which took place on May 11, 1962.

Why an elephant race at a college? The idea for the event began as a joke. The Dean of Students published guidelines for campus organizations and clubs and gave, as a silly hypothetical example, “Elephant Racing Club.” Some students from the Sigma Phi Omega fraternity thought it was a great idea, and began actually organizing it.

Gathering faculty and administrator support, the event took shape. They invited other colleges to participate in the elephant race, including Harvard. The event caught media attention and ultimately became a reality.

On May 11, 1962, 10,000 spectators and 89 reporters gathered on “Dumbo Downs,” a large dirt field near campus. 15 colleges were represented, each with an elephant and a rider.

CSUF historian Lawrence de Graaf writes, “The actual race was more a spectacle than an organized contest. Elephants, a motley group ranging from 77 pounds (a baby elephant) to three tons, were raced in three categories. Moreover, they inclined toward following their own instincts rather than the guidance of humans trying to get them to run down regular lines. Most of them never completed the course. Eight races were staged; some essentially parades in which the animals carried water buckets and flags in their trunks.”

The event was almost a disaster. De Graaf continues, “One moment of excitement came when the full-sized elephant from Long Beach State College broke into a gallop and veered 90 degrees into the spectators. Fortunately, everyone got out of its way in time and the driver eventually guided it back to the field.”

Because of all this, there was no clear “winner” of the elephant races. Harvard was awarded the prize of a golden shovel with “Super Duper Pooper Scooper” emblazoned on it, because it was the oldest university present.

The Elephant Races solidified the elephant as the Cal State mascot. The silliness of both the event and the mascot had both positive and negative effects. On the one hand, it put the newly-formed Cal State on the map, so to speak. On the other hand, “association with such an eccentric event coupled with the college’s proximity to Disneyland produced a stereotype of a college with frivolous foundations.” Some called Cal State “Disneyland Tech” and “Dumbo College.”

In the 1960s, amid all the social movements happening on campus, students and faculty established the Experimental College, a tuition-free, gradeless, progressive satellite of the "regular" curriculum.

Former professor Lawrence de Graaf writes, "The Experimental College epitomized a combination of the idealism and disdain for convention prevalent in the 'counter culture' of the late 1960s. The college intended to prepare graduates to organize the poor, work with peace and ecology movements, and start free schools and communes." Students graduated when they were ready, when they "discovered how to relate constructively, creatively, joyfully, to other people."

By 1970, the Experimental College offered 24 classes to 447 students. Unfortunately, as the revolutionary spirit of the 1960s began to dissolve into the disillusioned haze of the 1970s, students lost interest and the Experimental College ended in 1974.

In 1967, amid the turmoil of the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement, and all the other social and cultural turbulence facing America, a battle for academic freedom was waged in Fullerton City Hall.

The conflict began when a 24-year old graduate student at Cal State Fullerton, Terry Gordon, directed and put on a play by Michael McClure called "The Beard". Michael McClure, an iconic figure in the Beat Generation, wrote numerous poems, plays, and novels that dealt with the social realities and problems of 20th century America. "The Beard" is a about a fictional encounter in heaven between Billy the Kid and Jean Harlow, which culminates in a simulated act of oral sex (not actual oral sex). At that time, "oral copulation" was a felony in the state of California.

Although the showing of "The Beard" was a private performance, some members of the local press got word of it, and got in, and ran headlines like "Lewd, Smut-Ridden Play Given at Cal State Fullerton." This issue caught the attention of conservative local politicians. Historian Lawrence de Graaf writes, "Seizing an opportunity for publicity in an upcoming election year, politicians from Orange County joined the attacks." A "Special Senate Committee on Pornographic Plays" was created and they subpoenaed Terry Gordon, his professor Edwin Duerr, CSUF president Langsdorf, and many others.

The proceedings took place in the fall of 1967 in Fullerton City Hall. The investigating senators included John G. Schmitz, a member of the John Birch Society, a group famous for opposing civil rights legislation and for their anti-communist zeal. The entire transcript of these hearings was recorded and published by the Senate of California. I found a copy of it in a special exhibit on "Banned and Challenged Books" in the CSUF library.

I felt like I was reading the script of a brilliant legal thriller. It reminded me a little of the play "Inherit the Wind" about the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, which was also about academic freedom. I don't have the time or patience to reproduce the entire transcript here (its about 200 pages), but here are some excerpts. Don't worry, this intense story has a happy ending. I am seriously considering writing a play about this whole thing.

Ralph and Natalie Kennedy: Civil Rights Heroes

Up until the 1960s, it was very difficult for minorities to get housing in Fullerton because of racist housing policies. The recently-published book A Different Shade of Orange: Voices of Orange, County, California Black Pioneers discusses this historical reality.

Two local people who were actively involved in championing the cause of fair and open housing were Ralph and Natalie Kennedy. As early as the 1950s, they were distributing open-housing petitions to prevent housing discrimination. Natalie recalls, “There was a Chinese family trying to move in about six houses from us. There was a deed restriction that...made it so minorities would not be we got a petition going all around our neighborhood. Everybody signed it and they got in. That was very early. That was in the fifties.”

Ralph and Natalie continued getting signatures for an open housing petition for the city of Fullerton, trying to raise awareness and to help change a social climate of racism.

In 1963, the State of California passed the Rumford Fair Housing Art, “which made it illegal to discriminate in the area of housing against ethnic minorities and races.”

In response, a large group of the wealthy elite (banks and property owners and real estate agents) got an initiative on the ballot (Prop 14), which would repeal the Fair Housing Act. This coalition was operating under the racist mentality that minorities drive down property values. To them, making a lot of money was more important than making a just society. These groups and individuals remind me of the powerful corporate conglomerate called Magnum Opus, Incorporated in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel The Sirens of Titan: “It was a marvelous engine for doing violence to the spirit of thousands of laws without actually running afoul of so much as a city ordinance.”

With this massive corporate backing, Prop 14 passed. However, it was later declared unconstitutional.

Unfortunately, many property owners, ever the clever capitalists, found ways to subvert the Fair Housing Act. Ralph describes this trend that still continues today and explains why Fullerton is still largely segregated: “They got the idea that maybe we can’t overtly refuse to sell to somebody, but we can make sure that they don’t build any housing in Orange County that’s affordable to relatively poor people, many of whom are going to be ethnic minorities. So in this indirect manner, the society in general was able to continue this discriminatory effect." Even today, Fullerton has very little affordable housing. The proposed development on West Coyote Hills is typical Orange County: very expensive, exclusive housing.

Ralph and Natalie continued to work for fair housing for minorities. They were instrumental in creating the Fullerton Fair Housing Council, the first of its kind in Orange County, which later became part of the Orange County Fair Housing Council, which helped thousands of formerly-excluded minorities to find homes in Orange County.

Ralph, the campus minister at Cal State Fullerton, became president of the Presbyterian Interracial Council, which worked to end housing discrimination, school discrimination, and exploitation of farm workers. He started the Friends of the Farm Workers of Orange County. Ralph was arrested for peacefully taking part in a farm worker strike in Northern California.

As if all that was not enough, Ralph also founded and edited The Fullerton Observer, the only independently-run, family owned newspaper in Fullerton, which still exists today, helmed by Ralph and Natalie’s daughter Sharon.

When asked in an interview why he did all this for his community, why he gave so tirelessly and creatively for so many years, he responded, “The reason I do this, and Natalie would probably have a similar reason, because it comes out of our faith, faith in the idea of love and the idea that love is best evidenced by serving your fellow man in whatever kind of difficulty they may be in.”

Natalie echoed this sentiment: “Live simply that others may simply live.”

Teach-In at Cal State Fullerton

On february 17, 1967, Cal State Fullerton hosted its first "Teach-In." What is a "Teach-In"? It was a relatively common thing in the 60s, an extra-curricular college event in which speakers were invited to give their thoughts on a wide variety of issues, often involving civil rights and U.S. government policy. The subject of the February 17th Teach-In was "The American Policy in Vietnam." It was sponsored by the CSF Understanding Asia Committee, a joint student/faculty group.

Dr. Stuart Silvers, the faculty advisor of the committee, explained the purpose of the Teach-In in an editorial in the Titan Times: "It is felt that now is a crucially important time to present as fully as possible an examination of the U.S. policy on South East Asia, and in particular Vietnam…In the face of continuing demonstrations and protests against the continuation of the war, the Administration continues with apparent impunity to increase the scale upon which it seeks to fight the war. This Administration continues this policy of escalation even in view of the reluctance of our allies to support us. There is virtually no support of America's policy in Vietnam, throughout so-called free world, yet we are continually told by members of the Cabinet and the President of the necessity of the war. Except for several unpopular and hence hard to buy magazines and newsletters, the mass media has offered, we believe, very little in the way of analysis which reflect positions alternative to those of the Johnson administration. Television and radio carry news reports from Washington which are in conflict with reports found in European newspapers and this has come to be known as the 'Credibility Gap.' This is serious, and in an attempt to do something toward bridging this gap, the Understanding Asia Committee has gathered a host of well-known spokesman for various positions with regard to U.S. foreign policy and especially Vietnam."

Among the speakers at the Teach-In were James Farmer, an economist from San Fernando Valley State College, who had spent two years in Vietnam from 1962-62; Edward M. Keating, founder and publisher of "Ramparts" a liberal catholic magazine; Robert Scheer, author of the book "How the U.S. Got Involved in Vietnam"; Theodore Edwards, the Southern California Chairman of the Socialist Workers Party, and a commentator on the Los Angeles radio station KPFK; John Harris, an African American civil rights activist, founder of the Watts Progressive Labor Party, and a participator in the famous "Freedom Rides" in the American South; economist Arthur Castens; and a special recorded message from philosopher Bertrand Russell.

News of the Teach-In alarmed local residents and politicians, who formed the Concerned Fullerton Citizens' Committee, and distributed handbills around neighborhoods asking questions like "Do You Want Berkeley in Fullerton?" The Fullerton Police Department was called in to maintain order in what was sure to be a controversial event.

On the day of the Teach-In, local groups set up protests outside the CSUF gym, where the event took place. Among the protestors were Ralph Forbes, president of the American Nazi Party in Southern California. Forbes partnered with Reverend William Fowler of El Monte to set up a makeshift speakers stand and say things like "If the same determination was shown in Vietnam as was shown in Germany, the war would be over now."

Local labor unions picketed the event, mostly the "communist" speakers. They carried signs reading: "We have traitors in the U.S." Inside the lobby of the gym, tables were set up representing groups like the Students for a Democratic Society. the Socialist Workers Party, and the black Muslims.

The event was open to the public, and was well-attended, by both supporters and opponents of the war in Vietnam. Attendance was estimated at over 1,000. Speakers were met with both boos and applause. President Langsdorf and others criticized the event for not booking more speakers in support of the war, as the vast majority of the speakers were against the war and for peace. Dr. Silvers replied to these remarks by stating: "More invitations were sent out to pro-administration representatives than to all others and the overwhelming majority of those invited declined." A student added "There is no paucity of official government views on the Vietnam conflict."

This event was unprecedented in Orange County, and its mixed response represented a growing conflict between the older conservative Republicans and the younger student Democrats in the county, a conflict that continues today.

Remembering the 1970 Student Strike at CSUF

In the Spring semester of 1970, in the midst of the Vietnam War and growing student movements across the country, a minor revolution happened locally involving thousands of student protestors, riot police, violence, the takeover of two college buildings, and much resistance against policies that young people found intolerable.

Thankfully, the story of this entire episode is preserved for posterity in two books: How to Kill a College by Cy Epstein (a professor who witnessed and participated in the events), and The People vs. Ronald Reagan, a photo book created by students who took pictures of the events. The following report and photos are primarily from these sources.

The Reagan Hecklers

The revolution began with two words, that most common of English expletives. Because this is a family paper, I won’t write it out, but the first word begins with an “F” and the second with a “Y”.

The year was 1970 and Ronald Reagan was governor of California. On Monday, February 9, the first day of the Spring semester, governor Reagan came to speak to a crowd of about 5,000 students in the CSUF gym.

Many students were unhappy with Reagan, not just because of his association with the conservative establishment, but for a more practical reason—Reagan was proposing to cut the budget of higher education and start charging tuition. This was in direct contradiction to the original vision and plan for the CSU system, which was established as tuition-free public education. Many folks of the “baby boom” generation who attended CSUF paid virtually no tuition. Reagan, and those who came after him, sought to change that.

And so, when Reagan began his speech, he was almost immediately interrupted by a loud and clear student voice from the audience—the aforementioned expletive.

The gipper continued his speech, which was occasionally interrupted by more student voices, shouting more expletives.

At the conclusion of his speech, Reagan bellowed his response to the student hecklers into the microphone, “Shut up!”

Free Bruce and Dave!

The following week, two students, David McKowiak and Bruce Church, were charged by the Dean of Students with “disrupting an academic convocation.” That evening, Bruce and (later) Dave were arrested by the Fullerton Police from their homes and booked in the Fullerton jail. They were charged with having violated a brand new California law: “disturbing the peace and quiet by loud and unusual noise…and by the use of vulgar, profane, and indecent language in the presence of women and children.”

Two days later, about 35 students of the newly-formed Student Mobilization Committee confronted CSUF President Langsdorf in his office. Langsdorf defended the university and the police’s actions.

That Friday, students organized a rally in the quad that drew around 2,000, on behalf of Bruce and Dave. After the rally, about 40 students conducted a “sit-in” protest in Langsdorf’s office.

The following Wednesday, another rally outside the Library drew another 2,000 students, who denounced the charges against Bruce and Dave. After the rally, 500-600 students flooded the officers of the administration building for another “sit in.” They taped butcher paper to the walls and wrote slogans like “Free Bruce and Dave!” and “Time for the Revolution.”

Around 11pm that night, with students still occupying the building, the Fullerton Police Tac Squad arrived, and the students fled. According to Epstein: “The police marched the length of the corridor, batons chest high, and came to a halt at the other end. Then, vivid in their black uniforms and plastic face shields, they stood at attention for 20 minutes in the empty neon-lighted, paper-littered hallway.”

The next day, Langsdorf again defended the college and the police’s actions before an assembly of about 5,000 students. Immediately after, hundreds of students re-occupied the administration building in protest. Later that evening, CSUF’s Chief Security officer Russell Keely arrived with copies of an administrative restraining order against the students. Out on bail, Bruce Church approached Keely and poured a half gallon of milk down the front of his shirt, soaking the restraining orders.

Again, the Fullerton Tac Squad arrived to shut down the sit in: “Again, they were armed for students with shotguns and rifles…The squad went through a routine of bringing their weapons from rest to dead level; this sent squeals of terror and delight through the students…[who] screamed and ran like hell.”

Clashes with Police

The college “administrative hearing” against Bruce and Dave was scheduled for March 3. To deal with the growing number of student protestors, “the Fullerton police had arranged to borrow about 225 officers from other jurisdictions…a helicopter was also borrowed for the occasion,” Epstein writes.

Shortly after the hearing began in the Humanities Building, students flooded into the chambers and eventually shut down the proceedings. As the hearing officers were escorted out of the building, around 100 police officers made a formation behind the building. Captain King of the FPD read a “dispersal order” through a bullhorn. The students moved toward the quad and were met by hundreds more who were just getting out of their classes. Police started to make arrests, and there followed a series of violent clashes:

“What began as individual scuffles…snowballed into mass choreography…Some of the officers battered savagely with their batons, contributing to the cries or acts of outrage from the students…Several people in the crowd had picked up clods of dirt or pebbles and were pelting the police. It was reported that two students, jumping in and out among the others, threw oranges at the police,” Epstein writes.

Professor Stu Silvers, the faculty advisor to the CSUF Students for a Democratic Society attempted to intervene on behalf of the students by speaking with Captain King and Vice President Don Shields. Instead, officers beat and arrested Silvers. This prompted more clashes and arrests.

Another professor, Hans Leder, got a bullhorn and encouraged the students to sit down, attempting to pacify the situation.

“Perhaps they won’t kick us out of the quad if it’s a classroom,” Leder said, and proceeded to give an impromptu lecture on such topics as “The Possibility of the Police Baton as a Phallic Symbol.”

Eventually, with the students calmed (and entertained) by Leder, the police backed down and left campus, to wild student cheers.

In total, 19 people were arrested that day.

The “Fullerton 19”

When the “Fullerton 19” were released on bail from the Fullerton jail, they were greeted and applauded by a group of friends, family, and supporters.

Not everyone shared these feelings. Local newspapers and television had reported on the clash between students and police, and there followed a flurry of letters to newspapers, the college, as well as Professors Silvers and Epstein (who had also been arrested): “These ranged from praise for having called the police to scoldings for letting ’sick people’ and commies teach and learn at Cal State, to vigilante warnings that further action will be taken if the president ‘does not clean up this mess,’” Epstein explains,

This was the height of the Cold War in conservative Orange County, after all.

If nothing else, the response to the events revealed a great political divide between the older, more conservative generation, and the new, more progressive, generation of students.

A student-produced newsletter called “What’s Going On?” summed up many of the students’ point of view:

“We have been accused of many things. Some students and citizens have indignantly charged us with disruption. But there is something odd about that, for we too are angry about disruption. We are angry about the disruption of the lives of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese by the bombs, napalm, and guns of this country. We are angry at the daily disruption of the lives of black and brown peoples in America, north and south. Are we inconsistent, then, when we heckle a representative of that establishment responsible for wreaking such havoc through the world?”

Each of the “Fullerton 19” were charged with 4-7 violations of the California penal code. No charges were filed against the police.

The college “judiciary hearing” against Bruce and Dave happened on March 19. Dave boycotted the hearing. Both students were found guilty of disrupting Reagan’s speech, but were later cleared by an appellate board.

Strike for Peace

The protests to free Bruce and Dave helped to forge an alliance of students who continued to organize events and protests throughout the semester.

Then there was the Kent State and Jackson State Massacres, in which National Guardsmen shot and killed unarmed students protesting Nixon’s recent invasion of Cambodia, and the escalation of the Vietnam War.

After Kent State, 500 colleges and universities across the country were temporarily shut down, including CSUF.

In response, about 500 students occupied the Music, Speech, and Drama building, protesting the Vietnam War, Reagan’s policies, and Kent State. Outside the building, a large sign was placed declaring a “Strike for Peace!”

Inside, the ticket booth and foyer were converted into communications and information centers, where students were able to keep up with what was happening on other campuses. The rehearsal room became The People’s Kitchen, the “green room” became The People’s Lounge, classrooms became People’s Bedrooms, and the showers became The People’s Showers.

Inside the theater, student organizers formed committees and discussed plans of action, organized events and even rock concerts. The theater became a place of lively, sometimes angry debate between students, professors, and community members.

Perhaps wanting to avoid another violent clash, President Langsdorf (at first) allowed the students to remain in the building. He issued a memo stating, “While I do not personally believe a student strike is a useful method of influencing national policy, it can be a peaceful expression of dissent appropriate to the American tradition. No one will force students to attend classes if they choose not to do so, and I would urge that no one be penalized academically solely for acting in accordance with his conscience.”

The conservative Register newspaper did its part to portray the students strikers as dangerous delinquents, running headlines like “Student Radicals on Pot.” This is not to say that pot and other drugs were not consumed during the strike–they were, Epstein explains. This was 1970, after all.

Ten days into the strike, with the university having re-opened, president Langsdorf convinced the students to re-locate to a semi-permanent building in another part of campus for a “peace headquarters.”

Local State Assemblymember John Briggs (who would later become infamous for authoring the 1978 Briggs Initiative which sought to force public schools in California to fire teachers who were gay) sought to make political hay of the student unrest by demanding that President Langsdorf remove the striking students from campus altogether.

On the last day of the semester, in the same gym where governor Reagan’s speech had sparked all the unrest of that Spring, Briggs organized a meeting of a newly-formed group called the Society Over Sedition (SOS). Briggs gave a speech denouncing the student strikers and even President Langsdorf for being too soft on them.

“Dr. Langsdorf knows that this is a radical, revolutionary strike group, an organized conspiracy extending throughout the United States to foment revolution in this country, shut down out colleges, and overthrow our government,” Briggs declared. His supporters cheered. Students booed.

Late that night, someone threw what was evidently a molotov cocktail at the new “peace headquarters.” Students fled. The fire gutted the building. The strike was over, for the time being.


Epstein, who actually did time in the Orange County jail for his actions in support of the student strikers, offers some concluding thoughts on the whole ordeal:

“Intellectual vitality has contributed to the unrest on the campus. It is a skeptical generation, a questioning generation, one that balks at an order but responds to a reason. We would like to rest comfortably in the notion that the students are the unknowing dupes of professional manipulators; after all, isn’t youth easily led? I have found, on the contrary, that students have trouble manipulating even one another…

“We are not dealing with an alien country longing to destroy us. We are dealing with our own youth, raised in the I’m from Missouri tradition which is part of our democratic heritage. ‘I’m a voter, show me why I should vote for you. I’m a student; show me why I should give up a fight.’ Even if the students were bent on destruction alone, repression is no answer. The pages of history are studded with the spiritual and material death of repressive regimes.”

In retrospect, the student strikers were generally correct in their assessment of the Vietnam War, the invasion of Cambodia, the repression of protest, and the disastrous economic impact of ever-rising tuition.

Perhaps, in our current context of extreme political/generational polarization, the best approach is to listen to the voices of the youth. They are, after all, our future.

Chapter 13: The 1970s and 80s

The Briggs Initiative

“The year was 1978, and state Sen. John Briggs (R-Fullerton) was riding high. Convinced he was on to something, he sponsored a statewide initiative that would, in essence, permit school boards to fire teachers who acknowledged their homosexuality. Even on the eve of the election that November, it was murky as to how far Proposition 6, the so-called Briggs Initiative, would go, but in October, Times staffer Robert Scheer asked Briggs if "simply being a homosexual and admitting to that fact is grounds for firing." Briggs replied: "That is correct. If you are a homosexual, publicly admitted or practicing, that is automatic grounds for the removal of a teacher or a school administrator or an aide or a counselor."

--The Los Angeles Times, 2009

I first became aware of Senator John Briggs when I saw the movie “Milk.” There was a scene in the movie where Senator Briggs was debating Harvey Milk over the so-called Briggs Initiative. Where was this debate held? In Fullerton! I was ashamed, but not surprised that the architect of one of the most anti-gay ballot measures ever would be from Fullerton. I grew up here. I know there was and still is a fair amount of anti-gay sentiment. Case in point—Proposition 8 passed. On the day of that election in 2008, Chapman Avenue was lined with “Yes on 8” posters.

Who are these anti-gay activists? Based on my experience and observations, they come largely from churches. There is a scene in “Milk” where someone asks how many signatures would be needed to put the Briggs initiative on the ballot. "Whatever it is," someone says, "they'll get it in two Sundays at church in Orange fucking County."

The Birth of Hardcore Punk

In the mid to late 70s, disco was king. The hippie movement had died, and musicians who were voices of protest and dissent (Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, etc.) seemed to go away or lose their audience. On the rock music front, you had the birth of what Mark Mothersbaugh has called “white concert rock”—bands like Kansas, Toto, and Boston whose message was basically, “I’m white, I’m a misogynist, I’m a consumer, and I’m proud of it!”

Into this cultural void stepped the punks. The punks were like hippies on steroids. They carried the flame of protest forward right into the 80s, into the Reagan era. In England, you had bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash. In New York, you had The Ramones and The New York Dolls. In Detroit you had MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, and Destroy All Monsters. In LA you had Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, and Bad Religion.

Fullerton spawned its own special breed of punks. Arguably the first hardcore punk band in Orange County was The Middle Class, which formed in 1976 in Santa Ana, but regularly played shows in Fullerton. Guitarist Mike Atta (who now owns Out of Vogue in Fullerton) says, “When we started, we thought we were totally alone. No one was playing this kind of music in Orange County.” However, perhaps inspired by the success of The Middle Class, who were soon playing LA shows with Black Flag and The Germs, a number of other hardcore bands sprung up in Fullerton, including Social Distortion, The Adolescents, D.I., and others.

Punks in Fullerton faced an interesting dilemma. Fullerton has since the Nixon era been a pretty conservative place. Home of republicans, mega-churches, and white flight settlers, you would not think Fullerton would be fertile ground for hardcore punk. But punks thrive on conflict. One could argue that confrontations with police and city authorities only fueled the flames of the hardcore punk scene behind “The Orange Curtain.”


THE MIDDLE CLASS formed in 1976 in Santa Ana, California. The band consisted of Jeff Atta on vocals, Mike Atta on lead guitar, Mike Patton on bass, and Bruce Atta on drums. The band achieved major success in the hardcore punk scene of Orange County and LA. The band's most popular release was Out of Vogue EP, released in 1978, particularly known for its extremely fast title track. The Middle Class are generally considered one of the first bands to play hardcore punk.

SOCIAL DISTORTION Formed in late 1978 in Fullerton by frontman Mike Ness. The original lineup consisted of Ness on lead guitar, Rikk and Frank Agnew on guitars, and Casey Royer on drums. Its first single, Mainliner/Playpen was released in 1981 on Posh Boy, the label responsible for releasing the first singles and albums of many of the local O.C. punk bands. Rodney Bingenheimer of KROQ-FM took a liking to Social Distortion, releasing the single "1945" on his 1981 compilation album, Rodney on the ROQ. The rest is history.

THE ADOLESCENTS formed in 1980 in Fullerton, California. They were a punk supergroup, made up of early members of Agent Orange and Social Distortion. They are often credited as one of the leading bands of the 1980s hardcore punk scene. The Adolescents signed with Frontier Records in January 1981 and recorded their debut album, Adolescents, the following month. It quickly became one of the best-selling California punk albums.

D.I. formed in 1982 and combined the Orange County punk sound with a decidedly gothic style on their debut self-titled EP. The EP featured five songs including "Richard Hung Himself" (originally written by Casey Royer while he played for the Adolescents, recorded it with the Adolescents to later re-record it in D.I. ), "Venus De Milo," "Reagan Der Fuhrer," "Purgatory," and "Guns". This EP was later reissued as Team Goon with extra tracks including versions of Gary Glitter's "Rock & Roll Part II" and Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge". Their first proper album Ancient Artifacts was a more straight ahead Orange County sounding album that included a new version of "Purgatory" from the EP.


THE GALAXY was a roller rink-turned punk club in west Fullerton on Gilbert. Members of The Middle Class booked the shows, and soon The Galaxy was a regular venue for such iconic bands as Black Flag, Social Distortion, Circle Jerks, and a host of others.

ICHABODS was a rock-n-roll bar that would sometimes book punk shows. Located at the corner of Chapman and State College (where the Burger King is now). There also used to be a bowling alley across the parking lot called “College Bowl” (where the Smart and Final is now). Mike Atta of the Middle class says, “You had two cool places to hang out.”