Brea Old and New: The go-to source for "All things Brea"!

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  • Fascinating Facts: Brea and the Arts

    6 years ago by

    Brea's Red Lantern Theater. (Photo from Brea: Celebrating 75 Years)

    1.) In 1921, a group of Brea  businessmen formed an investment group, and in October, broke ground on Pomona Avenue (now Brea Blvd) for Brea's first theater, The Red Lantern.

    2.) By the 1930's, The Red Lantern theater was renamed The Brea Theatre and in 1938, when she was 14-years-old, child star Judy Garland made an appearance on its stage.  One Brean, who was at the event, recalled that Miss Garland  "didn't sing,  she just stood there for a few minutes and then left the stage".   Her uncle, Robert Gumm, managed the theater at the time of her appearance.

    3.) In the 1920's and 30's, Brea was the backdrop for more than a few Hollywood "moving pictures".  Mary Pickford shot scenes for a silent movie in the hills above Brea.  William Boyd, who would later make a name as "Hopalong Cassidy", played a heroic oilman near the intersection of today's Brea Blvd and Lambert Road.  In the 1940's, John Garfield and Lana Turner drove in a car down Brea Blvd, between Lambert and Central, taking advantage of the scenic California Pepper Trees that once lined the road for "The Postman Always Rings Twice".

    4.) At the Curtis Theater, in 1982, the Brea Foundation was host to Nobel Prize Winner, Dr. Henry Kissinger, for a special fundraising event.  Other foundation fund raisers at the theater have featured noted actors, teen idols, and singers.

  • Brea Fascinating Facts: Carbon Canyon Park

    6 years ago by

    1.) In the 1880's, settlers on 10-acre plots of land on the Olinda Ranch raised livestock and grew crops on what is now the open areas of Carbon Canyon Regional Park.  By the late 1890's, harsh conditions brought on by lack of a potable water source, forced them off of the land, allowing Union Oil to expand petroleum operations in the canyon.

    2.) By 1897, Union Oil and the Santa Fe Railroad partnered to bring a train spur line into the Carbon Canyon oilfields in order to facilitate production of crude oil. The tracks ran from a now long forgotten depot located north of today's Olinda, cutting across what is now the Carbon Canyon Dam and the park area, heading southeast to Richfield, another township near Yorba Linda that eventually failed.

    3.) With the arrival of the railroad, Olinda quickly grew to over 3,000 residents, who built homes, schools, churches, mercantiles, and other amenities to accommodate their needs. Todays Carbon Canyon Park became the site of hundreds of board and batton homes, built by the oil companies  and leased to married wildcatters.

  • Fascinating Facts: Brea Civic & Cultural Center

    6 years ago by

    1.) In 1980, the theater at the Brea Civic & Cultural Center was named for Dr. C. Glenn Curtis, a transplanted Georgian, who opened his practice in Brea in 1927. "Doc" Curtis' devotion to his family, friends, and community, as well as his enthusiastic support of the Arts in Brea earned him a place in our history and on the marquee.

    2.) The Brea Civic & Cultural Center not only houses our seat of local government, but it is also the home of the Brea Gallery, the Brea Public Library, and the Curtis Theater.

    3.) The address of the Brea Civic & Cultural Center was 800 East Birch Street on the day it was dedicated and was changed to 1 Civic Center Drive soon after.

    Approximate area of the Yriarte Ranch, Brea, CA, circa 1917. (click for larger view)

    4.) The land that is now the Brea Civic and Cultural Center, the Brea Mall, and several acres of downtown Brea was once an enormous barley field on the Yriarte Ranch. Early Brea pioneers Patricio and Pascuala Yriarte settled in Randolph in 1905, the small town that would become Brea. They soon acquired 160 acres where they grew oats, barley and hay, and eventually provided the city with one of its first water wells.

  • Another Name on the Baseball

    6 years ago by


    Bob Meusel's signature on the baseball made famous by Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth

    Most Breans are aware, and very proud, of the fact that on October 31, 1924, New York Yankee slugger Babe Ruth and hometown pitching sensation Walter "The Train" Johnson played in an exhibition game near what is now the corner of Lambert Rd. and Brea Blvd. Both of these legends, along with Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner, were the first players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    After the exhibition game, Ruth and Johnson signed a baseball for Ted Craig that is currently housed at the Brea Museum. Another player present at that game was New York outfielder, "Long Bob" Meusel. And just as his career was eclipsed by such luminaries as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, this other member of the legendary "Murderers Row" signed the baseball that day. His is one of the other names on the baseball.

    Even advertisements for the game printed in the Brea Progress newspaper relegated Meusel to second billing, listing his name in smaller type, under Johnson and Ruth. A handbill from the actual game doesn’t mention him at all.

    Although his name is seldom brought up when Breans and baseball historians recall that Fall day in 1924, the statistics he accumulated in his 11-year major league career give us a better glimpse as to why he was included on that barnstorming tour in the first place.

    At 6'3", the muscular Meusel was a feared outfielder and considered a solid, all-around player, power-hitting .313 or better in seven of his first eight major league seasons. Hitting behind Babe Ruth in the order, Meusel became the first Yankee right-hander to win a batting title in 1925 with 33 home runs. That same year, he was also the American League RBI champion, with 138. His accurate and powerful throwing arm earned the outfielder his other nickname; "The Rifle", and on September 5, 1921, Meusel tied a major league record with four outfield assists in a single game.

    In 1924, Meusel had a career high of 26 stolen bases and was two hits shy of his career high of 190, with 188. From 1920 through 1930, his on-base percentage career high was .393. Appearing in six World Series, "Long Bob" stole home twice and in a regular season game played on May 16, 1927, he stole second, third and home.

    Bob Meusel and Babe Ruth are the only Yankee players to hit for the cycle three times. Career-wise, Meusel ranks among the all-time Yankee leaders in doubles (338), triples (87), RBI's (1,005) and batting average (.311).

    With statistical superiority to many players in the Hall of Fame, Bob Meusel was considered "grim and unpopular" by fans and Yankee Manager Miller Huggins felt he played with an "indifferent attitude" and "could have done better".

    Looking back at some of Meusel’s exploits during his career, it’s still difficult to understand why he is an almost forgotten character in baseball lore.

    On October 16, 1921, with baseball pals Babe Ruth and Bill Piercy, he embarked on a barnstorming tour of Buffalo, NY, contrary to Baseball Commissioner Landis’ ban against the World Series participants playing in post-season exhibitions. Five days after the tour began, they cut it short in Scranton, PA, but Babe Ruth challenged Landis to act against them....which he did - fining the players their World Series shares, $3,362.26 each, and suspending the players until May 20th the following season.

    On June 13, 1924, with New York leading 10 - 6 in the ninth inning, Tigers pitcher Bert Cole hit Meusel in the back with a pitch. Meusel threw his bat at Cole and charged the pitchers mound, setting off a 30-minute near-riot at the Detroit Stadium that included both players benches, fans, ushers and the police. Umpire Billy Evans, unable to clear the field to complete the game, forfeited it to New York. Cole and Meusel were both suspended for 10 days. Meusel was fined $100, Cole and Ruth were fined $50 each.

    Playing for Cincinnati, Meusel’s final season in the major leagues, on September 12, 1930 during a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Brooklyn catcher Al Lopez drove a ball over the head of left-fielder Meusel. The ball bounced over the wall and into the bleachers at Ebbets Field. Ruled a homerun, this is the last recorded bounce homerun in National League history, as the rules changed the following season to rule bounced HR’s as doubles.

    "Long Bob" Meusel, born in San Jose, CA on July 19, 1896, died of natural causes in California on November 28, 1977 and is buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier. Not much is known of his life after the end of his baseball career. We do know, however, that there was a reason he was on the barnstorming tour and why he signed that baseball, with Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson, on that celebrated day in 1924.

  • Remembering a Halloween past.

    6 years ago by


    Babe Ruth crosses home plate at the Brea Bowl, 1924.
    On the old Olinda lease, just to the north of today's Carbon Canyon Park, a young man named Walter Johnson once played catch with his friends on the dirt roads.

    In 1924, after pitching several seasons for the Washington Senators, Johnson came back to Brea...with a new nickname.  The  “BIG TRAIN” (Ty Cobb said “you can't hit what you can't see”), who was a recipient of a MOST VALUABLE PLAYER AWARD from his league, returned to town with a major league line-up of baseball stars that included Bob Meusel, Ernie Johnson and Babe Ruth.

    The Brea Bowl, today. Home plate would be about mid-picture, in the middle of the street.

    Brea businessmen and the Anaheim Elks Club sponsored a benefit exhibition game at the “Brea Bowl”, which was near where today's intersection of Lambert Road and Brea Blvd are, near St. Crispin Place.

    The game was played on Halloween afternoon and businesses and schools for miles around, not just in Brea, but in neighboring communities too, were closed for the historic event.

    Cars stretched for miles and crowd estimates at the game were close to 15,000. Before the game, the players changed into their uniforms in a tin building that still stands on Brea Blvd.  Today, it's known as Ron & Wayne's Auto Repair.

    Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson played on opposing teams that afternoon...and the Bambino pitched for his team, opposite Johnson.

    Johnson's team lost that game 12 to 1, but a memory was made that day when Babe Ruth hit a foul tip that struck a young fan in the head.  The game was stopped when Ruth went to the boy and gave him a quarter....the legend is that he approached the young man and told him, "Don't cry kid, it'll be okay."

    After the game, all of the players, including Ruth and Johnson, signed a baseball which is still one of Brea's most treasured articles of memorabilia from the past and housed at the Brea Museum.

    In 1936, Walter Johnson, along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner,  and Christy Mathewson, were the first players ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

  • Why we LOVE Brea’s City Hall Park

    6 years ago by


    Brea's City Hall Park was once home to a fishing pond.

    Most Breans drive or walk past City Hall Park several times a week, but few really know its rich and varied history.

    After Brea's incorporation in 1917, city leaders decided there was a need for a seat of government. A bond issue, approved in 1922 for $60,000, added to a $15,000 surplus in city funds, enabling the acquisition of the block between Date and Elm on Pomona Ave, (now Brea Blvd), from the Union Oil Company for below market value.

    Early Brea pioneer, Frank J. Schweitzer, developed plans for a city park that included land set aside for a municipal plunge and civic center buildings. Brea's "Old" City Hall building opened in 1929 and by the summer of 1930, citizens were enjoying fun and relaxation at the new Brea Plunge, that included a building for changing clothes.

    The American Legion Building, built in the 1930's, became a meeting place, not just for Legionaires, but for other civic and service groups. In 1933, City Hall Park became a temporary home for refugees from the devastating Long Beach earthquake. The displaced could take advantage of shelter, along with the sinks and cooking plates the city had installed behind the Legion Hall during the early days of the Great Depression.

    In 1948, where the Schweitzer Rose Garden is now located, an enormous, 3-tiered fountain once stood, built to commemorate the life and contributions of highly regarded Brea pioneer, and businessman, W.D. Shaffer. The fountain was demolished in the 1960's when it fell into disrepair, and decades later, a new, modern Shaffer Fountain was re-dedicated on the Brea Promenade, where it now stands.

    In 1952, Vice Presidential candidate, (and Yorba Linda native son) Richard Nixon, made a campaign stop, speaking to Breans and people from neighboring communities.

    The Brea Soroptomist Club, in 1976, sponsored the construction of the Gazebo, dedicated on July 3 of that year. And this last summer, the Gazebo was given a beautiful facelift, ensuring that it will stand for another twenty-five years.

    Brea's City Hall Park is still a focal point and gathering place for Breans, with the 4th of July Country Fair becoming a highlight of the summer months, as well as the annual Concerts in the Park.

    In coming years, time capsules buried near the old City Hall Building during Brea's Diamond and Golden Jubilee Days will be unearthed, no doubt to great ceremony, future treasures of Brea's diverse history.


  • A brief Thank You to an old friend.

    6 years ago by

    Brian Saul, Brea's first Officlal City Historian.

    Brian Saul first came to Brea in 1983, already instilled with a love of history. After a few years, when there was talk of redevelopment in the downtown and the possibility that some historic buildings would be lost, Brian led an effort to preserve some of those buildings in an Historic Park.

    Karl and Inez Fanning, who had been involved with the Brea Historical SOciety since its inception, heard about his efforts and invited him to become a member. Later, he was asked to serve on the Board of Directors and was eventually elected to the post of President.

    While serving on the board, Brian organized Walking Tours of the Brea downtown and was approached by the City to host monthly segments on Brea's history for Video Brea Line, formerly broadcast on the Brea Channel.

    Shortly before the Brea Jubilee (Brea's 75th Birthday Celebration), the video segments were put together and became the successful "Brea: A Walk in Time" video. In 2004, Brian produced and appears in the CD, "Brea: A History of our Town and our Times". This CD is still available for sale at the Brea History Museum.

    Brian's participation in so many venues helped to promote awareness and preservation of Brea's rich history. He was a member of the 75th Jubilee Steering Committee coordinating historically themed events such as Historic Home Tours, Living History Bus Tours, the 1967 Golden Jubilee Time Capsule ceremony and the placement of items in a capsule that will be opened on Brea's 100th birthday in 2017.

    He has also participated in the Brea Charette, which emphasized historical preservation in the new downtown and served on the City Historical Commitee for several years as Chairman and member, and was pictorial editor of the book "Brea: Celebrating 75 Years" authored by historian Teresa Hampson.

    In August, 2003, he worked with the developers of Tomlinson Park, in north Brea, to have streets in the neighborhood named for notable Breans. Brian developed a list of their accomplishments and presented it to the developer, and assisted with the decision making process. Once the streets were named, Brian hosted a ceremony where he presented family members of the honorees with copies of their actual street signs.

    Brian Saul, another notable Brean, was named our first Official City Historian in that same month. He is now retired and makes his home in Michigan, while still maintaining roots here in California. Brian helped cultivate my love of Brea's history, and I will always be grateful.

  • Three Breans Past, Pt. 2

    6 years ago by

    The Delaneys, at home in Brea.

    THREE MORE BREANS WHO have had streets named for them at the Tomlinson Park development in north Brea, are featured in this post. For the official street naming ceremony conducted in August, 2003, City Historian, Brian Saul researched and provided brief histories of the Brea notables who received the honors.  With Brian's permission, BBON is again delighted to reprint three more of these brief histories. Thank you, Brian!

    Delaney Drive - named for H.L. Delaney, a popular young Brea oilman who in 1911 built one of the first commercial buildings in town, the Delaney Building and a rooming house on Ash Street. Delaney was killed in 1918 when a piece of timber from an oil derrick fell on his head.

    Freeman Lane - named for Ray Freeman, the 21-year-old pilot killed while flying the "Humming Bird" during the Brea Air Meet at the Brea Airport in 1926.  The "Humming Bird" was the first full-cantilever, low-wing monoplane built in the United States and was constructed in a garage building on Brea Blvd.

    Tremaine Drive - named for William "Wild Bill" Tremaine who worked with Austrian plane designer Fred Thaheld in 1925 and 1926 on building the "Humming Bird", the first full-cantilever, low-wing monoplane built in the United States. The plane was built in Tremaine's auto repair garage on Brea Blvd. He and Thaheld also built two other planes which were flown out at the Brea Airport.




  • Three Breans Past

    6 years ago by

    In August, 2003, a street naming ceremony took place at the, then new, Tomlinson Park subdivision in North Brea. One of the main voices behind the drive to have those streets named for notable Breans was Brian Saul, who served as the official City Historian.  In addition to his advocacy, Brian also researched and provided a list of Breans, and their contributions, to the developer for consideration.  Once the choices were determined, Brian prepared short histories of each recipient. BBON is delighted to reprint, with Brian's permission, three of those short histories. Thank you, Brian!

    Rosalie Williams, Brea's First Businesswoman and Postmistress

    Williams Street - named for Rosalie Williams, one of Brea’s first businesswomen. She also served as Brea’s postmistress, helped organize the Congregational Church and the Women’s Club, served as a member of the Orange County Democratic Central Committee and as president of the Olinda PTA. Earlier she ran boardinghouses in both Brea and Olinda.

    Casner Way - named for W.D. Casner, an oilman who drilled the first well on the old Amalgamated Lease east of town. Financially successful, he built a big, 2-story home on Madrona Ave. in 1915. The home was later moved to Redwood St. during redevelopment in the 1990’s, where it was restored. Mr. Casner planted the first palm trees in town on Birch Street.

    Johnson Lane - named for Walter Johnson who, after growing up in Olinda, became the famous fast-ball pitcher for the Washington Senators. He and Babe Ruth played in an exhibition baseball game in Brea in 1924. Johnson was one of the first inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

  • The Brea Plunge

    6 years ago by

    The Brea Plunge, shortly after opening in 1930

    As part of a larger vision for the city by early Breans, the Brea Plunge was included in the original plans for City Hall Park.  $75,000, of which $60,000 was secured through a voter approved Bond issue in 1922, enabled the acquisition of the land from the Union Oil Company.  The Plunge was seen as a focal point of the park, an area where family and friends could gather and cool off on hot summer days.

    Construction of the Plunge, and its changing rooms, started soon after the opening of the new City Hall Building, in 1929, with the pool opening to a grateful public the following summer.

    Soon after opening, the Great Depression of the 1930's made its way to Brea and the Plunge became a place where local citizens could get away from some of their worries and have some fun.

    During the summer of 1943, the Plunge was closed to all swimmers due to a nationwide Polio epidemic. Fears of contagion that summer gave caution to the city and swimmers were told to stay home. It wasn't until 1955 and the development of Dr. Salk's Polio vaccine that these fears were finally put away for good.

    In 1984, the Brea Plunge and its changing rooms were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. By 1988, the Plunge was almost 60-years old and in serious disrepair. Condemned by the Health Department, the Brea Plunge was saved from demolition by local efforts to secure a county grant for reconstruction. Record crowds attending the re-opening enjoyed enhanced safety, function, and aesthetics and gave the redesign great reviews.

    Today, the Plunge still stands as a focal point of City Hall Park, a place for friends and family to gather and have fun, and is the oldest, continuously operating Civic-owned freshwater pool in Orange County.