Brea Old and New: Tick-Tock, History Isn't So Boring After All™ ~ Charlie the Clock

Welcome to Brea

  • Remembering a Halloween past.

    8 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

    8 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.

    8 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

    8 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

    8 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

    8 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.

  • The Brea Sign, Old and New

    8 years ago by


    The Brea Sign, July 2001

    On June 22, 2001, after almost 10 years in storage, Breans were delighted when our most famous landmark, The Brea Sign, was re-placed at the intersection of Brea Blvd and Birch Street. But, why was the sign placed on a rotating post on the corner of Brea Blvd and Birch Street, instead of a bridge?  Why is it standing, specifically, on that corner? Is this the original sign, or was it completely rebuilt?

    Originally constructed  over seventy-five years ago by the Brea Lions Club, the sign was dedicated in a grand ceremony on April 5, 1934, attended by Mayor Lynn Amos Hogue, Councilman Frank Schweitzer, Sr. (who designed the original candilever bridge that held the sign), W.D. Shaffer (a local businessman who funded a significant part of its construction), and former Mayor, Assemblyman (and soon to be Speaker of the California Assembly), Ted Craig, among other local dignitaries. The Brea Sign, over the years, became a landmark, not just for the local community, but for people passing through from neighboring cities.

    After 58 years, in 1992, Breans were disappointed to find their beloved sign had been removed after the bridge holding it was damaged by a passing vehicle. What most didn't know, however, is the sign had been carefully placed in storage and was awaiting renovation and reconstruction for an eventual re-dedication in the new Brea Downtown.

    Architects for the Downtown Redevelopment Agency found the Brea Sign to be an interesting design challenge. The first question they had to answer was how would it integrate into the new downtown. In the years between removal and redevelopment, Brea had grown up and Brea Blvd, once four-lanes, was now six. New code requirements, truck height restrictions and right-of-way requirements had to be considered.

    The actual Brea Sign is 3' x 10' wide. If the sign were to be put back on a bridge, that bridge would have had to be fifty feet across. That's almost half a football field of bridge holding up a 3' x 10' sign. It's a difficult concept to imagine.

    Design architects created photo montages of the sign, each suggesting various possibilities for placement. One suggestion, mounting the sign on the side of a building, was rejected  immediately since they didn't want to make a private building owner responsible for the sign. Another idea was to span the sign across and above one of the Paseos (the bricked walkways between some of the businesses), but, the sign needed to be visible from a prominent location. This idea was also taken out of the equation. read more


    8 years ago by

    By Carolyn Campbell

      Dwight Manley is Brea's hometown successful businessman who purchased a huge portion of Brea Downtown in 2003. When approached by BBON for an interview, traces of his boyhood shyness are evident in his short answers.

        Dwight Manley

          BBON: What kind of a kid were you, when at an early age you discovered a deep passion for collecting coins?

            Dwight: I was shy. I loved coins + went to the Brea coin shop where Yard House is now all the time!

              BBON: In 2003, you made community headlines in purchasing Brea Downtown. Today Brea Downtown is a destination location. What do you foresee for Brea Downtown in five to 10 years?

                Dwight: It's only going to get better!

                  BBON:From successful rare coin expert, sports agent, real estate developer, to television producer, what’s next for you?

                    I take each day one at a time. So we'll have to see!

                      BBON: Tell us what it was like growing up in Brea in the 70’s and early 80’s?

                        Dwight: It was a lot of fun: watching open fields + orange groves become the Brea mall!

  • Brea’s Time Capsule – by former Mayor Beverly Perry

    9 years ago by

    Former Brea Mayor Beverly PerryIn 1992, the city of Brea celebrated its Diamond Jubilee with a host of events starting on February 23 – the day that Brea was incorporated in 1917 – with a birthday party and time capsule opening.  The climax of the year-long celebration was the December 6 burial of a new time capsule, which will be opened in 2017 at the Centennial Celebration. read more