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A West Coast Woodstock?

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of a historic music festival remembered as much for its unpredictably large crowds, last minute venue changes, food and water shortages, challenging weather, and mud-loving concertgoers as it is for its lineup of legends like Eric Burden, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane.

No, not that festival.

We’re talking about the Newport Pop Festival, held right here on the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa August 3-4, 1968.

While it’s largely forgotten now, the Newport Pop Festival is arguably one of the most significant events in Costa Mesa cultural history. It is believed to be the first ever pop concert with more than 100,000 paying attendees (total attendance is estimated at 140,000) and it provided an important link between 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival and 1969’s Woodstock, presciently foreshadowing what was to come the following year.

To learn more about this important part of our cultural history, visit the Costa Mesa Historical Society Museum’s exhibit box on the Newport Pop Festival, on display every Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m.–3 p.m.

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Bessie Lounsberry: A Most Remarkable Woman

Bessie Nell (White) Lounsberry (1886-1972) made many important contributions to the civic life of 1930s-50s Costa Mesa. She compiled the city directory, worked local elections, and served on the Costa Mesa Citizen’s Council, along with other volunteer roles. Her seven-year beautification campaign led to the planting of 1,026 trees. She was honored for her decades of selfless service with the Costa Mesa Historical Society’s second Living Memorial Award in 1973.

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Costa Mesa 129 Years Ago

Society director Bob Palazzola uncovered this gem from the April 1979 the Costa Mesa Historical Society Quarterly. It paints a colorful portrait of early Costa Mesa. Note the reference to A Slice of Orange by Edrick Miller in the final paragraph. The book is essential reading for local history fans.

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Costa Mesa Aviation Accidents

By Dave Gardner, Society President

On June 5, 1935, a Stinson SM-6000 Trimotor made an unscheduled landing at the Joe Volck residence on the northeast corner of West Bay St. and Harbor Blvd. There were no serious injuries.

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This Month in Costa Mesa History

The Sunday Speaker Series is on hiatus until September. But history never rests. Many notable events in Costa Mesa history happened in July.

On July 22, 1769, Portolá first entered Orange County. 41 years later an expedition member and his nephew (José Antonio Yorba and Juan Pablo Peralta) received a land grant for Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana. Costa Mesa sits on the southwest portion of the rancho.

Costa Mesa’s first church, the Fairview Methodist Episcopal Church, was dedicated on July 15, 1888. Bishop Charles Wesley Burns dedicated a new Methodist Episcopal Church on July 30, 1928. That landmark, still standing at 19th Street and Harbor Boulevard, will celebrate its 90th birthday this year.

In July 1920 Harper became Costa Mesa after voters chose the new name in a contest. In 1953, a month after incorporating, the city adopted a new seal emphasizing education and nautical interests. The motto promoted “The Hub of the Harbor Area.” The city’s first library opened in July 1923 and the Placentia Avenue fire station opened in July 1967.

The Costa Mesa (aka Balboa Bay) airport opened this month in 1946. It was located between Placentia and the river, north of 19th street, where the Freedom Homes are now. In July 1970 the police helicopter began patrolling the skies.

The Paulo Drive-in opened on July 8, 1949, while the Costa Mesa Municipal Golf Course, 51 years young, opened in July 1967.

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History Nuggets

The Santa Ana, Fairview, and Pacific Railroad was one of the shortest-lived railroads in boom-era Orange County. In March 1889, the Santa Ana River overflowed at Fruitland, washing out a portion of the nine-month-old tracks, and the small repairs were never made.

The town of Fruitland was near the intersection of present-day Harbor and Warner. It is called a phantom town because it was never officially registered.

In addition to the town of Fruitland, the right of way survey for the railroad lists other landholders adjacent to the tracks. At least three properties appear to have been held by women: Elizabeth Rabel, Mary Smith, and Mary Banning. 

The SAF&P never reached the harbor. Some claim Banning denied the right of way, while others say the boosters only wanted to sell land, not run a railway.

Many old place names have changed over the years. Fairview Avenue is now Harbor Boulevard, Shell Beach is now Huntington, Rocky Point is now Corona Del Mar, and Santa Ana’s West Street is now Broadway. 

Speaking of Broadways, in June 1928 the residents of Harper Street in Costa Mesa successfully petitioned to rename their own thoroughfare to Broadway. Why? Was it to shake off the associations with “old” Harper? To advertise, reminding visitors of the mansion-lined street in Santa Ana? Or because every town needs a Broadway?

According to the OC Register, contemporary accounts show the namesake of Edinger Avenue, farmer and politician Christopher C. Edinger, rhymed his name with “finger” or “humdinger,” not with “ginger,” as it’s usually heard today.

A photograph of the Fairview No. 1 engine is stamped Conaway & Hummel. Conaway was a leading landscape photographer of his day. While Conaway’s partnership with Hummel only lasted between 1887-1889, he later took on a young apprentice, Lou P. Hickox, who eventually bought out his former master. Hickox in turn sold to Mary A. Smart, who renamed the studio after herself. The Smart Studio operated until 1992, when the business closed for good, some 100 years after this photo was taken. 

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Costa Mesa Rejects Annexation

May 22nd marks the 90th anniversary of what was called “one of the warmest elections ever held on the Mesa.” At issue was an attempt in 1928 to annex 6,000 acres of property to Santa Ana. The strip would have run due south from that city to the Upper Newport Bay, and would have included Delhi, part of Paularino, and most of Costa Mesa.

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