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2020 Society Elections of Officers and Board Members

November is fast approaching and so are our annual elections. This is where you, our members, have the opportunity to become a candidate or nominate another member for any of the following positions: President, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Board Director.

Our officers and board members can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, aren’t faster than a speeding bullet, or more powerful than a locomotive.

They are just ordinary people from the community who are interested in preserving our local history. If you’re interested or need more information, please call or stop by.

If you’re not interested in any of the positions above, perhaps you would enjoy participating by being on one of our committees. Why not check us out? We could use you.

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Society’s Ghosts Wonder Where the Humans Are

By Bob Palazzola

We knew that the need for volunteers was always an ongoing problem. However, I was surprised to find out that it was even a concern for ghosts of our building. Are you listening Tess?

The following article is from our Fairview Register newsletter as it appeared in the May 1989 issue, apparently written by one of our ghostly inhabitants. 

“A Message From The Ghosts”

To be honest with you the ghosts are really inhabiting the Historical Society. We have a lot of fun with the many collections of happenings of Costa Mesa. Just wish more of those humans would show up and get things together so we don’t get so mixed up sometimes. We know you humans get so busy making history you forget it needs to be sorted and put together, so even us ghosts can find what we want to read.

We saw in the newsletter last month a volunteer sign-up form was enclosed. Don’t you humans read the newsletter? Looking on the president’s desk, only one person replied that they would help. Now you know that it takes more people to run this society of the city of Costa Mesa. The group has officers and Board members. According to the minutes, some of them even miss sometimes.

The quilts that are on display are sure pretty and nice to roll up in when we play. Only thing is we have a hard time getting them back hung up pretty like they are supposed to be for public to view. We thought about getting in the picture cards and messing them up, but the new shelves and picture storage is going to be so nice, we can find our ghost friends much easier.

I want to tell you that the ghosts of the Costa Mesa Historical Society really appreciate the work you humans are doing, but please hurry so we can find what we want to read. Somebody’s coming… Good-bye.

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Making History Easier to Find
Digitization project leader Art Goddard poses with a massive stack of newspapers that will be converted to searchable computer files

Making History Easier to Find

Every week it gets a little bit easier to uncover a bit of history thanks to the Costa Mesa Historical Society’s digitization project.

As part of the project, the society’s vast newspaper collections will be converted into word-searchable computer files.

Some people imagine the allure of researching comes from rummaging through long-hidden stacks of musty newspapers in the hope of discovering an unexplored solution to an unsolved mystery. While there is a touch of romance to this, it’s a very tedious process.

With digitization, by contrast, long stretches of time and multiple publications can be queried simultaneously. Not sure when the Coral Reef restaurant had its grand opening? Run a search and get an answer in minutes.

The digitization project has two major components: newspapers and clippings. Each aspect aids research in its own way.

Newspaper digitization is exactly what it sounds like. Art Goddard and his son Andrew prepare, scan, and process full-paged historic newspapers. Recent accomplishments include digitizing the society’s holdings of the Newport Ensign, the Newport Balboa Press, and the two newspapers produced at SAAAB during and after WWII. They are currently embarking on their most ambitious project yet: scanning 25 years of the Globe Herald from 1936-1961.

Other societies have taken notice. Art reports the Orange County Public Library, and the Tustin and Dana Point Historical Societies expressed interest in the project during June’s OC History Roundup. The society’s methods have also been published in the Society of California Archivists Newsletter.

Much of the society’s newspaper collection has been scanned in the past. However, advances in technology now allow for better, more useful versions to be produced. For example, the society’s older files are browse-only. Most photographs are inked out and hard to interpret. Plus you need to know the exact paper to look for. Altogether, it’s not much different from the old style of researching, except it’s got a little less romance and 100% less mustiness.

The newly digitized files, by contrast, have much more legible text, rich poly-tone imagery, and, critically, the ability to be word-searched.

The clipping digitization project, by contrast, rather than scanning full newspapers, scans individual articles and compiles them into searchable subject files. The society maintains about 137 separate subjects, many of them further subdivided into sub-categories.

The clipping digitization project owes its success to the tireless efforts of three people: Kathy Bequette, who has clipped articles for 10 years, and the mother and son team of Hope and Karl von Herzen, who has pre-processed and scanned the clippings for the past 8 years.

Clipping files have proven to be an invaluable asset for researching articles in this newsletter, for example in recent articles like Fairview Park, Betty Jean Beecher, and Roy E. June. When a topic has already been curated into a clipping file, it’s the fastest way to get all the major facts. You just need to read.

So, yes, one could say these projects have taken some of the romance out of researching, but they also represent an exciting advance that makes research much faster, more thorough, and, one hopes, more accurate.

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2018’s Artistic License Fair Draws on Success

Thank you to everyone who joined us at the annual Artistic License Fair in Estancia Park. Makers and buyers alike praised this year’s event featuring the work of dozens of Southern California artisans. The event was great for Costa Mesa history, too. Volunteers at the Diego Sepulveda Adobe introduced a steady stream of visitors to local history.  Thank you to all who participated for helping to make this event a success!

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Happy Birthday, Gladys! Longtime Society Volunteer Turns 100

Happy birthday to Gladys Refakes, the longtime society volunteer who turned 100 this past October! On October 25, representatives from OneOC hand-delivered a bouquet of flowers to Gladys while she was hard at work. Fresh fruit was served over lunch — this healthy lady doesn’t eat cake.

A couple days later, family, friends, and colleagues gathered at Zov’s in Tustin for more festivities. Gladys has volunteered for the society since the early 1980s. In that time the South Dakota native has held a number of titles, including Secretary, office manager, and newsletter editor.

Besides the historical society, Gladys has been active in the Women’s Club, the Senior Club, the Freedom Committee, the Cancer Society, and more. Happy birthday, Gladys!

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2018 Year in Review
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

2018 Year in Review

Wow, hard to believe, but yes, another year just flew by! And what a year it was!

Our accomplishments include:

  • The opening of The Hull Story. Curated by society volunteer Nancy Pedersen, this exhibit honors the wood and fiberglass boat builders and manufacturers that transformed Costa Mesa from an agricultural-based town into “the Hub of the Harbor” from the 1950s-80s.
  • Applying through the Orange County Historical Commission’s historic plaque program to receive county recognition for the Diego Sepulveda Adobe and surrounding Native American site.
  • Debut of the society’s enhanced website with expanded features. To go with this new look, we are re-designing our logo, letterhead and brochures.
  • Participating in community events including booths at the 71st Annual Fish Fry, Concerts in the Park, and Orange County Archives in Action.
  • Hosting successful speaker events which attracted new members to the Society including January’s installation dinner with Orange County Register columnist David Whiting; February’s Bring A Friend event; author Craig MacDonald and the amazing story of Charley in March; journalist Chris Epting and the “Camping Trip that changed America” in April; our annual Early California Days in May at Estancia Park featuring cultural anthropologist Stephen O’Neil; Jeff Rountree and the History of John Wayne Airport in June; author Tony Burica and his story Seeking Freedom: A Five Year Odyssey in October; and Fred MacDowell and A Salute to Veterans program in November.

In 2018, society volunteers surpassed 6,000 hours of service. Thank you to our dedicated members including:

  • Board officers & directors: 1st VP Terry Shaw, 2nd VP Tess Bernstein, recording secretary Estelle Hughes, treasurer Susan Weeks, head archivist Mary Ellen Goddard, Dave Rusher, Bob Palazzola, Cynthia Humphreys;
  • Lead volunteer Art Goddard;
  • Docents Kathy Bequette, Alex Golson, Vicki Alcala Kelley, Lynn Alcala;
  • Volunteers Nancy Pedersen, Karl VonHerzen, Hope VonHerzen, Sid Hallburn, Jean & Craig Nomura, Sharon & Dan Dearing, Jan Rovan, Dolores Minerich, Ursula Hartunian, Beth Refakes, Mona & George Hill, Rob Braun, Wanda Garro, Helen Humphreys, costume designer Cynthia Corley, and intern Agustin Espinoza.

Lastly, thank you to centenarian Gladys Refakes for her 38 years of very active service to the society. 

Best wishes and enjoy the holidays. We’ll see you next year!

Dave Gardner
President, Costa Mesa Historical Society

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The Society Shuffle
Items in storage boxes are checked against catalog records in the Society’s PastPerfect database.

The Society Shuffle

No, it wasn’t a two-step dance and it certainly wasn’t a cakewalk. But this Society Shuffle was performed at the Historical Society’s downtown museum September 22-26. Under the direction of Archivist Mary Ellen Goddard, the Historical Society’s storage area for collection items was cleared out, cleaned, and boxes re-shelved after checking their numerical order. This was a major effort, preparing the Historical Society for reviewing collection holdings and making space for new items. The photos tell the story.

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Do You Love Working with Old Photos?

We’re looking for volunteers to assist us in the preservation of our local history. Do you like old photographs? Do you enjoy seeing them come back to life? We need your passion and your skills!

Photo preservation and restoration is a key part of the Costa Mesa Historical Society’s mission. If you would like to learn more about this fun and gratifying volunteer opportunity, fill out the form below, give us a call at 949-631-5918, or drop us a line. Thanks for your help!

Areas of Interest

Volunteer work in which you are interested:


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Society Elections November 18th
Historical Society Museum

Society Elections November 18th

The Costa Mesa Historical Society elections will take place at the beginning of the Sunday Speaker Program on November 18th. The slate of current candidates will be presented at the meeting. Nominations from the floor will be accepted at that time. The election will take place in public and anyone can nominate someone from the floor. The positions open for nomination are: President, 1st Vice-President of Programs, 2nd Vice President of Membership, Secretary, Treasurer and Board Director.

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Remembering 2018’s Concerts in the Park

As the days get shorter and the air gets cooler, we remember the fun we had last summer. Thank you, Estelle Hughes, Jean Nomura, and Augustin Espinoza for manning the booth this year at the Concerts in the Park. From a booth decorated with large historic photos of Costa Mesa, the volunteers handed out candy, sold memorabilia, and promoted the society, all while benefiting the Costa Mesa Foundation.

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