(Los Alamitos, 3/7/2013) OK, you’ve got to read today’s column from our Highlands’ Guy.
You’ll be glad you did.
I guarantee it!
Breaking news: The book below has already been so successful that the local author has just inked a contract with the publisher for a trilogy! Details below.
With kids in college and high school I can relate to book reports. Heck, I can even remember doing a couple in my own school days back when you usually borrowed them from the library. And this only after finding them via the card index. What a pain that was!
Some of my current reading is spurred by the reviews in the Sunday L A Times. Although I do find that many times the reviews are esoteric and serve only to give a forum to the reviewers.
Anyway, late last year I became aware of a new book with a really local focus. I had seen the author’s name connected with all kinds of local happenings and events. I missed the sale and signing at Calendar’s, but bought it directly from the publisher, History Press.
If you have any interest in all stuff local, or enjoy reading history, or understand the importance of an historical knowledge as an important component of making better civic decisions, then this is for you.
The book is, ‘A Brief History of Los Alamitos & Rossmoor’, by Larry Strawther. I have no connection with the book or the author. I offer not an in depth critique but just a brief overview and a simple recommendation.
Strawther’s book gives us a sense of place, and it does a good job of putting our little corner of the world in a wider perspective . It also offers the reader an opportunity to understand our inter-connections with folks and institutions from all over Southern California.
Strawther transports us from the area’s earliest American native inhabitants all the way through city hood in 1960. Comprehensive and detailed, revealed in a way that keeps the pages turning.
We learn about the roots of the Gabrielinos, the Tongva, and the intrusion of the early political and religious Spanish explorers.
In the following years, the Spanish land grants and all their ramifications began a process that lasted a couple of hundred years.
The results were large parcels of land changing hands to the highest bidders, many originally from New England.
The Stearns, the Bixbys, the Clarks (whose names are still associated with the area) and others raised cattle and sheep to the often flooded Los Al low lands.
In the mid-19th century with the railroad playing an ever increasing role in the West, the physical and cultural landscape of Southern California began to evolve yet again. An immigrant population saw the potential in the open topography and a ready supply of water. The eyes of investors, near and far, turned to the potential of agriculture.
Los Alamitos’ first neighborhoods
As the years passed, because of a myriad of outside decisions, the area becomes an important player in the country’s thirst for sugar. The sugar beet industry rode this wave with abandon.
The workers needed a place to live and thus we get our first neighborhoods. This was accompanied by the growth of local transportation corridors that connected the raw product with the processing plants. And that’s really the infant stage of our primary streets, named of course, for the wealthy land owners.
Dr. W. J. Ross’s Los Al factory:
I should note that after the decline of the sugar beet industry, and before the mid-20th century advancements, we were known as the capital of a growing dog food empire. Well, with the discovery that horse meat was the primary ingredient of the local product, that episode too, was relegated to an anecdote in the local history archives.
The Base: From Bob Hope to H.G.
The next big phase in the coming of age of Los Alamitos was focused on what is now known as, the Joint Forces Training Base. With lots of open space and our entry into World War II, the area was ripe for a new use.
NAS Los Alamitos and the Army Airfield began life just prior to and in the early years of the Big War. Hundreds of cadets got their start here and went on to missions in Europe.
Carrier-based aviation units went on to see action in the Pacific theater Support from the entertainment world, like in more well-known military venues, was also in evidence here, with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby hanging out with the ‘fly boys.’
Within a few years we had a couple of “space age” astronauts beginning their training. On a personal note, I too did a bit of training there as a part of a reserve unit, HMM764, in the olden days.
As was happening throughout Orange County, the open space and the culture that was part of it ended during the 1950’s. Orange groves became Disneyland and Garden Grove, pastures became Cerritos and La Palma, and CSU Long Beach brought a lot of people and changes to the area. The author takes us up to 1960 when we became Orange County’s twenty-second city with the vote of a few hundred locals.
Just the tip of the iceberg
Caveat: Obviously the book is so much more and a good read. I’ve only touched on a few of the interesting facts and figures, famous names, business relationships with national connections, and the more prominent events. My intent was to merely convey a feeling of its comprehensiveness.
Please note also that there is a lot of space devoted to the history, development, and role of Rossmoor in greater Orange County and southern Los Angeles County.
“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history”.
-Mahatma Ghandhi (1869-1948) Preeminent leader of Indian nationalism, through non-violent civil disobedience. Inspired civil rights movements globally.
…And that’s just the way I see it.
Dave E here. Thanks, H.G. for another great post! I’m still reading Larry’s fascinating book, and thoroughly enjoying it. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
If you don’t mind waiting a week, you can buy the book directly from Larry after hearing him talk about the book at a Friends of the Los Alamitos-Rossmoor Library event at 3 St. Patrick’s day afternoon (next Sunday, 3/17). But you should call (562) 430-1048 to reserve a seat or sign up at the library before the event.
To buy the book directly from our own Larry Strawther, just click here and click the “buy now” in the box at the upper right.
Two additional books are tentatively planned, per Larry Strawther:
Re: sequels – here’s the plan – which doesn’t mean it will be the final reality. Three books. The next (just finalized the deal with The History Press) is titled “Seal Beach” and covers the history of that area and town up to 1984 which means it deals with the growth of Leisure World and the College Parks (in what was historically Los Alamitos) and the annexation of Rossmoor – and the merger of the school districts which made the three “towns” one community (at least for 75% of what defines a community – schools, sports, churches, fire departments, libraries, charities to name the main ones –and some other services).
Then the third book would cover the last 30 or so years of the three “towns” as a single community with multiple distinct identities. Now I just need to find some evidence that what I think and say is actually true.
As always, your comments and perspective, diplomatically stated, are encouraged!