Orange Coast Magazine - OC Answer Man

O.C. Answer Man | by Chris Jepsen

O.C. Answer Man

Stories 1 to 5 of 6

Q: Where’s the best place to see UFOs in Orange County?Downtown Huntington Beach is the most likely place, based on the many sightings mapped on the UFOStalker website used by Mutual UFO Network’s Orange County chapter. Of course, that part of town also has something like 825 percent more liquor licenses per capita than the rest of the county. (Perhaps the little green men like to tie one on?) But we can’t blame all UFO activity on schnockered sightings. Visit your local art school and then tell me there are no extraterrestrials among us. Q: How did San Juan Capistrano end up with a huge Swallows Day festival—but no swallows?In the 1920s, the mission’s Father St. John O’Sullivan spun the story of the cliff swallows’ 6,000-mile, clockworklike annual migration into a romantic legend. In 1930, his tale was published in “Capistrano Nights,” and the story became a publicity juggernaut. Media coverage of the swallows’ return every March 19 brought increased crowds each year. A national radio broadcast in 1936 marked the first organized recognition of the return, and the following year Capistrano High School principal Paul Richards launched what is now Fiesta de las Golondrinas to entertain the ... ocanswerman

Q: With no groundhogs in O.C., what signs of nature predict our local weather?You’re worried about winter in Orange County? Local Native Americans once believed that gophers relocating their burrows to higher ground was a sign of an approaching rainy season. According to the late historian Jim Sleeper, the pioneers had innumerable predictive “sure signs”—from heavy acorn growth to whales hugging the coast. These methods were about as dependable as ol’ Punxsutawney Phil. Since accuracy clearly isn’t a concern, let’s invent a new method of weather divination: If Jerry Brown comes out of his office Feb. 2 and sees his shadow ... . Q:  I hear Abe Lincoln gave Mission San Juan Capistrano back to the church. Did he visit Orange County?Honestly, no. Spain ended the mission system in the 1830s, and sale of the land soon followed. But after California became a state, petitions were circulated to return the missions to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1863, while embroiled in a few other historic events you may have heard about, Lincoln signed documents in Washington that returned all California missions to the church. The way some folks around here carry on, you’d swear Abe had stopped ... ocanswerman

Q: How can the beige, planned city of Irvine take a walk on the wild side?Bring back the lions! From 1970 to ’84, more than  400 lions, zebra, and other wild animals roamed freely among visitors’ cars at Irvine’s 140-acre Lion Country Safari, site of the recently closed Wild Rivers. Imagine how much faster the dash from your office to your car would be if you knew panthers might be prowling the parking lot, or how much more exciting golf would be if you knew rhinos might come crashing out of the rough. This could provide life-affirming, survival-oriented excitement for the cubicle-and-condo set. Q: What’s with the old church in the parking lot of Moreno’s Mexican Restaurant in Orange?I’d love to report that someone established a religion around Mexican food, but the truth proves almost as interesting. Orange County’s first Quaker house of worship was built on that site—now 4328 E. Chapman Ave.—in 1887. Sadly, the Friends’ building plans didn’t take Santa Ana winds into account, and within weeks, the place literally was blown apart. The sturdier, 1888 replacement building that served the Quakers for about 80 years now is used for events and overflow seating at Moreno’s. ... ocanswerman

Q: I’ve seen references to a Nixon’s Restaurant in Fullerton. Any link to the late president?Between 1952 and 1956, Richard’s brother, F. Donald, opened family restaurants in Whittier, Fullerton, and Anaheim. (There also was a Watergate Motel in Anaheim, but that’s another story.) Nixon Burgers were 20 cents and the restaurants’ mascot was a thrifty Scotsman. Strangely, billionaire Howard Hughes lent the chain $205,000 to (unsuccessfully) keep it out of bankruptcy. Accusations of the then-vice president favoring Hughes with government contracts dogged later campaigns, and President Nixon—wary of his brother’s somewhat sketchy business practices—found him a “safe” job at the Marriott Corp. But he also wiretapped Don’s phone to keep tabs on him.    Q: What were the first ‘green energy’ technologies invented in Orange County?A: “Wave motors,” designed to harness the power of the ocean, were the rage among Southern California inventors from the 1870s to the early 1900s. Projects cropped up in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and elsewhere. Santa Ana blacksmith D.F. Spangler’s 1896 version failed for the usual reason: Maintenance on a machine in unpredictable seas is far more expensive than generating power through other means. But at least Spangler made an honest effort. A number ... ocanswerman

Q: Does O.C. have any special Christmas traditions?“Forty Miles of Christmas Smiles,” a town-versus-town decorating contest, was the grandest. All along the Orange County coast, piers, city halls, businesses, homes, boats, churches, and schools set up elaborate exhibits. Once, Huntington Beach even turned an oil derrick into a giant Christmas tree and topped a row of oil pumps with Santa’s sleigh and reindeer so they appeared to fly as the pumps worked. Started during the Depression, the contest was sponsored by local chambers of commerce and the Orange County Coast Association. After a hiatus during World War II, the event continued until energy conservation efforts in the mid-’70s took the fun out of it. Q: How long has that life-sized fiberglass cow been displayed at the Old Courthouse?“Connie the Courthouse Cow” has been there since the early 1990s. She’s part of an exhibit called “The Dairies of Orange County,” which was intended as the first in a series of displays on historic Orange County industries. But that never happened. During the intervening 20 years, it became an unwritten rule that toddlers must yell, “Cow!” upon entering the Old Courthouse in Santa Ana. OC Parks, which runs the museum, ... ocanswerman