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, has some go-getters on staff these days who are considering improved exhibits that may or may not have the same toddler appeal.
Q: What was the first Hollywood movie filmed in Orange County?
Famed director D.W. Griffith’s 1910 tale of Rancho Era California, “The Two Brothers,” largely shot in San Juan Capistrano, was the first. Like many modern films, the hokey plot (romance and family upheaval) was largely lost amid all the swashing and buckling. However, this 17-minute silent film was notable for the bit players who later became stars, including Mary Pickford, Hoot Gibson, and Mack Sennett. Recently, the Smithsonian obtained a copy of the film, which for decades was considered lost to the ages.
Illustration by Devon Bowman
Chris Jepsen is the O.C. Answer Man. Have a question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue.