That's the library's official account, as drafted in 1957 by Haskett herself, a beloved figure for whom the city named an Anaheim library branch. She cited no sources, offered no evidence of any kind for her claim that Pinocchio was some kind of national hero.
In fact, the earliest mention of the Pinocchio story appears in the April 20, 1938, edition of the Bulletin.The story, "Anaheim Doll Takes Strange Story of Adventure to Ogden, Utah Show," makes no mention of Pinocchio's heroics in telling his story. Two weeks later, when the doll returned from Utah, the Bulletinreported that the children of Ogden loved him. "He was the hero of Anaheim's March 3 flood, they were told," the report said. "They delighted in the story of his miraculous rescue from the torrents which swept through [Anaheim]. They heard he swam to save his life, and finally went to sleep in an automobile from which two people had been swept to death."
It's appropriate that Pinocchio is the most public monument to the Great Flood of 1938. Carlo Collodi's original 1883 book is a parable on the importance of truth, and its consequences. Lies bring death, suffering, the wrath of nature; the truth will set you free. The children of the 1938 flood—the Ritanos of La Jolla, the Montañas of Yorba, all the nameless babies and young Mexican laborers whom coroners never identified—were victims of a county unwilling to face the truth and threat of its river. And then the deluge.