Anaheim

Junior year, Anaheim High School, mid-1990s, Mr. Cross' class. The Virginia native is teaching us about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s, and our mostly Latino class gapes at a picture of Klansmen parading through a downtown. It's disgusting, it's vile—and it's Anaheim, I finally learn years later in college, when I'm researching a paper on white supremacism and find the same photo, with a caption, "Anaheim: 1924."

This is history in Anaheim, Orange County's first incorporated city—and it's bulldozed or swept under the carpet with frightening regularity. The rows of historical hotels that dotted Anaheim's downtown were wiped clean in the 1970s to make way for a Von's and a Sav-On. The city's gorgeous orange groves, which brought my great-grandfather to Anaheim a century ago, are reduced to one, across the street from the Anaheim Police Department and fenced off with barbed wire. The distinctive Googie architecture that ringed Disneyland is mostly gone, replaced by uniform city-mandated marquees tinted a weird vomity pink.

Yet Anaheimers (yes, that's what we call ourselves) are fiercely proud of our city, mostly because we each belong to long-standing, vibrant immigrant communities—fitting pride for a city founded by Germans during the 1860s in the hopes of establishing a socialist grape colony. My mother comes from El Cargadero, a mountain hamlet in the central Mexican state of Zacatecas that over the past century has hemorrhaged more than 1,000 residents to Anaheim. "Your great-grandfather came to Anaheim around 1906," says my mom, who dropped out of ninth grade at now-leveled Fremont Middle School in 1969 to pick strawberry fields on the corner of what's now Sunkist Street and La Palma Avenue. "And even then, there were already people from El Cargadero in Anaheim."

Mami was born in El Cargadero but came to Anaheim in 1965 when she was 12, in the middle of the city's last major housing boom—but before the development of Anaheim Hills. She still remembers rows of homes interspersed amongst orange groves and produce fields, but of course she doesn't miss the days of picking from them after school. "It was hard," she says. "The white students would make fun of us, not just because we were poor but because we barely spoke Spanish." But it didn't make her want to leave. "This," she says, "is the only home I know." As it is for people from around the globe: the county's largest concentrations of Romanians, Africans, Thais, Laotians, Arabs, Filipinos and Samoans live in Anaheim. And we are proud: of there and of here—still living in largely self-segregated communities but united by our communal Mass: nightly Disneyland fireworks and the Anaheim Angels. Our Angels.

Best Toy District Enough toys to hit your budget like a miniature rocket-propelled grenade "fired" by a miniature G.I. Joe. Kelly's Toy Stop features a small but choice stash of Ultraman monsters from the '60s Japanese TV show. Phat Collectibles has your G.I. Joes; also your Hot Wheels, Beanie Babies (yaargh) and "hockey" action figures. Bray's Toy Mine has everything else—Marx toy tanks with bright red wheels; vintage windup racing cars for $15; and for the tippler with everything, a $1,000 flying saucer advertisement for Burgermeister beer that's as tall as a boy. Kelly's Toy Stop, 3024 W. Ball Rd., Unit K, Anaheim, (714) 828-4577; Phat Collectibles, 3011 W. Ball Rd., Anaheim, (714) 484-9080; Bray's Toy Mine, 3017 W. Ball Rd., Anaheim, (714) 995-1602.

 

Best Mural St. Catherine Military Academy. Painted in 1959, the gold-leaf Byzantine mural outside its chapel depicts an all-star cast of scholars from all faiths—the Jewish Maimonides, the Muslim Averroes, Socrates and Plato, Hammurabi, even a stray pharaoh—opposite Old Testament prophets, as Adam and Eve stand to the side in agony. Now that'sCatholic. 215 N. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 772-1363; www.stcatherinesmilitary.com.

 

Best-Kept Secret Disneyland. Though the exact date of its opening is a mystery, Disneyland has remained an exciting diversion for many locals who value the amusement area, or "theme park," as a good place to enjoy an inexpensive and hassle-free afternoon. The brainchild of Walter Disney, a graphic artist from the Midwest whose whereabouts are unknown, Disneyland features several attractions that children enjoy for their fast thrills, creative design and varying mortality rates. Being such a local favorite, there have been times that Disneyland has become crowded—rumor is that on rare occasions, people have been asked to stand in a "line" to ride an attraction. To avoid such unpleasantness, those in the know say the best time to visit the park is on weekends, especially during winter, spring and summer breaks, when most local residents make their pilgrimage to international amusement icon Six Flags Magic Mountain. 1313 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 781-4565.

Best Baseball Park Boysen Park. Angels Stadium gets all the write-ups, but this baseball diamond is the true beaut, with its ivy-covered outfield fence and home-plate view of the Googie-style rocket slide where generations of Anaheim kiddies have bruised their butts. 951 State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 254-5191.

Best Latin Club JC Fandango. In 20 years, affable owner Javier Castellanos has built this into the finest Latin nightclub in the United States, with the legendary (the late Celia Cruz) and the unknown (El Otro Yo) of every musical genre enespañol. 1086 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 758-1057.

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