Historical Hackery at its Worst

Orange County has a notorious tradition of historians who subscribe to the Cult of the Orange Crate, the idea that our region's yesteryears are as immaculate as the images depicted on the labels of the long-gone citrus industry. This paper has long challenged such orthodoxy by publishing stories dealing with the dustbin of OC's past: Francisco Torres, Modesta Avila, the 1936 Citrus War, San Juan's swallows. Because of this, we get accused of being revisionist commies--go figure.

The biggest believer of the Cult out there right now is Chris Jepsen, who works at the Orange County Archives and maintains a personal blog titled O.C. History Roundup, "information and photos for people interested in the history of Orange County, California." The bulk of his postings are historical pictures, calendar of events for historical societies, and links to current articles or specials by media outlets regarding Orange County history--except those of your favorite rag.

Over the past two months, the Weekly has published pieces on Joel Dvorman, the reticence of local historians to write about a Orange County pioneer's Klan membership, and an obituary to one of the county's last orange groves, not to mention all the postings on our Gunkist Memories label regarding everything from endangered murals to other events. Not once did Jepsen link to our articles--but he didn't have a problem linking to an Orange County Register story about a tiny orchard in SanTana. Such an oversight either means Jepsen doesn't read the Weekly, which makes him a bad historian, or purposefully ignores us after my flame war with him, which makes him a vain and petty one.

I say neither--I say Chris has been overtaken by the Cult of the Orange Crate. On Wednesday, he posted about the Anaheim Historical Society's annual dinner, with the keynote speech being "Life in Anaheim in 1958." I left a comment, but Chris deleted it and another one. "We had two crabby, mostly off-topic posts here from completely opposing points of view," he offered as justification. I'm deleting *both* (equal time) because they really didn't suit the tone of discussion here. I appreciate your participation and enthusiasm, but let's try to keep it friendly, folks."

What was my offending remark? Something along the lines of this: "Anaheim in 1958, huh...does that mean if I try to get in, I'll get beat up or everyone will move away from me based on my Mexican heritage?" Sarcasm based on historical truth, Chris. I doubt the Anaheim Historical Society's lecture will mention this, but that time wasn't exactly nice for minorities. In Anaheim, in the neighborhoods near the Linbrook Bowl where the Society will have its dinner, white parents were raising holy hell about the Magnolia School District's plan to integrate Mexican kids with gabachitos. To the north, La Habra realtors weren't allowing big league pitcher Jesse Flores to buy a house in the white part of town. The same thing happened to Olympic gold medalist Sammy Lee just three years earlier in Garden Grove. And I'll spare everyone the horrors my family dealt with in Anaheim during the late 1960s--for that, you'll have to buy my coming book on Orange County history.

"Didn't suit the tone of discussion"?! When a historical society is advertising an event that will bowdlerize the past and someone offers a lighthearted-but-honest critique, to say it's not relevant is to be an accomplice in historical revisionism of the worst kind. The Cult of the Orange Crate sure is alluring, Chris, but it's a goddamn lie.


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