Say what you will about Midway City—and when was the last time you said anything about this unincorporated area engulfed by Westminster?—but don't call this little landlocked island a quitter. Other small central county communities like Bolsa, Newhope, Talbert and Barber City have vanished, with just a street or business name to remind us of their existence, but Midway City residents stubbornly cling to . . . what's that? There's a couple of signs on Bolsa Avenue and Newland Street letting commuters know they're zooming through Midway City's rows of charming homes and used-car lots, a tired park named after former county Supervisor Roger Stanton that hosts one basketball hoop, and a nondescript Jack in the Box—and that seems to be it. Or is it?
"We're pretty tight here," says Midway City native Tim Castroreale, a real estate employee who now lives in Fountain Valley but still speaks of Midway City like home. "None of the houses have a tract-home feel—everything has its own character." The name Midway City accurately suggests nothingness—in fact, founder John Harper picked "Midway City" in the 1920s because it was halfway between Santa Ana and Seal Beach—but the eight decades since have added more character than a name ever could. When Westminster's mayor suggested to locals in the early 1980s that it should annex Midway City, the reaction was so fierce she told a Los Angeles Timesreporter she was lucky she wasn't tarred and feathered. Twenty years later, not much has changed; observers like Castroreale think their hometown will stay unincorporated forever. There's civic pride and—perhaps surprisingly for a town of roughly two blocks and 8,200 warm bodies—an economic side. "Cheaper water rates," says Castroreale, a Midway City School graduate. Soak it up.
Photo by John Gilhooley
Best Patriots Veterans still toast the namesake of American Legion Albert E. Schwab Post 555, the 25-year-old who took out a Japanese gun nest in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa before meeting his own death. And Post 555 embraces just about every other form of Midway City mouth breather. Latino merchants use its parking lot every day to hawk cheap carpets, beanbags, mirrors and statues; Boy Scout Troop 314 meets in its hall every Monday night at seven; and just about everyone else comes to the Friday night fish fries. 14582 Beach Blvd., Midway City, (714) 893-9525.
Best Hometown Girl Is Michelle Pfeiffer still big? Kind of was back in the 1990s, when she was the original Catwoman in the Batman franchise and portrayed strong, stunning women in such yarns as Dangerous Mindsand Up Close and Personal. She's made only four films this century—and one was a voice-over for the animated flop Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas—but we'll always have her as Tony Montana's coked-up mistress in Scarface, and a smoky chanteuse in The Fabulous Baker Boys. And she'll always have Midway City; she grew up here.
Best Website Midwaycity.com. Will real-estate agents stop at nothing to get ahead? Should they? Midwaycity.com is the closest thing this place has to an official municipal website. It has city maps, histories and demographics—and the property listings of First Team employee Tim Castroreale, who stays in touch with many of the old-timers, some of whom go back to the 1920s and have names like Heil, Hazard and Edwards.
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Best Place for the Birds Hoa Poultry. Hundreds of Vietnamese immigrants have moved to Midway City since Saigon fell, and most businesses print their signs in English and Vietnamese. Only Hoa Poultry, however, includes Spanish on its marquee, and only Hoa sells live chickens and ducks to immigrants and those of us who demand our poultry still clucking. The smell here is rank, but for this kind of freshness, you'll always pay through the nose. 8261 Bolsa Ave., Midway City, (714) 894-7796.
Best Place to Feed Your Ewe Midway City Feed. Even if you don't raise livestock, you can still spend many bucolic afternoons amidst the bales of hay and wood at Midway City Feed, one of the last remnants of the central county's farming life. Opened in 1943, this business—housed in a former lumberyard on a residential street—stocks feed for animals long gone from our day-to-day life: cows, horses, goats, ducks, turkeys, sheep, even niblets for koi and trout. There's also dog and cat feed for city slickers. 14941 Jackson St., Midway City, (714) 893-2613.
Best Band of Brothers The Brothers of St. Patrick. 2005 was the first time in 20 years that the Brothers of St. Patrick, a Roman Catholic religious order dedicated to serving the poor, did not hold a St. Patrick's Day festival in their beautiful six-acre Midway City monastery. Which is really sad, and Midway City-zians should help them for a change. Besides their social activism, the Brothers have stayed molestation-free, which is more than can be said for some of the county's other Catholic religious orders. 7820 Bolsa Ave., Midway City, (714) 897-8181; www.brothersofstpatrick.com.
Best Midway City-Named Entity That's Not in Midway City Midway City Sanitary District. Founded in 1939, the Midway City Sanitary District manages trash and sewer service for Midway City from its facilities in enticingly near Westminster. 14451 Cedarwood Ave., Westminster, (714) 893-3553.