This weekend, the Floral Park Neighborhood Association hosts its annual Home and Garden Tour, a fantabulous two days where residents can pretend they don't live in SanTana. "Stroll tree-lined streets, enjoy the ambiance of a simpler time gone by," reads a promotional brochure, and ain't that the funniest code for "before the Mexicans ruined the town" you've read in a while? The starting point will be on the corner of Santa Clara Avenue and Victoria Drive, a place where the docents can lay down the true history of Floral Park but probably won't because look at how pretty the houses here are!
According to the association's history, Floral Park began as a place where World War I vets could return to live--indeed, nearby Memory Lane is dedicated to the soldiers of the Great War who didn't return. "During the prosperous years of the 1920s, it was said that 'every man could have his castle and he could have it any style he wanted'" reads the brief recap, before listing architectual schools such as Spanish Colonial and English Tudor revivals. What the Floral Park folks didn't include was the style of Whites Only.
In a January 8, 1925 article of theSanta Ana Register
, mention is made of new "high class subdivisions" to be built in what was then merely referred to as the north part of SanTana. Among those originally buying in: future mayor F.L. Purinton and former O.C. district attorney L.A. West. According to the article, part of the deeds for these homes (in what would become Victoria Drive) stated "no persons other than members of the Caucasian race shall be permitted to use or occupy any lot, except as family servant." That clause was in the deeds of many other SanTana neighborhoods, but Floral Park would become the placedu jour
for segregationists; among later residents would include former O.C. D.A. Horace Head,son of and apologist
for Orange County part-founder and proud Klansman Henry. Ironically enough, Horace would go on to sell his house to
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publisher R.C. Hoiles, whose only worthwhile contribution to mankind was opposing Japanese internment during World War II. See, the Japs were fine in old man Hoiles' mind, not the Mexicans.
All of this information comes from A Different Shade of Orange: Voices of Orange County, California, Black Pioneers, a wonderful new collection of interviews with African-American O.C. residents released by Cal State Fullerton's Center for Oral and Public History and co-edited by Robert Johnson. Johnson is still trying to figure out when Floral Park was officially desegregated; some Indian prince built a mansion on Heliotrope Drive during the late 1930s, but money buys many things, you know? Louie Olivos, Jr., whose family operated the Yost Theater for decades, once told me that his family was the first Mexican clan to move into Floral Park during the 1950s; they were promptly greeted with a burning cross. Johnson's own notes include a 2003 interview with a Floral Park resident that revealed "neighbors were not kind to him when he came in the early 60s because he was a foreigner." Victoria Drive is still the street where that ridiculous mansion with "Tara" wrought in its iron gate stands.
Obviously, not all Floral Park residents remain segregationists, and I think I know all eight Mexicans who live in the neighborhood. But it's important that in telling the histories of Orange County, the full stories be revealed. Us Anaheimers tell everyone again and again how the Klan took over our city during the 1920s; let's see the Floral Park Neighborhood Association confront its past. Maybe then, they could tackle their segregated Halloween.