California Authors

A History of Orange County

Book Review: "A History of Orange County"
(Twelve Decades of Extraordinary Change)
By Mike Heywood

Reviewed by C. MacDonald

If you want to learn about the "OC," it's roots, evolution and fascination, pick up a copy of this book by master communicator Mike Heywood. With his wonderful words, he'll educate, while entertaining you, in his easy-to-read style.
Heywood weaves the story of the OC, one of the country's most intriguing and dynamic county's, in context with significant national events.

You'll learn about the Native Americans, who had been in the area for over 8,000 years; the significant role of celery, sugar beets, lima beans, tomatoes and oranges; about characters like William H. Spurgeon, who came West to strike it rich in the Gold Rush, and ended up founding Santa Ana in 1869, and how the University of California, Irvine was not named for the city, since there was no such city in 1965; it was named for rancher/landowner James Irvine. The Irvine Company sold over 1,000 prime acres for $1, so UCI could be born.

There are fascinating tidbits sprinkled throughout, about well-known attractions like Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland and lesser known stories, such as how Golf Coach John Anselmo helped Tiger Woods develop a swing-style at Huntington Beach's Meadowlark Golf Course in the 1980s. The original course was designed by William Park Bell, who worked on top links, such as Riviera Country Club and Torrey Pines.

Heywood will tell you how the OC was born; how William Spurgeon and James McFadden made a trip to Sacramento "to push the matter along with the assistance of some financial lubrication." Working with San Francisco legislators, who saw value in carving a chunk off the already powerful competitor to the South (LA County), they were rewarded with the passage of a bill in 1889. "The Orange was a nod to the City of Orange and the potential to grow the powerful crop" and attract growers as real estate customers.

When the county was formed, there were 14,000 residents; today more than 3 million. The author succinctly tells how several of the county's 34 cities got their start. There are fun facts, like in 1949, the average house price was $7,500; a gallon of gas sold for 17-cents and an average annual wage was $2,950.

Heywood tells how the OC is known for its Champions, from Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Cal State Fullerton Baseball and the Olympics to a U.S. President, numerous Film Stars and the Segerstrom Family (who made possible a World Class performing arts center).

But it's also nationally known for its charity's that assist the less fortunate. The affluent county has numerous Rotary, Lion and Kiwanis Clubs and their peers. The author documents the caring history of the Kiwanis Club of Huntington Beach, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary of serving others in 2011. Many of the cities have additional non-profits to help everyone from single mothers to the homeless to abandoned pets.

As the OC continues to evolve, it's especially important to have a copy of Heywood's book as a resource to remind you of its past.

(For more information on the Kiwanis Club of Huntington Beach, visit

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