Orange County, California


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Orange County
1963 to 1979


The community of Yorba Linda files incorporation papers just before Placentia files annexation papers. The effort to incorporate, however, fails and the matter is taken to court. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) begins operating the Diemer Filtration Plant in Yorba Linda. The plant distributes Colorado River water for Southern California. The Douglas Aircraft Company Missile and Space Systems Division opens a plant in Huntington Beach. St. Joseph Hospital in Orange is the site of the first open heart surgery in OC. Movieland of the Air, operated by Tallmantz Aviation, opens at OC Airport. Population hits 1 million; declare O.C. 'Metropolitan Statistical Area.' The Mexico bracero program ends. Vi1la.Park Dam is built. The O'Neill family donates an additional 120 acres of land toward O’Neill Park. The estimated population of OC crosses the one million mark. OC U.S. Congressman James B. Utt makes national news by suggesting that "a large contingent of barefooted Africans" might be training in Georgia as part of a United Nations military exercise to take over the U.S.


U.S. President Lyndon Johnson dedicates the University of California Irvine (UCI) site. Orange State College (formerly OC State College) in Fullerton is renamed California State College at Fullerton. The first residents move into Ross Cortese’s second OC Leisure World in Laguna Hills. The portion of the San Diego Freeway (Interstate 405), north of its merger into the Santa Ana Freeway, opens. St. Joseph Hospital in Orange opens the first intensive care unit in OC.


Residents of Rossmoor, while weighing options to incorporate as a city or be annexed by Los Alamitos, delay too long and end up losing a rich tax-base, the Rossmoor Business Center, to annexation by the City of Seal Beach. The City of Dairyland changes its name to La Palma. Classes begin at the new University of California campus in Irvine (UCI). The County approves the master plan for Mission Viejo. Disneyland counts its 50-millionth visitor. The Irvine Mansion is destroyed by fire. A U.S. Air Force C-135 crashes into Loma Ridge nine minutes after takeoff from El Toro MCAS. The plane’s 12 crewmembers and 72 Marines headed for Vietnam are all killed.


The California Angels move into the $50 million Anaheim Stadium. The planned community of Mission Viejo is built. Walter Knott opens an exact replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall at Knott’s Berry Farm. The $16 million Dana Harbor construction project begins. A citizen’s group forms to fight OC airport expansion. After 28 years of serving as a dance and music center for young people, the block-long Rendezvous Ballroom on Balboa at Newport Beach is again destroyed by fire but is not rebuilt.


The California Supreme Court rules on Yorba Linda’s efforts to incorporate and directs that residents be allowed to vote on incorporation. Voters agree to do so and Yorba Linda, with a population of 11,433, incorporates as a city. A new 22,000 square foot terminal opens at OC Airport. OC’s first locally based airline, Air California debuts at the airport with flights to San Francisco. Jetliners are introduced to OC Airport. Fashion Island opens at Newport Center. South Coast Plaza opens in Costa Mesa, developed by the C.J. Segerstrom family from their former farmland and dairies. The Anaheim Convention Center opens. The new OC Jail opens in Santa Ana, replacing the old jail on Sycamore Street. The Garden Grove Freeway (22) is completed. Commercial walnut growing comes to an end in OC. The Paseo Grande fire ignites in Wardlow Canyon, burning 48,639 acres and destroying 66 homes. Japanese Deer Park opens in Buena Park.


Robert Battain is elected to the OC Board of Supervisors, triggering a brief revitalization of the Democratic Party in OC. However, because of OC’s emerging vibrant conservative movement, Fortune magazine described OC as America's "nut country." The last citrus grower cooperative in OC, the Goldenwest Citrus Association, closes. The final link of the San Diego Freeway (Interstate 405) in OC at Jamboree Road is dedicated. The Bowers Museum discovers that it is displaying a fake Rembrandt. LSD king Timothy Leary, his wife and son are arrested in Laguna Beach for possession of LSD by a future Laguna Police Chief. Individuals residing south of OC Airport begin litigating against the County claiming damage and injury caused by noise and other effects of aircraft operations at the airport.


Santa Ana celebrates its centennial. During heavy winter rains, Marine Corps helicopters lower old car frames to the south bends of Santiago Creek in an attempt to stop the erosion and save homes from the flooding. Storms also batter Silverado, Santiago, Modjeska and Trabuco Canyons, causing the loss of 8 lives and 50 homes. U.S. President Richard Nixon purchases the Cotton Estate at the southern tip of San Clemente to serve as the "Western White House." The President’s airplane, Air Force One, lands at OC Airport, bringing President Richard Nixon to visit his new Western White House. The last "Flight of Snowbirds," first held in 1935, takes place in Newport Harbor. The new $22 million OC Courthouse is dedicated, replacing the original 67-year-old OC Courthouse. Architects Richard and Dion Neutra designed the new courthouse. OC Airport ranks as the fourth busiest in the nation.


The U.S. Census puts the population of OC at 1,420,386. South African attorney Harry Shuster opens Lion Country Safari in the rolling hills of Irvine. UCI acquires the OC Hospital complex in Orange. OC voters create the OC Transportation District. Featherly Park is dedicated. "Nootka" the Killer Whale is acquired by Japanese Deer Park in Buena Park and displayed there until being sold to a Texas marine park in 1972.


Irvine, with a population of 14,231, incorporates as a city. Dana Point Harbor is dedicated with slips for 2,500 yachts. The National Municipal League names Placentia as its first "All-American City." Rockwell International builds its uniquely designed "Ziggurat" building in Laguna Niguel. Aliso Pier built. Jim Sleeper publishes the first Orange County Almanac. Newport voters overwhelmingly reject a freeway through their city. The Fun Zone on Balboa Island is saved from becoming condominiums. A series of torture-murder victims of the so-called "Southern California Strangler" or "Scorecard killer" begin to appear through southern Los Angeles County, Orange County and San Diego County. The victims are adolescents and young men, often Marines. The killer is apprehended in 1983 on Interstate 5 in Mission Viejo after the CHP makes a DUI traffic stop on him. His last victim was found deceased in his car. He remains on death row awaiting execution.


California State College Fullerton (originally OC State College) is renamed California State University Fullerton. The OC Transportation District (later merged into future OC Transportation Authority) is formed. The nine-foot bronze statue of Richard Henry Dana, the famous writer and visitor to the California coast in the 1830s, is erected at Dana Point Harbor. The Anaheim Cultural Arts Center is dedicated. After 104 years, Tustin voters agree to finally build a city hall. The old OC Hall of Records is vacated. Thieves broke into the Monarch Bay branch of the United California Bank and stole $6 million in cash, jewelry, rare coins and negotiable bonds from bank safe-deposit boxes. It was the largest bank robbery in history at the time. Trabuco Camp Grounds closes to keep out Hippies. Newcastle disease infects OC poultry, resulting in $20 million in livestock losses. OC government is hit by election and bribery scandals. After siring 33 cubs, Frazier the lion at Lion Country Safari dies of exhaustion.


The Eugene and Applin Starr Foundation donates 3,900 acres of the immense Starr Ranch to the Audubon Society for a sanctuary. The County acquires 300 acres to become Fairview Park in Costa Mesa. Niguel Beach Park opens. The Newport Beach Christmas Festival of Lights is canceled due to energy crisis.


Rockwell International trades the "Ziggurat" building in Laguna Niguel to the U.S. Government for plant facilities elsewhere. The building becomes regional headquarters for a number of federal agencies. The County acquires the remaining 5,500-acres of the Starr Ranch to become a wilderness area - Caspers Regional Park (named for the late OC Supervisor Ron Caspers). The county also acquires 232 acres adjacent to O’Neill Park's northern boundary. St. Joseph Hospital in Orange opens the first outpatient kidney dialysis unit in OC. OC Supervisor Ralph "Super D" Diedrich is charged with soliciting and receiving $75,000 in bribes from Anaheim Hills developer Robert H. Grant Corp. in exchange for voting to release the land from its tax-exempt status as an agricultural preserve. The trial had to be moved to San Diego due to immense negative publicity in OC. In 1979, Diedrich was convicted of the charges and sentenced to 20 months in prison.


Construction begins on the Irvine Spectrum business-industrial area. The old Spurgeon Memorial Church and the OC Hall of Records are demolished. El Toro Marine Corps Air Station becomes a gateway for 50,000 Vietnamese refugees fleeing the collapse of the government of South Vietnam. Many are housed at Camp Pendleton. The Federal Records Center opens in the "Ziggurat" building in Laguna Niguel. Upon being released to "sponsors," many of these immigrants begin to establish communities in Westminster, Garden Grove and Huntington Beach. Carbon Canyon Regional Park opens. The Silverado Fire burns 1,710 acres. The owners of Japanese Deer Park, facing mounting red ink, begin giving lethal injections to their deer, claiming the animals have tuberculosis. Almost 200 of the deer are killed before the authorities stop them, ruling that the massacre was obviously for economic reasons. The surviving deer are donated to UC Davis for use in experiments. The largest fire in Newport Beach history destroys a block of Mariner's Mile. The Upper Bay in Newport Bay is purchased by the state for its Fish and Game Department's Ecological Reserve System.


The Orange Freeway (57) is completed. Christ College Irvine (future Concordia University) opens. The U.S. Bicentennial Freedom Train visits OC. A California State University Fullerton employee kills seven people and wounds two in a shooting rampage in the campus library. Serrano Park opens in El Toro (future Lake Forest). The Camp Pendleton fire destroys 15 homes in San Clemente. Beer sales are permitted at the Santa Ana Bowl. Congressman Andrew Hinshaw is convicted on bribery charges from his term as OC Assessor and he loses his seat in congress.


Three OC Supervisors are indicted on corruption charges. The Irvine Company is sold to consortium of A.A. Taubman, Charles Allen, Donald Bren, Henry Ford II, and Joan Irvine Smith for $337 million. The Valencia Hotel in Anaheim burns. The Canary Island plane crash claims 53 residents from OC among those killed in the accident.


Bluebird Canyon in Laguna Beach suffers one of the most destructive landslides in recent U.S. history. The landslide destroys or severely damages 24 homes, associated streets and utilities. The NFL team, Los Angeles Rams, move to Anaheim. A strong movement exists in OC opposed to court-ordered school busing (for desegregation). Political kingmaker Louis Cella and U.S. Representative Richard Hanna are sentenced to prison for fraud. Movie stunt pilot Frank Tallman is killed in an air crash on Bell Ridge in the Santa Ana Mountains. The Carbon Canyon Fire burns 5,600 acres.


Upon the death of famous Newport Beach resident John Wayne, OC Airport is renamed John Wayne OC Airport in his honor. The late actor kept a private plane in a hanger at the airport. The Corona del Mar Freeway (73) is completed. Harriett Wieder is elected as the first woman OC supervisor. A hippo named "Bubbles" escapes from Lion Country Safari and takes up residence in a rain-filled pond. For several days, authorities attempt to coax her out and end up tranquilizing her, only to watch in horror as she descends under the pond waters. Their efforts to pull the tranquilized 4,000-pound hippo out of the water are to no avail and Bubbles sadly drowns. Abortion doctor William Waddill Jr. faces trial on charges that he strangled to death a baby who had survived an abortion. He is acquitted. The state purchases Crystal Cove from the Irvine Company to create a new state park. The OC Fire Department becomes independent of the California State Division of Forestry. The so-called "Freeway Killer" and two accomplices begin a series of kidnap, rape and murder of 14 teenage boys across Los Angeles and Orange Counties (four in OC). The killer is arrested the following year in Hollywood and convicted in both Los Angeles and Orange County courts. He is executed at San Quentin State Prison in 1996. The old OC Courthouse is closed after being declared seismically unsafe. Anaheim Stadium is renovated, changing it into a completely enclosed, multipurpose stadium for both professional football and baseball. The Fullerton Arboretum opens.



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