Small Towne Short Stories

Every building has a story—a beginning, middle, and sometimes an end. The heart of that story is the neighborhood, the people, and the emotional foundation that supports the structure. 1888 will document the past, present, and future of historic buildings around Old Towne, Orange. Staff will dig deep into archives and interview community members to color each story with memories. Installments are released through The Paper Trail, our free subscription newsletter.

A Letter From the Editor

By Alma Fausto

Often history is tucked away on library shelves in the yellowed pages of books, newspaper clippings and in the memories of those who experienced it.


Woman’s Club of Orange

By Alyssa Jordan

It’s difficult to imagine South Center Street without the charming Woman’s Club of Orange among the other modern buildings.


J. C. Penney Co. and Tiddlywinks

By Hannah Fry-Langhorne

Robert Davis, 69 years old, October 21, 2016

It was a sunny afternoon in the Plaza, a quaint section of town that most kids these days know as The Circle.


Mansur Motors and The Potting Shed

By Amber Montgomery

Saturday, September 19, 1936

As he pulled into the lot on Atchison and Chapman, Stanley Mansur pulled up his suit jacket sleeve to expose his watch—7:50 a.m.


Watson’s Soda Fountain & Café: Part II

By Alma Fausto

August 20, 1949

Kellar Watson Jr. sat on one of the 20 new stools lining the shiny lunch counter inside the drug store. In five days a new era would begin with the Grand Re-Opening of Watson’s Super Drug Store.

Watson’s Soda Fountain & Café: Part I

By Alma Fausto

It seems no Orange County history lesson can begin without a chat with Phil Brigandi. During my research into Watson’s Soda Fountain & Café (or Watson’s Drugs & Soda Fountain, or Watson’s Drug Store or just Watson’s to most people), the veteran historian and true Orange County man started off our conversation with a gem that would wrap my many questions into one concise thought:READ MORE

Small Towne Short Stories – Orange Daily News: Part III

By Amber Montgomery

It’s 7 p.m. right before the Friday night rush and Tommy Wells just started his shift. After clocking in and putting his kelly green apron on over a black polo, he immediately sets to work. First task of the night: Deep clean the oven.

Small Towne Short Stories – Orange Daily News: Part II

By Amber Montgomery

There is no question that 44 Plaza Square has character—and a rich history. It was built in the 1880s and was just a small newspaper office that grew to house the Orange Daily News for a large portion of its life. But there are more subtle clues hinting at other lives it has lived.READ MORE

Small Towne Short Stories – Orange Daily News: Part I

By Amber Montgomery

When I reached out to former newsboys Leason Pomeroy, Bruce Kolina and Mike Costello I wanted to know what life was like in the Plaza almost 70 years ago—just after World War II had ended and before the small towne of Orange had begun to boom.READ MORE

Small Towne Short Stories – Son Light Christian Center: Part III

By Dave Barton

It’s odd to be on the stage of The Orange Theatre after over 40 years.

The last time I’d been in this position—facing out at the auditorium—I wasn’t even actually on the stage. I was 12 years old, a foot and an inch shorter and I was about to exit the side door after a matinee. The theater was still dark inside, save the flicker of credits running, so all I could see was the half-illuminated faces of patrons in a chiaroscuro of grays and blacks.READ MORE

Small Towne Short Stories – Son Light Christian Center: Part II

By Dave Barton

July 7, 1923: “Local capitalist” Harry Z. Adams says he is going to build The Adams Theater, a “modern cinema palace in the onward march of progress,” using his plot of land at the corner of Glassell and Maple. A former horseshoe pitching ground and croquet field, the theater will be one “embodying everything to be desired in modern theater appointments,” according to the Santa Ana Register.READ MORE

Small Towne Short Stories – Son Light Christian Center: Part I

By Dave Barton

Every Thursday night, late, 10:00 P.M. or 11:00 P.M, I would lift my parent’s avocado green rotary wall phone from its silver cradle and call a list of 10 phone numbers. Movies changed every Friday; dialing the theatre recordings the night before gave me a leg up on planning the five or six movies my buddy Chris and I would see that weekend, if our parents were willing to pony up the money and drive us around.READ MORE

Routineology Collaborations – Small Towne Short Stories – Autumn

This collaborative video, created by Ryan Rozar, documents the live podcast discussion at the community based Orange Home Grown Farmers and Artisans Market with historian Phil Brigandi, Megan Penn, Executive Director of Orange Home Grown, and Barbara Resnick of the Orange Community Historical Society.  This conversation was moderated by journalist Alyssa Duranty and recorded and published on our podcast, The How The Why.READ MORE