As those of you who have followed my blog for some time now, I love to travel the world and I have written blog posts about many of my travels. My plan now is to concentrate on my wonderful hometown of Laguna Woods, California and my surrounding neighbors in the fantastically varied region of Orange County, California. Orange County is home to a little over 3 million people about 60% white, 33% Hispanic/Latino and the remainder a mixture of African American, Asian and Native American. Now referred by some in popular culture as "The OC", it sports an amazing variety of geography, politics, culture and history. The OC is the third most populous county in California and the sixth most populous in the United States. The OC has a larger population than 21 states but there is no large population center such as Los Angeles or San Francisco or San Diego. Instead, this mostly residential county is served by a plethora of medium-sized and smaller cities such as Santa Ana, the County Seat, Irvine, home of the University of California, Anaheim, home of the largest Convention Center in the western US , my hometown of Laguna Woods, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, San Juan Capistrano with it's Mission, home of the well known "return of the Swallows", Huntington Beach, home of some of the finest surfing waves in the US, Costa Mesa home of the South Coast Plaza, the largest in California and the third largest in the US. Orange County is also the home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim winners of the World Series in 2002 under their manager Mike Socia and the Anaheim Ducks Hockey Team, winners of the 2007 Stanley Cup.
The first permanent European settlement in Orange County was Mission San Juan Capistrano founded in 1776 although Spanish explorers including Father (now Saint) Junipero Serra had visited the area as early as 1769. Several Native American tribes inhabited the region with archeological evidence of local inhabitants as far back as over 11,000 BCE. A severe drought in 1860 wiped out the previously thriving cattle industry and in 1887 large portions of the land were purchased by James Irvine whose family came to dominate the development of much of the South Western portion of the County. Up until 1889, the land area now known as Orange County was a part of Los Angeles County but in March of that year, the OC was divided off into a separate county. Perhaps the most famous, or infamous depending on one's view of him, resident of OC, was Richard Nixon, who was the 37th President of the United States and who was born in Yorba Linda and became the only President to resign the position in 1974. His final resting place and his Presidential Library is also in Yorba Linda. Another famous resident was John Wayne, whose name is given to the major airport in Orange County, which is actually located in an unincorporated area but has the designation of SNA or Santa Ana. The recently sainted Father Junipero Serra is another famous resident with a somewhat controversial history.
One of the major attractions of Orange County is its climate, which however is quite variable, from the inland more northeasterly region, which tends to be hotter and drier and the coastal regions which tend to be cooler and have slightly greater rainfalls. The average annual temperature of the OC is 68 degrees so one can appreciate the mild Mediterranean style of climate which attracts many residents. One of the most prominent geographical features of the OC is Saddleback Mountain which is actually composed of two adjacent peaks, Santiago and Modjeska and is visible throughout especially the Southwestern part of the county. Disneyland located in Anaheim and founded in 1955 and Knotts Berry Farm dating back to Walter Knott's cultivation of Boysenberries in Buena Park, are two major theme parks which attract millions of visitors to the region. Education doesn't take a back seat to all of that sun and surf with a total of 15 Universities including the University of California, Irvine, California State University at Fullerton and 13 other private or religious-based Universities. Nine two year colleges provide Associate Degrees and may form the foundation for students to progress to one of the campuses of the four-year institutions either in OC or throughout the state of CA or throughout the country.
This blog post is intended to give you a taste of the fantastic diversity of "The OC" and in upcoming posts I intend to concentrate on the various interesting sights and sounds of my home region in a more detailed look at several of the individual communities of this important region of the United States of America. Incidentally, my own history with The OC dates to my first visit to Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm in 1967 when I was a first year resident in the Neurosurgical Training Program of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Long Beach, California which is actually in Los Angeles County. That program became the University of California Irvine Training Program which I had the honor to be Professor and Chief of from 1986 to 1993. I only recently returned to The OC in January 2017 when I moved to my current home in Laguna Woods a delightful retirement community of over 16,000 residents, age 55 and older. The only problem is that I am not fully retired but working two days a week at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California in Ventura County, exactly 100 miles away! We Californians have some crazy commutes, don't we?? Stay tuned as I begin my more detailed descriptions of Orange County, California starting with my hometown of Laguna Woods! Lots more to come!