26 January 2015

An Early La Vida Mineral Springs Document from 1924

Thanks for Orange County historian and former county archivist Phil Brigandi for providing a copy of an "Application for License," filed with the county by the promoters of what was called in the document "La Vida Springs" on 10 June 1924.

These applications were either for a "pool room," or billiard space, or "public dance," or dance hall.  On the La Vida one, the description for the premises is that the parcel consisted of "160 acres of Deeded Land — Bath Houses, Cabinets, Etc. owned by — Wm Berkenstock, Wm Blatner, Pugh and Miller, Fred Cline, A.L. Lewis, C. E. Price."

The request was for the quarter beginning on 1 July and was signed "C.W. Blatner, Trustee / La Vida Springs Co."  The license, if approved, was to be mailed to Blatner at the resort site, which was then in the Fullerton R.F.D. 2 (the acronym standing for "Rural Free Delivery," people of a certain age might recall the old TV chestnut "Mayberry, R.F.D.")

Brigandi noted that the application was found in the records of the Orange County Board of Supervisors at the county archives and stated that the district attorney and sheriff were asked to weigh in as to whether applications were to be approved.

Indeed, at the top in pencil, is the inscription, "refer to / Dist Atty / refusal recommended" and this signed by district attorney Alexander P. Nelson and sheriff Sam Jernigan.  A separate inscription reads, "no fee paid," because of the refusal to accept the request.  Notably, Jernigan was a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan, which had a host of prominent Orange County men on its rolls back in the 1920s.

By contrast, as explained by Brigandi, Nelson was a forceful opponent of the Klan in the county and, having acquired a list of members, made that information public whenever anyone on the list ran for public office.

As profiled by Gustavo Arellano in his Orange County Weekly column on KKK "pioneers" in the OC, Jernigan was also a fervent support of Prohibition as sheriff, which likely explains his (as well as Nelson's) recommendation to ban a dance hall license for La Vida--because the remote Carbon Canyon location would have provided easy cover for illicit drinking and gambling.  A future post will concern a bust on the latter that took place at La Vida a few years later.

On the reverse of the document is a stamp showing the application was filed on the same date of the request by county clerk J.M. Backs.  A pencil inscription in a corner noted that the petition was "Denied — June 10, 24 / La Vida Springs."

Obviously, the more important information ultimately concerns the size of the property, which constituted a quarter section of land and substantially more than just the developed areas, as well as the owners of the resort.

A June 1924 application for a dance hall license from the trustees of "La Vida Springs," from the records of the Orange County Board of Supervisors in the county archives.  The copy was provided by historian and former county archivist Phil Brigandi.  Click on the image to see it in an enlarged view in a separate window.
Pugh and Miller was the oil production company co-owned by William Newton Miller, who effectively ran the business and later owned the entire operation until it was turned over to his daughter and son-in-law, Lois and Robert Dickenson, who continued operating La Vida until the 1970s.  Miller's story has been detailed in this blog previously.

As to the others, William Berkenstock was a native of White Deer, Pennsylvania, a small community in the north-central part of the state, close to Williamsport, the birthplace of Little League Baseball.   Born there in 1870 to a farming family, Berkenstock made his way west as a young man and, by 1900, was living in the Fullerton township, where Placentia was later founded.

Berkenstock married Josephine Wagner, daughter of Charles C. Wagner, a prosperous Placentia citrus grower,  Several homes built by Wagner's children stand in the city, including one on Yorba Linda Boulevard east of Valencia Avenue and another on Valencia, cater corner to El Dorado High School, and there is a school and park named for the family.

Berkenstock made his money as a fumigator for growers and also operated his own groves on 80 acres immediately north of those of his father-in-law.  In 1913, he built an Italianate home that was designed by architect Frederick Eley, whose work includes structures at Chapman University, the famed White House restaurant in Anaheim, the Santa Ana Y.M.C.A., and others.  Said to have cost $15,000, a princely sum at the time, the nearly 6,000 square foot home still stands in a private enclave just south of Bastanchury Road and east of Valencia.  Among other activities, Berkenstock was a director of the Fullerton Savings Bank.

Charles William Blattner was born in 1860 in Chicago, where his Swiss-born father ran a saloon.  For many years, Blattner was a commission agent for Bell Telephone and Telegraph, but left the industry and Chicago for Orange County, where he purchased a 10-acre orange grove on Commonwealth Avenue east of downtown Fullerton in Spring 1909.

A year later, he sold the property and then bought a 40-acre property in the new community of Yorba Linda, in partnership with his brother, Oscar (a brick company owner in Chicago who retired to South Pasadena.)  Blattner, who was married with children and divorced about 1910 (he filed on the grounds that his devout Roman Catholic wife, Mary Flannagan, could not remain with Blattner, who had become a Mason--so they lived apart for some twenty years), remarried and remained at his ranch until he died on 24 July 1924, just six weeks after the La Vida Springs application was filed by him.

Charles E. Price was profiled here before with respect to the Carbon Canyon Oil Company, which after its incorporation in 1900 drilled some wells near where Carbon and Soquel canyons meet at today's Olinda Village.  Price was also discussed on this blog concerning his name being on a 1924 map of the canyon--this, of course, being the same year as the La Vida Springs application.  So, it appears that, long after the failure of the oil company, Price kept his ownership of land in Carbon Canyon and was then a partner in the La Vida Springs project.

Frederick J. Cline was born in 1878 in Fresno to a farming couple, Samuel and Elizabeth Cline.  By 1900, the family had relocated to San Pedro, then an independent city, and Fred was employed as a day laborer.  Married and with a family, Cline became a real estate agent in San Pedro, which was annexed to the city of Los Angeles, during the following decade.  Then, he and his family moved to King City, near Salinas in Monterey County, where he was employed as a lumberman.

Sometime after 1920, however, Cline relocated back to southern California and not only became a part-owner of the La Vida Springs, but was its manager, as noted in this blog previously.  In the 1930 census, he is listed as a water company manager, perhaps for the La Vida mineral water bottling enterprise  While his involvement with the resort seems to have ended by sometime in the 1930s, he remained in Placentia, selling insurance during the Great Depression years and he died in 1945, at the age of 67.

The last trustee of the La Vida resort was Arthur L. Lewis, who was born in the remote area in Monitor Pass in Alpine County, southeast of Lake Tahoe—a county that is the smallest in population of the 58 in California.  His father, Lafayette, was a stable keeper and his mother was Ellen Potter, with both hailing from New York.

During the 1870s, the Lewis family resettled in Anaheim, where Lafayette continued his line of work with the Fashion Livery Stable (and, from 1903-1907, owned the Workman Ranch in the La Puente area, now the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, but his destruction of the old cemetery on the ranch led to a lawsuit verdict against him, requiring Lafayette to rebuild what he tore down.  Consequently, he sold the property) and Arthur joined his father in the business for a period before turning to the new occupation of electrician.  By 1900, he was working in that field and maintained that vocation through the 1910s.  By 1920, Lewis relocated his family to Norwalk, where they took up farming and, presumably, this is what he was doing when he joined the La Vida enterprise.

By the end of the Twenties, Lewis and his wife, Louise, moved to Seal Beach, but their stay on the coast was relatively brief and, prior to 1935, the couple bought an orange grove off Lincoln Avenue in Anaheim and resided there, presumably, until Arthur's death in 1949 at age 86.

It appears from the list of trustees found on the application that Charles E. Price was the owner of the land where La Vida was founded, perhaps purchasing this from Edward F. Gaines, who was associated with a more rudimentary operation of a resort there from at least 1915.  Then, a syndicate of orange growers and farmers with strong northern Orange County connections came in and joined Price in creating the La Vida Springs or La Vida Mineral Springs resort.  Within a short time, however, it appears that Miller consolidated control with Cline serving as manager--at least for a while.

From sometime in the 1930s, Miller looks to have been sole proprietor of the springs, although having the restaurant run by Archie Rosenbaum, and then, in the early Forties, turned over the property to his daughter and son-in-law, the Dickensons, who operated La Vida for some thirty years.

This application adds significant new information to the evolving story of Carbon Canyon's most notable historic element, thanks to Phil Brigandi's unearthing of the document in the county archives.


Anonymous said...

I hope you are well, creator and keeper of the CC Chronicle! Haven't seen a new post from you in awhile. THANKS again for so many interesting posts on Carbon Canyon, such as this one ... every time I drive past the old La Vida site, I see it with better vision, thanks to you.

I hope you and yours are well and healthy!

Sincere regards -- J. Anderson, Mountain View Estates neighborhood

prs said...

Many thanks, J. Anderson. In fact, a new post is coming tonight. All is well (well, except for the Canyon Hills [de]grading) and hope to do more posting soon.

jpallen said...

I am the great-granddaughter of C.W. Blattner. This was such an interesting posting not only because it shed some light on our great-grandfather's reasons for divorcing his wife and leaving his family, but it gives a view into the time and place that he was living during those years. I'm curious as to where you found the personal information on C.W. Blattner and if there are other facts about him that you'd be able to share with us. In any case, thank you for an intriguing piece of writing. JP Allen

prs said...

Hi jpallen, glad you found the blog and the post. It's been a while since the post was published and I don't have my research for it at easy reach. But, I assume I pulled some items on Blattner from newspapers as well as from Ancestry.com. There is also a history of Orange County that may have had some info, too, but, as I said, I don't have notes at hand. Thanks for the comment!