My son is now 17 years old and he will go to college in a year and a half. Where has the time gone?! My young son is growing into a young man right before my eyes. We recently visited Southern California to look at four prospective colleges. He and I had a great trip; wonderful “mother and son” time. We enjoyed the beaches, eating out, laughing and being silly, going to the movies, getting lost on the LA freeways (not so fun), while touring some great colleges. These times are precious and I am so happy to have these moments before he “flies from the nest.”
We visited Chapman University in Orange. Chapman University is a small private liberal arts university located in the heart of Orange County. The historical town of Orange is so quaint! It is like walking down Main St. USA in the 1940s. The community has done a fine job of maintaining its historical structures, while featuring a number of shops, restaurants, and other establishments that provide the charm that gives it “that feel.”
As a person that appreciates food in the manner that I do, I really was amused by the names of the streets. Of course there was Orange St. But as I drove around I read street signs that read Olive St., Pepper St., Walnut St., and Almond St. Love it!
The history of Orange dates back to 1869 when lawyers Alfred Chapman and Andrew Glasssell accepted 1,385 acres of land from Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana as legal fees. The men had a dream, which was to create a new town in this vast valley. The men laid out a one square mile area for the downtown with ten-acre farm lots that surrounded it. The center of the town site became known as “The Plaza.” Today the Plaza, and the original town site, contain many homes and buildings dating to the early days of the town. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places, which include more than 1,300 homes and other buildings that showcase over 50 different architectural styles. It is considered the largest Historic Place in California on the Register.
In the 1870s, families began to move into the new community and began to farm many crops. The valley was very fertile and the warm climate was perfect for citrus and avocadoes. As early as 1873, the farmers began planting orange groves. Oranges quickly grew to be the primary crop grown in the county. In 1875, the new town was recorded with the name of Orange. Orange County was one of the biggest growers of oranges in the country next to Florida, hitting its peak of production in the 1940s when over five million Valencia orange trees grew on 67,000 acres.
Today, much of Orange’s original downtown that surround the Plaza, are intact and beautifully maintained. The neighborhood conjures up images of Main Street, USA complete with outdoor dining, tearooms, collectible boutiques, barber shops, specialty shops, art galleries, and more than 100 antique dealers, making Orange the antique capital of Southern California.
Orange’s oldest on-going business establishment is Watson’s Drug and Soda Fountain, which has consistently served customers since 1899. Watson’s began as a pharmacy, and eventually opened a soda fountain in 1915, complete with ice cream sodas, sundaes, and phosphates. In the following years, American-style “comfort food” was added to the menu, which are still enjoyed today. Watson’s has a large local following, as well as tourists like my son and I. The restaurant was last remodeled in the 1950s, and it appears that nothing has changed since then! You can sit in booths, or at the counter where you can watch the short order cooks, drop a quarter in the jukebox and listen to Frankie Valley, while enjoying an ice cream soda with your sweetie! Watson’s also has a bakery, where they daily create fantastic cakes, pastries, and cookies. Watson’s also sells nostalgic toys, candy, and soda pop to add to the fun experience for visitors. Watson’s is open 7 days a week serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They are located a half a block off the Plaza. Watson’s is a very cool place!
Another cool thing about Watson’s is that Hollywood has filmed a number of films in their establishment. It has been a good thing that the restaurant has never been remodeled! The most recent movie to be filmed at Watson’s was That Thing You Do, starring Tom Hanks. Other movies filmed at Watson’s were The Stepford Children starring Barbara Eden, and Cannonball Run starring Burt Reynolds.
Just a couple blocks down the street from The Plaza, Chapman University is located. Valencia orange magnate, Charles Clark Chapman, and descendant of Alfred Chapman, endowed the university in 1934 which was renamed Chapman College and relocated to Orange. Chapman University is a small private liberal arts university. It has a beautiful campus, a wonderful reputation, and really happy students! Perhaps since they are only 5 minutes from the Happiest Place On Earth!
There is a wonderful monument of Charles Chapman in the quad area with a great quotation from him for all the students to ponder. It reads:
I can liken life before you…
To that of a ship with its prow pointed toward the great ocean as it leaves the harbor for the distant shore. Storms may come, and they will, for no ship ever sailed the seas but had to face the storm. It is strong from keel to top, from bow to stern, well maintained and intelligently directed, it rides the storm and goes on its way. So you will meet obstacles, storms. If you are strong in faith, clear headed, honest, trusting for divine guidance and with a character built on the solid rock, you will meet all troubles in life victoriously.
Charles C. Chapman
While on our campus tour, I was very pleasantly surprised to stumble upon a piece of history that meant a lot to me. Chapman University owns a piece of the fallen Berlin Wall. I recall watching on TV the masses of people triumphantly tearing down that wall in 1989. It was a powerful vision of democracy that brought me to tears. I have never seen a piece of the wall before. Here it stands in the middle of a pond, for young students to see, who weren’t even born in 1989. It is a pinnacle of hope and a reminder of a dark time in world history of great brutality. And, it is a reminder of what we should never allow to happen again.
If you are planning a trip to southern California, I would highly recommend a visit to this very quaint and charming town. Take a stroll, sit in a park, sip an ice cream soda, and ponder a bygone era the color of Orange.
Watson’s Drug and Soda Fountain
116 East Chapman St.
Chapman, CA 92866