By Jim Tortolano
Family legend has it that I was born during a hurricane in Providence, Rhode Island in June of 1953. A check of records show that my arrival was actually between two such downpours, Alice in May and Carol in August, but the appeal of the story persists in the notion of past being prologue. Like a hurricane, I’ve been described as restless and fast-moving, and possibly disregarding of others. So I’ll take that version of my early history as being somewhat truthful if not totally accurate.
Despite the traveling habits of a real storm, I’ve been firmly planted in Orange County since 1960. With the exception of one month (which seemed to last a year) in Fontana as sports editor of a small daily newspaper, I’ve hung my hat in what I feel is America’s most interesting county. There is tremendous variety here geographically, from beaches to mountains, from oil fields to artist colonies; from rocky shores to sandy strands. But the history is even more fascinating to me. From the founding of Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1776 (just as the rest of America was being established 3,000 miles away) to the urbanization wave that’s sweeping the region in 2014, Orange County’s story is chockfull of dreamers, rascals, oddballs and millions of folks who found their (relative) paradise along this coastal plain on the Pacific Coast.
I am not any kind of professional historian. Although I am a professor at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, my background is in journalism, which is a kind of impermanent form of history; a first draft, as has been said. I’ve lived in Anaheim, Garden Grove and Huntington Beach, and covered news in dozens of Orange County communities. My articles have appeared in the old Orange County Evening News, Huntington Beach News, Huntington Beach Independent and Orange County edition of the Los Angeles Times. From 1983 to 2013 I’ve been editor and co-owner of the Garden Grove Journal. My wife, Marilyn, and I, sold the Journal to Freedom Communications (which you know as the Orange County Register) in August 2013.
So, I’m out of the news business, but my interest in writing about “The OC” remains. Hence this website. Orange County Tribune is not an on-line newspaper. Instead, it will be (I hope) a lively teller of historical facts and figures. Right now, I am planning on updating it monthly. Regular features will include this column, a This Month In OC History feature, a community historic profile, a longer profile of an issue or event in Orange County history, and whatever else strikes my fancy. The OCT is not affiliated with any group or business, although I now a member of the Orange County Historical Society and will be applying for membership in other historical groups.
I hope you find this interesting stuff and that you will contribute ideas, observations and (gentle) corrections when appropriate. History fascinates me, in part, because, as William Faulkner said, “The past is never dead; it isn’t even past.” Indeed, it is sometimes the keystone to the present, and a guidepost to the future.
Contact Jim Tortolano at firstname.lastname@example.org .