Now, if I was Garden Grove City Manager Matt Fertal, one of the things I would dread the most is reading that I had just returned from some kind of trip. As certainly as night follows the day, Jim goes somewhere and comes back with some hare-brained idea for the community that sounds good on paper, but is impractical for some excellent reason.
I feel your pain, Matt. As a business owner, I get all kinds of ridiculous requests from employees for things like medical coverage, computers that don’t belong in a museum and a room temperature that doesn’t make your breath frosty.
Having said all that, Marilyn and I just returned from Monterey, where we visited not only that city but the nearby gem of a community, Carmel, where we did not see Clint Eastwood.
Monterey is an interesting city because much of its economy was long based on the fishing and canning industries, principally relating to the sardine business. “Cannery Row” was a smelly, gritty place which otherwise would have passed unnoticed into history if not for the epic novel by John Steinbeck of that name.
His book, published in 1945, was a huge best-seller and was eventually made into a movie and a play. It fixed what used to be Ocean View Avenue into a literary destination that is now a major tourist attraction.
A good thing, too, because, the fishing and canning industries there collapsed shortly after the publication of the book. Business and labor struggles (along with shoddy building codes) led to a series of devastating fires.
More significant, probably, is the fact that the fisheries were so efficient they wiped out the finny population.
Through the use of factory methods, the fish were literally sucked out of the water. They were killed faster than they could reproduce; the greed of the big canneries killed the “silver harvest” just as thoughtless hunters in the Old West nearly wiped out the once-numerous American bison.
Ironically, Monterey Bay is now one of the nation’s biggest marine sanctuaries; the area once famous for killing fish and water mammals is now one of the safest places for them. Fat seals and sea lions lol on the rocks of the waterfront, as tourists shake their heads in amazement at how close these wild creatures can live in proximity to people.
Some of the analogies between the Garden Grove area and the Monterey Bay are obvious. The old Union Pacific railroad that shipped the sardines across the nation is now gone, the right-of-way converted to a lovely pedestrian-bicycle path that connects the historic Cannery Row to other areas of the community.
Our own Pacific Electric right-of-way was once the means of transport for local crops of oranges, strawberries and such. Angling across Stanton through Garden Grove, it crosses Harbor Boulevard (International West?) and could connect to a revitalized Santa Ana. It could become a lovely greenbelt/walkway.
Unfortunately, we don’t have much in the way of a waterfront. The Great Wolf Water Park Hotel is a start, and the earlier Music City Riverwalk project is a reminder of the universal appeal of water. Rivers, lakes, oceans … can’t beat them for potential.
Our other deficit is the lack of a literary tradition to bring busloads of literature students to our streets. Only a scattering of books have been written about Garden Grove, and they all ended up on the remaindered table fast.
“In Cahoots ,” a novel by former Garden Grove resident Malcolm Cook McPherson, was a story about the mystery surrounding the location of Walt Disney’s new “Kiddie Land.” Much of the action is set in a somewhat fictionalized Garden Grove in the early 1950s.
He makes references to the Gem Theater, Job’s Daughters and Euclid Park (now the Village Green). Unfortunately, only me and a handful of McPherson’s relatives bought the book, so I don’t think we can count on that novel to lift us out of relatively obscurity.
But the idea of recalling an earlier era, our citrus-and-berry past, does have some appeal. The mission-style of architecture long popular in Southern California could lend a distinctiveness to some future development, and as long as we’re putting a green belt through town along the P.E. right-of-way, why not include a small grove or two of orange trees in a few places?
Matt’s probably thinking, “That will happen the day that Jim Tortolano wins a Pulitzer Prize for literature.” Hey, I’m working on it, Matt, I’m working on it …”