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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mr. Bagman, bring me a dream

The Green Kat, Westminster (7/15/15)
     As a kid, I was a Cub Scout and then a Boy Scout, and my dad was always among the adult leaders of my Pack or Troop, even becoming the Cub Master (I think that’s what they called that job) and the Scoutmaster—which was really something, given my dad’s German accent. Everybody liked my dad.
      I joined Boy Scout Troop 850 (Villa Park), which had its meetings each week at Cerro Villa Junior High. When my dad became Scoutmaster, 850 quickly became a very accomplished troop, winning competitions at jamborees and Scout-o-Ramas, the latter always occurring at the Orange County Fairgrounds. I’ve got some old pictures of that somewhere.
      My folks, who are not particularly religious, nevertheless felt that it was important for my sister, Annie, and I—we were the oldest—to become “confirmed,” and so we joined Trinity Lutheran, which sits atop that hill immediately above the 91/55 interchange at Olive Hill/Anaheim Hills. At some point, pastor Conradson ("A peace sign," he would roar, "is a cross with its arms broken!") asked my dad to start a Boy Scout Troop, and thus it happened that my dad and I—and one or two other kids from 850—started troop 536, meeting each week in the utilitarian building jutting from the side of the church on the hill.
       I’ll cut to the chase. The launch of that troop went well, and soon it was a very active and impressive organization. Once again, we won awards, even competing with, and vanquishing, our former Troop 850.
      BAUER, PENTECOST, AND BOTTOMLEY. There were two “dads” who, along with my own dad (“Manny” for Manfred), formed the adult heart of the troop. Both were engineers active in the local Roman Catholic Church (St. Norbert, in Orange, I believe). A significant number of the troop’s boys were referred to our troop by St. Norbert, which is kind of funny, when you consider the historical relationship between Lutherans and the Roman Catholic Church.
     One of these adults was Gene Pentecost, a sharp guy with a Tennessee accent—he was maybe five or so years older than my dad. My dad recalls that he was the chief engineer (or some such thing) for the Polaris missile project (my own research suggests that it might have been the Minuteman project instead). He worked, my dad seemed to recall, at Autonetics, which was a division of North American that had moved to Anaheim in 1963. My dad remembers that Gene had a doctorate and that he was some sort of mathematician or engineer, working in computers.
       (I did a quick search and found a “Eugene Edgar Pentecost,” born in Tennessee in 1927, who went on to big projects with Rockwell and who may have been in the engineering departments of UCLA and Vanderbilt. I'm sure it's the same guy. In retirement, he's focused on his ham radio hobby.)
      CASPERS' RIGHT-HAND MAN. Pentecost’s good buddy, and the second adult, was Charles Bottomley. Charles, my dad recalls, was “Ron Caspers’ right-hand man.” At the time—this would have been about 1968—Caspers owned Keystone Savings and Loan and (says my dad) a "restaurant next door” [or across the street] on Beach in Westminster.* The restaurant was on the site of the former “Green Cat,” and it was pretty rough, says pop. One of his electrician buddies used to work there as the bartender. He’d routinely have the bouncer throw drunks out the front door. Caspers bought the Green Cat, tore it down, and built and upscale restaurant there. Pop says that Caspers had two or three properties near the new restaurant and Bottomley had an office there.
LA Times, 1959
      According to my dad, on Mondays, Charles served as Caspers’ “bag man.” [Be mindful of my dad's tenuous--or less--grasp of the subtleties of the English language.]
      “What do you mean by that?” I asked.
      “Well, he literally had a bag and it was filled with money. He’d be moving this money around for Caspers. On Monday.” [B would go to the bank, then the restaurant, with said bag.]
       I just did a little looking, and I learned that a Charles F. Bottomley was President of Caspers’ Keystone Savings and Loan as of a year after Caspers’ death in '74. I found a 1981 article written by Bottomley for Orange Coast Magazine that describes him, again, as the President of Keystone. I believe that Keystone underwent a name change and moved to Westminster soon after. Don't know what became of Mr. Bottomley, though there is a record of a Charles Bottomley living in Newport Beach.
      So, anyway, I guess it’s a small world after all.
      Near as I can figure, Keystone was located at 555 N. Euclid in Anaheim, and it was established in 1959—probably by Caspers, who seems to have had a bank then in the Pasadena area. I can find no record of a “Green Cat” restaurant. But that doesn't mean much.
      Bottomley was nearly exactly my dad’s age (born in 1932) and lived in Anaheim, but more recent data suggest that he moved to Newport Beach, where Caspers was living when he died.
      (You'll recall that, in the late 80s, candidate Nathan Rosenberg referred to Tom Fuentes as "Caspers' bagman." My guess is that NR had a very solid grasp of the connotations of that term.)

Originally posted as Mr. Bagman, bring me a dream in Dissent the Blog. Part of a series: see.

*Despite some odd records to the contrary, it is clear that Keystone Savings was no longer in Anaheim but was in Westminster (on Beach) by 1966. According to some records, it was founded by Caspers on 1/1/57 and located at 555 N. Euclid, Anaheim. Later moved to 14011 Beach, in Westminster. Not in '81 as some records suggest. (P.S.: the above Times article indicates that the S&L was opened in 1959, not 1957.)

The Green Kat, Westminster (7/15/15)
The Green Cat, Santa Ana>The Green Cat, Santa Ana (6/18/15)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Prospect Plaza, Chapman Ave. & Prospect, Orange, May 1966

Prospect Plaza, Chapman Ave. & Prospect, Orange, May 1966.
I recall going here c. 1962-3. The Sammy Lee swim school was
across the street.
Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, 1962.
We spent some time there at about that time.
Walter Knott and Richard Nixon at Knott's, 1959.
From our home on Academy St. in Anaheim, we could hear Nixon
speak at Knott's during the 1960 Presidential campaign.
Peter's Canyon Lake, 1966. I seem to recall that our Boy Scout Troop
spent a night there once.
Peter's Canyon, 1966

El Toro and Rockfield, 1977. Hasn't changed that much.
El Toro Rd., February 1970
Villa Park Grammar School, 1925
El Toro Road, 1969