Remembering When

by Jerry Person
Huntington Beach City Historian

Dedicated to the people of Huntington Beach and its rich past

Street Names Can Bring Back Memories


These days we hear so much about people wanting to be different, different customs, different foods, different holidays, etc. But there is one thing that each of us have in common with everyone else on this planet and that one thing is remembrances.

Those little gray cells in our brain that can capture and hold visions of people and events from some part of out past.  Your first day in school, your first date, your first kiss, holding your first born for the first time, your first car, all these bring back pleasant memories.
Usually these memories are triggered by some outside stimulus, the scent of a woman’s perfume, an old snapshot in the family album, old love letters, or outdoor signs.

How many of you have driven along a street in Huntington Beach and noticed a street’s name that reminds you of some one or thing. It could be a name of a member of the family, a name of a first love or a personality in the news. Street names have a way of doing just that.

Many of the names found around Huntington Beach are connected in some way with our communiy's history as we'll find out this week.

How many of you are old enough to remember Don Shipley, a former mayor of Huntington Beach and the nature center that carries his name?

But did you know there is a street named for him also.  It's just west of Main Street on Adams Avenue you’ll find a short road called Shipley Street and for me seeing it reminded me of the time that the late Ed Farber and I visited Don in a nursing home a week before he died.

Street names can also remind us not only of the distant past but also the present too. For instance, there is a triangle piece of land by Garfield and Main with the name Holly Lane. In the distant past it lead into the Holly Sugar factory. But it also reminded me of Holly Turner, one of Michele Turner's three children of Sugar Shack fame.

Tucked away in a tract housing development off Beach Boulevard are streets named for some of our former city council and city employees in the 1960s.  Terry Drive was named for councilman Vic Terry, Irby Lane for councilman Earl Irby, Lambert Drive for councilman Robert Lambert. You’ll also find Higgins Circle for Fire Chief Delbert “Bud” Higgins and Wheeler Circle named for Public Works Director James Wheeler.

Streets named Archer Circle, Grant Drive, Prince Drive, Reynolds Circle, and Robidoux Circle all have special meaning for our police department, as they were officers in the early days of our city.

Some other officers of old include R.H. Winslow (Winslow Drive), Bert Harding (Harding Circle), Alfred & Elmer Parker (Parker Circle), Chris Spurney (Spurney Lane), Charles Stewart (Stewart Street), George Taylor (Taylor Avenue and Drive). I would like to think that these streets were named for our men in blue.

There are two streets Kim Court and Fox Circle that could have been named for two former Huntington Beach police service dogs.

Then there are streets like Gothard, Nichols, Edwards, Slater, Heil, Warner and Talbert who were families who settled here in Surf City’s very early years.

Graham Street wasn’t named for a cracker but for members of a farming family that lived in the northern part of our city.

Across Beach Boulevard at the entrance to the Target store and shopping center is a street named MacDonald Drive. This street doesn’t remind me of Ronald MacDonald, but of two popular Huntington Beach writers, Chris and Craig MacDonald.

Some residents who live in our downtown area may not realize that the streets running east from Lake Street to Beach Boulevard are all named after out states and running north from Atlanta to Yorktown are nameed for many of our cities.

OK, so there isn’t a state called Huntington like there is for California, Alabama, Delaware, Florida and Georgia, but the State of Huntington does have a nice ring to it, and for many years it was called Huntington Avenue and not Street.

There are tracts of homes with streets named for birds, animals, musical terms, boys and girls first names, trees, ships, Hawaiian names, tobacco brands, flowers, colors, planets and even some presidents got their names in Surf City USA.

Remember Meadowlark Airport and that short street that took you into the airport from Warner Avenue , this street is gone now but when the local airport was active it was called Roosevelt Street. Even if F.D.R. may have never been in our Fourth of July parade, we did at one time name a street for him.

I remember seeing an old city map with a dirt road in the middle of an oil field named Gallienne. This could only be named for William “Bill” Gallienne who promoted our city in much that same way as P.T. Barnum promoted his circus.

So the next time your out for a walk or a drive around our city, take a look at the street names and lets see if those little gray cells don’t bring back a few remembrances to mind.