As communities locally and nationally consider the fate of streets and statues and the names they bear, I reflected on some that I grew up and lived with.
Home town of Lynwood is pretty benign, named for Lynn Wood, wife of local dairy farmer. My elementary school, Lugo, for the Spanish land grant owners of Rancho San Antonio.
Other Lynwood elementary schools are OK, although Lindbergh’s seeming affection for Nazis may bear watching. And I wonder if any school board members read “Letters From the Earth” before deciding to name a school for Mark Twain? Lynwood High School was just that. I’m hoping it is renamed for our most distinguished alum, Weird Al Yankovic.
Street names, pretty innocuous, although Century and Imperial Highways did have a touch of empire about them. Rosecrans was likely for the Civil War general, and there was also a Bullis Road. If it was named for another Civil War general, it seems to exemplify the quandary of how, generations later, we consider the entirety of a life vis-à-vis an honorific.
In the case of Bullis, he led a USCT unit (United States Colored Troops) in the Civil War, but was also an Indian fighter, specifically with the Army unit that captured Geronimo.
I left Lynwood for Humboldt State University (HSU), named for the famous explorer and naturalist. He spent a lot of time among indigenous populations, but apparently has no record as an exploiter.
HSU athletic teams were the Lumberjacks, apropos the school’s location in the redwood forest. Our mascot, however, was one Lucky Logger, a giant fiberglass head set on football shoulder pads, mouth painted in a perpetual grin, red hair and beard made of glued on yarn. Lucky appeared on the sidelines of football and basketball games, led cheers, behaved badly to both HSU and visiting cheerleaders, and generally made a fool of himself. I know all this because I was a member of the Lucky Logger Secret Society, sworn to covertly maintain the deliberate political incorrectness of Lucky. (We also drank a few beers).
In nearby Eureka, on Humboldt Bay, was Gunther Island, the site of a well-documented massacre of local Native Americans. That was a touchy subject, as it was possible to find descendants of both the perpetrators and victims among your classmates if you dug a little bit. Also, for reasons never clear, there was a statue of William McKinley in the town square of Arcata, where HSU was located. It came down two years ago at the direction of the city council.
Here in Irvine the newness of the city has probably spared us considering the sins—perceived or real—of past residents of other localities. The OC Klan was apparently centered largely in Anaheim and Fullerton while James Irvine II was too busy drilling wells to irrigate his crops to be bothered with such thinking. Scientist street names abound in the Irvine Business Complex, OK I guess, although students at Caltech have taken issue with a building there named for Robert Millikan, a physicist who apparently advocated forced sterilization.
Street names in our planned communities reflect flora and fauna to a large degree. However, at Great Park Neighborhoods, there are some truly creative ones. My favorite is Follyhatch. I just hope there was never a Lord Follyhatch who owned other human beings or advocated for same.
There aren’t many statues in Orange County—the Duke at his airport, James Irvine II at the park bearing his name, and Walt and Mickey at their park. My favorite statue is Peter the Anteater in front of the Bren Events Center. For now, I think both Peter and Mr. Bren are safe.
Michael Stockstill is a retired journalist and public affairs consultant. He lives in Irvine; his wife is a member of the Voice of OC Board of Directors.
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