This week I am in full Granny Research mode. On September 14, 2015, I brought you the story titled “Women Saved Aliso“. The story was the beginning of my investigation after I got a request through the website to assist a woman from out of state to find old newspaper clippings on her grandmother Jessie Haden. She described her grandmother as a large woman with a feisty quality to her personality. She also said that her grandmother partnered with another old woman to get in the way of a development at Aliso Beach that could have changed the face of this hot spot in unimaginable ways. I am increasingly grateful of their efforts as I dive back into treasured memories at Aliso and wonder how that would have changed my experiences.
From the 14th until last weekend, granny research was a failure to launch. I spent hours searching online, and the investigation really never got off the launch pad. I felt grounded and a little defeated. Online searches didn’t yield anything and I was left scratching my head. How could there be nothing online about a couple of old women that gave developers fits when they tried to privatize Aliso Beach in the mid 1960’s? With the powerful search engine Google and works like Wikipedia surely I would find what I was looking for. It just wasn’t working out. There is also an amazing short history of South Laguna Beach from Karen Turnbull that is a great reference that made no mention of this pair of blue hair activists. Karen’s work is tremendous and she is a historical expert on South Laguna. She details the history of her family of pioneers settling in South Laguna and tells amazing stories on daily life in an area considered part of Aliso Beach. If I had to guess, Karen knows of Jessie Haden and her partner in activism, but I decided I would do the granny research. It seemed like something fun to do and helping a stranger reconnect to her grandmother’s past in South Laguna Beach was worth the time.
Last Saturday, I intended to visit the Laguna Beach Library on Glenneyre but noticed on the website the instruction to call to make sure it had reopened. I don’t know what the story with that was, but when I called, I found out it was closed. The only thing I could think of was to visit the Dana Point Library across from Salt Creek where I spent the morning body boarding with friends. The two ladies upfront were very knowledgeable but even they had their struggles finding anything. My eyes perked up when the younger of the two ladies said she found something. It was my first article on these grannies noted above called “Women Saved Aliso”. We all got a laugh out of that and the two gals kept at it. All we could really find was census info on Jessie Haden and her husband Frank that proved they were here in Southern California. I parted with a couple of Laguna Beach websites written down on a small piece of paper knowing that I had much work left to do.
When I got home, I had nothing to do so I kept at it online. I found a newspaper archiving portal that had coverage of the Santa Ana Register in the 1960’s. The portal had a search feature that allowed me to look for keywords and names in the context of the articles. While it wasn’t easy to find the information, this tool was incredibly helpful. Everything we archive in preserving our history should have a tool like that. To my surprise, I did find articles detailing the fight that Jessie Haden and her accomplice put up as it related to private development at Aliso Beach. To be honest, Jessie L Haden was a badass and she had an undeniable impact on the property ending up in the hands of the County of Orange. Her courage and her belief in the idea that South Laguna Beaches should be available to everyone inspired a fight that probably changed the course of history for Aliso Beach. That is a good thing!
Granny Research continues and I hope to elaborate on this political activist and South Laguna Beach hero in a couple of weeks after I scour the Laguna Beach public library for any information I can find. I have enough to tell the story right now, but when I release the story, I am hoping and praying that I can do that with a newspaper clipping accompanied by a picture of this granny. I have not confirmed this with the granddaughter but I feel like maybe all the pictures, keepsakes and heirlooms tied to her grandmother may have been lost. While I can paint a nice picture of what the two women did and how their efforts helped change Aliso Beach for the good, I intend to find additional articles that contain her picture. My next strategy for granny research is the microfiche at the Laguna Library. Helpful tips from members of this Laguna Beach Facebook Group and a gentleman by the name of Anders of the Laguna Beach firm of Anders Lasater Architects have me pointed the direction of the library. Anders firm did a nice historical piece on the La Casa Del Camino Hotel in Laguna using clippings from newspapers I believe I need to look through to complete my work. The company has a portfolio of some amazing upscale architectural projects, and I am sure he has better things to do than to field my questions. I very much appreciate his willingness to help as this project has become important to me.
So, wish me luck. I am told by both Laguna beach community folks and Anders that the microfiche will be quite the adventure, which I take to mean it will be a long, drawn out and exhausting process. So be it! I want to tell a story I believe is important to South Laguna History and I want to make sure I do it right. If I do it the way I believe it should be I will do it having found the clipping that Jessie Haden’s granddaughter references with a picture of the large, feisty woman that made her mark on Aliso Beach.