Old Towne Orange: A Small Town Filled with Treasures

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A man selling old metal trucks on the sidewalk in Old Towne Orange, CA.
A man selling old metal toy trucks on the sidewalk in Old Towne Orange, CA.

On Saturday morning I discovered a part of Orange County much different from the concrete jungle and massive structures laced with freeways that makes up much of Anaheim. We drove a little west to the small townish Old Towne Orange, where the small municipality is dominated by a circle. Everything radiates out from this town common in the circle, and in one of the big trees, a swarm of parrots were making an unseen racket.

One of my favorite things is to stroll and pop into small shops filled up with odd and out of the ordinary things. We stopped for breakfast at Watson’s Drugs and Soda Fountain, a staple of the town for 100 years where old men congregate for coffee at the tables out front, and a cozy booth is the place to sink your teeth into old school waffles, biscuits and chicken fried steak. It had that one-of-a-kind look of a classic old drugstore and I was told that it’s very popular with students from nearby Chapman University.

Then it was time to hit the covered sidewalks to wander among the shops. One is called Woody’s and has 1970s retro wooden furniture, others like Country Roads and the Antique Station are rabbit warrens of stalls, each with their different collections of amazing old stuff. I found an illustrated copy of Moby Dick written for kids in 1956 that I remember reading as a kid, and had to have it. Then I saw a card autographed in pencil, by God, Ty Cobb!  Could that be real?  The Babe Ruth and Satchell Paige ones looked printed but that Cobb signature remains either the treasure of the city or a bogus artifact.  So many cool things to paw over, all pressed into a town that seems like it’s in Iowa instead of Southern California.

Juan Flores and his son Sam in Old Town Orange.
Juan Flores and his son Sam in Old Town Orange.

The day had lots left to offer….I visited The Flight Deck where I put on a suit and climbed inside the cockpit of a mocked up F16 and used the throttle and the stick to pilot the plane through a series of maneuvers over Bosnia. I wasted millions of the Defense Department’s money when I repeatedly crashed. Hey, it’s harder than it looks landing on an aircraft carrier!

AFter lunch, we met a couple who have recently opened the Anaheim Brewery, in a spot that was once a Packard dealership.  Greg and Barbara Gerovac were both brewers at other establishments for decades, and now they pour their own suds with pride.  As Greg told the local newspaper, “We’re not a bar, we’re a community space that sells handcrafted beer!”  You could tell that there was no where else he’d rather be than behind his new bar selling the beers that he crafts with his experienced partner out back.

The couple have opened the place right next to a huge empty lot that will soon be filled with other businesses, bringing a lot of positive kudos from the city. In fact they decided to open up on Tuesday nights…because the mayor and the city council wanted a place to come blow off steam and thought their brewery was the perfect place!