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By Jan Siegel
Will Bathgate’s son William A. (Billy) Bathgate was born and raised in San Juan Capistrano. He served in the Army Air Corps in WWII when he was still in high school. When San Juan Capistrano became a city in 1961, Billy became one of the first councilmen and served as the second mayor of the new city. He was also known for his Christmas trees and was the only local grower of Fuyu persimmons. Pat Bathgate was a founding member of the San Juan Community Task Force. Bathgate Elementary School is named after Billy and Pat. They were also the Swallows Day Parade Grand Marshals in 1997. One of their daughters, Diane, went on to become a city councilmember and mayor of San Juan Capistrano, following in her father’s footsteps.
Henry Rosenbaum came to San Juan Capistrano after selling Christmas trees to the forty-niners who were homesick for the holidays.
He came to the area in 1869 and raised cattle, citrus, barley and lima beans. He registered the first cattle brand in the area, in 1890: OR for Oscar Rosenbaum, one of his sons and one of nine children.
John Malcom graduated from USC, where he was a member of the baseball team, captain of the football team, president of both the student body and the senior class in 1912, member of Phi Alpha fraternity, on the debating team and active in the YMCA and Literary Society. In 1920, Malcolm came to San Juan Capistrano and became the first principal of the Capistrano Union High School, where he served for 37 years. He also taught history, Spanish and athletics.
During WWII, he was manager of the Conservation Corps for San Juan Capistrano. At the time of his retirement in 1957, Malcom was acting superintendent of the school district. Several years after his death, the Capistrano Unified School District named Malcom Elementary School in Laguna Niguel in honor of his devotion and service to the education of youth in the community.
Aaron Buchheim, the father to Carl and Larry Buchheim, came to Capistrano Beach in 1903, purchased 400 acres of land from the Oyharzabals and became the largest wheat grower in the region. He was a member of the San Juan Capistrano School District Board and instrumental in the formation of the original Orange County Fair. Carl and Larry Buchheim had a 200-acre ranch on which they grew oranges. When San Juan Capistrano was incorporated in 1961, Carl was elected to the first city council and became the first mayor. Larry was a trustee in the high school district and a member of the San Juan Planning Commission before being appointed to the city council in 1978 and mayor in 1992.
Carl Hankey traded one-half acre of his newly discovered oil land for 22 acres of land in San Juan Capistrano in 1919. The property had a Victorian cottage. In 1993, the house was scheduled for demolition, but was moved, renovated and preserved. Today, that house is listed on the Inventory of Historic and Cultural Landmarks in San Juan Capistrano. He was elected president of the Capistrano Union High School Board in 1954. Carl Harkey Middle School in Mission Viejo is named for him.
Harold Ambuehl moved to San Juan Capistrano in 1949. He became a teaching principal at San Juan School, the oldest public school in Orange County. He retired in 1972, after serving as principal and principal/superintendent of the San Juan School District until it merged with the new Capistrano Unified School District. In 1977, Harold J. Ambuehl Elementary School in San Juan Capistrano was named for him.
In 1946, three Long Beach cops and their wives opened the Walnut Grove restaurant at 32065 State Highway 101 (now Camino Capistrano) in San Juan Capistrano. The owners were Fred and Lorraine Newhart, John and Lucille Janton, and Mr. and Mrs. H.A. Harvey. Later, the Newhart family became the sole owners. In 1960, the restaurant moved to a larger location at 26917 Ortega Highway just east of the Mission. By 2005, the Walnut Grove was closed even though it still was a hangout for many locals. In 1966, Fred wrote the book A History of the San Juan Capistrano School District. Newhart Middle School in Mission Viejo is named for him.
H.L. (Les) Remmers was a prominent vegetable grower and businessman in San Juan Capistrano. He was president of the Chamber of Commerce, member of the San Juan Capistrano Rotary and on the first Board of the San Juan Historical Society.
The Community Presbyterian Church has put together a book on the history of the church to celebrate the 100th anniversary. The information in this article is based on the church book.
Two things bring all of these people together. One is their deep faith. The other is their commitment to the community of San Juan Capistrano.
During the holiday season, take a moment in time to share your faith, your family, and our amazing community. Wishing everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year.
Jan Siegel was a 33-year resident of San Juan Capistrano and now resides in the neighboring town of Rancho Mission Viejo. She served on the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission for 13 years, has been a volunteer guide for the San Juan Capistrano Friends of the Library’s architectural walking tour for 26 years and is currently the museum curator for the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society. She was named Woman of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005, Volunteer of the Year in 2011 and was inducted into the city’s Wall of Recognition in 2007.