The Wild West of the O.C.

One local has made it his job to uncover the history of Huntington Beach. 

When Chris Epting moved to California’s Huntington Beach 15 years ago from Los Angeles, his first stop was the bookstore. He wanted to read about his newly adopted city, but no book had been written.

“That blew my mind. The city was almost 100 years old,” he remembers. “Right then, I decided, ‘I’m going to write a definitive book on the history of Huntington Beach.’”

That book sold as quickly as bikinis in July. “They couldn’t print enough of them,” Epting says. “There was a real hunger. There are families that never left here, and this book reminded them of the past.”

He has since written columns and dozens of books, including a few on music and Rock ’n Roll in Orange County: Music, Madness and Memories. Let’s just say he knows Orange County is not as plastic as some TV shows make it out to be. We asked him to play tour guide:

Go see the brick jail cells built in 1908. “When they discovered oil in the 1920s here, the town became a boomtown, and then a wild, Wild West. They would throw the drunks in at night.” Epting recommends eating at Longboard. It’s the pub in front of the cells, so mind your Ps and Qs.

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Have a beach bonfire. The fire pits were almost removed permanently, but Epting and the community fought back. Not only are they quintessential HB, but the bonfires are a source of revenue.

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Tour the ruins of Bolsa Chica Gun Club. You can see the foundation and the road that led to it within the Bolsa Chica wetlands. King Gustaf V of Sweden, railroad magnate Henry Huntington, and Clark Gable were guests of the 1900s hunting lodge.

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