Olive Through the Ages
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A large sign posted to a barren tree displays
the words "Olive Christian School," "Enroll Now,"
and "Kindergarten." Beside this tree stands a two-story, white
Craftsman Bungalow. Upon closer inspection of the house, a small sign
above the porch reads: "Olive Assembly Church," and above
the doorway, "16051." This entire scene appears in a black
and white photo from the Orange County Archives labeled "Glassell
St, Olive, 1963 01 RD."
The setting seemed vaguely familiar, yet I couldn't quite place the
location of Olive Assembly Church in Olive. I asked Gordon McClelland
if he had any recollection of that house or that church. We had just
this photo and another photo from the Orange County Archives to use
as a starting point when we began our investigation, searching up and
down Glassell for any identifiable landmark. But Glassell has changed
dramatically over the years; many of the structures or trees from the
1960s have been altered or removed. Historic aerial maps, old newspaper
articles, and telephone directories listing the church at different
locations throughout the years yielded tidbits of information; each
piece further adding to the perplexity of this quest.
About that time of our research, Gordon had introduced me to Vicki Haninger,
a family friend who lived on Glassell in the early 1960s. Vicki aided
in our research by contacting Mark Winters of the City of Orange's Public
Works Department, who pored over the city's records and files until
he uncovered annexation paperwork for the church's second address: "8561
Dowling." This valuable piece of information, along with supplementary
photos I found at the Orange County Archives, finally solved the mystery
of the church's locations in Olive.
Nearly a year after this article was posted, Phil Brigandi came to me
with additional historical information about the early years of this
church, which led to my discovery of its true origins and purpose, and
the years its founders Peter and Beverly Caruso were with the ministry.
Three-and-a-half years later, Beverly Caruso emailed me to let me know
she discovered this website and wanted to contribute content to it,
including a photo and enhancements to this article.
Thus, after years of searching for clues to the real story about Olive
Assembly Church and School, the answers have at last been revealed.
A church and school at the crossroads
of changing times
Olive Assembly of God was founded by Reverend Peter Caruso
and his wife Beverly in 1961, on what would become a 21-year mission
of training and sending out more than 100 full-time Christian workers.
The first worship services were held in August at the couple's home
on Heim Avenue. The house and orange trees around it would later be
cleared away for the construction of Heim Elementary School.
In January 1962, Olive Assembly Church was housed in an old, two-story,
white Craftsman Bungalow at 16051 E. Lincoln Avenue, where North Glassell
Street ended at the time. A year later, the church had its own school
bus and was advertising its Christian school for kindergarteners. But
this site was temporary, just as the signs posted outside the house.
The following month, trees and shrubs to the immediate west of the bungalow
were cleared away, and by March that area was paved with asphalt. An
intersection was made at Lincoln and Glassell, but the portion of road
that continued past the intersection dead-ended a little after 450 feet,
surrounded by groves on all three sides. The northernmost portion of
the unfinished segment of road, in the unincorporated area just north
of Glassell, was named Dowling Street.
An article published in the LA Times on June 9, 1963 announced:
"OLIVE - Orange County Planning Commission has
approved plans for a church and school building proposed by the Olive
Assembly of God Church.
"The structure will be located on the west side of Dowling St.,
about 150 ft. north of Lincoln Ave."
A 1964 U.S. Geological Survey aerial map shows the first
building for the ministry erected in their new location at 8561 Dowling
Street. This map also shows the old bungalow gone, replaced by a new
structure that 1966 road work photos reveal to be a Chevron service
station. Though the Dowling Bridge had been constructed across the Santa
Ana River in 1963 and was later joined to Dowling Street north of the
river, the section of road that would connect from the south side of
the bridge to the dead-ended portion of road beside the church had not
yet been built. The Times wrote on July 16, 1964: "Plans and specifications
for construction of Dowling St. from Lincoln Ave. to the under-construction
Riverside Freeway interchange will be submitted to county supervisors
by Road Commis-[sion] July 21.... Dowling will tie into Glassell St.
in Orange at Lincoln Ave."
In autumn 1963, the Carusos moved into a home located adjacent to the
old St. Paul's Lutheran Church building on Main Street in Olive Heights.
They held church services and school for kindergarteners and first graders
in that house while construction began on the first building at the
Dowling Street site: a structure proposed to serve a dual purpose as
a chapel and classrooms. Much of this labor was accomplished by Pastor
Caruso with the help of volunteers.
A year later in 1964, the church and school were established at the
1.85-acre site. News about the organization subsequently appeared in
local publications. On July 15, 1965, the Times' "Calendar of Events"
column listed Reverend Pete Caruso as pastor of Olive Assembly of God
church. Caruso's name would appear again as church pastor in the December
1, 1977 "Crusades" article from the Times.
The region surrounding the church was rapidly changing from agricultural
to residential, as road work photos from 1963 to 1967 reveal. In January
1963, new homes were being sold near the Fletcher and Glassell intersection,
evidenced by the Influential Homes signage at the corner of Glassell
at Lincoln. By March 1966, service stations posted at each corner of
the intersection indicate an increase in traffic through the area.
After Dowling was joined to Glassell, the entire portion of road was
renamed Glassell Street, and the bridge was renamed the Glassell Street
Bridge. Over time the name "Dowling" disappeared altogether,
replaced by the name "Kraemer" on the northern side of the
bridge. In the 1970 telephone directory, the church address was listed
as 8561 Glassell Street in Orange, but after annexation of that unincorporated
area by the City of Orange in September 1972, the address became 2830
N. Glassell Street.
The ministry retained its original name until this final address change.
Soon after, "Olive" in its name began to be phased out and
replaced by "Orange." Phone directories published from 1974
to 1979 list the church as Assembly of God - Olive-Orange, and the school
as Orange Christian School. In 1982 the Carusos resigned, but the ministry
continued under new leadership for many years and was listed as Orange
Christian Assembly in 2002.
By 2004 Pyramid Autism Center began sharing the building facilities
with the church and school, and became the sole tenant for a few years
starting from about 2007, after which time Discovery Day Camp joined
as a co-tenant and remained through October 2013. Pyramid Autism Center
stayed on as the last tenant to the end of July 2015, though this property
that was owned by Southern California Assemblies of God had been sold
to an investment firm on March 23, 2015. As of November 2015, all buildings
on the site remain vacant.
Caruso family in 1964
(click/tap to view image larger)
In reviewing the history of the ministry, Beverly Caruso
says a significant number of families made Olive Assembly their home
church throughout the years and the congregation was a close-knit group,
with many members remaining in contact with one another well into the
21st century. Hundreds of students attended Orange Christian School.
From that initial Kindergarten class, a grade was added each year so
children could advance in their schooling. Eventually the school provided
classes from kindergarten through eighth grade, with enrollment peaking
at approximately 240 students.
Following their 21 years at Olive Assembly, Pete and Beverly worked
in the mission field for a while, and then pastored another church for
14 years. In the early 2010s, the couple learned the church and
school they had founded in Olive had since been closed and no longer
existed—except in the memories of those whose lives had been touched
Sources: Orange County road works photos: 1963-1967,
USGS maps: 1964, courtesy Orange County Archives; Pacific Telephone,
Orange County White Pages Telephone Directory, Area Code 714, 1965-1967,
1970, 1974-1979, 2002; East Orange County Telephone Directory: Orange-Tustin,
Villa Park: 1973; Luskey's Directory: 1963; City of Orange Annexation
No. 280 paperwork dated September 14, 1972; Information from Grace,
employee at Pyramid Autism Center, conversation on December 8, 2009;
Los Angeles Times, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: "Church, School
Plans Approved" (June 9, 1963), "Street by Any Other Name
Still the Same" (March 19, 1964), "Supervisors to Get Plan
for Dowling St." (July 16, 1964), "Crusades" (December
1, 1977), "Calendar of Events" (July 15, 1965); Loving Confrontation,
by Beverly Caruso, Bethany House Publishers, 1988, Minneapolis, MN;
LoopNet Property Records (November 29, 2015).
Olive Assembly of God and Olive Christian
Day School images
Click/tap the thumbnail images below to view
larger images in a separate browser window or tab:
|This 1963 photo
shows the sign above the entrance to the bungalow housing Olive
Assembly of God Church and School.
||This is the
full photo of the image at left, showing the entire bungalow facade
and surrounding area in 1963.
shows a view looking west at the Olive Assembly of God school bus
and bungalow on Lincoln Avenue in 1963.
from 1963 shows the bungalow with the dead-ended portion of Glassell
Street replacing the groves at its west side.
|This 1963 photo
is a view looking east at the Olive Assembly bungalow, and the Influential
Homes billboard and signage.
||This 1963 photo
shows the Olive Assembly bungalow with a sidewalk in front of it,
and the road realigned.
|This view looking
east past the Glassell Street intersection shows a service station
at each corner in 1966.
in 1966 looking west on Lincoln Avenue past the Glassell Street
||This 2009 photo
shows signage on the property where Orange Assembly Church and School
||This 2009 view
looking south on Glassell past Lincoln Avenue shows a portion of
the former sanctuary at right.
||This 2009 photo
shows a view looking northeast on Lincoln Avenue past the Glassell
||This 1964 USGS
map show the old and new sites for Olive Assembly Church and School.
||This 1971 annexation
map shows the portion of road named Dowling just north of Glassell,
past the Lincoln intersection.
||This 2004 USGS
map shows Orange Assembly Church and Christian School before Pyramid
Autism Center moved in.