Olive Through the Ages

Commerce: Other businesses in Olive

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Blacksmith shop

Blacksmith shop, 1926, 1947, 1959

Click/tap the image identifying the blacksmith shop in 1926, 1947, and 1959 to view it in a separate window.




From the early 1910s until the early 1960s, the blacksmith shop was a significant business in the town of Olive. The square building in which the business was housed appears in a 1912 photo with horse-drawn carriages on Railroad Street (Orange-Olive Road), next door to the pool hall and across the street from the wooden, general store. In a 1919 directory, it was listed as Olive Blacksmith Shop, with proprietor G.F. Harmon, and by 1959 it was listed as Olive Forge and Welding, with Grant Hughes as the blacksmith. The building appears in U.S. Geological Survey aerial photos as late as June, 1966, but no longer appears in a 1967 photo of the Lincoln Ave. and Orange-Olive Road intersection taken by an Orange County road crew worker (see 1967 photo).

Bruce Gelker, who lived in Olive during his younger years in the 1930s and 40s—and later founded the Saddleback Inn in Santa Ana, California—said the blacksmith's name was "Mr. Grant" [Hughes] and that he made horseshoes.

Vince Marzo, who grew up in the Santa Ana Canyon and Orange in the 1950s, recalls visiting the blacksmith shop, and shares some recollections about the shop and its proprietor:

Blacksmith shop, 1912 and 1916

Click/tap the image identifying the blacksmith shop in 1912 and c1916 to view it in a separate window.




I remember going with my dad to the blacksmith's shop. Living and working on a ranch, there were always mechanical repairs to be made. Though he was quite a master mechanic and welder in his own right, my dad always trusted "Mr. Grant" with the most difficult jobs he felt he couldn't quite master. I can imagine that "Heavy" Ames [who owned—and worked at—the Olive Garage] availed himself of his services, as infrequent as that may have been.

The building, located on the southeastern corner of Lincoln and Orange-Olive Road, was made of a combination of wood and corrugated metal. The sights and smells of the blacksmith's shop can never be replicated.

Westerns were popular on t.v. at that time, and his shop was a throwback to that era. In the center of the shop was a charcoal-fired forge and bellows. Next to that was a huge anvil and a galvanized tub of water for cooling. On the west wall was a long, wooden work bench with vises at either end. Somewhere in the shop was his welding equipment. You saw tools in there you never saw anywhere else: huge tongs, hammers, chisels. It was right out of a cowboy movie!

Mr. Grant was a grizzled old-timer and always had a lit, King Edward cigar in his mouth; puffing away. On top of his head was a no-bill, quilted, blacksmith's cap, and his welder's goggles hung around his neck. He wore blue denim bib overalls and a long sleeve shirt, covered by a full leather apron. There might have been a bandanna hanging out of one of his back pockets. His hands were covered by thick leather gloves.

I seem to recall the floor was dirt. Less of a fire hazard, I guess. That, and Mr. Grant would occasionally spit on the floor!

There was an old pickup truck parked inside on the east side of the shop. I can only assume that Mr. Grant would go to local ranches to shoe horses on the spot.

Hard to believe a blacksmith's shop still existed at the time. But I recall it still being there when the Olive post office and market burned down in 1961. That was three years after we had moved out of the Canyon and into Orange.


Sources: Hansen's Orange Residence and Business City Directory: Including Olive, El Modena, Villa Park, McPherson and West Orange, 1919; Luskey's Official Orange City Directory, 1958-59; Sanborn map of Olive, CA, 1926 (revised in 1929); U.S. Geological Survey aerial photos: 1938, 1947, 1959, 1966; photo of Olive area taken by Orange County road works crew member, 1967; telephone meeting of Bruce Gelker with Gordon T. McClelland on July 23, 2010; emails from Vince Marzo on September 10 and 26, 2017, and September 8, 2018.



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