HomeJuly 2022Orange County’s Jewish History- Mendelson’s Melon

Orange County’s Jewish History- Mendelson’s Melon

And now for a little humor… Back in 1889, the Santa Fe Railroad had its Southern California headquarters in the Phillips Block, a four-story building in downtown Los Angeles. As postmaster for San Juan Capistrano, Max Mendelson, a German Jewish immigrant who had fought in the Civil War and later moved to California, most likely was in town because of the infamous Modesta Avila case (more on that in a later column), which went to trial just one month after this blurb appeared in the LA Times. Max and his wife Clara were the well-known owners of the popular Mendelson Mission Inn, and they kept a garden on the premises in order to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for their guests. Thus the giant (110 pounds!) melon in the window. I generally find the local journalism of the late 1800s to be quite charming, with plenty of color and style, and this is no exception. Once “the boys” decided to cut open the melon, “A knife was secured, and the operation was soon accomplished.” Unfortunately, the melon was “too old, and the boys who had gathered around the festive table went out and took a drink of beer.” A wonderful little tale, all thanks to Max and Clara and their contributions to, and participation in, Orange County life. 

Dalia Taft, archivist of the Orange County Jewish Historical Society, highlights images from the archives every month. For more information, please visit www.jewishoc.org/history. You can also contact Dalia at daliat@jccoc.org or at (949) 435-3400, ext. 360. The Orange County Jewish Historical Society is a program of the Merage Jewish Community Center and is fully funded by the Jewish Community Foundation Orange County.


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