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Traveling through time

April 22, 2006|By Kelly Strodl

Each Thursday, locals gather at the Oasis Senior Center to discuss the history of Orange County.

The class, available through Coastline Community College's emeritus program, relies on the extensive knowledge of local history instructor Diane Ryan, who has taught for more than 30 years.

Ryan said the inspiration for the class came from a friend in Huntington Beach who worked as a local historian, as well as from a video produced by KOCE called "The Story of Orange County."

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"I always had an interest in local history and accumulated all of these files," she said.

At Oasis Senior Center, Ryan found the perfect venue.

"My other classes usually change location, but everyone keeps signing up for this one here," she said.

The Huntington Beach resident quickly found that a large portion of what she taught was coming from her students, seniors who had experienced local history firsthand.

"The interesting thing about this class is that most of the people who come here were born in Orange County," Ryan said. "That is unusual for this generation of people."

Newport Beach resident Opal Kissinger has provided much of that history. Although she has not attended the class for some time, she left behind a guide to local history in the form of a video collection.

The class recently watched one video in which Kissinger portrayed Vicente Sepulveda Yorba Carrillo, the wife of a local rancher who found herself running the spread after her husband's death.

Kissinger dressed in costume and took on the character of Carrillo, whom she researched by interviewing descendants living in the area.

For students who moved here from other areas, taking the class is a way to learn more about their present home. Betsey Gordon moved to the county with her family from Kansas City, Kan. In taking the class, she discovered a history she was not expecting to encounter.

"When I came here, I knew nothing of California's history," Gordon said. "I was shocked to find how the county was developed from the old Spanish ranchos."

"Some of the students have attended every year," Ryan said. "Since so many keep returning each year, I ask what specifics they would be interested in learning."

Field trips are another reason students enroll in the class. The group's next excursion will be to Placentia's Key Ranch in May. The ranch, a family home of George Key, houses a museum of local farm equipment that the rancher began collecting about 50 years ago.

The class is free through Coastline Community College, but Ryan said it will not be offered again until next spring.MARK DUSTIN / DAILY PILOTDiane Ryan lectures about the history of Orange County during Thursday afternoon's meeting of her class at the Oasis Senior Center in Corona del Mar. Ryan has been teaching the class, which is offered through Coastline Community College, at the senior center for seven years. dpt.22-boomer-CPhotoInfoPB1Q72UF20060422iy3c72ncMARK DUSTIN / DAILY PILOT(LA)Diane Ryan, center, lectures about the history of Orange County during Thursday afternoon's meeting of her class at the Oasis Senior Center in Corona del Mar. Ryan, has been teaching at the Oasis Senior Center for seven years.

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