Cheryl returned, “I’m sorry, but I can’t find anything in our archives, Mr. Lambert. What I would like you to do is to make an appointment with our archivist, Manuel Escamilla. He can scan the articles and photos you have, and make sure they get into our computer system.” She gave us his direct number, and the days he would be in the library.
We returned the following week with our folder of documents and photos.
“Please, call me Manny.” Soft spoken and easy going, he spent the next three hours scanning and downloading our documents into the library’s history database. Then he photocopied the articles, stamped them property of Santa Ana Public Library, and placed them in the manila police folder.
“Did you bring a blank CD with you?” he asked. I had indeed – I also brought my Canon camera with me. And while Manny copied the scanned files onto the CD for our personal use, I snapped photos of the pages from the illustrated police book titled History of Santa Ana Police Department 1869-1978. Lamb had worked there from January 1967 until October 1973.
Curiosity got the better of us. Two weeks later, we returned to the History Room. Each of our documents in the manila police folder was missing. Manny tried for over an hour to find the documents he had downloaded into the computer. “Unbelievable! Everything is buried so deep it’s impossible to find.”
Manny would be the first –but not the last- to tell us that certain news articles had a way of disappearing. He recommended we purchase a humidity gauge or a dehumidifier, to protect the news clippings.
We did, but we also got sidetracked. Lamb started a new business that would be another first in the life and career of Harlen “Lamb” Lambert, bringing positive recognition to him both at home and abroad.
In January 2016 we completed end-of-business arrangements and formally retired for the fifth time.
In March 2016 it had been eleven years since we’d worked on Lamb’s book. My son-in-law carried the box out from the guest bedroom closet. He helped me unpack and organize its contents on the dining room table.
Within an hour, folder and CD in hand I made another trip to the Santa Ana Library. I checked the police folder and requested the library archivist review the history database. Nothing had changed – there was no information, with the exception of the original hire notice and one line in the library’s Raitt Street Chronicles parroting the same information.
In April 2016 the mail carrier dropped the North Orange County Community College Class Schedule in our mail box. I was delighted to read a creative writing for seniors’ class was available – we attended the session and signed up, eager to complete this memoir about one man’s experience as the first black police officer in Orange County, in the city of Santa Ana, California. His words, his story, his sorrows and successes are typically American - but unique to him.
It’s time to break the silence - without stories like his, people might forget that life in these United States was regrettably once really like this. Is it still?
A Matter of Research
An Inconvenient Truth
"No Man is an Island . . ."
In studying the history of Orange County I am continually reminded of John Donne's immortal words: "No man is an island, entire of itself." As individuals we and those who have preceded us, are part of a whole. We move together in the stream of life.
The same is true of the cities and communities of Orange County. None has developed in an atmosphere of isolation. All live together as a family. They have common experiences, mutual problems and petty jealousies, but withal, a pride of belonging to the family.
No city is an island.
Leo J. Friis (Orange County historian and attorney)
Author, Orange County-through-four-centuries
author/contributor: Sharron Read-Lambert