Historian 'concocts' almanac
April 4, 1971
Bob Geivet, Independent Press-Telegram (Long Beach CA)
Partly with tongue in cheek, and partly with cheek, Jim Sleeper has come out with the first Orange County Almanac of Historical Oddities.
Since he is 43 years old, Sleeper decided to chronicle his masterpiece with the intelligence that it was "43 years in Preparation." He said he is confident no one will dispute that, even if they dispute everything else he offers.
Fiercely loyal to his birthplace, Sleeper offers the dedication of his almanac "to the good people of Orange County -- there are no other kind."
That dedication also attests to his role in the life of the county and its citizens.
Long an historian of note, Sleeper has had a most interesting career -- largely doing what he wanted to do: He was the county's youngest hermit (he retired at an early age from doing no work, and holed up in Holy Jim Canyon); the county's youngest forest ranger (he got paid for doing what he liked to do): and the county's most-promising newspaperman (he promised anything, and he often delivered it).
Scion of a three-generation clan of Orange County pioneers of farming and politics, he first considered calling his opus Farmer Jim's Almanac, but changed his mind when his wife convinced him that his radish patch didn't qualify him as a farmer.
His bent for history, the usual and the quaint--not to mention the humorous--set him on his chore as an author of the almanac of Historical Oddities.
To escape the scorn of fellow scribes, Sleeper hastened to explain that "this work was inspired by my friends in the newspaper profession--friends who favor me with nocturnal calls 10 minutes to press time to ask: Where was Orange County's first hanging? (see page 67): what was the hottest Sept. 14 in history? (see page 33): who grew the biggest sweet potato? (see page 57) and so on."
He said that "while I will miss those calls, the prospect of an uninterrupted night's sleep may assuage my loss."
Sleeper said he was always interested in knowing "who or what was the biggest or best, the most or the meanest, the first or the worst," and so set out to chronicle it all in his Almanac.
The Almanac of Historical Oddities might arouse some question of credibility, because it includes such dandies as a handy pocket calendar for 1889, (when Orange County was formed); a road map of 1897 (showing some progress in the county's march from the wilderness), pioneer health remedies, beauty hinds, political promulgations and what he calls "fascinating facts." He even included a fascinating riddle.
Sleeper is the first to concede that some eyebrows may be raised by his light treatment of preposterous. "It would be presumptuous, of course, to say that everything in this Almanac is true he says, but it was thought to be true at the time.