World War II was a difficult time for German-Americans across the country. It was especially hard on residents of Anaheim, a city founded by Germans.
Minimizing Cultural Heritage & Traditions
Anaheim's rich cultural heritage and traditions were minimized so as not to give outsiders the impression of the town being sympathetic to the Nazi movement. German language books were discreetly removed from the libraries' shelves. Maps of the homeland were taken out of school geography rooms. Even the bells at Bethel Baptist Church were temporarily stopped from ringing lest they be interpreted as sending out coded messages.
Organizing the Club
In 1960, 15 people got together to form an organization that would attempt to restore relations in the community and work to preserve their language and customs. That small group called themselves "the Phoenix Club," after the mythological bird that rose up from the ashes to live again.
Many native Germans soon flocked to the club, trying to preserve their ethnic heritage. The club became a popular haven for people of German descent for the next 30 years, with membership steadily growing to a high of 3,000 families.
In 1990, the club relocated from its original site to make way for the construction of Anaheim Arena. Today, it continues to thrive on a site just north of the original building. It still retains its original goal of preserving the German heritage and contributions to Anaheim. Activities are held year-round, but the most popular is "Oktoberfest." Oohm-pah bands play traditional polkas while folk dancers stomp to the music in the grand ballroom. Onlookers still dine on bratwurst, pretzels, Bavarian pastries and, of course, German beer.
Though many cities have lost touch with their origins, the Phoenix Club continues to keep Anaheim's German heritage alive.