O. U. Miracle

A Name Engraved in History

Walk the neighborhoods of Oceanside and you will find the sidewalks marked with the curious name “O.U. Miracle”.  Many downtown sidewalks and curbs are engraved with this interesting name and many people may wonder what, if any meaning it holds, or who is this Miracle. 

Orville Ullman Miracle’s parents were creative in thinking up their son’s name.  Their beloved son’s initials lovingly proclaimed his birth to the world … and I can’t help but think Mrs. Miracle must have held her precious baby and whispered in his ear, “Oh You Miracle!” Little did they know but that this name would be used as a marketing tool second to none. 

Born in 1871 in Neenah, Winnebago County, Wisconsin to James and Mary Miracle, Orville began a career in the cement business in about 1901. He later established the Miracle Pressed Stone Company, manufacturing and selling “Miracle Concrete Blocks” across the upper Midwest.

Orville Ullman Miracle (courtesy Richard Miracle Willets)

However, it was his cement business that brought him the most success. He traveled from Iowa to South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and even Montana, pouring cement for roads, sidewalks and curbing for cities and townships.

Left to right: Barry Derrer, O.U. Miracle, and two unidentified workers (courtesy Richard Miracle Willets)

Miracle’s association with Oceanside began in 1927 when he was the low bidder on the contracts to improve streets throughout downtown and the ocean front. He laid miles of concrete sidewalks throughout Oceanside that have long outlasted other cement walks poured decades after.

Office of O.U. Miracle at 1933 South Hill Street (now Coast Highway)

In 1938 South Oceanside became the home of “Miracle Village”. Miracle purchased nearly all of the Tolle Tract in South Oceanside, along with other lots which included either side of Vista Way from Hill Street to east of Moreno Street. He advertised his “Oh You Miracle Tract” around the southland and began building single family homes and selling them from his office at 1932 South Hill Street. The San Diego Union reported that Miracle sold lots “cafeteria style” – prices were placed on the lots, no middlemen, and buyers simply picked out their lot and brought the price tag to his office to complete the purchase.

Postcard advertisement for Miracle Village

Miracle built a house at 2022 South Freeman Street where he and his wife Grace made their home. Growing up, Robert Morton, lived next door to Mr. and Mrs. Miracle. He shared with me that Miracle built the home for his mother Charlotte Morton and it was the last empty lot on the block at the time. Other neighbors included Dr. and Mrs. George Totlon, Bob and Johnson, Rudy and Jane Sonneman, and Harold and Alma Davis.

Charlotte Morton and children in front of their home at 2018 South Freeman Street in “Miracle Village” South Oceanside

O. U. Miracle grew fields of gladiolus on parcels he owned to the east of his home. One block west he planted tomatoes and lima beans. His grandson Richard Miracle Willets wrote in his recollections: “During harvest I was put to work picking lima beans and also tomatoes. I loved picking tomatoes because tomatoes must still have some green on top to be marketable so the really delicious fully ripe ones we could eat in the field. I wasn’t really on the payroll but one evening ‘GG and GPOP’ and I were sitting in the living room listening to the radio when ‘GPOP’ said he had a surprise for me and gave me $14 which I thought was a lot of money.” 

He added that his time with his grandfather “was very precious” which included waking up in the morning and having breakfast that his ‘GPOP’ made for him – “wonderful eggs bacon and pancake breakfasts.” They would often go out in the garden and pick ripe figs and peaches to have with our breakfast.”

Looking east at Hill Street (Coast Highway) and Vista Way. (Richard Miracle Willets photo)

Willets would also recall trips to the land office with his grandfather. “I would tag along with him when he went over the Miracle Village office.  Grandpop chewed tobacco and beside his desk be had a brass spittoon. His aim wasn’t that great so the the air in the office had a distinct smell of chewing tobacco.” During the Depression years he also noted that “selling a lot for $400 at that time was a pretty big deal as money was pretty scarce.”

(photo courtesy Richard Miracle Willets)

O. U. Miracle’s unusual name brought attention from many columnists across the country, including “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” in 1934. In fact, O. U. Miracle appeared in a feature or advertisement in newspapers in nearly every state of the US between 1901 and 1949. His name was so familiar that a letter from South Africa simply addressed to “O.U. Miracle, USA” was delivered to him.          

Ad in The Los Angeles Times, Sunday, June 19, 1938

Willets remembered that his grandfather worked out a deal with the Standard Oil Company, who built a gas station on the Northeast corner of Hill Street (Coast Highway) and Vista Way.  The company paid him a few cents for every gallon of gas that was sold, which provided him (and later his daughters Margaret and Elinor) a steady stream of retirement income for many years. (The site is now the home of Valvoline, 1942 South Coast Highway.)

Described as an “ardent civic worker”, Miracle was also politically involved in the City and community affairs.  He was involved in the Elks and Rotary clubs as well as the South Oceanside Improvement Club.  Miracle served as the game warden for the Buena Vista Lagoon, which was a bird sanctuary. His grandson remembers that Orville had to tell people they were not allowed to shoot the ducks at the lagoon!

O.U. died October 9, 1949 at the Oceanside Hospital at the age of 78.  Up until his death he remained interested in the development of Oceanside.

Next time you walk through downtown, pause at each “little Miracle” you pass. It is a unique reminder of an Oceanside entrepreneur who left his mark on Oceanside in a very permanent way (and in the heart of his grandson Richard Miracle Willets).

21 thoughts on “O. U. Miracle

  1. We walked over miles of these in our daily summer treks to the pier and along Hill. Thank you for this history. By the way, I am also interested in the history of Pier Golf, the amusement center at the foot of the pier. I’m especially interested in an early post card of that venue that featured my brother and a friend on bicycles in front of the establishment. So far, I have not located the post card online.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article. My mom worked for Dr. Tolton in the early 1950’s. I believe his dental office was in a room in his house or directly next door in an adjacent house. I believe his wife’s name was Elmira.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dr. Tolton was our family dentist from when he opened until he closed. His office was on the corner of Vista Way and Freeman – I see from Google street view that it’s 603 Vista Way. He had the adult dentist chair in the front room with the big bay window facing Vista Way; I remember best the kid-sized office in the back with toys on the wall (your reward for making it through the appointment) and the Felix the Cat clock on the wall; eyes and tail a-swinging. Pre-fluoride – all the kids got to know that room well!


  3. My family (grandpa, my dad and uncle) who were all in the building trades, bought a number of lots in the South Oceanside Miracle tract, building our childhood homes on some and selling others as spec homes. I have a 1946 photo of our lot under early construction if you’re interested in having a copy. I think of O.U. Miracle often, as I read his name on Oceanside sidewalks for 30 years until I left town. Next time I come to town, I think I’ll take a rubbing of his stamp! Thanks for your work putting this article together! This kind of knowledge ties our generations together with a most unlikely thread, an early developer’s catchy name. O.U. Miracle and his workers’ great workmanship endures, and your story gives us the person behind the legacy. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s so awesome-yes, would love to have to see a copy of the photo! We have so few house photos in our collection at the Oceanside Historical Society. Thank you for reading and following- and thanks for sharing your memories


  4. K Hawthorne: I am a Grandson of OU Miracle. I spent some summers living with OU and Grace in the late 1940’s when I was 12 to 14 yrs old. (Now 88) . I am writing up some of my memories about that time. I also have some pictures to share. I want to get all of this to you. I can send pictures to you on a thumb drive which I know will work if you have a MAC. Do you have a MAC ?. If not I would need to know how you wanted the thumb drive formatted and the photo format to use.
    Or I’ll figure out some other way. ???
    Richard Miracle Willets. 415 447 5745. I am retired in San Francisco now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow that is awesome! Thank you so much for contacting me! I would absolutely love to see any images you are able to share with me and the Oceanside Historical Society. I don’t have access to a Mac but the images could be jpeg or tiff files.
      Our mailing address is Oceanside Historical Society PO Box 125 Oceanside CA 92049
      So good of you to reach out !


      1. You will need to determine what format for the Thumb drive will work for your system.
        The choices I have are EX-FAT which is supposed to be pretty universal. I can send you a thumb drive with EX-FAT format to try or I can format it in one of these..

        MS-DOS (FAT32)
        MS-DOS (FAT)
        Mac OS Extended (Journaled)
        Mac OS Extended (Case sensitive, Journaled)

        The photos are in JPEG format. I can convert them to TIFF of PNG instead if that will work better for you.

        If you figure out the above I will make a thumb drive and send it to you.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No need to change format of the images – JPEG will work fine. I admire your knowledge on formatting as I have little to none. So if EX-FAT) is workable that would be wonderful. I will be sure to add some of the images to the blog giving you photo credit.
        Thank you again

        Kristi Hawthorne


      3. How exciting to hear of these new images coming, if there is any issues with the thumb drive working on your PC I could bring my Mac down and help load them, I live in South O on Stewart Street 🙂

        Just reply on here if you need my help


        Liked by 1 person

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