Alice Chandler was headed to the beauty parlor one day when she saw a car illegally parked in a handicap spot and told the driver to move it.
When the driver “sassed” back she called the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept.
Patrol cars showed up and issued a citation. Before they left, Chandler gave a little sass of her own, confiding that she could have just handled the matter herself — since she had her own badge and revolver and all.
And that is how Alice Chandler was “discovered.”
Chandler, it turns out, was deputized way back in 1949, making her the first female Orange County Sheriff’s deputy.
Chandler had just turned 21 when she was invited to interview with then-Sheriff James Musick because of her reputation as a fine horsewoman.
After an hour-long conversation, Musick handed her a badge and told her mother to go buy her a Smith & Wesson handgun.
Chandler’s job: to keep trespassers away from Peter’s Lake, a popular duck hunting and fishing spot that also happened to be James Irvine’s private property.
The county’s first female deputy has since handed over her badge and revolver to the county’s first female sheriff, Sandra Hutchens. Both items are now in the Orange County Sheriff’s Museum.
And Chandler is now in a convalescent home in Corona.
There she keeps an eye out to make sure everything’s on the up and up, she says.
Chandler is pushing 89 but looks much younger, crediting a secret concoction she mixes herself in a jar and slathers on her face every night.
Her mind is young, too, and she is full of stories. Now if she just had more people to tell them to.
She was in love once but never married, so she doesn’t get many family visitors. Sheriff Hutchens calls sometimes to check in on her. And Corona police occasionally pop by.
“They’re my family,” she warns with a laugh. “So don’t mess with me.”
Stop by and you will get to hear about how she didn’t have to chase off too many trespassers at Peter’s Lake because word about her had gotten around.
“What the guys knew was that I was tough,” she says. “I can be feminine, but don’t mess with me.”
Plus: “I was a pretty good shot.”
Luckily, target practice was the only time she had to pull the trigger.
After a few years as deputy, Chandler went to work full time, herding cattle, breaking horses and selling chickens at her family’s stables, Chandler Ranch (now Irvine Park).
“Oh, it was wonderful,” she says.
When Billy Wilder’s “Spirit of St. Louis” was shot at Irvine Ranch in the ‘50s she was an extra, pretending to wave to airplanes that weren’t there. She also worked for legendary rodeo rider Montie Montana.
In the ‘60s, she and her two sisters got their pilot’s licenses at John Wayne Airport.
“I’ve had a very different life than most women,” she says. “You didn’t go around and brag back then. But I’m doing it now!”