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Fern Drive


Fern Drive — between Euclid as the eastern boundary .. let’s say Valley View on the north; Bastanchury on the west (as of 1962, anyway) .. and Rose Drive on the south: due north of Muckenthalerville, you might say. Yes, the  semi-“country” Fern Drive with the scent of horses, palm trees, construction lumber, fresh paint, steaks on the grill, Turtle Wax, dusty breezes and sunshine on Bougainvillea. The most rustic of  Fullerton neighborhoods, and thank God for that. Unhurried, quiet  As it remains today.

If Golden Hill was a crinkly stiff new pair of Levi’s with the tag still bright red on the back pocket, then Fern Drive was an old pair of jeans faded smooth and just about as comfortable as naked. The Golden Hill  paychecks were a little fatter.


Murphy Ranch was down the hill where early Sunny Hills girls could tear through the hills in an open Jeep. The boys — and a few girls, maybe — could climb the hills to the lake and beyond. 


Yet generally Fern Drive families had close friends down in Basque Tract, across wide Nicholas  (Euclid) in Golden Hills, up Old High Income Hill in Sunny Hills when Bastanchury was bullt, and even Below The Equator in West Fullerton. Fern Drivers had their own elementary school from 1953, shared with Basque Tract, and also had claims to Golden Hill Elementary School, where many Fern Drive children attended — and quite a few FD kids attended BOTH Golden Hill AND Fern Drive in alternating years. (Fullerton had madman, topsy-turvy school districting in those Eisenhower Years.)  For the most part, Fern Drive was a peaceable  neighborhood of families enjoying the American Dream. Most dads were veterans of World War Two or the Korean War — or the Daily Double— and married bobby-soxed wives from California, the Midwest/Dust Bowl states and Texas. There were sizable contingents of Fullerton Union High and Anaheim Union High alumni,  some friends since childhood.  


Any day the sun was shining — or whenever overcast skies formed a figurative wet blanket over the neighborhood, a visitor would find men outside engaged in yard work, mowing the lawn, tuning up V-6’s and V-8s, house-painting, maybe adding a room,  or if they were technically adventurous, installing a TV antenna. Likely as not, sons were present, skinning their own knuckles, with their young buddies in rapt attendance, circulating from home to home during the day, gobbling mom-proffered cookies and refreshing chilled milk, Delaware Punch, Squirt or Bubble Up, There were always youngsters going to play ball or returning — or playing in the street.


The little girls had their jacks, Slinky’s, Hula Hoops, pogo sticks, Paula Anka and Johnny Tillotson 45 RPM “platters”, pin curls, bobby pins, barrettes, Peroxide kits (Uh-oh!), and other female paraphernalia as anywhere else, 


Housewives wearing aprons answered the side or back door if you came to visit. Along Carhart was an old community, and the market was a community center. The nearest grocery alternatives were Model Market, the Market Basket at Commonwealth & Nicholas, the Shopping Bag that Mr. Muckenthaler owned, or the little market to the west of ancient Ford Elementary School. 


Social intercourse — what’s so funny? —  was  easy and congenial with Golden Hill, and Fern Drive people square danced at the Barn across the gulch from Model Market, too. Swam at Jimmy Smith’s, also,. 


Ascending the grade from  Malvern, you’d see areas of mid-1950s apartments, 1920s-1940s homes — cottages, many of ‘em — and then, after World War Two, new homes that spouted like crocuses on an English meadow, eventually to the verge of Valencia Mesa. Range of residential design? Motley. 


If a parachutist landed near the western end of  Valley View in 1955, he or she could gaze westward and see  the pre-Sunny Hills High School foothills, and we’d forgive him for thinking he was in the country —-except for the olfactory insistence of Hunt Food, the bully smell of tomato paste simmering under the smog. Other views feature small canyons, corrals, stables, paddocks,  swimming pools, and tall grass trails.  


You might say Fern Drive was the poor cousin of Golden Hill - I’ve heard it said. But where else in town do you see the roller coaster of the descent on Arroyo along the McProud Grade, and the concomitant rise to the very mouth of Nicholas? (Or Euclid since 1960.) 


I’m told Shorty the Cowboy plied his trade here, and lived in an apartment closer to downtown.


Did I mention the bicycle traffic of local boys who used clothespins to attach cardboard to their bike spokes? KA-FLUCKA-KA-FLUCK-KA-FLUCKA-KA-FLUCKA-KA-FLUCK-KA-FLUCKA!


The locust swarm hiss of their paper route riders? 


What could be more convenient for Fern Drive breadwinners employed by Kohlenberger,  Hunt Food, or Hughes?


By the late 1950s, Fern Drive shared  promenade status with Valencia Mesa, as student-stuffed buses lumbered west toward the new high school on the hill in the sun. 


Shhhhh! Listen! Hear the birds call!




D-D-D-Dehn! D-D-D-Dehn!


Burtt! Burrt! Burtt!







[soft and mournful ] — maize, maize, maize ..







December 4, 2021

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Denise Ludwig (nee Ehrichs) on January 11, 2022 at 10:03 AM said:

Thanks so much for the memories! I don't live in Fullerton anymore but I sure miss it. I had friends on Fern Drive. I lived down the hill in the Basque tract, went k-6 to Fern Drive, 7-8 to Wilshire, 9-12 to Sunny Hills. Would love to hear from old friends (Denise.Ehrichs@gmail.com).
Coral Cadman on January 5, 2022 at 5:36 PM said:

Nicely done, Paul. Very evocative of the old 'hood. You hit all the highpoints!
Carla Moore Harrison forwarded it to me...

It is esp dear to me because Fern Drive is named after my father's mother,
Fern Corcoran Cadman (born in Los Angeles in 1896). My Grandma Fernie, aka "Binnie". was a terrific pianist and loved the Torch song era. Duke Ellington's "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" was one I still recall her playing with such heart and soul.

My grandfather "Cotsie," Walter Joseph Cadman" coined the term "Golden Hills" He had left his work as a Fullerton pharmacist with the Wilkinson's, and went into the early Fullerton real estate & development game briefly, dubbing the areas in Fullerton affectionately known as Fern Drive and Golden Hills, before he died at age 46. At Golden Hills elementary school, my mother Evelyn taught kindergarten from '48-'53 until our ever-growing family was too demanding on the home front. Years later she went CSFU and got her masters degree in library science and remained in her all-time favorite job at the Fullerton Public Library for 21 years.
She started at the children's desk of the OLD library, which most of your readers, Paul, know is NOW the Leo Fender Museum!

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