A prominent family of Basque origin lived on Barris in Golden Hill between roughly 1930-1970 and a Basque grandmother in that family lived in a house on Beach Boulevard. That area was west and northwest of Sunny Hills High School. It had been one of truck routes into and out of the old Bastanchury Ranch, circa 1880-1945. In our era, Motorcycle Hill was nearby to the east very close to the recently opened West Coyote Hills residential neighborhoodand the Robert Ward nature reserve to the west of that.
This is part of hillside area where many of us hiked north to or rode Jeeps in, circa 1945-1975. Most of us considered it a permanently wild area where coyotes howled at night, with cactus, shrubs, rock formations where rattlesnakes lived and sunned themselves, with tens of thousands of rabbits all around and sometimes mountain lions. Some Lancers remember riding in cars through orange groves in the hills and the valley below, sometimes even eluding police in chases!
That wild or semi-wild status is coming to an end, and we’re the last generation to remember it and the way it was.
The famous ranch reached almost to Beach and was where many Lancer parents and grandparents had worked. Even more worked in the packinghouses, drove the trucks, loaded the box cars at the train depot or the loading zone in Sunny Hills, along where Ranchtown and St. Jude were built, at the top of the spur line leading down the hill past Hillcrest Park, Fullerton Union High School, Plummer Auditorium, and Wilshire Junior High School to the packinghouse on Commonwealth and the railroad tracks. Hundreds of you walked down the spur line from Sunny Hills and Golden Hill to buy candy and pop downtown, see movies, listen to records at the Turntable or just for the fun of it.
Those of us who lived in Fullerton before 1965 or so remember traveling on highways and rural lanes through oil fields, agricultural land, cow pastures and truck farms into and through Dairy City, Artesia, Pico Rivera, Downey, Bell, Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, Maywood, and into Los Angeles and beyond. Dad might have to change a flat tire and kept a water bucket on the radiator or front bumper during hot seasons.
Your family would stop at little “filling stations” or roadside cafes for a burger, a chicken dinner, coffee and a a slice of apple pie. There were a few roadside bars or taverns and sometimes we knew a family that lived in a old house or small ranch at the side of the highway.
Mom would say, “Harold, let’s pull over at this stand! I want to get strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce and rhubarbs. Tangerines if they have any. Got any change?”
Now Dad would “stretch his legs” and call out, “Don’t wander off, you kids!” He’d light up a Camel, Lucky Strike, Old Gold or Pall Mall and strike up a conversation with another young veteran who could be a classmate from Whittier, Riverside, Long Beach, Glendale, Compton, Redondo Beach, LA, San Pedro, San Diego or Fallbrook. Then they’d shake hands and say, “Well, good to see you again, Mel!Take it easy, buddy!” and walk back to their families in the car.
Mom would say, “Mel was a good dancer! His brother Norman was wounded at Tarawa. They married real sweet little red-headed twins from Santa Ana. Their cousin Inez was a Tri-Delt at SC during the war and had a date with Tom Drake once. He was a handsome dog! She married a dentist and they had a boat down by The Arches. She was a dead ringer for Mona Freeman and her father was a judge. The dentist died in an automobile accident on Manchester one night coming home from a picnic. I heard she married a big wheel at Carnation and lived in Hancock Park. My cousin Mort took her to the Palonar Ballroom on leave from the Air Corps once but she couldn’t dance worth beans!”
Your sister in the back seat interrupted to say, “Dad, are we almost home?”
You were only six and sound asleep with your head on Dad’s lap while he drove and Mom held your little legs on her lap.
They laughed when your big brother in the back seat said, “We’re not gonna have lamb chops again, are we, Mom?” The car passed the Orange County line, Mom snapped her fingers and said,“Darn it! l left my pattern at my sister’s!” Dad slowed down to 35 when he saw a Highway Patrol motorcycle cop.
When you finally came down Manchester in Anaheim, Mom said she wanted to visit the new Broadway shopping center. When you passed the Wagon Wheel, your older brother said, “There was an orange grove here last week!” When you reached the construction site where Nicolas Junior High was being built on South Nicholas, he yelled, “Another damned orange grove gone!” and Mom said, “Freddie, we don’t talk that way, son.” Your sister said, “Daddy does!” and they laughed. A
fter riding over the railroad tracks, Mom said, “Shall we stop at the Market Basket?” and Dad said, “Marge, it’s late!” But your sister said, “I want a Squirt! Can I have a Squirt, Daddy?” He reached back to touch her cheek and said, “Not tonight, honey!”
Your older brother said, “Julie London’s on Ed Sullivan! She’s a DISH!”
You finally reach Valley View and when Dad turns the ignition off, Mom wakes you up gently. You blink your eyes and wonder if it’s the next morning, but it’s still dark outside.
Dad uses opens a Falstaff and takes off his shoes. Mom just says “Whew! Am I ever beat!”
It wasn’t all that long ago.