The last orange grove
First we'll look at a Fullerton collage and then tell the stories of a few '60s Sunny Hills High School families,
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These friends are only a few of the Fullerton families and people connected
to the citrus industry and Sunny Hills High School, whether they came to Southern California in 1890 or 1920 or 1950 or 1965. We had 500 to 00 students every year from 1959 to 190, so maybe as many as 3,000 of us were from families who came here between 1880 and 1960, and many of whom were involved one way for anything in the citrus industry here.
Did you know a ranch family? A foreman? Truck driver? Pickers? Ladies who inspected the fruit at a packing house, washed it, paxed it, packed it, and men who carried the crates to a box car, or to a truck to haul to market? Men who repaired the machinery? People who worked in offices where groves were offered for sale and sold? People who worked for irrigation and pest control companies, or botanists? Tree specialists? Tree surgeons? Inspectors? People who would light the smudge pots on extra cold nights? nights? Produce men at Ranchtown, the old Safeway on Commonwealth or the Market Basket a few blocks west, or at the market by Ford School, or little market near the First Methodist Church on Commonwealth, or at Dutch and Jerry's market by Wilshire School? Or the title market at the top of Carhart? Or the supermarkets at Orangethorpe and Brookhurst? The cashiers and the box boys? Who cooked and baked in your family, and squeezed the oranges or lemons for juice or helped make the pies and tarts? Did your family have lemons to make Whiskey Sour and other cocktails?
Did you run as fast as you could through the groves, play Hide and Seek or Kick the Can, or obtains cigarettes and cigars to smoke and get sick with in the orange groves? Did you sneak in to drink beer, or kiss boys or girls? When you got older, did you know the groves well enough to race through some? Did you ditch he dips in orange groves?
Did you get your hands on firecrackers, cherry bombs, M-80s and even Devil-On-The-Walks that railroad workers used to signal each other? Did you sneak in Orange Groves to let them off where no one could see you?
Did your mom and dad tell old stories about the orange blossoms? Did they say they could practically reach out the window to pick an orange when they were kids?
Did you see work crews cut down a tree here, a few here, maybe ten from this little ranch, maybe 50 from a bigger ranch in the 1950s? Did you notice an orange grove or trees that were there the previous day and gone now, when you walked to Ford, Commonwealth, Fern Drive, Woodcrest, Orangethorpe, Pacific Drive, Golden Hills or Richman Elementary School, or Wilshire or Nicolas or maybe Ladera Vista? How'd you feel about that?
By the way, was your dad in the service and ride a bus or stop in a troop train in Fullerton during World War Two? Just so the guys could get outside to stretch heir legs for a minute, smoke a cigarette, have a Coca Cola or a Nehi Grape, go to the restroom? Did your dad say he remembered Fullerton and decided to come back some day? That happened a lot.
Did your mom or dad in Los Angeles (any part) or Glendale or Van Nuys or Pasadena or Long Beach or Riverside or San Bernardino, even Fresno or Turlock or even Oakland or Sacramento say, "You know, I'm tired of this place and it says here Eadington is hiring in Fullerton -- or Union 6, Hunt Food, or the fire department or the school district, or the post office or Sears Roebuck or Owl Drugs or anyplace else -- and that would be a real nice place for us, Roy/Ethel/Mort/Louise/Bert/Helen/Fred/Marvin/Betty/Hank/Dottie/Butch?"
Did they say, "Now that Sue's 5 and Tommy's 3, that would probably be a good deal! They have real good schools and they're building new ones! Your sister likes living in Orange a lot, and my second cousin's husband Buddy's been with the Brea Police for years! He works on a motorcycle and has sun tan!"?
"They're going to build a new hospital and my old friend Ralph/Waynard/Bill/Jim/Fred from medical school said to think about it, because they need some good men!"
"Ruthie Hanaker just called to say they've already hired 36 nurses for he new hospital and hey need a dozen more, especially in General Surgey or Maternity, Lucile? C'mon! You know the old weather in Iowa bothers Ned, and your broths with his arthritis! We have sunshine 350 days a year old here! We just went to Corona Del Mar yesterday and my neighbor saw Errol Flynn on his sailboat! You can plan orange trees IN YOUR OLD YARD!"
Orange County was officially classified as "rural"unit the 1950s, and then suburban, and recently as "urban". From the 1890s until the 1950s at least, outsiders ribbed us about being from "Cow County", a place where hicks and farmers and small town people lived.
Fullerton would be an entirely different place if there had been no citrus industry between about 1895 and 1970. It was part of our lives.
Who didn't live next to or near a grove?
Between 1900 and 1930, the Bastanchury Ranch was the largest orange grove in the world. Mr. C.C. Chapman had developed the world famous Valencia orange on his
Placentia ranch, next door to us, just south of what became Cal State Fullerton.
Classmates, friends, you may not think of oranges or orange (or lemon)
trees from day to day, month to month or even year or year,
but the experiences of seeing, smelling, touching and eating
the fruit and drinking the juice remains an important part of your consciousness.
As much as riding your tricycle or bike, riding around with your
mom and dad and brothers and sisters in the blue and white 1948 Mercury sedan with white sidewalls and curb-guards, your first new dress, walking to school, playing at recess, Sunday school, learning to swim, your first date, having guests at home, when Billy stepped on a rusty nail and was rushed to Dr, Carnahan's office at 9 PM Wednesday night, and telling people about where you grew up.
That experience is nothing less than part of how you see the world.
We don't have many orange trees left in Orange County, not that are healthy and well cared for, We have a few dozen very small groves with scrawny, dying trees, hardly worth the name.
I sure wish we had one big orange grove left that our hometown people would take good care of and hang onto, if only so we could see pictures of it, remember the scents of orange groves and blossoms, and show our grandchildren.
Dedicated to our parents.
Paul Saevig, '67, February 2, 2021.
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