The Old Days: West Fullerton
1955-1970

 

“There was an orange grove there last week!” .. new families .. best friend five streets over … riding your bike everywhere .. Do you go to Richman, Pacific Drive, Woodcrest or Orangethorpe? .. dads who work in aerospace .. the great, hopeful smell of a  new house, fresh paint, new wood, small plants, if any .. when all the trees were small .. “They’re getting a swimming pool next door!” .. a 20 minute walk to school, maybe 10 or 5 .. They changed the name of Nicholas to Euclid! .. Are you going to Fullerton, Sunny Hills or Buena Park? .. Between Spadra (Harbor) on the east, Valencia on the north, the Anaheim city line (or later the Riverside Freeway) on the south, and either Magnolia or Brookhurst on the west, depending on how you look at it .. waiting for the train pass, counting the cars .. Boys trespassing and playing in the barranca, catching crawdads, getting filthy dirty in the muck ..  Let’s walk over to Nick’s Liquor for some Pepsi’s and cigarettes ..  4 gas stations on corner of Valencia & Nicholas (Euclid), at least 3 at Orangethorpe & Euclid .. bobby pins .. 9 year old kids in West Fullerton riding the buses to Commonwealth Elementary School while the district figures out who will go where .. then the same kids go to Nicolas Junior High for a while, and then finally Richman Elementary School,in one school year 1958-1960 .. playing catch with a football or baseball in the street .. Walking 30 minutes to see a girl you like .. walking a girl home .. girls playing 45 RPM records in each other’s bedrooms and learning new dances ..  waiting for that cute future ’66 Lancer girl to walk by every day at about 3 PM .. Huge open field at Valencia Drive & Nicholas, northeast .. building forts .. slumber parties, inviting some girls from Golden Hill and Sunny Hills .. working on cars with somebody’s dad in the driveway or in the garage .. girls playing Jacks on the sidewalk .. or jumping rope .. at Long’s Drugstore, Harbor & Valencia, they sell PLAYBOY and keep it on the stands where boys can look through it! .. Being able to see the Coast Federal Savings building at South Euclid & Crescent Drive by the Broadway from the Nicolas playground .. Mom’s cousin two blocks over and Dad’s best friend from high school on our street .. Mom works at the phone company, or at Alpha Beta, or at Hughes, or at Kimberly Clark .. building skate boards with old skates and a piece of wood .. skim-boarding when it rains on the lawn at Nicolas .. bouffant hairdos .. new clothes at Irene’s House of Fashion on West Orangethorpe .. the little record store across Brookhurst .. tough guys and their girlfriends hanging our at McDonald’s .. guys with switchblades ..  pant cuffs worn 6 inches off the ground “Expecting a flood?” .. rolling the bottom of your jeans up and inside  .. Little League every Saturday morning on Nicolas, both the main diamond on Euclid and the back fields of school .. all the dads .. hundreds of boys in uniforms .. snow cones .. refreshment stand with moms working .. Gary Carter hits 8 homers to lead the league his first year as a Little League major .. foul balls landing on West Hill .. fresh french fries .. wooden bleachers and adults smoking cigarettes .. the alley behind the apartments to McDonald’s, Nick’s Liquor, Prather’s Barber Shop, the market in back and Winchell’s Donuts where you get a free donut if you fold so many cardboard boxes .. when a carnival would come to Euclid & Valencia parking lot .. haze and seeing only 100 feet ahead some days, or less ..  kindly elementary teachers and PTA meetings where Mom and Dad come home to tell what the teachers said .. another orange grove gone .. new housing tract over by South Basque .. invited to dinner by warm families .. girls with “home permanents” not working out the first time, purple hair .. families from most state except New England, it seemed .. waiting to see the new car models every year .. being able to tell a car’s make and model at a glance, even if you’re not interested in cars .. drag racing on Orangethorpe and Brookhurst, or on Williamson Way  ..  going to Anaheim for movies at the theater on Ball ..going steady with a girl in grade school by giving her a big signet ring .. talking to her a little at recess ..  kissing only for the advanced, confident kids .. until Nicolas! .. or Sunny Hills .. dancing lessons in the Nicolas cafeteria from the man who chants “Forward! Side together! BACK!” .. Buddy Purel always leading the Surfer’s Stomp line .. shooting baskets at Nicolas .. high school parties where a house is jam-packed .. Halloween for junior high boys throwing eggs and firecrackers .. Halloween for kids collecting a supermarket bag full of candy .. sneaking into an empty house with your buddies just to look around .. putting pennies and dimes on the railroad tracks to flatten them .. going into the orange  groves to smoke a cigarette and getting violently nauseated .. hours long touch or flag football games on the back field at Nicolas .. going to the Boys Club to buff up a piece of plastic into a gear shift knob .. wood shop and metal shop at Nicolas, too .. cooking and home economics .. braces on your teeth .. “spying” on other kids by looking into their yards or windows at night! .. remembering where everybody lived by certain landmarks: “Well, over on Hill by going past Donna’s to Jeannie’s  and then turn right .. “ .. Not knowing all that much about a neighborhood 8 blocks away ..  going to the new Hunt Library at night with your friends .. a family got a new Oldsmobile! ..barbecues and the good smell of hot dogs, burgers, steaks ..  seeing lots of families dressed up for church on Sunday morning, riding in their Rambler Americans .. Mrs. Gardiner’s old house on West Orangethorpe, reaching to Porter .. Thom McAn shoes conveniently located on Orangethorpe just east of Euclid .. maybe a dozen different tracts .. being in elementary or junior high and seeing big kids going to their prom, all dressed up .. getting your Learning Permit and maybe Dad taking you to the Orangefair parking lot to drive a little .. MAJOR MILESTONE; the day you get your driver’s license, on the day you turn 16 ..  some underage kids “borrowing” Mom and Dad’s car for a drive .. when Dad’s salary was $7,000 a year and that was pretty good .. going across town to the Fox to see movies .. the Saturday matinee with kids hanging off the balcony (figuratively speaking) .. everything changed when the underpass was built under the railroad tracks on Euclid between Valencia and Commonwealth .. a long delay of about a year .. Giovanni’s and Baker’s Drug operating anyway, doing good business .. older boys with hot rods .. “I heard he went into the Marines .. “ ..  dads who were World War Two combat veterans and their stories .. small crowds of kids at certain corners waiting for a school bus .. streets where 9 or 10 houses in a row are families of kids you know ..  wondering what it’s like to live right across from Nicolas or another school .. milkman coming to make his delivery .. wife of the house wears her nightgown to pick up the metal container of milk bottles on her porch .. backyard incinerators until about 1959 .. walking across the train track to Sunny Hills, getting soot smudges on your clothes .. meeting before school at the donut shop on Brookhurst, near the corner at Valencia .. the excitement of driving around to pick up 5 or 6 of your friends to go to school .. waiting in the driveway for a slow-poke to come out .. listening to KFWB or KRLA .. a run in your stockings at Nicolas .. hairspray, ButchWax, Lucky Tiger, Self-Styling Adorn, Clearasil .. taps on the heels of guy’s shoes .. clack-clack-clack-clack! .. taking your red Nicolas gym shorts home to be washed and dried .. running into kids you knew (or knew of) constantly .. the mild surprise of seeing somebody coming our of his or her house and finally realizing that’s where they live .. wondering what it’s like to live next for to one of the really bitchin’ girls .. when “shifts” were a clothing fad for girls .. Pendleton shirts and khaki pants with Purcell shoes to look like a surfer .. ho-dads and gremmies .. riding with your older brother or sister to the beach to surf .. wishing you or your parents could afford more expensive clothes or cars or homes .. flat terrain .. houses on a grid ..different trees in different tracts and neighborhoods ..  when riding skateboards was called “sidewalk surfin’” .. the cafeteria at Nicolas doubled as the dance floor and as the auditorium ..  the big pretty lawn on the Olive side, that sloped a little .. tough guys who would spit two or three times a minute .. hearing kids cuss for the first time, learning the words .. good old J.C.Penney .. no one parked a car on their lawn .. certain families took extra good care of their yards and houses ..  the SHHS family on South Lambert with a front lawn like a billiard table .. living in West Fullerton between 1955 and 1969 .. living there only 9 years and it seemed like a long, long time .. 

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John Schulze'67' on February 16, 2019 at 5:12 AM said:

How about going to the Model Market, swimming at Jimi Smith's, Laguna lake to see if the 'campus kids' were raising hell. Dunkin doughnuts, Jesse's Richfield at Las Palmas where all the bad boys dragged. Taco villa to see if you could finally park in the front row, Manny at Pep Boys, Big Carls, sneakin into Anaheim Drivein(yaay Glenn), hoppin the train(Hunt Wesson & Albertsons). In love with Joanne Mongeon and Sue Lyons (at the same time). Going up into the oilfields above Coyote. Wow Paul, you were sheltered, JP
Bill Stull, SHHS '65 on February 10, 2019 at 8:03 PM said:

And they called Kerouac "Memory Babe." Paul remembers all. The only thing I can add is going barefoot in the summer and stepping on those mean dried-out stickers.
Barb Smith Whitfield, ‘67 on February 9, 2019 at 11:28 AM said:

Great summary of growing up in Fullerton from elementary school thru high school. Our hangouts frequented at McDonalds, Nicks’s Liquor and Winchell’s were great memories! Afterschool 15 cent burgers and fries ????
We frequented Disneyland thru the years too! Such a fun time with family.
Wayne Redfearn, ‘65 on February 9, 2019 at 11:27 AM said:

Great memories... How about the Bean Hut drive in in Anaheim, Shakey's on Friday nights, The La Mirada and La Habra drive ins, Going steady, Writing your girlfriend a letter during school, marathon phone calls, going to shows at the Mecca and seeing Tim Morgan, the Association, etc.
We were so lucky to grow up in Fullerton in the Fab Fifties!

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February 9. 2019