Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Ontiveros Family

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In: a History of Fullerton.


Any history of a human settlement must begin with "first families."  In the history of Fullerton, this "first family" is often considered to be the Ameriges, the brothers George and Edward, two commodities merchants from Boston who "founded" Fullerton in the year 1887.  But this was not really the first family here.  The landscape they found was not empty or devoid of people or history.  In fact, the Amerige brothers were relative latecomers to this region.  Before they arrived, there was another lengthy history, involving pioneers, great expeditions, wars, and conquest.

The true "first families" in this region were Native Americans, specifically the Kizh tribe, who had many settlements in the landscapes that would become Los Angeles and Orange Counties.   In 1769, the first Europeans passed through what would become Orange County--it was the expedition of Gaspar de Portola, the Spanish soldier sent to make the first explorations and settlements of California, which was then a part of New Spain.  Twelve years later, in 1781, another group of settlers arrived to found the town of Los Angeles.  That's right, Los Angeles was founded in 1781!

Among the settlers on this expedition was a farmer from the Sinaloa region of Mexico named Josef Antonio Ontiveros.  Josef's grandson, Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, would in time become a very important landowner and rancher in the area that would become Orange County.  His Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana included the land that would become Fullerton.  And so, in the interest in telling the complete history of this region, I've decided to tell some of the story of this first family--the Ontiveros family.  The source of this information is a well-researched book called The Ranchos of Don Pacifico Ontiveros by a woman named Virginia Carpenter, who is quickly becoming my favorite Orange County historian.  Here's the story of the Ontiveros family...

The Founding of Los Angeles

Los Angeles was founded in the year 1781 by a group of settlers from Mexico.  At this time, Spanish settlement in California was pretty sparse, and so the government financed pioneer parties to populate the region, sort of like how the United States would later create Homestead Acts to encourage settlement of its western regions.  An important early settlement party of this type was led by Fernando de Rivera y Moncada, Lieutenant Governor of Baja (lower) California.  He was commissioned by the government to recruit soldiers and settlers to found a pueblo (town) near Mission San Gabriel.

One of the settlers recruited was a farmer from the Sinaloa region named Josef Antonio Ontiveros, who was 36 years old at the time.  Ontiveros was born in Pueblo San Pedro de Chametla (in Sinaloa) in the year 1744.  At age 22, he married Ana Maria Carrasco y Birviescas.  Of their children, we know they had a boy named Juan Patricio and a girl named Juana de Dios.  His wife and children would accompany him on the difficult expedition into California.

Thankfully, the Spanish were pretty good record-keepers, and in the files from this expedition we find a cool description of Josef Ontiveros: "His stature 5 feet 4 inches and 9 lines, his age 36 years, his religion Roman Catholic Apostolic. His characteristics were chestnut colored hair, blue eyes, brown skin, reddish thick eyebrows, curved or hooked nose, a gash in the eyebrow of the right eye, another one above the chin, or beard and another one on the left side of the forehead, a thin beard."

The expedition to Los Angeles consisted of two parties: one traveling overland, and the other by boat.  The Ontiveros family traveled by boat.  It took them six months.  Along the way, two soldiers deserted and three people died of smallpox.  Meanwhile, most of the overland party was massascred by Yuma Indians, including the expedition leader Rivera.  This was some hard-core Oregon Trail-type pioneer shit.

Amazingly, by the grace of God, all of the Ontiveros family made it safely to their destination.  On September 4, 1781, with the blessing of Governor Felipe de Neve, the settlers officially founded the town of Los Angeles.  The full, original name of the town was El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reyna de Los Angeles (The Town of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels).  For a time, Los Angeles was the only town between San Diego and Santa Barbara.  Interestingly, however, Josef Ontiveros would not stay there long.  The following year, 1782, he was transferred to the Presidio (military fort) of Santa Barbara.

Trouble in the Army

My source for all this material, Virginia Carpenter, does not say why Josef Ontiveros was transferred to Santa Barbara shortly after he arrived in Los Angeles, for which he was recruited as a settler/soldier.  Perhaps he was just transferred there because he was needed.  It also appears that his wife and children may have stayed behind, in Los Angeles and San Gabriel, while the father was away on military duty.

While at Santa Barbara, Ontiveros was arrested as part of a desertion plot, and sent further north, to Monterey, as punishment.  Why would Ontiveros desert?  Carpenter provides a possible explanation: "In the 1780s desertion became a problem for the army.  Because conditions were so miserable (food, clothing, and other rations were sparse), many soldiers made the attempt to return to their homes in Mexico (there was no place else to go), in spite of the fact that it was almost impossible for a man to go alone.  Even if he was lucky enough to steal a mule, there were the hundreds of miles of desert to cross and Indians to dodge or fight.  If a man did reach Mexico, he had to live in hiding, for to be found was to be returned to the army--and California."  I can't help but wonder if Josef wanted to return to Sinaloa or to Los Angeles, where his family was.

In either 1787 or 1788, Josef was discharged from military duty and rejoined his family in Los Angeles, where he was given a plot of land and became a shoemaker.  Ten years later, in 1798, he died at age 54, which was probably about the average life span of the time.

Rise of the Ranchos

In 1784, the governor of California, Pedro Fages, received petitions from three soldiers for land grants for the purpose of raising cattle.  These were the first of the famous Spanish Land Grants, the largest of which went to Manuel Nieto, who received the land that would eventually contain the Ontiveros Rancho.

When his father Josef was transferred to Santa Barbara in 1782, nine-year-old Juan Patricio Ontiveros was left with the padres at the San Gabriel Mission.  He was confirmed that same year.  As soon as he was old enough, he joined the army, and reached the rank of corporal.  In 1794, he married Antonia Rodriguez y Noriega, who was 14.  This was considered a proper age to marry at the time.  Antonia's parents were both Indians from Sinaloa.  The couple had eight children for whom we have records.  The eldest son was Juan Pacifico, who will become the most important person in this narrative.

In 1814, when he was 42, Patricio was Mayordomo of the San Juan Capistrano Mission.  I'm not sure what a mayordomo did--it sounds like a leadership position of some sort.  Then, in 1825, he moved to Rancho Santa Gertruedes, which was owned by the Nieto family.  There, he held the position of Encargador de Justicia, which was sort of like the Justice of the Peace.  Shortly before he died, in the mid-1830s, Patricio petitioned governor Figueroa numerous times for a land grant, but was ultimately unsuccessful.  That task would fall to his son, Juan Pacifico Ontiveros.

Juan Pacifico Ontiveros Becomes a Ranchero

Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, son of Juan Patricio Ontiveros, was born in Los Angeles on September 24th, 1795.  In 1814, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, he enlisted in the army, and served for 20 years.  In 1825, he married Maria Martina Osuna of Santa Barbara.  He was 30 and she was 19.  The couple had an astonishing thirteen children in their fertile marriage.

In 1835, after his father's death, Juan Pacifico took up the matter of applying for a land grant.  After two years of legal negotiations between Ontiveros, the Nietos family, and the Mexican government, Juan Pacifico was granted the 36,000-acre Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana, wbose boundaries contained the present-day cities of Anaheim, Fullerton, Brea, and Placentia.

I'd like to include Carpenter's description of the landscape in those days of the Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana, as this landscape is almost completely lost in my day.  The last remnant of it in my town is a former oil field now called Coyote Hills, which the Fullerton city council recently approved a massive development project on.  But these words evoke something wild:

"The ocean, 20 miles away, could be seen and occasionally heard.  Fairly level, there were hills on the northern part and in the east where it included part of Brea Canyon.  The soil varied from sandy, the diseno (map) shows a large sand wash through the center, to red clay near the Brea end.  It was covered with chapparal (low bushes), mustard and large patches of cactus.  The wildlife included snakes, gophers, ground squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, wild cats and mountain lions, quail, ducks and geese during their migrations.  Bears and deer stayed in the canyons.  There were many, many insects from fleas to ants.  Trees were so few that they were used as landmarks, there were sycamores and poplar where there was water, and live oaks in the canyons."

Now I would like to quote some fragments of Carpenter's description of life on the rancho, as this is also a lost way of life in my day: "Families arose about three a.m. prayed and ate breakfast...The boys and young men slept out of doors...As the Indians did all the work, the rancheros had only the management to do...Men talked and gambled and rode over their land--Boys practiced riding and roping skills and played games, while women had much work to do...Older women dressed in black, as there were so many deaths to mourn in the large families...The important things were births and deaths, wedding, everyday and seasonal events and always the church...There were no schools, so few people could read or write...There was hunting, particularly bear hunts; but no fishing, all their sports being on horseback...The father, as head of the family, ruled it.  He often arranged his children's marriages and what they would do...all houses were made of adobe (sun dried bricks)...roofs (were made) of tule reeds and tar until so many were set afire in Indian attacks that the missions began making clay roof tiles, shaping them in wooden molds...everyone, even women, carried their own knives...Juan Pacifico lived quietly on his rancho taking little part in public events."

Damn Yankees!

Alas, this way of life was not to last long, for already American businessmen had set their sights on southern California markets and real estate.  As early as the 1820s, Yankees were immigrating to California.  Carpenter writes: "They came for business, a new market.  The New England clipper ships built to bring tea and spices from the Orient stopped in California and found that the vast herds of cattle were a source of tallow for candles and for the leather needed by the eastern shoe factories.  About the same time a demand for beaver hats in the East brought the trappers, or mountain men, as they were called, overland into the west...Many of the Anglos who came in the late 1820s and 30s stayed and became Mexican citizens so that they could own land; they married Spanish girls and thereby inherited shares in ranchos as well.  They opened stores and loaned money on cattle and land at ruinous rates, foreclosing when payments could not be met.  The easy-living rancheros knew nothing about Anglo business methods, nor compound interest."

One of these immigrants was an Italian named Giovani Batiste Leandri (or, as he was called in Mexican California, Juan Bautista Leandry).  He moved to Los Angeles in 1827 and opened a store in an area with the unfortunate name "Nigger Alley."  He prospered as a businessman, became a citizen in 1839, married a Mexican woman named Francesca Uribe, and bought Rancho Los Coyotes from the Nietos.  Next, Leandry brought suit against Juan Pacifico Ontiveros over the boundary between their ranchos, and managed to get a valuable water spring.  Leandry died in 1843, but more losses were on the horizon for the Ontiveros family.

Between 1846-1848, there was the Mexican American War, which Ulysses S. Grant called "one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.  It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory."  This war ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which Mexico was forced to cede half of her country to the United States.  This included California, which was admitted to the Union as a free (as opposed to slave) state in 1850.

Conquest by Bureaucracy

In 1849, in the intermediary period between the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Statehood of California, Bernardo Yorba (owner of the neighboring Rancho Canon de Santa Ana) bought an area of the Ontiveros rancho called Canada de la Brea (which included modern day Brea Canyon).  Yorba paid $400 for the land, which amounted to about 30 cents per acre.  This sale was actually part of a more complex land deal, in which Yorba then traded Canada de la Brea to an Englishman named Isaac Williams, who'd married into a Mexican rancho family, and been given Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.  If things start to get confusing at this point, I'm sorry.  After the American conquest of California, things got notoriously confusing when it came to land ownership.

Carpenter explains the new and unfortunate situation for rancheros like Ontiveros in the early years after California became a part of the United States, an era which I will call Conquest by Bureaucracy: "The greatest difficulty which the rancheros experienced was to be in the matter of their land titles.  The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guaranteed Mexican citizens possession of their property; but the United States did not consider a declaration of ownership sufficient; there must be official records.  A 'Board of United States Land Commissioners [was] appointed to settle private land claims in California' and every ranchero was ordered to present proof of his ownership and the location and size of his rancho.  This was disastrous for many of them and contributed to the break-up of the rancho system, because of the casual way the grants had been handled and their indefinite boundaries.  Few of the rancheros could read or write, so a man's word had served in business, and as many had lost their papers, most of the claims had to go through the courts, a time-consuming and expensive process...The Land Commission of three men handled over 800 cases between 1852 and 1856."

Local historian Virginia Carpenter does a valiant and detailed job of explaining and summarizing the lengthy and frustrating legal battles that Juan Pacifico Ontiveros faced in an effort to hold onto his rancho.  I will spare you the details and explain it as simply as possible.  In 1854, the United States Land Commission rejected Ontiveros' claim to the rancho he'd owned for 20 years.  He appealed the decision and, in 1856, the Court of Appeals reversed the Land Commission's decision.  But the attorney for the Land Commission didn't give up.  He took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme court, who in 1857 upheld Ontiveros' claim.  

The End of the Rancho, and the Founding of Anaheim, Placentia, and Fullerton

In 1856, Juan Pacifico Ontiveros purchased another rancho called Tepusquet near Santa Barbara.  Within a few years, he would sell off all of his Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana and move to his new rancho.  This period is really interesting because, in this era, we see the birth of the present-day towns of Anaheim, Placentia, and Fullerton. 

First, Anaheim.  In 1857, Ontiveros sold 1,165 acres of his rancho to a George Hanson, who was employed by a group of Germans in San Francisco who were interesting in forming a colony to raise grapes.  These Germans formed the town of Anaheim.  

Second, Placentia.  In 1863, Pacifico and his wife deeded 3,900 acres of their rancho to their two sons Patricio and Juanito.  Family tradition says that these brothers lost the land in a gambling debt to their brother-in-law, Augustus Langenberger.  This guy then sold then land to a man named Daniel Kraemer, who was one of the founding members of Placentia.

Third, Fullerton.  In 1863, Juan Pacifico sold the lion's share of his rancho to Abel Stearns, who (at the time) was the largest land owner and cattle baron in Southern California.  He paid $6,000 for 30,672 acres.  In 1868, beset by financial problems, Stearns and his friend Alfred Robinson, along with businessmen in San Francisco, formed a syndicate called the Stearns Rancho Company.  It was from the Stearns Rancho Company that George and Edward Amerige, two merchants from Boston, in conjunction with the Santa Fe Railroad, purchased the land upon which they founded the town of Fullerton in 1887.


For the conclusion of this post, I'd like to quote Virginia Carpenter, local historian extrordinaire: "The orange groves and mainly rural life remained until the 1960s when the boom made Orange County the fastest growing county in America reached the area.  The five towns grew until their borders touched and the trees were pulled out to make way for houses, apartments, condominiums, business and industry.  Stearns Ranchos Company and the Anaheim Union Water Company continued in business until the 1970s.

The price of land has increased ever more than the population which has grown from one family to over 400,000.  Juan Pacifico Ontiveros paid nothing for his land; the first purchasers $2 per acre; Langenberger in 1864 only .95 cents per acre; Daniel Kraemer the next year $1.18; McFadden four years later, $10.  By 1876 the price had risen to $50; orange groves were hundreds, then thousands of dollars an acre and now the price of an acre is in the hundreds of thousands and lots grow smaller."

Juan Pacifico Ontiveros died in 1877 on his Rancho Tepusquet.  According to the existing records, Pacifico had 88 grandchildren and 103 years elapsed between the birth of the first child and the death of the last one.  Thus they lived through California history from its Mexican days to modern times.

Juan Pacifico and Maria Martina Ontiveros

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fullerton in the Era of Ranchos

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In: a History of Fullerton.  The source of this information is an excellent little book by local historian Virginia Carpenter called Ranchos of Orange County (2003).

Before the town of Fullerton was founded in 1887, the land had passed through a few notable owners.  For thousands of years prior to Spanish conquest of the region in the late 1700s, the land that would come to be known as Fullerton was inhabited by Native Americans, particularly the Kizh tribe.  Then, in 1769, Spain began to colonize the region, beginning with the famous expedition of our local conquistador Gaspar de Portola.

In those early days of Spanish California, settlements were divided into three types: presidios (basically military forts), missions (many of which were founded by the famous Father Junipero Serra), and pueblos (towns).  There were three original pueblos: Los Angeles, San Diego, and Branciforte (now Santa Cruz).  Soon, however, a new type of settlement would come to dominate the landscape: the rancho.

In 1784, General Pedro Fages (governor of Spanish California) received petitions from three soldiers, requesting large land grants in exchange for services they had rendered to the government.  The largest of these land grants went to Jose Manuel Perez Nieto.  He got 162,000 acres of land for cattle ranching.  The Los Nietos Rancho included large portions of what would become Orange County, including Fullerton.

After Nieto's death in 1804, his vast rancho was divided between his four surviving children.  The family was able to hold onto most of their lands throughout the war for Mexican Independence, which transferred control of California from Spain to the newly-independent Mexico.  In 1834, a soldier named Juan Pacifico Ontiveros petitioned the Mexican government for a land grant of his own.  In those early days, people who'd served the government could petition for land.  Ontiveros was granted a 37,000 acre rancho that was originally a part of the Los Nietos Rancho.  This was called Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana.  It included the land that would become La Habra, Brea, Fullerton, Placentia, and Anaheim.

After the Mexican-American War, California changed from a Mexican province to a U.S. State. This change proved difficult for Spanish/Mexican rancho families, who now had to legally prove the boundaries of their large estates.  Beset by political, legal, and financial problems, the Ontiveros family sold much of their Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana off in parcels: some went to the Yorba family, some to a group of German wine-makers who would eventually found the town of Anaheim, and some to a Yankee businessman named Abel Stearns.  Stearns would eventually sell part of his land to George and Edward Amerige, who founded the town of Fullerton in 1887.

And so, to put Fullerton land ownership in sequential terms, it goes something like this:

1.) Native Americans (Kizh)
2.) The King of Spain (Carlos III)
3.) Jose Manuel Perez Nieto (and family)
4.) Juan Pacifico Ontiveros
5.) Abel Stearns
6.) George and Edward Amerige
7.) Lots of different people today.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Anti-Club Playlist 7/15/16

On Friday nights, I DJ at Mulberry St. Ristorante (aka The Anti-Club) in downtown Fullerton, with my friend Tim.  Here's what we played this past Friday night, with album art.  Also, click on each song to give it a listen.

"When You Were Young" by Yea-Ming and the Rumours

"That's How I Got to Memphis" by Natural Child

"All Night, All Right" by Clive Tanaka y Su Orquesta

"Mixed Up" by Cum Stain

"Forgetting Everything" by Pink Mexico

"Twenty-Seven" by Wax Witches

"College Music" by Gap Dream

"Push It" by Salt-n-Pepa

"Hey Jude" by Wilson Pickett

"Fools and Sages" by Jonny Corndawg

"Louisiana" by The Walkmen

"The Boy With the Arab Strap" by Belle and Sebastian

"She's a Loner" by The Tough Shits

"I Got Skills" by Mozes and the Firstborn

"India Song" by Big Star

"Slave to the Metal Horde" by Servotron

"This Nightlife" by Dabble

"Third Dystopia" by Youth Lagoon

"Florence" by Summer Twins

"Counting the Days" by Audacity

"Killer Queen" by Queen

"Hollywood Squares" by Seth Bogart

"Satan Taps My Head" by The Abigails

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division

"Bang a Gong (Get it On)" by T. Rex

"This Charming Man" by The Smiths

"Lust for Life" by Iggy Pop

"The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

"Nightclubbin" by Iggy Pop

"Beast of Burden" by The Rolling Stones

"Disco 2000" by Pulp

"U Don't Believe in Me" by Emotional

"The Jezebel Spirit" by Brian Eno and David Byrne

"White Lines" by Grandmaster Flash

"I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" by Hall and Oates

"Cao Cao" by Tito Puente

"Tu Muchacho" by Pizza Time

"Dream Baby Dream" by Suicide

"Dream Baby Dream" by Bruce Springsteen

"Sundown" by Gordon Lightfoot

"Ditit Dutut" by The Hound of Love

"Sugar Sugar" by Zacharias

"You Better Move On" by Arthur Alexander

"Steal Away" by Jimmy Hughes

"I Wished on the Moon" by Blllie Holiday

"Tell Mama" by Etta James

See you next Friday night at The Anti-Club!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fullerton Water Wars Part 2: 1897-1900

In a previous post, I began a research/writing project called Fullerton Water Wars, in which I started going through the Fullerton Tribune newspaper microfilm archives in the local history room of the Fullerton public library, and reading all the articles pertaining to water.  My goal with this project is to chronicle the tumultuous history of water use in my hometown, as part of a larger project called The Town I Live In: A History of Fullerton.  In my first post, I chronicled the years 1893-1896.  For this post, I'll continue where I left off, and tell what happened between 1897-1900 with regards to the life-giving natural resource of water.

By 1897, conflict had developed between the Board of Directors of the Anaheim Union Water Company (hereafter referred to as the Water Company) and Edgar Johnson, editor of the Fullerton Tribune (the only paper in town).  Apparently, after Johnson printed some articles criticizing the management of the Water Company, the board of directors decided to stop doing business with the Tribune, which caused Johnson to write an angry editorial in which he said, among other things: "Because a paper criticizes the board is no reason why business should be withdrawn."  As it turned out, it was.

Complaints continued from residents of the region of Yorba, particularly from a Miss Yorba, probably a relative of the famous Bernardo Yorba, who refused too accept $100 for a "right-of-way" for water to pass through her lands.  The residents of Yorba seemed to increasingly get screwed in these complex water dealings.

When an election was held for a new Board of Directors of the Water Company, Johnson criticized the election as corrupt: "Forgery was used to carry out the program of the water ring."

In 1897, the Water Board voted to add over 1000 acres of irrigable land to the Water District, most of which was east of town and owned by two primary entities: a Mrs. Haynes and the Security Savings Bank of Los Angeles.  Here we see the first bank-owned land in the region.  This was probably the result of all the bonds (loans) which the Water Company had taken out to finance massive irrigation projects (mainly cementing ditches).  These loans were taken out with banks.  Thus, banks got into the land/agriculture game.

As landowners, the Bank got shares of the Water Company, but Johnson (again) smelled corruption, writing that, for the vote to expand the Water District, "of the 3,967 shares signed, there were 961 bogus shares mainly made up of persons who had signed twice and, in some instances, stock was signed three times...and in one case, the name of a man appeared who had been dead for two or three years."  An editorial in the Tribune considered the actions of the Water Board to be criminal: "At the present time, a great many stockholders are demanding that if individual guilt can be brought home to any person in connection with the rascalities now being developed...then criminal prosecution should follow."  It seems that no criminal prosecution followed.

Meanwhile, the controversial Wright Act, which (in theory) allowed small farmers to create Irrigation Districts for the purpose of deciding fair water use, was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.  This was bad news to the Anaheim Union Water Company, which pretty much held the monopoly on local water use.  From their perspective, the Wright Act was nothing more than a tax-raising scheme created by government bureaucrats.

In 1898, as the Water Company expanded irrigation and ditch-cementing at a relatively rapid pace, a voice of environmental conscience was raised by a Judge Charles Silent of Los Angeles.  In an April 13th editorial, Judge Silent wrote: "I desire to call your attention to the fact that many applications are being made to the Secretary of the Interior for rights of way on the Forest Reservations of Southern California for ditches and canals for purposes of power and irrigation.  Some of these projects contemplate taking the water from the natural stream at the head, and carrying it along the mountainside, across ridges, and uniting various branches, by which scores of miles of the natural bed of the stream will be abandoned, the little feeders coming into it lost and wasted, and the source of the water supply disturbed and endangered.  It is self evident that such wholesale abandonment of the natural beds of the mountain streams must seriously injure the forest growth and not only defeat the object of the Government in making these reservations, but will endanger the permanency of the water supplies for irrigation."  The question behind Judge Silent's concerns is: Is all of this irrigation sustainable?  We shall see.

It's easy, in hindsight, to criticize the Water Company for their relentless expansion and cementing of irrigation ditches, but from their perspective, this was primarily a matter of business.  These dudes were ranchers, and they wanted to grow, and that meant more water.  A Captain Schumacher explained quite eloquently why the ditch by his farm must be cemented.  With his dirt (uncemented) ditch, he irrigated with 50 inches of water (this meant many hundreds of gallons), but the loss by seepage, evaporation, and gopher holes was such that whereas he paid for 50 inches of water, he really only got 35 inches."  For Captain Schumacher, it was simple math.  More cement = more water = more profits.

Meanwhile, with more land and money at stake, it appears that the Board of Directors of the Water Company acted with increasing power.  An anonymous editorial from "a stockholder" asks: " What is the matter with the Water Co.?  They refuse to let stock-holders irrigate for early barley, cabbage, etc., or to their water on other than land covered with their own stock.  Does the Water Co. belong to the stock-holders or to the president of the company?... Be liberal, Messrs. Directors of the water company, and let any stock-holder put his water where he pleases at this time of year, and the company will be better off and the stock-holders will also feel better if the President does not exercise quite so domineering a spirit."

Editor Johnson was even more blunt in his assessment of the situation.  In an editorial entitled "Plain American Talk," he wrote: "Dear sir, and friend, you will excuse me if I indulge in a little very plain American talk.  I now have no interest in the A.U. W. company district, nor do I ever expect or desire to have in as much as I am satisfied there is an element in the water board constantly seeking to centralize power regardless of the best interests of the company and would to all appearances jeopardize the interest of the small stockholders by limiting the supply of water until the small holders are forced to the wall in the interest of corporate greed and a damnable selfishness which in its character in my estimation is beneath that of the highwayman."

In 1899, the idea of building a reservoir in La Habra (as opposed to poor Yorba) was again raised.  Editor Johnson, perhaps speaking on behalf of Fullerton ranchers, heartily supported the proposal, writing: "May I have the privilege through the columns of the Tribune to speak to the land owners of Fullerton and stockholders of Anaheim Union Water Co?  Another dry year is on us with a prospect of great scarcity of water for irrigation and likewise short crops of hay, nuts, oranges, etc.  Would not La Habra reservoir with its 400 acres filled 50 feet deep be a great relief to the agriculturalist just at this time?"

Meanwhile, another legal battle began between rival water companies.  The Anaheim Union Water Company and the Santa Ana Valley Irrigation Company went to court to prevent ranchers from the San Joaquin Valley from trying to use water from the Santa Ana River.  An agreement was reached.

As the 19th century drew to a close, the Industrial Revolution was spreading to agriculture, pushing out the small farmer in favor of large, corporate farming companies and ranchers.  At this time, there was a famous poem called "The Man With the Hoe," which was a kind of elegy to the small farmer.  Edgar Johnson thought it was a bullshit poem, preferring to celebrate modern advancements in farming.  In an editorial, he wrote: "The poem of 'The Man With the Hoe' has been exploited in all the newspapers of the country. Unfortunately for its truth, it deals with a past age.  The man with the hoe has given place to the man with the riding cultivator.  The agriculturalist nowadays rides to his work and rides home.  He cultivates the soil not by the painful labor of the hand, but by all the appliances that ingenuity can devise.  The hoe and the flail have given way to steam and the improved methods of latter days."

In what can only be described as a minor tragedy of local history, the entire year of 1900 is missing from the Fullerton Tribune microfilm archives.  Thus, I have no idea what happened that year.  Stay tuned for more on Fullerton's Water Wars...

Monday, July 11, 2016

From Route 66, With Love and Squalor

As my dad and I drove Route 66, or what's left of it, a single word kept popping up in our descriptions of the little towns we passed, or what's left of them--squalor.  I'm reminded of a short story by J.D. Salinger called "For Esme, With Love and Squalor," which is about a conversation between a soldier about to be deployed in World War II and a little girl who likes stories with "squalor" in them, though she doesn't really understand the meaning of the word.  The soldier, who will experience real-life squalor, promises to write her such a story.  The juxtaposition of nostalgic innocence and real-life squalor was the general vibe that my dad and I both got from Route 66.

Most of the original highway, built in 1926, has been co-opted by Interstate 40, although there remain all these little pockets of towns, just off the interstate that remain (barely) alive because of the sense of nostalgia that Americans (and, as it turns out, lots of Europeans) retain for a small two-lane highway that, for a certain number of decades in the 20th century, was the main route from Chicago to Los Angeles.

This was the road that the Joad family lumbered along during the Great Depression in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.  For the Joads, in their ramshackle jalopy, the road west promised survival, hope, and opportunity, just as it had for a generation of wagon-train pioneers before them.  What they found at "the end of the trail" in California was, of course, more squalor, but their steadfast (perhaps delusional) optimism represents something quintessentially American.

As my father and I passed through rough and ramshackle barely-alive towns like Hackberry, Amboy, Ludlow, Santa Rosa, and Tucumcari--some of them so tiny you could almost sneeze and miss them--I felt those mixed feelings of love, nostalgia, and squalor.  Old crumbling billboards still line stretches of the original Route 66, and the towns themselves are filled with boarded-up, decaying little motels, diners, and gas stations.  Many of these buildings are left as-is, remain closed but not destroyed because they have become a part of American history--like the ruined castles of Europe--remnants of another time.  Our Triple A map of Route 66 describes some of these places as "the town that time forgot."  There is a sort of sadness to a broken down motel, but there is also an undeniable charm, even whimsy to it all.

Of course, we also encountered some real human squalor, like Gabriel, the young Navajo man outside the gift shop of the Grand Canyon Caverns, who was drunk and sad-looking.  He asked us for a ride "back," though he didn't say where, and when we told him that our car was a two-seater, he offered to "ride on top." Like the Joads.

We passed through a good deal of "Indian Country" on Route 66 and, as two educated 21st century Americans, my dad and I reflected on that tragic legacy.  How does Gabriel feel about the Wigwam Motel, where you can "Sleep in a real wigwam," with its ultra-kitschy co-opting of native American culture?  That, too, is Route 66--the Indian gift shops and the real life reservations we passed through on our trip through American nostalgia/memory/squalor.  In the Old Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico, there stands a monument "To the heroes who have fallen in the various battles with Indians in the territory of New Mexico," and 200 feet away, lots of real-life Indians sell turquoise jewelry, leather, artwork, and fry bread.  This, too, is Route 66.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  My purpose here is to provide a kind of photo-essay of my route 66 adventure with my dad in the summer of 2016.  I will present the trip state-by-state, beginning with California, and ending in Illinois.  Buckle your seatbelts, folks.  Here we go...


The actual end-point of Route 66 is the Santa Monica pier, in Los Angeles.  However, since my dad and I live in California, near Los Angeles, that's where we began.  Here's a picture of us at the end (beginning) of the trail.

Our first stop outside Los Angeles was the lovely town of Victorville, where we encountered the first of many Route 66 Museums.

Continuing east, we came upon Bottle Tree Ranch, which was not on our map, but which I'd read about in a great book called Weird California.  Here are some photos I took of this unique roadside attraction.

And then we came upon some serious desert.  Our first three days would primarily take us through the American southwest, where the heat would reach upwards of 115 degrees.  We had lunch at the Bagdad Cafe, which was made famous by a 1987 German film of the same name and an especially surreal episode of Huell Howser's California's Gold, where he visits the cafe and marvels over the portrait of Burt Lancaster.  Here's the Bagdad Cafe.

In the eastern Mojave Desert in California, between Barstow and Needles, we encountered the first natural wonder of our trip, the Amboy Crater Natural Monument.  Before arriving at the crater, we noticed that the desert landscape was spotted with black rocks, and wondered why.  As it turns out, the Amboy Crater is a young volcano, which explains the black rock.  This was probably the hottest point in our entire trip (around 115 degrees).  We decided to forego the 3-mile hike to the crater.

In the nearby town of Amboy, California were some classic Route 66 things: a large plastic hot dog, Roy's Motel Cafe (still operational), and Road Runner's Retreat Restaurant (defunct).  A recurring image along Route 66 is the iconic roadrunner from Looney Tunes, as this looks like the landscape he would run through in his endless escapes from that Wily Coyote.

Around sunset, we crossed the mighty Colorado River into Arizona.


We spent the night in Kingman, Arizona, a cool little town with some neat old buildings.

We set out early in the morning of what would turn our to be our longest day of travel.  Our first stop was Hackberry General Store, which was like a ramshackle museum of old cars, signs, and all things Route 66.

At the Hackberry General Store, there was a cat that followed us around and even posed for a picture.

Our next stop was the Grand Canyon Caverns, which I was really excited about because you got to take an elevator down into these old caves.  Unfortunately, the elevator was not working that day.  Thankfully, we did get to check out Dinosaur City.

We ate at the famous Roadkill Cafe in Seligman, Arizona.  Their motto is "You kill it, we grill it."  This turned out not to be the case.  I had a very nice, normal breakfast there.

Down the road a bit in Seligman was another famous roadside attraction called Delgadillo's Snow Cap Drive In, which opened in 1953.

East of Flagstaff, Arizona, in the middle of the desert, we came upon a very cool Meteor Crater, which impacted the earth about 50,000 years ago.  Because its surface resembles the surface of the moon, astronauts from some of the Apollo missions trained here.

Near Joseph City, we came upon Jackrabbit's Trading Post, with its famous sign "HERE IT IS."

And then we came to the second teepee-themed motel along Route 66 (The other is in Rialto, California), the Wigwam Motel.

I was looking forward to seeing the famous "Painted Desert" in Arizona, and I was not disappointed.  It does look painted.

In the painted desert, we also saw a magnificent petrified forest.  It was really surreal--all these rock-trees in the middle of a desolate desert.  We learned that these trees are evidence that, millions of years ago, this desert was actually a lush rainforest, populated with dinosaurs and other creatures.

New Mexico

We spent the night in Grants, New Mexico on the Fourth of July, and here we had our only car issue.  What began as a slow leak turned into a flat tire, and we were lucky that the guy who owned the only tire shop in town was willing to fix our tire over the holiday.  Our first stop in New Mexico was Petroglyph National Monument, just outside of Albuquerque, which contains several fascinating stone drawings made by Ancestral Pueblo people, dating back thousands of years.

And then we came to Santa Fe, New Mexico, which neither of us had ever visited.  It's a truly beautiful city to behold, with mostly adobe buildings.  The photos I took do not do justice to the grandeur of the city.  We both wished we had more time in Santa Fe to explore its numerous museums and galleries.  We did get to explore the old downtown plaza, and some of the interesting old streets of downtown.

If I had to choose one town that is a perfect microcosm of what Route 66 truly is, it would be Tucumcari, New Mexico, a lovely conglomeration of the kind of old motels, cafes, and gas stations that once dominated this historic highway.  My friend Charlie Pecoraro made a great documentary film called Circle the Wagen, about a cross country trip he took in a broken down VW bus, in which Tucumcari was featured prominently, particularly the Blue Swallow Inn, where Charlie's bus spent four years awaiting repair.  Here are some photos of the iconic Tucumcari.

As we crossed the border into Texas, a giant storm cloud chased us, sort of like in that movie Twister, but we beat it!


At a supermarket in Amarillo, Texas, the middle-aged checkout woman with a thick Texas accent, probably detecting our California accents, asked, "Where y'all from?"

"Southern California," we said, "We're heading to Chicago on Route 66."

She told us that we had to check out the great big cross just down the road in Groom, Texas.

"It's almost thirty feet high.  Zach Thomas' dad put it up there." I later learned that Zach Thomas played football for the Dallas Cowboys.

The woman suggested that we do what she did when she visited the cross, which was to have her picture taken in front of it and then frame that picture.  We agree that that would be a good idea.

As I stood outside the supermarket, sipping coffee and waiting for my dad to bring the car around, a big guy walked by and said, "Y'on breaker whut?"

He said this so fast that it sounded like one word: Yonbreakerwhut?  I honestly didn't know what he meant, so I just smiled and nodded.  As he got in his big truck (ridiculously big trucks are omnipresent in Texas), I realized what he had asked me was, "Are you on break, or what?"  The Texas accent is strange to me.  Anyway, here is a picture of the "great big cross" in Groom Texas, which was actually kind of impressive, and way taller than thirty feet.

As someone who doesn't own or drive a car, I don't pay much attention to gas prices, but spending a week on the road with my dad, I noticed such things.  I was shocked that gas prices in Texas and the South in general were much lower than in California.  The obvious reason is that taxes are higher in California, but I think it may also have to do with oil subsidies, and the vast oil fields of Texas.  On a less depressing note, I was pleasantly surprised to observe that there is a massive wind farm in Texas that stretches for miles and miles.

We checked out the famous "Leaning Water Tower of Texas."

Along Route 66, there are lots of quirky little museums, but perhaps the most unique was the Devil's Rope (Barbed Wire) Museum in the tiny town of McLean, Texas.  I was expecting a little one-room operation, but this museum is VAST and EXTENSIVE.  Who knew that something so seemingly ordinary as barbed wire has such an important and complex history, but it does.  You could literally spend half a day in the barbed wire museum, it's that extensive.

 No trip along Route 66 is complete without stopping at the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas.  Here is the iconic Conoco station that was the inspiration for one of the buildings in the Disney movie Cars.  As it turns out, most of the vehicles and buildings in Cars were inspired by different places along Route 66.  The U-Drop Inn is a beautiful art deco structure built in 1936.

And no trip through Texas is complete without eating at a Texas steakhouse.  We had an amazing lunch at Big Vern's in Shamrock.


And then we crossed the border into Oklahoma, another state I'd never visited.  We exited the highway and drove through the town of Clinton because we'd seen a sign a while back that said "Spaceport."  What would a spaceport be doing in Clinton, Oklahoma?  We had to find out.  Wouldn't it be amazing if there really was a functioning spaceport here, with alien craft from across the universe stopping to refuel their space ships and maybe have a drink--sort of like Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars.  What if such a thing existed and somehow the only people who knew about it were the residents of Clinton, Oklahoma?  Stopping at the Dairy Queen for a refreshing beverage, my dad asked two different employees about the spaceport, and they knew nothing about it (or so they claimed).

In the small town of Arcadia, Oklahoma there are two notable roadside attractions: Pops (a store with hundreds of varieties of "pop"), and the Round Barn of Arcadia.

Down the road a bit, in the town of Chandler, we popped into the Route 66 Interpretive Center, which is in a very impressive 1930s building which was formerly a National Guard Armory.  Now it's a museum.  I got to meet two very nice ladies inside named Marilyn and Susan.

In Catoosa, OK we had to check out the big blue whale.  Amazingly, here we ran into someone from Buena Park, California (the town right next to Fullerton, where I live) who is attending Fullerton College (where I teach English).  Small world!

Driving through Commerce, OK I noticed a statue in front of a baseball field that turned out to be a statue of Mickey Mantle, who grew up and played baseball here.

We stopped at a gas station in Commerce and the woman told us where to find Mickey Mantle's childhood home.  She also gave us a brief history of Commerce, which used to be a lead mining town, and was now classified as a Superfund site.  My dad explained that Superfund sites are places where there was such environmental damage and toxicity that the federal government had to spend lots of money to clean them up.  Anyway, here I am in front of Mickey Mantle's childhood home.


Route 66 goes through one small corner of Kansas, and we stopped in the town of Galena, where there is the tow truck that the character of Mater (again, from the movie Cars) was based on.


We spent the night in Rolla, Missouri and headed out early the next morning for our final day of travel!  First, we passed through the small town of Cuba, which is known as "the city of murals," and there were quite a few murals, mostly dealing with American history.

I was super excited for our next destination, the Meramec Caverns, which are these really beautiful caves (complete with stalactites) where the famous outlaw Jesse James once hid out after a robbery.  This was definitely a hi-light of Route 66.

Next we drove through St. Louis and saw the famous Gateway Arch.

We stopped for lunch at Weezys in Hamel, a roadside diner that has been open since the 1940s, and had fried pickle spears!

In the town of Mt. Olive, Illinois there are two roadside attractions: Soulsby Shell Station, built the same year as Route 66 (1926), and the Mother Jones Monument/Union Miner's Cemetery.  Mother Jones was a famous American labor leader.

We saw the famous Ariston Cafe, the oldest continuously operating cafe along Route 66.

In Springfield, we visited the home of Abraham Lincoln.  The whole neighborhood around the Lincoln home has been preserved to look basically like it looked in the 19th century.  My dad and I walked around this historic neighborhood and talked about the legacy of Abraham Lincoln.

As night fell on our sixth day of travel, we drove into Chicago and found the end-point of Route 66 downtown.  We made it! 2,500 miles, eight states, and lots of fascinating Americana...