The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In.
How did oil replace oranges as the primary export of Fullerton in the mid 20th century? One of the reasons is a major by-product of oil...smog. C. Stanley Chapman, whose family used to own one of the largest orange groves in the country, recalls:
“For a number of years, we had noticed that along the highway the trees didn’t do well. We all thought it was dust or something like that. Then it began to be evident that it was the exhaust from the automobiles. As that increased, the damage increased.”
Chapman describes other crop issues they had, such as disease and pestilence. But, he concludes, even without those problems, “The smog would have gotten them [the orange trees].”
As someone who has grown up with smog as a fact of life, I am interested to read accounts of people who lived before smog. Elvin Ames, a teacher at Fullerton Union High school in the 1920s and 30s, describes the view of Orange County from Lake Arrowhead in those days: “When you got up there—our cabin was out on the rim—you could just see all over the world. We could see Catalina and we could see the ocean and we could see all the town in the valley. That was before the smog covered everything like it does now and it was really an inspiration to go up there.”