Yorba Linda . . . In The Days of Yesteryear!
by Mildred Yorba MacArthur
Yorba Linda Star July 20 1961 page 1
Do you want to buy some nice ranch land at $250 per acre? The best proposition in California today!
“The tract is made up of 3500 acres of the richest land in California. The soil is deep, rich loam, underlaid by a moist sub-soil, entirely free from hard pan, alkali and adobe. The land can be worked any month of the year. The rainfall is generous and the irrigation supply is ample, and it is a frostless belt. You can raise alfalfa, asparagus, blackberries, celery, hay, peaches, peanuts, strawberries, apples, barley, cabbage, figs, sweet potatoes, plums, raspberries, tomatoes, apricots, beans, chili peppers, grapes, loganberries, potatoes, rhubarb, oranges, and walnuts.”
Roll over, Dad, you’re dreaming! That was Yorba Linda in 1910, and the quotation was taken from a Janss Investment ad of that period.
About this same time the Wickersheim Implement Company of Fullerton stocked Davis and Henny Buggies, with over sixty styles to choose from and prices to fit any pocketbook. They also had a collection of single buggies, open top surreys, spring wagons and runabouts. And, Birdsell Wagons, which they said combined all the good features of all other wagons, to make one good wagon. They also had special California sulky plows and a few Syracuse walking plows. No doubt there are some hardy pioneers hereabout, who will remember, with cramps in their legs, the last two items.
March 29, 1910, the First National Bank and Fullerton Savings Bank proudly advertised that it had cash on hand and due from banks, the sum of $116,735.90 and deposits of $433,701.54.
The Morris and Snow Seed Company of 425 South Main, Los Angeles, invited you to get their prices on eucalyptus trees and seeds for your next season’s requirements. These trees were the pioneers’ buffers against the roaring Santa Ana winds, and well they have served their purpose in addition to adding great beauty to the area. Only man can kill this species and of late, I’m sorry to report that I’ve seen some very busy little men with their power saws at work.
Now and then while waiting for Carnett’s daily coffee klatch to come to order I have a fleeting visit with a couple of contemporaries of mine, Leonard Lemke and Merwin Wagner, who consort openly with other ranchers, realtors, editors, tradesmen, and men of leisure.
Leonard Lemke’s parents, the John Lemkes were the owners of a 75-acre ranch on Valencia Ave. Their well-built sturdy home still stands as a monument to those two early settlers who came to Placentia in 1883, from Germany, after short stays in New York, Pennsylvania and Cleveland. John Lemke planted 1200 valencias and 200 navel orange trees, and from his six-year old trees, in the year 1909, he was said to have shipped 2300 boxes of loose oranges, which was considered an exceptional pick. He also had 35-acres set to walnuts, ranging from eight to 18 years, which yielded 16 tons. The part that I remember was there were some mighty sweet melons that grew and ripened between those long rows of walnuts. To be invited to the Lemkes for any event was always a great treat, for culinary masterpieces were every day fare in that household. Then, too, there were children of assorted sizes, all great fun, and a set of wonderful parents to welcome you. It has been a long time but I think there were “Becky,” Irene, Evelyn, Johanna, Dave, Lawrence, Leonard, and Lewis.
Around the corner on Carolina Avenue lived the Stones and the Robinsons. Marie and Nell still are as gracious and lovely to look at as they always were. They had an older brother who used to team up with his pal across the street, Charlie Stone, and they were the scourge of the small fry for miles around. Some of their pranks have never been equaled.
Down on Valencia Avenue lived the H. H. Hale family. This gentleman was one of the pioneers in securing water rights which Southern California now enjoys. He also was active in bringing the Santa Fe Railroad through Placentia. His son, Roy, drove the Fullerton High School bus each day while he was still a student and he maintained order without much effort, by the simple expedient of watching a lot of us race to the corner on foot, almost missing the bus, then climbing on, too breathless to show signs of life until it was time to crawl off, eight miles later at the Fullerton campus. Roy never scolded, he just smiled and never got off schedule. He married his boyhood sweetheart, Ruth Dunham, and after her early demise, he raised his fine family alone.
Across the street lived the Tom McFaddens. While Tom was busy with his legal chores in Anaheim, Mrs. McFadden (Lucana Forster, of the founding family of San Juan Capistrano) took her daily drive to Placentia in her stylish Hudson touring phaeton to do her marketing, attend the Round Table Club and visit with friends. Her last stop was at Clarence Haiber’s drug store where everyone met for a few laughs. Clarence is now retired, but now and then he substitutes for Burt Brooks at his Rexall Drug Store on Yorba Linda’s Main Street, when the latter goes off to the golfing wars. Mrs. McFadden’s daughter and her husband, Ysidora and Paul Brower, now occupy the family residence on Valencia Avenue, which is laden with priceless early California mementos.
By now, if you are wondering what I’m doing over in Placentia territory, please bear with me, for in these days of annexations you can go to bed in Yorba Linda and wake up in Brea, Chino, Anaheim, Placentia, or Chichicastenango, and don’t say that I didn’t warn you!
Since Placentia is celebrating its 50th anniversary, I might as well tell you about a communal group over in that vicinity, whose founders were the Thales, Heinz, and Wiederholds. They were always referred to as “The Vegetarians.” They ate nothing but vegetables, or perhaps like George Bernard Shaw, an occasional piece of liver or steak, when no one was looking. They lived in a large two-story house with high turrets. Everyroom [sic] in the house was circular, and therefore all corners were eliminated, thus leaving no place for evil spirits to hide. They raised every kind of fruit and nut tree, plus persimmons from Japan, avocados from Mexico, and several varieties of guavas. Many of these same trees are still bearing. They made their own bread from wheat and nuts which they ground in their own mill and people from all over the county made a pathway to their door to buy their wares, but few were invited in. The place was located on Placentia Avenue as it makes the turn to Palm Drive, and is now owned by my uncle, James Tuffree. The house has been demolished, but once in a while when I round that turn, especially if I’m hungry, I think I can still get a whiff of that freshly baked bread, which no bakery will ever be able to duplicate.
Just a few more yards down Palm Drive, at Sierra Vista stands a part of the old home of my grandparents, the J. K. Tuffrees (Carolina Polhemus). The story of their Rancho Buena Vista is a long and interesting one, which I some day hope to have the privilege of doing in its entirety, for it goes back to the early history of San Francisco, San Mateo, and much of Orange County, when my great-grandfather, Charles B. Polhemus, headed a syndicate of financiers that saved the tottering land and cattle empire of Don Abel Stearns.
Now for a stop in Anaheim where Hall and Walls were wholesale liquor dealers, at 133 Center Street, and their ad read as follows: “The best for the price. Mail or telephone orders given prompt attention. A trial order will please all of us. P. S. Get the best of whiskey and whiskey will not get the best of you.” Some of their brand names were Nutwood, Spring Hill, Belmont, Old Taylor, Atherton, Glencoe, Cedar Brook, Harvey, Melrose, Finch Rye, Hollenbach Rye, Canadian Type, and Nelson Export. Among their California beers were Anaheim, Red Ribbon, Maier Select, Bohemian, San Diego and Welland. Their Eastern beers were Budweiser, Schlitz, Lemps, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Ranier.
Even if you weren’t a drinking man you were well acquainted with U. W. Hall and J. W. Walls, for they were two of Anaheim’s best loved and highly respected “practitioners.” Mrs. J. W. Walls still occupies the family mansion over on Jefferson Street, not far from Yorba Linda, where she is renowned for her charm as a hostess, home maker and traveler.
The Wagners . . . Joe, John, and Charles, and their sister, Mrs. William Berkenstock, have seen some gigantic changes in Southern California, from the grazing of sheep and cattle through severe droughts and floods, to the planting of walnut and citrus groves and the coming of the subdivisions, to see their once precious orange trees uprooted. Their lands lie west of Yorba Linda.
In 1910 orange groves could be bought from $600 to $2000 an acre, but the average was $1,000, and it was said that these groves made a net return of about 13 1/2 to 15 per cent interest, which was double the interest that could be obtained by loaning the money. And if a man did his own work he could save about half of the expense, thus bringing his profit up between 17 and 20 per cent. As they say in Las Vegas, “What a racket, and no state income tax.”
In an old periodical, in a story written by someone without a byline, it says, “In orange growing, as well as most other things, the liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered himself.” This might be a great motto for the Yorba Linda Water District, until such time as they get the water pressure stabilized.
The only Easter lily farm in the world, where the bulbs were grown in the open field was said to have been located in Orange County. Does anyone know where it was located? Before that time bulbs were supposed to have been imported from Japan and the Bermuda Islands, where they were grown under protection.
One of my favorite early morning historians is Chauncey Eichler. He was born in Riverside in 1895 and came to Yorba Linda in 1911. His mother, Lily Mae Strickland, was a native daughter, born in Pennington, Calif. Chauncey got his final Yorba Linda citizenship papers when he married Edith Bemis, and of course, they have lived happily ever after. They have one son, James, who for many years held court at his Mobil service station on Main Street, but alas, he took one too many fishing trips and has never returned. He took his family with him, so I guess he plans to be gone for quite a spell.
One day Mr. Eichler took time to show me some of old Yoba Linda, recalling people and places that he recalled as a boy of 16 who drove his own team of horses, worked ten hours a day, for a total of $1.75, and lived to own one of the first autos in these parts, “a two-lunged Reo.” His step-father, M. A. Quigley, had a blacksmith shop on Lemon Street, between Main and Olinda, when groceries were delivered from the old Olinda store. Later a man by the name of Pullen opened the first grocery store on Olinda Street here in Yorba Linda, where the water company now has its office. About 1913, the building became the first school. Lily Jones Harris was the first postmaster and her office was where the old library building now stands. Charles Butler was the manager of the first packing house, The Foothill Growers–Mutual Orage Distributors, the present Sunkist House.
Chauncey Eichler remembers when the Pacific Electric Railroad cars came out as far as Jom Conley’s hay barn at Casa Loma and Imperial. That was the end of the line. The Conley home is now occupied by Donald and Ruth Munger. It may well be the oldest house in Yorba Linda and certainly a well kept one.
If you still want to buy some Yorba Linda real estate you’d better wake up, for you are no longer dreaming. Don’t expect those 1910 quotations to last forever. The procedure is made very easy, for there are “escrow Indians” lurking everywhere. Hasta la vista.