Yorba Linda History

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close this bookRichard M. Nixon Oral History Project
View the documentReverend Charles Ball
Interviewed by Mitch Haddad, December 22, 1969
View the documentWilliam H. Barton
Interviewed by Richard D. Curtiss, February 10, 1970
View the documentOllie O. Burdg
Interviewed by Richard Curtiss, February 16, 1970
View the documentHoyt Corbit
Interviewed by Tom Peters, April 30, May 6, 10, 17, 20, 1968
View the documentHoyt Corbit
Interviewed by Milan Pavlovich, May 15, 1970
View the documentVirginia Shaw Critchfield
Interviewed by Jeff Jones, May 2 & 9, 1970
View the documentDavid W. Cromwell
Interviewed by Milan Pavlovich, May 25, 1976
View the documentDr. Buel F. Enyeart
Interviewed by Dan Hoppy, December 2, 1968
View the documentMr. and Mrs. Richard "Jack" Gauldin
Interviewed by Milan Pavlovich, May 8, 1970
View the documentYoneko Dobashi Iwatsuru
Interviewed by Milan Pavlovich, April 30, 1970
View the documentGeorge Kellogg & R. Fay Young
Interviewed by Daniel L. Hoppy, John Tugwell, November 14, 1968, January 8, 1969, April 26, 1972
View the documentRalph Navarro
Interviewed by Milan Pavlovich, June 4, 1970
View the documentCecil E. Pickering
Interviewed by Steven Guttman, June 30, 1970
View the documentMary Elizabeth Rez
Interviewed by Milan Pavlovich, April 21, 1970
View the documentPaul Ryan
Interviewed by Milan Pavlovich, May 15, 1970
View the documentGerald Shaw
Interviewed by Jeff Jones, June 3, 1970
View the documentRalph C. Shook Sr.
Interviewed by Richard Curtiss, February 10, 1970
View the documentMary G. Skidmore
Interviewed by Greg Brolin
View the documentFelix Stein
Interviewed by Greg Brolin, October 13, 1970
View the documentCatherine Travaglia
Interviewed by Milan Pavlovich, May 21, 1970
View the documentHerb Warren
Interviewed by Greg Brolin, October 1, 1970
View the documentMerle West
Interviewed by Robert Davis

Ralph Navarro

Interviewed by Milan Pavlovich, June 4, 1970   Open this page in a new window

This is a slightly edited transcription of an interview conducted for the Oral History Program, sponsored by California State University, Fullerton. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions which are not factual.

Scholars are welcome to utilize short excerpts from any of the transcriptions without obtaining permission as long as proper credit is given to the interviewee, the interviewer, and the University. Scholars must, however, obtain permission from California State University, Fullerton before making more extensive use of the transcription and related materials. None of these materials may be duplicated or reproduced by any party without permission from the Oral History Program, California State University, Fullerton, California, 92634.

Copyright ©1977

The Oral History Program

California State University, Fullerton [Intro]


Richard M. Nixon Project

Early History of Yorba Linda, California

O. H. 916


Interviewed by Milan Pavlovich

on June 4, 1970 [Title]

O. H. 916


Richard M. Nixon Project


INTERVIEWER: Milan Pavlovich

SUBJECT: Early History of Yorba Linda, California

DATE: June 4, 1970

P:This is an interview for the California State College, Fullerton, Richard M. Nixon Oral History Project. The interviewee is Mr. Ralph Navarro, resident of Yorba Linda since 1897. The interviewer is Milan Pavlovich. The interview was held in Mr. Navarro's living room at 6112 Ridgeway Street, Yorba Linda, at 10:00 a.m., June 4, 1970.

Mr. Navarro, would you like to tell me a little about yourself, such as when you were born in Yorba Linda and where?

N:Well, I was born between Grandview Avenue and Orchard Drive, on December 11, 1897. I got a sister who was born September 3, 1894 in the same place. My brother, Raymond, just passed away about a year and a half ago, and he was born up there too. He was eighty-two years old when he passed away. And my dad was with the Anaheim Union Water Company for sixty-two years.

P:And he was a zanjero?

N:Zanjero. He helped plow that ditch right through Yorba Linda. Then they hired him to take care of the gophers when they turned the water on, and he stayed with them all his life. I was hired to help my dad out when I graduated from school. I was with him the rest of my life. Then my boy, Ted, got my job. When the water company quit business, they put him on the Orange County Water District, then the Orange County Water District shot him up to the Southern California Water Company in Placentia. That's where he is right now. [1]

P:Now, was this house that you were born in owned by the Anaheim Union Water District?

N:Anaheim Union Water Company, yes.

P:And is the zanjero the man that is the head of the water in an area? Is that it?

N:Yes, yes. My dad used to run water through to irrigate the orchards up here, you see, alone. Then in 1914, I think, they put me on there. So I stayed with them, by gosh, till I retired here five or six years ago!

P:Now, is it the job of the zanjero to give out so much water to each grove and also to let so much water into the reservoir? Is that it?

N:Yes. We had a gate up by Ralph Shock's old place, right north of here, you know.

P:Just on the other side of the freeway?

N:Buena Vista Avenue, right across the freeway. You know where the basin is?


N:Well, it was right there. That was the gate that comes into this reservoir, and they used to irrigate in Anaheim from this lake.

P:Now, this reservoir that you're talking about in front of your house here, could you tell me how that was built?

N:Well, with horses and scrapers. They didn't have no tractors at that time. (interruption by telephone call— break in interview) And then they started running the sheep. What do you call that thing?

P:Oh, the packer?

N:The packer. My grandfather used to run the sheep. In the morning he used to bring the sheep up through the barley field up here, and feed them. In the evening he would run them through there again and take them home. Next day it would be the same thing, by gosh. And they used the fire hoses with a lot of pressure to knock the gravel and sand and dirt and everything clear down. They used to put some of them galvanized cans, you know, to round the dirt up that way instead of having the big trucks.

P:So they just used these hoses, then, to force this dirt [2] down towards this dam?


P:I see.

N:Yes. What else do you want to find out?

P:Could you tell me a little bit about the area of Yorba Linda during your early days here?

N:Well, there wasn't anything but barley fields. Up there where we lived, on Grand Avenue, was where they started selling lots. We had tables under big trees, you know, like all the farmers used to have. They used to come up there and bring out all the buyers and everybody, you know.

P:This was nothing but sheep country during that time?

N:Well, sheep, cattle, coyotes, and you could once in awhile see a deer running through up there. The boys used to get up there—and I was a small kid then—with .30-30 rifles, and my dad used to get up there too. They would pick out a coyote and see who would come closer to it. They had a lot of fun shooting at them things.

P:You were saying that the people used to come up and sit on your tables there by your farm in the early days. Was this the people Janss brought up to buy land?

N:Yes, that's the people that he brought out to have to buy the land and everything. The place where we were, by God, the guy that bought that piece was named, I remember that, Rivers. And then his house burned up. You know where you cross the ditch there, right on Grandview, right on the righthand side? That's where he had a house. And it wasn't a fancy house. When they first came out they built their own houses; they all were pretty near carpenters, and they built their own houses. And that house burned up there.

P:What did you do in those days when you had a fire like that? How did you try and put it out?

N:We just let it burn.

P:Just let it burn?

N:Just let it burn, by gosh!

P:No way to put it out?

N:No way to put it out, no fire engines or nothing. No, there [3] was nothing.

P:Is it mostly poor people, then, that were in this area during the early days, or were some of the ranchers pretty well off?

N:Well, everybody leased the land, you know. They didn't own the land. The Janss Investment Company or somebody had all this land through here. The Kraemers way back east of Yorba Linda, had all that land up there. My dad used to farm two hundred acres up there.

P:Did he raise a crop?

N:Yes, hay. By gosh there were rattlesnakes all over heck up there. When you were cutting hay with the mowing machine, sometimes you'd get a rattlesnake and cut his throat off. Well, those boys were afraid. They never knew when they were going to hit a rattlesnake and find one or something. Then we would have to haul the hay down to the barn up there. I remember that, by gosh! They had four-by-sixes on wagons, you know, and they just put twenty bales of hay on each wagon. So you know how long it would take. Instead of having trucks or anything, they had the wagons.

P:So was that your job as a kid, then, tossing this hay around?

N:No, no. I used to go to school and swim in the ditch, that's all. (laughter)

P:Now, is this the irrigation ditch that Anaheim Water District had?

N:Yes, that was the irrigation ditch. It went up to Carolina Avenue. Do you know where that is, by that lake up there?


N:Well, that was the end of it. We would get so much in this lake here, and all the rest would have to go up to the other lake up there. And from there they used to irrigate in Fullerton, from the other lake up there on Carolina Avenue.

P:I understand that at one time you did have quite a few of these little lakes around here. You were telling me that your grandmother ...

N:Oh, yes, that was about east of Yorba Linda there, and it would be at the end of Avocado Street right now. My grandmother used to wash clothes there and she lived right east of the hillside there. All of us were born there, and we lived farther east then, you see, that being Grandview [4] where we used to live. I used to go down there, by gosh, and I'd look around sometimes and see a coyote and I'd beat it for home (laughter) I got so scared.

P:Now, what was the town of Yorba Linda like in the early 1900's? Was there much of a town?

N:No, there was nothing there. I think that Hurless Barton was the first one who had a gasoline stations-there and a garage, and then right across was Charlie Selover, who had the hardware. In 1914, I had a Ford; we bought a brand-new Ford over in Fullerton. I had never driven a car in my life. By God, they took me up by Brea and all and then came home. I picked up my sisters and I took Herb Bacon home in Fullerton, and I drove the car back alone up here. I had Firestone tires on there, all four Firestone tires. I always remember that, by gosh. Next day I stopped at Charlie's and showed him what we had, a brand-new Ford, you know. And Charlie says, "Well, that car would look better with Goodyear tires." He used to sell Goodyear. "Well, put them on," I says. "Take them Firestones off!" (laughter) That was awful, wasn't it? I had size three and a half in the rear, and size three in front. But I had all Goodyear tires with diamond treads put on. That was the only gasoline station in town. Charlie told me where the key was for the gasoline, so anytime I wanted gasoline I'd go up there and buy some. I'd get some myself in the morning or at night, and I would tell him the next day how much gasoline I got and everything.

P:It was a pretty good setup, then. An all night station you had!

N:Yes, yes. I don't remember, but I think he gave me a key after that for the gasoline pumps, so I could get gasoline anytime I wanted it.

P:I understand you had a blacksmith's shop, too, in Yorba Linda.

N:In town, yes. Jim Glover was one of them and Sam Woodward was the other. There was one right in town there, you know.

P:Right on Imperial Highway?

N:No, right on Imperial, you turn up Main Street.

P:Oh, on Main Street.

N:Yes. Fassel's grocery store used to be there, and he used to have a store in Olinda. Then he moved up here where the Holloway Apartments are, in there someplace. Boy, that's a [5] long time ago!

P:I understand that that blacksmith's shop used to be used as a meeting place for the men. Somebody told me they would talk and spit and chew.

N:Yes, spit and chew, by gosh, yes! When the blacksmith wanted to sell that place, you could hear him hammering there about ten or eleven o'clock at night, just hitting the anvil, to make the people believe that he was working. He wanted to sell out. (laughter) And you know where Dr. Cochran's place is now? Well, that used to have a blacksmith's shop right there. That was Jim Glover's, I guess it was. Then Jim Glover bought a place east of Casa Loma Avenue there. You know that little road there? There used to be a little road. It's all dead now. He bought that.

P:What did they do mostly at the blacksmith's, just reshoe horses?

N:They would reshoe horses—there were a few horses around, you know—and repair cultivators and disks and all. The farmers used to use all that.

P:That was the repair shop for everything?

N:Everything, yes. And then right north of the blacksmith, there was a garage. So, I'll tell you how. They had a Buick there with righthand drive—you know how you change gears on the right hand?—with the straps coming down. That was in about 1915. So they put new gears in the back of the things, and they got them all twisted around. They put it in low and the darn thing went backwards! That was Buckmaster. Buckmaster had that garage there. One of Buckmaster's daughters married this guy up here, Browney, the Browney that stands there for the irrigation pipes. "Little Browneys," they used to call them. He's the guy that married Esther Buckmaster.

P:I understand that during the early 1900's you used to have cockfights around here for entertainment.

N:Oh, yes, we had cockfights up in Telegraph Canyon, and then up in Santa Ana Canyon we used to have some big barbecues. They used to have the roosters there to fight. Jim Connelly was a big shot there.

P:Everybody betting like crazy, right?

N:You're darn right, betting like crazy!

P:That was part of your entertainment then, right? [6]

N:Yes. By gosh, there only used to be about three or four houses, you know, in line up here in Yorba Linda. They were all Basque people, you know. And people are different than they are right now. We used to stop at different places — my dad used to, in the morning; I was a small kid then — and, by gosh, they used to fry eggs and bacon and everything for us at any old place we used to stop! Then they had those big leather things of wine.


N:A bota, yes.

P:So it was really a close-knit and friendly community, then, in the early 1900 's?

N:Yes, yes. It was different than what it is now. I remember when they used to have dances with all the people right around here. By gosh, there was no fighting or nothing! Everybody would have a heck of a good time.

P:What were most of the buildings made out of in Yorba Linda? Were they of wood?

N:Wood, just one-by-twelves, yes. Our floors at home were two-by-twelves. The cracks were about a half-inch wide. The Santa Ana winds, oh, Jesus!

P:They would blow right up through the floors? (laughter)

N:Oh sure, sure!

P:Did you have a lot of big Santa Ana winds blowing through here in the early days?

N:Oh, yes, same as now.

P:Was the weather during those days about like it is now, or was it different? Did you have more rain?

N:It was about the same thing. Sometimes they would say it was awful dry. Dry years, you know.

P:Where did the water district get all its water from?

N:Oh, from the Santa Ana River from way up somewhere in the mountains. From Big Bear it came down, clear through.

P:Oh. And then it was piped over into your reservoirs over here, is that it?

N:There were no pipes then. [7]

P:How did you get the water from the Santa Ana River up to the reservoirs?

N:Well, they had one ditch there. They had flumes across the low places. They had flumes instead of the big siphons they have now, you see? They've built big siphons now.

P:They also had some wells up here too, didn't they, in the early days?

N:The Holliday wells, you mean? Water wells? Well, they call one up here Number One, and the Hollidays, are up there. That's east of Imperial Highway, you know, where they sell hot dogs and hamburgers.

P:Oh, that little restaurant there?

N:Yes. Right across there, that orange grove. They had wells all over there. But City of Anaheim got everything. That's what I heard.

P:I understand that the people of the town used to use their farmer's meetings and things like that as get-togethers to discuss the policies of the town. Is this correct?

N:Well, I couldn't tell you that.

P:Did you go to farmers' meetings or anything like this?

N:No, no.

P:What were the early churches that you had here? Were they a Catholic church and a Quaker church?

N:Well, we had a Catholic church up there by where the cemetery is, up on Esperanza Road. Do you know where that cemetery is, up there on the hill?


N:Well, right across the tracks we had a Catholic church, at the bottom.

P:Was that one of the first churches here?

N:Yes, right around here, yes. Of course, that wasn't Yorba Linda at that time. There was no Yorba Linda here.

P:That was more of Yorba, right?


P:The old Yorbas? [8]

N:The old Yorbas, their place up there.

P:Now, the citrus industry started around here after Janss had started selling the land in parcels, right?

N:Sure, sure. They started putting in little orange trees and lemon trees and avocados, you know—then the Yorba Linda Water Company started selling water to them, you see. They would get so much land with so much water stock.

P:Now, did you supply the water to the Yorba Linda Water & Company?

N:No, that was the Yorba Linda Water Company, and this is the Anaheim Union.

P:Oh, there were two separate water companies then at that time.

N:Yes, yes.

P:Would Anaheim strictly supply Anaheim?

N:Anaheim, Fullerton, Placentia, and clear down to Disneyland. I used to run water clear down to Disneyland.

P:From here to Disneyland?

N:Yes. I know where all the gates are up there by Disneyland, yes. I went all over heck—Ball Road.

P:And there weren't any pumps used or anything either, were there?

N:No, no.

P:It was just free flowing. (laughter)

N:Free flowing, yes.

P:You were here when the first railroad came into Yorba Linda, weren't you?

N:The Pacific Electric, you mean?


N:Oh, yes.

P:Could you tell me a little bit about that?

N:Well, they had a steam shovel there and they had some mules. You know, they pull a lever, and the dirt falls down from [9] under the wagons. And they had a little steam engine, you know, just coming back and forth to settle the tracks. I used to go up on horseback and watch that thing. One day I remember I was setting on the horse, watching the guys, when the engineer of the little locomotive —he knew that I was there most every day, but that day I was half asleep on top of the mare—Whsst! He pulled out that steam! Boy, that mare just got up, and I laid on the ground there.

P:So you saw them lay the first tracks into Yorba Linda, the first bed and everything.

N:Oh, yes.

P:I understand they had a little railroad war here between Santa Fe and P.E.

N:Well, that was up just this side of Rose Drive, you know.


N:When the P. E. went across the Santa Fe rail, they had to stop and move something there--a switch— so they could go by. I guess that after they went by they had to get the thing open again. The railroad used to come from Atwood up to Olinda.

P:So the P. E. needed special permission to cross Santa Fe's tracks so that they could come into Yorba Linda?

N:Yes. I think they're getting rid of all that stuff now, aren't they, the P.E.? Well, they don't have trains come up to Yorba Linda now, no packinghouse or nothing.

P:You were here when the first packinghouse was built too, I suppose. Could you tell me something about that?

N:Well, the only thing I can remember is when they were working in the basement. They started in the basement, with plows, you know. Ben Selover was working there. By gosh, you ought to talk to Ben Selover.

P:Now, they dug out the basement of that packinghouse.

N:With horses and plows and scrapers.

P:After it was built, right?

N:No, they made the foundation first and then they came up. That's the way it was. Do you know where the lumberyard is? There's two lumberyards in Yorba Linda. Well, [10] the second one was a great big packinghouse.

P:Right on Imperial Highway?

N:Right on Imperial Highway. That's the one that I remember. But I don't remember when they built the one on Yorba Linda Boulevard, the great big one there. I know that one of them burned up. One of the packinghouses burned up, now that's a new one on the left side. (laughter) Once I had a 1917 Ford, I think, and I was coming down the P.E. tracks. That bell was ringing all day and rang all night. So I wasn't paying attention, and the P.E. just came and hit me in the rear and tipped me over! (laughter)

P:The old train hit your car?

N:Yes. I had corn; I remember I had corn scattered all over there, by gosh! All the guys came running from uptown to see if I was hurt, and, heck, we just put the Ford back and I went on. Nothing to it! I used to know Ben Forrest, the conductor there. I used to go up with him clear up into L.A. He didn't even get off the car. He just went and made a turn and came back.

P:How long did it take him to get to L. A. on that old P. E.?

N:Oh, about an hour and a half. That's all.

P:That's all?

N:Yes, it didn't take long.

P:So they had a pretty good means of transportation, then, back and forth.

N:Yes. I remember when they had that big fight there in Los Angeles, Joe Rivers and Ed Wallcock, you know, in Vernon someplace. There were two cars hooked together. When we got up as far as Rose Drive, one of them was full of people, but the time we got up to La Habra, the other one was full, and we didn't stop anymore. They just put a sign there in front: "Take Next Car."

P:So they ran one or two cars, right, and when they were full, that was it. Last stop!

N:Yes, yes. And then he would go and dump us off up there, and, by gosh, he would come back and get some more.

P:What did you use for police around here in the early days? [11] Did you have a sheriff or anything?

N:No, no. I've had a badge for forty years, I guess.

P:As a sheriff's deputy?

N:Yes, yes. Aser Stanley was the one that started patrolling the orchards, you know. I used to ride around with him. But he got hit with another car up there by Huntington Beach. That darned thing caught on fire and he burned up.

P:So they just had you guys as deputies around here. And then what did you have, the state police also?

N:Well, there was no boulevards around here, nothing but dirt roads.

P:Oh, so you guys were just the deputies in the early days, around 1905 or so?

N:No, it wasn't 1905, because I was just a little kid.

P:Oh, yes. (laughter) Okay, 1910 or 1920. What did you do for social life around here besides go to the cockfights?

N:I played for dances for twenty-six years.

P:Oh, you played an instrument of some sort?

N:Why, sure! I played the violin and I played drums for twenty-six years. Now, Ted, my boy, has got four saxophones and three clarinets, and he's got a french horn. So he's playing with the Elks every Monday night.

P:So you have got a musically inclined family?

N:My daughter there, Beatrice, is a schoolteacher in Yorba Linda. The other girl works over at the Bank of America in Fullerton. She's been there twenty-seven years.

P:Did you have a lot of dances around here in the early days?

N:Yes, I used to play every Saturday there. I played seven years every Saturday night over at the American Legion Hall in Placentia. For seven years! I used to get everybody from Yorba Linda up there. And I played over at the hall, right on top of— do you know where the city hall is now in Yorba Linda?


N:I used to play up above there. By gosh, you could only get so many people in there. You could feel that thing just [12] shaking. I had a nine piece orchestra.

P:What type of music did you play? Were they square dances or waltzes?

N:Oh, we played mostly in the Lawrence Welk style, that's all, if they wanted something else, we'd play it for them.

P:Now, you say that there weren't any boulevards around here in the early days. What did you have?

N:Oh, just roads with big chuckholes in them. I remember that when I used to go ride through Yorba Linda in 1914 in the Ford. I'd get in one of them, you know, where all the cars went through. And you couldn't get out. You had to stay in there.

P:Oh, you mean the ruts.

N:Yes. You'd stay in there, by gosh, and that was all that was to it. You couldn't get out of them.

P:What did you do when it rained? (laughter)

N:That's what I mean, when it rained.

P:You didn't drive at all.

N:Well, we'd go up to Anaheim or someplace.

P:So, it was all dirt roads and in pretty bad shape.

N:You're darned right they were in bad shape!

P:When did they start fixing the roads around here?

N:Well, that must have been about 1920 or in that neighborhood, you know.

P:I understand that you had a little oil boom here in Yorba Linda. Could tell me anything about that?

N:I don't know the dates, but it was first by Chapman Avenue and Kraemer Boulevard. They hit that oil there right by where the golf course is, and all in through there. Mr. Kraemer was there with his straw hat full of oil. "Maybe," he says, "I can afford to buy a new hat!" (laughter)

P:(laughter) He was standing there when this gusher came in, right?

N:Yes. [13]

P:And he got it all over him.

N:Now Standard Oil has got most all of the oil wells. There's a bunch of oil wells pumping up there yet, you know.

P:Was it a big thing for Yorba Linda to have oil discovered here?

N:Well, I guess so. Shell Oil had oil wells up in the hillsides. They still got some up there, I think, by Citrus Drive, you know Bastanchury Road, up by the corner of Lakeview and Bastanchury. They got oil wells all over there now.

P:Did you have any disasters here in Yorba Linda, like floods or big fires or anything that you can remember?

N:No, not in Yorba Linda, but down in Yorba up here, you know. That's where the river, the Santa Ana River, is.

P:Oh, you had big floods with the Santa Ana River?

N:Yes, in 1938 my wife's dad got drowned there. Oh, there was a bunch of people drowned there. At Atwood there, you know? Boy, we had houses moved against each other there. You could see the kids under the houses there, and we would have to pull them out.

P:That was quite a flood, then, to hit Atwood, all the way over there.

N:The water came right across the railroad tracks. That bridge fell down, you know, by the hot dog stand.

P:Oh, that one that runs to the Riverside Freeway down there?

N:Yes. It was a wooden bridge, I think, that held the water back and shoved it up. When that bridge gave, why hell, all the water came down and came across the railroad tracks there! Oh, it was awful.

P:How about any big fires? Did you have any big fires here?

N:Yes, we had fires but we just let them burn. Our barn burned up here, by gosh, with all the hay and harnesses. We had a race mare in there. She got burned up.

P:You lost a horse that you had there for racing?

N:One of them, yes.

P:Where did you race her?

N:We used to take her up to Puente to run races. [14]

P:Oh, farmers used to race up there?

N:Sure. We used to run races clear up there. Sometimes I'd lose, sometimes I'd win.

P:How did you guys set these races up? Was it just between friends?

N:Yes, yes, just between friends.

P:Someone would think he had a good horse?

N:Yes, and the other would say his was better. They would run to see who would win.

P:Who rode the horses, little kids?

N:Little kids, yes.

P:Now, I understand that when you worked for the water company as the zanjero, you used to park right on the irrigation ditch there in front of the Nixon's house.

N:I used to pass by there most every day, by the Nixons' house.

P:Did you know Frank and Hannah Nixon?

N:Yes, and knew Richard too.

P:Oh, could you tell me a little about them?

N:Well, I couldn't tell you much about them. Sometimes I used to chase Richard out of the ditch. (laughter) My three daughters went up to Washington, D.C. when he was vice-president. They talked to him up there. Yes, and I know Don Nixon. Don's daughter is getting married next week or so, something like that. I think Don is married to Lawrence Lambke's daughter. They used to live up there on Valencia Avenue.

P:So you know all these people.

N:I know all them guys there, yes. But you can't think about all that stuff to tell you, you know, right off the bat.

P:I understand Frank had a lemon grove next to his house there.

N:Right where the school is, yes. He had a lemon grove there. [15]

P:Did he produce very many lemons from there? That wasn't particularly a good area for lemons, was it?

N:I don't think so. That ground ain't so hot for citrus. We used to have baseball there with the big baseball. How do you call that?


N:Softball. At nighttime different teams used to come and play there, you know, but not now. But they've got the Little League up there now, so the kids are having a good time, anyway.

P:Now, did you know Frank when he was building his house over here? I understand he built his own house.

N:Yes, he built his own house there. Like I say, you know where the ditch goes, right? Well, that's where we used to drive every day to see if there were any gophers or anything. You know all them gum trees up there? There was nothing, no gum trees or nothing, up there.

P:Did you ever talk to Frank or Hannah?

N:Well, they used to talk to me and I used to talk to them, but it's been so long ago that ...

P:You can't remember the conversation?

N:Well, she's gone already. She passed away and so did he.

P:Did you ever go to their house?

N:No, I have never been inside their house, never been. That's Shaw Street that comes right out to the place, isn't it?

P:Shaw Street?

N:I think it's Shaw. It's my notion that there used to be a bridge across there. Sure, there was a bridge right in front of the Nixons' house, but it isn't there anymore. I asked Whit the other day about that bridge, and Whit said, "I don't remember it." But I said, "You get it into your head that there was a bridge going across Shaw Street."

P:Now, you said that you used to chase Richard out of that irrigation ditch.


P:Kids used to use that for swimming, didn't they? [16]

N:Yes. Oh, everybody in Yorba Linda would say, "Well, that guy there used to shove me out of the ditch."

P:Could those kids have gotten drowned in there?

N:Oh, there's nine, I guess, that got drowned in this lake here.

P:Out in this reservoir? Nine children have died?

N:Well, sure. Sure. There's some that have drowned out there in the ditch. Two-year-old kids, you know, that fall in the ditch there and drown.

P:How deep was the water coming through that ditch?

N:Oh, it wasn't very deep, just about two feet, or two and a half. But you take little two-year-did kids, they can't swim.

P:I understand Mrs. Rez used to take care of the kids there. Miss Guptill used to take care of the Nixon kids and try and keep them out of the ditch while she was working for the Nixons.

N:Mrs. Rez you mean?


N:Yes, old man Rez used to work for the Hughes Ranch up there. That's up there by the house way up on top there, and I used to see him over at the blacksmith's shop everyday fixing up some disk or cultivator or darn thing.

P:Now, did you ever know Richard Nixon to be a timid boy, very quiet?

N:No, there were so many kids there that I didn't pay attention.

P:You didn't know particulars about him, then. You wouldn't know his playmates?

N:No, I couldn't tell you about that.

P:I understand Frank Nixon worked in his own grove and then worked in some other grove. Is this correct?

N:Yes, he worked in different groves, because I know my brother, by God, they all had teams. They were all working on the groves there. Plowing with the teams, they'd: plow about a half an acre a day, which is all.

P:They had to plow everything. [17]

N:Yes, yes.

P:Knowing the Nixons and seeing the house, would you say that they were poor people?

N:Well, that would be hard to decide, you know.

P:Well, how would they compare with the other people around here during this time?

N:Well, like for me, why, they were just the Nixons, you know. They weren't any better than the rest of them were.

P:And I understand that for everybody during this time it was hard to make money.

N:Yes, it was hard to make money. But then, you know, you used to pay a dollar for a sack of flour. Now, how much would you have to pay for a hundred pounds of flour?

P:A dollar for a hundred you used to pay, right?

N:Yes, yes, in those times.

P:You had sort of like a grocery store, but actually it sold almost everything here in Yorba Linda, didn't you?

N:Yes, they had a grocery store there in Yorba Linda, even a drugstore. Everything was mixed up. Everything you could think of, you could get some shirts or pants or shoes or anything. If they didn't have it here, you could go up to Olinda and get it.

P:What would you pay for some of these things, say in about 1915? What were some of the prices that they would get say, for a shirt or pants or shoes?

N:Oh, I'd say the best shoes you could get was for five dollars for a Florsheim shoe. Now you have to pay about thirty or forty dollars.

P:Did you know the Nixons other than when you just stopped in front of their house? Did you ever talk to Frank Nixon up at the blacksmith's shop or anything?

N:Well, I used to see him there, but I never talked to him. I wasn't very old then, you know. I was only fourteen or fifteen years old when I started working for the water company. Did I tell you about my grandfather? Have you got it down there already?

P:About your grandfather? [18]

N:Yes. My father's father.

P:Yes I'd like you to tell me about, him.

N:Well, he was born in Santa Barbara in 1799 and he was baptized November 1, 1799, at the mission over at Santa Barbara. Then you'd ask them where he was and they'd say, "Mexico." They didn't know any better. Well, I guess everything was Mexico here, you know.

P:So you've got about, what, four or five or six generations here from California?

N:Yes, yes.

P:Well, could you tell me anything more about the Nixons that you remember at all, anything?

N:Well, they say that Richard used to come and swim and fish in here. I never saw him up here. I think that people are just putting that in, you know what I mean, just to call this the Nixon's lake here. I don't know. I've never seen Richard up here.

P:And you were here all the time taking care of this reservoir.

N:Yes, I was here all my life. Of course, if I didn't chase them out and anything happened, I'd get heck from the water company. And if I did chase them out, I'd get heck from their folks. So where was I?

P:So you got it from both ends. (laughter)

N:I got it from both ends, yes.

P:I can imagine this would make a pretty good fishing lake up here.

N:Yes, they used to have a lot of bass in there, by gosh, and croppie and all that stuff, you know. But no more.

P:But you never did chase him out of here or see him up here?

N:I never did.

P:Did Mrs. Nixon or Frank ever bring out anything to you, you know, when you were checking the water ditch by the house there, lemonade or anything?

N:No, no. (laughter) There was a lot of lemons, though. He could make his own lemonade.

P:Are there any other things that you'd like to tell me about [19] Yorba Linda? Activities?

N:You have no activities around here. I think they ought to have a bowling place for the kids to enjoy themselves or something. They haven't even got a theater here, a show. You know what I mean. They haven't got nothing for the kids.

P:Could you give any names of the people that might have known the Nixons and could tell me something about them?

N:Well, Hoyt Corbit would be the only one that I would know, and Hurless Barton. You've got those. There weren't very many people here at that time.

P:Okay, Mr. Navarro. Thank you very much.

End of Interview

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