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

Hoyt Corbit

Interviewed by Tom Peters, April 30, May 6, 10, 17, 20, 1968   Open this page in a new window

This is a slightly edited transcription of an interview conducted for the Oral History Program, sponsored by the California State University, Fullerton. The reader should realize that an oral history document is spontaneous in nature, and portrays information and impressions as recalled by the interviewee.

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 (c) 1978

The Oral History Program

California State University, Fullerton



Community History Project

From Citrus Trees to Tract Homes; The Growth of Yorba Linda

O.H. 39a




Tom Peters


April 30,

May 6, 10, 17, 20, 1968



Community History Project



SUBJECT: Early Yorba Linda

DATE: April 30, 1968

P: This is an interview with Mr. Hoyt Corbit by Tom Peters for California State College, Fullerton, Community History Project, in Mr. Corbit's home at 887 #P Sevilla, Laguna Hills, California on the 30th of April, 1968. It is the first in a series [of five interviews] with Mr. Corbit.

Mr. Corbit, how long have you lived in Orange County?

C: I came to Yorba Linda in Orange County in January, 1910 with my father and mother. We arrived in Yorba Linda from a farm in Missouri, on my fifteenth birthday. Due to the fact that farming had been a very poor investment for several years, my father decided to move to California. When he arrived in Redlands in the latter part of 1909, he read an advertisement about the Yorba Linda land for sale by the Janss Investment Company. He immediately went into Los Angeles and was shown the land--the geography--and purchased ten acres, and we immediately started to move onto the property. Father and I set up a tent and began construction of a temporary house so that Mother could set up housekeeping.

We were the second family that established a home on land bought from the Janss Investment Company at that time. There were many other people buying land at that time, but we happened to have been the second family that actually settled on our land. The James Conley family was already in Yorba Linda, at that time, but so far as I know, all of that family has passed away. I know they're not in Yorba Linda, anyway.

The first thing that we did, of course, was to get [1] living quarters established, and as soon as possible begin to plant orange trees. We were particularly interested in the Valencia oranges because we felt that they were the most successful crop in Orange County, and so we planted Valencia oranges. Many of our neighbors planted lemons because they had come by way of Whittier, which at that time was a very successful lemon producing area. For many years, our principal business was the growing of Valencia oranges.

In addition to developing our own small grove, we contracted the planting and care of groves for nonresident owners. In the early years, there were many nonresident owners in Yorba Linda, and Father and myself contracted the planting and care of these neighboring groves. As my father got advanced in years and couldn't work so hard, I took over the contracting business and followed that for about forty years, I think it was. In the late 1940s I formed a small corporation to handle the packing of avocados on a commercial basis. That was a fairly satisfactory business for a number of years, until I retired in 1960. I've been a retired farmer ever since. (laughter)

To go back to the very early years of Yorba Linda, one of the interesting things was the development of the Pacific Electric Railway in Yorba Linda. The town of Yorba Linda had no rail connection at the time the townsite was laid out and when they first began to sell citrus land and town lots. The nearest railroad was the Santa Fe in Atwood. The Pacific Electric was promised to be built into Yorba Linda, so in the early part of 1910 they started working on the Yorba Linda extension, from Brea on into Yorba Linda.

Everything went along quite smoothly except the crossing of the Santa Fe spur that ran from Atwood to Olinda. In those years, and at that time, the Santa Fe Railway tank cars got all of the oil out of the town of Olinda. They had just a spur track that ran up across the western portion of Yorba Linda. When Pacific Electric built up to the Santa Fe right-of-way, Santa Fe parked some boxcars, with a bunch of deputy sheriffs living in them, right across where the Pacific Electric wanted to cross. Then Pacific Electric moved a grading outfit in on the Yorba Linda side and built their track up to the Santa Fe right-of-way from both sides. Eventually, they compromised the differences between the two railroads. The Santa Fe moved their boxcars out, took their deputy sheriffs away and the [2] Pacific Electric, of course, was right there, ready with the track all fitted together to lay in place. It only took them a matter of two or three hours to make the connection when Santa Fe finally made an agreement with them, to allow the crossing. That's a little interesting sidelight on the development of the community.

P: Who favored the bringing in of the Pacific Electric, or did everybody want it to come in?

C: Everybody in Yorba Linda wanted it and was very anxious because we needed the transportation to bring building materials and grove supplies and things like that into the community. The only way at that time that we had to get things shipped into Yorba Linda in any quantity was to order them out on the Santa Fe. They had a siding at a point about halfway between Atwood and Olinda where they had a sidetrack that they could spot cars and unload the lumber and fertilizer and things like that. But that was very inconvenient for the people that lived in the eastern portion of Yorba Linda because they'd have to go practically the full length of the tract to pick up their supplies. So everyone wanted the Pacific Electric built, not only for the freight combination, which was quite necessary in those years, but also because we didn't have trucks and automobiles and wanted the passenger service on the Pacific Electric. In the early years of Yorba Linda they had, I think it was, nine round trips a day from Los Angeles into Yorba Linda and there was lots of passenger traffic. In the early days of the Pacific Electric they had what were called the Big Red Cars.

P: I remember reading about those.

C: Yes, that was a regular service. They started early enough in the morning so that a number of people who lived in Yorba Linda and worked in Los Angeles could take the early car out of Yorba Linda into Los Angeles for their day's work and could come back on a late car in the evening. They also had, I believe they called it, the "owl car," that came out about midnight for people that wanted to go into Los Angeles to a show or something. In those earliest years of Yorba Linda the Pacific Electric was a very necessary part of our life. Very few of us had automobiles and there weren't many trucks for hauling supplies. All of our early fruit hauling was by team and wagon because there just weren't any trucks available.

P: When did motor vehicles become very useful to you? [3]

C: Well, I would say it was about the end of World War I when motor vehicles became quite common in the Yorba Linda area. Mostly the early day Fords.

P: Model T's probably.

C: Yes, the Model T's and cars like that. I know the first car that we had was a Model T and many of our neighbors were the same way. There were a few that had more expensive cars, but Yorba Linda was mostly settled by people with modest means. I know my father and mother didn't bring very much money from Missouri with them, just enough to buy some land and build something to live in. They all had to move in to try to develop the community. I have said many times in recent years that I think that Yorba Linda was an outstanding example of fine cooperation in individual enterprise--of people getting together. If anyone had real bad luck, why, everybody gathered in to see how much they could help. I've seen it even up into very recent years. The Yorba Linda people just seem to like to help their neighbors.

P: So there's always a good community Spirit, then, in Yorba Linda.

C: Yes, a real fine community spirit. It has continued that way even up to the present time.

I might mention some of the early day residents that came soon after we did. The Pickerings, Arthur and Cecil Pickering, came in August of 1910. They developed a lemon grove and later transplanted it, or took out the lemons and planted avocados--I think that would be a better way to say it. J. H. Barton brought his family to Yorba Linda in 1912. The Swains--W. E. Swain and his family--were early day residents, and they developed a good lemon grove in Yorba Linda. The Frank Sheppherd family was another of the very early residents.

Another thing that would be of some interest, probably, is that the first orange grove that was actually planted in a Yorba Linda tract was planted on a piece of land that belonged to Mr. Edwin Simmans who lived in Bisbee, Arizona. That grove was planted by myself and Fred Quigley, who was another of the very early day residents. Fred Quigley and his brother George came to Yorba Linda in the early part of 1910. In April of 1910, Fred Quigley and myself planted this orange grove for Mr. Simmans. His brother George went into the business of manufacturing concrete pipe for irrigation lines. [4]

No doubt you've heard of the 1913 freeze. That resulted really in the development of the Fuerte avocado industry. A man by the name of [J. T.] Whedon had some land in Yorba Linda that he had bought for the purpose of planting an avocado grove. He was interested in the avocado, and he had trees contracted for from the Popenoe Nurseries in Pasadena. In this 1913 freeze all of the trees at this avocado nursery froze except about fifty trees of the Fuerte variety that survived. Mr. Whedon wanted another variety, but these fifty Fuerte trees were the only ones that were left suitable for planting after this freeze. So he said, well, okay, he'd take 'em. He planted them in Yorba Linda. The Fuerte avocado industry actually developed from the plantings of about fifty of these avocado trees that survived the 1913 freeze. There's one particular tree that's still living, on what was at that time the Whedon Ranch, that is credited with having produced, I think, upwards of a quarter of a million grafts or buds. I believe that's the story.

P: Would you use the rootstock and then bud onto that for the next trees?

C: Yes. Almost any avocado seed will produce a seedling tree but to get a good avocado tree you have to bud the kind of top that you want on it. Of course, the orange trees are the same way. You have to start a seedling and then bud whatever kind of a fruit top you want onto this seedling root. Of course, I'd say, almost any kind of avocado seed will produce a seedling. Not all seedlings are good rootstock. The TopaTopa, a Mexican type of seedling, has proven to be one of the better rootstocks and is much preferred by avocado nurseries. There are others that they use, but the TopaTopa, as far as I know, is the most preferred of all avocado rootstocks. Of course, the Fuerte variety is proven the most successful. The Hass is the good summer variety. There are others that have done fairly well but those two are really the top commercial varieties.

P: You spoke of nonresident owners in Yorba Linda. How many people did this and did they eventually move to Yorba Linda?

C: Yes. The population in Yorba Linda for approximately forty years, from 1910 to 1950,stayed at about 2,500 or 700 families. Then after 1950 we began to get a rapid increase in the population. I said 1910 but there probably wasn't that many that actually came to Yorba Linda in 1910. But during the first three or four years there, from 1910 to 1914, the population increased from nothing to approximately 700 families [5] or about 2,500 people and was almost static at that point until about 1950.

P: Was it a common practice for people to contract out for the care of their groves, such as you did?

C: Yes, at one time there were several people who did orchard care contracting. Ralph Shook, one of the early day residents, followed the same business for many years, and then there was Sellers and others in just a small way. Some of the resident owners would just take care of as many as two or three groves for other people. Some of us, like myself and Ralph Shook went in for larger operations and contracted as many groves as we could take care of properly.

P: How did you work it? Did you charge them per acre or did you just charge a percentage of the yield?

C: I mostly charged them on an acreage basis and I charged them sometime by the year. I contracted for sixty dollars an acre per year. I would cultivate, irrigate and take care of and arrange for other operations that were not a part of my business, like spraying and things of that nature that were an entirely different type of operation. I would see that those things were done for an additional cost to the grower.

P: Under these circumstances, it is too bad you couldn't have accumulated more acreage for yourself.

C: Yes. (laughter) In the course of years, I increased the acreage. Father eventually sold his original purchase and Father and Mother lived in Fullerton for a number of years before they passed away. I stayed in Yorba Linda until after I retired and continued this orchard care until, I think, 1945. I sold the business to Robert Janeway and he continued this same operation that I had. In fact, he had worked for me for a number of years before I sold him the business. I devoted my time to this avocado packing until I reached the age that I felt that I wanted to retire and take life a little easier.

P: Did you have a name for your company?

C: I just called it Hoyt Corbit Orchard Service. My orchard contracting was strictly an individual operation. I hired men but I owned all of the equipment and operated it entirely as my own responsibility. When I went into avocado packing, I organized what was known [6] as the Table Praise Avocado Company. I had a couple of partners in that for a while but up to that time I'd always been an individual operator in all of my other activities. Of course, I kept my citrus groves entirely separate from this avocado packing business. Even though I sold out the contracting business--the care of orchards--I kept four small groves, I believe it was. I finally decided that the land was worth more for subdivision than it was for citrus growing so I started selling off the property. I found the same thing that many others did; a small citrus holding was not enough over a long period of years to make a person a satisfactory income. You had to have at least thirty to forty acres of citrus to really have a good satisfactory income from it. Through buying and selling I had accumulated at one time, up to about sixty acres of citrus--not all in one block but different parcels around the Yorba Linda area. Most of my operation had always been in the Yorba Linda area because I felt that there was where I knew the conditions and could operate best. Whenever I had an opportunity to buy additional groves I did, and it proved to be very satisfactory. I never became wealthy but I lived comfortably. I am still living off the results of my earlier activities in the citrus business.

P: Your father bought the ten acres from the Janss Investment Company. How expensive was the land at this time and how did land values fluctuate over the years?

C: The first ten acres that Father bought cost $250 an acre.

P: Was that expensive at that time?

C: That was a fair price for the time. The following year we could have sold the same ten acres for $500 an acre. Prices went up quite rapidly in those early years, until 1923 I think it was. Then Father sold five acres of the whole original purchase for $4,000 an acre. Of course, then it was a bearing grove. Undeveloped land--if you could find any in the Yorba Linda area and if it was good land with an adequate water supply--would sell for around $2,000 an acre in the early 1920s. So the price that we paid originally of $250 an acre proved to be a real bargain, although it was comparable to other prices around the county at the same time.

P: How about conditions in the rest of the county? What made you decide to move to Yorba Linda rather than, say, [7] El Toro, for example?

C: Actually, this attractive ad the Janss Company was running in all the newspapers and the promoting in the area, I think, would probably be the deciding factor. It was an attractive looking setup. There wasn't anything of a similar nature being developed elsewhere in the county at that time, and of course, we were looking for something to settle on immediately. Some people came into the county about the same time that I'm sure brought in more financial backing with them than we did. They were able to go into some of these other districts and buy larger tracts of land. Yorba Linda, so far as I know, was the only area that was being sold in five and ten acre parcels.

P: Those are fairly small parcels?

C: Yes. I think twenty acres was probably about the largest . . . no I take that back, I know of at least one that was twenty-five acres. Arthur Staley lived in Placentia and bought twenty-five acres not far from where we lived. It was all surveyed in five and ten acre parcels. Most of the purchases in the first years of Yorba Linda were ten acres as my father's was and some of them were five. That was all they had the money to handle because most of them just had enough money to make a small down payment and were working somewhere to try to pay the balance.

P: Did a lot of people finance their land purchase?

C: Yes. The Janss Company was offering this land at, oh, a very modest down payment to those who wanted it. I don't recall at the time, just how much of a down payment my father made, but it seems to me that we made payments on the land for about three years. I know most of the people that bought in Yorba Linda made only a comparatively small down payment and paid it off over a period of probably three to five years. That was a feature that, I think, decided many people to go to Yorba Linda. They could get some land to get started on at a modest cost with a rather small down payment and figured they could work and out of their wages finish the payment of the land and get trees planted. Orange trees, at that time, could be bought for $1.00 or $1.25. Orange trees, before all of Yorba Linda was planted, got up to $1.50 a tree, and now, I think, they sell for around $3.00 a tree.

P: Yes, $3.00 or $3.50 a tree.

C: Those things were the deciding factor, I'm sure, with [8] most of the early residents. Almost nobody brought any large amount of money into Yorba Linda and its radial centers.

P: Did some of these people who purchased the property--I know an orange grove doesn't produce for a number of years--buy this land, set it out in a grove, and then go to work somewhere else to pay it off?

c: That's right.

P: Who did they work for?

C: Nearly all of them had to work somewhere. Father and myself were on the ground first and we got started in this contracting of planting and caring of the groves for the nonresident owners. We were able to keep ourselves occupied most of the time with that kind of work. There were several people, I know, that worked in Los Angeles, some of them for the big newspapers like the [Los Angeles] Times and the [Herald] Examiner. They commuted back and forth on the Pacific Electric Big Red Cars that were thereabouts. There were quite a number that got employment in the oil fields, in Olinda, Brea and the nearby oil fields. They were able to make enough to support themselves, pay for their land, and get their trees planted. It takes about five years. In other words, you've got to support this young orange grove for about five years before you get any profitable production off of them. The fifth year they are able, if they do well at all to produce more than the actual cost of operations. But you've got about five years that you have to figure on supporting this young orange grove so you can get it where it's paying its own way. That was the situation with most of the people.

Bert Bemis was a farmer from Iowa that had done quite well in his farming operations in Iowa. He came out and built a nice home and had money enough to support his family and wait for his grove to produce. There were just a few like that, who came into Yorba Linda with enough money so that they could establish themselves and wait for the production. But I would say that I could probably count those that had that kind of money when they came to Yorba Linda on the fingers of one hand.

P: They were far and few between.

C: Yes, they sure were. (laughter) There just almost weren't any. There were, as I say, just a few that did this. [9]

P: How did the Janss Investment Company advertise Yorba Linda? Did they advertise it as an agricultural area or a place for an urban city to grow up?

C: They advertised it as a citrus grove. I think they worded it as practically frost free citrus land. Of course, at that time, the avocado industry was just more or less a dream. They had no real commercial avocado production prior to the development in Yorba Linda. The Janss Company advertised all this Yorba Linda tract as citrus. They were essentially correct in saying that it was frost free. Well, Yorba Linda has had some frost damage. Over the long period of years, it probably had as little . . . I should say, it has had less frost damage than most citrus producing areas. The location, you might say, is in the mouth of the Santa Ana Canyon. Most years when we had frost danger, we also had a wind from the east that came through Yorba Linda and tempered the climate.

P: Up the canyon, you mean?

C: Yes. We had that wind drift through the area that kept the frost from settling into the Yorba Linda area. The only places that got any serious frost damage in Yorba Linda over the years were just a few low areas that were approximately at right angles with the wind drift. The wind would sort of drift over the top of some of the trees in these low spots and there is where they would have some frost damage.

P: Would you plant your groves on slopes, if you could, so you'd get air drainage down in those lower regions?

C: Yes. The groves that were on a slope, particularly if it sloped to the southwest, seldom if ever got any damage. It was only the groves that were planted on low ground that this cold settled in on and damaged the citrus trees. The low areas weren't big enough for a valley--a small valley, you might say. Its direction was right angles with the prevailing wind drift so the wind couldn't carry it out. The same type of land, if it was parallel with the wind drift, would get little or no frost damage, although it might be just as low as another one across the street that was right angles with the wind drift.

P: That's interesting. I never heard that before.

C: (laughter) It's an odd thing. We've seen times when the Santa Ana winds from the east come down through the canyon and met a drift of wind from the ocean to [10] cause a strip of frozen area through the country right where the two winds come together. There would be practically a dead, calm spot and a frozen strip through the country that might vary a considerable distance, one year from another. It was a real strange thing, but I saw that a number of times. There might be a cold strip through the country, between Fullerton and Placentia, say, and maybe the next year it would be over a mile or two farther east. It would just depend on the force of the wind.

P: I don't know how to explain that.

C: It's an odd thing, but I saw it happen a number of times. There would be, apparently, a spot where the wind drift ran out or the drift from the ocean was strong enough to stop it so there was a calm strip which would cause frost damage.

P: Why don't we change gears right here, Mr. Corbit. What city served as a place where you in Yorba Linda would go and do your shopping? Was it Anaheim or Fullerton?

c: Anaheim, in the very early years, was considered the best shopping town by most. We'd go to Fullerton, but Fullerton was a little smaller and its shopping district was smaller than Anaheim's at that time. Santa Ana was a good town but it was quite a bit farther away. There was little difference in the distance between Anaheim and Fullerton from Yorba Linda--about a mile difference, I think. So the fact that Anaheim had a larger shopping district made it the place to go for weekly shopping. At that time there weren't many people that took off everyday. They'd go once a week, practically, to do their shopping and maybe go in Saturday afternoon and stay until evening to go to a show and things like that. Anaheim was the place that got most of the trade from out in our area, yes. We'd sometimes go to Fullerton, but I suppose it was partly the fact that we would see so many of our friends in Anaheim; if we went to Fullerton, we wouldn't. That's a drawing card, too, you know. You've been working all week and you go to town to do weekly shopping and you like to see your friends on the street at the same time. Anaheim seemed to draw the majority of the people from the Yorba Linda-Placentia area in those early years.

P: Where did the children of Yorba Linda go to school?

C: The very first few that were in Yorba Linda went to [11] Olinda. In the fall of 1911, I think it was, they built the first one-room school in Yorba Linda. They started a school in the building that now is the office of the water district. That was used until they got the new school built over on School Street. The original school site is where the state fire department buildings are now. It was between School and Valencia Streets and south of Lemon. I think 1914 was when they dedicated that school. In the meantime, they had been using this building where the water district office is now. The first teacher in that school was Miss Amanda Longnecker. (laughter) She taught the first couple of years and then there was a second teacher, Miss [Dessie] Jepson, I believe--I'm quite sure Miss Jepson was the second teacher that came into the Yorba Linda School. When they got the school over on School Street, that was, of course, built as a four-classroom building, and they soon found that they needed more room than that. So they built some additional buildings which were later converted into houses when they built the school over where the Nixon School is today. They sold the old school over there on School Street and these smaller buildings which were used as additional classrooms were converted into dwelling houses. The four classroom building was torn down later and the fire station was built on the site. That is where the present state forestry and fire department is located.

The first church, of course, was the Friends church. They use it as a Sunday schoolroom now. It faces on this same School Street. The old building that was the first church in Yorba Linda and later became the Methodist church was built by the Presbyterians and is still there. They didn't succeed in establishing enough membership to maintain the Presbyterian church and the building was standing vacant. Some of the folks, including my parents, who were long time Methodists, started holding Methodist meetings, first in the Masonic Hall and then after the Presbyterian church didn't succeed the Methodist group bought the church and that became the Methodist church. It was improved, added to, and used as the Methodist church until just recent years. They sold the building to the Baptist people and then built out on the present site at Ohio and Yorba Linda Boulevard. Of course, you probably know they have big plans now for a new sanctuary in addition to the present building.

P: No, I didn't know that.

C: They just recently financed 224 thousand dollars of church bonds to start the building of the new sanctuary there. [12]

They had been using what was really put up for Sunday schoolrooms. There is a portion that was built so it could be used for church services until such time as they were able to build a proper sanctuary building. Now they have the finances arranged to go ahead with the building and hope to complete it before the end of this year. I just attended a meeting a couple of weeks ago where they said they hoped they would be able to occupy the new church building before Christmas of this year. I don't know. That sounds a little bit ambitious but I hope that it's true. They really need it. They're holding three services every Sunday morning. They have a service at 8:30, again at 9:30, and then again at 11:00 to accommodate all the people who want to come to church there.

P: Was Yorba Linda always a religious community?

C: Yes. It's been, I'd say, probably better than the average in that respect over the years. One thing that I've found very interesting over the years is that in the original deeds to the Yorba Linda property there was a clause that said if any alcoholic beverage was sold, that is, if anyone established a place to sell alcoholic beverages--a liquor store, in other words, or a saloon--the title of the property would revert to the Janss Company.

P: Really!

C: That was written into most of the original deeds in Yorba Linda. They finally decided to bar that clause the year the Yorba Linda Country Club started because certain--no, I think it was before that. Something about financing, maybe it was the FHA [Federal Housing Administration]. I'm not quite clear on that particular thing, but anyway, that provision held. There was no sale of liquor in any form in the Yorba Linda tract for about forty years.

P: That's a long time.

C: Yes. At one time, there was a fellow who had a license to sell wine and beer who established a sort of halfway restaurant and beer joint at approximately Yorba Linda Boulevard and Main Street. He wasn't doing very well and the community was trying to find a way to get it stopped. Well, he said that he wasn't doing any good, and that he'd be glad to sell out for a very modest price. The people in the community raised the money by popular subscription. They went up and down the street and said, "Will you give something to help buy this liquor license down here?" I [13] guess practically everybody in town, including myself, gave maybe $1 or $5 or whatever they felt they could spare. Some of the local men--Hurless Barton, George Kellogg and Mr.Sheldon who used to be at the Friends church there, whose first name I can't recall now--were the ones, I think, that actually went down and made the deal to buy the license from this man. He was glad to close the doors. He went off upstate somewhere and bought himself a little ranch. (laughter) At the same time they [the citizens] got a promise from the liquor control board that they wouldn't sell another license in Yorba Linda, that they would just put that one on ice so there wouldn't be anymore issued in the Yorba Linda area. That clause the Janss Company had written into these deeds was eventually voided and, of course, as you probably know, they do have some sale of liquor in the markets in Yorba Linda. There's a liquor store out on Yorba Linda Boulevard and Valley View and I'm not sure, I believe Michael's Market has a permit to handle certain types of liquor. I could be wrong on that but it's my impression they have a permit. There are others in the Yorba Linda area. I think that particular clause that is in the agreement the early residents made with the Janss Company had a lot to do with the type of people that came to Yorba Linda. There were a great number of people that came from the Whittier district, which was a strong prohibition town in those early years. I've heard many people say they like beer or whatever or have a particular preference in alcoholic beverages, but they'd rather go off to Placentia or Brea or some other town to get it than to have it sold in Yorba Linda. I've heard a number of people say that. They said, "Well, sure, we keep what I really like in the home, but we don't want it sold in Yorba Linda. We'd rather go some other place and buy it and bring it home with us." They like the community free of any place where people could go in and possibly drink too much and create a disturbance in the community. I really think that was one of the things that made Yorba Linda a real desirable community to live in. I think it had a considerable effect on the fine community spirit that has been evident there all through the years.

I've said a number of times--I almost got into some argument about it--Yorba Linda, over the period of fifty-eight years that I've known it, has had a much larger percentage of just good American citizens as residents than most communities are favored with. That's just a personal opinion, you know, but I haven't found very many people who would argue that point with me. Quite a few have said, "Oh all communities [14] are the same, you have good people everywhere." That's true, there are good people in every community, but I still maintain that Yorba Linda over these years I've known it has had a larger percentage of just good, average citizens, you know. I don't mean wealthy people or especially well-educated people and that sort of thing. I mean good, American citizens that are really proud of their community and try to make it a good community to live in.

P: Do you think that spirit is still evident?

C: I think it's still prevalent in the community, yes. I wouldn't know whether it's still as strong as it was in earlier years, because when you get a large increase in population naturally you get a percentage, maybe, that are not as imbued with as good community spirit as you would like. On the other hand, I expect, percentage-wise, if you had any way of testing it, we might find that the percentage is just as good now as it was in the early years.

P: Probably so.

C: Yes, I'm inclined to think so. Because there are so many of these people that I know who have moved into the community in recent years who are just wonderfully fine people. I just kind of believe that if we had any way of testing it, percentage-wise--take a percentage of approximately 700 people that the community has supported for forty years against the 12,000 or thereabouts that live there now--the number of real fine citizens would probably be just about as good now as it ever was.

P: How about some of the really old families that were there, the Yorbas, for instance--Francisca Yorba or P. J. Yorba. Were they there when you settled in Yorba Linda?

C: Of course, many of the Yorba family are around the general area but not directly in Yorba Linda.

P: Did they own some of the property that had been sold by the Janss Investment Company?

C: As I understand it, in earlier years the Yorba Linda area had been part of the original Yorba holding. There was a little beginning of a town called Yorba down on the Santa Fe Railroad, with a couple of stores and a post office, at the time Yorba Linda was started. It is my understanding the Janss Company chose or arrived at the name of Yorba Linda by taking the name [15] Yorba and Olinda. They dropped the "O" off of Olinda and Yorba Linda was the point halfway between the two, you see. That was my understanding of the way they arrived at the name. Now, I couldn't swear that that's true, but that was my understanding of it.

P: What ever happened to the town of Yorba and some of the other smaller towns around here?

C: The stores that were there and the post office, in a course of a few years, weren't doing enough business to justify continuing, so they quit. The old buildings were real old and they were demolished and the town ceased to exist. The town of Olinda, as the oil fields became more mechanized--you know, automatic pumps and things of that sort--why, the population moved away because the companies didn't need the help that they had in those early years. At the time we moved to Yorba Linda they said there were about 3,500 people who lived in Olinda. There were two grocery stores, a drug store, a couple of barber shops, a meat market, two churches, I believe, and just a lot of people up there. They had lots of activity going on. In a few years the people began to move away. They weren't doing so much new development there, and as I say, they began to get automatic pumps and didn't need so many men to help operate the fields. Then over the years, more and more of the employees they did need began to live in communities like Placentia, Fullerton, and Anaheim. They'd drive back and forth to work. They found that to be more to their liking. They lived in the towns where they could have better homes and would be closer to the good stores and things of that kind. The town of Olinda just practically ceased to exist over the course of a few years.

P: If it would be all right with you we'll close at this point and take off from here at our next session.

C: Yes, fine.


* * * * * * [16]

P: This is the second in a series of five interviews with Mr. Corbit, by Tom Peters in Mr. Corbit1s home on the 6th of May, 1968.

Mr. Corbit, I've read some about Mr. Andrew Page and his relationship with the Janss Investment Company, but could you tell me what you know about Mr. Page and how he got started?

C: The story of his connection with the Janss Investment Company that I know came from Mr. Page himself. He and I became quite close friends over the course of years in Yorba Linda. He himself told me about his first interview or acquaintance with Dr. Janss and the Janss Investment Company. He told me how he came to meet Dr. Janss. The doctor was out looking at the land that they proposed to create the community of Yorba Linda on, and in the course of looking around for a place to drill water wells for the water supply for the proposed subdivision, he got his car stuck in the sand down south of Atwood. At that time Mr. Page was living--rather, camping--about three-fourths of a mile south of Atwood under a large pepper tree. Mr. Page and his wife had set up their camp and were living there while he hauled oranges or any other hauling he could get to try to recuperate his financial situation. It was my understanding that he had serious reverses in his financial situation and all he had left was a couple of teams and some wagons. When Dr. Janss got his car stuck in the sand, he sent his chauffeur over to get Mr. Page to bring his team and pull him out of it. They got talking about the proposed development and Mr. Page advanced some ideas that the doctor thought were good. At a slightly later date, Dr. Janss came back and talked to Mr. Page again. As a result of that talk, he hired Andrew Page to become superintendent of the construction of the water system and the development of the first roads in the Yorba Linda tract. That was in 1908. Pretty soon they conducted surveys and started drilling water wells on the site suggested by Mr. Page. Drilling these wells proved successful in developing an adequate water supply. They proceeded from there to lay the pipelines, build reservoirs and grade the roads so that the tract could be shown to prospective purchasers. Of course, the completion of the water system and roads took considerable time. As I recall, it was about 1912 before they were actually able to deliver water to all of the tract from the Yorba Linda Water Company system. That system has later become the Yorba Linda County Water District, but in the beginning it was called the Yorba Linda Water Company. The Janss Company, in selling land that they couldn't supply from Anaheim Union Canal, [17] which crossed the Yorba Linda tract, guaranteed the delivery of water to the high point on every parcel of land that they sold. In about 1912, as I recall, they finally completed laying the pipelines and were able to deliver water to all of the parcels in the tract as contracted for.

There was considerable dissatisfaction with the operation for the company--the water company, that is--by the Janss Company. Of course, in time the landowners/purchasers instigated a suit against the Janss Company to take over the ownership of the water company. The suit was successful and the residents of the community were able to take over management of the water company. It remained a mutual water company until several years ago when it was decided that a county water district with some additional territory adjacent to Yorba Linda would be included. The majority of the people voted to form the county water district, which at the present time is operated as the Yorba Linda County Water District.

Mr. Page, after the completion of the water system, the reservoirs, pipelines, and grading of the first roads, became the sales manager for the entire Janss Investment Company. He moved his home from Yorba Linda to Los Angeles and maintained his home there until his retirement from the company. At that time, he divided his time between his home in Los Angeles and the ranch which he owned in Yorba Linda. He had enough faith in the early development of Yorba Linda that he remained a landowner there even though he had moved his home into L.A. Because of his position with the Janss Company it made it necessary for him to be in Los Angeles so he could be close to the headquarters.

I might add, too, that a little later in the years of Mr. Page's active life, he resigned as sales manager of the corporation and took over the management of the Rancho Canejo, which the Janss Company had bought. For a time he moved out to the Rancho Canejo in Ventura County and was manager of that ranch for several years. When he reached retirement age he moved back to his home in L.A. and divided his time between L.A. and Yorba Linda. As I recall, he was in his early eighties when he decided to sell his Yorba Linda property and spend all his time at home. He was getting to the age where he didn't enjoy the drive back and forth to Yorba Linda so often so he sold his Yorba Linda property and became fully retired.

At the moment I believe that's all I recall about Mr. Page's activities directly connected with Yorba Linda. [18]

There probably were many incidents that may or may not be of interest. One of the things that I recall particularly was in the early years when he was superintendent of the development of Yorba Linda. He rode a very beautiful saddle horse. You would see him at all hours of the day riding about superintending the work and construction of the pipelines and roads. We didn't have many automobiles in those days, particularly machines that would be suitable for riding into areas where there were no roads developed as yet, so he used this saddle horse.

Another thing I recall that seems to me quite interesting were the ditches for the Yorba Linda Water Company pipelines that were laid for supply lines. They were dug by mules and plows and pick and shovel labor. They had no mechanical diggers. I remember one in particular where the ditch was so deep the mules were out of sight when they were plowing the bottom of the ditch. They brought the mules in single file in the bottom of the ditch and pulled those large plows--or rooters as they were later called--to loosen up the soil. Then the pick and shovel crew came along and threw the loose soil out and smoothed up the bottom with their pick and shovel activities.

P: Who did all this work, the people who moved into the Yorba Linda tract?

C: Some of the teams were furnished by the people that had purchased land in the Yorba Linda tract. They had acquired teams to do their own plowing and cultivating. They had need to work to supplement their income so they would work for the Janss Company plowing ditches, grading roads, or anything that help was needed for. The actual shoveling part was done mostly by the Mexican Americans that lived nearby in Atwood, Placentia, Anaheim and Fullerton. As you know, all of those areas have a considerable population of Mexican Americans and they were available for any kind of labor that they could get to do. Most of the teamwork was done by some of the local residents that had either one or more teams. In the early years, some of them got several teams because there was quite a demand for this plowing of ditches as well as grading roads and hauling gravel to make the concrete for weir boxes. The pipeline material had to be hauled out by wagons the majority of it, as I recall, from Atwood. Some of it was shipped to daum siding on the Santa Fe spur on the west side of Yorba Linda. Of course, at a little later date when the Pacific Electric was completed into Yorba Linda, why, a good [19] deal of the material came on the P.E. But all of it had to be hauled-by team and wagon from the cars it was shipped on, whether it was cement or pipe for the pipelines or whatever type of material they needed. Lumber for farms had to be shipped into Yorba Linda in the beginning. It provided lots of work for the first people that moved into Yorba Linda--purchasers of five, ten acres. A few of the people purchased as much as twenty acres. It was only, as I recall, about three people that bought more than twenty acres. Most of the tracts were sold in about ten-acre tracts.

P: Rather small pieces.

C: Yes, small pieces. It appealed to the person with a very small amount of money and a lot of determination to work and make something for themselves.

P: How was the water district set up out there? Was the water pumped out of the ground or did you have a diversion from the Santa Ana River?

C: No, it was all well water. The wells were in the Santa Ana River basin, as I would call it. There were also, I believe, about two or three wells a mile farther south almost down to the banks of the Santa Ana River. All of the water, in the beginning came from these wells that were developed. I think the original depth of production was around three hundred feet. We all know now the number of wells that were drilled in the Orange County-Santa Ana River basin. In the course of years, the water table continued to go down quite rapidly until they began to import water from the Colorado River and sink it into the basin. The rainfall just simply didn't keep up with the amount of water that was being pumped out of the basin. It got so low that a great deal of sea water was beginning to seep into the lower portions of the basin near the coast. So the importation of Colorado River water has had a very beneficial effect on our water table in the county and has raised the table considerably. At the present time, it is my understanding that the Yorba Linda Water District does take a small amount of water from the Metropolitan Aqueduct system, which crosses the Olinda Hills just a short distance north of the Yorba Linda tract. They do have the connection facilities installed to buy water from the Metropolitan district as needed. For something more than fifty years these wells and some supplemental ones that were drilled later, that Mr. Page suggested and had drilled in the first place, continued to supply all the water the Yorba Linda tract needed. It proved to be a very satisfactory supply not only in quantity [20] but in quality as well. Very good water.

P: Was it used for both domestic and irrigation purposes?

C: Yes, the system that was installed was a pressure system from reservoirs on the higher hills in the tract and this provided adequate pressure for domestic use as well as irrigation use. While there was dissatisfaction in the early years with the financial set up, the system as originally planned and developed by the Janss Company proved to be very satisfactory from a delivery standpoint. The present system is essentially the same except parts have been renewed and in many cases larger parts installed because of the increased demand for more homes and all that sort of thing. The system is essentially the same one that Andy Page supervised the construction of way back in the years 1909 to 1912.

P: What was the dissatisfaction?

C: Well, it was due to the fact that the residents felt the agreement they made with the Janss Company enabled them to purchase the water system when they bought their land. The contracts with the Janss Company called for one share of water stock with each share of land. A part of the purchase price of the land was for one share of water stock in the water company. The landowners felt their ownership of this one share of stock for each acre of land entitled them to ownership and management of the water company. They won their point in court, assumed full control and elected directors from the residents of the community. They named a manager and assumed full control of the water company as it then existed.

P: Did they levy taxes and assessments?

C: Yes. They levied assessments as they were called. The board of directors would vote to levy an assessment, usually $5 a share, most of the time. I think there were a few assessments possibly as much as $7.50 a share, but most of the assessments were $5 per share. It was planned to levy enough assessments to pay all the cost of operation of the company. There was no meter charge because each share of stock entitled each landowner to specify the amount of water that was sufficient to irrigate each grove. There was a domestic charge which in the beginning was $1.50 a month. While they had meters on the domestic line for many years, they didn't make any use of them actually--it was just $1.50 a month and they used whatever water they wanted through these [21] meters. In most recent years the water costs, production, labor, management and all, naturally is more expensive and they had to establish meter charges and limit people somewhat in their use of water. Some thought that as long as the water was only $1.50 a month you could use all you wanted. They really used more than they should have for domestic purposes. I'm not familiar with the present charge system in what is now the Yorba Linda County Water District because I've retired and moved out of the Yorba Linda district. You would have to get that information from someone else. In talking to the people that are still living in Yorba Linda, my old friends up there, they seem quite well satisfied with the operation of the district. Of course, at this time there is actually very little irrigation of groves in the tract. It has either gone into subdivisions or the grove acreage that is there for the most part has been allowed to deteriorate and is not irrigated. Practically all, at least a very large percentage of the water that is delivered to Yorba Linda today, is domestic water rather than agricultural water. In the beginning, it was almost all agricultural because of the development of groves, and the domestic water was rather a minor item. The situation has completely changed today. There is probably more of the water going now for domestic use than there was that went for agriculture in the early years. I don't have any figures now on the exact number of groves that are still left in Yorba Linda but I can't think of over ten or twelve that I know of that are part of the five to ten acre groves that are still being maintained as successful producing groves.

P: Do you know if the Yorba Linda Water Company ever came into conflict with the Anaheim Union at any time?

C: So far as I know, the relations between the Yorba Linda Water Company and Anaheim Union Company have always been pleasant and I think they had comparatively little actual contact. The Anaheim Union Company, of course, is one of the very old businesses in Orange County. Their canal crossed the Yorba Linda tract on a small portion of land that was sold by the Janss Company, which received one share per acre from the Anaheim Union Water Company stock. My father was one of those that purchased land that was supplied by the Anaheim Union Water Company. All of the years my father operated as a grove owner in Yorba Linda we irrigated our grove from the Anaheim Union Canal. There was, possibly, a couple of hundred acres in the immediate neighborhood that had been given Anaheim Union Company water stock with their land because it was available to the small portion of the tract. A [22] good deal later, the landowners purchased stock in the Yorba Linda Water Company and changed their irrigation practices to fit in with the Yorba Linda Water Company schedule. But as long as my father owned land there, he maintained his ownership of stock in the Anaheim Union Water Company. We found it a very satisfactory source of supply. Of course, it was not suitable for domestic water and practically all of the landowners who irrigated with Anaheim Union water later had to make arrangements with the Yorba Linda Water Company to get domestic connections. To do that they had to buy one share of stock in the Yorba Linda Water Company and lay their own domestic lines from the nearest Yorba Linda Water Company irrigation lines. I know myself, we laid about 1,500 feet of line along El Cajon Street, which was the street that we lived on, to our home to get this Yorba Linda Water Company water supply for house use.

P: That's quite a lot of line.

C: Yes, but we thought it was worth the cost for the convenience of it, otherwise we had to maintain a cistern, a tank and a filter to purify the water. It was quite an inconvenience to use the water from the open ditch that the Anaheim Union Water Company maintained for irrigation purposes. The water was all right except that we didn't feel it was suitable for us in the house until it was filtered because it ran several miles in an open canal. All of those that used the Anaheim Union water for their house use had cisterns and the regular filtering system to purify the water before they took it into the house. That proved to be quite unsatisfactory, so as soon as they could, most of them purchased a share of stock in the Yorba Linda Water Company and got the connections in to have that for domestic water. A good many people, as I mentioned earlier, did change from Anaheim Union irrigation to Yorba Linda Water Company irrigation. There was not a major difference in cost. The Anaheim Union Company supplied water on a cost-per-acre-foot basis which was slightly less than the Yorba Linda Water Company's assessment-per-share basis, but it wasn't a serious factor.

P: You talked about William Schumacker and what he had to do with the road development the last time I talked with you. Why don't you elaborate on this a little bit?

C: During the first years in Yorba Linda that I recall, our supervisor was Mr. William Schumacker. At least so far as Yorba Linda was concerned, he was one of [23] the best supervisors that the district ever had. We found him most cooperative and particularly valuable to Yorba Linda. The first roads that we were given by the Janss Company for the development of the track were just dirt graded roads and in some cases not too well graded. In the rainy season they became practically impassable. A number of the early day residents--among which was George Kellogg, Mr. [Vernon] C. Burt Dillingham and I believe Ralph Shook, Ben Foss and a number of others, no doubt, including my father--contacted Supervisor Schumacker and through his help were able to develop a plan to get all of the roads in Yorba Linda surfaced with paving--blacktop paving. For many years we had the best system of paved streets of any similar community in the area. We got all of the streets that were in Yorba Linda at that time paved under this plan. I don't recall the title of the law that provided it but we were able to form a road district and pay for these roads over a period of, I think it was twenty years, through an assessment which was included in our tax bill. We were able to get all of our streets improved, a better system of grades and this blacktop paving installed. We eliminated all of the trouble of getting bogged down in the mud and not being able to get the wagons or automobiles or whatever it might be that got stuck, sometimes for two or three days, out. When they got bogged down, in those very early years and particularly if it was with a wagon or buggy, you'd just unhitch your horse or horses, or team and go off and leave the thing set there in some cases until the weather got a little drier so you could get in and pull your buggy or wagon out. It was just too soft during a protracted rainy spell to do anything about it.

P: Sounds like it was pretty bad.

C: Yes, it was. (laughter) There were spots in Yorba Linda, in the period before we got paved streets, that just didn't seem to have any bottom to them. When they really got wet in a heavy rainy season we had quite a few experiences. I know my father and myself got a team down in mud and we had to unhitch and just get the horses out. I know there were other residents of the community that had the same experience. One, I recall, in particular was Mr. Curt Morris. He got his horses down in one of those boggy spots between the village of Yorba Linda and where he had his home and ranch, which was about a mile east of Yorba Linda. He had to unhitch his team and go off and leave his vehicle until the weather changed a little so that he could stay on top while he got on it to drag it out of the mud. [24]

P: Do you remember approximately what year the roads were paved?

C: Seems to me that was about 1916-1917.

P: I see. So that was about seven years after you moved in then.

C: Yes. I think that's approximately right. Mr. George Kellogg has been a staunch advocate of roads and road improvement ever since he moved to Yorba Linda in 1914. I rather expect that he could give you the actual dates of the road improvements.

P: He'd be the man to see about this then.

C: Yes. I think he could give you more facts about the road improvements probably than anyone else that's still living in the Yorba Linda area.

P: When did the regular village of Yorba Linda begin to develop?

C: The first grocery store built in Yorba Linda was just a small, what we called in those years, a California type of building, straight up-and-down boards with battings over the cracks. It was built by Mr. [Edward] Pullen on the corner of Olinda Street and what is now Imperial Highway. He operated this little country store and also delivered mail which he picked up in Placentia. He had a little system of mailboxes up in one corner of his store where he delivered mail. He was the appointed postmaster--the first postmaster of Yorba Linda, but he didn't stay in Yorba Linda very long. That was the latter part of 1910, as I recall, when he came there. That was the first business in the townsite of Yorba Linda. A little later there was a blacksmith shop and barber shop established by Mr. Merlin Quigley. He put up the buildings and equipped them. He was neither a blacksmith nor a barber but he furnished this building and equipment for these two businesses. Other men actually did the work. Now, I don't recall their names, but a little later on Mr. Buckmaster, Joseph Buckmaster, built a hardware store and started a lumberyard under the auspices of the San Pedro Lumber Company. The hardware store, as I recall, was his own business but the lumberyard, operated by Mr. Buckmaster, was a branch of the San Pedro Lumber Company. This man Pullen that started the first little grocery store wasn't doing very much business so he closed out his grocery business and Mr. Buckmaster was appointed postmaster. His daughter, Esther, actually ran the post office, which was transferred into the [25] hardware store. The postal inspector would have appointed Esther Buckmaster to the position but she wasn't quite old enough to qualify at that time. She actually did the work, but her father carried the title of postmaster. They operated the post office for a considerable time in one corner of the hardware store. Later on, after a period of maybe two or three years, a young woman by the name of Lillian Jones built a building on Olinda Street and took over the post office. The Buckmasters wanted to give it up and Miss Jones--she later married a man by the name of George Harris--operated the post office in this new building for . . . I don't recall just how long. I think maybe three or four years or a little later on, the post office was moved over on the main street.

To continue about the early part of the development of the village, the most convenient place to get groceries was from Stern and Goodman store in Olinda. The Stern and Goodman Company had a good store in the town of Olinda, two miles north of us, and at that time, they operated a regular delivery service. They sent a man with a team and light wagon out twice a week. As I recall, he came on Monday and would take the order for the following Friday, and Friday he would deliver what you had ordered on Monday. He would pick up another order, if you wanted to give him one, to deliver the first of the following week. Most of the early day residents bought their groceries and many other supplies from this Stern and Goodman store in Olinda because it was the nearest store that had an adequate supply of merchandise. They hauled many things besides groceries.

P: I see, more of a general-type store.

C: Yes. Pretty much of a general, country merchandise store. They carried clothing and some hardware. It was just a country store type. Later on Stern and Goodman built a store on Main Street in Yorba Linda. After a very short time they sold this Yorba Linda store to a couple of their, former employees--Felix Stein and a man by the name of Fassil. Mr. Fassil--I don't recall his first name--passed away many years ago but Felix Stein is still living in Fullerton. He is a partner in, I believe, a clothing store in Fullerton, California at the present time. By the way, he would probably be a source of some information for you, too.

P: There are a lot of old-timers of Yorba Linda that are still around then?

C: Yes, there's quite a number of them still somewhere around Southern California. [26]

P: How about the development of local government in Yorba Linda? When did you start getting local policemen, or a mayor or some sort of an executive official in town?

C: The actual incorporation of the town of Yorba Linda is very recent, as you probably know. We had a chamber of commerce and various community organizations begin to develop quite early in the history of Yorba Linda. Of course, in later years we developed the idea of having an honorary major and that was carried on for several years. But those things were not really local government, you know. The actual incorporation of Yorba Linda took place a little over a year ago, didn't it?

P: Quite recently. I think it was just about a year and a half ago.

C: Yes, very recently. They set up a plan of having their mayors rotate every six months, then another member of the council would be mayor for the second six months, until all the members of the first council had had a turn at being mayor. I think the second six months is on right now. I don't believe they have actually had the city government of Yorba Linda in actual operation quite a year--that is, the actual incorporated local government.

P: Did you have any need at all for local policemen or any sort of official like that?

C: No. I think most of the residents of the community would agree with me when I say we had a good security service from the sheriff's office of the county. They patrolled the area regularly and provided us with what I felt was as good a policing service as we could have had by trying to provide our own security force. I know that in the course of years in Yorba Linda I had my house broken into, I believe three different times, and in a matter of just a few minutes from the time I called the sheriff's office, the patrol car would be on the scene. Many times in the years when I was contracting orchard care and would frequently have occasion to go about checking on some of my work late in the evening, a patrol car would come by and stop to see who I was looking around about the equipment and checking on pumping plants and things of that kind. I personally felt that they gave us as good patrol service or better probably than we could have afforded to provide for ourselves. The incorporated city government now is still using the sheriff's service to police and patrol the area on a contract deal until [27] they find it desirable to set up their own police force. I don't think anyone knows yet when that will be. The contract system seems to have worked real well in many other recently incorporated areas. I know I've heard of a number of them in Orange County as well as other counties that have operated quite successfully with contract service over a period of several years.

P: I know Richard Nixon and his family Linda and he was born there in 1913 his family, or did you know Richard lived in Yorba. Did you know Nixon himself?

C: Yes. I knew the Nixon family quite well at the time they lived in Yorba Linda. In fact, I just happened to be working for Dick's father at the time Richard was born. I remember very well the morning after Dick was born, it was myself and I think two other fellows that were working for Frank Nixon at the time who went to the house to see what he wanted us to do that day. He came out all smiles and said that he had another boy. The 9th of January, 1913 was Dick Nixon's birthdate. The family lived in Yorba Linda, as I recall, about ten years before they sold their ranch, which was immediately adjacent to the townsite. They moved to East Whittier where they established a grocery store and later a lunch counter, as I recall, in connection with the grocery. They became quite successful with their store operation and lunch counter.

I recall Dick Nixon as a boy in school in Yorba Linda and have seen him a number of times in more recent years. At the time of the second inauguration of the Eisenhower-Nixon administration, my wife and I, along with another couple from Yorba Linda, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Barton, were invited to the inauguration as guests of the Vice-President.

P: I bet that was quite an honor.

C: That was one of the highlights of our lives to go to Washington and have what you might say was a ringside seat at the actual inauguration. We also had a seat right up in the front row to watch the inaugural parade. You couldn't ask for better seats to view the parade. We were right up in the front row. When some ambassadors from foreign countries came out of the Blair House and walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to the reviewing stand where they were to be seated, they were close enough to us where we could have reached over and touched them. We weren't so rash as to do anything like that. (laughter) It was a [28] most interesting experience, and we have always felt very grateful for the invitation from the Vice-President to visit Washington for that occasion.

I still have in my possession the large flag that was flown over the National Capitol which was presented to Mother Nixon by her son, Richard, in the latter years of her life. She gave this flag to my wife and myself one day when we were calling on her at her home in East Whittier. She said that, because we had been so active in the political campaigns all through Dick's political career, she wanted us to have this flag that Dick had given to her. She was getting in the latter years of her life and felt she wanted to give it to someone that she thought would appreciate having it. So I still have that flag in my possession and I'll keep it as long as I live.

P: That is something that is a real honor. How well-off were the Nixon family? Was his father fairly successful in the ranch in Yorba Linda? What were your impressions?

C: The ranch that they had was not very successful and that, no doubt, was the reason they sold out and moved back to Whittier. Unfortunately, the ranch they attempted to develop proved not to be very good citrus land as they had planted it to lemons. They did sell and it later became the site of what is now called the Richard Nixon School in Yorba Linda. The original home Frank Nixon built for his family in Yorba Linda still stands on the school grounds. There is a plaque marking the birthplace of the 35th Vice-President of the United States in the yard in front of the bedroom where Richard Nixon was born. The school board--all of them that I've ever talked to--have said that they expected to keep the old home in good repair. Of course, most of the residents of Yorba Linda, I think, feel that it should be preserved. In fact, there's a group of us who would like to have purchased it from the school and make some kind of historical monument out of it, possibly a historical library or something of that kind. But the school board didn't see fit to sell the property. They did assure us they expected to keep it up and in good repair. It would be preserved and they were quite willing to have us install this marker, so we had a fitting dedicatory service. The Vice-President was able to visit the old home and take part in the ceremony we had to dedicate the marker where he was born. He has been seemingly very proud to acknowledge the fact he was born in Yorba Linda. There was, at one time, some difference of opinion about where he was born. The town of Whittier, naturally, was [29] anxious to claim the Nixon family. They had a right to a certain claim to the Nixon family, but we did establish beyond all doubt the fact Dick was born in this house in Yorba Linda. When the differences of opinion were being aired in the newspaper and the various news media, Mother Nixon was interviewed in the bedroom where Dick was born. She said to the several newspaper reporters present, "I was here and this is right where he was born. The bed stood in that corner of the room at the time and I was present and that's where he was born--right here." So that settled the argument about where Dick Nixon was born. (laughter)

P: I guess it did.

C: His brother, Don, and his younger brother, Eddie were born in the hospital in Whittier. As I recall the story, that's where the mistake about whether or not Dick was born in Yorba Linda arose. Because his younger brothers were born in the Whittier hospital someone jumped to the conclusion that Dick was also born in a Whittier hospital.

P: Was he the oldest in the family?

C: No, he had one brother older, Harold, that never was very strong and passed away in quite early life. I don't remember just what age Harold was when he died, but he was quite young. Dick is the oldest living member of the family.

P: Were there any of the Yorba family left in Yorba Linda or the general area when you moved into this area?

C: Yes, there are many descendents of the Yorba family living near Yorba Linda, but to my knowledge none of the Yorbas ever lived in the Yorba Linda tract until later years. There was one who had property on Yorba Linda Boulevard opposite the north end of Van Buren Street for a number of years but he moved there after it had been developed as a bearing grove. There were many of the Yorba family on Esperanza Road and there are some direct descendents of the early Yorba family across on the south side of the Santa Ana River. The young Bernardo Yorba, or Ben Yorba as he's more commonly spoken of, lives there. There are other members of the family, a number of them in the north-northeast county area but to my knowledge none of the Yorba family lived in the townsite]. In fact, there were very few people in the Yorba Linda tract at the time it was taken over and surveyed and developed for citrus planting by the Janss Company. [30]

There was a family by the name of Knight, Mr. Ross Knight and his family, who lived on land belonging to the Chancellor-Canfield-Midway Oil Company which was a subsidiary of the Santa Fe Railroad in the westerly portion of Yorba Linda. That land was not part of the Yorba Linda tract, and when I speak of the early residents of Yorba Linda, I am referring to people that bought land from the Janss Company and developed it as orange, lemon, and later avocado groves.

There were many of the people in the surrounding area that were fine neighbors. Many of us were able to secure some employment in helping them care for their already developed citrus groves, but they were not the Yorba Linda pioneers that I like to talk about. The Navarro family that took care of the distribution of water for the Anaheim Union Water Company for many, many years were resident at the Yorba reservoir of the Anaheim Union Water Company. But again, that land was not a part of the original Yorba Linda track and while they were, and are, fine people to know and were very helpful to all of us that were struggling in those early years to develop citrus land, they were not, in the sense that I use the term, pioneers of the Yorba Linda development.

P: I see. A final question before we close--this is a rather open-ended question--what struck you as a rather important event in early Yorba Linda history? For instance, was the flood of 1916 an event of any importance? What event do you think is significant in this development in the early period of Yorba Linda?

C: On the overall impact of the development of the community, I would think that the water company transfer from the Janss Company to the actual stockholder's management was one of the most important events in early Yorba Linda. Also, the paving of the roads undoubtedly had a very beneficial effect on the development of the tract. Of course, the one thing that gave Yorba Linda the biggest boost from the standpoint of land sales and early development was the so-called 1913 freeze which occurred in the winter of 1912-1913. The records show that most of Southern California was badly damaged. Many of the old bearing trees in some areas were almost killed by the freeze because it split the bark on the trunks of the trees. There was very severe damage. The trees that were planted in Yorba Linda--of course, most of them at that time were very young two and some of them almost three years old. Most of them were not damaged at all. There were a few in very low portions of the tract that got a little frost damage. I know that my father [31] and mother and myself had tomato plants in our home that lived through that 1913 freeze and bore fruit in the summer of 1913. Most of the citrus that had been planted up to that time survived the 1913 freeze with very minor damage, if any. Most of it had no damage at all. But the damage there was was so minor that it was hardly worth mentioning. That following summer there were more purchasers than they had land available to sell to in the Yorba Linda tract as the result of the 1913 freeze.

P: Very interesting. In our next interview we'll talk about the development of agriculture in Yorba Linda, which I suppose is right up your line of knowledge, and about some of the packinghouses. For instance, the impact of the Sunkist organization, C. C. Chapman, and any influence he had on the development of the orange industry in Yorba Linda. So for now, Mr. Corbit, let me thank you for another interesting and informative interviewing session.


* * * * * * [32]

P: This is the third in a series of five interviews with Mr. Corbit, by Tom Peters in Mr. Corbit's home on the 10th of May, 1968.

Mr. Corbit, would you elaborate upon the development of your grove in Yorba Linda?

C: After we had established our home in Yorba Linda on the property that my father bought in 1910, we looked around for a nursery that had orange trees for sale. That was a little bit of a job because there was a great demand for trees at that time. We found a nursery near the little town of Olive that had trees that were not already sold, and we bought enough to plant the land that Father had bought. If you're going to plant an orange grove, the first thing is to prepare your land so it can all be irrigated. Of course, at that time we had to dig these holes, stake out the rows and make sure that hole was large enough to take these balls--all the citrus trees are balled with about a fifty pound ball of earth around the roots. We had to dig a pretty good-sized hole to accommodate that ball of roots and earth from the nursery. We then immediately put these new trees into the holes where we expected them to grow. When we watered them, we found that the most practical way to get the first watering was with team and wagon and fifty gallon barrels on an ordinary farm wagon. The team that drove up and down the rows put at least ten gallons of water to each tree. We did the first watering just as soon as we could after we got the trees in the holes and filled the earth in around them to make a basin that would hold at least ten gallons of water. On our place, at that time, we completed this first watering and were able to start irrigating almost immediately after we got the trees in. By the time they needed water again, we had the land ready to run water in furrows to the trees. Because Father had bought land that had Anaheim Union Water Company stock on it, we were able to get water from the Anaheim Union Canal to go ahead and irrigate our young orchard in a regular manner. Many of the Yorba Linda groves were started and watered the first year of their existence and I think a few of them a little more than a year, with team and wagon, because the Yorba Linda water system was not completed to all of the property. The people that planted groves that would be irrigated later from the Yorba Linda Water Company system had to do all irrigation with these barrels and buckets and team and wagon until the water system could be completed. That made quite a laborious job, but it proved to be successful. They were able to get their trees started about a year and a year and [33] a half in some cases earlier by planting them and watering by hand.

In about 1913, I think it was, we began to get some crop. The citrus trees will start bearing a little the second year, but not hardly worth thinking about. The third year there began to be some production in the community and there were two plans advanced to have packing facilities in the community. The Yorba Linda Citrus Association was formed and also there was another organization that was called the Foothill Groves. The latter was an affiliate of the Mutual Orange Distributers, which was quite a large marketing organization that was popular in the earlier years of Orange County. The Yorba Linda Citrus Association was affiliated with the Sunkist organization which at that time was called the California Fruit Growers Exchange. They later changed the name to Sunkist Growers. The first of the two organizations that actually got started doing a little packing was Foothill Groves. But after a number of years the Yorba Linda Citrus Association bought the Foothill Groves plant and the community was taken care of as far as packing facilities by the one organization. The original Yorba Linda Citrus Association packinghouse was used for lemons exclusively and the Foothill Groves house was the orange packinghouse. They were all under the same management and the same office facilities, which proved to be a very satisfactory arrangement. It handled most of the production of the Yorba Linda area and, as time went on, some outlying areas. There were a few groves that, for reasons of their own, affiliated with outside organizations, but I would say that at least 95 percent of the Yorba Linda production was handled by the Yorba Linda Citrus Association after the Foothill Groves facilities were absorbed into that organization.

P: When you say that the Yorba Linda Citrus Association was an affiliate of Sunkist, how did that work? Were they a part of the Sunkist organization then?

C: Yes. Each affiliated packing association that joins the Sunkist Growers, as it's now called, is a part owner, really, of the Sunkist organization. Sunkist is strictly a marketing organization. Each member association has a representative on the Sunkist board and Sunkist is managed by men elected from the board of directors of the local packing associations. They may be from Yorba Linda, Placentia, Fullerton or Anaheim. Each one of the local boards elects one of their members to the Sunkist board of directors and that provides the overall management body for the Sunkist [34] Growers. The Sunkist Growers are like the individual associations. They have the manager in a very large office, of course, and a sales organization that distributes these carloads of fruit all over the nation and even sends considerable amounts to other countries. There has been a great deal of California fruit sent to Europe and the British Isles and pretty much all around the world. Wherever there was a demand for sufficient quantities to justify a shipment, the Sunkist organization would line up orders and call, for instance, Yorba Linda. They would call our manager and say, "We have an order for so many hundreds of boxes of oranges or lemons," as the case may be, "to go," say, "to the British Isles." We have the option of accepting the order or declining it according to whatever our supplies may be. If we have sufficient quantity of the kind of fruit that they want and if the price is satisfactory we accept the order, but we always have the option of saying, "No, we can't handle it." It makes a real good arrangement because when Sunkist cuts an order, there's always somebody in the widespread coverage that they have that has a quantity of fruit that they want to get rid of. There will always be somebody to take the order. When the order comes into the Sunkist headquarters, you never know which organization may have the desired quantity of a particular size and grade of fruit. As a rule, these orders might come in and they want, say, 5,000 boxes of 200 size oranges. That's a lot of oranges when you say you want them all one size in grade. You may have a lot more than that on hand but not in the desired size and quantity.

P: Could you fill a partial order?

C: Yes. In some cases if one organization couldn't handle the whole order, they would say, "Sir, we'd like the order, but," maybe out of a five thousand box order, they'd say, "we've only got two thousand. Get somebody else to take the other three thousand and we'll take it." That has happened many times. They would split the order between two or more associations if there wasn't one that could take it. The overseas shipments have, on the whole, been pretty satisfactory. Of course, in recent years, there has been government help on shipping fruit overseas--a little shipping subsidy that the government has put out like they do on many other crops. The citrus crop has never been subsidized like many of the general farm products: tobacco, peanuts, wheat, corn, and things like that, you know. They are what they call basic crops that have been very largely subsidized, but the citrus industry has never had a full subsidy on their crops. In fact, the [35] industry has had no subsidy at all for shipment within the United States. The only subsidy that the citrus industry has ever had has been for overseas shipment. It's my understanding that that was because of the balance of trade, you know. These overseas shipments help the government's balance of trade. You know, one of the things that bothers them right now is that we haven't been exporting enough stuff to keep our balance in good shape, as far as what we're exporting and importing. In years past, our trade balance has always been in our favor, but the present situation is that the trade balance is not so good. But that is getting away from the citrus industry.

P: Did the Sunkist organization ever send any lobbyists--in other words, people that influence the Congressional legislators--to try to get any sort of a tax break or any subsidy that you know of for your citrus industry?

C: Not that I know of. Through our elected representatives, we have tried to get some more favorable legislation in some cases, but I don't know of the industry ever hiring a lobbyist as such. A representative of the industry may go to Washington and try to line up support amongst our representatives in Congress for a favorable bill, but I have never known of the citrus industry maintaining regular lobbyists.

There is one thing that has been of particular concern to the citrus industry. The cost of shipping carloads of fruit and favorable rail rates has been of vital importance to the industry because a few dollars difference on the shipment of thousands of cars of citrus can make a tremendous difference in the season's returns to the growers. Just a very few dollars per car can make a tremendous difference in the overall return to the industry. We have threatened to use all the means that we knew of to maintain a favorable shipping rate but as far as your original question about lobbyists, I've never known of any regular lobbyist for the citrus industry like many industries do have.

P: How did you try to maintain favorable rail rates? Did you have some sort of a communication with the railroad industry?

C: Yes, that's right. Maybe the Sunkist manager would decide that it would be a good idea for him to go to Washington to talk with the Interstate Commerce Commissions that control shipping rates. I know that has happened. The manager of the Sunkist Growers has been sent back to Washington to see what he could do about favorable shipping rates or other things that might help the industry [36] maintain a profit sheet rather than a loss. It's very similar to any other industry in that there are many things that can affect the final return to the grower. It can be what seems like a small amount on one item, and yet when you take away the whole industry, it means quite a bit to the grower.

P: I would like to return to the basic reason for the organization of the Sunkist association. This is probably a little bit before you became involved in the citrus industry, but I heard that there were unscrupulous local packers that preyed on the individual citrus growers. Do you know anything about this?

C: I remember hearing quite a bit, particularly in the earlier years, about cash buyers, as they were called, in the industry. The story, as I recall having heard it, was that in the years considerably before I even became acquainted with the industry, these cash buyers were the growers only outlet. They would just come out and tell the growers, "Well, we'll give you so much for your crop," and they could take it or let their crop hang on the trees because the growers had no facilities to pack and ship their own fruit. Eventually, some of the growers got together and started figuring ways of handling this fruit themselves. Not many of the growers had enough production to even consider the possibility of setting up their own packing and selling organization. C. C. Chapman is the one that did set up his own packinghouse and marketed his own fruit at his own selling arrangements. Of course, he too later became affiliated with the overall organization, as I recall. But in the beginning he, like many other growers, was dissatisfied at the returns that he could get selling to these cash buyers, and so he set up his own packinghouse east of Fullerton and operated it for many, many years. Mr. E. C. Teague from Ventura County and others who had considerable acreage and quite a little production were the prime movers in the organization of the original California Fruit Growers Exchange, which later became the Sunkist Growers organization. They felt that it was not profitable for them to set up their own packing facilities, particularly from the sales standpoint, and that it was better to have a larger organization that could solicit orders and be sure of being able to fill them. They, as I say, got this original California Fruit Growers Exchange established and it became very successful. A number of the cash buyers continued to operate for many years. I know in the earlier years of my own experience in citrus, I sold some fruit to the independent cash buyers. If you needed the money quickly, you'd try to sell the crop to an independent [37] buyer. Of course, by the time that I got into the industry, I had a better situation in dealing with the independent buyer because I could always say, "Well, your price is not good enough. I'll join the Association and take my chance on what I can get." So we had an out if the cash buyer wouldn't give us a satisfactory offer, whereas in the earlier years before Sunkist was organized these cash buyers could set the price and the grower didn't have much he could do about it. Because while there was many cash buyers, they pretty much knew what the other one would pay and they'd stick pretty close together on their prices.

P: It made it kind of hard on you then.

C: Yes. It made it hard on the grower to find a satisfactory outlet for his crop. I would say the real reason for the establishment of the present Sunkist Growers organization was that the cash buyer just wouldn't give the grower a fair break and they got tired of it and set up their own organization.

P: Did the Sunkist organization wrap their oranges in tissue paper and put a guarantee on such as the one that Albert B. Clark had? By the way, did you know Clark, the fellow that first had the idea of wrapping oranges in tissue paper?

C: I know the name, but I don't recall having met the man. Yes, very early in the history of the citrus industry they found that wrapping the fruit in tissue paper was very desirable. The main reason for that was if you got a decayed fruit in one box of citrus, being wrapped in this tissue would keep it from contaminating the surrounding fruit. If you got a piece of unwrapped fruit that spoiled in the box, then all the fruit that it touched--maybe four, five, a half a dozen fruits around it--would get contaminated right away, too. But if one wrapped fruit decays, unless the box is an awfully long time from the packinghouse to the consumers, there will only be the one fruit that will spoil.

P: So this was a good merchandising gimmick, I suppose, and it served also a pragmatic function.

C: Yes, it served a good purpose. It seemed to help the actual merchandising of the fruit in the retail stores and it saved a lot of potential decay, particularly in the large boxes that we originally used. In more recent years, you probably know, we've gone almost entirely--in fact I think entirely now--to what's actually a half box carton. It holds just about half [38] of what our wooden crates did that we used for many, many years. We used what they called a standard packing box and that held just about twice what the cartons that they use today do. In the course of years, they found that there were certain materials that could be used to sort of coat the oranges. They would first run the oranges through the washers, and then when they came out of the wash, they ran through a machine that sprayed a material on it to seal the pores of the fruit for shipment. The fruit is not wrapped in the cartons, but are loose packed. The loose fruit just pours in and they put a lid on it in a shoebox type of carton. The lower part of the carton is filled mechanically and when it comes off at a certain point on the conveyor full of fruit, there's a top that goes on and it's ready for shipment.

P: All automated, then?

C: Yes. In the course of years, we've found that that became necessary, too. Yes, like so many other industries, we've had to develop machinery to do a lot of this work that used to be done by hand. It became more and more difficult to get satisfactory help to do that kind of labor. They talk about the unemployed but several of them are unemployed because they just simply can't do the kind of labor that is needed. Of course, there again is the union pressure for increased wages. Particularly in agriculture, there seems to be pretty much of a limit to what you can get from the consumer for agricultural products, and yet the cost of packaging, handling and getting the fruit to the consumer just keeps going up every year. They have to find ways of doing things mechanically so that they can keep costs down.

P: When you began to do your harvesting on your acreage in Yorba Linda in 1915 and thereafter, did you have enough labor and, if so, what kind of labor did you have?

C: Most of the harvesting and the actual getting the fruit from the trees was done by Mexican labor. In the very early years we were able to get most of that done by local help. The usual process was to hire one or more full-time foremen that were capable of hiring a crew themselves. The foreman knew where the men lived and he'd line up a crew. Of course, the Association had to pay them individually. But it was the foreman's job--one of the things that he got paid for--to line up a crew of maybe thirty-five or forty of these Mexican American men that were good at picking fruit. I know that in our association--not in the very beginning but [39] in latter years--we got to where we had sometimes three and four crews of men. There might be anywhere from twenty-five to forty men on a crew, sometimes maybe more than that, depending on the pressure to get fruit off. If it was a large crop and we had a big order, we might try to put an extra crew on. Usually we had a foreman of two working that were probably willing to pick fruit under another foreman. When we didn't have too much picking to do, he was capable of handling a crew himself when the need arose. Of course, in later years we developed a plan to get the labor imported from Mexico--the braceros, as they were called. We had an agreement with the Mexican government to import these men for a specified length of time, usually six months, and then their term would be renewed if they wanted to come back for additional time. Most of them wanted to come in for six months and then go home for a short period and then come back again for another six months. The wages were very attractive to these people because they were used to working in Mexico. If they could find work at all, they'd probably make about as much in a week in Mexico as they'd make in one day picking oranges in California, so they were really anxious to come. This was through an organization that was formed in the county called Citrus Growers, Incorporated. Their specific purpose was to make this agreement with the Mexican government, with the consent of our own government, to import up to a certain number of these Mexican Nationals or braceros. They set up camps with good comfortable bedding for them to live in. They had shower baths and the commissary furnished them the kind of food that they liked--you know, the Spanish type of food. They were real well treated and were guaranteed a minimum amount of work. We had to guarantee them a minimum amount of work or income to satisfy the Mexican government before they would allow the recruiting and bringing of these men up here. They then would allow the recruiting and the transporting to the border in Mexico and our organization here in the county would pick them up at Mexicali or Tijuana, whatever the case would be. Many of them came through Mexicali from Tijuana. Then we had to furnish the transportation from the border to here. The Citrus Growers, Incorporated in Orange County supplied this picking labor for Orange County. The other citrus producing counties--Los Angeles, Ventura County, Riverside and San Bernardino--had similar organizations where there was a sufficient demand for this type of labor. In the course of years, we just didn't have enough of the local Mexican American population to handle the amount of fruit that we were producing. In the earlier years of experience in Orange County, many of the groves [40] were young, but as time went on we kept planting more and more groves and the production was getting larger and our supply of labor was about static. We had the same supply of labor but we had many hundreds of cars and get on the market that we hadn't had in, let's say, the 1910-1920 period. That was the basic reason for importing the so-called braceros. The labor situation has been somewhat difficult in these more recent years. Since the administration decided that we could get along without braceros, at times there's been quite a lot of difficulty in getting the citrus crop harvested. Of course, in Orange County it is less of a problem because we don't have the production anymore. Yorba Linda is no problem at all because we don't have any fruit to speak of anymore. We're raising houses instead of citrus fruit.

P: Did you ever have any German employees working for you in Yorba Linda?

C: I don't recall any in Yorba Linda. I have seen some of them in the county, but I don't recall any in Yorba Linda. We had some from Puerto Rico, I think it was. For a time, we had some black boys that . . .

P: They were from Bermuda, I believe, I've been reading about that.

C: Maybe so. I know it was one of those island kingdoms down there. Anyway, they were black-skinned boys and they were good workers. They were real good and there didn't seem to be any more of a problem with them than there had been with the help that we got from Mexico. Sometimes when you get a large group of men or people, from anywhere, you're liable to get a little difficultly from time to time, you know. Something happens and somebody gets in trouble. I can't recall that we had any particular difficulty with those black boys that were imported here. I don't think that lasted more than two or maybe three years, but we did have quite a group of those in the county and some of them in the Yorba Linda area for a while. Mostly we've had either the Mexican braceros or the local Mexican American men that liked to pick fruit. That's hard work. There are many of those men that make awfully good wages out of picking fruit, or did in the years when we had good production. It was not uncommon for a good picker to pick a hundred boxes of oranges a day and some of them could even pass that a little. But an ordinarily good picker could pick a hundred boxes a day. The wages got up to where they would sometimes make up in the neighborhood of $20 to $25 a day. But they had to work for it. I don't mean [41] that that would be anything like an average wage, but there were some men that could do that. I've known some local men that could make awfully good wages. In fact, they'd go and pick oranges or lemons, as the case may be, in preference to doing some other work, because picking by the box they could make more per day than they could make at any other work that they were qualified for. There were a good many fellows that really liked to pick, especially when we had a year of good crops and heavy production. The same rule applied to the picking of avocados, but that never became a real major problem because they didn't have enough production of avocados to create very much of a picking problem.

P: Were you ever director or manager of a packinghouse?

C: I was a director of the Yorba Linda Citrus Association for about fourteen years, I believe it was. We had a gentlemen's agreement, we called it, on the board. There was no law or nothing written into the bylaws that provided this but we had an agreement in our Yorba Linda Citrus Association board that we would change at least one member of the board each year. The first time that I served on the board I served seven years. We had a seven-man board and one man went off each year, so I served seven years. Then I went off of the board for a year. The second year there were quite a number of growers who said they'd like to have me back on the board. They put my name in nomination and I was reelected. I served another seven years and, of course, with that understanding on the board, that meant that when you served on the board in a period of seven years, sometime in that seven years you would be president of the board at least once. I served as president, or chairman of the board, whichever term you prefer to use.

As far as managing, the only thing in that respect in packing was that I did own, manage and operate a small avocado packing business. I was owner/manager of a small avocado packing business. Oh, I usually had anywhere from six to fifteen employees, which means a pretty small operation. The government of the citrus association would have a bigger payroll in one week than I might have in my own little plant in a month's time. So that was really a very small operation. It served its purpose in the community, and packed quite a lot of avocados for the growers of the area.

But the Citrus Association established that rule, a great many years back, in regards to rotation on the board. There had been some dissatisfaction after a [42] number of years that some of the growers felt some board members had stayed on the board too long. There was a little dissatisfaction so somebody came up with the idea that if we rotated the membership of the board, got some new men to serve on it, they'd get acquainted with what was being done and would be better satisfied. It proved to be a most satisfactory arrangement. I know many men, in the course of the years that I served on the board, who had been somewhat dissatisfied with the operation of the Citrus Association, or had been critical at least. We'd get them elected to the Board of Directors and they'd usually serve on there for the full seven years after they were once elected. They were always good, loyal boosters for the Association after they'd had a term on the board and actually saw that everything was being done that was possible to make it a profitable organization. We felt that to establish that rule of getting some of the growers that had never been on the board elected and let them see exactly what went on in the management was one of the best things that was ever done in the Yorba Linda Citrus Association. For the most part it made believers out of them.

P: Did the Yorba Linda Citrus Association or the individual citrus growers have any trouble getting financing for any expansion in a bad year? How were the banks?

C: Generally speaking, they didn't have any real difficulty in getting financed through the bad years. I'd say the rule on that is quite similar to any other financing: if your overall credit situation had been good over previous years, you know, it was a good credit risk. In other words, then you had no trouble getting financed for the citrus operation. The Yorba Linda Citrus Association and others of a similar type have a revolving fund. We set up revolving funds for the different operations involved. The Sunkist organization, as the supply company as it was called, had a revolving fund for the sales organization for Sunkist. The local association has its revolving funds for financing the operation of the local house. It takes so many cents per box out of each grower's fruit and sets it aside for operating money. At the time that we closed out the Yorba Linda Citrus Association, we had a considerable amount of money in reserve in these revolving funds. It took, I think it was, either seven or eight years before we finally revolved out all of the different funds that were set up to provide operating money for the citrus industry. Some of them were set up for five years, but I think there were some that went as much as eight years before they revolved out. But eventually we got all of that money back that had been held out of [43] of our fruit to provide an operating fund.

P: Some companies or local packinghouses would liquidate their funds at the end of each year and then they would refinance. In other words, they would take a short-term loan to get started at the beginning of the next season. Do you know anything about how these outfits operated?

C: Well, yes, I know a little about that although that is not the way the Sunkist association's operated, so I wasn't as familiar with that as I was with the Sunkist operation. If I recall right, that was somewhat the way the Mutual Orange Distributors--the old Foothill Groves that was in Yorba Linda in the earlier years and was later absorbed into the Yorba Linda Citrus Association--operated. They borrowed money at the beginning of the year to get the year's operation going and then at the end of the year they paid out everything that came in and then started the following year on borrowed money again.

P: That's what I had heard.

C: I believe that was true of the Foothill Groves. I wouldn't quote positively on that, but I'm pretty sure in my own mind that was the way they operated. It was strictly a year-to-year payoff operation. It operated on borrowed money until enough fruit sales came in to repay that loan; then at the end of the year they would pay the growers everything that was left above operating costs. Generally, we in the Yorba Linda Citrus and Sunkist organization felt that was a more expensive way of operating because we had our own money retained in the organization to operate without very much borrowing. I couldn't say that we didn't borrow because we did borrow sometimes when we didn't have enough reserve money on hand to take care of all expenses. For instance, at the start of the packing season. Before we began to get money back from the sale of fruit sometimes we'd have to borrow quite a bit of money from the bank on a short term basis. Sometimes it was a very short period. We would get a loan from the bank to operate until the returns came in from sales of cars of oranges or lemons, as the case might be. We'd try to avoid paying interest; that was the purpose of setting up this revolving fund and establishing a reserve to operate on. It would avoid the additional expense of continually paying interest on operating money because, as you no doubt know as well as I do, sometimes your expenses have to be paid before you get returns on whatever it is you've sold. (laughter) So we'd frequently borrow quite a bit [44] of money from the Yorba Linda Citrus Association at the beginning of a packing season. But the revolving funds generally provided operating capital and built the necessary buildings and bought equipment and all that sort of thing.

We had quite a large investment in land, buildings and machinery in the citrus operation. I don't recall now just what our valuation was. It must be twenty years or more since I last served on the board, so I don't recall those figures, but it was quite a large investment. We had approximately five acres of land right in the town of Yorba Linda. We also owned another potential sight on the Santa Fe Railroad near what was once the old town of Yorba that we could have used if we should have ever needed to, but we didn't ever use it. We had a couple of acres of land there that we held and eventually sold for a very good figure after we disbanded the association. We also, at one time, owned eight acres of land that we bought for a place to dump our waste fruit. It was kind of like a public dump, only we bought this land just for the use of the citrus association. We always had a certain amount of decayed fruit discarded that we had to dispose of. We got a chance to buy some land that later became a part of the Imperial Highway, but at the time that we bought it, why, it seemed like it was practically wasteland. We got it very cheap and used it for quite a number of years as a place to dump our waste fruit that there was no market for because it was decayed. There's always some decayed fruit that comes off the trees. They have a cullbin that gets filled quite often in the process of packing large amounts of fruit. Why, in the busy season we put out several cars a day through anyone of those citrus associations. It was not uncommon in the busy season to put out six, seven cars of fruit between the oranges and the lemons in the packing operation. You would have quite a lot of waste material that had to be disposed of and you couldn't just throw it out in the yard, you know, especially in town. By the way, at any rate, nearly all the citrus plants are in some town, small or large. So, it just had to be hauled off in some out of the way place. As I say, we got a chance to buy this parcel of eight acres of land that later on the State took for part of the Imperial Highway as it now exists. So we did have at the peak of our operations quite a large investment in land, buildings, and packing equipment. It involves the cooling of fruit; lemons particularly have to have storage rooms to store many, many cars of fruit. Most of your lemons come in green. They're picked green from the trees, sometimes they pick ripe fruit, yes, but the majority of the lemons are picked [45] by size and they're quite green when they come off the tree. They have to be stored and cured in the packinghouse. It involves a very large storage area, particularly for lemons and oranges. Oranges require some storage space but not as much as the lemon crop.

P: How extensive did the lemon production become in the Yorba Linda, Anaheim and Fullerton area?

C: Well, in Yorba Linda at the peak of production there were, well, I would say, at least twice as many lemons from a production standpoint, and possibly from acreage also. Yorba Linda seemed to be a real good lemon producing area in the early years. Of course, they found out that as the trees got up to thirty-five, forty or more years old, they were not as productive as they had been when they were younger. That has been pretty well proven now in the citrus industry; lemon trees after they pass their period, say after the fortieth year particularly, they're pretty likely to go down in production in both quantity and quality. The best quality in lemons depends to a considerable extent on the care of the orchard, especially from a pruning standpoint. A lemon tree does produce a lot of brush, and if they're not properly pruned, you get a lot of scarring. Particularly in old trees the fruit will deteriorate in size and quality as the trees get too old. Orange trees are not affected that way so much. The size seems to be affected quite a little but the quality not so much, because the orange tree doesn't have many thorns. Lemon trees are pretty thorny. The dead brush in the lemon tree can do an awful lot of damage to fruit, especially if you get a little wind; why, the swinging fruit strikes these thorns and they're badly scarred quickly.

P: When you said twice as many, did you mean twice as many acres in lemons as oranges?

C: Well, yes. I can't quote you exact acreage figures, but I think that is approximately right. At one time, Yorba Linda had both twice as many lemons in acreage as well as carload production at the peak of the lemon production as compared with oranges. The lemons run into a period of bad years as far as marketing. There were a good many lemon groves taken out and replanted to oranges and in some cases to avocados because they ran into several years of bad returns on lemons. The growers got discouraged with their lemon deal and the orange growers were making a fair return during those years, so some of the lemon growers decided they didn't want lemons anymore and pulled them out and started a new grove, which in many cases proved to be satisfactory. [46] because the lemon trees were getting too old to do well again anyway. They did all right by pulling them out and starting new trees.

That's a peculiar thing; it was found that you can take citrus trees out and plant avocados where citrus trees had been and the avocados would do fine. But if you planted citrus trees back in the same ground, then you had to take special preparations, fumigate the soil, and considerable extra expense to start renovating the soil for the replanting of citrus. There were quite a few people that decided the lemons weren't a good thing anymore; the avocados had been doing well, so they took the lemon trees out and replanted avocados. In some cases they did very well with it. But it's like anything else, you know, sometimes you think one thing is not a good crop by the time you get changed over to something else, maybe that is down, too.

P: Did they start planting the lemons at the same time in 1910?

C: Yes, yes. Many people came to Yorba Linda by way of Whittier. Some of them had lived in Whittier and some of them had visited friends in Whittier. Whittier had been a very good lemon area in the years prior to 1910. Many of the people that settled in Yorba Linda came from Whittier and some of the nonresident owners lived in Whittier. They had seen lemons do so well in the Whittier area that they wanted to raise lemons in Yorba Linda, and some of them planted all their land to lemon trees. Quite a good many planted half lemons and half oranges, and of course, some others like my father thought they preferred oranges and planted all oranges, and it was quite a number. Quite a few people from the Placentia-Fullerton area that bought some land in Yorba Linda planted oranges. The Placentia, Fullerton and Anaheim area was doing well with Valencia oranges and the people from those areas bought a little parcel of land, maybe ten acres in Yorba Linda. They planted their land in oranges because they had been doing well with oranges in the Placentia-Fullerton area. To a considerable extent the people from Whittier thought they liked lemons because they'd seen lemons do so well in the Whittier-La Habra area. It depended to a considerable extent on which direction the Yorba Linda settler came from. (laughter) It was the knowledge of the citrus industry or the lack of knowledge in some cases. The settler planted the fruit that appealed to him most. But for the most part I think the oranges, over the long period of years, has proved to be the best, most consistent [47] producer. As I said, the lemon trees we found, and if you make inquiries in the big lemon producing areas like Ventura County, you find that the big ranches up there have a regular rotation schedule. They replace so many acres of lemon trees every year. They take out so many acres and replant so many acres every year because they found, as I said a while ago, that about every thirty-five years in the economical life of a lemon orchard from a standpoint of producing a profit. After they get that age and older, why the profit that you can realize from a lemon grove begins to go down.

P: One thing that we haven't established as of yet is what type of oranges you were growing. Were they Valencias?

C: Yes, Valencia oranges. It was almost entirely Valencias in the Yorba Linda area. Of course, all of Orange County is largely Valencia. There were a few small areas of Navel oranges. I know a Mr. Arthur Staley, who had his home in Placentia, planted about four acres of Navels on land that he had bought in Yorba Linda. I think there were possibly two other small plantings of Navels, possibly a total of fifteen acres of Navel oranges planted in the Yorba Linda tract.

P: Not very many then.

C: Not many, no. Almost none. (laughter)

P: Why did you prefer the Valencia oranges?

C: The Valencia orange had been, and still is, the most successful orange in Orange County. In other areas like Riverside, San Bernadino, Upland, Ontario and Pomona the Navel orange has done very well. But the Valencia has been a much better crop in Orange County than the Navel. There's been some successful Navel orange orchards in Orange County, but very largely the orange crop in Orange County over all the years that I've known the county has been the Valencia orange.

P: Did you get a better profit off your Valencia orange?

C: Yes, yes.

P: You could hold it on the tree longer?

C: You could hold it on the tree longer. It matures in the summer when generally you can get a better price for the crop. The Navel orange should be picked over a shorter period of time. In recent years, of course, they've had so much production that they have been forced [48] to spread them out over a longer period of time and sometimes they come in conflict with the early picking of Valencias. The Valencias were ready to pick before they got all of the Navels off the market. In fact, there's still Navel oranges in the stores. I know I bought a few Navel oranges just a couple of days ago around here in the Alpha Beta store. In earlier years, by the first of May you expected all the Navel oranges to be gone and they were ready to take the Valencias. The Valencia orange produced well and would hold on the tree in excellent condition from the time it first matured, which was about the first of May to October or even into November if necessary. It would be in good marketable condition, too, whereas the Navel orange, unless the season is quite favorable, begins to deteriorate somewhat in the latter part of the season. After they've gone through the packinghouse those that are put on the market are good fruit all right but there's quite a heavy loss to the grower by having his fruit left on the tree too long with the Navel orange. Of course, the same thing is true to a lesser extent with the Valencia orange. But generally speaking, the Valencia orange will retain its quality right up to late fall. The Navel, in Orange County at least, is not really very good eating quality until about Christmastime, and then it should be off of the trees by the first of April. When it's held longer than that, they're not so good. They can be sorted and the good ones marketed but there's a considerable loss of quality of fruit when they're held on the trees too long.

P: C. C. Chapman's been called the father of the Valencia orange industry. What did you know about him? Did you ever have any contact with him or his organization?

C: Well, in the course of the years I met Mr. Chapman a few times before he passed away. I couldn't say that I really had any particular contact with his organization. Mr. Chapman was quite . . . I lost the word I wanted to use . . . involved in the Christian church activities in Fullerton, you know. I have been more or less involved in church activities in north Orange County myself through the course of the years. Most of my few contacts with Mr. Chapman were through some of the church activities we both happened to be involved in. I got to know his son-in-law, Dr. W. H. Wickett, much better than I ever did Mr. Chapman because Dr. Wickett served on our Board of Directors in the Yorba Linda Citrus Association for a few years. Certainly the Chapman orchards were among the finest in Orange County for many years. He had sufficient acreage in production to be able to have his own packing plant. He packed a top quality of fruit. His Old Mission Brand was one [49] that almost invariably topped the auction sales of citrus fruit in the eastern markets.

P: They'd look for that brand then?

C: Yes. Very rarely did anything outsell the Old Mission Brand at the citrus auctions in New York and Chicago. He just insisted on that brand having the very best fruit. Of course, he had other brands that went in as second grade fruit, but the Old Mission Brand had to have the very best fruit. Of course, in addition to his own ranch there at Chapman and what is now State College Boulevard, he had another ranch out east and a little north of the town of Placentia that was comparable in size to the home ranch. I don't recall the acreage now, but the Placentia ranch was never quite as productive as his original home ranch, which was, as I said before, one of the best producers in the county. There were probably others that would equal it in production but I doubt if there was anything that was any better. It was right in the very choicest part of the Placentia-Fullerton Valencia orange district. I don't think that there's any place, certainly no place that I know of, that can top that Placentia-Fullerton district for production and quality of fruit in its prime years. Of course, now it's like so many other sections of Orange County--the production is gone. They're raising houses instead of fruit.

P: You mentioned the auctions back East where you were subject in a certain degree, I guess, to the prices that the fruits went for at these auctions. Did the Sunkist organization ever hold back their fruit for better prices at times?

C: Yes. We tried to sell as much as possible on orders, but with the large of fruit it was necessary, of course, to put fruit on the auction market. The citrus auctions--I haven't paid any attention to them in recent years since I got out of the citrus business--were a pretty satisfactory operation. You'd send the fruit in there and it was bid on. Generally the prices were very satisfactory, and in some cases you could get more out of the fruit by sending it on the auction than you could on orders. It would be in demand if you got to the auction at the right time, and they would get real good prices. Most of these associations had outlets that were pretty regular purchasers of their particular brand. They could sell a lot of fruit on orders. But at the peak of the season it was necessary to send a lot of fruit on to the auction. I would say, it served a very, very good purpose for the industry. The outlet had competitive bidding. The prices on the whole reflected [50] the supply and demand, which is the American way of doing things.

P: I see. In other words a laissez-faire type of business.

C: Yes. If we had a tremendously heavy crop, why naturally the citrus auction prices were down. The other people back there, of course, knew when we had heavy crops to sell and naturally they expected to buy at a little more favorable price. I never felt that the citrus auction was a bad thing. I felt that it really did serve the industry well. I believe that most people who had direct contact with the marketing of the citrus crop felt the same way. The citrus auctions were a very fine thing for the industry and were very well managed.

P: Well, I guess we'll close our interview session for the evening. We've talked about everything except what we started to talk about in the first place--your own citrus endeavors. So in our subsequent interviews we'll talk about your groves, the maintenance company you established, and your avocado packinghouse. Also, I hope we can take up some of the problems the citrus industry has had such as the rising value of land and taxes and the ultimate decline of the citrus industry. Thank you.


* * * * * *[51]

P: This is the fourth in a series of five interviews with Mr. Hoyt Corbit by Tom Peters in the living room of Mr. Corbit's home on the 17th of May, 1968.

The first thing I would like to ask you, Mr. Corbit, is when and how did you develop your own citrus grove in Yorba Linda?

C: My father and myself started to prepare the land in the summer of 1910. We didn't get our trees planted until later because we had quite a little grading and preparing of the land. We felt we had to do considerable grading to get the land in condition for furrow irrigation. At that time practically everyone, at least in the northern Orange County area--Yorba Linda, Placentia and Fullerton--used furrow irrigation. We that were new in the business in Yorba Linda prepared our land to irrigate our orchards by the furrow system. We cultivated after each irrigation. The next irrigation we put in new furrows.

In much later years, the system of irrigation was changed by most people to noncultivation--the control of weeds by mostly oil or in some cases a chemical spray which was developed for the purpose. I think most of the weed control for noncultivation was done with a special oil spray that we found to be very effective.

In the early years, we all installed pipelines with a distribution stand at each row of trees. They put two or more furrows along each side of the row of orange trees and a small stream of water flowed down each furrow. We tried to control the flow to where it would soak through to the end of the furrow without any runoff, if possible, or at least a minimum loss of water. When it got wet at the end of the furrow, we tried to hold it there long enough to give the trees sufficient water for four or five weeks. We found that in the Yorba Linda soil a good irrigation would last four to five weeks with most of the soil. We found later the same thing applied to avocados, that sufficient irrigation without too much water was better than applying water too often. The trees don't like, what we call, "wet feet." They don't like too much water standing around the roots all the time. When your soil is approaching a drying out stage, your feeder roots are most active. It has been proven in the experiment station that in the extremely wet soil the tree roots are not very active but as the soil begins to approach the drying out stage your feeder roots reach out and develop new feeders. Your tree is much healthier if you let the soil approach the [52] drying out stage before each irrigation. You don't want it to get dry to the point that the tree is lacking sufficient water but they do need to dry out to just approaching a dry point.

P: Did you find that, if you over-irrigated your citrus trees, a disease would develop in the orchard?

C: Yes. The most common trouble with over-irrigation was what they called "gum disease." Many of the trees were lost in the course of years when people watered too much for an extended period of time. This so-called "gum disease" would break out around the crown roots of the tree and up on the grafted part of the tree. Yes, it is literally a "gum disease" because the sap of the tree will break through the bark and the bark will become cracked and scaley. The sap will run out and form masses of gum on the outside of the bark of the tree. If it gets very bad, the tree will die. Sometimes you can cure it if it hasn't got too bad by holding water away from the tree and scraping away this infected part of the bark until it's all clean bark. Why, I have saved many trees myself by noticing this disease when it is in its first stages. I hold the water away from the tree and scrape the diseased bark away until there is none of this gum or discoloration left in the bark area that was affected. There was a real serious loss of trees from that cause. It was not a disease that spread from tree to tree, just an individual tree was affected according to the soil conditions around the particular tree.

The pest control was one of the first things we had to learn to take care of. It was a very short time after we planted trees when we found we had several different types of scale begin to develop. The red scale, which is still a major problem in the citrus growing areas, was one of the worst, and is probably still the worst. Back in 1910, and for several years thereafter, the black scale was a major problem in most of the groves in the northern part of Orange County that I know about. That was controlled, after a few years, by the importation of a bug that fed on the black scale. They multiplied quite rapidly and, in the course of a few years, the black scale ceased to be a problem. In the early years of our orchard experience, we controlled most of the red and black scales. There was also a brown scale and a yellow scale that were minor in most cases, but if they got infestation in the orchard, you had to control them. But the red and black scales were a continual problem in the early years. At that time the only way that we had to control the scales was by fumigation--covering [53] the trees with a large, heavy canvas tent and using cyanide gas fumigation. It was the combination of cyanide sulphuric acid and water that created a citrocyanidic acid gas that was applied to the citrus tree. The tents were adjusted so that the gas, when held around the tree for about forty-five minutes, would control the scale for a year's time. We had another pest, the red spider. The groves that are still in the counties have the same trouble. The red spider is not controlled by fumigation so we controlled it in the early years by the application of dry sulphur--sulphur dust, really--to the trees. In the very early applications we would go through the orchard and throw sulphur through the trees. We had to be careful to do that in weather that was not too hot, because if you got any large amount of sulphur on the fruit and leaves in very hot weather, it would burn the foliage and damage some of the fruit. The dust was really all that was needed to control this red spider. Of course, in the beginning we had a very crude application, but later we got blowers that would really put a cloud of dust all through the orchard, which was quite satisfactory for a time. As the development of oil sprays and the control of scales by spraying became of importance in the pest control part of growing citrus, fumigation became obsolete. We found that the control of the red spider could be combined with the control of the scale by the spraying.

P: What was your spray made up of?

C: They used a special oil spray. I'm certainly not a chemist, so I can't give you any detailed information on that. The Leffingwell Ranch Company put out a very excellent oil spray. There was another material . . . I believe it was lime sulphur . . . which could be included with the scale control and would also control the red spider that I mentioned. But for many years fumigation was very successful.

Another young fellow and myself started the first fumigating business in the Yorba Linda area. We bought some tents and started fumigating the young trees around the community. We were quite successful at it for, I think, about three years. I sold my interest to C. H. Eichler, my partner, and then went more into general orchard care. Eichler continued the fumigating business until he was drafted into World War I. There were other fumigating operators that came into the community in the course of the years between 1910 and 1920. As I remember, along in the 1920s the spraying for control of scale began to prove successful. It was several years that it was a toss-up over whether to [54] fumigate or spray. Then eventually the spraying became so successful and so much easier to do that it became the only practical means of controlling scale. I think it's been several years now since I've ever heard of anyone fumigating an orchard for scale control.

P: How about your irrigation methods? You changed over from the furrow method to the method where you would impound the water so it wouldn't get around the tree. What else did you do besides this?

C: I shouldn't have said that we changed from furrow irrigation. We changed more from cultivation to the control of weeds by other means. We put the furrows in and left them permanently in the orchard after.

P: Oh, I see; I misunderstood.

C: No, I misstated there. Most of the noncultivation still used furrows. They used a wide bottom furrow and those furrows were kept. They sometimes had to go through and clean them, because you'd get an accumulation of leaves, and sort of rebuild the ridges between the furrows a little. Sometimes gophers and moles worked through the orchard and your furrows would tend to break down from time to time. With the oil control of the weeds we just put our furrows in and kept them there. We would go through the orchard and anyplace where the furrows were damaged or there was an accumulation of leaves that would hold the water back too much we would clean them out and repair them by hand so that when the water was turned on in one furrow it would go through to the end of that furrow. In the last, approximately, twenty years that became the pretty much accepted practice in orchard care. There are a few orchards in the county, where the land is quite level, that are still cultivating between irrigations. Sometimes they will use two or three irrigations in the same furrows and then cultivate. They let the weed crop grow up between, maybe, two or three irrigations and then they work the weeds down and put in new furrows.

P: Did you plant anything in between the trees that would be beneficial to the soil?

C: For many years we did. We planned every fall to plant a cover crop. There are a number of different crops used. I think the so-called sweet clover was probably used more than any other one thing. We sometimes used thatch--a large, coarse bean; I don't recall that it had a name as such but I think the common name was horsebeans. They are fully as large as a lima bean but a different type of bean. [55]

P: Do they grow into a big high plant?

C: Grows and vines probably waist high to an average man and it's planted so that there would be a thick mass of this through the orchard. These cover crops did quite well, but as the trees got large and began to shade a large portion of the ground, the cover crops didn't do so well because they were shaded out. In more recent years we got so that we depended to a large extent on just a natural growth. Then, as I was saying, the noncultivation of the orchards kept, to all practical purposes, the ground clean the year around. We had to keep the weeds under control all the time because if we let them go up in the wintertime, then we'd have to work the ground in the spring to get rid of the heavy growth. It wasn't practical to control four or five months of winter growth with an oil spray. It took too much spraying and it was too expensive. It was cheaper to work it down and start over if you let it go. Most of the growers, after they took up noncultivation, did enough spraying through the winter to keep the growth down. Of course, after we had controlled weeds with this spray for three or four years, we didn't have very many weeds come back because they weren't reseeding themselves. We kept the young weeds sprayed down before they would go to seed. In a comparatively short time, we didn't have very many weeds growing, just a moderate growth. Most growers had a sprayer mounted on a trailer they could hook onto a tractor and go through their orchards. With just a very moderate amount of spraying, they could keep these weeds well controlled.

P: Did you ever grow peanuts in between the trees?

C: I've seen a few peanuts grown in your orchards to try to raise a crop of peanuts, but I don't recall anyone using them as a cover crop.

P: I was just curious, because I know peanuts are very high in nitrogen content and you could possibly even sell them.

C: Yes. I have seen peanuts grown between young trees, you know, anywhere from one to three years old where there is a lot of space between the trees. Particularly over in the Fontana area, there seems to be quite a lot of peanuts grown when their orchards are young. I don't recall seeing but just a very few attempts to grow peanuts in Orange County. I think our soil was perhaps a little too heavy for any good peanuts. As I recall, from what little information I have about peanut growing, they like a sandy soil. They develop the [56] peanuts in the ground, you know. It's kind of like potatoes; they seem to do better in a rather loose, sandy type of soil. Not a sand, but an easy workable soil, that doesn't pack around the tubers too tightly.

P: I had heard once that James Utt was the peanut king of Orange County. Have you ever heard that?

C: Yes, I think I did, yes. I had forgotten all about that. I think I do remember hearing that, yet I don't have any particular recollection of it. There has been a lot of crops grown here in Orange County that I was not really familiar with because my chief interest was in citrus growing.

P: Your property in Yorba Linda had water stock in the Anaheim Union Water Company. How many other property owners in Yorba Linda utilized water from the Anaheim Union Company?

C: I would say about twenty or maybe twenty-five, something like that, as I recall. I think it was approximately two hundred acres of the tract that was originally supplied from the Anaheim Union Canal.

P: Why then did people want to create their own water supply? Was there any point of tension between Yorba Linda and the Anaheim Union Company?

C: No, no. You see, there was only this comparatively small area that was situated below the Anaheim Union Canal which could be supplied from the canal. The rest of Yorba Linda was impossible to supply from the Anaheim Union Canal. They had to develop the Yorba Linda Water Company and install pipelines and reservoirs to supply this new tract. The Anaheim Union Water had a rule that they wouldn't pump the Anaheim Union water above the line in the canal--it was supposed to be all gravity water.

P: Do you have any idea why they had this rule?

C: Well, I suppose it went back to the earlier years in the establishing of the original canal. They probably realized that they couldn't supply the whole northern Orange County area from this one canal and they figured that was the way of limiting the acreage that could come under the canal supply.

P: Do you think that perhaps the Santa Ana Valley Irrigation Company might have forced them into this?

C: Well, that's going back a long time before my knowledge [57] of Orange County. As I have heard the history of the two companies, the Anaheim Union Water Company and the Santa Ana Valley Irrigation Company, the original rights in the water from the Santa Ana River were filed at approximately the same time. The one was the south side of the river, down in the Santa Ana-Orange area, and the Anaheim Union was the north side of the river, taking in Placentia, Fullerton, and portions of Anaheim. Although I think most of the Anaheim district developed wells--sometimes one well would supply several owners--but, as I recall, not much of the so-called Anaheim Union Water Company actually got down into the Anaheim district. They supplied the Fullerton area, Placentia and some portions of Anaheim--I think a northern area. My remembrance is that mostly the Anaheim area was developed by wells that drew from the underground basin of the Santa Ana River. The Yorba Linda Water Company drew water from the upper part of the Santa Ana River basin. I feel pretty sure that the Anaheim Union and the Santa Ana Valley Companies were started about the same time. Which one was actually first, I don't know. Also I believe the Yorba Linda Irrigation Company, that a good many years ago became part of the Anaheim Union operation, is still in existence and draws or has a permanent claim on so much water from the Anaheim Union Canal. The Yorba Irrigation Company, as I understand it, is just a distribution system today that draws its supply from the Anaheim Union Canal.

P: Was there a deficit of water in the late thirties?

C: Well, there's almost a yes and no answer to that question. There was danger of a shortage of water before we got the Metropolitan water supply coming into the river. There were many people, including those that were under the Yorba Linda Water Company system, that were worried about the water supply. Their wells were dropping so fast, so many feet each year, and not recovering through the rainy season; they'd recover a few feet, but they wouldn't get back up to where they'd been the year before when they started pumping. All over the county, not only in the Yorba Linda system, but all the Santa Ana River basin area and many wells down near the coast, did fail because salt water came into them and they were no longer useful as irrigation wells. But since the Colorado River water was brought in and began to dump large quantities of that water into the Santa Ana River up in the canyon above Prado, the water levels in the county have recovered very noticeably. I don't have any recent figures on that but I do know there seems to be an adequate supply of water in the county at the present time. I think as long as the Colorado [58] River holds out, we'll probably have plenty of water. We're getting changed into industrial-residential areas so fast that the supply will probably continue to be more from the Metropolitan system than from the wells in many areas. Of course, I think our fair cities, probably all of them, are still pumping a good deal of their supply, but they are also taking Metropolitan water to supplement their wells.

P: What about the effect of the passage of the Swing-Johnson Bill, which created the Metropolitan Water District. Did the people in Yorba Linda have to become a member of this district or how did you become associated with it?

C: Yes, at the time the district was formed, I think most, if not all, of Orange County became a part of the Metropolitan district. I think, some areas like Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Orange joined the district to contract for its water. I think it was only just a couple years back the Yorba Linda got a connection where they could take water from Metropolitan. But the whole area had been a part of the Metropolitan district--not a purchasing unit of the district, just a basic part of the district.

P: Then they would have to pay assessments, wouldn't they?

C: Yes, yes they had assessments, of course. The eight districts that originally signed up to take water from the Metropolitan had assessments of their own to purchase by a district assessment. They still pay their original assessment from being a part of the Metropolitan district. It's not a thing that I personally understand well enough to describe very well, but I know the whole area pays a basic assessment to support the Metropolitan Water District. Also, when they come to the point of purchasing water, they pay a rate fee, and the district itself is responsible for the amount of water they purchase. The costs differ in rate, based upon whether it's treated or untreated water. The water that goes into the Santa Ana River is untreated water coming directly from Lake Matthews by way of the upper feeder line here in the county. I think all of the cities probably take water through the Deimer Filtration Plant, up above Yorba Linda, because they require the treated water. For irrigation, we prefer untreated water.

P: Why is that?

C: Well, all irrigation water in its natural state carries minor elements of minerals that for the most part are [59] good for the soil. Sometimes we get water that carries too much alkaline salts, and if it's used excessively--held on the soil too long--we have a buildup of the salts in the soil which will become detrimental to certain crops. Some crops will tolerate a good deal of alkaline salts some will not. Some won't tolerate hardly any. A good example of that is where a lot of the crops planted in soil that is naturally alkaline, through experimentation, do fairly well and other crops won't grow at all. Citrus groves will tolerate a slight buildup of alkaline. In some places, if there is a good porous subsoil, the alkaline salts can be washed out of the soil by putting a large volume of water on it and holding it, which will leach alkali through to the subsoil and get it away from the roots zone. That has been done in quite a good many cases. It has been proven quite satisfactory. Where there's been an excessively heavy application of water held on it, it leaches this alkaline salts through into the subsoil. If you've got a tight subsoil--clay subsoil--you can't do that, so you have to be careful not to apply too much of that kind of water. Some of the fertilizers that are beneficial to certain crops also carry some minerals that are not good. So they have to find out what they can get along with and what won't work.

P: Was it a very common practice to have orchard care companies in Orange County?

C: Yes. For quite a number of years there were a number of people in the county who operated a regular orchard care contracting service. They furnished tractors and agricultural equipment, furrowers and all kinds of equipment that was necessary for the care of an orchard. Some of them, perhaps, even contracted not only the cultivation and the general care of the orchard, but also the pest control. I never went in for pest control. If the grower wanted me to arrange for pest control, I would get a subcontract with someone that was doing pest control work and turn the pest control work over to him. I felt that I had all I wanted to do looking after the general care of the grove without getting into pest control.

P: Were there absentee owners then?

C: Many absentee owners, yes, particularly in the Yorba Linda area. For many years close to half of the Yorba Linda tract was nonresident owners. Mostly ten, some cases five acres and a few cases as much as twenty acres. The owners continued to be nonresident owners until the land became too valuable to keep in citrus. [60]

P: Why did these people do this sort of thing? Do you think it was a speculative investment for them?

C: I would say so, yes. Many of them in the early years were convinced that citrus growing was a nice business and they wanted to get a part in it. For the most part, it was profitable. As the trees got older and the quality of fruit began to go down, in many cases the trees deteriorated somewhat. As they got past thirty-five or forty years old lemon trees, particularly, become less productive. Some of them can be kept in good producing condition longer than that, but most of the lemon groves were pretty hard to keep in profitable production. And orange groves, if it's good stock to begin with and has been well cared for--properly fertilized--I don't know if you could really set a producing limit so far as our experience today is concerned. I know of orange groves in the Placentia area that have just recently been taken out for subdivision that were bearing trees when I went to Yorba Linda in 1910 and still would be good productive trees today. An orange tree, as I say, if it has been good stock to begin with and has been well cared for--properly fertilized--over the years, is a long-lived tree. Large lemon growing operations have adopted a policy of replanting so many acres. I'd say about thirty years ago Lemonero Ranch in Ventura County adopted a policy of replanting a certain percentage of their ranch every year. They take the old tree out, treat the soil, rework it and, I think, for most cases fumigate for control of nematodes and then replant with new trees. They have proven that that is a practical approach to lemon growing. In fact, it's necessary if you're going to maintain a continued production of good quality lemons. It isn't much use to raise lemons unless you raise good quality. They just don't sell well enough to pay for the costs of production otherwise.

P: How did you charge the individuals for your citrus care, by the acre or based upon a percentage of the yield?

C: Most of my operation I contracted on a yearly basis, although we would always do any kind of work that a grower wanted--a one time operation at so much per hour, or so much per acre. Mostly I preferred contracting by the acre, either by the year or by even the one time operation. I preferred an acre on contract basis if the grower was agreeable. Some of them wanted me to work by the hour, but most of the growers were willing to contract by the acre. From the contract operator's standpoint, it was better, because if you [61] had to stop and repair equipment or had a little trouble of any kind, you're doing your repair work on your own time, whereas if you were working by the hour, then it was a question of how many hours did you actually work and how many hours were you delayed repairing your equipment. If you were contracting at so much per acre for the job, why it was a much simpler operation. If you wanted to work long hours and get the job done, why that was all right. Many of the growers who were resident on their groves and contracted work on their groves, if they were hiring you to work by the hour, they wanted you to work just through a normal day operation so they could go off in the evenings or whatever they wanted to do. You would come at a certain time in the morning and put in, let's say, a normal eight hour day. It wasn't very practical for an orchard contractor to work by the clock. It was better to have a contract operation where you could go out early in the morning, work late and get the job done, and if necessary get on to the next job. Most of your orchard work has to be done in a comparatively short period of time. For instance, in the spring of the year, when we used to raise cover crops in the orchards, there was a comparatively short period of time that those cover crops were all worked into the soil. We had to limit ourselves to eight hours a day or else be too long getting over the acreage that we were supposed to do. We'd be in an orchard at daylight and work as long as we could, see, to try to get over all of the acreage while it was in the proper condition to work. If the cover crops stayed on the orchard too long before they were worked in, they got overripe and were not as much benefit to the orchard as they were if they were worked down while they were still just at the first stages of maturity. The sweet clover, that I mentioned, and the beans we tried to work down before they actually went into the seed stage. We would catch them just about full bloom, or as nearly as possible. The tests that the agricultural experiment extension service made proved that the green crop was the most desirable. Work it in while it was in a lush green stage, just about to the full development but not into the overripe stage. They assumed that, when the cover crops went into the full maturity, they were taking too much out of the soil, and they took too long to break down and be of benefit to the tree. The orchard would suffer a little bit from an overripe cover crop.

P: Were there any big machinery or tool changes, except perhaps, the use of motor vehicles, that were utilized in your citrus [production]? [62]

C: Yes, at the time I first became familiar with citrus growing practically all of the work was done with teams. We plowed the orchards in the spring of the year and turned the cover crops under. After we began to use tractors, the use of plows in the orchard became obsolete in a very short time. We mostly went to discing. We used heavy discs behind the tractors to put the cover crops into the soil. Of course, the transition from the use of horses to tractors was a major step. The first tractors, more or less, attempted same type equipment that we had used with the horses, but we soon found that that wasn't satisfactory. New equipment was developed for use with tractors in the course of a few years and some very satisfactory tractor-drawn discs were developed. We could do a more thorough job of working in a cover crop with a good orchard disc behind the tractor than we ever were able to do with a team and plow. The disc was constructed so that it could be offset behind the tractor. We drove the tractor along just at the drip of the tree. We had the discs set there so it went under the branches of the tree and worked out the cover crop and any trash that was accumulated on the soil with a minimum of damage to the trees. We had shields, they were called, that covered the top of the disc so that the branches that were low enough to have been damage by the disc would slide over this smooth metal shield that was built to carry any low branches over your tools. Furrowing equipment became mostly the disc type. If there were any roots near the surface or heavy trash in the soil, the disc furrower would go through and make a good usable furrow, whereas the old shovel type furrowers sometimes would break off when it struck a heavy root or a rock. If that happened, we would have to stop and repair it.

However, as we got into the noncultivation period, there were some equipment changes. We had to adapt to a type of furrow that was satisfactory for irrigation, the noncultivation type of irrigation. It was found that a very wide bottom furrow was better than a narrow bottom. The ordinary furrow was maybe four or five inches deep, whereas in the past we might have used one that was maybe eight or nine inches deep in good soil. Of course, in some orchards the subsoil was so close to the surface that we couldn't get a very deep furrow. Surprisingly enough, some of that shallow soil produced quite good trees. The roots seemed to go into this quite hard subsoil, which was sort of a composition of decomposed granite and clay that seemed to have some food for the trees in it, and with proper care they developed into pretty good trees. Of course, the ideal thing for a citrus tree is a soil that's seven [63] or eight feet deep with no tight subsoil under it. After the early years of the development of the citrus industry, most of that really choice soil was taken up by the early pioneers of the county. Those of us that came in 1910 and later had to get back on the rolling country where the soil wasn't so deep. We realized in the later years that, if we had known more about citrus culture, we could have developed this rolling country to a better advantage by contour planting and noncultivation. If we had known back in the 1910-1915 period, many of the orchards could have been developed and put into better production by planting along this rolling land and not grading as we thought we had to do when we started planting the rolling country.

P: This equipment that you were talking about was rather expensive, wasn't it? How did you arrange financing?

C: Yes, all of the orchard equipment was quite expensive. In the early years of my tractor buying we could get a pretty good tractor for $2,000 to $2,500. Today the same tractor would probably cost somewhere in the $6,000 or $7,000 range. Our discs and furrowing equipment was quite expensive for the time, so they're naturally much more expensive today. The same rule applied to the spray equipment. In the early years, you could buy fairly good spray equipment--the tank and the spray, the pump and necessary hoses and spray nozzles and things of that kind--for around $1,500-$1,600. You had to have a truck in addition to that, so that you might have a $2,500 truck and a $1,500 spray pump and tank; so, in round figures, you had $4,000 in spray equipment, and that was for just one. Many of the contractors that went into that business might have several of these $4,000 outfits that they operated if they went into it in a large way. I had at one time seven of these, approximately, $2,500 tractors with probably $2,000 worth of implements to go with each tractor. I just didn't want to get in any deeper buying, say, $4,000 spray outfits to add to my investment in equipment.

P: That was a rather high Investment.

C: I preferred to keep it a one-man operation. I hired drivers and operators, but I owned the equipment that I had. It was a one-man operation as far as the ownership was concerned. I figured that, if I went into a bigger operation, I'd probably have to take in a partner, and I didn't want to do that. I preferred to keep my business a one-owner deal. [64]

After a number of years with these spray outfits that were mounted on the trucks, some of the spray operators began to develop a larger, boom type sprayer that two men could operate. It was pretty much a mechanical operation which was pulled by tractors. It was a good deal more expensive than the original spray tank and pumps that were mounted on a truck. They had oscillating booms that were tall enough to spray one side of a large tree. They drove down between the rows and sprayed half of a tree on each side and turned and came back and sprayed the other side of the tree and half of another row. They went back and forth up and down all the rows with these oscillating type sprayers, which proved quite successful as help became harder to get. Like many of the agricultural operations, help was harder to get, so they had to devise mechanical means of doing the work. The two-man spray outfits became quite successful. The old type of truck operation required four men: one man to drive the truck, one to operate a spray gun in a tower that was mounted on top of the tank, and two men on the ground with hoses to go all around the tree. The man in the tower sprayed the top of the tree. When they developed these larger boom type of sprayers, they cut the operation from four-men to two-men, but larger spray outfit. We soon found that it was more practical to run a supply tank from the source of water and their supply of spray materials. We had a supply tank that would go back and forth to the source of water and spray materials, load up, refill for the actual sprayer and bring it right to where the sprayer was working. We filled the spray tank from the supply tank so that the actual spray operation was practically continuous. We just stopped long enough to refill the tank from the supply tank, and the supply tank would go back and get another load. The actual sprayer would continue to operate through the groves with maybe just a five minute stop to refill the tank. It sped up the operation and saved a lot of time in the orchard by doing that.

P: Why would you say that citrus declined so much in Yorba Linda that you had to close down your Citrus Association Packinghouse? I don't know exactly when it happened, but was it because of the housing boom?

C: Yes. It happened all over the county. Many associations, through consolidation with other plants, went out of business before the Yorba Linda Citrus Association did. I know several of the packinghouses in the Whittier district consolidated. I can recall one plant that was closed down whose operation went to another nearby packing plant, and the plant that went out of business [65] was leased by a furniture manufacturing outfit. All of the packing equipment was taken out, and just the building itself was used for storage and furniture manufacturing. In Anaheim, there were a number of associations that began to consolidate because many of the industries were moving in and subdividing the acreage that had previously been in citrus.

In comparatively recent years, I think not even twelve years ago, our association decided that it wasn't profitable to continue. We had taken in fruit from other areas to keep going that long. Our production had been gradually going down because our building development in Yorba Linda was a rather slow process. People would sell off maybe half of a grove and somebody would come in and build on it. Then they began to cut down into two and a half and one acres and things like that. But they soon found that small acreage was not profitable to keep in operation because there wasn't enough production. People didn't take care of them properly, and were just really buying them for their homesites. They didn't take care of the trees properly so the production naturally went down. As I mentioned earlier, many of the groves had passed their peak in production anyway. The production in Yorba Linda itself was going down to where we had been taking in fruit from other areas, such as the La Mirada section of the Murphy Ranch. They brought a considerable amount of their fruit to the Yorba Linda Association because they liked our operation and thought it would be profitable for them to join the Association. I think the Murphy Ranch brought 200 to 300 acres of their fruit to Yorba Linda for several years. We had the Valley View Ranch up between Brea-Olinda for quite a while. Other ranches that liked our Yorba Linda operation and thought they could market their fruit successfully with us brought the fruit to the Yorba Linda plant for packing. We were able to maintain a profitable operation for several years by having fruit from outlying areas. For a time we even brought considerable fruit in from the Corona area. But we finally decided it was time to close out the operation. We had an offer by the Edington Fruit Company to purchase the plant and take over any of the remaining acreage that wanted to stay in production. It seemed good business to accept the offer. The growers that were still affiliated with the Yorba Linda Citrus Association voted to accept the offer and close out the association, which we did. Of course, it took several years to finally close out all of the revolving funds and complete the dissolution of the business. An agreement with the Edington Company was made and they took over the actual operation of the plant. Most of the [66] growers that were in the association continued with the Edington Corporation until they sold their groves to someone that wanted to subdivide or speculate on the purchase of the land for future subdivision. Just in very recent years the Edington Company closed out their operation in Yorba Linda, so the Yorba Linda Citrus Association plant is vacant at the present time and not being used for any purpose. The old orange house is kind of a used lumber business and I don't know just exactly what all that's being used for. The original Yorba Linda Citrus Association building that we built principally for the packing of lemons is standing idle at the present time.

P: These companies, such as the Murphy Ranch and the Edington Company, were large scale citrus growers. Were they located within the general Yorba Linda region or in outlying regions?

C: Most of the Murphy Ranch holdings were in the Whittier-East Whittier area. That was a very large ranch that had many acres of citrus. I don't recall just how many hundred acres of citrus they did have in the total ranch operation, but they had very large holdings in the Whittier area and also rich oil developments. The acreage that they brought into the Yorba Linda Citrus Association for a number of years was near La Mirada and was separate from the original main Murphy Ranch holdings. I recall that was something over 200 acres of oranges which was adjacent to the Imperial Highway and just east of the present town of La Mirada. That particular part of the Murphy Ranch was brought to the Yorba Linda Association for . . . I don't recall how long . . .but they continued there until they sold that portion of the ranch for subdivision purposes. The Edington Fruit Company has operated their own packinghouse in Fullerton for many, many years and also owns considerable acreage of citrus in various parts of the state. It's my understanding they have acreage in the Tulare County citrus area and I know they have acreage in San Diego County. This Valley View Ranch that I mentioned earlier, between Brea and Olinda, was part of the Edington holdings at the time that they came into the Yorba Linda Citrus Association. At that time, they were not handling lemons in the Fullerton plant. The Yorba Linda Citrus Association had a good record as a lemon packing operation so they brought this Valley View Ranch--which was all lemons--into the Yorba Linda Citrus Association because of our past record as a good lemon marketing association. When the so-called Valley View Ranch went out of production, it was on lease from Union Oil Company holdings. I think the main reason [67] they went out of production was because after a number of years the water supply didn't prove quite satisfactory for citrus. They decided it wasn't a profitable operation, so the trees were taken out. Previous to that, the Edington people had bought an operation, a packing operation with facilities for packing lemons, so they did their own lemon packing and withdrew from the Yorba Linda Citrus Association. That was quite a number of years back.

P: Who was involved in these larger companies? Was it a group of individuals who would set up these commercial enterprises or was it individual people who had amassed large landholdings?

C: Well, I think the Murphy Ranch, as I understood it, was a family operation. The original Mr. Murphy, I don't recall but I've heard his first name, had large holdings of land east of Whittier. Much earlier than the time that they began to raise citrus successfully in that area, I believe he had a large cattle and sheep operation. It's my understanding that was a family handled corporation principally held by members of the Murphy family. The Irvine Ranch here in Orange County is pretty largely a family held corporation and the same way with the Edington interests. The father of the present Edington boys that I've known was a considerable landholder in Orange County and developed the Edington Fruit Company, a quite large orange packing house in Fullerton in the early years of Orange County's orange industry. I believe in later years there were possibly some stockholders in the corporation that were not direct descendants of either the Edingtons--or the Murphy's, but I think that both are probably pretty largely still held by descendants of the original developers of this interest.

P: Earlier you mentioned that people were buying Yorba Linda property in one or two acre tracts, either as a home away from some of the more populated areas or perhaps for retirement purposes. Was this a general pattern that emerged before the large scale subdivision occurred?

C: Yes, that type of development became quite popular in Yorba Linda for a few years. People would come out and buy an acre or maybe half of five acres and in many cases just enough for a homesite. In such a manner they could sell one or more parcels off later to they someone else for homesites. I know of a number of cases where they not only made themselves a free homesite but bought enough land, made some profit above. If they bought two acres and cut it in four parcels--which is [68] legal to do--they would make enough off of the three parcels they would sell that they not only had a free homesite themselves but they maybe had in addition a little profit off the deal. That was done by quite a number of people in the first divisions of property that became prevalent in Yorba Linda. Then, of course, the demand increased in more recent years and we began to get subdivisions of varying size. Some of them were five acres and in some cases they bought up several adjacent parcels and made a subdivision a little larger, maybe fifteen, twenty acres, or something like that. There are no really large subdivisions right in the Yorba Linda tract. There are some immediately adjacent but most of the subdivisions in Yorba Linda area have been from five to twenty acres or thereabouts in size. Most of them are not over five or ten acres in one subdivision. It's worked out very well in most cases. You can see in some areas the type of subdivisions or property divisions--you couldn't call them subdivisions, they're not subdivisions as such because people sold some small acreage off and then the purchaser built his home, then he sold off one or more parcels--in driving around the tract by the fact that there's no curbs or sidewalks in the areas where that was done. They just put a paved street in, about eighteen or twenty foot blacktop pavement, no curbs or sidewalks and the yards are developed out to the grade of the street. Where they were properly done, they make a very attractive development. If they saved the trees or if they took the trees out and replanted ornamental trees, many of those are quite nice. Of course, if they weren't properly done, they don't look so good.

P: Thank you, Mr. Corbit. Next time we'll talk about your avocado enterprises, your packinghouse, the reasons for the decline of citrus, and general changes that you have seen in Yorba Linda.


* * * * * *[69]

P: This is the last in a series of five interviews with Mr. Hoyt Corbit, by Tom Peters on the 20th of May, 1968 in Mr. Corbit's home.

Mr. Corbit, why don't you tell me about how Mr. Whedon brought the first Fuerte avocados into the Yorba Linda area?

C: Mr. J. T. Whedon bought five acres of land in a fairly high frost-free location with the intention of planting avocado trees. He had trees ordered from a nursery in Pasadena that had several varieties they were promoting. He had ordered a number of different varieties, and among them were a few Fuerte trees. This was in 1912. In the winter of 1912-1913 they had a tremendous freeze that did a great deal of damage to the citrus, and this avocado nursery was severely damaged. The only trees that survived in the nursery were about fifty Fuerte trees. Mr. Whedon, against his real wishes, accepted these Fuerte trees and planted them on his Yorba Linda property. They proved to be successful trees; they came into production early.

One of my early remembrances of Mr. Whedon is that he would take his avocados in a suitcase--he might have a couple of dozen avocados--into Los Angeles and sell them to hotels at one dollar each.

The real Fuerte avocado industry in California, as it's known today, developed from that planting. One of the trees that is credited with being the prime tree of the Fuerte industry is still living and producing on this same property which now belongs to the Shell Oil Company. There were many thousands of buds and graft sides taken from this one tree because among the fifty trees in the original planting, this particular one proved to be the most productive with the best fruit--a very vigorous tree. The last time I saw it it had a spread between forty-five and fifty feet and was approximately fifty feet high. It's quite a task to pick fruit from. During the time that I was buying and packing avocados I remember one year having a couple of men pick fruit on this grove. This big Fuerte tree had a heavy crop that year and we picked slightly over a ton of nice avocados off this one tree. That, of course, was an unusual crop. It just proves the point of the Fuerte industry that it really was worthy of the name "prime avocado tree." Of course, in later years the Hass variety became quite popular for summer avocados, but no one has found a better winter variety of avocados than the Fuerte. The Hass is the most important of the summer varieties but the Fuerte is undoubtedly the finest quality and most consistent [70] producer of all the varieties that have been tried. Many people have found fruit that they thought to be a good marketable variety, but which proved faulty after a little trial. They're either not top quality, as far as edibility, they don't ship good, or are too thick-skinned or too thin-skinned. There are many reasons why different varieties have failed as far as commercial production. There are some good varieties as far as excellent bearing quality but they don't keep well, or they get damaged in the handling because they are too thin-skinned. Then there are a number of thick-skinned varieties that ship well but are of poor eating quality.

The avocado packing in Yorba Linda through the years has been almost entirely by independent packers. The first to start in the avocado packing in Yorba Linda was Virgil House. He started packing avocados in a small building adjacent to his home, and expanded his operation over the years until it has become quite a large packer. His two sons now operate the same business. Virgil House, himself, has retired, although he still lives in Yorba Linda. A few years later there was another tropical avocado company that was started by Mr. Harlan Hoak and a couple of other men whose names I don't remember. They packed fruit in Yorba Linda for a few years and then sold that business to a man from the Los Angeles market area. The business is still operated under the name of Tropi-Cal by a Mr. Louis McCann.

In about 1948, I believe it was, I formed a small corporation with a couple of other men and started packing avocados in a building that I owned in Yorba Linda at the time. We installed some used citrus machinery that we adapted to the handling of avocados. But by 1948 some citrus packinghouses had begun to go out of business because the amount of citrus in the county had started going down by that time. Through consolidation of the packing associations there was some used citrus equipment available at a reasonable cost and it was comparatively easy to adapt portions of it to the handling of avocados. I owned and operated that packing plant for about twelve years, I believe it was. I reached the age at which I felt I wanted to retire so I dissolved the corporation and sold the equipment, the land and buildings to a man that wanted to convert it into a grocery store. The buildings where I once owned and operated an avocado packing plant were converted to a grocery store and has since been again remodeled into a furniture store. Just briefly, that is the history of my interest in the avocado packing. [71]

I packed for the wholesale market and also shipped some packed fruit into what is called the Middle West and South--into Kansas City and into Texas, principally. Most of our pack went to the Los Angeles markets. We also supplied some of the chain stores like Safeway. We sold Safeway a lot of fruit, and some to Von's Markets, and some of the other chain stores in Los Angeles. Alexander's, I believe it was called at the time that we were packing. I don't know if that market chain is still operating or if it has been absorbed by another chain. I'm not sure about that. We tried to sell as much as we could to the chain stores because they would take truck loads of the fruit delivered to their warehouse. There was too much expense in delivering to the smaller stores. There is too much mileage involved in delivering small lots. The chain stores can take a full truck-load of packed fruit to their warehouse and set it off and weigh it in all in one operation. That was the kind of business that we liked. It saved us money in handling and, of course, the chain stores could handle the large quantities of fruit.

P: How did the wholesale market work up in Los Angeles?

C: We sold quite a lot of fruit on the City Market at Ninth and San Pedro. That was the market where we operated. Most of the time that I was in the business we had a space rented in the City Market and kept a considerable amount of packed avocados available there. We sold them in any quantity that the buyers that came into the City Market wanted. Of course, many of the retail food markets go into the city markets every morning to buy other produce and they buy avocados at the same time in whatever quantity their store is capable of handling. Usually it's just small lots, but you get a little better price for them so we could pay rent. It helped to operate a stall in the City Market. You have to have several outlets because if you depend entirely on chain stores why, maybe they take large lot of fruit from some other packing source, Calavo or some of the large packers in San Diego County, and they don't want your fruit for a few days. So if you have to have an additional outlet the City Market operation proved to be a good safety valve for excess fruit. Usually you could get a fairly good premium over chain store prices by selling small lots on the market. There's all kinds of produce available there. For a time we tried handling other produce too, but we found that the soft fruits and vegetables were pretty perishable. If we couldn't move them the day they came on the market, we were liable to have to take a loss on them. So we went out of the [72] produce business and dealt exclusively in avocados. That proved to be a better thing for our operation. The avocados were really our principal business, rather than the handling of other produce. We tried that because we thought maybe it would fit in with the avocado sales, but we didn't find it satisfactory because of the perishable nature of the soft fruits like peaches and grapes and many vegetables, too. For instance, corn is a popular item on the market but it has to be sold very quickly after it's delivered to the market or it becomes stale, and then you have to sell it at a loss.

P: How extensively outside of Yorba Linda did the avocado industry become in Orange County?

C: The avocado became quite generally raised in Orange County. I don't have any figures in mind as to the total production but the last I knew, for instance, the Irvine Ranch still has about a hundred acres of avocados. There's quite a few avocados around Santa Ana, Orange and Orange Park and a lot of avocado production in many areas like La Habra, Fullerton and Anaheim. However, not many of the areas are in large acres. The avocado lends itself well to replanting. Backyard plantings were successful, in that for many years the avocado usually brought a real good price. If you had, for instance, a large lot, you could plant maybe a dozen avocado trees; then if you get five or six hundred pounds per tree, why it helps to pay your taxes. Many people did that. If they had a large lot, they'd plant a number of avocado trees and were able to get a little supplemental income that way, to more or less pay their taxes, their water bills and things like that. They found that it was quite a successful thing to do for a number of years. In recent years, it hasn't been so profitable because the average price of avocados has been much less than it was in 1950. I would say that the avocado prices began to drop off pretty sharply because production had increased quite heavily in other places. Orange County had been a heavy producer in earlier years, but as time went on the people in San Diego county found that they had desirable locations for avocados and cheaper land than we had in Orange County, so a great deal of acreage was quite successfully planted in San Diego County. Ventura County was the same way. There are a lot of avocado trees that have produced profitably even up into Santa Barbara County. The Fuerte has not done so well in Ventura and Santa Barbara County but the summer varieties like the Hass and some of the other lesser known varieties have proven to be quite successful. At one time Los Angeles [73] was a heavy producer of avocados, but I think most of the avocados in Los Angeles County have given way to subdivisions now. There are some avocados I know in the part of La Habra Heights that's in Los Angeles County, and I think there's still some avocados around Whittier. But most of Los Angeles County production has given way to subdivisions or other building purposes. Orange County, of course, is a good deal the same way. A lot of the avocado production has gone the same way as our citrus production. Nearly all the citrus groves, particularly small citrus groves, found that it was profitable when they lost citrus trees to replant with avocados. A number of people were growing anywhere from just three or four avocado trees to possibly as many as an acre in a five acre orange grove. It's an odd thing but it soon developed that where an orange or lemon tree had died for some cause, like gum disease or even the well known "quick decline," the avocado tree could be planted in the same spot and it would do well.

P: I see. It wasn't subject to the same type of diseases, then, was it?

C: They are apparently not susceptible to the same diseases and they obviously take some other elements out of the soil than the citrus tree did. Because you can put an avocado tree right in where an orange tree had been for fifty years and it'll just take off and grow like it was in virgin soil, whereas if you put an orange tree in under the same conditions, it wouldn't do any good. Where an orange tree died or became diseased you'd have to treat the soil, fumigate it for nematodes and give it special treatment to get a new orange tree to do well.

P: It sounds as if the avocado industry never really received the great interest that the citrus industry received in regard to large scale commercial efforts. It seems it was more or less a convenience for people to grow avocados along with their citrus.

C: It was pretty largely that way in Orange County. As I say, there were some fairly large plantings. There were, I think, a couple of groves in Yorba Linda of the eighteen or twenty acre size that were converted completely to avocados for a time. Now they are not a big factor in avocado production because they've lost trees, and in some cases the oil development has taken most of their trees out. I think the one hundred acres that the Irvine Ranch had is about as large as Orange County ever had in avocado acreage in one block. San Diego County has some large plantings and so [74] does Ventura County. I understand in earlier years there were some fairly large plantings in Los Angeles County. But as far as Orange County, there weren't a lot of real avocado groves, only small plantings or, as I was saying, replantings in the citrus orchards. But as far as real acreage of avocados, there really wasn't very many of what you could call avocado groves.

P: We've spoken of increased production in areas other than Orange County, and the resulting decline in prices. It seems today that, if you go into a market to buy an avocado, it's pretty expensive. Do the middlemen jack the prices up or have they always? How do the prices run on avocados?

C: Well, in earlier years prices of twenty and twenty-five cents a pound were quite common. It got where in more recent years it was not unusual for the price to get down to four or five cents a pound, which was just about the cost of packing them. They are rather an expensive fruit to handle. They have to be hand picked, and picked with care. It's very seldom that you pick all of them in one operation. Most of them go in early and pick the early maturing fruit, and then they may go back two or three times and pick over the trees to get all of the fruit off. Of course, when prices get cheap, why they usually would go in and clean the trees. The fruit that was too small--that is, immature--that might be picked in a cleaning operation, would have to be discarded. There were a good many years that it was quite common to get twenty, twenty-five, or even up to thirty cents a pound, with a considerable production of avocados. That was quite a profitable crop at that price, but the picking and marketing of an avocado is quite an expensive operation. Most of the picking will cost in the neighborhood of two cents a pound. It's got to be a pretty good crop that you can pick for less than two cents a pound. In my experience with the packinghouse, and I've talked with many operators that agreed with the same figure, it costs about five cents a pound to get the fruit ready to put on the retail market. So, if you got two cents a pound for picking and five cents for packing operation . . . when the price gets below seven cents a pound, you are not even getting the cost of picking and marketing to say nothing of a profit for the grower, or the packinghouse operator, either one.

P: Do you think the reason why the prices have declined was the high production in other regions?

C: Yes. I'm told that at the present time they have developed [75] ways of moving a lot of the fruit out of state. In the years that I was in the operation there was considerable difficulty in marketing very much fruit out of state. They hadn't developed the eastern markets. In talking with some of the operators that I'm still acquainted with, I understand they have developed markets in the East and ship large quantities--in fact, carloads--of avocados to the Eastern cities now. Of course, they have to compete part of the year with avocados from Florida. Florida has quite a large production. In my opinion, their fruit doesn't compare with California fruit in quality, but they have different varieties. They don't raise the same varieties of fruit that we do here. But as I say, in my opinion, their fruit is not as good quality as ours. They are a factor in the Eastern seaboard markets, and if our price gets high enough in the Los Angeles markets, they'll send carloads of Florida fruit to the Los Angeles markets. When the price gets up about twenty cents a pound, you are liable to see Florida fruit showing up on the Los Angeles market.

P: That's quite a ways for them to ship it, isn't it?

C: Yes, it's a long way for them to ship, but it's a long way for us to ship to the East coast, too. They claim that when prices get up to eighteen, twenty cents a pound on the Los Angeles market, they can make a profit shipping them out here. Production costs are less in Florida. They get cheaper labor down there. They have cheap water and where they raise avocados and oranges in Florida their land prices have been cheaper than ours. I don't know how true that is at the present time, because I understand they have been having a real estate boom down there for varying purposes, same as we have here. But I know that in years past their land prices and their water supply was much cheaper than ours, as well as their having considerably cheaper labor down there. They have an advantage from the standpoint of production costs over the California grower.

P: Did the avocado industry ever become large enough merit the creation of an organization comparable to the Sunkist organization?

C: Well, the Calavos, as it's known--the California Avocado Growers--was organized and operates very much on the same principle as the Sunkist organization. It has been quite successful. It doesn't begin to compare with the Sunkist Growers in size but it has served a similar purpose in the avocado industry and does market [76] I think, about 70 percent of the avocado crop of California. Of course, over the years they've gotten into the marketing of some other crops like dates, and they ship in and market papayas and pineapples, I believe, from the Hawaiian Islands. They also market limes and, it seems to me, one or two other products that I can't think of right now. They have gotten into these other products so that they can keep their sales organization busy the year round. They get slack periods in the avocado crop. They might get a short crop, which frequently happens in avocado production, so they need supplemental products to keep their sales organization busy. You know, you can't hire good sales people and turn them off every time the weather fails the avocado crop or you won't have a good sales organization. So that has been the reason for Calavos marketing other fruits. I think it's been quite successful. They've served, I think, a good purpose in the avocado industry, and they haven't taken over as large a portion of the avocado crop as the Sunkist Growers has of the citrus industry. The Sunkist Growers market almost the entire citrus crop in California now. There were years back when there were a good many independent operators, but in recent years Sunkist has been marketing most of the California citrus crop. Even people like the Edington Fruit Company have affiliated themselves with the Sunkist sales organization. They operate their own orchards and pack for other people, too, but Sunkist does the selling for them.

P: They almost have a complete monopoly.

C: Yes. It's almost a monopoly on citrus marketing. But Calavos nas never reached that point with the avocado industry. There has been real stiff competition from the independent operators like the H&H, Virgil House plant in Yorba Linda, Everett Johnson in Vista and the Henry Brothers in Escondido. They've been able to compete with Calavos quite successfully in their own area. Well, I guess Calavo hasn't done quite a good enough job yet on avocado marketing to really take over all the sales.

P: You made the comparison between the decline of the avocado and the citrus industries. Do you think that they are allied somewhere, or that the causes for the decline are the same?

C: Some of the causes are probably the same, yes. The decline of the citrus industry goes back beyond the present demand for factory sites and homesites, and things like that. The decline of the citrus industry [77] in Los Angeles and Orange County started many years ago, and it's been progressive. I personally think the smog conditions have something to do with it. Because I've seen the decline developing from the area west of Whittier. There used to be lots of citrus even as far over as Montebello, and that began to go out--lots of dad trees, sick looking trees--many years ago, even before they were building factories out in that area. That came on into Orange County and we got what came to be known as "quick decline" in the orchards. Some orchards almost entirely went out from this citrus "quick decline," depending on the rootstock of the particular orchard. That seemed to grow progressively worse in Orange County. A different disease developed in the avocados that took many trees out in the course of the years. It would cause cinnamon root fungus. There didn't seem to be any remedy for it when it got into an avocado grove. It got progressively worse in the grove. They'd lose tree after tree, and citrus "quick decline" is the same way. The thing that I think contributed largely to the decline of the citrus industry was the increasing demand for industrial buildings and home-sites. It was inevitable in this area because we are right in the path of progress here. I can remember telling that to a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Yorba Linda probably twenty-five years ago. Some of them had said that they wanted to hold Yorba Linda as the last country citrus community and they didn't want any industry or homesites. I told them, "You are just dreaming if you think you can keep Yorba Linda as it is today. You may delay the change but look at these other areas closer to Los Angeles; a community like Yorba Linda with rolling land would adapt itself well to homesites. It's just inevitable that it is going to become a residential community as industry and the demand for homes becomes more prevalent in the county." I, personally, think that was the major cause of the change from agriculture to industry in the county. It was just geographically located to where it was bound to happen to us. People like myself that came to the county in the earlier years would all like to have kept Orange County like it was when it was practically all oranges and beautiful avocado trees. We loved it that way. We would like to have seen it continue, but you just can't do it when a metropolitan area like Los Angeles is your next door neighbor, and when it's the most wonderful climate in the world. We are going to have to give way to metropolitan development.

P: So, you feel that there are three main reasons for the decline of citrus and avocado industries--in other words, [78] agriculture--in Orange County, or at least in the Yorba Linda area. First, you say is smog. Do you know if smog has been scientifically determined as having a deleterious effect on trees?

C: No, I'm sorry to say I don't know that.

P: It may. I don't know.

C: I don't know if it has even been proven. That's a belief of my own because I saw the deterioration of the trees from the Los Angeles area get progressively worse over the years. In earlier years I did a good deal of driving back and forth to Los Angeles in connection with my business and I could see every year the deterioration of the trees coming into Orange County. The first I noticed was well over into Los Angeles County, and then in a few years it began to get out into Orange County. I noticed too, the heavier the traffic got, the worse the condition of the trees adjacent to these major highways became. I am convinced myself that it does have something to do with it. And I think it has been scientifically determined that a number of vegetable crops won't tolerate heavy smog.

P: So that's one of your reasons?

C: Yes. That's just my opinion.

P: That's fine, because you've been associated with citrus all your life, and I can appreciate your opinion. Your second reason included diseases such as "quick decline," for the orange trees at any rate, and the cinnamon root fungus for avocado trees. Thirdly, you indicated that we are basically in the way of progress. Why do you think it took so long for the suburbia boom to hit Yorba Linda? It was only quite recently that it hit, wasn't it?

C: It's in the last, approximately, ten years that Yorba Linda has become an urban community. I think it's largely due to its geographic location. Up until recent years Yorba Linda was not on a major highway. Imperial Highway was not open through into Santa Ana Canyon until just very recent years. We had Imperial Highway that came into Yorba Linda and that was the end of it. You just had to take country streets from Yorba Linda to get out into Santa Ana Canyon and on east. I don't remember the years, but I think it was about ten years ago that the State Highway opened for development the little section of groves from the town of Yorba Linda to the Santa Ana Canyon--which is [79] now the Riverside Freeway. Since that time Yorba Linda has become pretty much of an urban community. Yorba Linda is the most northeasterly town in Orange County, and I think the development of the rest of the county had to reach an overflow point, you might say, before Yorba Linda got the heavy development that has occurred in the last ten years. Prior to that there was a slower movement into the community. People visiting here would take a liking to the community and they would decide to come back and buy themselves maybe one or two or three acres off of somebody's ranch. There was a slow increase in the population and division of property, but no real subdivisions until just very recent years.

P: You said just a little while ago you told many of your townsmen in the Chamber of Commerce the folly of trying to inhibit this progress. If you had realized this, don't you think it would have been wise to purchase property in Yorba Linda? Didn't many other people realize this and purchase property?

C: There were some that did, yes. I bought additional property. Of course, like many other people I sold some of it too soon to realize the maximum increase in value, although I don't regret having sold. I made a profit and the next fellow made a profit, too. That's good business, see. Unless both parties make a profit out of real estate transactions, somebody's going to get hurt, and I don't care for that kind of business myself. I like for the person that I sell to to have a profit out of his deal, too. There were some local people in Yorba Linda that bought additional acreage and there were people from other parts of the county--Anaheim, Fullerton, and I think probably some from Santa Ana also--that came out to Yorba Linda and bought what acreage they could find that was for sale. There really wasn't too many people in Yorba Linda who were willing to sell until land prices got to where they just couldn't afford to raise crops on it anymore. When they could sell the land for enough money to make more off of the interest than they could off of raising crops, then they decided it was time to sell. But most of the people in Yorba Linda, even up to the time when subdivision had begun to come in, were not at all anxious to sell their property. I know that I myself didn't want to quit the business of raising oranges and avocados, but I couldn't see where I was justified in continuing. I could sell my land for much more than it was actually worth for agricultural purposes, so it just wasn't profitable to keep it anymore.

P: It was a matter of good business then. [80]

C: Yes, just a matter of economics. You can make more taking the price you get for the land and put it out at interest than you could raising crops, so why worry about whether you are going to have a good crop or not. There's been a good deal of land speculation in Orange County. I know, there's still some land being held in Yorba Linda for future development. A lot of people had money that they thought they could put in land safely and it's just land laying idle waiting for future development. There is quite a bit of that around the county. I know of a number of pieces that have been bought by people that feel that they can hold it profitably. There's a question in my mind as to whether they are right or not, but anyway it's true, there is quite a bit of land that has been bought, some of it by wealthy people from other areas that have invested considerable money in Orange County land. The land is just idle waiting for the time when they can get a price that suits them. Some of it, of course, is held by concerns that have built on a portion of the land and who have additional land that they are holding for future development or expansion of their plans.

P: You stated that there were some forces or interests in Yorba Linda, traditional interests at any rate, that wanted to keep Yorba Linda rural. Was there any sort of movement to keep the area from being subdivided, such as zoning regulations? Were there any great battles over this?

C: No, no. I didn't mean to give that impression. There were some little arguments, you know, as to whether we could build a nice rural, citrus growing community. They preferred to just go on being citrus farmers, and I agreed with that thought myself. I much prefer to retire to a few acres of citrus than to do otherwise. But I felt it was inevitable that we were going to have to give up our citrus growing community to the kind of development that has come in in recent years. But there was no real community battle over the idea. We had a kind of a forum, I guess you'd call it, and some of the local residents at the time expressed themselves as wanting to keep Yorba Linda as it was, say, twenty-five years ago.

P: When was this forum held, in 1948?

C: Along in the 1940s, yes. I just made the statement that I felt that, while we could keep it very much as it was for a time, that it would be impossible to keep it a rural community for very many years. There were others that felt as I did, and there were some that just [81] expressed the wish that we might be able to always be a nice little rural community of maybe a thousand or so families, always growing oranges, lemons and avocados. A nice little happy family sort of idea. That's a nice dream, but it's not likely to be realized.

P: When you look back on the changes that have occurred, Yorba Linda probably didn't change a whole lot until 1960.

C: About the late 1950s and from 1960 on, yes. The last eight to ten years is when the major changes have occurred. Shortly after 1950, as I remember, we had a community planning committee that was composed of three representatives: the chamber of commerce, three from the Farm Bureau, and three from the business association that we had--it was composed of just the people that had businesses in the village. The chamber of commerce, in those years, in Yorba Linda was a community-wide organization. Nearly everybody in Yorba Linda belonged to the chamber of commerce. But the business association, at that time, really functioned as the chamber of commerce was supposed to. It was composed of the people that were actually in business on Main Street and the adjacent areas. This planning committee tried to get a community zoning accepted through the County Planning Commission, but we never were able to get very much accomplished because so many of the residents, at that time, felt it was all right to go over to the other side of town and set up a zone, but "Don't bother me. I want to stay agricultural," see. We never were successful in getting a real community plan established. We wanted to make a central business area around the original town-site, then a buffer zone of ordinary residential lots and then a state zoned area beyond that and have the potential new businesses build out around the original townsite. Well, of course, that plan was not accepted and the result is that shopping centers have been built out a mile or almost a mile and a half west of town. The only shopping center that was built immediately adjacent to the original townsite is where Michael's Market is. We had hoped to locate the Alpha Beta store that is out on Yorba Linda Boulevard immediately adjacent to the old townsite. But instead they had it built on Valley View and Yorba Linda Boulevard. I suppose they figured there was going to be more residential development out there, and so they chose that site. We had hoped to get zoning that would make the original townsite and the immediately adjacent area more desirable to the chain stores when they saw fit to come into the area. But the fact that the community wouldn't accept a central zoning plan meant that the agricultural areas were open to any kind of developmeht and the shopping centers could go anywhere that they thought was desirable, rather than being required to settle into a [82] central business area zoned for the purpose.

P: Why didn't the community go for this central zoning plan?

C: I think they were too rural-minded at the time. They thought Yorba Linda was always going to be a nice country type of village that would never really be a small city. It was still prevalent in the community. It was all right to go and zone Joe Doctroe on the other side of town but "Don't bother me, I want to stay agricultural."

P: Were these the old-time residents who were reflecting this view?

C: Yes, yes. They were still hanging on to the idea that they might be able to keep Yorba Linda a real country village. We are a semi-agricultural community. They were all willing to sell off a little portion to somebody they liked who came along and wanted a homesite, but they didn't want a residential community. Of course, in time, that was broken down, but it was entirely dependent on the Orange County Planning Commission as to what type of development went in. We were able to zone the southeastern part of the community, where I was living at the time, for I would say a small estate--15,000 square feet homesites--type of building.

P: That's a pretty good-sized homesite, a very large sized lot.

C: That's right, that's a pretty good-sized lot, with room for people to have a couple of horses, a little garden plot if they wanted, a few trees and things like that.

P: It still retained its semi-rural character then?

C: Yes. It retained its semi-rural character that way. But in most of the tracts in the area they didn't want any zoning. They were satisfied with their A-l classification that the county gave them. Of course, that left them open to the possibility of 7,200 foot building sites and any kind of development that the County Planning Commission might decide to approve.

P: So some people, at least you, realized the potential possibility of change in Yorba Linda, and tried to do something about it.

C: Yes. There were a number of people in the community who believed that change was inevitable--in fact, all of the people who were appointed to this planning committee. Of course, we had no real authority except what help we could get from the County Planning Commissioner's office. We [83] were just a volunteer group that was trying to develop an orderly plan of development for the community.

P: How cooperative was the county at this time?

C: The county was very cooperative, very cooperative. They furnished us with maps and blueprints, and drew up proposed ordinances that might apply. They were very cooperative and would have liked to see us develop a community plan. They would have passed zoning ordinances appropriate to the successful development of a real community plan. But we couldn't get the community as a whole to agree to it. So we finally had to drop the idea. We just went as far as we could without having community backing, as the County Planning Commissioner would not go ahead and zone the area without the support of the majority of the residents in the area. We were unable to get sufficient support.

P: Did you hold an election or something?

C: Well, we held public meetings and had voice votes--in some cases, standing votes--as to whether or not they wanted it. There just wasn't enough support for the Planning Commissioner to take the necessary steps to complete a community-wide plan.

P: Were many of these people who reflected this apathy, as you remember, old-time residents, people who moved in during the first ten or fifteen years of the tract's history?

C: Well, some of the older residents were our strongest supporters. Many of the people that were voting against a community development plan were more recent residents. They came out here because they liked Yorba Linda as a nice little country village and they didn't want to see it changed.

P: But they weren't insightful enough to understand the possibility of it changing then.

C: Yes. (laughter) They wouldn't vote for it. Of course, you understand, these votes were just in community meetings. We held public meetings for each section of the community that we had a zoning map ready for so as to let the residents express their wishes. Most of the community voted it down, you know, by either a standing vote or a voice vote in a public meeting. It just seemed like it wasn't the time to go ahead with that. Of course, as time went on and more development began to come in, there just didn't seem to be anything that could be done about it. [84]

P: I've seen some land use maps of Yorba Linda and there is rather intense land use now in the original tract--that is, very high concentrations of people, at least, in the original area. The people that wanted to keep it rural eventually did sell, didn't they?

C: Yes, that's right. Quite a few of them, like myself, eventually sold their land, and several of them are residents here in Laguna Hills. A number of others are still living in Yorba Linda but they have just a homesite. There are very few of the early residents that still have any acreage. Most of the acreage has been sold. Most of it that is in acreage has an oil development on it which makes it undesirable for homesites anyway.

P: Why is that, I don't know.

C: Well, for one thing, if there's very much oil development, it's impossible to get a building permit because the county has an ordinance that prohibits residences being built within 150 feet of an oil well. There are restrictions on how close to an oil well you can build a residence, which is 150 feet. If you've got a couple of oil wells on five acres of land, you just don't have any place to build a house. Because 5 acres is 300 feet wide and 650 feet long. If you've got a couple of oil wells in that area, why, where are you going to build a house that is 150 feet from an oil well? If you are lucky, and the wells happen to be fairly close together, why, maybe you can get one or two houses on one end of it.

P: Oil is one thing we haven't talked about. I was not really aware of the fact that there was much oil development in the Yorba Linda area. I knew there was in the Brea and the Atwood areas, but I didn't know there was any in the Yorba Linda area.

C: Yes, there's quite a lot of oil production in Yorba Linda. There was some oil production developed in Yorba Linda in the area a mile or so just southwest of the townsite, way back in the World War I days or shortly thereafter. There's quite a little oil development and some production still in that area. Then, in more recent years, the Gulf Oil Company came into the Yorba Linda area and developed a lot a shallow wells, particularly north and a little east of Yorba Linda. There's quite a little area up on the north end of Lakeview where there's considerable production.

P: This is in the hills behind Yorba Linda?

C: No, actually in the Yorba Linda tract. There is a large development by the Shell Oil Company all along the hills. [85]

P: Right. I was aware of that but I wasn't aware of any in the tract itself.

C: Yes. There is a considerable development in the tract itself, particularly in that general area at the north end of Lakeview and Citrus. It covers quite an area up there. Then there's some production on west from there, along the northern portion of Yorba Linda. Some of it has been there for a number of years and some of it is more recent. Then there's a little area that goes off down to the southwest in the vicinity of Imperial and Valley View, the Orange Drive area. There's some oil production down in there. It's small, but it's still considered commercial production. As long as those wells are there and producing, why, they can't build residences closer than 150 feet to the well.

P: Which large oil companies exploited these resources?

C: Gulf has been the main developer in the Yorba Linda area.

P: Has Union Oil been in there?

C: Union has leased in there in past years but they don't have any production that I know of in Yorba Linda. They leased a good deal of land and did a little exploratory drilling and pulled out. The Gulf Oil Company came in and did the major development in Yorba Linda. There are some small independent producers that have production also in the west Yorba Linda area but the Gulf Oil Company has been the major producer.

P: Historically speaking, has the oil or the resource that has been developed produced any revenue for the town of Yorba Linda? Other than salaries, I mean, like tax revenues, for instance. Did this all go to the county and then did they kick some of this back into Yorba Linda?

C: Well, I presume now that they have the town of Yorba Linda incorporated that they will get some tax revenue from this oil development because there is a considerable amount of oil tax involved out there. The county, of course, has been receiving that in years past and now that the town is incorporated I presume that the corporate body will receive its share of oil tax. I would assume that that's true, although I haven't heard any figures on that as yet. I know they are getting their share of the gasoline tax. The state gasoline tax has been sent back to them through the county, you know. Each county and then the towns in turn get a portion of the gasoline tax sent back to the city government. I would assume that some of the oil revenue tax would revert back to the corporate city government now that they do have the city of Yorba [86] Linda established. In the past, of course, as long as it was county territory, why, the oil tax went into the county exclusively. But I would think that surely the city government now will receive some portion of that back from the county.

P: You don't think they ever received anything back before?

C: No, there wasn't any body to receive it.

P: That would be the big thing.

C: That's the point, there being no one there to receive it, you see. We haven't been incorporated for a year yet.

P: I was wondering, perhaps, if they have an elementary school out there, or anything that was county supported.

C: That's a point that didn't occur to me. I don't know just how that oil revenue is handled, whether any of that would revert specifically to the school district or not.

P: I would imagine a certain amount of it would.

C: They have, of course, school bonds and numerous school taxes that appear on your tax bill. That's a possibility; maybe some of the oil revenue does revert back to the school district. I presume it does. It hadn't occurred to me. I have often heard it said, you know, Brea is a wealthy school district because of the oil development in the town; Placentia is the same way. Now whether that is a true statement or not I never was in a position to really verify. I have often heard it said that both Placentia and Brea were wealthy school districts because of the oil development in their districts. I think, though, that probably is a pretty general statement. The way that makes them a wealthy district is that these productive oil fields are assessed quite high on the county tax rolls. They've become a source of considerable revenue to the district and to the county itself because of the high rate of assessment on oil fields and oil production. I doubt if it's really a direct reversion of tax on the oil production. I think it's just the fact that there is an increased revenue to the county and to the school district to cover all assessments that come from this particular source. I doubt if there's any tax on the oil revenue directly as school revenue. I think it's a pretty general application, the overall assessment value of the oil development is the thing that produces the revenue for the county. I know what the production is every year when I get our tax statement. We get a notice from an oil company that our royalty check has been so much tax money subtracted from the royalty check. I know that the [87] production as well as the property is taxed. I think it's just a general tax and then, of course, a portion of it goes to the school district because it has various levies for school purposes. So far as I know that is the way that the oil business helps the school district the same as it helps all the other county levies. The large value of oil producing property as well as the actual assessment on the production brings a lot of revenue into the county and in turn to the various districts, schools and what have you in the way of revenue districts in the county. We have so many of them. I think that the overall assessment on the oil industry helps. I doubt if there's any specific levy in so far as any one item is concerned, for instance, the school district. I don't think that there is any specific levy on the oil interests for school purposes any more than there was, on my citrus land. We were assessed according to the county assessors idea of the value of our property and I think the same rule applies to the oil producing land.

P: One last question: What particular thing in the development of rural Yorba Linda struck you as being most significant in the success--or perhaps any failure--in the community?

C: Well, no at the moment I don't seem to recall any one thing that struck me as having outstanding significance.

P: Would you say then that Yorba Linda is a rather typical town in the pattern of Orange County development?

C: Yes, in a general way. Yorba Linda has, up to the present time, and I think it's likely to continue that way, been almost entirely residential development or transition from growing to residential. Most of the other towns in the county, have had industrial development along with the residential.

P: Do you think there is ever going to be any industrial development in Yorba Linda?

C: There doesn't seem to be any good reason to think that there would ever be very much industry in Yorba Linda. There just isn't very much there to bring Yorba Linda into the industrial picture. The community now has become so much a residential community, and it seems like everyone I talk to wants it to remain a residential community.

P: So we can see, then, in less than fifty or sixty years, a change from people coming there for agriculture, to people coming there just to make a home.

C: Yes, just because they think it's a nice home community. Anaheim, for instance, has a large industrial area [88] developing and has quite a large reserve of industrial land still to be developed within a ten or fifteen minute drive of Yorba Linda. So the people in Yorba Linda, the majority of them, seem to think they would much rather have the community continue residential than to have industry move any closer than the Anaheim area, which is the closest industrial development we have. There is Autonetics, then there's other industry developing now to the east of Autonetics, some of it within a couple of miles of Yorba Linda. The community as a whole seem to prefer having some other town develop the industry and let Yorba Linda be a nice residential area.

P: Well, I'd like to thank you very much, Mr. Corbit, for your time and consideration. You have contributed an abundance of valuable information regarding the history and development of early Yorba Linda. Thank you.

C: It's been a pleasure.


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