Yorba Linda History

Historic Documents

Search for specific termsBrowse alphabetical list of titlesBrowse by subject category

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

Dr. Buel F. Enyeart

Interviewed by Dan Hoppy, December 2, 1968   Open this page in a new window



The Fuerte Avocado

O.H. 80




Dan Hoppy


December 2, 1968

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





SUBJECT: The Fuerte Avocado

DATE: December 2, 1968

H: This is Dan Hoppy and I am recording Dr. B. F. Enyeart for the California State College, Fullerton, Oral History Project, and we are at his home at 5232 South Ohio, Yorba Linda, California, and the date is December 2, 1968, and right now we are sitting in Dr. Enyeart's living room.

Perhaps, Dr. Enyeart, you would like to give me a brief biographical sketch of your life.

E: I was born in Missouri in 1893. I came to California after graduation from high school and about two years in college. I also taught three years in Missouri before [coming to California]. I accepted a position as principal of the elementary schools in Calipatria, California, located in Imperial Valley. After one year of teaching there I joined the Army, [that was] before the draft which we had in 1917.

From Imperial Valley, then, I went into the Army. I stationed at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay and at Monterey, the Presidio at Monterey. There, I was promoted to sergeant and shipped out to Vancouver, Washington as a hospital sergeant and was nominated by my commanding officer for a commission in the Sanitary Corps. From Vancouver I joined up with Hospital 105, Base Hospital 105, and we were in France for the remainder of the war. [1]

H: Are there any major campaigns that you can remember? One's your outfit [was in]?

E: I wasn't in any campaign. I was in the hospital--Evacuation Hospital 6 at Kerlouan, France, near Brest. After almost two years in France, I returned to the United States and went back to Imperial Valley. After a year as Deputy County Superintendent of Schools, I was given the job of County Superintendent of Schools upon the resignation of the man who held the job.

H: How did you acquire the first position [as principal]? Was it because of your teaching ability prior to [coming to California], or was it personal contact?

E: It was through personal contact with my brother-in-law who was the County Superintendent of Schools. I guess it was because my sister was lonesome and wanted me out here for company. (laughter) So I accepted a position in Imperial County and came back after the war--after three years--and became County Superintendent of Schools. I held the job on appointment and never ran for re-election, but accepted a position in San Diego as principal of the school at La Jolla. It was an elementary school at first, but the plans were made, and the building was built for a high school. I became the first principal of the La Jolla High School. I served seven years there and then moved to Burbank, California.

H: What year would this be now?

E: I was principal of the high school at Burbank from 1927 to 1934 and then was promoted to Superintendent of Schools of Burbank in 1934, and served until 1945, nine years. Then in 1945 I was appointed to chief [Division of Readjustment Education]1 in the office of Dr. Walter Dexter who at that time was State Superintendent of Schools. I served there less than two years when the Veterans Administration took me on as Chief of rehabilitation of veterans [Vocational Rehabilitation and [2] Education Division] after World War II. I was there from 1946 to 1952, or until the program practically ended. Of course, it has continued with the Korean veterans and will probably be continued again for the Vietnam veterans.

1 Dr. Enyeart's primary duty was coordinating the educational veteran's programs of the Veterans Administration with all public and private educational institutions. Ed.

H: When we talked on the telephone you mentioned you had signed some of the papers for some of the professors at Cal State Fullerton. What papers were these?

E: They were papers for getting their benefits from the V.A. [Veterans Administration].

H: Oh, I see.

E: Their educational benefits from the V.A. I particularly know, because he told me, the Dean . . . I need to ask my wife what his name is (laughter), I know it so well. Wait a minute. (leaves room)

Dr. Gerry [Gerhard E.] Ehmann who is Dean of the Administrative Office at Fullerton told me that he was looking at his papers and found my name as having approved of his veterans training.

H: So you've been quite involved in education as your life's endeavor or life's work.

E: Well, after I got my education, finally, in 1940, I continued to go to school as an instructor at USC [University of Southern California] while I was carrying other jobs. I taught over there after I became connected with the Veterans Administration. I also taught there a couple of summers while I was Superintendent of Schools in Burbank. And then we returned to Yorba Linda.

H: How did you happen to come to Yorba Linda?

E: Because my wife had inherited some property out here.

H: Prior to this time you lived in Burbank, California?

E: Yes, and in Pasadena. [3] When I married an orange grower's daughter (laughter), I acquired a little land out here by so doing and then we bought more land. She owned this piece that she got from her folks with her sister and she had learned to farm it.

H: Your wife knows how to farm?

E: Yes, my wife learned how to farm it while I was in the service, and then I learned farming after we moved out here.

H: When did you move out here?

E: We moved out here in 1952. We bought the property here in 1948, but we lived in Pasadena at that time. The autobiography that I have written has this down much better than I have stated it.

H: When you came out here most of this was orange or citrus trees. How did you happen to become interested in the avocados, specifically the Fuerte?

E: Well, my wife's mother used to give us Fuerte avocados and we didn't care for them, but we had some friends who liked them, and we took them back to La Jolla and gave them away. After a time our friends moved away and we still got the avocados (laughter), and so we either had to throw them away or eat them. We tried eating them more, and more and, finally, we liked them so much that we thought they were a great fruit, and when the opportunity came to buy an avocado grove, we bought an orange grove and turned it into an avocado grove.

H: Did you do this yourself?

E: Yes, I did this myself. We took out the orange grove on the ten acres and planted avocados.

H: Did you start with seedlings?

E: No, we started with budded fruit. Of course, the avocado had been improved over the years. From about 1870 when the avocado was introduced into California, about two hundred varieties had been brought to California.[4]

H: Where had these come from?

E: They had come from Mexico and Guatemala and, I suppose, other South American countries.

H: How about from Hawaii? Were there ever any avocados . . . ?

E: No, I think they went the other way. The avocado went to Hawaii from California, I think. And there are also avocados in Florida but they are a different variety.

H: Where did you purchase your buds or your buddings?

E: From the local nurseries. They had all been taken from the original tree which I ran down and found in the University of California reports.

H: The agriculture circulars?

E: Yes, the agricultural circulars. The avocado had been introduced at such places as Monrovia, Santa Barbara, Azusa, and Yorba Linda.

H: Prior to 1900, then?

E: Yes. Not prior to 1900 in Yorba Linda because Yorba Linda wasn't on the map until about 1914--I'm not sure of that date.

H: In other words there was no specific type of avocado? It was a conglomerate of a great number of different types?

E: Yes, there were a great number until just recently. With the efforts made by the Avocado Society and the Farm Bureau, the marketing of avocados is controlled by a state marketing order now. They have found two varieties, the summer and winter varieties. The summer variety is the Hass2 and the winter variety is the Fuerte. [5]

2 The Hass, a less hearty avocado, was produced and patented by Mr. R. G. Hass of La Habra, California in 1935. Ed.

H: This would be almost like in the citrus industry or the orange where you have the Valencia in the summer and the navel in the winter.

E: Yes, exactly.

H: So you bought your buddings and you planted them. How long did it take before these trees started bearing fruit? Was it a matter of one or two years?

E: No, about seven years. It took about seven years for them to come into full production.

H: Now, what is considered full production? You mean they bear more than one or two fruits per tree?

E: It's kind of hard to say because some trees don't ever produce. Some trees have a habit of skipping a year--not producing at all--then the next year they'll produce strong. By full production I mean that with a seven or eight year old tree that has been budded to some particular variety like the Fuerte, you can count on some fruit, some set, about every other year.

H: Then you would say that the Fuerte was somewhat unpredictable, yearly, in regards to its fruit bearing output?

E: Yes, yes it is. All avocados seem to be more or less bound to skip a year. We don't know why they do that.

H: Going back to the avocados, the trees that you planted. Had you acquired a taste for the avocados, or was it economic reasons, the returns from the avocado or what . . ?

E: I didn't expect to get rich growing avocados but there were many glowing reports about special trees producing thousands of dollars worth of avocados a year, one tree, but that's when avocados were worth a dollar apiece. If you get a thousand fruit off one tree you get a thousand dollars.

H: On a full-grown Fuerte avocado tree, how many avocados will the tree bear a year? [6]

E: Well, that varies a great deal, from twenty-five to a thousand.

H: It will bear up to that many?

E: Yes. Depending on the size of the tree. I suppose some of the older trees that are still good and have been cared for will produce thousands of fruit, forty or fifty boxes of fruit from one tree.

I remember reading in the National Geographic magazine, an article that was in there about fifteen years ago, about some person who thought he was going to get rich off of one or two trees. There were glowing reports about avocado production and avocado prices. But, of course, that was when there were twenty or thirty or a few hundred trees, when you got a dollar apiece for a good avocado.

H: It's a matter of supply and demand then?

E: The price went down until they weren't worth over . . . well, I sold avocados for three cents a pound. That takes two avocados to make three cents.

H: Looking at it in economic terms it seems that you were losing money, weren't you?

E: Well, yes. I've never done anything but lose money on avocados. (laughter) I've never made the expenses. It costs so much for water and fertilizer, weed control, and picking. I've paid as high as thirty or forty dollars a day for pickers.

H: I know there are several methods by which pickers will work. One is by the hour and the other is by the bushel or by the box, I believe.

E: By the pound is the most common way of paying. I don't know what the avocado picker gets today but he probably gets paid by the pound. I don't know what the current rate of pay is now.

H: Now, during this time that you raised your trees you were working outside with the V.A. office. [7]

E: At first I was, but when I retired from the V.A., I retired as a teacher from the state of California and from the government.

H: The point that I'm trying to arrive at is, did you find adequate time to take care of your orchards yourself?

E: No, I had to hire it done. When I retired, I practically took over all the responsibility for the care of my groves I had this grove and my wife's grove which is over on the other side of town. It was oranges. We thought between the two we could retire comfortably, and we have, but not because we made any money off avocados (laughter), but because of the price of our land. Due to the fact that Orange County was soon booming with the coming of Disneyland and the new population that was created, a lot of avocado growers and landowners were bailed out of bankruptcy by the increase in the price of their land. For example, when we bought land out here you could buy almost any acreage for $3,000 an acre. Today they want as high as $30,000 or $40,000 an acre for it, same land! And I've sold land off for $22,000 an acre.

H: It's incredible!

Going back now to the watering, did you find that due to the climatic area in which Los Angeles is located, that there was not adequate rainfall yearly to nourish the trees? Did you have to compensate by doing a lot of irrigating?

E: Oh, yes, you can't grow anything around here without irrigating.

H: About where do you draw the line as to how much irrigation or how much watering [you do], for fear of cinnamon root or some other disease developing because of over-watering?

E: Well, avocados won't grow unless you give them plenty of water, but if you give them plenty of water and the drainage isn't good you have root rot. So you're stuck either way you go. Either you water them and have fruit, or you don't water them and don't have any fruit. If you do water them, you're apt to have root rot which has [8] killed off the avocado trees and groves around Yorba Linda, because the soil isn't very deep and the drainage isn't good.

H: All the land out in this area would be considered marginal land because of the soil composition?

E: Farm advisers who advised people to grow avocados in this area would admit that they made a mistake. The University of California made a mistake to promote avocado growing. The climate is fine but the soil of Yorba Linda is not deep enough. The water goes down to the clay and the roots go down to the clay and there they drown in the water that is put on it. If the drainage were better--if the water went down--we would be able to grow and make our trees live longer. Also the soil isn't deep enough. It isn't deep enough because there is clay under it and that holds the water too well.

H: That's a very good point.

Now, we consider that climatically this is a good location for the trees in respect to the idea that it is considered frost free. What causes this frost free atmosphere?

E: Well, I suppose that is a long story into meteorology. The weatherman can't even tell you that.

H: Supposing we take the Santa Ana winds, would you consider this a major factor?

E: Well, it's a major factor against growing avocados. I've had good crops at times, and comes along a Santa Ana and knocks off all the fruit. The Fuerte is a winter fruit and we begin picking Fuerte avocado in the early fall or late fall, and by that time we are subject to these Santa Ana winds. A good strong wind will knock an avocado off on the ground as it does an orange. The old-timers around here--and when I came I wasn't an old-timer--told me that the orange trees lost their leaves and their fruit in these Santa Ana winds. If that was true of orange trees which aren't nearly as [9] fragile as an avocado tree, it's much more true of avocado trees. The winds spoil the winters for avocados and the avocado grower.

H: So you would consider the Santa Ana winds more of a detriment or threat on the avocado industry than they are helpful?

E: Absolutely, absolutely. I picked up a couple dozen avocados that blew off last night because the fruit is just about ready to pick. There is a strong wind right now and the avocado grower is losing a lot of avocados because of this wind.

H: Now, first of all this Santa Ana wind is coming off the high desert, isn't it?

E: Yes.

H: As a result this would be more of a warm wind that would be coming through even though it is a strong wind?

E: I don't think that's the reason. Winds coming down the mountains always warm up by the time they get here by the friction that is caused from blowing over the mountains.

H: So by the time they get here they would be considered a warm wind even though they are strong?

E: Yes. They come from the East.

H: We had the big freeze back in 1911. I realize you weren't here at this time, but certain areas were entirely devastated because of this bitter cold. Areas like La Habra where these cold winds can come up against the foothills the winds were stopped momentarily causing the cold air to kill a lot of the fruit. Now, suppose we didn't have these Santa Ana winds even though they are detrimental in knocking the avocados off the tree when there is a strong wind. If we didn't have this wind coming through, is it possible that the avocado growers might lose just as many avocados through frost or freezing? [10]

E: (Laughter) I don't know. I don't know. I suppose there's reason to believe that if we didn't have the Santa Ana winds we would have frost but . . . we never have frost when the wind is blowing, you know.

H: Right.

E: Well, you wanted to know something about Carl Schmidt?

H: Yes. First of all before we start that maybe you can tell me how you became interested in the avocado, the fruit itself and growing the tree. How did you become interested in studying the history of the Fuerte?

E: Well, if I was going to grow it, I wanted to know all there was to know about it. In the first place I was a history major for my master's degree, and I wrote my doctoral dissertation in the field of history of education So I'm naturally interested in history. Although you better not ask me too many questions about history (laughter) because I've read so much history that I've forgotten most of it.

When I used to teach history, I told my students that the last thing to do with their history was to remember it. I meant that they should try to remember it, but, as a matter of fact, you read so much history that you don't remember it except the big details of it.

H: Major points.

E: You know the Civil War was fought after the Revolutionary War and the Revolutionary War was fought after the colonial wars. And that all American wars were later than most of the European wars, and the European wars that have been fought since the United States became a nation have also involved the United States.

H: In other words, you understand the sequence of historical events?

E: Yes, you don't remember when these details occurred. I look up all the time whether the Crimean War was before the War of the Roses, because I can't remember. I study the Crimean War over here in Crimea, and I study the War [11] of the Roses and the history of England, and some way or other the like to read it two never get together as to time. I just history, I don't like to have to remember it.

H: So how did you go about researching this, the Fuerte avocado, the history of it?

E: Well, I think the first thing you do when you start any research is to find out the source of the information that you want to study.

For example, at one time, I wanted to write about the founding of army posts. I chose that subject as a subject that would be appropriate for my master's thesis. I found out that there were several hundred army forts west of the Mississippi River that had become cities. Well, to find out this information I went to the annual reports of the War Department found in the Los Angeles Library--my list doesn't have anything to do with your question, especially. My committee decided this was too big a subject and wouldn't allow me to use it. So I didn't, but I've always been curious when I run across anything about an army post west of the Mississippi River, because I wrote my master's thesis on one of them. That is all they would allow me, and a very unimportant one at that: [Fort Churchill, Churchill County, Nevada]. But it had never been written about, that's why they wanted me to use it. I found less than sixty pages of material. I had to go up in the area where it was located and interview all the old-timers like you are interviewing me to learn anything about it. (laughter) There wasn't anything in the books.

H: So as a result you approached this logistically, in researching the avocado?

E: I suppose you could say that.

H: And you came across [the name of] Mr. Carl Schmidt. At the time he was living in San Juan Capistrano?

E: Yes, but not through these reports. I read all the reports of the University of California on the avocado that I could get ahold of--these can be found in almost [12] any library--the reports of the University of California Extension Agricultural Department. In these reports I found the name of Popenoe, an unusual name. The only Popenoe I had ever known was Dr. [Paul] Popenoe who lived in Pasadena and was the founder of the Family Institute or the Institute of Family Relations. So I called Popenoe and asked him if he was related to the Mr. Popenoe that was connected with the Fuerte avocado. He said, "Yes, he was my dad." I knew Popenoe through my school work and so he said, "I have one of the original Fuerte trees in my yard. It was planted by my dad when he was running the West India Nursery in Pasadena." I asked him some more questions and he said, "Why don't you come up and we'll have a visit?" I had known him for years as a professional man, he was in related work to education, you see, so I went up to see him and he told me what he knew about the story of the Fuerte. Do you want me to repeat it?

H: Sure.

E: Well, he told me that they, the Popenoes, had moved out to California from Topeka, Kansas, and his dad had started a subtropical nursery in Pasadena. This was before the turn of the century, before 1900. Pasadena has always been a city of beautiful shrubbery and beautiful trees. He had a lot of rare plants. Of course, Pasadena at that time was growing with the Busch Gardens, and people had money and were willing to spend it on exotic plants, and he had a lot of exotic plants, too.

Paul Popenoe, the man that I knew, he is of my generation, and his father had come here before 1900 and helped Pasadena get established horticulturally, and had a nursery called the West India Nursery [located] in what was then Altadena.

So I went up there, and there was a Fuerte avocado tree that Popenoe had planted, and Paul Popenoe told me what he knew about it. He didn't know very much because he wasn't in that line. He wasn't interested, but he said, "I'll tell you who will know and he lives down at Capistrano, and that is a man by the name of Carl Schmidt." [13]

He gave me his address, and said, "His father and my father went to school together back at Washburn College in Kansas." Mr. Schmidt, I don't know that I ever knew his name or his initials, but the father of Carl went into railroading and became a foreign passenger agent for the Santa Fe Railroad, and was headquartered in Topeka, Kansas, and Popenoe had been owner of the Topeka Capital Daily. [Daily Topeka Capital]

H: A newspaper back there?

E: A newspaper. The two of them had gone to school together at Washburn College as kids. Both of them had made a success of life, one as a newspaperman, the other as a railroad executive--I got this from Paul Popenoe. He told me that Carl who was of my generation was now living in Capistrano, and I could get the rest of the story from him, because he had brought the avocado from Mexico to Pasadena. Well, a few days later I called Carl--I didn't know him at that time--but I told him I was interested in what he could tell me about the Fuerte avocado, and he invited me down. He had just returned from Mexico and the story was this, which I'll try to relate to you.

H: When was this? What year would this have been that you did this interviewing?

E: This was in the early fifties, I think, it's in my report [1952]. Again, I stand on my claim not to remember history. (laughter) There are so many dates that have to be remembered, five or six things for every year of my life.

We went down to talk to Carl, and he told us that his father had gone to Mexico, I presume--now I didn't research this part of it--for the Santa Fe Railroad, and they had more or less taken up living in Mexico just before the revolution of 1910. They had been living in Mexico a couple of years. Of course, Carl was just a young man, seventeen or eighteen years old in 1910. When the revolution broke out the Americans had to come home, but they [the Schmidts] didn't have any home to come home to. So they came to Pasadena where their friend Popenoe lived. There they put up with the [14] Popenoes, lived with them, until they could make their own arrangements. In the meantime, Carl, who was a bright young fellow, had learned to speak Spanish very fluently. Popenoe running a nursery and Carl speaking Spanish were a team and Popenoe said, "You want to go back to Mexico?"--he learned that from him. Carl said, "Yes, I want to go down there and join the revolution on the side of the revolutionaries." That was with Villa, Pancho Villa.

Popenoe made a deal with Carl that while he was down there with the revolutionaries he would scout around to see if he could find some suitable exotic shrubs or trees, and he taught him how to make the cuttings and scions.

So Carl returned to Mexico, joined Villa's forces and fought the revolution, and you know that they went all over Mexico. One day he found himself in Mexico City and he knew enough about the markets to go to the Merced Market in Mexico City. Have you ever been to Mexico?

H: No, I haven't.

E: Well, Carl went to the Merced Market, that was the old market that has since been cleaned up. It was just in back of the cathedral. I think it was south of the cathedral area, in the Zocalo. There he found a delicious avocado! He inquired, "Where did it come from?" They told him it came from Atlixco, a little town south of Puebla. Carl made up his mind he was going to go. If he could find it, he and would send it back to Mr. Popenoe. Well, he went out there and found Atlixco. I remember him telling me about the narrow gauge railroad that he had to take to Atlixco, to Puebla and south to Atlixco. Atlixco is on the road now to Oaxaca which is 150 miles south of Puebla and a little east of Acapulco.

H: How far would this be from Mexico City, south?

E: Oh, it's about one hundred miles, I guess, from Mexico City. And there he found the tree, just one. He had been taught by Mr. Popenoe how to prepare the scions, and he [15] cut them from the tree and sent them back to Popenoe and they arrived in good shape. This must have been about 1911.

H: Do you remember how many scions he cut?

E: No, I don't. I don't remember that he told me. But he cut quite a few. He sent them all back to Popenoe, and he had done his job. So Popenoe used these scions, grafted them onto some avocado roots and this is where Mr. Whedon comes into the picture. George Kellogg told me that [Col. Jack] Whedon had ordered forty trees, avocado trees, from the West India Nursery and that when he went after them the great freeze of 1913 had occurred. It had been just about long enough for these trees to get up in good shape, these scion reproduced trees. All of Mr. Popenoe's trees were frozen except these Fuertes which weren't called Fuerte at that time. They were just trees, a new avocado. And so Mr. Whedon, very disappointed, said, "Well, what do you have?" Popenoe says, "All I have are these darn things here. You can have them." And Whedon took the trees that he had, all but one. And that is the tree that was in Popenoe's yard, which Mr. Popenoe called a Fuerte.

H: And this would come from what?

E: That is Spanish for strong. He called it the Fuerte because it didn't freeze in the greatest freeze on record in California. In that freeze of 1913 oranges froze back so bad that the trees were practically all killed in California. Mr. Whedon brought the trees out to Yorba Linda and that is the original. Have you seen the original?

H: Over on Eureka?

E: It's above it, well, it's east of Eureka. I think it says in the article there where it's located [17875 Citrus Avenue], thanks to Bill Drake [editor of the Yorba Linda Star], because I didn't put it in. Whedon got these trees and planted the first Fuerte avocado grove from which all other Fuertes have originated. They didn't originate from Popenoe's tree because he wasn't in the area that wanted to go to avocados. But [16] Whedon planted the first avocado, Fuerte avocado, grove in the world up here in Yorba Linda!

H: What happened to Carl Schmidt?

E: Well, I checked up on him just a couple of years ago when I rewrote the article. His grove was a beautiful avocado grove just west of the mission about two miles west and a mile south of the mission. We visited Carl and his wife two different times, but I went back there just last year and met the man who now owns Carl's grove and it has gone to root rot. He said he used to produce 30,000 pounds of avocados a year and now he's down to about 300 pounds; evidently, they have poor soil down in Capistrano, too. And this man, T. T. Hills, Box 368, San Juan Capistrano, now owns and operates the grove owned by Carl Schmidt.

Carl didn't own it very long. He had made his home in Mexico all these years. I guess he became a Mexican citizen. I talked to Mr. Hills who bought the grove from Schmidt. He didn't have Schmidt's address, but knew he had gone back to Mexico. I checked with somebody else who had been the president of the historical society of San Juan Capistrano and he told me that he knew a little bit about Carl Schmidt since he'd left Capistrano. He is engaged in the oil business in Mexico which is practically controlled by the government. It was formerly the Standard Oil but was expropriated by the Mexicans about twenty years ago.

That is a story in itself. The Mexicans, all who know anything about it, will tell you that they paid for it, but the Standard Oil would have a different story I'm sure, as to whether they paid for it or not. But all is fair in war. We took California from them, and they took the Standard Oil's oil from the Standard Oil Company. It was Mexico's, anyway.

H: I remember you mentioning Mr. Kellogg said you had misspelled Mr. Whedon's name. You put an "H" in, and as a result ...

E: Everybody has misspelled it. (laughter) [17]

H: I know that there are a lot of Eucalyptus trees--digressing for a minute--there are a lot of Eucalyptus trees [in the area]. Were these planted for the purpose of stopping the winds?

E: Yes, they were and they are called windbreaks. The farm adviser advised everybody in Orange County to plant Eucalyptus windbreaks, to get rid of the wind. He was the farm adviser of the county for about twenty years. I'll think of his name and put it in the edited copy because I think his name should be in there [Mr. Harold E. Wahlberg]. If you are interested in these windbreaks you should talk to him because he's the man that's more responsible than anybody else for these windbreaks, Eucalyptus windbreaks in Orange County. They're all over the county. He advised everybody to plant windbreaks. It must have been thirty years ago.

H: Where did they get these Eucalyptus trees, do you know? And how large were they?

E: Oh, they were small. They were just seedlings.

H: But they grow relatively fast?

E: Oh, yes, they grow fast. It's an exotic tree, too, it comes, I think, from Australia, the Eucalyptus windbreak. But you should see him. He can tell you probably more than I have about the Fuerte avocado.

There is a sequel to the story . . . . That's where Carl Crawford comes into the picture.

H: Maybe you can tell me a little about him.

E: Well, Carl Crawford just recently died but he was responsible for taking the Fuerte avocado back to Atlixco, Mexico after they lost their tree.

H: The original tree had died, I knew that.

E: The original tree had died, and Carl Crawford is the man who got up the excitement over taking it back to Mexico. He went down there with the Farm Bureau and the Avocado Society and they gave Atlixco a new tree. [18]

They planted it in the square of the little town and put up a plaque. I visited the site [in 1953] and the tree was gone but the plaque was still there.

The farm adviser gave me a letter of introduction to a Mr. Gilley who planted a Fuerte avocado grove from the Yorba Linda planting. It was a big, beautiful grove when I was there, but, unfortunately, it died. The whole grove died of root rot a few years after it had been planted. Something in the California soil, evidently, took the root rot to Mexico. As a result the whole grove, there were two beautiful groves down there when we were there, and they are gone.

I haven't checked up for several years and I thought I could check up through Mr. Gilley if he is still there. Probably the farm adviser would know something about it because he was interested in the return of the Fuerte avocado to Mexico and to Atlixco.

H: Now, here we have been talking about using this word to describe a specific type of fruit, the avocado. Maybe you can tell me how the avocado, that word, got its name, or how the fruit got its name. I know back in the early 1900s it was called the alligator pear. How did a name such as alligator pear come about? Was it because of the rough texture of its skin or something?

E: I guess that's right. The story is right here.

(Reading from his "Early Recollections")

I close this story of the avocado with a quotation from Dr. Paul Popenoe, my longtime friend and contemporary who lives on the site where the original Carl Schmidt tree stood for many years. Regretfully, Paul told me the old tree his father planted gave up and died soon after we last visited them. He calls his home "Ahuacatlan" meaning "avocado place." "Ahuacatlan" in Nahuatl (Aztec) language is the meaning of the pictograph (pictograph was used on the Christmas card) which appeared as the name of a town on a tax roll of the Emperor Moctezuma. [19]

We used to say Montezuma but it's spelled M-0-C-T-E-Z-U-M-A

It consists of a conventional tree, to which are attached fruits representing ahuacates which is the Mexican for avocado, ahua cate; the teeth on one side and the trunk stand for tlan or place, hence Ahuacatlan is the place where avocados grow.

And that is the avocado, ahau cate. And Ahuacatlan is the land where avocados grow. And he calls his home Ahuacatlan because his father planted the Fuerte avocado there, and it grew until it died.

(Quoting again from his manuscript)

The name is given to the Popenoe home in Altadena because Paul's father, F. O. Popenoe, had a nursery of subtropical fruit trees on this site. He introduced numerous avocados from Mexico, to one of which he gave the name Fuerte (strong, vigorous) because shortly after its introduction in 1911 it proved to be the strongest grower in the nursery. Within a few years the Fuerte became recognized as the best commercial avocado in California.

H: Very interesting. Now how about Mr. R. G. Hass. He, kind of what . . . ?

E: I don't know anything about him. I just mentioned the Hass avocado because it is the summer avocado and the Fuerte is the winter avocado. I think about three-fourths of the avocados are Fuertes. Maybe only a fourth are, I don't know, you'd have to get that from the CALAVO. CALAVO is the trade name of the biggest packer and merchandiser of avocados in California.

H: It's kind of a co-op?

E: Yes, a co-op.

H: We had the original tree, the Fuerte, that was in Atlixco, the one tree, and we had the first avocado orchard in Yorba Linda. From there we now have all these millions of avocados. They all came from the original tree. [20]

E: Yes, I suppose half of the avocados in California are Fuerte. I would say half the avocados are Fuerte and half are some other variety, half of which are Hass because there are other summer avocados.

H: Has the Fuerte expanded into other lands or other areas other than California?

E: Oh, yes.

H: Maybe you can tell me the names of some of the areas.

E: Well, I've heard that Hawaii and the Philippines and other subtropical countries, particularly Israel, are producing, growing avocados. I think I got that information from Dr. Popenoe because his brother is still connected with the American Fruit Association, and has his headquarters in Guatemala. His name is Fred, I believe. You'll have to pardon me for being so wordy about all this.

H: No, that' s fine. Perhaps you will tell me; of all the avocados that are marketable, what percentage would you that say were of the Fuerte family?

E: I'd say about half of them.

H: Half of them? Taking the Yorba Linda area specifically, is there a problem with disease of the groves?

E: Oh, yes, I've lost practically all my avocados.

H: Can you tell me a little bit about that?

E: Well, all I know is it kills the trees just about over night.

H: Is it some type of fungus?

E: Well, it's a virus. It's a fungus, too, commonly known as cinnamon root rot. The oranges aren't subject to it, that's why you see so many new oranges around here. I've been planting orange trees for the last five years. I'm like my neighbor, I wish I'd never seen an avocado. (laughter) [21]

H: Not really.

E: Well, so far as my growing them is concerned, it's been a dead loss. Everything I put into avocados, if I had been depending on this for a living, why, I would have had a pretty poor living. Every avocado that I've grown has cost me money. The first year I was out here I had about four trees down on the east forty (laughter), the east end of my grove which was way down there on the next street. I had about four old trees and I took $1200 worth of avocados off those four trees, in about 1949.

H: That's pretty good.

E: I had 500 trees at one time, and at the peak I didn't take that much off of them. They had been worth forty-eight cents a pound in the first crop and in our last crop I got three cents!

H: It's hardly worthwhile growing them then if that's the case.

E: It cost me two dollars for every dollar I got off of them.

H: As far as this disease goes, I suppose the government agencies have been trying to find the root to the problem.

E: Oh, yes, they've been trying to discover something but they haven't come up with it. They have come up with the Duke root stock. That is the name of another of the two hundred or so varieties. The Duke stock has come up as a resistant stock. I have a brother-in-law who works as a representative for CALAVO down in Fallbrook. We owned a grove down there, too, a Fuerte avocado grove, and he says it's one of the groves that's still producing strong. We sold it about ten years ago. All the groves around it have gone to root rot.

H: Now this root rot is a fungus or a virus as you say. Is it an air breathing fungus or virus?

E: It's in the ground. [22]

H: It's being nourished from water then isn't it?

E: Oh, yes.

H: Therefore, how you irrigate would play an extremely important . . .

E: You've got to give an avocado, it comes from the word water, cate agua.

H: From agua?

E: Agua, A-G-U-A. Ahuacate means "water plant," and you have to give it water or it won't grow, it won't do well, and if you give it water in this soil it gets root rot. You can't expect anything else much. Well, that's about all I can tell you.

H: There is a plague for the original Fuerte down in Atlixco, yet, there has never been, at knowledge, a plaque given to the original orchard or grove. Do you know, is there any special reason why?

E: Well, it gave everybody a trip to go down there [to Atlixco]. The Farm Bureau underwrote it and the Avocado Society underwrote it and a lot of people got to go someplace.

They wouldn't get to go anyplace but where Nixon was born and some of them, I suppose, are Democrats and wouldn't come. (laughter)

H: Taking aside the political aspects of this, or the friendly relations with Mexico, do you really believe that this is the reason they haven't commemorated it?

E: Oh no, no, it's just few people that are interested. Most people don't care where the avocado came from or where it goes. They like it if it doesn't cost too much.

H: When you were raising your avocados did you do your own picking or did you hire outside?

E: I did both. [23]

H: You did both, you hired and you . . .

E: I belonged to the CALAVO for a number of years and you just told them to come and take care of your grove.

H: Did you have to give them all your fruit or could you still go to independent places?

E: No, you contracted [with them] that they could have all of the fruit.

H: So you never came in contact with H and H or . . .

E: Oh, yes, I sold to H and H and I sold to everybody around here.

H: To Moriarty?

E: Yes, I sold to Moriarty and to two or three houses down in Fallbrook.

H: As long as you pay your dues to CALAVO, yearly, you are bound to a contract, or do you have an option?

E: I'm not a member anymore, so I can sell my fruit to you if you want it. I took as much as fifteen tons of avocados off this place when the price wasn't any good, when I was getting three to six cents a pound for it. If I had got forty-eight cents a pound, why, then it would have paid for my trouble.

H: I have another question. Due to the fact that this disease is killing a lot of the crops, and with the expansion down here in Orange County, maybe it's better that they are selling their land for these housing projects and so forth.

E: Oh, sure.

H: Because if they kept these orchards for several more years, chances are they'd go broke.

E: Yes, the real estate business has bailed us all out and made us rich avocado growers. (laughter) [24]

H: But as a result, where is the avocado going? Where can you grow it? Are they making attempts somewhere else to raise the avocado? I know CALAVO is spending $1 million a year almost, or $700,000 a year in advertisement.

E: They have the root rot almost everywhere. They have it in Fallbrook; they have it in Vista; they have it in San Diego County, well, not all of San Diego County; they have it in Ventura County; they have it over in Monrovia; and they have it in Santa Barbara.

H: Do you feel that in a few more years the avocado in California will be extinct?

E: No, I don't. I think science will find the cause just like they find the cause of diseases in people.

At one time it looked like a half dozen different diseases would wipe out the human race, but science caught up with it and they are going to catch up with this, too. They've been working on it over at the University of California at Riverside. There is a full-time professor over there [Dr. George Zentmyer], he doesn't do much of anything else but work on experiments for cures of the root rot of avocados. That's what he is, he is a professor of that. I used to keep up with him but, I can't keep up with him anymore. It takes more out of me all the time to sell my land and get out of the avocado business.

H: So you will, eventually, sell off all your avocados and replace them. Will you go to citrus then, to lemons or oranges?

E: I just play with oranges, now.

I have a few live [avocado] trees. Some of them are looking pretty bad but I've treated them a few times for root rot. The only known treatment that I keep up with is fertilizing with alfalfa meal. That seems to hold them in check a little bit. But you can see all the trees that are bum looking. It hasn't done any good. It keeps them from dying, but they haven't produced. [25]

H: Did you ever come across any irregular type of avocado, seedless avocados or, I guess, there is a name for some of them, finger avocados or . . . ?

E: Oh, they are just avocados that didn't fertilize, rather didn't pollenize.

H: Did you market any of these at all?

E: They were too much trouble to market. They are about the size of your finger and you pick ten times [as much] to get a pound. When it's only worth six cents, they are not worth picking, so they just grow like that and fall off.

H: I have another question dealing with weight. Concerning the size of the avocado and its overall weight, what proportion of that is actual fruit in relation to the size of the seed itself?

E: Well, the avocado is about, oh, I'd say about 75 percent fleshy, eatable.

H: Seventy-five percent of this could be eaten?

E: Oh, yes. Only a very small part of the avocado is seed. It has a big seed but has lots of flesh around it.

H: I've talked to some people who have been back East, and have talked to people who sell avocados. They say that they have problems. These sellers don't know when to eat the avocado, when the avocado is actually ripe. People buy avocados back there and they eat them before they are completely ripe, and they have a distasteful taste. As a result, people shy away from them.

E: I used to take them down to the V.A. and give them to the fellows that worked with me down there and one fellow came back and said, "Oh, how do you eat these things? They are so hard I couldn't get my teeth into them." (laughter) Well, you have to wait. The avocado has to be picked when it is hard and allowed about two weeks to soften up to be eatable. Don't you eat avocados? [26]

H: Yes, I do. But I can see the problem with people who are not aware of this fruit. It is something new, being a subtropical fruit to begin with, and people eating it do not realize it is not ripe and as a result just don't enjoy it.

Dr. Enyeart, it's been a pleasure talking with you.

E: You wanted to take this?

H: Yes, I would like to see if we can get a copy of this . . . "The Autobiography Memoirs of Duel F. Enyeart." will be greatly appreciated by the school.

E: I'll get it back?

H: You sure will. I'll get this thing copied off and return it to you probably within the week.

E: All right, fine.

H: Very good. Again, thank you.


to previous section to next section

Top of page