Saturday, March 12, 2005

El Toro Marine Corp Air Station to Become Housing Development

Last month Lennar Homes bought the land at the El Toro Marine Base. Looks like it's all going to become homes.

I suppose that's good for the area. I used to live near there, in Lake Forest. We moved in back when the town was still called "El Toro". When the town voted on incorporation, it also voted to change the name to Lake Forest.

Lake Forest was the name of a small housing development built around an artificial lake, located along Lake Forest boulevard. For whatever reason, the folks who lived there didn't want the stigma of having to live in "El Toro". The name "El Toro" conjured up images of military housing and military families. And God forbid, would any of the tight-wads in Lake Forest want to be associated with that.

You gotta remember, the El Toro cityhood movement started back in the 1980's, before the Persian Gulf War started, before the terrorist attacks on the USA, and before supporting our troops was fashionable.

And then folks in Newport Beach wanted to convert El Toro Marine Base into a commercial airport. They tried to convince us and everyone else that would it be in our best interest to build a commercial airhub in our backyard. But gee, folks in Newport Beach already have a commercial airhub in their backyard. Why would they want to build one in all the way out in El Toro? Hmmm.

However, I think it would be great if the County along with Lennar Homes could build a "Marine Corp Memorial" within the new development that preserves the memory of what was there. My wife's grandfather installed plumbing at the Marine Base. The construction of that entire Marine Base brought workers and their families from all over, and that started a new generation of native Californians. The memory of that ought to be preserved there, somewhere.


  1. Its a crime to have 3,400 being built in OC. We don't need it.
    I wonder how the "Great Park" turned into another housing project. Looks like Lennar Homes is in bed with the Irvine Company!! What about the added traffic?? Where is the water going to come from?? California has been in a drought for years!!
    This whole thing reeks of greed. It's a shame to see what is going on here.

  2. Back when the community of Lake Forest was being built, "Lake Forest Blvd" was named Cañada, in reference to the Rancho Cañada de Los Alisos lands that "Lake Forest" was once part of. It was one of the original ranch roads. The Lake Forest community, when it was built in the eucalyptus grove, was surrounded 100% by the town of El Toro. There's a lot of history behind the name El Toro - much farther back than the military base, so it's a shame that the new families that moved in were ignorant of that.


  3. I was shocked when my dad told me that the El Toro Marine Base was being closed. I immediately thought about El Toro Marine School, which I attended from kindergarten to third grade in the late eighties and early nineties. It will continue to be the best school that I've ever attended. The community and the people were awesome. We were friends with everyone there. I hope everyone associated with El Toro will keep it in their memories for as long as they can.

  4. It is a shame that there isn't more open land in Orange County but I guess that happens in a place that has the 5th largest economy in the WORLD. It is obviously a desireable place to live which is exactly why there are going to be 3,400 new homes built. I know that Lennar is pegged as the "bad guy" here and that is a shame - the other major player in the bidding process was Standard Pacific Homes; if they had won would they be the target of your disgust?. My suggestion to you is simple - if you want open space and no traffic move to Wyoming or something. I was just there and it is beautiful without traffic. We all pay a price to live in such a desireable location here and this is one of them.

  5. For anyone interested in keeping the memory of El Toro Alive, the past residents (base kids) have started a yahoo group in an attempt to reunite those who attended ETMS and/or lived in base housing. If you would like to be part of the group and reconnect with those you grew up with, check us out at El Toro Base Kids on Yahoo groups.

  6. I lived in El Toro Marine Corp housing, and remember attending University High School from 75-77 during my Sophmore and Junior year. I remember Irvine High School being the most modern school of its time. I remember wrestling against El Toro High School, and noticed that their school structure was identical to ours. I remember working at the small MC grocery store, which was located next to the entrance next to base housing. Our housing was a little older, but they had new housing developement for enlisted just blocks away. I made alot of friends, and my life was really busy. I miss my friends there, and the whole MC Base El Toro experience.

  7. On a recent trip to SoCal I had the opportunity to visit the El Toro site and take some pics of some of the complex for my son. As I was describing the barracks and what I could see of the rest I told him that I thought they were or had built a golf course there. I also took a pic of the entrance sign with the developers sign in front of it. It struck me as sad until my son told me that no matter who has it or what happens to it, a soldier already paid for it.

  8. My memories of the base are from the late 1950's. I went to grammar school there for 3 years, had friends, lived on the daily on resorvior hill playing cowboys and Indians, catching Horny Toads, tadpolesand building forts. Every Saturday our mother would take us to the country store on the corner of El Toro Road and Trabuco Road so we could spend our .25 cents "in the woods". It was heart breaking this past weekend to see all the homes I knew as a great part of my memories gone knowing OC can't leave any land untouched or empty. Yes, we will be moving on since I've raised my family in Lake Forest (El Toro) and now they can deal with the traffic, congestion, more homes we really don't need, buildings on every corner for their children to grow up not knowing what imagination, woods and what "Orange" county was best known for - the "Orange" groves. Torn down to build homes and stores! It was the end of en era and everything about it's demise was kept very low key. I wish I had known about the "party" given so I could say one last farewell but my never answered email requesting to go on base one last time to visit and take pictures never came. My father is still alive and we have many memories from the base. One thing we all agreed on this past week was, "You can tear down the base to create more homes and stores but you can never take away the picture we hold close to our hearts". Those days when all that was required of you was to be home by dark or dinner - whichever came first! My sisters, brother, friends and I use to walk from Wherry Housing tract to the corner of Trabuco and Bake (whick wasn't there in those days), play all day in the woods (orange trees), make a fort in the ditch, get dirty as all get out and walk home through the watermelon fields so we could clean up before dinner. So tell me, "Why is it we need more houses and more of the same stores on every corner?" So your kids can walk around hooked up to speakers while your hooked up to a Blue Tooth? I wonder which was healthier? Farewell El Toro - it was a fun dance while it lasted.

  9. I didn't grow up in El Toro, never went to school there either. My memories as a kid growing up here in Southern California and always going to the base with my family in itself was an experience I'll always remember. Going down the road lined with Eucalyptus trees and turning onto the street where all the airplanes were that would greet you was amazing. I remember shopping there throughout the year, going to lunch in the cafeteria style lines. And remembering Christmas there most of all, trying to get all the purchases before a certain time in the morning to get an even better discount. I miss El Toro, miss it from the drive there to the drive home. Does anyone have pictures of El Toro Marine base? I can't seem to find any.

    Thanks for everything El Toro.

  10. I was a part ofthe El Toro community for 12 years. I attended El Toro Marine School (which you can still see if you look left traveling north on Irvine Blvd), played in the youth soccer program, and had many adventures on and around cactus hill. That base was my home, and it is hard to look at it today. I wouldn't call it a shame, but I am still saddened that the old neighborhood is "GONE"!!!

  11. My father was stationed at El Toro during the war with VFSB 232 when the group came home from the Canal. He was also stationed there in the early 60's when we were in school in Santa Ana. I have great memories of our stay.

  12. I lived in Tustin, CA from the time I was 2 til I was 23. We were only a mile or two down Irvine Blvd from the El Toro Marine Base. Many springtimes we spent sitting on our roofs watching the air shows they had annually and always was the opportunity to ride our bikes to see the variety of planes and events up close. It used to be farms all the way there and a very safe place to ride, you could even park on the side of the road to watch for free! Now that street is lined with apartments, condominiums and shopping centers. Its an era ended and its unfortunate that newcomers to this area will never get the experiance the sort of freedoms I did as a child.

  13. I attended El Toro Marine school in the late eighties and early nineties. I live in Irvine and have for th past 15 years when I moved from El Toro. I went over to the school this past week. It's not fenced up or boarded off. It was the creepiest sight. There is still artwork in the windows, computers in the classrooms. One classroom had the words" We'll always remember. Class of 1986" written on the chalk Board. It's as if everyone was there one day and gone the next.

  14. When I worked at both Beverage Sales and the Bread and Milk Store; and as a truck driver supplying both with soda and beer, on the base in the 1960's (which was used as the Marine Corp. Vietnam ship-out stop off spot), there was always a rumor of s secret underground base there. One day while on a work break, I was standing outside the Bread & Milk Store (by the housing gate) and witnessed a C-5A going into a hanger, the doors closed; and 10 minutes later, the doors reopened, with no C-5A inside. If the base has been sold for redevelopment, then either the gov. filled in the secret base area; or, it never existed; and my eyes played a trick on me. We'll see what the developer finds (some trace of an underground facility, or not).

    Anyone out there having a simular experience?

    BTW.... I lived near the base; and wanted the base to be converted to an international airport. Getting to the then Orange County (now John Wayne) Airport was too much hassle.

    1. There weren't any hangars at El Toro big enough to house a C-5A! VMGR-352 (C130) had to park their aircraft with the tail sticking out because it didn't fit inside! (C130 is MUCH smaller than a C-5)Only one aircraft at a time.

      There were no "Secret Hangars" or underground bases at ET, She was awesome enough without them!!

  15. If only those old hags in Seizure World, I mean Leisure World, had kept their mouths shut about that awful horrible FREEDOM CAUSING jet noise perhaps we would still be living on one of the best military bases in the US. I cried when we had to leave El Toro. We lived in the on base housing to the right of the main gate fr a year. That base rocked.

  16. I grew up in Santa Ana in the 50s & 60s. My dad was from Santa Ana, and was stationed at Terminal Island in Long Beach in the Navy. We did all of our shopping for groceries and clothing at El Toro Marine Base, and also went there for all our doctor and dentist appts. The best part of the trip was winding through those endless rows of eucalyptus trees that wrapped around the orange groves. One day I noticed a large billboard there in the field as we approached the base. There was an opening in the billboard and a swing hanging from it, and a live woman was swinging on the swing! It was all part of the ad!The El Toro Base cafeteria was the best cafeteria I have ever visited. It was made out of stainless steel, all types, brushed, polished, waffled, textured. They made the best grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate malts,and it was always spotlessly clean. Later in the early 70s I was a teenager at Laguna High and would hitchhike out to go to the doctor at El Toro. They guys at the guard gate were so cool they let me in even if I forgot my ID card. Everything I've read here about the peaceful, safe lifestyle we enjoyed as children makes me so happy to have been able to live it - the forts built in the fields, the tadpoles in the swamps, the tumbleweeds that would roll down
    the streets come Halloween, the strawberry fields you'd ride your bike thorough stopping to pick a snack when you felt like it all the way to the beach. Thank for sharing all your wonderful memories!

  17. I did not grow up on MCAS ElToro, but in a way I guess...maybe I did. At age 18, I married my high school sweetheart and moved with him to El Toro in 1987. I worked at the daycare centers on El Toro and Tustin from 1987-1989. I still think about all the little ones I took care of...Alexis, Garrett, Avery, Micah,Jarod, William, Sergio, Melissa, Vanessa, Tabitha, Evan, Portia, NiKeesha, LaKeesha, Nikea, Jackie, Mallory, Nichole, Edwin, Mark, Sarah .... I wish I could contact them and let them know EVERYTHING I know about loving and appreciating my children (and others)-I learned from them.

    When I google "MCAS El Toro" what comes up is MCAS ElToro's DEMOLITION. That is just so sad... but brings back so, so , so many good memories.

    When we first moved to CA we lived in Tustin (at Tustin East Village). Then in the summer of 1987 we were at the top of the list for base housing. So, we went on a hot August day, to an apartment on "S" Street(Apt. A-5220 S. Street).

    5220 S Street, Apt "A" had just been fumigated for ROACHES...nice. The base housing lady unlocked the door, and when we walked in, there were 100's,1000's, if not-millions of dead roaches on the floor, counters, shelves ect. I just cried and cried. Ed said "Babe-we need to do this, we cannot live out in town paying $350/month."
    ($350/month---can you imagine???)

    So, there we went. The first day I was movint into basehousing, I met a 17 year old girl(who is now 39) from Northern CA with a 2 year old child. And you know what?... she turned out to be the most mature person I met in CA. She and I still talk via phone, text,email, myspace and facebook.(Yeah-old people are on Facebook) But I digress and Maybe this is not the point of this forum...

    I also remember the 1988 crash during the airshow.I remember the horse stables & borrowing camping equipment from base (can you imagine that now???) But my GREATEST memory Halloween, 1987, during the SANTA ANAs(winds)...we(Jon, Beth, Callie, Jeff, Ed and I)decided to get all Jacked Up on Ralph's Rum and psych out the MPs.
    So, so, so ... in base housing we took clothes, furniture & street signs and put them in a Eucalyptus tree. The young MPs were jumping up and down looking around to see who or if anyone had done it. We just told them "HEY, It was the Santa Ana's man, the Santa Ana's."

    Classic basehousing , enlisted entertainment circa ElToro-1987.

  18. I lived in El Toro in the late 60's early 70's. L lived on Chosen Drive, a Cul De Sac of sorts. Behind our house was an open ravine and a place I use to go to daily despite the warnings from my dad. It was called the Pollywog Pond. I too used to catch horny toads and build forts while waiting for the tadpoles to turn into frogs on my back porch. There were no fences, just open country as far as a kid could see. I also remember climbing an old Oak tree that was probably a couple hundred feet from my back porch. I went to school at El Toro Marine School and I can still remember my fourth grade teacher and my favorite teacher, Mr. Stone and I also remember Mrs. Trutner because she was absolutely beautiful. I use to ride my bike along Trabuco Road looking at fields of corn and although I could go through a gate closer to my house I would always ride my Schwinn bike complete with Sissy bar and banana seat, the furthest distance, to the front gate, just to smell the orange blossoms from the hundreds of orange groves that use to surround the base. I learned to ride a horse at the local stable just off Trabuco Road. I played Little League baseball in the baseball diamonds located between our housing tract and El Toro Marine School. I use to walk everyday to school, down Trabuco Road with my sister. I would ride my bike to the Enlisted pool in the summers and swim practically all day long until my toes were pruned and my body reeked of chlorine. I was a Cub Scout, a Weblo, and a Boy Scout, racing our Pinewood Derby cars in the Pinewood Derby at the Orange County Speedway off Moulton Parkway and camping in the Laguna Hillside in early Summer for the Boy Scout Jamboree near where Lion Country Safari used to be. Those were the best memories of my life, it's sad to see such a beautiful and pristine place disappear, never to be seen again. I truly feel for those kids that will never get to experience the joy I experienced as a child growing up in El Toro.


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