Thursday, February 15, 2007

Duck Clubs of Orange County

Skip Fleming, who grew up in Orange County during the 1950's, shares his memories of "duck clubs", Disneyland, drag strips, and other stuff...

I found this site looking for info on duck clubs in orange county. I was born in orange December 1947. Went to Irvine elementry school.

I grew up on the Sprigg duck club. There were five duck clubs in a five mile area close to John Wayne airport. My uncle Clarence Jessee ran the Aliso duck club and farmed about 150 acres; some of land was where the Fluor corp. is now. Mostly he grew barley. The Irvine company had a ranch with cows and cowboys.

I had another uncle who ran a duck club on what is I think the San Joaquin bird sanctuary. I also had an uncle Paul Plavan farmer inventor who in the 1930s farmed land around the Santa Ana river, which flooded and was covered with silt making the land almost unusable. The land was covered with 2 or 3 feet of silt, and he built a giant plow to turn up the good soil it took three cat 60's to pull the plow. He restored a lot of farm ground back to being productive again.

My dad was a carpenter who worked on many projects including Disneyland. All of the employes and family got into Disneyland before the public. I remember going there in 1955. I also remember my dad saying Disney wanted to pay employees with stock in Disneyland but my dad wasn't about to take stock from a guy with his head in a cloud and trying to borrow money to pay the workers.

I remember the Santa Ana drag strip only a couple of miles from the duck club where I lived. I remember Oscars drive in, Merle's drive in on Jamboree, and the Coast Hiway Halls drive in on south main in Santa Ana, Lions drag strip in Long Beach.

I remember when you got into Knotts ghost town for free.

I remember meeting Andy Devine on my uncles duck club. I also met Andy Carey who played for the New York Yankee's 1957. A member of our duck club was Newt Bass who was famous for his part in Apple Valley.

We moved from Tustin in 1989, too many people, too crowded. My mother moved with us she was born in Santa Ana. Most of the old farmers and their families are gone or have moved. I went back 6 years ago I couldn't envision in my mind what it was like when I was kid in the fifties. The bus ride to school took almost an hour sometimes. We drove three miles between picking up the next kids.

What a great place to grow up we had the mountains, the beach, hunting, fishing, but it is all gone now.

Skip Fleming


  1. Regarding Skip Flemming's search for duck club info. for Orange County, I am an historian and retired Wildlife Biologist and am completing an inventroy of Historic California duck clubs. I have considerable info. for the establishment of many clubs but little (few dates) on when they "expired". I can provide more info. if Skip (or anyone) has specific questions.

    Skip, do you remember the names of each of the 5 clubs near JW Airport? Was "Aliso" 1 of these 5? What was the name of the club where you met Andy Devine? Also, "Sprig" is 1 G, not 2.
    Best, Frank Hall

    Contact me at

  2. I remember The South Coast Gun Club & I think they had a Duck Hunting Club, it was located across from The Back Bay in Costa Mesa, I think on Irvine Ranch property. That’s where I got my Hunting permit in 1959 when I was 12.
    I started hunting again in 1997 & read that I needed proof of having taken the safety course to buy a license. I looked in the phone book & found that they had moved to somewhere in Orange County inland from the Coast Hwy, (I don’t remember where now) I called them & asked if they had a record of me taking the course, 38 years later & they did.!! I drove there & bought a copy.
    I remember so many Ducks & Geese that made a stop to the Back Bay on there flight South in 1957 to 60, so many Thousands. My Step Dad would take me there & we would watch them, you could see them grouped by Type, Sprig Mallard, Canadian, Snow etc., You could see there color pattern, all species staying in there own group.

    So many Thousands of Ducks & Geese, just like the Salmon Runs in Washington when I was 5 & 6, we could scoop them up by hand in the shallow parts of the creek & throw them on the Bank. Our Black Caulker Spaniel would even drag them to the Bank. My Uncle was a Game Warden & said your not suppose to do that but what could he say to my & my 13 year old Brother when we came home with a few Salmon, wet from head to toe with proud smiles on our faces with our dog Smokey just as proud wagging his tail.
    So many memories.

  3. We used to hunt birds in the orange groves. We would take our VW bug and it fit between the trees. We would shoot things from the window using 22 cb caps. Shhh, don't tell anyone, very illegal, but was fun. This was in the 1960's


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