Thursday, July 05, 2007

Avocado and Orange Groves of old Villa Park

Here are some recollections from a fourth-generation Orange County native about living the rural life in Villa Park as the tract homes starting coming in...

I was born in Anaheim in 1961 and was taken home to our tiny 3 bedroom tract house on Clinton Ave. in Orange. My big sister and I are fourth generation OC, and a lot of our family's lemon, orange, and avocado orchards uliimately became groves of homes. Santiago Middle School was built on one of my grandmother's last citrus holdings. My grandfather's last 13 acres of oranges in Villa Park, which were woefully damaged in one of the many canyon fires of the 1950's and 1960's, was sold and subdivided in 1975. Both sets of grandparents lived in rural Villa Park, "across" the street from each other on Mesa Drive. My mother used to ride her horse down from the Villa Park ranch to our elementary school, Handy, for an annual show and tell.

We were quite the popular kids as we lived a city life, yet we had a lot of country living still available to us. When I was three we moved, using our little blue wagon as packing box and furniture transport, up the street to the stately old ranch house next door to Handy Elementary School. The tract houses in the Handy Elem area were once part of the ranch that Big House, as we called it, oversaw.

We kept dozens of rabbits on our one acre of suburbia, as well as an angus calf that we raised from a bottle. The kids next door at school thought the calf was a big dog. We gave tours of our "dog" to many a neighbor kid. We also went door to door selling avocados, from original trees from the ranch, for 5 cents apiece. Last time I went past Big House I noticed at least one of the ancient avocado trees were still alive and producing. It must be nearing 100 years old.


  1. where are these orchards located?

  2. Wow Steve. I was browsing and came across your post. I was born in Amaheim in 1961 and lived in Villa Park from 68 to 88! My mother still lives there today. I grew up on a 20 acre orange ranch on Euclid And Katella before the family moved to Villa Park. The memories of that time are awesome. We sure had it made with all the open spaces and small town atmosphere! I really didn't appreciate it until later in life. Anyway thanks for the memory tingle! Dave -

  3. The avocado orchard has been gone my entire life, sans the trees on the property of "Big House". I believe we had at least a dozen of them on the northern portion of the property when I lived there in the 1960's.

    The original avocado orchard was converted into tract homes sometime in the mid to late 1950's. In 1960 my parents purchased one of the newly-built N. Clinton St. tract homes where the sold, subdivided orchard had been. No orchards of any kind are to be seen in any of the early snapshots, just fresh houses or open land waiting for houses to sprout. Some avocado trees around the original ranch owner's home, located on the NW corner of Handy St. and E. Oakmont Ave., remained post-development. The original owners continued to live in "Big House" during this period of converting quiet orchards to noisy Baby Boomer houses. They subsequently sold the home -- and the best avocado producing trees imaginable -- to my parents.

    Several years ago I drove past "Big House" and saw at least one of the original avocado orchard trees at the driveway entrance on Handy Ave. This particular tree has a thick, low branch that ran in a horizontal manner not too far up from the ground. In the 1960's we rode this limb as if it was a horse. That "horse" traveled miles and miles and miles every day. On my drive-by several years ago I noticed the current owners have this particular limb supported. Bless them for propping up -- not "putting down" -- the avocado old mare.

    I wish I knew more about the orchard. I know not the owner's name, yet they were friends of my grandparents and great-grandparents (all orchard men). My parents bought the house about 1963-4, and we sold it in 1968. I have the Seth Thomas mantel clock, given by my great grandparents to the original owners as a housewarming gift, which I recall a clock smith once dated to the 1920's. Therefore, the house is nearing 90 years old (?), so you can surmise the avocado orchard's age to be the same or older. Hence, whatever avocado trees are still alive on the property of "Big House" are nearing their Smucker's birthday greeting from Willard Scott.

  4. I grew up on Handy. We moved to our house in 1958, when I was 3. At the time, there were still some of the orange groves left across the street, on the west side of the 600 block of Handy. By the time that I was 5 or 6, they had torn out all of the orange trees, and just a dirt lot remained. We had many dirt clod fights in "the field", as we called it. Also, there was a very cool 3 story treehouse built in one of the eucalyptus trees, which had been left standing for several more years. It started out small, and was expanded as it was handed down to younger kids from the older ones. Went to Handy School from first through sixth grade. I had to be bussed to the old Villa Park Elementary school for kindergarten, because the one at Handy was still being built. We passed the "Big House" every day, while walking to school. As little kids, we thought that it was haunted of course, even though someone lived there the whole time! There were still several avocado trees surrounding the house then.


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