Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shopping at El Toro Marine Base

Anonymous remembers shopping at El Toro MCAS...

I loved going to the el toro base I loved doing our shopping there and hearing the jets rumble on their take off. then they built a different commissary and you couldn't hear it so much but you could see them and still hear them just not so loud. I enjoyed eat the hotdogs at the stand after finishing shopping! I don't have any pictures of how it used to look.Someone please post some so when we open the page everyone can see how producitve and awsome this place was. thanks
My dad was in the Navy, and one time he took me into El Toro MCAS and we did some shopping at the Exchange and Commissary. Stuff is always so cheap in there, and always packed with people. Even in my San Diego days, we'd go to the "Base" to do our shopping. I used to get haircuts at the base barber shop.

I don't know if anyone remembers this, but the OCTD bus had a route that started from Santa Ana, and drove into the restricted area of El Toro MCAS en route to Laguna Hills shopping mall.

Today, when I visit my dad up in Washington State, we'll hit up Fort Lewis, go into the commissary, and pick out some steaks for the BBQ. You still get the best deals on the base.


  1. Back in 1964 my boyfriend took some of us out there. He was stationed at LTA. I remember buying a frying pan and a 4 quart aluminum pot. I still have that 4 quart pot. I used to make popcorn the old fashioned way in it. My daughter still thinks it makes the best popcorn. It has so many memories, that I just cannot part with it.

  2. My dad was a marine so we always went there and El Toro. My mom actually worked in the offices in El Toro. We would go to the doctors there as well, and I remember the clinic being so unlike regular clinics! Loved shopping at the different stores. My friends loved to come with us because everything was so cheap.

  3. My dad was also a Marine stationed at El Toro, and those are some of my fondest memories of my childhood. We always shopped at the commissary because my Mom didn't drive, so we'd catch the bus that went through base housing. The old commissary was near one of the runways, and I would get excited about seeing F-4 Phantoms either warming up, or actually moving to take-off position. The roar of those planes was awesome, and to this day I can recognize an F-4 by sound. Not too many left, though.

  4. My dad was Marine fighter pilot during the Korean War, excuse me "police action" and we lived in Anaheim from the early 50's to present. My fondest memory was sitting in the car while my mom shopped at the commisary and watched the jets take off. The other great memory is watching the women leave the commisary with their baskets loaded with groceries. Right after you exited the commisary there was a pretty steep incline that went down to the parking lot and inevitably some lady would lose control of her cart and it would speed down the ramp out of control and hit some car. It was like some wierd game show. Also when we would go to any regular store in town and I saw something I wanted my mother's reply would always be.."It's cheaper at the base."

  5. My El Toro story begins with my discharge from the Army in May of 1980. I still had my ID card so I thought I'd be a bigshot and drive on base and buy me some beer. Back at Ft. Bragg I'd been buying beer no problem for the last three years, problem at El toro was I was still only twenty years old. So to make a long story short, I get 'carded' at the counter, whip out my ID and get totally humiliated by a bunch of Jarheads thinking what's this Army idiot thinking....

  6. I remember that there was NO sales tax !!!

  7. My dad was stationed at El Toro in the late 50's & early 60's. I think he got paid once a month & each month we would shop at the commisary. We would fill 2 shopping carts. Once a month it was like Christmas there was sooooo much food. My mom too always said "Wait until we go to the PX, it's cheaper and there's no sales tax".
    I also remember my Dad's retirment ceremony, he look so handsome & proud in his uniform. His funeral mass was later held at the little white chapel on base.

    I think back on what those military times must have been like for those young men who went off to the pacific in WW2 and then off to Korea... Santa Ana was filled with military kids. We would go a year without any seeing our dads, there were no phone calls nor internet then -only letters. You would look at a picture of this man for a year and then a stranger would come home. It seems most of them smoked unfilitered cigerettes & many had drinking problems. I know my dad died way too young.

    I salute them & the moms who raised us. What a wonderful place Orange County was to grow up in.

  8. Hi,

    I moved to eastern Irvine in 1971 and lived in the Racquet Club, near the southeast corner of Culver and Trabuco. Trabuco was a straight shot from our neighborhood to the El Toro main gate. My dad was a retired Navy pilot, so we did much of our shopping at the Navy Exchange at El Toro, or sometimes LTA. My mom volunteered at the base hospital for years, so I always got great care from the doctors there.

    We bowled at the base. I remember it cost 25 cents a line and shoes rented for a dime. We often went to the movies at LTA, again for a quarter, and the films changed nearly every day as I recall, so we saw some obscure movies along with the big features. I remember one time during Little Big Man that a marine offended by the film stood up, cursed the screen and stomped out. I saw "Tora, Tora, Tora" there, and it was a little tense in the theater.

    When I first moved to southern California from Concord in the Bay Area (my dad was exec at NARTU in Alameda) I lived in Tustin over by CE UTT intermediate school. The first night we moved into our house, before the furniture arrived, I was sleeping in a closet when a squadron of big helicopters from LTA flew over. Very loud and scary!

    There was nothing much in Irvine when we moved there from Santa Ana. I still had to go to Tustin High School for my freshman year, but then
    University High School opened up and I transfered there. I was supposed to be in the first graduating class, but I moved in November of my senior year to Livermore.

    We used to run through the orange groves surrounding the Racquet Club, until the Irvine Company's "sheep jeeps" would arrive and try to drive us out. Fat chance chasing kids in an orange grove!

    Irvine started a summer bus program which took kids down to Corona for the day.

    Sometimes we rode our bikes to Newport. We'd go to the river jetty, on the border between Newport and Huntington, and body surf or ride short inflatable rafts before boogie boards were invented. The fabric on the rafts wore my nipple skin away, so all summer I had scabby nipples, because I sure wasn't going to stop swimming.

    When we got cold, we'd take a dip in the shallow lagoon formed by the river. It was very warm.
    We didn't think about the nasty hazardous wastes and coliform bacterias at that time. We were like 14 years old and we had ridden our bikes 15 miles to swim unsupervised in the ocean around oil pipelines, submerged pilings and powerful waves.

    We lived life unafraid things which terrify people today.


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