Olive Through the Ages

Citrus Industry: Packing Houses

Crate Labels | Packing Houses | Stories and Images | Other
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A fortunate thing occurred as I started working on The Citrus Industry section of this site. Gordon McClelland acquired photocopies of rare, historic newpaper articles about the citrus industry. These articles, given to him by local historian Tom Pulley, were compiled by Tom and reflect his many years of research on the topic.

I was surprised to learn there were more packing houses in Olive than previously uncovered in my past research—five, in fact, only three of which appeared together at the same point in time: Growers' Fruit Company which later had its building purchased by Peppers Fruit Company and renamed Olive Fruit Company, Olive Hillside Groves, Olive Heights Citrus Association, and Lawrence Kokx.

Tom's collection of citrus packing house articles come from a vast number of sources: The Santa Ana Register, The Orange Post, Orange Daily News, Los Angeles Times, The California Citrograph, and Fullerton News Tribune. All articles in the folders from his collection are meticulously labeled and dated, spanning the years 1919 to 1955.

My thanks to Tom Pulley for his extensive, dedicated research and careful note taking, and to Gordon for generously sharing this invaluable collection with me.

          

Click/tap the animated icon at right to launch a separate browser window or tab containing a slideshow video (less than two minutes in length) with maps showing the location of each packing house in Olive, and when it operated at that given site.

          

An overview about each packing house is provided in the sections below. Click/tap the thumbnail images to view larger images in a separate browser window or tab.

Growers Fruit Company
 
Growers Fruit Company, 1912  
Growers Fruit Co., 1912  
   
Growers' Fruit Company appeared in Olive in 1911. Its large, white, wooden packing house was constructed at the northeastern corner of Main Street and Olive Avenue. This independent citrus packing house, the first to be built in Olive, distributed "The 'Angelus'" brand of oranges from its facility. The building was purchased by Thomas H. Peppers and his partner A.J. Miller in 1921.

Source: Tom Pulley and ProQuest Historical Newspapers, Los Angeles Times (1881 - 1986)

Olive Hillside Groves
 
Olive Hillside Groves, 1915  
Olive Hillside Groves, 1915  
 
Olive Hillside Groves, 1929  
Olive Hillside Groves, 1929  
   
Olive Hillside Groves was founded September 1914, and its wooden packing house was located on the eastern side of Railroad Street (Orange-Olive Road), just north of Hope Street (Lincoln Avenue). This independent packing house became a member of the Mutual Orange Distributors.

In spring 1926, officials reported 45 workers were employed and 125 carloads of oranges shipped. The plant implemented a new method of fruit packing to retain the fruit's solid shape and original flavor. Each fruit was first dipped into one solution to kill germs and then dipped into another solution to fill its pores.

On December 16, 1927 the firm's packing house and neighboring Olive Citrus Heights Association packing house were both destroyed by fire and rebuilt the following year. Olive Hillside Groves rebuilt its packing house of brick and concrete at the same site at 109 Canyon Way (the street names and addresses in Olive changed several times throughout the years).

In 1947, Olive Hillside Groves incorporated and its address was now listed as 8642 Santa Ana Canyon Road. Operations ceased around 1960, but the packing house structure still stands today, occupied by Merlex Stucco since 1963.

Some sources include: Tom Pulley, and Santa Ana Register

Peppers Fruit Company / Olive Fruit Company
 
Olive Fruit Company, 1923  
Olive Fruit Co., 1923  
   
Olive Fruit Company, circa 1926  
Olive Fruit Co, circa 1926  
   
Olive Fruit Company, 1929  
Olive Fruit Co., 1929  
In 1921, Thomas H. Peppers and his partner A.J. Miller purchased the Growers' Fruit Company packing house structure at the corner of Olive Avenue and Main Street and named their business Peppers Fruit Company. Early in 1923, when Miller began controlling most of the operations, the business was renamed Olive Fruit Company.

This company became one of the largest and most successful independent packing houses in Orange County from 1922 to 1926, shipping 612 carloads of fruit in 1922, 725 cars in 1923, and 992 cars in 1926. Miller purchased the former Anaheim Valencia Growers Association organization in 1926 and Olive Fruit Company soon operated from both facilities.

By 1930, the building in Olive no longer operated as a packing house, but was used the following year by Olive Heights Citrus Association for fruit coloring and storage.

On January 4, 1932, the packing house in Olive was destroyed by fire and would not be rebuilt.

In 1937, the company changed its name to Western Fruit Growers, Inc. and sold its Anaheim packing house to Krinard Packing Company of Riverside.

Sources: Tom Pulley, and Orange Daily News

Olive Heights Citrus Association
 
Olive Heights Citrus Association, 1919  
Olive Heights Citrus Assn., 1919  
   
Olive Heights Citrus Association, circa 1926  
Olive Heights Citrus Assn., circa 1922  
   
Olive Heights Citrus Association, 1950s  
Olive Heights Citrus Assn., 1950s  
   
Olive Heights Citrus Association, 1960s  
Olive Heights Citrus Assn., 1960s
   
Olive Heights Citrus Association, 1982  
Olive Heights Citrus Assn., 1984  
   
HCS fruit picking box end from the 1960s  
End piece of an OHCA wooden picking box
   
Orange County Fruit Exchange building by DLO  
Orange County Fruit Exchange illustration by Daralee, 2006  
   
Olive Heights Citrus Association was organized September 30, 1914, and in 1915 built a 70-by120-foot packing house of wood in front of Olive Hillside Groves, facing Railroad Street. Of the five packing houses in Olive, only Olive Heights Citrus Association incorporated as a Sunkist packing house and became a member of the Orange County Fruit Exchange.

During the first year of this packing house's operations, 40 cars of citrus fruit were shipped. By 1926, that number had increased to 490 cars.

In December 1927, both Olive Heights Citrus Association and Olive Hillside Groves packing houses burned down and were rebuilt the following year. Olive Heights Citrus Association purchased a parcel of land across the street on the opposite of the railroad tracks. In June 1928 its new concrete packing house opened at 104 Canyon Way, the second largest in Orange County. This new packing house employed 50 female workers and utilized the latest machinery and equipment.

By 1930, 918 cars of oranges were shipped from this facility, and at the end of May 1931 the shipping estimate was set at 1000 cars.

The following month, Olive Heights Citrus Association began using its newly built precooling plant that utilized a new method to help fruit retain its flavor. In this process, fruit was pre-cooled to 36 degrees within a day-and-a-half prior to being loaded into refrigerator cars for transportation to the East coast.

NOTE: The precooling plant can be seen in the 1960s photo by clicking/tapping the thumbnail image at left. The plant is identified by its two-story, tower-like structure located towards the right rear in this photo.

Olive Heights Citrus Association was the last citrus packing house to remain in Olive, closing its operations at this plant in 1984 after merging with the Olive Heights Citrus Association plant in Corona. In December 1988 fire gutted the building in Olive, and the structure was razed in 1997.

Some sources include: The California Citrograph (circa 1915 article courtesy of Gordon McClelland),
and ProQuest Historical Newspapers, Los Angeles Times (1881 - 1986)

          

Olive Heights Citrus Association was a long-standing member of the Orange County Fruit Exchange, the latter which organized on November 13, 1893.

In 1922, the Orange County Fruit Exchange began operating out of its new Mediterranean-style brick building with tile roof located at the northeastern corner of Glassell and Almond Avenue in downtown Orange.

After this Sunkist exchange closed in 1994, its building at 195 S. Glassell became a fine arts gallery on October 4, 1997 and is open to the public today.

NOTE: While standing outside of this building one summer afternoon in 2004, I sketched a pencil image of its exterior. I later transferred this sketch to my 4x6-inch sketchbook, and the illustration was completed on June 5, 2006 using Aquarell watercolor pencils and a brush with water. (Click/tap the thumbnail icon above to view a scanned image of this illustration.)

- Daralee

Lawrence Kokx
 
Lawrence Kokx, 1948  
Lawrence Kokx ad, 1948  
   
Lawrence Kokx, 1952  
Lawrence Kokx ad, 1952  
   
In 1945, Lawrence Kokx built a single-story, 150-by-60-foot packing house beside Olive Hillside Groves at 8672 Santa Ana Canyon Road, on the northwestern corner of Main Street and Olive Avenue. The building was narrower in the front than in the rear, since this packing house was built along the curved railroad spur that ran between the two packing house structures.

Lawrence Kokx packed Valencia oranges under the "KOKX Broadcasting" label, and also packed fresh cabbage, tomatoes, sweet corn, and bell peppers.

Early in 1948, the plant reported 12 to 45 employees working at the packing house year round. In an advertisement that ran in the Santa Ana Register on May 25, 1948, the firm announced 1770 car loads of produce were shipped in the prior year and proclaimed to be "Orange County's Largest Produce Shipper."

In March 1951, the firm was reportedly one of the largest independent packing houses in Orange County, employing 30 workers year round. In 1953 and 1955, more than 1500 cars of fruit and vegetables were shipped.

On April 7, 1955, the packing house and nearby refrigerator cars were damaged by fire.

The packing house ceased operations in 1958, and the structure still remains standing, occupied by Merlex Stucco and "Vero" from 2001 until Merlex Stucco's acquisition by Parex USA in 2016.

Some sources include: Tom Pulley, Santa Ana Register, Orange Daily News, and Fullerton News Tribune

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