Olive Through the Ages
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I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara Oldewage at an Orange
Community Historical Society meeting, having been introduced to her
by Orange County historian and author Phil Brigandi. Phil was kind to
make the introduction for us, knowing I have been working on this Web
site and wanting to speak with members of the Olive community or with
those who have had a connection to Olive. He introduced Barbara to me
as a member of the Dankers, one of the pioneer families in the Olive
area. Barbara was gracious to honor my request, providing me the text
for a speech she had presented in recent years about her memories of
Olive, Orange, and the surrounding area, and the changes she had witnessed
In my recent research at the Orange Public Library History Room, I was
also fortunate to have encountered some articles mentioning Barbara's
late uncle Ernest L. Danker who was born in Olive before the turn of
the 20th century. These articles contain brief interviews with Ernest
about his recollections of Olive in his childhood years.
Barbara and Ernest's stories depict the period when Olive was a rural
community. Their memories help us see the town that used to exist on
the small hill overlooking miles of groves that stretched down from
the Santa Ana River.
NOTE: Barbara's original speech, which includes references to local
areas outside of Olive, has been edited for this Web page to primarily
focus on the Olive community. Click/tap the thumbnail images or links in
the narrative below to view large images in a separate browser window
- Daralee, December 10, 2009
Barbara Oldewage recalls her family's
connection to Olive and orange groves
|Barbara at a "Y" meeting
at OUHS about 1948
|Barbara on a float in the 1947 Orange
Harvest Festival parade
I was born and raised in the Santa Ana Canyon. We had
an Anaheim address, RR3 Box 256, and an Orange phone number, 872-J-5.
Now I can’t swear that there aren’t areas in this country
that still have that kind of address, but the telephone system is now
organized into area codes, and I haven’t heard of any rural addresses
like that in this county. Can you imagine waiting till the fifth ring
to know the call is for your household?
The nearest place to us with a name was Olive. My paternal grandparents
moved to Olive about 1893, joining the influx of other German settlers.
They were first in charge of the post office—my Uncle Ernest liked
to say he came by mail; my dad was born in a house on what is now Lincoln
Avenue, just east of the Santa Ana River. They ended up at the Beckman
place on Jefferson Street, now Tustin Avenue. There my grandfather grew
oranges from the Santa Ana Canyon Road up to the River on the west side,
and about 20 acres on the east side.
At that time, Olive could boast of the Olive Mill, built in 1882, the
Olive Hotel, built in 1887, and the Schorn
home on what is now Oceanview and Bixby with its block of olive
trees. Only that house, with just a few trees remaining, still stands.
The mill produced corn meal, graham flour, rolled barley, and shelled
corn. It was the busiest mill in the area, located first in what is
now Eisenhower Park and, after burning down in 1889, was rebuilt on
what is now Oceanview and Lincoln; both were close to the reservoir
where S.A.V.I. water was stored which was needed to operate the mill.
The mill ceased to exist in 1932, served as a juice plant for several
years, and is now the site of Lakeside Professional Building.
The hotel was an apartment house in my day; my dad delivered milk to
some of the residents, but the building was eventually torn down.
My early years in Olive saw a brick yard—now a commercial site
by that name—roughly where the first mill had been; Olive Heights
Citrus Association (Sunkist) packing house, and the Mutual Orange Distributors
(an independent house); Lee McClelland’s drug store with its collection
of WWI armament and a poker or pinochle game in the back room; a volunteer
fire department, pool hall, blacksmith, market, railway station, Bank
of America, and post office; Ame’s Garage; a little café;
two service stations; the Olive Garage and, I could swear old Burruel
Point overlooked the baseball diamond where the farmers played the merchants.
The Bank of America left during the Depression, the Olive Garage is
still there, and the rest are gone.
There was also a public school which—after moves, rebuilding,
remodeling and being leased out to a private school for a period of
time—still exists although it has been incorporated into Orange.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and school are now on Canal Street,
which is also in Orange. That original little church has been various
things in the years since, and is now part of the North
Orange Christian Church.
Daddy took care of grandpa’s grove and, when he and mother married,
they moved into a little house on the property. Our own orange grove
was where Anaheim Lake is today. Smudge
pots were used when it got below freezing, which left high school
boys with traces of soot behind their ears when they came to school
the next day and their mothers lamenting the oily stuff on their curtains.
The pots were later replaced with wind machines; much cleaner. A large
amount of equipment was needed for the intensive type of care given:
Tractors for pulling plows, disks for working the mustard cover crop
into the soil, cultivators, and the like. We even had a pair of mules
that came in handy in certain circumstances. I might add here that after
planting the orange nursery stock, some growers grew a cash crop between
the trees such as sweet potatoes, chili peppers, and peanuts in order
to have some income until the orange trees produced in about seven years.
When I started at Orange Union High School, I was fortunate to have
made friends with Barbara Anderson at Camp Osceola, a Y-Camp near Barton
Flats in the San Bernardino National Forest. She introduced me to gals
that I still count as my very good friends. That campus is now Chapman
University on Glassell Street.
We used to hang out at Watson's
Drug Store after school, which was on the corner of Chapman Avenue
and Orange Street where World Travel is now, and I developed a real
taste for cherry cokes. Watson’s has moved next door to itself
and is now the only drugstore in Old Towne Orange. The Woman’s
Club on Center Street, established in 1924, was the location of
some of our school dances, as was the American
Legion Hall on South Lemon Street; both are still intact.
When I got married, a good deal of the furniture in our house came from
Higgin’s Furniture and my china came from Orange Hardware which
were both located on South Glassell Street. On Main Street, St. Joseph
Hospital has grown from the little building with two towers where a
lot of us had our kids, to one of the outstanding medical facilities
in the county.
So, things have changed a lot over the years. Orange has incorporated
north and Anaheim, east, totally encompassing Olive, the little area
on the hill which chooses to remain unincorporated.
The biggest change I've seen in my generation has been an almost total
disappearance of the orange groves. The Robert
D. Hoyt Municipal Orange Grove in Hart Park has kind of taking a
beating right now by the widening of the 22 Freeway, and the Irvine
Ranch has a few groves, but I think that’s about it. There are
those who long for the old days but, be honest, would you really be
Source: Barbara Oldewage's memories of Orange, Olive,
and the surrounding area, from a speech she presented in recent years.
This narrative has been edited to highlight her recollections of the
Ernest Danker, the Olive native who
arrived by mail
Ernest L. Danker was born on October 19,
1895 in the post office of a store beside the Olive mill. He began attending
Olive Grammar School in 1901 and graduated about 1907 before going on
to St. Paul's Lutheran School.
At a ceremony for the closure of Olive Elementary School in June 1984,
Ernest, then 88, told an interviewer: "I remember being at Olive
School. We had no telephones, no electricity and no running water. We
had to go to [the well at] a neighbor's house down the hill to get water
that we carried up in a bucket. They separated the boys and the girls.
They had four grades in each room with one teacher. I couldn't speak
one word of English when I came to school. I only knew German."
He added: "I remember seeing Indians hunting on the land that we
now call State College Blvd. I was about five or six years old at the
time. They hunted rabbits, quail and doves. It took them two weeks to
catch enough game. Then they went home to Hot Springs." Ernest
also recalled the Chinese workers who dug irrigation tunnels through
the hills for the S.A.V.I. Company in 1900. The project was a major
undertaking and furnished water to the Santa Ana Valley region and to
power the Olive flour mill.
Reminiscing about the time he and some friends stole beers from the
back of a buggy parked outside the town's dance hall, Ernest laughed:
"We were just kids."
A resident of Yorba Linda for many years, and a lifelong rancher, Ernest
Danker passed away on November 9, 1987 at the age of 92.
Sources: "Olive Celebrates 100th Anniversary,"
by Jack Boettner, Los Angeles Times, March 11, 1978; "School's
Days Are Over, but Not the Memories," by Randy Lewis, Los Angeles
Times, June 14, 1984; "After 106 years, Olive closes door on history
of Orange and its citizens," by Mary-Ann Unland, Orange City News,
June 20, 1984; Rootsweb.com.