Old Timer Tales

Originally Published In Village News August, 1998

Contributed by the Fallbrook Historical Society

Don Rivers, President

In talking with some of the old-timers of the area the following tales seem worth repeating.

The following story is unconfirmed, however like many of the rural areas of southern California, times during the depression of the 30s, economic times were rather difficult which necessitated families working together in order to eke out a living and pay off the creditors. Like so many families in those difficult days of the depression it was necessary to participate in or take advantage of opportunities that were presented to them.

The story goes something like this:

The rancher/farmer had a vineyard loaded with grapes, but there was no market for his grapes either as fresh table grapes or dried as raisins due to the economic depression. Looking around for a way to save his land from the mortgage holder he discussed the matter with other members of the family who are in the same position and they come up with a solution. The Farmer will supply the grapes for which he has no market; an aunt will make wine and brandy; a brother and neighbor friend will transport the wine and brandy to his father and other family members in the city; who would sell the wine and brandy. This scheme worked so well that the farmer was able to pay off the mortgage holder and thus prevent the lean holder from foreclosing on the ranch. Later as economic times improved and through a lot of hard work and skill the rancher was able to develop the ranch into one envied by all.

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We are also reminded of a story of friends who bought an old homestead several miles outside of Fallbrook in the country about the end of World War II. In cleaning out the house and making it ready to move into, they came across a room in the back of the house that was dug into the side hill. The concrete retaining wall was also the exterior wall of the house. The room had been used for storage of firewood that the former owner had used for both cooking and heating. In this room the new owner found several gallon glass jugs, that had contained Coca-Cola extract and probably used at the soda fountain in the local drug store. On questioning the previous owner he was told that they were used as fire extinguishers. They were filled with "water" so as he could pour the water on a fire should one start, or throw the jugs at the fire thus breaking them and quenching and extinguishing the fire. The new owner was not going to use the room for wood storage so he decided to empty the jugs and throw them in the trash. When he started to pour out the liquid he found that what looked like water had an odor of alcohol and he stopped pouring it out. Upon closer examination he found that the crystal clear liquid burned with almost no visible flame. Now all the new owner had to do was separate the jugs containing water from those containing "brandy" and thus he had a supply of fine brandy that would last him several years.

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We wonder how many people look back at grandparents and great grandparents and consider how they obtained and prepared the food that went on their tables. One must take into account many factors, such as the growing season, water or lack of it. How to preserve the food between the time it was harvested and the time it went on the table. One must remember there was no refrigeration, no electricity, how did our ancestors preserve their food? Namely by drying or dehydrating it. Making jerky out of the meat, dried fruits and vegetables. However not all fruits and vegetables lend themselves to drying. Have you ever tried to dry an avocado? How types of meats that we enjoy today came into being as a result of the need to preserve meat? Bacon, ham, corned beef, sausage, salted meats and fish, smoked meats and fish, pickled meats and pressure-cooking.

Whenever I get on this subject it always brings to mind an aunt who lived high up on a hillside in De Luz. She always had a garden where she could go out and harvest carrots, onions, peas or beans, lettuce or some kind of greens for a salad. She had the ability stagger her plantings so as to have only a small amount of vegetables at a time, but she planted often thus she had vegetables that were ready to pick almost the year round. They were lucky enough to have a natural spring, which they developed that supplied the house and garden with water year round without having to pump.

When it came to meat she had several rabbits, which she staggered, their breeding so as to have fryer rabbits at all times. When members of the family or friends dropped in for a dinner (which they seemed to do often) she went to her garden and harvested, then to the rabbit house and butchered. This way there was no need for preserving food; it was ready when she needed it. This sort of a menu lacked some in variety but it was much better than the alternative, going without.

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Wild game was plentiful in days of old in De Luz. Deer were everywhere so much so that ranchers had trouble keeping them out of their gardens, vineyards and pastures. De Luz Creek had trout in it. These were the result of steelhead salmon spawning on the sand bars of the creek during the winter months and the fry stayed in the creek until the following winter should there be enough water in the creek to sustain them. The larger salmon would come up the Santa Margarita River and De Luz Creek during the winter floods and spawn. It is known that a great many people will doubt this but if a certain local resident was asked to show proof of this he could dig out a picture of a 30-plus inch salmon he and the some other boys caught in De Luz creek a short distance above the old Post Office shortly after a winter rain storm.

When there was a heavy snow on Palomar Mountain the band tailed pigeons would move into De Luz Canyon in large flocks, which would cast a shadow when they passed between you and the sun. They came into De Luz Canyon to feed upon the acorns of the Live Oak trees, and eat the acorns in such quantities that one has to par-boil the birds to get the bitter taste of the acorn out of their flesh in order to eat the meat.


Go To:

Fallbrook Historical Society
Fallbrook, CA Area Information: History
Elizabeth Yamaguchi's Writings On Fallbrook History


Copyright © 1998-1999 by Fallbrook Historical Society
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to the Fallbrook Historical Society at this source:
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Comments and feedback: Don and Mary Rivers
Last update: 23 January 1999.