Russ' Reminiscing: The Vatnsdal Story

By Russ Vatnsdal

Originally Published In Village News in 6-part series October and November 1998

Contributed by the Fallbrook Historical Society

Don Rivers, President

These are the memories of growing up in Fallbrook by Russ Vatnsdal, a fourth generation Fallbrookite. The manuscript has been edited to comply with space; a complete rendering of his memories is available at the Fallbrook Historical Society Museum, 260 Rocky Crest Road.

1944-1945
Early Family History: 1860s - 1940s
Weekend Trips To San Diego
New Bikes, House and School
World War II
The Present

1944-1945

When school started in 1944 for my freshman year not much happened to a young thirteen-year-old. Too young and small for the football team I managed to stay out of trouble with music as Mr. Popejoy also handled the high school students. I got an evening job cleaning the Drug Store for the new owner Leighton Harrison.

He was a fine fellow to me for years to come. He and my father had just joined the Masonic Lodge and were studying the work together.

Don Higbee was a good friend during this time. His two older sisters ran the fountain at the Drug Store. Don lived with them on the Red Mountain Ranch. He and I therefore had access to the horses on the ranch and seemed to give the horses their only exercise. They weren't always cooperative. We even had camping experience down on the Santa Margarita River. I notice the Willow Glen area along the river has changed very little in the last 50 years. Remote!

In 1945 an empty store next to the new theatre came into use as a teen center. The little hamburger café that was part of it had a regular customer. I can remember the lemon pie and cokes there. I have been reminded by Liz Yamaguchi (Hughes) that she cooked the burgers.

Billy Lattimer could really make the piano put out some real boogie-woogie in addition to his sax work. Bill Clinton, you couldn't hold a candle to our Billy!

The 1945 football season wasn't for me as I still was too small and too young. I did play on the junior varsity with many others, 15 to 20 of us. For some games other older classmates helped us out. I don't remember our coach at all. We were just learning. By January when I turned 15 I started growing. By Fall I was 6'3" and 180 pounds of young kid.

That Fall was a real turning point in the history of Fallbrook High. A young ex. Marine Captain by the name of Fred W. Stone, called Stony by all, was hired as coach and teacher. He was joined by his wife on the faculty. While she waited for his return from the war she began her teaching career teaching the sixth grade at Fallbrook Elementary School. She was a good friend of my mother. Winifred, also known as "Winnie," " Minnie Pearl" was also a favorite of all who knew her. Together they changed the athletic program to one of prominence in the community.

Fred took the assortment of older, experienced classmates and a growing number of newcomers and turned us into a winning team in the conference. We lost only to San Dieguito by a single touchdown for the championship. We didn't match this in the other sports but we were changing and growing.

Ted Chamness was a leader that year and signed a contract with the San Diego Padres to play for their farm team in Stockton as a high school junior.

Fallbrook was absorbing others from elsewhere as the school was growing. Notably was Glen "Duffy" Crawford from Coronado, a top-notch athlete and fellow. His dad, Capt. Crawford was the commander of the Naval Ammunition Depot and a supportive fan.

Others fans came from the community as Stony started the "Quarterback Club." He wanted total involvement and got it. New uniforms, cheerleaders as well as song-leaders, everyone! We even had lights at the stadium for night games for the first time in 1947 with a little help from my dad and San Diego Gas and Electric. Dad died suddenly in the Spring of 1947 so he didn't get to see the full results. That same week the school and community lost another leader, James E. Potter, the school superintendent. The community almost came to a stand-still for the two funerals on the same day. Standing room only as I remember it.

Mrs. Lettie Patterson took over the music program for the high school from Mr. Popejoy. Another positive change. We had a band with real uniforms, second hand of course, but uniforms with hats. We didn't have a band for the football games like in later years as over half of the band members were on the team. We even performed an opera, "Martha." What a lot of work that was with all the practice. Billy Lattimer and Harmon Johnson had the male leads with Robyn Sikking and Gloria Price the female counterparts. I had to pick up the girls and pass them through a window to help them escape from "something." That was about as close to girls as I got. I don't remember dropping them but it was a worry. I don't think they trusted my ability either.

One good thing was that a large cast was required which made it possible to be a school-wide endeavor. Mrs. Patterson left our senior year and the music program suffered for it.

Stony provided the needed extra activities to fill the gap for most of us. Before school started that fall he held a football training camp on the beach at Camp Pendleton. Aliso Beach remains vivid in memory. The runs up and down the beach in the sand and the surf. The plays practiced over and over and the rubber rafts used for surfing. The food was great with everyone helping. The sunburns! My legs gave me a bit of trouble when they pealed. Sleeping in a sand filled sleeping bag didn't help anyone's sunburns.

When we got to school everyone was ready for the season. This time we didn't lose a conference game. Stony even started us out on larger schools like Oceanside. What joy there was in "Mudville" when we defeated San Diegiuto for the championship. We let down a bit when we lost to Laguna Beach in a Southern California playoff and then lost the first ever Avocado Bowl on our homefield to Torrance from the L.A. area. We did very well in the other sports but failed to outdo the successes on the football field. This was the Stone's final year as they had a new son and other fields to conquer.

Early Family History: 1860s - 1940s

According to a booklet titled "Fallbrook Yesterday and Today," by Harold H. Marquis, and information found at the Fallbrook Historical Society Museum along with my 'feeble memory', the oldest of my family represented in Fallbrook was Frederick Fox. He came from Massachusetts to San Francisco by train, continued by ship to San Diego then by wagon to Fallbrook. He had heard of this place through a relative by the name of George Clark who was a San Diego Surveyor in the 1860s. Fox homesteaded 160 acres in Live Oak Canyon near Alvarado Street. The home he built is one of the oldest structures still found in the community.

In the early 1880s my great-great grandfather, George Clark, brother-in-law to Frederick Fox brought his family to Fallbrook. He homesteaded north of Fallbrook on Gavilan Mountain near Sandia Creek and built a log cabin just north of the present San Diego County Line.

George's daughter Annie married James King. He was from England, but not 'the king.' The ruler at that time was Victoria. According to family tales he sat on Victoria's lap when she visited his orphan's home. King came to Fallbrook with the railroad, as he was a pastry chef in their restaurants. From this union came my grandmother Ellen.

Ellen King meet her future husband when he was a foreman of Red Mountain Ranch and there was a need for help with the harvest on the ranch. Ellen and classmates from Fallbrook high school were the help. She was just 16 when she and Fred Stewart were married.

Fred and his family owned property in Stewart Canyon (named after the family), northeast of today's Pala Mesa Resort.

In 1905 he sold his share of Stewart Canyon and purchased 40 acres to the north of the Fox property. He and Ellen were expecting their second child. He began building a house by tearing down his house in Stewart Canyon and using the material to build the new one on the "Gum Tree Property." He ran out of time, so he sent Ellen to his sister's home in San Diego for the birth of my mother, Dorothy May. Six weeks later Dorothy, Ellen and the older sister, Gertrude, arrived in Fallbrook by train. Growing up here Mom attended Reche School and then Fallbrook High at the Ivy/Iowa Street campus. She graduated in 1923 and then went to San Diego Normal School (San Diego State College) for her teaching credentials.

While attending college Dorothy stayed with her father's sister in the same house where she had been born. The house was on the east side of 40th Street in the first block south of University. What a disaster area today with the uncompleted freeway.

A young fellow from Canada was boarding with a family across the back fence. His company required that he be able to be contacted by phone when necessary. The only phone nearby was at Mom's aunts. When San Diego Gas and Electric called for Les Vatnsdal the young couple met. Many photos taken of their dating on the beach, in his car (a Stutz) and in Fallbrook show they had a lively time. They were married Christmas Day in 1925. Mom completed her college courses as a married lady.

As the twenties were drawing to a close Dad was transferred to Oceanside. This was fine for the young couple as they could spend more time in Fallbrook. He worked for San Diego Gas and Electric installing new power lines while Mom was a homemaker. My brother Kenny was four years older than I was. Mom said he was a little disappointed that I wasn't immediately able to play with him. Maybe that is why he hit me on the head with a hammer when I was about six months old. I survived!

Dad had his troubles, too. He was driving a "cat" tractor on the hills up the coast which is now Camp Pendleton, stringing electric cables. He pulled across a large patch of "prickly pear" cactus, which had enough spring to it that it tipped the cat over and rolled it down the hill. Dad landed in the cactus patch. The crew brought him home bruised, but intact, pinned together with thorns. Mom used pliers to assist in his recovery.

During the thirties and the depression Dad didn't lose his job but was cut back to a four day workweek. He didn't stay idle though. My grandfather Fred Stewart had divided up his 40 acres into four 10-acre parcels. He kept the southeast 10 on which his home was located. He gave the northeast 10 acres to his oldest daughter Gertrude and her husband Collins Morse. The northeast 10 acres he gave to Mom and Dad. The remainder was sold to Jack Owens. Jack's wife Elta was a long time schoolteacher at Fallbrook Elementary School.

The fellows planted a lemon nursery then set out their young trees. Jack planted his trees on a contour as his land had quite a slope to it. The others planted on the square.

Each provided himself with a well for irrigation and domestic water. The property had a sizable watercourse north to south. Dad acquired the original well which was in the center of the property and Jack used the south end. Grandpa put a new well in his southeast corner in the next watercourse. The watercourses only flowed freely in the winter but we still called them canyons. They each flowed south into Live Oak Canyon. Gum Tree Lane follows the central canyon today.

Dad built a small cabin for us as we were only there on weekends. Collins had a much larger home built as he had a growing family. Bob was his oldest followed by Richard, Marion, Billie Barbara, Riley, Larry and Judy.

Jack Owens lived on another ranch so he didn't build. Fred and Ellen Stewart had a nice home built in the 20s as well as their original three-room homestead built in 1905.

For water storage Fred built a round above ground concrete tank with approximately 10,000-gallon capacity. It had a full cover. I helped clean it once. It was empty at the time of course. Dad acquired a redwood tank of 10,000-gallon capacity that had served as Fallbrook's water storage. It was mounted on stout 12 X 12 legs for elevation on our highest point, which was our southwest corner. It leaked steadily so our pump had to run quite often.

Jack Owens built an inground concrete reservoir. It had a tin roof but there were doorways on each end so Riley and I, along with some of the others, used it for swimming. It wasn't used for domestic water. After our swims we would lie on top of the roof to warm ourselves. We held spitting contests to see who could make their spit flow the farthest down the corrugations of the roof. Oh, youthful sport!

Riley and I spent a lot of time together as young boys will. Many people smoked including my Dad in those days. Riley had had some experience but I hadn't. We got some cigarettes and hid down in the canyon, where we often played. Naturally, I inhaled too much and lost my lunch. I have never cared for hominy or cigarettes much after that. Just lucky I guess.

If we wanted to let the other cousins in either side of the canyon know that we wanted to play we gave our imitation of a Tarzan yell. We got pretty good at it.

Just below our water tank was a large Live Oak tree. My earliest remembrance of it was a large tent under it. This was the home where my grandfather, Fred Stewart's, brother Bert was living while he worked for my Dad on the ranch. He had lost a finger from blood poisoning that year, all due to a lemon thorn. Bert's pay for his labor was our 1931 Ford Victoria. We bought an almost new 1936 Chevy in 1937. Bert was still using that Model A when I left home for college in 1950.

On the west side of our house Dad planted what we called the families orchard. It contained several grapefruit, a tangerine, a tangelo and a variety of oranges. Also a row of avocados of several varieties. Up near the water tank a row of apricots, peaches and pears were planted.

Just south of the house was our berry patch and several guava bushes. If we didn't have bowls of fresh fruit on the table we had the home canned variety that Mom prepared. Life was good.

Once my brother Kenny and I decided to go into business. We talked Dad into allowing us to take a box of fruit home to our San Diego home. The hardest part was going door to door and trying to convince housewives to pay our prices. I really don't clearly remember the price but it couldn't have been more than a few cents. We soon gave up.

All during the 30s Fred Stewart kept his workhorses. He had a large barn and many chicken pens. He even had an incubator house where he raised his own chicks. He had a feed store in town. The first I remember was next to the railroad depot on Alvarado Street, then moved to south of Fallbrook Street on the West Side of Highway 395 across from Donald Anthony's Propane business and a machine shop. Next to him on the south was John Galloway's service station. Grandpa was finally out of business by 1945 when his health declined. He was very active in the Grange where he was Master during the 30s. Grandma Ellen kept busy during this time caring for her grandchildren by my mom's sister Gertrude and Collins Morse. Things didn't go well for the Morse family during this time and somehow by the 40s their place was gone and they were living in Grandpa's original home in Stewart Canyon.

During 1938 was the year of the building of our new home. It's a fascinating thing for a young boy to watch something grow, let alone participate in it. Mom and Dad had been renting a small house at 4054 Fortieth Street just a half block north of University Ave. in San Diego. Now they decided to have something of their own. Their choice was north in Talmadge Park just off the end of Adams Ave. They paid the sum of $400 for the lot and another $4,000 to have the house built. It was two bedrooms and a bath, an L shaped living and dining room with the kitchen and laundry filling the empty L. It also had a double garage facing the street that was connected to the house by a wall and gate for the side yard. All stucco and very modern. We were very proud of it.

Before we left 40th Street I was involved with a group of others in cleaning up trash etc. in a vacant lot behind us. While pulling a wagonload of junk the axle caught on something. When I gave a good pull it came loose suddenly and I was sprawling forward with my right hand out to catch myself. A broken piece of glass found my hand and I had my first bloodletting. Mom rushed me the several blocks to the Fire Station on University. There was a first aid station there and a Dr. McCall used three stitches to make repairs much against my permission.

When we moved and I started classes at my new school one of my classmates was Bill McCall. The son of the doctor. Bill would make something of himself as an All-American end at Stanford, then Pro-Ball, medical school and even ran for Congress the last I had heard. Just one of my brushes with important people. Too bad it didn't wear off on me.

Another experience of the new school was my meeting up with a large door. As I was trying to enter, the door met me in the face, rearranging my front teeth a bit. One was pushed back a little, the other broke off a mite. Luckily no great damage as repairs waited until I was an adult.

My grandparent's home in Stewart Canyon was often dark to me but not gloomy. They had many different musical instruments including a piano and what I recall was a zither type of string instrument that you plucked. They allowed the use of these things by the children as long as we didn't abuse them. Lots of noise was created but it wasn't unpleasant and there was also a constant sound of a grandfather's clock.

In grandma's kitchen-dining room was a large table that always was ready for use for tea or coffee with sugar service, glasses and cups with saucers. A tall glass container was filled with spoons. I now have in my possession those silver spoons. They were edged with small round bells on the handles and were inscribed with the name "Ellie" for Ellen. The sugar spoon was a match except for the bowl being beautifully fluted. It is still inconstant use daily by me.

Other items of those days came into my possession over the years some which I have donated to the Fallbrook Historical Society for the Museum. They include the rifles and shotgun used by Fred Stewart.

Among some photos that I have are several taken at our ranch during harvest of the lemons in 1938. Dad and friends including relatives from San Diego were the pick crews. The field boxes were brought into the yard by our "old" Fordson tractor pulling a box trailer that Dad made for hauling anything and everything. We didn't have a truck in those days. The lemon boxes were loaded onto a flatbed truck belonging to the Citrus Association that Dad borrowed or rented for the harvest. I was there but too small to be much help. My first real job was watering the younger trees that Dad had interplanted in the grove. We had large, red rubber one-inch hoses for this. The only real work was dragging the hose to the next tree and basin. The basin filled slowly but you didn't want it to overflow and need repair. Water wasn't wasted.

We had a jack pump operated by an electric motor with a belt connecting them. By the 40s we installed a turbine pump of 5 horsepower that provided more water. The well was originally hand dug, four feet in diameter to a depth of 64 feet. It was later deepened to 84 feet.

 There was a small lumber yard north of our block which provided us with hockey sticks. The street between had a very smooth surface and little traffic and made a nice roller hockey field. Lumber, as in 2 X 4s were used to make scooters with skate wheels. We were always busy at something. The streetcar tracks on University Ave. were used to turn nails into miniature swords. We didn't have pennies to waste.

We went to Saturday matinee movies on rare occasions. More often it was an evening show with the folks. That was in the days of the free dishes, etc. We had two movie houses between 42nd and Fairmont on University, so we didn't have far to walk.

When we moved to the new house I also got a surprise. Dad brought home a new full-sized bike for me. It was from Sears, red and cost $19.

Every Memorial Day my mother's relatives would gather at the Fox-White homestead. In the northwest corner of the property, a high point, a family cemetery is located. Fredrick Fox chose the site and was the first buried there. This cemetery has been in continual use and is still cared for. My ancestors include George Clark, husband of Fredrick Foxes sister. My grandparents, Fred and Ellen Stewart were buried there in 1950 followed by their eldest daughter Gertrude and her husband Collins Morse in 1960s.

At the Memorial Day gathering the family would stroll up the hill for a service. Some members had already cleaned up the weeds and other debris. Flowers would be placed, photos taken and then the procession would depart for the flat area under the oak trees on Live Oak Park Road where tables had been placed for a picnic. Food of all descriptions was available. Mom always included a Jello salad, lime Jello, grated carrots and pineapple chunks, my favorite. It was always a day to remember and the many people you only saw once a year.

Weekend Trips To San Diego

To tell a bit about our weekend trips from San Diego to Fallbrook and return we had two starting points. Until 1938 we left from our rental home at 4054-40th Street just north of University Ave. You could follow 40th St. north to Mission Valley and then north up Murray Canyon to Kearny mesa. This was Highway 395. From Kearny Mesa you turned east to the Poway Grade. This was through a wooded area of Eucalyptus trees. Many of our trips north were after dark and I have memories of watching a large moon overhead shining through the clouds. North of Poway was livestock country, dry and barren with only the many wired utility poles marching ahead of us. Then past Battle Mountain of the Mexican War and across the concrete arch bridge of Lake Hodges to Escondido. We have covered half or 30 miles of our journey.

No freeway here. You came into Escondido then turned right on Grand Ave. to the center of town. Then left past the park and Grape Festival grounds then left again on the San Marcos and Vista part of the trip. Now just 15 more miles (the communities were just 15 miles apart) to Fallbrook across the arch bridge over the San Luis Rey River, then Bonsall; Heller's Bend and Town. Three miles more and we were at the ranch. On the return trips we were sometimes able to talk Dad into taking the coastal route. We would turn at the Bonsall Bridge and go to Oceanside. I remember once stopping in Carlsbad where a stand always had 5-cent hamburgers advertised. They turned out to be half sized!!

It was always a beautiful trip with the sun or moon leaving its shining wake across the water of the Pacific Ocean.

One spot near Encinitas was the scene of many accidents for a while. It was a new style of three lane with the center lane used for passing. Not everyone yielded to oncoming traffic soon enough.

Upon arriving in San Diego we came into Old Town where we climbed the hill to the west end of University. A rare treat would be stopping for a pint of ice cream, usually maple nut, which mom served sliced into quarters for us. A late dinner was sometimes milk toast or tomato soup. We never had it so good since!

New Bikes, House and School

Kenny had a beautiful black bike that had the popular long horn handlebars. My first two wheeler had spoke wheels that were small. It didn't matter much that it was hard keeping up with the big bikes sometimes.

When we moved to the new house I also got a surprise. Dad brought home a new full-sized bike for me. It was from Sears, red and cost $19.

In 1940 a change came into our lives. We had lived in San Diego and commuted to our lemon ranch in Fallbrook on weekends. We had been doing if for years but I had no knowledge of the word "commute." Dad's job and his seniority at San Diego Gas & Electric Company made him eligible to transfer to the yard in Escondido. He was all for the transfer even if it meant lots more driving for him, but he would be at the ranch everyday.

This also meant enlarging our weekend house and even adding an indoor bathroom. A neighbor, Mr. Clarno, helped with this project including the septic system. A laundry room was added including a water heater which replaced our roof top solar system that Dad had installed. A bedroom was added for my brother and me. We no longer had to sleep on the sofa.

Kenny was in the eighth grade and I was starting fifth. The local school was the Reche one-room school near Live Oak Park but it closed the next spring. We then walked the half-mile north on our road to Highway 395. There the two Clarno boys, Jack and Bob, my cousins from the Morse family and Kenny and I boarded an old Federal school bus. This was driven by a Mr. Overman and then later by Steve Myers. Steve also ran a Union 76 gas station in town as well as having his own lemon grove. This riding a bus to and from school was new to me and I enjoyed every minute of it.

We were enrolled in the West Fallbrook Elementary School. The principal was Mrs. Maie Ellis and my fifth grade teacher was Mrs. Keller. Her family also ran a drug store on the northeast corner of Alvarado and Main Streets. Right in the center of town.

Something else was different about this school. It had a large music room over the cafeteria. Mr. E. Keith Popejoy introduced me to the wonders of music. First it was drums, then the tuba, then the next year the school obtained a new sousaphone bass. Next came a bass violin so I handled the bass section of both the band and the orchestra. We also had a choir so all points of music were covered. We gave summer concerts, using the tennis courts with their lights as our outdoor concert hall. That was stopped in 1942 with the war time blackouts.

For our concerts and marching band performances we all dressed in white as the nearest thing to uniforms. With our need to learn marching for parades we got to be just as good as the best Marine Units at the new Camp Pendleton Marine Base adjoining town.

We also had a dance band and performed for the adult dances in the high school gym. I remember later being joined by a talented younger fellow by the name of Jack Story on the sax. He is still playing around town!

Of the several churches in town the Methodist and Baptist were the most prominent in my life as most classmates belonged to one or the other. I would ride my bike into town to attend Sunday school and then home. One Sunday on the way home I stopped at the Standard Station where the highway turned East (now corner of Main and East Mission) to air up a tire. In my 10-year-old attempt to use the air hose, I blew up my tire. I was rather upset about getting home when a nice couple put my bike in the trunk of their car and took me home. An example of the type of people win Fallbrook, the even gave me money for a new tire and tube.

World War II

One sunny Sunday when I arrived home from Church I was mixing a chocolate drink as a treat when the radio broadcast the message of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Do you remember where you were then?

The war was a fascination for me especially at the movies. I biked into town one evening to see "Bomber Command," an R.A.F. film. I couldn't stay late to see the second film but Mr. Curt Donath, the theater owner said he didn't have any half price tickets. I had to pay the full twelve cents. What a bummer.

The war scare after Pearl Harbor really grew. Two of my classmates and neighbors, Matsu and Umeki had to leave. Their parents raised strawberries on the hillside around the new concrete water tank north of Gum Tree Lane. The rumors flew about the danger but as usual rumors proved false. The family was relocated and out of sight except in my memory.

We soon had other changes at school. Our blood was tested and typed and before we knew it we were required to buy chain necklaces for our "dogtags." Our school photos clearly remind me of this. I don't remember any casualties but we had to be prepared.

Rationing of just about everything took over. Not only gasoline, oil and tires but food and clothing as well. Dad had little trouble with gasoline due to his priority. He also had the good fortune to receive four new tires for his work car which arrived from Sears the week after Pearl Harbor.

We didn't have much trouble about food rationing at the ranch. It provided us with lots. Sugar was another matter. Dad had a sweet tooth for sugar cubes with his coffee. Mom even made cubes when she couldn't get the store-bought kind. The cubes were necessary as Dad took a bit of sugar and sipped his coffee through it. Habits die hard!

We used lots of honey in place of sugar. Grandpa raised bees so we had a ready supply. We got it by the five-gallon tin. Our cow supplied us with all the dairy products you can imagine. The left-overs of curdled skim milk went to the chickens.

Clothing was another matter. I remember Mom brought home a pair of underwear for me. The only pair she could get, stamps or no stamps. I absolutely refused to wear them. They were like long johns with cut off legs and a drop seat. No way, Jose!!

We all had work or chores at the ranch. Chores earned no pay, that's feeding the chickens, ducks, pigeons, rabbits, geese. These things had to be done on a regular basis, but weeding under the lemons or catching gophers was paid on a piece basis.

I followed the war news on the morning radio programs. On a visual basis the weekly magazines and daily newspapers contributed a great deal to the worldwide education of a young boy. What a great price was paid by others for my knowledge.

Our school enrollment grew by leaps and bounds near the start of the war. Camp Pendleton and the Fallbrook Ammunition Depot required many workers. Because of the overcrowding our sixth grade classroom was relocated to the Methodist social hall a block to the north of school. It gave us good exercise.

Don McLean, a native of Fallbrook, became a lifelong good friend when I started school life here. Mom always made two sandwiches for me. Usually something like tuna salad but always a jelly. Don's sweettooth wanted that jelly so he always swapped his bologna. We didn't buy lunchmeat so it was a treat for me as well.

In the seventh grade another friend arrived from Texas, Red Wright. These two shepherded me through a lot of adventures. Red was the older good buddy. When I was undecided about continuing in college he talked me into traveling to the north of the state where he had been going. These two easily led me into one thing or another. These friendships have stood the test of time and we are still very good friends.

Other friends were the Miranda brothers. Robert and Dave were the youngest of a large family. Both were good sports and excellent musicians. Bob was the older and the lead trumpet in all of our musical endeavors. Dave was our drummer but I best remember him throughout school as we played side by side in football and basketball.

Not to be forgotten was their father, Mr. Miranda. I first met him at our lemon grove as he was in charge of the picking crews from the packinghouse. He always took time to talk to any young friends of his boys. Another tie to this family was that they lived in the house where my grandparents lived when my parents were married there on Christmas, 1925.

In 1944 we graduated from the eighth grade after surviving the trials and tribulations of the Constitution. Our teacher, Miss Dominigoni from Temecula was as straight-laced as they come and unfairly earned the nickname of Miss "Damn Agony" from many of us. Red and I fell into her displeasure by being called from her class for participation in the music programs. We didn't keep up with her class work to her satisfaction and she threatened to fail us. It made enough impression on me to pass her exam with 100 percent anyway!

Because I visited the principal's office too often, Mom was asked to come to school to talk about it. Lucky for me Mrs. Ellis had other things on her mind for she quickly changed the subject and said "Dorothy, you have a teaching credential don't you?" Mom's positive reply was followed by an offer of employment. This started her long tenure with the Fallbrook School system. Mom had graduated from Fallbrook High School in 1923 and then took the teacher education course at San Diego Normal School, now San Diego State.

In this small town of Fallbrook everyone knew everyone else's life and talents. My grandfather was a member of the school board that hired Mrs. Ellis.

A Scout troop was formed at this time, #37. Some of the boys like my brother Kenny had been a scout elsewhere and that helped. It was not a strong or organized troop due to the war shortages and lack of a forceful Scout Master. We had some hikes and camp outs as well as meetings. Lack of equipment was a problem. My first backpack was a pair of pants with the legs as shoulder straps. You can guess what that looked like!

One hike stands out in memory. We were allowed to trail a company of Marines on a training exercise north west of town past the cemetery and into the canyon and back.

That summer of 1944 I had gainful employment. Mr. James Potter, the principal and superintendent of the high school had purchased a young avocado next to our place on the north. I was to change the sprinklers every four hours, 8-12-4 and shutoff at 8 p.m. with provision I could ride to town and go swimming between 12-4 changes. At $2 a day it was big money to a young fellow and I even had money enough to help my brother by his first car.

After I got into high school there was a young lady I remember who always dressed just so in the latest fashions. Her appearance went perfectly with her beauty and personality. It was always a pleasure to know Barbara Johnson. She gained her college education then returned to Fallbrook High to complete her career as a councilor, Mrs. Kruis.

Maurice Magante was a person to reckon with. He came to Fallbrook High in 1945 and immediately made his presence known. He was aggressive, with a temper and he used these to his advantage on the football field. When Stoney, our coach, arrived in 1946 he was able to help Maurice use his talents to their utmost. Maurice was consistently earning one award after another. Stoney was at his best helping his charges achieve their full potential. Maurice has continued to serve others as well through his work in the Indian community as well as other areas.

Oh, don't think that Maurice and I were always bosom buddies, we had a disagreement over something once and he gave me my first and only black eye. We were still teammates!

Fred Stone meant and means a lot to us. To jump forward in time to the fall of 1995, it was learned that he and his wife were to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. It was to take place at their oldest son's home in Oakdale, near Modesto. Red Wright, our ever mover and shover for all times, was able to gain a turnout of many of for that occasion. Some traveled from Oklahoma, Washington, Idaho, Arizona and elsewhere to attend. What a weekend we had!

For general information, the students of Fallbrook High were not just from the town and its immediate surroundings. Buses and other conveyances brought students from Pauma and Rincon, Rainbow, Bonsall and other outlying areas. Even Palomar Mountain. This took the time of the young people as well as others. Jimmy Banks drove the bus from Pauma and to fill out his day he worked at the Sunkist PackingHouse as I remember it. People modified their lives to help others. That was Fallbrook. I hope they realize how much we appreciated them.

Summer times Jimmy would bring in young fellows in the evening from Pala for softball games. He liked to play too. These were some organized games utilizing the great facilities of the High School. The sports facilities here were the result of the WPA program of the 30s. The school cafeteria, gym, stage, dressing rooms, swimming pool, softball field, baseball and football fields were a result of this community wide endeavor. It still is there over a half-century later, being used by the youngsters of Fallbrook, a real community pride.

The Present

I am considering relocating here perhaps from nostalgia or just old age dementia. There have been changes in Fallbrook over the years. As one who was once here and then gone on his way for some time I find that Fallbrook was and is good because it is off the beaten track and good people still live here and many more very good people have settled here. Most people still take pride in their community as illustrated by our hospital facilities, senior center and new schools. The climate is still ideal too.

Things I question are as a person who has been away and therefore unenlightened on many things I feel that any outsider, before becoming involved financially or emotionally might question. The pace seems chaotic and overly hectic and the traffic is bad with everyone having to push to get to where they want to go because the infrastructure is not in their favor. Many roads and intersections are the same as 50 years ago.

A city government with its many departments could possibly solve some problems but at what cost?? And are improvements still possible? After living in many places and traveling extensively I find that no place is free of problems. Life is too short to let problems overwhelm you. Make the most of things. Change and improve those things that you can improve and ignore those things that you can't.

In my work in other communities I found little of the early background work that Fallbrook had. Oh, what I left behind! Maybe I should have stayed home? No, it just made me appreciate it more every time I returned home to visit my Mom. Home! There I said it. Fallbrook was home no matter where I laid my hat. My family has been residents of Fallbrook ever since my great-great grandfather George Clark arrived with his family to visit his brother in law Fred Fox - and he stayed!!


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:
http://sd.znet.com/~schester/fallbrook/history/memories/vatnsdal_story.html
Comments and feedback: Don and Mary Rivers
Last update: 29 January 1999.