Orange Groves / Mt Baldy ca 1940s. John Signor Collection.
Just after I first moved to California, I met up with a long time friend of the family for a drive up into the mountains for a bit of sight-seeing. He has been my grandparents’ best friend since college and also happens to be my mother’s godfather. All of my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews we all call him “Uncle.” As we were driving on the freeway, he was telling about how much the land had changed since he first moved out here 50-some years ago. As we drove out of the city, we pass what looks to me to be a regular old su(burban)ffocation-division and he mentions that it wasn’t too long ago that this entire area was “orange groves as far as the eye could see.” The area didn’t look all that well kept so when looking for areas to investigate for noise capturing, I decided to return. It was built up, or should I say out since nothing was taller than 3 stories, and covered in strip malls and car dealerships. What struck me is how many of these spaces were empty. Every strip mall I saw seemed to have just as many units for lease as they did occupied. The remnants of used car dealerships were clearly identifiable and some signs indicated that entire office buildings were available. So not only had it not been very long since this place was orange groves, it looks like it wasn’t successfully not orange groves for very long either. Then I found some activity. A mile or so from the freeway I found a small industrial area and some of the noises that these places made were fascinating. The places seemed to be mostly metal working facilities or fabrication shops. They weren’t huge, maybe 20 employees based on the number of cars in the lot. This area shows many signs of the issues of sprawl and the drain that it has on resources but I also enjoy thinking about what it must have looked and sounded like back when this was all “orange groves for as far as the eye could see.” These aren’t your grandfather’s orange groves anymore.