A Time Gone By

As I read through the various news articles to post on GoatWorld, I am often reminded of the many places I’ve lived in America as well as abroad in Europe during my time in the military. Some of these articles evoke memories of yesteryear and quite often amaze me as to how quickly the face and landscape of many towns has quickly changed.  It’s so easy to think back to a time and place and see how it affected me later in life.

Such is the case of a recent article I discovered: ‘Mostrosities in the farmland’: how giant warehouses transformed a California town.

I was a young boy when I first became familiar with Ontario, CA. The year was around 1965 and my step-father who raised and trained race horses would often take us through Ontario on our way to another small town at the time, Beaumont, to pick cherries. What stood out the most at that time was the Ontario Airport,  where we would often stop to watch airplanes take off and land. It would be a year or two later when we would move to a small farmland house in Chino, adjacent to Ontario. While Ontario was known for its cattle and dairy farms, Chino was known as well for its own dairy operations. It was a great place to be a kid. Many afternoons you could find other kids and me in the area at a nearby dairy farm playing in the cow bogs. My parents would often ask, “have you boys been playing in the soupy doo doo again?” Yes, we were a fragrant bunch of little rascals. After getting cleaned up, my family would go to this picture theater to enjoy a family night out. I can distinctly remember seeing the movies, “Born Free”, “Topkapi”, and “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World” there.

Chino, CA 1960's
Chino, CA 1960's
Rex Ellsworth Farm, Chino, CA
Rex Ellsworth Farm, Chino, CA

I also remember living in at least three different places in Chino, but perhaps most notable was on the Rex Ellsworth Horse Farm in Chino, as my dad had taken a job there as a trainer. I have many memories from that time, mostly that the entire surrounding area was primarily farmland and livestock. I am so thankful that I was raised in such a rural atmosphere, as I could have been raised less than 50  miles further west in the ever-expanding urban sprawl of Orange and Los Angeles County. In those days. it took about an hour plus to drive from Chino to Brea, CA, as there were no freeways yet constructed between the two areas. Those early journeys traveling either Carbon Canyon or Brea Canyon road were adventurous, to say the least. But even back then, you could see the advancement of the city life expanding all across Southern California. My parents often made me aware of the “rat race”. People from other states often now complain about Californians coming to their state and ruining it. It was probably us native Californians that complained about the out-of-staters first!

At some point we would move out of California entirely to continue the racehorse quest. I don’t know the exact details of why other than that we ended up living next in Lexington, Kentucky – eventually on Castleton Farms (there were horses of course). But that’s a story for another blog, as I am trying to stay more focused on the California region mentioned in the original article. At this point in reading, you might be asking yourself “but what about goats? Where do they fit into all of this?”

Well, as I recall my first encounter with goats was with a neighbor on the farm in Kentucky. A neighbor a pasture or two over had a few goats. I remember an older girl in the family sitting in their barn milking a couple of goats by hand and offering each of us a small glass of fresh goat milk. I also remember not being too fond of warm milk at the time, so my real goat adventures were still a couple of years away. A few short years later, my family found itself living back in California, not far from Chino or Ontario. This time we lived in a town which was known as Cucamonga – now known as Rancho Cucamonga.

Cucamonga (I’ve never been able to bring myself to calling it “Rancho”, sorry) is located just north of Ontario proper. The three years that we lived there were perhaps some of the most formulative years of my life prior to becoming a teenager. The area overall (the San Gabriel Valley) was still very rural in comparison to the areas not much further west. Again, the rat race of the urban sprawl was becoming more evident.

Our house was a small farm on a hill located between a goat farm and an egg farm, with citrus fruit and vineyards just about anywhere you went. Orange fights on the way to school each morning were a common event. Even though the area was considered rural by most, there was one issue that showed that the face of agriculture was changing. Instead of the green orchards I was used to seeing, smog was everywhere! The overwheleming presence of air pollution is perhaps why the citrus industry began to dwindle and citrus farmers eventually cashed out. Wine grapes and wineries still remain today, but mostly as attractions.

Early days of Cucamonga and Ontario citrus orchards
Early Cucamonga and Ontario citrus orchards

In the 1960’s, there were days on end where you could not see the San Gabriel Mountains, such as Mt. Baldy, due to extremely thick masses of smog from nearby steel mills in Fontana. The smog wars of the 1960’s had been in full force for years, and would eventually help to clean up the air in the area. But for the farmers that had relied upon the land for many years prior, it was already too late. Many of them had already moved to greener pastures and cleaner air, or had died on the land they had worked and loved. A little research reveals that many of the streets were named for them early on, which makes the idea even sadder for me to reflect upon. As for my family, after 3 years of dealing with burning eyes and lungs, we moved further north and out of the smoggy air entirely, to a town that time will likely never change…Independence, CA.

A trip through Ontario and the surrounding Inland Empire communities is now more a breath of fresh air than when we lived there. It’s a sobering reminder of how quickly progress can overtake a once bountiful landscape. The America you see now no longer resembles the America we grew up in. Was it a purposeful plan to turn the area into what it has become today, or was it the result of poor city planning? To put things in perspective life had been more affordable in comparison to the surrounding regions of Los Angeles. Many native Californian’s like myself think it probably was the latter. The Ontario Municipal Airport had been considered mostly a regional airport before the change. In 1946 it was renamed Ontario International Airport. It later became linked with the Los Angeles International Airport (1967).

Gary 1969 in 4H, Cucamonga, CA
Gary 1969 in 4H, Cucamonga, CA

At this point my blog has devolved into more about the environment than about goats.  So I feel I need to shift the focus back to them now. As the creator of GoatWorld, I am often asked how I first became involved with goats. It was there in Cucamonga where I had reached the age that I was prompted to begin caring for livestock and other farm animals. Raising chickens, specifically Blue Andalusians, White Leghorns, led to helping our next door neighbors on their modest dairy goat farm. I was soon encouraged to join 4H and learn more and more about goats, eventually showing and caring for my own goat. It was also my introduction to the fair life where I was allowed to show at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona. At that time, I’m pretty sure that the number of goats and other livestock in the region were greater than the human population. In a short span of perhaps 20 years, the entire area changed into a concrete jungle with probably no more than a handful of goats to be found.

I almost forgot to mention an exciting event that took place in the Ontario/Cucamonga area in 1968.  Ground was broken for the Ontario Motor Speedway  and racing commenced in 1970. I remember the day well, as I delivered newspapers for the neighborhood. Each paper was about as thick as a Los Angeles phone book and it took me well until after dark to get them all delivered. And if raising goats didn’t get you excited, the sound of cars racing surely would have! There were a lot of us kids who decided that Indy, err, Ontario car racing was what we were going to grow up and do!  We could hear them from our farm on the hill and everyone seemed to be real excited about this attraction being right there in the area. And why not? We were now on par with the Indy 500 and California was growing by leaps and bounds. But it would only last ten years until its closure in 1980. It’s mostly business and retail stores now.

Ontario Motor Speedway 1970
Ontario Motor Speedway 1970

To close out my blog, I just have to say that it was a great area to grow up in during that time, and I often find myself thinking back to the many memories we made there. But this isn’t the only area where the concrete jungle has replaced once thriving agricultural communities. All across America, the older generations often return to visit their childhood neighborhoods. They begin to see how much change has really taken place. In some instances, early childhood homes and farmsteads have been completely covered over. History of a time gone by erased entirely. What are your stories? Has this happened to you?

Until next time, happy goating!

Gary Pfalzbot