Historic Packing Houses and Other Industrial Structures in Southern California

Virtual Tour of Los Angeles County: San Fernando

Copyright 2005, 2006, 2008 by James Lancaster and Paul Ayers.

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San Fernando (SP, PE)

San Fernando was served by both the Southern Pacific and the Pacific Electric. The packing houses were along the PE's line that was built north from Van Nuys in 1912-13 along Sepulveda Blvd. and connected with the SP's San Joaquin Route main line near Brand Blvd. and San Fernando Road. One of the packing houses was the San Fernando Heights Orange Association (SFHOA). It was on Sepulveda Blvd. southwest of the town of San Fernando.

Ray Ayers worked at the SFHOA packing house from 1938 to 1956, becoming the assistant manger before leaving. His son Paul has provided several photos and other memorabilia from that period. The material is from the Ayers Family Collection and any other republication or other reuse of any of the material, without the express written permission of Paul Ayers, is prohibited.


Paul Ayers - Ayers Family Collection

The aerial photo above looks north and is dated November 1935. It shows Sepulveda Blvd. in the lower left curving to the right to become Brand Blvd. The single PE track from Van Nuys is just to the right of Sepulveda Blvd. A spur curves off into the SFHOA packing house in the lower left center of the photo. At the time of the photo PE still offered passenger service from downtown Los Angeles but it was discontinued in 1938. The track to Van Nuys lasted into the early 1940s when it was removed south of the SFHOA packing house leaving the PE as an "island" railway in San Fernando. The north-south street at the right of the photo is Columbus Street. An orange juice plant (left) and the San Fernando Heights Lemon Association packing house are at the top of the photo and were also served by the PE.

Just north and east of the SFHOA packing house, between the rows of trees, are transient labor quarters known as "Pico Court." The house just south of the court on Columbus St. is the packing house foreman's house. Paul Ayers lived here the first three years of his life (1951-54).

A close-up view of the SFHOA packing house is shown in an enlargement of that part of the original 1935 photo (Close-Up Image).


Paul Ayers - Ayers Family Collection

The second aerial photo is dated August 1960 and shows considerable change. Sepulveda Blvd. and Brand Blvd. have become divided streets with the still remaining PE track in the center divider. Sepulveda Blvd. has been extended to the north and much of the previous agricultural land has beed filled with development. The SFHOA packing house appears to have changed little.

A close-up view of the SFHOA packing house is shown in an enlargement of that part of the original 1960 photo (Close-Up Image).

The building in the lower left of the close-up views is the building that Showcase Miniatures used as the prototype for their Sunkist Packing Shed kit. The low relief model represents the far side of the building in the close-up views.

A photo from the 1940s shows Ray Ayers in front of the SFHOA packing house just after a rare Southern California snowstorm (Photo-PA). Note the track curving into the packing house behind Ray. The building in the background is the front office part of the large arch roofed building shown in the aerial photos. Compare this photo with the one published in the Spring 2001 issue of the SPH&TS Trainline and shown at the bottom of the Showcase Miniatures web page.

Paul Ayers has discovered a group of photos taken by the Times showing operations at the SFHOA packing house. They were originally publicity photos for Sunkist. The first photo is a group shot of the employees taken 9/27/50 (Photo-PA). Paul writes "my father is the bald headed guy at the rear right in the Hawaiian shirt. Behind him and to his right is his friend and co-worker Ramon Bustamante, or "Bustie" as dad called him."

Paul has provided a 1949 photo of Ray Ayers in the backyard of the SFHOA packing house complex taken by his uncle, Loren Ayers. In the photo Ray is sitting in a Ford Model AA dump truck painted Sunkist Orange named the "Champ." The Champ was used to haul a continuous by-product of the packing process, damaged or rotted fruit that could not be sold, to dumping areas in the west San Fernando Valley. As can be seen, the sides of the bed of the truck have been built up to carry the bulky citrus. Paul dimly remembers riding in the Champ out to Chatsworth and catching a huge king snake out at the dump.


Copyright 2006. Ayers Family Collection. Any republication or other reuse of this photo, without written permission, is prohibited.

The arrow in the aerial view of the complex shows where the photo of Champ was taken. 

Copyright 2006. Ayers Family Collection. Any republication or other reuse of this photo, without written permission, is prohibited.

Paul Ayers also provided a copy of a SFHOA letterhead and his father's business card (New).

The February 26, 1944 issue of the Los Angeles Times had a short article titled San Fernando Valley Citrus Crop Goes to War.  The article included the following bits of information about the citrus industry in early 1944:

  • Approximately 25% of the citrus fruit of the San Fernando Valley supplied "Vitamin C for the armed forces and our allies."
  • There were 11,000 acres of lemon, orange and grapefruit trees and 10 packing houses in the San Fernando Valley.
  • The San Fernando Lemon Association won recognition for working with "Mexican nationals." Housing units for the "more than 275 nationals picking for citrus houses" had been built at Pico Court, Rinald St. and San Fernando Road.
  • Picking of navel oranges in 1944 began in January and was expected to continue into May.
  • Glen Radditz, manager of the SFHOA, described the packing process as follows:
    "Before being packed, the oranges are washed, after which a paraffin wax is applied by revolving brushes. The fruit is graded and sized, and individually wrapped in tissue paper by gloved hands. From the time the oranges leave the tree until they reach the market they are never touched by an ungloved hand."
The Times article included a photo of women packing Splendor brand oranges at the SFHOA packing house. Paul Ayers has provided three other photos taken by the Times at the SFHOA packing house but not used in the article. The first two photos show the packing process. The third photo shows one of the unique hand trucks used to move crates of oranges. Note the arms that clamp around the bottom crate to stabilize the stack.


Copyright 2006. Ayers Family Collection. Any republication or other reuse of this photo, without written permission, is prohibited.
 

Copyright 2006. Ayers Family Collection. Any republication or other reuse of this photo, without written permission, is prohibited.


Copyright 2006. Ayers Family Collection. Any republication or other reuse of this photo,
without written permission, is prohibited.

The operation of the PE in San Fernando was interesting in and of itself. Paul provided a photo of a very sad looking box motor #1435 at the San Fernando end of the line (Photo-PA). In the background, at the left of the photo past the nose of the motor, you can see the S.P. San Fernando station, and just above the motor's light is the top of the S.P. San Fernando water tank. The back of the photo indicates it was taken by C.E. Wright on 4/18/43. It was probably taken shortly before the PE line from Van Nuys to San Fernando was severed just south of the SFHOA packing house creating an "island" branch.

This is just part of the SFHOA material from the Ayers Family Collection. More will be added in the future as time permits.


The San Fernando Heights Lemon Association (SPHLA) packing house is the larger of the two structures shown at the top of the 1935 aerial photo and at the upper left of the 1960 aerial photo. The photo below zooms in on the area of the packing house in the 1960 photo. The nearest buildings are a juice plant and behind is the lemon packing house complex. It is really two structures. The nearer building is the packing house itself with an eight-section, factory-style roof. Behind it, the taller structure is a concrete cooling building that was built sometime after the 1935 aerial photo was taken. 

Copyright 2008. Ayers Family Collection. Any republication or other reuse of this photo, without written permission, is prohibited.

The photos below show the former lemon packing house as it looked in late October 2008. It is now part of a storage facility.

This view is towards the northeast corner of the concrete cooling structure. (James Lancaster photo)


This view is along the east side. The former sawtoothed roof packing house has been modified with new walls with exterior 
bracing outlining the former roof line. The concrete cooling structure is at the right. (James Lancaster photo)


This close-up view shows the outline of the former sawtoothed roof. (James Lancaster photo)


This view shows the north side of the SFHLA cooling structure along San Fernando Mission Blvd. (James Lancaster photo)


The final view shows the west side of the cooling structure and the sawtoothed-roof packing house. Note the doors that were once used to load reefers with crates of lemons. (James Lancaster photo)


The city of San Fernando web site has a 1920s-era photo of the San Fernando Heights Orange Association packing house.

Page last updated 11/12/08.
 


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