Lindsay: A look at the Glory Years

By Carolyn Barbre

The original Ghost Town News was published from 1941-1946 by Walter Knott of Knott's Berry Farm. The bi-monthly 30-page magazine was printed by hand on an old press which dated back to the Civil War. During those years, an article titled "You LIVE at Lindsay" by James Glanville was printed.

A ghost town is any place where people once lived, or are still living, that is a shadow of its past. Ironically this was in Lindsay's heyday.

On Sunday, April 4, The Fresno Bee ran a great story titled "A Town's Rebirth" The subhead stated that following a devastating crop freeze in 1990, Lindsay 'buried' its past and began an aggressive plan to improve its situation.

But they were referring to the very recent past. Orange Blossom Festival time is a good time to take a look back at Lindsay's glorious past.

At the top of the page of the Lindsay story in the Ghost Town News is a photo of 50,000 barrels of green olives, neatly laid down in rows, with olive trees in the background. It is described as acreage at the Lindsay Ripe Olive Co., the world's largest olive processing facility. J. S. Schutt is president of the cooperative and Earle Houghton is manager.

A photo at the bottom of the page is of "one of the 15 orange packing plants that serve the huge citrus belt surrounding Lindsay." John Griffin is manager of the Central California Citrus Exchange.

The story starts out about the holocaust of war sweeping a young man out of a peaceful California small town and carrying him to the far corners of the world. "Enlisting as a plain G.I., he rose to the rank of major and the horizons of his life broadened in proportion to his responsibilities and newly acquired knowledge.

"And when the war was finally ended this young man turned his face homeward with great joy in his heart. He had grown - grown sufficiently to know that the one spot on all the earth where he most longed to be was in the one he had left - the small San Joaquin Valley town of Lindsay, California!"

The story is about Lee H. Clearman, city editor of the Lindsay Gazette, who went back to his old job.

The author reported that "most of Lindsay's veterans are returning to the fertile and friendly soil they left in the hour of their country's need. They are coming back to the olive orchards and the orange groves; to their jobs in groceries and gas stations, to their desks in offices and packing houses. There is no great fanfare about it and none is desired. Just the simple and sincere welcome of neighborly folk who say 'Well Done' and proceed to get on the the task at hand."

Glanville was more of a poet than a magazine reporter. "Nature spread her bounties with a lavish hand across the magnificent reaches of the Valley of the San Joaquin. She gave this inland empire fertile soil, water, a year-round growing climate, oil and minerals. And as a final munificent gesture, she established a thermal belt in the Central Valley where both oranges and olives are grown in unsurpassed conditions . . . Lindsay is the thriving heart of the nation's greatest orange and olive processing industry."

Glanville gives the cash crop figures, but goes on to say, "But of vastly greater importance is the spirit of Lindsay; the human values that set its high standard of citizenship; the will to achieve that makes this isolated community self-contained, self reliant, progressive and prosperous." Darn, you just kind of want to carve that into the facade of City Hall.

Glanville visits with R.I. Cleaman, Lee Clearman's father, who has been secretary/manager of the Lindsay Chamber of Commerce for more than a decade. Clearman tells him, "Opportunity is greater in the small towns." He cites his own rise from picking oranges at 5 cents a box. Clearman said if a man hustled he could make $3 a day. "But even so there was a hitherto unknown goodness in life. He took root, helped Lindsay progress, progressed with it," Glanville wrote.

In the '40s most of the transient fruit pickers were people who lost their farms because of the Dust Bowl compounded by the Depression of the 1930s. As John Steinbeck wrote in his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath:

"And then the dispossessed were drawn west - from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless - restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do - to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut - anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land."

Glanville quotes a former transient worker named Ned as saying about Lindsay, "Me and the old woman are powerful happy here. We got a real nice little place. The kids are in school and doin' fine. And there's work enough." Glanville concludes about the former transient workers, "The Neds and their old women (God bless them) have undoubtedly found a utopia of sorts in Lindsay."

Glanville mentions J. Burgess Moore who has been a Lindsay grocer for 46 years, started in the business when he was 12 at his daddy's knee. Moore also served as mayor and a councilman. "Lindsay's fine city hall and the modern 20-bed municipal hospital are justifiable points of pride with him," Glanville writes. "He helped. All Lindsay helped. The people of Lindsay get things done!"

At this point in time Lindsay has nearly 100 retail establishments. Glanville highlighted H.C. Landers of the Race and Landers' Hardware Store, observing that people in agriculture are more dependent on the hardware store than any other retail establishment. At the top of the second page is a photo of druggist A.

C. Tienken receiving a citation for distinguished civic service from the editor of the American Druggist<$>. When the photo was taken, Mayor Forrest Brentlinger, standing in the background, was proprietor of the Mt. Whitney Barber Shop. Glanville said Lindsay's auto service facilities offer as much as any big town and F.F. Pollock is the local Ford dealer.

There are several other photos, one of the original two-story Lindsay High School, a handsome building; the City of Lindsay agricultural display at the Tulare County Fair is virtually all olives, cans stacked high in pyramids. And finally there is a photo of the Orange Blossom Festival coronation with the queen coming down the steps at city hall with a handsome Spanish-looking fellow in what appears to be a mariachi or caballero-type costume with embroidered vest and sash. The caption only says, "The people of Lindsay enjoy life. Principal community celebration is the Orange Blossom Festival held in April of each year. Wholesome and neighborly recreation in many forms promotes friendship and civic pride."

It appears those glory days are returning.

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