EDITOR’S NOTE: Mrs. Barton just missed the deadline to have her account included in our recent special section, “A Place Called Home,” but she still wanted to share it with the community, so we’re running it here as a letter to the editor.
Longtime resident reflects on life in Porterville
When I grew up in Porterville in the forties, it was a nice little town to grow up in. Most families only owned one car in those days, and fathers drove to work, so if mom and the kids wanted to go to town, they walked. Most neighborhoods were not very far from town. Those who lived on farms or too far away to walk to town waited until dad got home or went to town on Saturdays.
Because those were the WWII years, most people had vegetable gardens and a few chickens for meat and eggs. Some families had a pig or cow. We lived in the outskirts so we had plenty of rooam for a big garden, chickens, and occasionally a pig.
Friday nights were often movie nights for us and those families that could afford it. Our movie nights included Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa and the kids.
In the summer when the fathers got home the women would have dinner ready to go, and families would take dinner to Bartlett Park or up along the Tule River to eat and swim. Many families did this because it was so hot — air conditioning was a luxury most families could not afford, and most cooled their home with water coolers.
Bartlett Park was a big park that followed the Tule River a long way. The old park now sits under Lake Success. There were big shade trees and benches along the river for those who just wanted to sit after dinner and watch the swimmers. On the other side of the river were ropes in the trees to swing on out over the water. I remember at one place in the park there was a cement slab to dance on and a jukebox for music. There were lots of picnic tables and beautiful peacocks that wandered around looking for a bite or two left from someone’s dinner. The whole park had well kept lawns where children loved to run and play. We lived in Porterville until I was 15 and I don’t ever remember buildings, fences or rocks along the river defaced with ugly graffiti.
We also had a community theater then which still operates today. They had wonderful plays and also a children’s group which I belonged to that put many of the children’s classic plays. There was also a children’s community choir and the director, Mrs. Josephine Coates, put on a children’s operetta every spring. During Christmas the choir walked through town in and out of stores singing Christmas carols, and sometimes the customers would chime in.
The music department at Porterville High School was well attended when they put on recitals, and the band was one of the best in Tulare County.
Church in those days was an important part of most Sundays for most families. I also remember the smell of orange blossoms in the spring. For a couple of weeks the entire town smelled like orange blossoms.
Although my family moved to the Bay Area where my father could make a better living, I always wanted to come back to Porterville.
A good deed recognized
A short thank you for the honesty of a few persons employed by the Porterville Recorder — you know who you all are!
One gentleman named Mr. Smith, a latter-day saint who every morning, rain or shine, stands there selling the Porterville Recorder and speaking cordially to persons entering and exiting the post office.
Several of my legal documents were taken/stolen/disappeared in February. A few of those items were found and returned to me in front of the United States Post Office in Porterville.
I thank you and the others for their honesty in this situation.
Cynthia J. Rohner