Placentia is my hometown. Back in 1950 it was a small town with a population of about 1600. By the time I graduated from Valencia High School in 1968, there were about that many students at my school and a second high school had been built. To say we experienced a boom, would be an understatement. The 1970 census put the population at 21,000. An increase of 1300%! The town wasn’t the only thing that grew up.
What had been a sleepy agricultural village with an orange packing house and a rail station, became a bedroom community for Autonetics, a division of North American Aviation. Thousands of engineers and their families (including my husband’s) moved to the area, driving demand for housing developments in Placentia, Anaheim, Yorba Linda, and Fullerton. In 1971 it was named an “All American City.” While Autonetics is gone, the population of Placentia sits at just over 50,000 today.
The fictional Claire Jordan attends Cal-State Fullerton which she chooses because Fullerton shares a border with Placentia. She remembers seeing the return address of “Ruby Drive, Placentia, California” on the only letter she ever saw from her long-lost father. (Ruby Drive was one block north of the street where I grew up.) Years later, when she goes looking for him, I knew she’d find him living at the very real Bradford Square, a lovely assisted living residence right on Bradford Avenue, Placentia’s main street. I knew it well as my mother-in-law lived there for a time, as well as several of my mother’s friends. It was a happy little community with many outings and activities for the residents. It seemed logical that it would also be the scene of an unexpected and momentous reunion.
One of the things I most enjoyed about writing this Us, Now and Then, was dropping little “Easter eggs” throughout that friends and family might discover. Which ones did you find? Please share.