by Jim Bulls
There was once a time, that small family farms surrounded the Reedley city limits. Does anyone remember where the Sellers, Fast or Nickel farms were? The home Johnny Rios lives in, in the triangle of North, D and 10th streets, was once a family farmhouse. Does anyone remember horses and cattle grazing in the pasture west of the Lincoln School playground next to Frankwood Avenue? Or the Harry Shuklian farm east of Lincoln School?
Shuklian had an orchard of Santa Rosa plums, and on the little strip of 11th Street, he built a gas station and a three-bay garage. Behind the gas station was the family farmhouse, the tank house, well and a little lean-to where the Shuklians parked a little 1932 Model B Ford bobtail pickup. Ted Aivazian worked for Harry when he was a young man, driving the Model B, loaded with lug boxes of plums, to the old Sun Valley packing house so they could be packed for shipment to parts east.
The station was known as Junior High Station because it was caddy corner from Grant Junior High; Shuklian sold Siren brand gasoline. One of the station attendants was Mike Shamoon. Mike parked his 1928 or 29 Hudson Super Six along the curb in front of the station. When I was in kindergarten at Lincoln, I would walk to my Dad’s classroom at Grant after school. I often stopped at the gas station because Mike would let me play in his old Hudson. The garage was rented to Bob Vartanian from Selma. Vartanian kept our old Oldsmobile running so we could get back and forth to Texas and Oklahoma every summer.
In addition to gasoline, Shuklian also sold candy and the kids from Lincoln and Grant would stop by after school for a snack to eat on the way home. After St. La Salle was built, those kids joined the others in the daily trek to buy candy. Following the death of the Shuklian’s son, the gas station became known as Jackie’s in his honor.
The candy we used to buy at Jackie’s can’t be easily found today. There was Kool-Aid powder in straws with the ends mashed shut and wax tubes filled with flavored sugar water–once you drank the filling, you chewed the flavored wax like gum. You could also buy a carton of peppermint candy cigarettes with red tips simulating the lit end. The cartons looked like Lucky, Chesterfield, or Camel cigarette packs.
Following the Mojave earthquake, California began a campaign to rebuild schools to meet earthquake resistant standards. The Shuklian’s plum orchard was drastically reduced when most of the land was sold to build the new Lincoln School building. The little gas station was demolished, but Jim Parris took over the garage. In addition to working on transmissions, Parris built a hardtop racecar that ran at Kearney Bowl in Fresno, doing battle with such local legends as Al Pombo, Howard Kaeding, Marshall Sargent and the Epperson brothers. When Parris went into the service, the machine shop was sold and relocated.
As the Shuklians passed on, the house sat empty and the garage was vacant. One day when I was driving by, I saw the little Model B on a trailer being towed down the driveway to parts unknown. The house was rented for awhile and someone tried to use the garage as a thrift store, but it faced the same fate as the Grainger building, running into zoning ordinances. Eventually the buildings were torn down. My wife, who has a thing about tank houses (that’s another story), took photos of the farm house and tank house before they disappeared.
It seems to me that many of the small family farms that once surrounded our town have been gobbled up by housing developments or incorporated into larger tracts of acreage owned by mega-growers. Although Reedley is still known as the “Fruit Basket of the World”, I think our biggest industry is in the health care and retirement care field.
As the baby boomers age, it has become apparent to me that Reedley now has a large population of retirees who live here permanently. Everyone who still works, seems to do so out of town since there is a mass exodus every morning of the work week. Likewise, the younger folks coming into town are students at Reedley College.
Adventist Health runs the hospital and several buildings downtown and around the city have been remodeled as doctor’s offices or health clinics. In addition to Sierra View and Palm Village retirement homes, there are quite a few new apartments and gated communities for seniors. Carins is no longer the only funeral home in town. Which brings me back to the Shuklian family farm. Today, you’ll find a brand new medical complex sitting to the rear of the original property at North and 11th Street. There is a huge parking lot in front with modern illumination that really lights up the place at night.
I think Reedley is gearing up to vie for the retiree market.
I guess you know you are nearing retirement age when it doesn’t matter if your favorite team wins or loses; when the comics in the newspaper are no longer funny; when you only read the paper to see who has died. By the way, have you had to pay for an obit lately? The price is ridiculous; it’s hardly worth dying for.
Yep, I think Reedley is ripe for retirement. My opinion on this counts because I am retired.