01 October 2007

Squeezing Out A Memory



Mother and one aunt lived in Los Angeles, one aunt in Fowler, two aunts in Fresno, and the last of the six Pifer girls in Chowchilla: A sisterhood chain down Old Highway 99. Their children (the cousins) migrated up and down that road every summer almost at will to mix and match, occasionally by bus or train, but usually by car driven at speeds unheard of today except by cars being chased by police while TV station helicopters whirr overhead.



Going north, you climbed up the grade from LA to Gorman and then started the long twist of the grapevine hitting the great drop above Bakersfield where it was pedal to the metal on an empty road, only slowing down for the tinier three block main streets equipped with stop signs and cruising through Bakersfield to look at the bridge that it recently took Buck Owens to save.



With that drop came the heat in an age when auto air conditioning was high speeds and open windows. When the heat became too great we started looking for them. The great orange blobs dotting the landscape and the howls would start: Stop, please stop .... oh please, please, please.

In the searing summer heat of the San Joaquin, those orange blobs had an elixer of such heavenly proportions as to make children weep when without halting one faded in the rear view mirror. When you stopped there was the flimsy wooden Mammoth Orange with a window. It meant shade, a glass filled with ice and fresh squeezed juice from oranges that had been on the trees just that morning. In the blazing sun and rural valley dust, it was the most remarkable drink ever served with just the right acid bite to quench thirst.

It is over fifty years later now. But every once in a while you will see one of the giant oranges dusted and boarded up. Only a few still exist, and almost too late there is a move to preserve the few that remain in museums, while a couple are still trying to stay open for business, just in case you find yourself in Chowchilla or heading over Pacheco Pass to Los Banos.

To this day, when I order a breakfast juice or a champagne Mimosa for breakfast or brunch, I judge the quality of a restaurant by one question, "Is your orange juice fresh squeezed?"





25 comments:

Jenny McB said...

Your description of the heat in the car without the air conditioning was so true. I am so glad that you included a picture of the orange stand so I could see if it was what I had pictured in my mind.

tegdirb92 said...

what a vivid and beautiful memory--I really enjoyed that.

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

I so remember these days too. I also loved stopping in on a very hot day. They were the best. Have a great MM. :)

crazy working mom said...

Now that is one massive orange!!!

ian said...

You just made me totally crave orange juice now!

Ian

enigma4ever said...

okay...I don't even like orange juice..but I was sitting here drooling on the keyboard....

Gattina said...

50 years ago oranges were still not for every day's use in Northern Europe and I think I was 8 or 10 years old when I got one orange for Christmas ! After the war it was something very special in Germany.

Imma (Alice) at I Was Born2Cree8 said...

What a wonderful story, Jamie. I enjoyed the read. I'd never heard of these orange blobs, we probably never had them here. I bet those oranges fresh off the trees are totally different and soooo much better tasting than what we get here.

Reba said...

Whoof, woof. I've never had orange juice, but this post has made me want to try it. Arf.

Julie said...

Great memories! We have a drive-in rootbeer stand still in operation in our town. It's a shame they're SO expensive! The girls don't wear roller skates though.

the teach said...

Wonderful story, Jamie! Love your new owl picture! Come by and visit me. :)

maryt/theteach said...

Happy MM! My MM post is at "Answers to the Questions"

Matt-Man said...

I really miss old higheway stops and diner type places like the place you descibed. Cheers Jamie.

lisa said...

mmm, fresh squeezed orange juice (and champagne!).
What a great, descriptive post. I have never experienced those orange blobs. Sorry I missed them
Happy MM!

eProf2 said...

Jamie, I stop by your site almost every day as you have one of the best blogs on history and the family. Interesting that you've posted on Highway 99. We're leaving tomorrow for Sacramento (family) and SF (50th HS reunion) and will be traveling 99 after we cross the Tehachapis and down into Bakersfield. So, thanks for the preview.

Duward hasn't seen the last of me yet. I stopped being interested in CL some time ago as the conversations were completely dominated by three or four people 24/7. So, I look for more meaningful blogs, including yours for sure. Dada, Enigma, PoP, and Halfway There are on my must read list almost every day.

Thanks for the note. Continued good wishes for more thoughtful posts. They are appreciated by many.

Stine said...

Great memory! And I agree - there's nothing like it!

Linda said...

Having been up and down both I-5 and Route 99 many times over back when I lived in California I had no problems picturing this in my mind as you wrote about it. I never got to see one of the orange stands, though, which is too bad as that would have been way cool!

Great post as always!

NOLADawn said...

All I could think of while reading this was Orange Julius... mmmmm.

Sherry said...

Great memory! I've never lived anywhere near a giant orange, but I wish I had :)

Travis said...

Blogger ate my comment dangit!

I said...Most of the Mammoth Oranges were being boarded up when I was cruising up and down the valley. I do remember a couple though - outside of Merced maybe?

Great post for the theme. It brought back some memories of flying up and down the 99.

Jamie said...

Those were the two I mentioned. Chowchilla which apparently now is in the process of being relocated because of highway widening and one that isn't specifically on 99 in that it is near Los Banos

This Eclectic Life said...

Late, but better than never, I get to read your post (I should be crocheting right now!). This was a superb piece of writing, Jamie. I could feel the heat searing my throat as I read. Oh, I could use a glass of orange juice right now (fresh squeezed, of course)

Sanni said...

Excellent read, Jamie. Thank you so much! I´ll have an orange juice in a second =)

Jersey - The Furry Diva said...

Right after my hooman mommy enjoyed her orange juice I´d love to take her to Chowchilla =)

katherine. said...

these are wonderful memories...and a great post for Orange!