There once was a time when driving was pleasurable

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

As we work our way through the heavy traffic which travels morning, noon and night on the multilane streets and freeways surrounding Tustin, it is hard to remember the days when driving in the area was leisurely and pleasurable.

Seventeenth Street, now one of our busiest thoroughfares, was a two-lane road edged with dirt shoulders and towering eucalyptus trees 50 years ago. It ran straight as an arrow from its origin at Newport Avenue to Long Beach, although it changed its name as it passed through Garden Grove, Midway City, Stanton and other hamlets. Drivers who lived on the north side of Tustin and used Seventeenth to travel to and from Santa Ana’s Main Street had to brake only for stop signs at Grand and Tustin avenues and an occasional stray dog.

You could count on motorists approaching Seventeenth on side streets to wait until the way was clear to cross. This was no great imposition since cars were scarce on Seventeenth in those days. Almost no one commuted to Santa Ana or beyond. Usually only shopping or visiting the doctor or dentist merited a drive to Santa Ana.

Most other main thoroughfares in the Tustin area were equally tranquil. Prospect, also a narrow two-lane road shaded by giant eucalyptus trees, passed between beautiful citrus orchards interspersed with Victorian ranch houses and cottages. No cross streets existed between Seventeenth and First.

A thick hedge of Cecil Brunner roses edged the property that is now Columbus Tustin Park. Tustin Avenue also has changed dramatically. Once, orchards filled the four corners at Seventeenth and continued south and north. Fruit and Fourth streets ended at Tustin Avenue. Several Victorian houses, reached by long dirt drives, were hidden deep in the orchards.

A half-dozen Spanish-style homes lined the west side of Tustin Avenue just north of First Street. Tustin Avenue crossed First Street and continued south until it merged with Newport Avenue, the main road to Costa Mesa and the beach area. Although First Street, which began at Newport Avenue and linked downtown Tustin with downtown Santa Ana and beyond, was paved and had curbs, its traffic also moved at a leisurely pace. A pedestrian crossing the street or a driver entering from one of the residential side streets had little trouble.

Even Newport Avenue, the main truck access to three orange packing houses, was a sleepy country road compared to today’s multiple lanes, numerous traffic signals and clog of cars. Irvine Boulevard, which began at Newport Avenue, was a shady approach to the Irvine Ranch headquarters. Edged by hedgerows and orchards, it offered glimpses of rural yards and ranch houses. Is it any wonder that families looked forward each week to a Sunday afternoon drive?
 

 
 

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