Al McCombs

Al McCombs

look at Chino 50 years ago shows an emerging community of 20,000 faced with some of the same problems it has today. Of course there was no city of Chino Hills or Preserve yet but some basic issues were forming.

The much-needed new 20,000-square foot Chino post office opened at Tenth and Walnut in May and was dedicated at a Fourth of July ceremony, led by the American Legion post.  It replaced one about 30% that size built in 1955 at Ninth and D, now the Champion office. It wasn’t too long before it became too small again, but was helped by the opening of the Chino Hills post office in February 2000. Chino postmaster Bill Brockett transferred to the hills. The postmaster there now is Peter Lee. The Chino office, now 50 years old, is way too small again.

The Pomona freeway through Chino was nearing completion, a major milestone for the city that was becoming suburban. Delays were caused by a labor strike and mudslides in the hills to the west. The opening ceremony was December 30 but the actual opening was delayed almost four weeks. Said the Champion: “This project, which exceeds $8 million, not only gives us a million dollar flood control installation, but portends to change the destiny of Chino. At least that’s what everybody has been saying around here for the last 13 years.”

Yes it did.

A proposal to put a center divider down Central Avenue to the south of the freeway, to match one started with federal funds to the north, was opposed by a number of merchants who feared it would cut traffic to their places by limiting left turns. The advocates prevailed, however, and busy Central is safer as a result. The widening in the north took out pepper trees that had lined the main avenue for 70 years.

A big issue was putting the fire department under one roof after being operated jointly as a city-county operation, on a cooperative basis. But a solution was delayed. The problem involved aligning the working conditions of the firefighters who were split between the city and the rural departments. Later the city let the county take over but too much tax money was going to other areas, so the voters set up the independent district in 1990. It has been doing well ever since.

In the middle of this for the city, as well as proposals for downtown redevelopment, was city planner Gale Carr, the community’s first real professional, who was to go on into his own consulting work. I got a surprise telephone call from him the other day. He still lives in the area. 

Chino was taking a look at downtown redevelopment because no progress was being made among the merchants, who couldn’t seem to agree on a plan. Federal HUD officials were involved to tell what could be done. It would be another 20 years under a new city manager before significant action took place. However, “downtown Chino” moved elsewhere.

A committee was formed to help the county choose a new site for its offices, including the court and  library that were in a small area south of the fire station.

An ambitious teenager got a lesson in civics when he proposed that a vacant field be used for a city park. Turned out the land was outside the city, and the county was only interested in regional parks that would serve several communities. Planning had started on developing Prado Park.

In the Chino prisons, where the main problem today is the coronavirus, escapes were still routine. Three inmates on a work force escaped from CIM by using a hoe to climb the fence. The police got them before they got out of town.  In another case two escapes kidnapped a couple in their car and drove to Arizona with them. In September there was a  riot and mass escape at the Youth Training School on Euclid Avenue, now closed. All the escapees were rounded up.

Later the state, with a push from Senator Ruben Ayala, tightened up and today, escapes from the men’s prison are almost unheard for. Homes have been sold practically next door. 

Property taxes were rising fast, the result of reassessments. In the city the assessed valuation rose 12%. Yet parents, faced with school double sessions, got $6,025,000 in school bonds passed (one of the few in the state). All this helped pass the state’s Proposition 13, limiting the general property tax to $1 per $100 AV and putting a lid on reassessments.

Increased noise at Ontario International Airport had the city up in arms, and an effort was made to get the owner, Los Angeles International, to move the runway east. The problem remains. 

On the west side of the city the Ellsworth property was annexed for industrial development. Much of it is now in Spectrum retail. Industry was making a gradual appearance in the area, with the Streamline Trailer and Kelsey-Hayes Axel plants.

The dairy industry had become the top moneymaker for the valley. San Bernardino County overtook Wisconsin’s top county, and the Chino milkshed was the largest in the country, and soon the world.

Tension was increasing in the Mexican-American community because of youth activities pushed by the Chicano movement.. The Chino Sinners gang was prominent, and conflicts at Chino High had Principal Vic Paulson seeking off-duty city policemen for four hours a day to keep loiterers off the grounds, combat vandalism in the restrooms and parking lot and process narcotics violations. From this grew the hiring of school resource officers.

Chino High did enjoy basketball and baseball championships but the football team remained in the doldrums despite a change in coaches.

Girls, and most of their parents, were pleased with a school dress code change that allowed the gals to wear pants.

And good news for emergency rescuers and the ill. Plans were underway to build a hospital, and with it an emergency room. But things weren’t going well for massage parlors. After police did an undercover bust on one for prostitution, the city rushed through a new single spaced 7-page ordinance requiring special licensing. Up to then, the worst commercial sin seemed to be belly dancing.

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