Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pioneer Andres R. Arevalos

Andres Arevalos turns first shovelful of dirt at Arevalos School groundbreaking, 1964.
In the 1950s and 1960s, during Orange County’s unprecedented population boom, schools were being built at a shocking rate. Each school district had its own naming conventions. The policy of the Fountain Valley School District (which also overlaps the City of Huntington Beach) was to name schools for local pioneers like William T. Newland, Hisamatsu Tamura, Robert B. Wardlow and William D. Lamb. Today, many of those schools have closed and in some cases only the adjoining parks – also bearing the pioneers’ names – remain. Now that there’s talk of changing the names of some of those parks, I thought it worthwhile to share a little bit about each of their original namesakes.

Researching Lamb’s biography for my March 22, 2016 post proved pretty straightforward. But it was much more difficult finding information about the namesake of Arevalos Elementary School, built at 19692 Lexington Lane in Huntington Beach.

Andres Reynoso “Andrew” Arevalos (sometimes spelled “Arebalos”) was born Nov. 30, 1880 in Mexico. He left Jalisco for the United States in 1905. He married Guadalupe (“Lupe”) Garcia, also a Mexican national, in Indio before they moved to the Fountain Valley (a.k.a. Talbert) area in 1908.
Superintendent Baubier and Andres Arevalos at Arevalos School opening, Feb. 1965.
The Long Beach Press-Telegram would later describe Arevalos as “little man with courteous ways." Despite his size, he was strong and hard-working. He worked for twenty years as a section hand for the Engineering Department of the Pacific Electric Railroad. This meant he was part of a crew of laborers who maintained a particular section of track. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Arevalos worked for the Pacific Electric for twenty years – roughly the same length of time that the P.E.’s Santa Ana-Huntington Beach line was operational (from 1909 to 1930). 

But most of Arevalos’ attention went to farming and family. He raised sugar beets, corn and peppers in the fields around Talbert, including the land across the street from what would eventually become Arevalos Elementary School. Meanwhile, in the Arevalos home, he and Lupe would raise nine children.

In the early 1920s, the Arevalos were among the first residents of the Colonia Juarez tract in Fountain Valley – a neighborhood specifically created in 1923 as affordable and accessible housing for Mexican-American laborers. After apparently renting for some years, Andres Arevalos bought Lot 42 (10332 Calle Madero) of Colonia Juarez on October 1926. He would live there the rest of his life.
Arevalos Park today.
Andres Arevalos never became a U.S. citizen, and he never learned to speak, read, or write in English. He seldom appeared in the local directories – probably because he could not communicate easily with the directory companies’ canvassers. Likewise, he seldom appeared in the newspapers.
Guadalupe Arevalos died in 1957 – the same year Fountain Valley incorporated as a city.

The Fountain Valley School District broke ground for Andres R. Arevalos Elementary School in January 1964. Andres and his 7-year-old grandson Rodney Arevalos joined School District Superintendent Dr. Edward W. Baubier for the ceremony.

The school was officially dedicated at another ceremony on Feb. 9, 1965. “It doesn't bother us that we named a school after a man who is neither rich nor famous,” Baubier said. “We are honoring the man because he was a pioneer in our community and has been a credit to it all these years. You can't measure what a man is by money but by his success. Arevalos' success is that he provied a good education for his family and knitted his family together with strong ties that are lacking in many families today.”

Among the speakers at the dedication was Dr. Susan J. Freudenthal, who the Register called an "internationally known teacher from the Netherlands," and the school’s first principal, Bruce Sinclair.
Shyly speaking through an interpreter, Arevalos said he never imagined there would be a school named after him. "I was very surprised when they told me they wanted to honor me," he said.
Andres Arevlaos died of emphysema on Feb. 28, 1966 at Orange County General Hospital, where UCI Medical Center stands today. He is buried at Westminster Memorial Park. His obituary in the Register called him the "Beloved father of Fred, Gilbert, Andrew, Michael, Joe and Rudy Arevalos, Mrs. Nettie Aguiliera, Mrs. Esther Garcia and Mrs. Jovie Lara."

Was Arevalos really a Fountain Valley pioneer?  After all, farmers were already settling in Fountain Valley at least thirty-three years before Arevalos arrived. And the Talbert family, who eventually laid out the town site at Bushard St. and Talbert Ave., arrived eleven years before Arevelos did. 
Modern view of the well-marked Arevalos Park.
But Andres Arevalos was clearly one of the first to put down permanent roots in the Colonia Juarez area, south of what’s now Mile Square Park. Today we think of Juarez simply as part of Fountain Valley. But until the city incorporated in 1957, Talbert and Juarez were distinct communities with their own personalities, histories, and pioneers. As such, Arevalos was a Juarez pioneer who later became a Fountain Valley pioneer by dint of annexation.

Sadly, the Fountain Valley School District trustees voted to close Arevalos Elementary School in 1988. In the decades since, the school buildings have been leased to the private Pegasus School. The adjacent park has continually been included on the City of Huntington Beach’s inventory of parks as Arevalos Park. The park features a playground, benches, a swing set, and a greenbelt. If the park is to be renamed, it is unclear what the new name would be.

My thanks to Stephanie George, Crystal Bracey and the Arevalos family (many of whom still live in Fountain Valley) for their help with this article over the past couple months. Click here to see the first part in this series.


Anonymous said...

Well done Chris. Having recently sold my parents home of 53 years in Costa Mesa, and living out of state, I feel like I too am part of the vanishing memories of Orange County.

Anonymous said...

Chris, as a student who was there for the opening of Wardlow school who knew some of the Wardlows, thanks so much for this. It is criminal for people who know nothing about our history to take away the names of the people who built it and who gave us parks and schools and who were the backbone of the community.

It is also criminal for Wardlow and other schools, donated to HB for park a and school, to be sold off by the city to benefit more rich people.

-A HB kid in exile on the east coast

Garima said...


Conant said...

Chris, I've been reading your articles for years and enjoy them very much. They recently demolished Mackay elementary school in Cypress and built a tract of new homes. I was pleased to see they named the new gated community Mackay Place. At least they kept the name.