California Fool’s Gold — Exploring Fullerton, The Education Community

California Fool's Gold

Downtown Fullerton

is a city located in northern Orange County, California. On this blogventure, I was accompanied by Chronicle Books’ Southern California Trade Sales Representative and Fullerton native Dave Erlich.

Map of FullertonPendersleigh & Sons‘ Official Map of Fullerton

Fullerton is bordered by La Habra and Brea on the north, La Mirada on the northwest, Buena Park on the west, Anaheim on the south, and Placentia on the east. 


"Pastoral California", painted by W.P.A. artist Charles Kassler
The Tongva cleaned up real nice under the Spaniards

The area was part of Tovangar until shortly after the arrival of the first Spaniards in 1769. The land later became part of Rancho San Juan Cajón de Santa Ana, granted to Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, a Spanish soldier. After the land became part of Mexico, it was still owned by Ontiveros. The year after the USdefeated Mexico, taking a third of their county, gold was discovered and American settlers flooded the area.Massachusetts native Abel Stearns bought some of Ontiveros’s land, in turn selling it to a Basqueshepherd, Domingo Bastanchury, in the 1860s.

Fullerton Station
Fullerton Station is two stations, one built by Union Pacific Railroad (1923) and the other the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (1930)

In 1886, two brothers from Malden, Massachusetts, George and Edward Amerige, bought 430 acres on rumors that the the California Central Railroad was going to pass through the area. On July 5, 1887 they formally staked their claim at what is now the intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Commonwealth Avenue and named it Fullerton after George H. Fullerton, the then-president of the Pacific Land and Improvement Company. In 1880, the discovery of oil and establishment of the Brea-Olinda Oil Field fueled another population boom. In 1894 Charles Chapman, a retired Chicago publisher, purchased a Valenciaorange orchard in eastern Fullerton.

Placentia Orange Growers packing house, Fullerton, 1910
Placentia Orange Growers packing house, Fullerton, 1910

For years, Fullerton was primarily devoted to citrus, walnut and avocado groves, oil wells, transportation and manufacturing. Fullerton was incorporated in 1904.


Fullerton College was established in 1913. Many of the homes and buildings in Fullerton were constructed in the two decades that followed and are often in the then-popular Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival styles — often with Italian Renaissance elements. In fact, Fullerton has way too many historically significant buildings to list and picture here. If you want a more comprehensive list, click here.

Del Georgio Store, Lansdowne, circa 1925 - now part of Fullerton
Del Georgio Store, Lansdowne, circa 1925 – now part of Fullerton

Historic structures from the era include the Frank Benchley-designed home of Walter and Adella Muckenthaler (erected 1924) including the Fox Fullerton Theatre (erected in 1925) (more about them later) and…

The Spring Field Center

The Spring Field Center was built in 1920 and was originally a Masonic Temple. For a time Fullerton had more lodges and chapters than any other community in Orange County. With membership having declined to under 200 members, it was sold in 1993 and is now used for banquets and receptions.

The Fullerton Christian Science Church - Self-Realization Fellowship

Erected in 1920, the building above (now a Self-Realization Fellowship Church) was originally a Christian Science Church, although it wasn’t dedicated until November 1929.

Plummer Auditorium

The Plummer Auditorium and clock tower (erected 1930) seats over 1,300 people and is used to stage drama, dance, music and community-oriented cultural programs.

Fullerton City Hall - Fullerton Police Department

The Fullerton City Hall was built in 1939 as a WPA project. It’s now the headquarters of the Fullerton Police Department.


The economy shifted from food production to food processing and in 1932, Val Vita Food Products began operating in the western part of town.

A.W. Leo, Tom Yates and Ralph Harrison invented Hawaiian Punch in a converted Fullerton garage in 1934.

Sunkist Lady

It was also an important aerospace center and in 1949, Dick Riedel and Bill Barris piloted the Sunkist Lady out of the Fullerton Airport to set an endurance flight record of 1,008 hours and 2 minutes. The Fullerton Municipal Airport opened in 1927.

G & L Fender Factory Fullerton
The Fender Factory – now G & L

In 1949 Leo Fender developed and refined the design of the Fender Telecaster guitar in Fullerton. He sold it to CBS in 1965 and it continued to operate its Fullerton factory until 1985. In 1980, Leo Fender and his original partner George Fullerton started a new company, G&L Guitars, which occupies the old Fender factory (on Fender Avenue).

After the conclusion of World War II, with the settlement of veterans in the area, the population exploded. The city began to lose much of its older character, replaced by shopping centers and newer construction. By the 1990s, many of the businesses downtown moved or closed shop. Today, the north and western portions of Fullerton are generally wealthier and the southern and eastern portions are home to largely Latino and Asian working class families. Today, Fullerton is approximately 32% non-Latino white, 30% Latino and 16% Asian. Southeastern Fullerton has long been the industrial sector, and is still primarily home to small manufacturing. The northern and western reaches of Fullerton are dominated by the Coyote Hills; the lands nestled to their south and west are known as Sunny Hills.


Fullerton has long been home to one of the most vibrant music scenes in Southern California. It was a center for the Orange County punk scene and produced The Adolescents, Agent Orange and Social Distortion.

Other Fullerton music acts include Belay My Last, Coco B’s, Derek Shawn O’Brie, Dusty Rhodes and the River BandGwen Stefani, Jay C. Easton, K-Nobs, Kid Ramos, Lit, Stacey Q, The Daisy Chain, The Illustrious Theatre Orchestra and Tui St. George Tucker.

Burger Records FullertonBurger Records Fullerton

There are a couple of venerable music stores too in Fullerton. Since around 2008, Burger Records has operated as a retail store, venue and rock music label. It also hosts movie nights. They carry a variety of genres of vinyl (and a few cassette mixes) but mostly garage, psychedelia and other 60s rarities. They also rent VHS. Here’s a short documentary about Burger.

Black Hole Records

Black Hole Records Fullerton

There’s also the older Black Hole Records. The selection tends to skew more toward classic KROQ-type stuff. Punk, glam, new wave… lots of British stuff.

If you want to catch some live music, you might check out Steamers Jazz Club and Cafe. If you’d rather make your own music and are well versed in Korean songs, you might check out Blue Karaoke or Ziller Karaoke & Bar.


If you feel like cutting a rug, there are several local options. Most of the dance clubs also serve food and many have live music. The list includes the country scene at In CahootsCantina LoungeThe Continental RoomZiingsClub HavenTropics Lounge and Florentine’s Tuscany Club.


Fullertonians apparently love to eat out, as there are a ton of restaurants. However, it’s not necessarily a foodie’s paradise, as the choices seem to represent higher than average numbers of bakeries, burgers, Chinese, froyo, Mexican and pizza places. Consider: A&J Burger Drive In, Alberto’s, Alvaro’s, Amazon Churrascaria, Les Amis, Angelos’ and Vinci’s Ristorante, Anita’s New Mexico Style Mexican Food, Arturo’s Cantina & Grill, B & B Donuts, The Bagel Bistro, Berry Fresh Frozen Yogurt, Berryheaven,Beverly’s Best Bakery, Big B’s Barbecue, Big Slice Pizza, Big’s Grill, Bill’s Burgers, Bourbon Street,The Brownstone Cafe, Burgertown, Cafe Hidalgo, Cafe Miru, Cafe West, Cajun Swamp, El Camino Real, The Cellar, Chef K’s, Chicago Harv’s, China Bistro, China Village, Chomp Sushi & Teppan Grill,Chunk-n-Chip Cookies, Cupcake Blake, Daphne’s Greek Cafe, Dolce Monachelli’s, Don Carlos, Don Jose & Ricardo’s, Don Pollo, Donut Star, DooRi, Fantasy Burger, El Fortin, Frati Gelato, The Fresh Kitchen, Fullerton Downtown Pizza, Fun Sushi Momo, George’s, Ginza Sushi, Giovanni’s, Gladys Donut, Golden Ox, Golden Spoon Frozen Yogurt, Grae Grae, Great Good Place Bagels & Espresso,The Grill, The Habit Burger Grill, Hashigo Sushi, Hong Kong Express, Hong Kong Super Buffet, Hot Wok, Hungry Bear, I Got Cha Pizza, India’s Spices, Island’s Restaurant, Jinga Korean BBQ, Joe’s,Judy Lynn Bakery, Kansai Sushi, Kaori, Karma Cafe, Kim Chi Bbq Buffet Inc, Kim Loan, Knowlwood, Koba Tofu Grill, Kung Pau House, Lamppost Pizza, Larry’s Pizza & Sports Parlor, Lizarran Tapas Restaurant, Lomeli’s, Lucky Chinese Food, Mad Wolf Mongolian Barbecue, Mandarin Palace, Mandarin Pavilion, Mariscos Clemente, Matador Cantina, Maui Hawaiian BBQ, Midori Japanese Grill, Mitsu E Shabu Shabu, Mochilato, Molca Salsa, Mongolian Bar-B Q, Monkey Business Cafe, Mulberry Street Ristorante, Nak Nak, Nick’s Super Burger, North China, Ola Hawaiian BBQ, Okazya Kitchen,Pallazzo’s Pizzeria, Pepe’s Finest Mexican Food, Phans55, Philly’s Best, Pho 88, Pho Ellie, Pho Lemon Grass, Pho Olivia, Pick Up Stix, Pita Hot, Pollo de Oro, Polly’s Pies, Porky’s PizzaRialto Cafe, Rigoberto’s, Roadside Burgers, Roll House, Roman Cucina, Roscoe’s Famous Deli, Ruben’s Bakery, Rubio’s Baja Grill Ruby’s Diner, Rutabegorz, Salt and Pepper, Sanchez Burrito Co. #1, Sandwich Hut, The Sandwich Place, Santa Fe Express Cafe, Sato Sushi, Seafood Grill, Shortstop BBQ, Silver Chopsticks, Sonora Restaurant, Spadra Ristorante, Spicy Stix, Spoon Deep, Stubrik’s, Summit House, Sun China Buffet, Sweet O Donuts, TC’s Yummies, El Taco Loco, Table 10 California Grill,Taqueria de Anda, Taqueria La Bamba, Taqueria Rancho, Tartuffles, Taste My Taco, Thai Basil, Thai Original BBQ, Thai-Rama BBQ, Top Class Pizza, Top Donut House, Tortas La Corona, Tropical Shave Ice, Twin Dragon, Villa’s Mexican Restaurant, Waba Grill, Wahoo’s Fish Taco, The Well, Wendi’s Donuts, Yellow Mango and Yogurt Blast.


Recently, downtown Fullerton has began to see signs of commercial revival. In less than five years, approximately thirty businesses selling alcohol opened. The OC Weekly unflatteringly called the area south of Commonwealth “Bourbon Street West.” I remember popping open a beer bottle in Fullerton once and a complete stranger popped his head through the window and asked expectantly if he could have one. Now, a sign informs you that the bar-heavy area is being promoted as SoCo.

SoCo Fullerton

There are also more coffee bars than average. Whatever your poison is, if you feel like imbibing some fluids there’s Back Alley Bar & Grill, Blue Mountain Coffee, Bootlegger’s Brewery, Branagan’s Irish Pub,Brian’s, Cafe con Leche, Cham Cham Cham, Cherch Lounge, Coffee and Chrome, Commonwealth Lounge & Grill, The Continental Room, ENVY Ultra Lounge, Greenhouse Café, Heroes Bar & Grill,Kimmie’s Coffee Cup, Lollicup Fullerton, Lucky Johns, Max Blooms Cafe Noir, McClain’s Coffeehouse, Mikey’s Sports Bar, The Olde Ship, Orale Raspados, Palapa Bar & Grill, The Pint House, Quickly, Spring Tea Garden, Stadium Tavern, Sunset Lounge, The Swig Bar, Top Express, Tranquil Tea LoungeTwisted Vine and 2J’s.


One can view objets d’art at ChuckwaHibbletonThe Violet Hour and Veronese Gallery Cafe.


The Fullerton Civic Light Opera

Theater is well represented in Fullerton, with stages at The Maverick Theater, Stages Theater and Hunger Artists Theatre Company. Fullerton College and Fullerton High School’s Academy of the Arts also put on large-scale productions. For October’s Fullerton Shadows Theatre Festival, Fullerton’s theater community get together to screen and stage horror, sci-fi and mystery movies and plays at various venues. There’s also The Fullerton Civic Light Opera, seen above.


Fullerton Hillcrest Park

Fullerton maintains more than fifty city parks including Hillcrest Park, Hiltscher Park, the Craig Regional Park and Ralph B. Clark Regional Park. A 26 acre botanical garden, the Fullerton Arboretum, opened in 1979. Additionally the city features approximately 200 acres of recreational land in the Brea Dam Recreational Area, plus an equestrian center and trails, two golf courses and a tennis center.


In movie-related news, Fullerton was the birthplace of actors Chris Hebert, Erin Mackey, Jenna Haze, Kimberly Chambers, Michael James McDonald, Peter Isacksen, Skip Stellrecht andSuzanne Crough. The town is also home to Anime Japan, which has a much more specializedAnime section than we do at Amoeba.

Fox Fullerton Theater 1934Fox Fullerton Marquee

The Fox Fullerton Theater opened in May, 1925 as the Alician Court Theatre. It was designed byRaymond Kennedy, who also designed Grauman’s Chinese and Egyptian Theatres. It was scheduled for demolition until the Fullerton Historic Theatre Foundation raised enough money to save it and it’s been undergoing restoration since 2005.

The Wilshire Theater was less lucky. It opened in 1927 as the Malden Arms Hotel. During Prohibition it became a speakeasy. In 1946, the hotel’s swimming pool was converted into the Wilshire Theater. It offered stage musicals and non-Hollywood fare in the ’70s, before switching to mostly Spanish-Language cinema before closing in the 1980s. It was demolished in 1992 to make way for an apartment complex.

A handful of films have been shot, in part, in Fullerton. These include Birth of a Nation (1915), Dreamrider(1993), Mothman (2000), Evolution (2001), Waking Up in Reno (2002), Blood and Roses (2003),Raspberry & Lavender (2004), Hallowed (2005), Dementia (2006), Faith Happens (2006), Getting’ It(2006), Peaceful Warrior (2006), The Da Vinci Treasure (2006), The Other Side (2007), Video Space(2009) and The Sweetest Heir (2010).

Fullerton Airport

The little-seen Utah Murder Project (2006), had a scene filmed at the Fullerton Airport.

California State University - Fullerton

The Comebacks (2007) largely filmed in Fullerton, at California State University and various other Fullerton locations.

Fullerton Arboretum

Uniquely His (1993) had a scene filmed at the Fullerton Arboretum Gardens.

The Blind Goddess Dr. Caligari

Also not including many recognized titles, The Blind Goddess (1926), Dr. Caligari (1989), Christmas at Water’s Edge (2004), Signerz (2007), Robert Hearts Miss Ing (2008), Once & For All (2009), Touch(1997) and The Pikers (2008), were filmed in Fullerton.



Muckenthaler Home

There’s the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, which was built in 1924 and donated to the city in 1965. It now annually produces more than 100 performances, gallery exhibits and classes every year and is a popular site for weddings and corporate events.

Fullerton Museum

Then there’s the Fullerton Museum Center. The museum’s roots began on the corner of Pomona andWilshire at Gem Pharmacy. In 1907, the museum moved to the newly constructed the Carnegie Library. After it outgrew that, Spanish Colonial architect Harry Vaughn designed the current building in 1940.

…there’s also Laser Quest Amusement Park, AMF Carter Lanes, the Dance Spot (studio that also has recitals) and the annual Donate a life – Run/Walk & Family Festival.

To vote for any communities you’d like to see covered in California Fool’s Gold, name them in the comments. If you’d like a bit of inspiration, there are primers for:

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRWWhich Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiand Twitter.
Art prints of Brightwell’s maps are available from Saatchi Art and 1650 Gallery. Other merchandise is available on Tee Public.
Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

14 thoughts on “California Fool’s Gold — Exploring Fullerton, The Education Community

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s