Covina Valley Citrus Industry

Article excerpt

COVINA VALLEY CITRUS INDUSTRY By Barbara Ann Hall (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2011, 128 pp., $21.99 paper)

"Covina Valley Citrus Industry tells the story of how 25,000 acres of dry, rocky land covered with cactus and sagebrush were turned into a garden paradise by settlers who came from all over the United States." This opening sentence to Barbara Ann Hall's introduction for Arcadia Publishers' Images of America Series gets immediately to the heart of the book's interpretive thrust. "These men and women developed a successful commercial citrus industry that flourished for 70 years" (7). And this is a story that Hall describes well. The people of Covina Valley in southern California, from Azusa to Glendora, are literally the face of the story. What is most meaningful for those with an interest in citriculture, southern California, labor, boosterism, and nascent metropolitan growth is the social history that Hall provides, which is also conscious of top-down forces such as transportation, technology, and architecture.

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The social history of Covina Valley Citrus Industry is Hall writing at her best. Thought of as the "bottom up" approach, Hall does just that by making sure she goes all the way up. Mixed in with the faces of those who toiled the fields, worked the packinghouses, and labored in the service sectors are the faces of the middle and upper classes: the "community builders," entrepreneurs, land owners, and railroad barons. For these people, Hall unpacks a family history, workers' daily routines, and even seemingly mundane activities. …