I■ By Rob Lindquist / Contributed
t is hard to imagine what the San Jacinto Valley sounded like once upon a time when it was countrified. Walking home in east Hemet from Little Lake School through the groves and orchards bordering our rural streets and roads 60-odd years ago was pastoral and relatively peaceful.
Shoes made noise as we walked. I could hear irrigation gurgling in open roadside flumes, especially when it poured over the weir box gates. Mourning doves cooed, crows called and when the apricot orchards burst into bloom the otherwise quiescent neighborhood roared with the hum of millions of bees rushing to and from their hives.
In the height of spring we kids could be hit in the face or arm by a bee, yet seldom if ever would we get stung. How luscious it was to listen to their loud buzzing that filled the perfumed air with the hum of getting things done. All these sounds spoke to me as I walked. I felt their sublime orchestrations running through me, holding me in the wholeness of spring’s all-out celebration.
Nighttime however, could be frightening for a youngster; the Eggens had a well a half mile away that made a monotonous, yet worrisome “Bum, Bum, Bum,” which put me on edge when the lights were out. Our bulldog, flat out on the back porch, would start snoring, which made the great horned owl in the big palm tree start hooting for his lady hooter down the road in Brubaker’s oak tree. None of those noises were real loud. The folks and my sisters never lost any sleep over them. But, for a restless scamp like me, there was nothing else to listen to.
Come morning, I might hear a Ford tractor gnawing its way through a walnut orchard or a Caterpillar disking the nearby citrus groves. But, other than a school bus, a couple of cars and a pickup truck, everything around us fit well within with whatever was essential to that peacefully rural existence that was the legacy of Old California living.
The town was sedate 60-odd years ago yet keenly sensitive to certain familiar sounds. Fire truck sirens back in the ‘40s and ‘50s were lousy, so, to forewarn the public and round up volunteers, the city erected a used WWII air-raid tower next to the fire house that mounted a siren that could be heard clear to Valle Vista.
The cannery whistle would go off at noon and again at quittin’ time. Daily train arrivals were always heralded by a couple of toots from the locomotives, which could be easily heard from our house two miles away. And, it was pretty easy to figure out who was going where, and in which vehicle, long before they arrived at your door.
But, there was something else about old Hemet that needs to be thought about today. Years ago, the general populace felt that loud noises, sounds that might “disturb the peace,” were not conducive to valley’s collective peace of mind. There was a shared consciousness about keeping the peace, which was very much in evidence. No one ignored or looked askance when a policeman or highway patrol officer pulled someone over for fitting a hot-rod with “headers” or a motorcycle with straight pipes.
No one took pity on or complained about the stooge that was making all that racket with his car, getting a ticket; even if it was their own kid.
That said, how do you like getting your ears and nerves blasted at while you’re blithely motoring down Florida Avenue these days? It’s incredible. The primary offenders are people “sharing” their stereo systems with everyone else on the road and the motorcyclists that have refitted their bikes with straight pipes. Following them are the muscle cars, hot-rods, trucks and lowriders that are purposely fitted with totally unacceptable exhaust systems.
This time of year I’m “downtown” on the grounds of the historical Hemet Depot and Museum on mornings when groups of third-graders come through to learn about our region’s past. How can I talk to these eight-year-old children about our local Native Americans and their way of living in and with nature for thousands of years?
Even our youngest and brightest can’t hear me over the din of dozens of illegal, ear-splitting, unmuffled engines yowling and roaring to get nowhere fast. I feel like the guy in the old western movie who always raises a finger in the air, squints at the wide-eyed citizens and yells, “There should be a law about this!”
And, yes… I think there should; don’t you?