My grandfather, George William Aguirre, was Juan De La Cruz Aguirre’s eldest son and born in 1900. Cruz was the son of a migrant, Jesus Aguirre, who came to Piru in 1893. Both Jesus and Cruz worked as ranch hands - Jesus worked for Camulos Rancho and Cruz for David Cook. So, George William descended from a family that had always been involved in farm work. Cruz took George out of Piru School in seventh grade to help him with a business he had started hauling hay up Torrey Canyon.
George earned good money and by the time he was eighteen years old he had bought his first car. Cruz bought 14 acres in 1921 (and later another 5.5 acres) on what became the Aguirre ranch halfway between Fillmore and Piru on East Telegraph Road (State Route 126). Cruz and his sons planted oranges and worked the groves irrigating, pulling weeds, pruning and whatever else it took to produce a good harvest of Valencia oranges.
George met Lillian Nuñez, my grandmother, when she was grading oranges at the packing house in Piru. Lillian had migrated to California with her family from Guanajuato, Mexico, around 1909. They began dating, mostly going for long drives around the county and up the Grapevine. They married in 1923 and had two children, George Benjamin (my father) and Evelyn (Ramirez).
During the summers of the late 1920s, my grandparents packed my dad and his sister into their car and drove to the Central Valley to follow the summer harvests, mostly picking fruit. They lived in the car with two small children for weeks at a time, and I remember stories about the work, which was hard, plentiful and paid well enough. I’m not sure how they managed this but clearly it could not have been easy.
In 1924, my grandpa found permanent work at a large ranch just west of the Aguirre land that was owned and managed by a Mr. Goodenough. He worked there for more than 65 years. My grandmother worked at the Sunkist packing house in Piru for almost the same amount of time. In 1951, they built a house on the Aguirre ranch where my brothers and sisters spent many years celebrating family, playing poker and eating beans and tortillas.
My grandparents worked most of their lives. My grandmother eventually retired from working for Sunkist. Ironically she graded the very oranges picked on the Aguirre ranch. My grandfather worked all of his life. When he came home from his job working on the Goodenough ranch, he would then go out into the Aguirre ranch and work a couple of more hours.
When he retired from the ranch he had worked most of his life on, he was 85 years old. He was then able to devote his hours to working his own ranch which he did right up until the day he passed. I remember my grandpa at age 96, going out to hoe weeds and prune. He worked a few hours until noon and then spent the afternoon with my grandmother.
Working the land was all he knew.