Volunteers built Rainbow’s Grange hall

These photos were taken during the building of the Grange hall in 1948.

Rainbow’s Grange hall is one of two Grange halls remaining in San Diego County, and Rainbow Valley Grange is the only active Grange chapter still in the county.

Bill Hitt, who is now 93, has been a permanent resident of Rainbow since 1946 and his family purchased property in Rainbow in 1929. Hitt was part of the effort to build Rainbow’s Grange hall in 1947.

“That was a long time ago,” said Hitt. “I helped. I was one of the many volunteers. It was all done by volunteers. The only thing we didn’t do was the main truss in the center of the building.”

Sawday Engineering, which was located at Main Avenue and Clemmens Lane, was responsible for that part of the construction.

Rainbow’s Grange chapter was chartered in 1940 and originally met in Rainbow’s schoolhouse. The women involved in the Grange began an effort to provide the Grange with its own building. The fundraisers included rummage sales and dinners, and those continued after the Grange hall was built.

“They had already started a little fund trying to raise money for a Grange hall,” Hitt said.

Matt and Phina Cockerline owned a 20-acre ranch in Rainbow, and in 1920 the County of San Diego purchased the southeast portion of the property to assist with construction of the road which would become U.S. Highway 395. Matt Cockerline subsequently sold the area adjacent to the highway right-of-way to his brother-in-law with the exception of two lots at the north corner. Cockerline and his brother-in-law guessed the measurements rather than relying on a survey.

“They didn’t do their measurements right,” Hitt said. “They measured too far back.”

A view of how the hall looked in 1972, painted by then Grange member Dick Rafter.

Hitt’s parents were friends of Matt and Phina Cockerline and purchased 2 1/2 adjacent acres at the southwest corner of the Cockerline property. The Hitt property faced Huffstatler Street. The house was built in 1930 although the Hitt family moved for work
opportunities during the Depression and did not live on that property until 1945, when Bill Hitt was in the Coast Guard.

“I used to walk across the field from my folks’ place to the Grange,” Hitt said.

The Cockerlines raised muscat grapes, concord grapes, and lemons.

“Good grapes, but there was no market for them,” Hitt said.

The property had three or four wells and when the drought of the 1940s reduced the available water, the Cockerlines could keep their vines alive but could not nurture them to allow for productive quantities. When the Cockerlines decided to retire the ranch was
legally surveyed. The earlier measurement guess left a panhandle between the ranch and the two lots; the sliver extended to the north property line.

The night after the Cockerlines discovered that they would still own the two non-contiguous lots after they sold their ranch, they visited Hitt’s parents. The Cockerlines were originally from eastern Washington and recognized the value of a town hall to a community. Most communities in eastern Washington had town halls, and the Cockerlines believed Rainbow should also have one.

Matt and Phina Cockerline were Rosicrucians, not Grange members, but they asked Hitt about the concept of a Grange hall. Their idea was that the hall would be a community or town hall.

Hitt informed the Cockerlines that the women members had a “Grange Hall” fund and that the Grange would likely be interested in one of the few small parcels in Rainbow. Hitt also referred the Cockerlines to Grange leader Ronald Blankenship to help facilitate the transaction.

The Cockerlines and the Grange agreed upon the transaction which included a stipulation that if the Grange ever gave up its charter the property would transfer to another local organization or agency, although that condition was not included in the formal deed.

The Grange members made plans for a building approximately 30 feet by 36 feet along with a list of necessary materials. Other than the central roof truss, the project was to be built completely by volunteers.

“We never had any prints on that building,” Hitt said.

County staff members provided instructions to the Grange volunteers.

“They never did come up and inspect the building,” Hitt said. “We were too far out for the county to care.”

The Grange volunteers began spending the money already raised. “We started using that to buy material,” Hitt said.

Lumber and cement were purchased at Temecula Lumber and hauled by members. Good lumber cost $350 per thousand and cement cost 75 cents per sack.

Some of the material was obtained more conveniently. The Vail Company owned most of the land by the junction of U.S. Highway 395 and Pala Temecula Road. The property included a dry wash. The sand was bank-run and contained assorted stones but was considered good quality concrete sand. The sand pit was not fenced and the Vail Company allowed the collection of sand. Hugh Parshall had a pickup truck which could haul five or six five-gallon buckets of sand when the back seat was removed. Sand from that wash was also transported to the Grange site in Hitt’s Chevrolet.

“We were going to mix our own, but one of our members had a concrete mixer,” Hitt said.

Hitt and his father made and cured the bricks. “It takes a long time to make them,” said Hitt. “We could make 50 at a time.”

The volunteers included Blankenship, Parshall, Don Baldwin, Frank Barnum, Harry Emery, John Goodman, Ellis Grover, Raymond Jack, Herbert Jago, Clarence Mitchell, Ralph Noble, Dick Rafter, Rowland Schultz, Charlie Stubblefield, and Warren Troupe. Baldwin was professionally a carpenter. The volunteers worked on the Grange hall mostly on weekends.

“We started the foundation and the floor,” said Hitt, noting the volunteers put in the floor and concrete walls. “That’s the way we worked. The side walls and the rear walls were all framed.”

The ends, which had formerly been Camp Pendleton barracks, were added to the building in the early 1950s. The barracks were disassembled, brought back to Rainbow in panels, and assembled on the site. One of those barracks is now the end on the north side and the other is on the south side.

After the building was laid out, a well digging crew began work. Goodman was professionally a well digger and led the effort to drill a well on the site.

“We all helped,” Hitt said.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California was building the San Diego Aqueduct, and the Department of the Navy was building a barrel of the aqueduct to serve Camp Pendleton. A portion of that barrel is in Rainbow and was part of Hitt’s survey duties. Hitt obtained equipment as needed for the construction of the Grange well.

“We had running water from our own well,” Hitt said. “We had electricity by then, too.”

The construction of the Grange hall also included a gas furnace, and the original building had restrooms on the north end and the kitchen on the south end.

“We didn’t have electricity until they started to build a kitchen,” Hitt said.

The Grange Hall was completed in late summer in 1948. “It took us over a year to build the thing,” said Hitt.

Jack was a retired Coast Guard captain. During World War II, he was the captain of the Port of New York and Hitt was stationed at the Los Angeles port captain’s unit. “We made a good team,” Hitt said.

Jack and Hitt put in rock for the leach field and also helped put in pipe. The leach line is about 120 feet long and extends almost to the end of the property.

“We overbuilt that,” Hitt said. “I don’t think they’ve ever had a problem with that.”

The dedication of the hall took place on Dec. 19, 1948. The Grange state master traveled from Sacramento to Rainbow for the ceremony.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.