When Sherry Folsom retired, she hoped to move to a small home on a little land with a nice view and good neighbors. Fallbrook fit the bill. “It seemed like a village stuck in time,” she said. On one of her first days in Fallbrook, she had to go to the bank with her dog, in her grove clothes. The teller had Milk Bones behind the counter and was happy to see them both. Lorrie and Jerry at Joe’s Hardware remembered her name. Jennifer and Jonathon at Oink and Moo made sure she had a great dinner. It was only after she started volunteering with the Fallbrook Historical Society that she began to learn about the wonderful history the town has enjoyed.
Historical remnants are visible everywhere in Fallbrook. Native American grinding stones can still be seen after thousands of years alongside streams in town. The abandoned Ostrich Creek Bridge is a reminder that Fallbrook was home to an actual ostrich farm in the early 1880’s that supplied plumes for women’s hats. The parking area behind the library was the site of the 1887 Willard (later Naples and then Ellis) Hotel. Resembling the Hotel Del Coronado which was built the previous year, the Willard hotel doubled as a health spa for asthma and tuberculosis patients. They came to Fallbrook by train and travelled in a horse-drawn buggy to the hot springs in De Luz where they “took the cure.”
“As a history buff, I could not have found a better place to live than Fallbrook,” said Sherry. She believes that the greatest “hidden” historical gem in Fallbrook is the 1895 Pittenger House which is part of the Historical Society’s Heritage Center, along with the Museum and Barn located at Rocky Crest and Hill Street, off Mission. William Pittenger was one of Andrews Raiders, Civil War Union soldiers who commandeered a Confederate train in 1862 and drove it into Union territory while destroying Rebel bridges and telegraph lines along the way. They were captured and some of them were hanged. A few managed to escape and those men, William Pittenger among them, were awarded the very first Medal of Honor. William Pittenger wrote a book about his time with the Raiders and it was made into a 1926 silent movie called, The General, staring Buster Keaton. Disney remade the movie in 1956 and called it, The Great Locomotive Chase, staring Fess Parker. Medal of Honor winner William Pittenger moved to Fallbrook later in life and was Methodist Minister at the historic 1888 church with the tall wooden spire that remains today on Mission at Fig. William Pittenger is buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery on Clemmens Lane, one more historic Fallbrook location that anyone can visit. “All of that is right here in little Fallbrook!” said Folsom.
Another treasure is the 1896 one-room Reche School house near Live Oak Park. After it was closed to students in the 1930’s, a group of local residents formed the Reche Club to maintain the grounds and building and they took care of it for more than 80 years. “Their efforts are the only reason that wonderful piece of history remains,” said Folsom. The Historical Society now has responsibility for the school and special events are held there. “It is a popular venue for teacher’s weddings,” Sherry said. “You feel pigtails-in-the-inkwell vibes when you are in that room.”
Sherry is a docent at the Heritage Center and enjoys telling visitors about Fallbrook history “Actually, she said, “Many visitors have lived here much longer than I have and they teach me. I learn something from every guest. Plenty of people tell me about our antique cars, our rock and mineral collection, military uniforms, firefighting equipment and every piece in the museum and I am so grateful they are willing to teach me about them.”
The project she is most proud to claim is the oral/video history effort. “We are doing video interviews with as many long-time Fallbrook residents as we can. We have Marion Clemmons, a lifelong Fallbrook resident who will be 100 years old this year, and he recounted his memory as a 5 year-old when Alvarado was paved, the first street in Fallbrook. The oral/video project will be ongoing because history is being made every day and our hope is that all of Fallbrook history can be recorded in the first-person for future generations to see.”
“I feel so honored to be selected as Member of the Year, but guilty, too. So many members are at least as active as I am, and many are much more active. I enjoy working with the Historical Society so very much that this recognition feels like cheating, “she said. “I just have so much fun with the guests and the other volunteers!” “If you have Fallbrook family memories to share or just want to learn about your town’s remarkable history, go to the Fallbrook Historical Society website, join as a member or be a docent. You will get great training and meet interesting new friends from the town and from around the world. “I feel so lucky to be having these experiences.” Sherry said.