Carl Love: Brothers still remember the old Murrieta with ranches, open fields

Carl Love: Brothers still remember the old Murrieta with ranches, open fields

A giant aerial photo in Dudley and Calvin Sykes’ home speaks to how much they’ve seen Murrieta change.


“All that vacant land,” Dudley Sykes says.


Taken in 1959, it shows no houses for miles surrounding the Murrieta ranch where they grew up.


There’s a clump of buildings further south in downtown Murrieta. In the distance is a smattering of buildings in Old Town Temecula.


Everything else is wide open spaces. Probably not even 1,000 people lived in the area captured in the photograph. Today, more than 300,000 live there.


If a picture can be worth a thousand words, what about 300,000?


Sign up for The Localist, our daily email newsletter with handpicked stories relevant to where you live. Subscribe here.

The Sykes clan has been there since the late 1800s. They’re so established in these parts that an elementary school named for the family is planned.


The brothers have lived there basically their entire lives, though both left for Orange County a bit after high school. Dudley Sykes, a hippy for a time, even spent 1967 in Haight-Ashbury during the famed Summer of Love.


“You take a country boy,” he says. (And he was that, coming from a town of about 500.) “It was an education, anyway.”


Equipped with such, both returned to Murrieta in 1970 to work for Howard Moore to build barns and corrals because that’s what the area was back then: farming.


They stayed with their parents in the family home at Adams Avenue and Ivy Street. Growing up there, they told stories of making their own fun: playing in the empty fields and frolicking in secret swimming holes they knew of in the hills.


They could only make so much mischief though.


“You couldn’t screw up because everybody knew everybody,” Dudley Sykes says.


Others who grew up at the same time include Alice Vose, Marvin Curran and Les Dunham. They attended a K-8 school and rode a bus to high school in Lake Elsinore, along with kids from Temecula. Today there are nine high schools for that area. Different time.


They mention how TVs were few and far between and how many of the Murrieta school kids, about 15, went over to Arlean Garrison’s house on Washington Avenue to watch Dwight Eisenhower be inaugurated as president.


In the early 1970s, oted local painter Ralph Love – no, we’re not related, unfortunately — made a painting of the house in which they grew up.


Both lifelong bachelors, they’ve lived together almost 50 years.


Calvin Sykes, 67, is a retired custodian. Dudley Sykes, 71, worked as a school bus driver and volunteered for the Murrieta Fire Department back when it was all free help.


Their roommates are two cats, Molly and Patches, who spent a lot of time sitting in my lap while I spoke to the brothers. She was as friendly as they are.


Given how long they’ve lived in Murrieta, it’s not surprising that history stands next door. The abandoned Murrieta grain elevator, now a century old, was at one time an economic hub for a community then focused on agriculture.


They liked growing up in Murrieta when it was quieter, but they appreciate the modern city, too, because everything’s in town. They don’t have to drive long distances to do basics like buy groceries.


“On this side of town it’s quieter,” Calvin Sykes says. “I can still see my mountain.”


That was one of the places they played growing up.


How many retirees in Murrieta, a place now known for transplants, can say that?


Reach Carl Love at carllove4@yahoo.com