Fresno Residents Recall Departed "Nudist Colony"
'Calyptus Grove' of the 1950s to 1960s
Bill McEwen – The Fresno Bee
March 11, 2006
I've learned something new about column writing this week: if you want response, include the words "nudist colony" in the piece.
For those who don't know, my Tuesday column was about the joys of bike riding in the Sierra foothills. I included a memory of my youth -- rumors of a nudist colony in the eucalyptus grove on Auberry Road, a couple miles from Copper Avenue.
Dozens of e-mailers and phone callers have confirmed there was a nudist camp there in the 1950s until the mid-1960s, and it is the subject of many memories.
This is from Jake Marshall, a former firefighter with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection:
"Yes Bill, there really was a nudist colony there. It was on the west side of Auberry Road. In July 1961 there was a fire that started near Willow Avenue and burned in an easterly direction through the eucalyptus grove, jumped Auberry Road and we got it stopped at the Friant-Kern Canal. . . . My crew out of Hurley Fire Station was the first unit in from the east side."
This is from an e-mailer who says she and her family attended the camp:
"Just thought I would drop a line and let you know that the nudist colony in the eucalyptus grove was named 'Calyptus Grove' and while you were giggling at Cooper Jr. High School I was a member of said nudist camp.
"Grew up with that and the concept that nudity is natural. Brought back some very old memories for me. I never would have gotten to go to summer camp if not for nudists throughout the state.
"It was a family camp, mom, dad, and the kids. Not as interesting as a grove full of naked nymphs and nymphets, but an alternative to the accepted 'norm' nonetheless.
"If you want a real visual to think about, volleyball was the favorite pastime aside from swimming."
Writes a former school principal:
"Enoyed your piece on the Millerton ride. . . . Yes, there was a nudist camp in the eucalyptus grove. Several of the children went to Friant School. They were fine students, but the third-grader caused me to doubt her when she told me. 'My monkey ate my homework.' She did indeed, have a monkey and brought it to school one fine day!
"During one spring, the family invited the whole school to come to their compound to take P.E. in their pool. After much [consultation], we boarded the bus and went to their pool. I read the rules to the children. They started laughing, saying, 'How about rule No. 5?' It stated that there were no clothes to be worn in the POOL!
Of, course, we disregarded No. 5 and had a wonderful time."
And, finally, this, from Warren Rosenbaum, president of the Fresno Joggers club:
"As a cyclist myself, I'm very familiar with the route. You probably received several replies to your question about the nudist colony.
Yes, it was there. As a Dun & Bradstreet credit reporter in the Spring of 1964, I was assigned to update its credit rating via a phone call interview. . . . I came in to work on Saturday to catch up on some work and called them about mid-morning and talked to a lady who was co-owner of the business. During a 10-minute or so telephone call to update the credit information I also received an invitation to 'come out and join us some time' which I courteously declined. The lady also managed to tell me she was totally nude while she was talking to me. . . . During my nine months with D & B, that's the only telephone call I remember."
Thank you for publishing your memories and reader comments regarding the nudist "colony" once nestled in the Sierra foothills. As you mentioned, the piece certainly generated reader response. I had, however, expected to see one response in particular, but didn't: although still widely used in the media, the term "nudist colony" is quite archaic, pejorative and poorly representative of the nudist mindset or way of life. So are the colorful verbs "prancing", "parading", and "cavorting" when describing nudist activities, which are tantamount to fingernails on a chalkboard to a true nudist (or naturist, as many prefer to be called)...but it was refreshing to see a glaring absence of those words in this piece!
Nudism or naturism - the terms are often used interchangeably, although there are some distinctions - isn't the cultish pursuit many might think; on the contrary, it's about as natural as you can get! I like to direct folks to the website of The Naturist Society for a good look at what naturism is all about.
Thanks again for the brief but enjoyable trip back in time. Although I'm in Oregon now, much of my youth was spent in the Sierra foothills on my bike (a pastime for which I usually kept my clothes on; saddle sores are bad enough with with padding!)