Barbara Bradford celebrates her 93rd birthday

A family celebrating 90 years plus, from left, Ken Holcomb; Mary Lou McClain Holcomb; Barbara's daughter, Laura; Lisa’s cousin Bill Orcutts’ daughters; Jenifer and her mother; cousin Edalee Orcutt Harwell; cousin Bill Orcutt; Barbara Bradford;  Larry Orcutt; Bill's son; and Sally McClain Carson, Barbara's daughter Jodi Thomas photo
A family celebrating 90 years plus, from left, Ken Holcomb; Mary Lou McClain Holcomb; Barbara’s daughter, Laura; Lisa’s cousin Bill Orcutts’ daughters; Jenifer and her mother; cousin Edalee Orcutt Harwell; cousin Bill Orcutt; Barbara Bradford; Larry Orcutt; Bill’s son; and Sally McClain Carson, Barbara’s daughter Jodi Thomas photo

Barbara Bradford, an Anza resident since 1950, celebrated her 93rd birthday on Oct. 27 along with her cousins Bill Orcutt, 90 and Edalee Orcutt Harwell, 93.

Each year the Bradfords and the Orcutts like to celebrate their birthdays in Anza. Her younger sister from Washington State, whose birthday is also on Oct. 27, the same day as their mother, was going to attend this year but due to health reasons could not make it.

Bill and Ollie Orcutt Chandler with her plane named “Mother.” Courtesy  photo
Bill and Ollie Orcutt Chandler with her plane named “Mother.” Courtesy photo

Not only does this family enjoy the gift of longevity there is a richness of unique experiences, lived throughout their lives they enjoy sharing.

Ninety-three years ago Barbara was born in October 1922 to Robert Atwood Bisbee and Mary Orcutt. Her father Robert was originally from New York State. She likes to tell their story.

After Bisbee’s first wife Ethel Redhead died of tuberculosis he chose to find a new life. In 1919 he left his youngest child Virginia, 6, with his mother Harriet Lucinda Atwood Bisbee who was living in a cottage with his sister Hattie Kinsey. He packed up his car with three older boys, Robert Atwood, Clifford Moore and Ralph Redhead and headed out across country landing in La Jolla. During this time it was no small feat traveling across country in an automobile. An automobile was not the normal form of transportation of the day. Many roads were not what they are today travelling from east to west. In the country the roads in some cases were mere dirt trails if they existed at all.

Edalee Orcutt Harwell with the three young gorillas she raised at the San Diego Zoo, Albert , Bouba, and Bat. Courtesy  photo
Edalee Orcutt Harwell with the three young gorillas she raised at the San Diego Zoo, Albert , Bouba, and Bat. Courtesy photo

Though the use of cars was growing in popularity, riding horseback, in a horse or a mule drawn wagon or a more comfortable carriage were the most common and reliable transportation of the day. In 1919 there were few filling stations as the concept exists today and the possibilities to purchase fuel for a car would be few and far between. The main transportation was still a horse or mule. If you needed to haul something you used a wagon because they held up better on the dirt roads.

In La Jolla Bisbee opened a cafeteria and cafe on Prospect Boulevard caddy corner to each other. In those days Prospect Boulevard was a main well-traveled road on the way from LA to San Diego. His business was very good. Mary Orcutt was a waitress in his café and soon loved bloomed between her and Bisbee. They were married in1921 at St .James Church by the Sea in La Jolla. They honeymooned at Aqua Caliente Hot Springs in the desert, complete with wooden tubs for a relaxing stay.

Sadly Robert Atwood’s younger daughter Virginia passed away before he could send for her and his mother to join the family in California. Robert’s brother Herbert and wife Ina lived in the area. Herbert was a banker.

The family continued to grow as he and Mary welcomed daughter Barbara Jane in October 1922. The family tried their hand at cattle ranching and sold the café and cafeteria. Seven and one half years later second daughter Mary was born and then Olive 11 years later.

World War II came along and the family did their part. Mary and the girls moved to Coronado so she could work at the North Island Naval Base. Then dad and older sister Barbara where working at Red Mountain Fire outlook watching for planes and fires. It was during this time Barbara met a young Ed McClain they married and in Nov. 1950 they came to Anza with four children Mary Lou, Sally Ann, Don Robert and James Edward and two goats. They lived in two small trailers on the hill behind what is now Fire Station 29 in Anza. Ed McClain was with the U.S. Forest Service and was asked to build the first firehouse were Station 29 now stands.

Later Barbara would meet and married Bill Bradford in 1963. Barbara said of Bill that he treated her as an equal and showed interest in what she had to say and what she thought. Together they raised her kids and cattle, much more. Later Barbara would pen the book “Let there be Light,” which is a historical account of how the area was electrified.

Barbara has served on many committees to improve the quality of life for her community; from hospitals to school boards. She has penned several books or parts of books in doing so she has helped record the area’s history. Through the years the couple made great friends and lived an interesting life in the high-country.

Bill Bradford, Barbara’s second husband was a pioneer and his friend Rupert Costo, a Native American, came up with the idea to electrify the valley and began the process in 1950 that formed the Anza Electric Cooperative. It is interesting to note that Bill and his family were homesteading in what is now upper Aguanga when Barbara’s dad first moved to La Jolla California back in 1919.

Bill was born in 1900 and in 1910 he and his family came from the LA area where his dad was a Barber and visited his Uncle William Bradford and his wife Edith Tripp Bradford who were homesteading in the area. Their home was where the old Bergman place, the house with the dinosaur on the roof stands on the north side of Highway 371. Bill’s family fell in love with the area and soon followed suit. They picked a homestead with two springs and raised bees on the property. Bill passed away in 1973 leaving the ranch to Barbara.

While celebrating Barbara’s 93rd birthday she was asked what are some of the significant events that come to mind in your life time? She answered, “Pearl Harbor, Kennedy being shot, the Man on the Moon & the Internet.”

Going back to the Bisbee family, Barbara’s sisters had an adventurous streak too. Daughters Mary and Olive in 1953 took off in father’s Model A Ford truck called “Fido,” and drove to Haines, Alaska. Together they took out a Homestead that Mary still owns. Olive met her husband William “Bill” Chandler a Sawmill owner in Haines. There was a fire and the saw mill burned down. After that the couple moved close to Anchorage. Bill Chandler was pilot during World War II and both he and Olive enjoyed flying their own plane. They named it “Mother” and would hunt and fish for meat often flying “Mother” to Red Shirt Lake area in Alaska. Chandler also worked on the Alaskan Pipeline. Later when they retired, they would travel and camp all over America keeping a home base in Chino.

Olive travelled by herself to China. After her divorce she moved to Seattle to work at the fish cannery. Upon its closing Olive would go back to school at Southwest College where she earned an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Technical Drafting and Design. She was then hired by Boeing were she stayed until she retired. Sadly, Barbara’s sister passed away shortly after her 93rd Birthday celebration she would have been 82 Oct. 27, 2015. Even though she was 11 years younger than Barbara, they were very close. Olive or Ollie, as the family called her lived an interesting life. Her family says she was well loved and will be greatly missed.

Cousin Bill Orcutt turned 90 this year. Some of the most significant changes in his life time he notes are the aircraft have one wing and no props and how phones have become computers with talk to text. He says, “he has had 90 years of growing blessing with some significant bumps,” like recently losing his dear wife Beverly. As a child Barbara says he was interested in photography from time he was about 12 and had a little movie projector. In WWII he served in France, Belgium, and Germany serving as a radio operator behind the lines for the Army. According to Barbara, when he got home he married his bride Beverly and worked for movie studios doing special effects.

Through the years he has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. These are the people who view movies and vote for the winners of the well know Oscar Awards. He is Barbara’s mom’s older brother, Heman Cortis Orcutt’s son. Barbara notes he is well loved, helpful and kind.

Cousin Edalee Orcutt Harwell age 93, is the daughter of Barbara’s mother’s older brother Charles Eddy Orcutt. Her father who went by Eddy was a writer who wrote for a San Diego Newspaper. He also wrote stories for two well know magazines; Collier and the Saturday Evening Post. Edalee was a pioneer in an unusual field; she was the first woman to hand-raise gorillas for the San Diego Zoo. Albert the male is famous for his personality as well as being able to procreate in captivity. He has great-grandchildren that reside there to this day. While at the San Diego Zoo you can visit the restaurant named Albert’s in his honor. Edalee also wrote a book about her experience raising Albert which the Zoo declined to print which makes her sad to this day.

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