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Citrus Heights’ longest living resident reflects on history of city

By Hazel Ford–
Ted Mitchell, 91, is believed to be the city’s longest living resident, having been born and raised in Citrus Heights.

In a short video interview published by the Citrus Heights History and Arts Commission on Youtube, Mitchell shares some highlights about the history of Citrus Heights and what it was like growing up in the area.

Mitchell’s great-grandfather purchased 160 acres of land in 1866 for $1,600 in gold coins. The property, located north of Greenback Lane and East of Sunrise Boulevard, was so thickly wooded with large oak trees that before the family could grow any crops, they had to clear the trees by hand, Mitchell says in the interview. His family sawed them down and then used the wood for charcoal, which they sold.

“I had a pleasant childhood, really enjoyed things,” Mitchell recalls in the interview, fondly remembering his struggle with piano lessons, and his unwillingness to practice. “We had a piano and my mother made me take lessons, and I didn’t like it. I was supposed to practice, and I’d tell the teacher I’d practiced — and she found out I didn’t. She whacked my fingers with a ruler.”

He says during the Great Depression years, a lack of work largely impacted his childhood. “We didn’t have a lot of leisure time, and so you did what you had to do,” he said, illustrating the heavy farm work that his family had to do to tend their 80 acres of grapes. “I had to get home after school, to either milk cows or pick grapes.”

The Citrus Heights area remained undeveloped until the early 1950s, Mitchell recalls. However, once development began, he says it didn’t take long for it to advance to a level similar to what it is today, with the area officially becoming a city in 1997.

The Mitchell family name is still tied to many properties in Citrus Heights, including land the Citrus Town Center now rests on. Most recently, Mitchell sold 55 acres of vacant land to Watt Communities, which has proposed a 261-unit housing development off Arcadia Drive, between Sunrise and Fair Oaks boulevards.

Related: Watt Communities proposes huge 261-unit development in Citrus Heights

Concluding with reflections on the fight for cityhood, Mitchell recalls there was talk of incorporating Citrus Heights as its own city as early as the 1920s. “When they finally got enough support to incorporate as a city, they had a real battle with the county,” he said. “The county didn’t want to lose the territory.”

When the dispute with the county was finally won, Mitchell’s family helped finance the incorporation effort.

“We are, as a whole, far better off now then the way it was when it was under the county,” Mitchell said, noting that police and city services are now “much more responsive” compared to when the services were provided by the county. “When it was county, you were just in a piece of the puzzle and you weren’t very important.”

Learn more about the fight for cityhood: 2017 marks 20 years since Citrus Heights became a city

The edited four-and-a-half minute interview ends somewhat abruptly, leaving much of Citrus Heights’ history untouched. More than a dozen other videos published by the History and Arts Commission include memories of additional community members and leaders, as part of the commission’s “Oral History Project,” which began in 2013. The videos can be viewed on the commission’s Youtube channel.

Related: City recognizes ‘Top 20’ longest residents of Citrus Heights

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