Local News

Living History: Fullerton’s Historic Oak

In 1914, the senior class of Fullerton High School planted a young oak seedling in the center of the newly-constructed campus. Over time, the oak cast a larger shadow as its branches grew each year and soon invited students to rest under its cool shade. The tree was already ten years old by the time Leo Fender was a freshman at FUHS. 106 years later, the tree still stands with its sprawling limbs stretching 70 feet wide. The species, Quercus agrifolia (Coast live oak) is native to coastal California and is deeply rooted in the culture of indigenous Kizh people for whom oaks provided a valuable food source and sacred areas for ceremonial gatherings. One variation of the word for oak in the Kizh language is, “we’aashar.” An exceptional specimen growing in Temecula is estimated to be over 1,000 years old.

Here’s a pictorial history of this historic oak tree, with images found in FUHS yearbooks over the years…

Photo taken in 1914.

1928: The tree is 14 years old. Leo fender graduates FUHS.

1930: The tree is 16 years old. The Great Depression begins.

1933: The tree is 19 years old.

1939: The tree is 25 years old.

1945: The tree is 31 years old. World War II ends.

2020: The tree is 106 years old.

Unfortunately, the old FUHS oak does not have any recognition/protection as a local landmark. In recent years, the contractor hired by the FJUHSD has been improperly trimming the canopy by “topping” branches, threatening the tree’s health. For any comments/questions, contact me: Jensenhallstrom@gmail.com.

Jensen Hallstrom stands beneath the canopy of the historic oak tree.

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  1. I was there at Fullerton High pretty recently 2015-2019 and it has now been know for a while as “the freshman tree” where the new comers and freshman gather around it to feel safer and have an easy landmark to go by when learning the campus. When I was a freshman I sat under it every morning with friends waiting for school to start and then again every day at break time. This tree has a deep place in my heart and apparently a deep please in Fullerton it’s self. It brought me shade, shelter from the rain, and a lot of memories as well as a place to stay grounded. Long live the freshman tree!

  2. I sat under that tree jn1955 my grandson in2010 an my granddaughter 2020

    • I graduated in 1972 and recently went back to Southern California to visit and I made it a point to go see this tree. Hopefully someone can set the people responsible for its health to understand about what that tree needs to be as old as the one in Temecula. I hope to visit it for many years to come. It is a historical plant in my world!
      Gail Donaldson Winkelman