Charles Leonard Applebury was born on November 19,1897, at his family home in Garden Grove, California. He was the third of thirteen children, and the oldest son. Because his father moved often, Charles grew up on a succession of farms both in California and Missouri. But the family lived in the Wintersburg area long enough for Charles to be in the Community Sunday School, organized on December 12,1904, and to be present when the church was “legally” organized on January 7, 1906. So, for many decades, Charles Applebury was an historic link with the origins and heritage of the church. But a short time after the founding of the church, the family moved back to Missouri, where his father had relatives and farmed for a time, near Carlton.
When the family moved back to California, it was to Los Alamitos, where Charles graduated from grammar school. By the time he was ten, Charles was working full time on the ranch for his father. During harvest time the work required Mexican laborers, and Charles became bilingual. When Charles was fourteen, the family moved to the Victorville area, and he drove a wagon with a team of horses up through the El Cajon Pass. Charles told me he slept under the wagon in Hesperia overnight, before driving into Victorville the next morning. He also spoke of catching wild horses in Hesperia, driving them into the sandy bottom of the Mojave River to slow them down and lasso them; he later broke the broncos and rode them. Charles was a farmer and a cowboy in those years, and was an extra for a few Tom Mix cowboy movies.
Charles was nineteen and Carol was sixteen when they met. Carol’s brother had ridden with Charles when they caught wild horses. The first time Carol saw Charles, she used to say, she knew he was the man she would many. As a young man, Charles was on a train, going to be inducted into the army, when the Armistice, ending World War 1, was declared. Upon his return, Charles began courting Carol in earnest, and on April 27, 1920, they were married in Santa Ana. It was the beginning of 67 years of married life together. They lived for a while in Victorville, but then moved to the Wintersburg-Huntington Beach area a few months after their marriage, to the Golden Ranch, located where McDonnell Douglas is today. Their two daughters were born there.
Then they moved to a ranch on Springdale, between Bolsa and Edinger where their son was born. Charles also farmed on lands along Edinger between Golden West Avenue and Beach Blvd. The main crop was dry lima beans, which were threshed in the fall; but he also grew tomatoes and bell peppers. He belonged to a co-op, located by the railroad, where the crops were sold. At times he grew sugar beets, which were taken to the Holly Sugar Plant in Santa Ana. Charles loved farming, and he thought he was doing good for the world by farming, raising crops and feeding people. They always had their own garden for fresh vegetables, and raised chickens, turkeys, rabbits, pigs and calves. Charles butchered meat for the family, and would invite relatives over for Sunday dinner. His daughters remember the main social occasions being dinners with relatives, and the church activities. Charles was a great family man, and he enjoyed the family get-togethers.
The daughters of Charles and Carol Applebury remember always going to Community Methodist Church, to Sunday School and the church potlucks. Charles took the whole family to Sunday School and church every Sunday. Charles and Carol transferred to Community Church on June 22,1930, and were members for 58 years. During my time of ministry at Community UMC, the ministers called on Charles and Carol, as honored pioneers of our church, and accompanied the youth in singing Christmas carols for them at their Wilson Street address in Midway City. Charles had farmed until he was seventy-nine, and did not want to retire, even then. But after he retired, they bought the lot on Wilson Street, and moved their house from Graham Street in Huntington Beach. Charles also had property on Edinger, across from Huntington Center, where he had one of the earliest Marie Calendar’s Restaurants, #14. On November 19, 1987, 1 delivered a giant ninetieth birthday card to Charles, signed by hundreds of members of the church and Sunday School. As a student of the first Community Sunday School back in 1904, and as a parent devoted to giving his children a Sunday School education, Charles represents a significant continuing emphasis on the life of our church – the focus on Christian education and nurture.
(This historical narrative was compiled from family members by Rev. Galal Gough and delivered by him during a Founder’s Day celebration on January 10, 1988, one week after the death of pioneer member Charles Applebury. Pioneers Ruth Slater and John Murdy were still living at the time.)