Considered the Crown Jewel of La Mirada History
Campo~Although the Dichiara family was based in La Mirada for only around 20 years, they will forever hold an integral part of its history.
La Mirada city founder Andrew McNally created and built his olive oil empire, the first industry in La Mirada, beginning in the late nineteenth century and well into the twentieth.
The factory where he processed the fruit was located on his Windermere Ranch and at one time produced some of the finest, purest oil available in the world.
When the Long Beach earthquake struck in 1933 it damaged the building and production was halted.
Leonardo DiChiara arrived in La Mirada from Sicily, Italy around 1922 according to a family member and worked at McNally's ranch as one of the employees helping to produce the oil.
In 1931 he opened and operated the first eatery or store of any kind in La Mirada on La Mirada Road (later Stage Road) called "Joe's Delicatessen, which was an Italian deli and store selling olive oil along with fresh squeezed orange juice and produce.
After the earthquake, he had purchased the olive pressing equipment from McNally and moved it up the road a bit on Stage and continued to process his own olive oil. He continued to use it in conjunction with his roadside stand, according to La Mirada historian Bob Camp.
At his stand, DiChiara sold his own La Mirada brand oil and eventually expanded to serve spaghetti, beer, sandwiches and more. He opened a second store as well on Firestone Boulevard near today's Phoebe Avenue. This store served people traveling between the established shopping districts of Norwalk and Buena Park.
On a trip to El Cajon, Dichiara discovered a house with an olive grove. He purchased the land and in 1942 the Dichiaria family moved there, taking the olive press with them.
Coincidentally, Rancho La "Morada" was the name of the ranch he found with the house and the grove.
It was on this one-hundred acres, Leonardo built his own olive oil empire which he produced up until around 1960 at Main Street and Greenfield.
In 1985, the El Cajon Historical Society obtained the press after a short-lived battle with the city of La Mirada for the rights to the crusher.
At the time, Camp organized a group of residents who raised money, "The Friends of the La Mirada Olive Crusher," and through their efforts got the La Mirada City Council to commit an additional $7,500 to transport the crusher back to La Mirada and display it in Neff Park.
However, it never came to fruition (no pun intended) for reasons unknown.
Newspaper reports at the time indicate Camp and City Clerk Anna Martin were publicly vehement that the equipment belonged in La Mirada.
The press was moved to Singing Hills Golf Course & Olive Grove in El Cajon and in 2001 the new owners of the course requested it be moved.
It was stored in a vacant lot until 2005 when the historical society donated it to the Motor Transport Museum in Campo, CA about 21 miles south of El Cajon, where it has remained for 16 years.
In late 2021, the owners of the museum were looking for a more compatible home for the press and reached out to a descendant of the Dichiara family to see if there was interest. The family member then reached out to the La Mirada Blog in hopes of gaining assistance in returning the press back to La Mirada-its home.
In January 2022 La Mirada Historical Preservation Advisory Council (HPAC) Chairperson Harry Scott and myself took a road trip to Campo to verify that the press was indeed there and the above video depicts the moment it was "rediscovered."
It may not look like much, but historically speaking, it is priceless.
In February 2022, one-hundred years after Dichiara arrived in La Mirada, findings were presented to HPAC to hopefully begin the process of bringing the crusher back to La Mirada.
Additional: I decided to leave the video in its original raw, recorded-live state with all my mistakes. When this was shot a lot of the information was still new and fresh in my head. I pronounced Dichiara wrong a few times (some Italian I am) and also made some other incorrect statements, but overall you get the idea, there was a lot of adrenaline! I got you Bob!
Look for more additional exciting information, exclusive photos and hopefully updates on the progress of returning the crusher home coming soon right here.
Sources: Terrence Poppa (LA Times), Anne Kreuger (San Diego Tribune), Jackie Fitzpatrick, (San Diego Tribune), Manny Cruz (The Daily Californian), Bob Camp (La Mirada Historian).