Fresno in the 1960s: A Snapshot of America's Rapidly Changing Landscape

Fresno, California, in the 1960s, was a time of transformation for the city. The decade saw significant changes in the city’s social, cultural, and economic landscape. Fresno had a growing population, a thriving agricultural industry, and a strong sense of community, which helped shape the city during this time. This post will explore Fresno in the 1960s and how it contributed to the city’s development.

Population Growth and Urbanization

In the 1960s, Fresno was experiencing rapid population growth, primarily due to the agricultural industry’s expansion. The city’s population increased by almost 50% during the decade, reaching nearly 200,000 residents by the end of the 1960s. As the population grew, so did the city’s infrastructure, and new neighborhoods, shopping centers, and schools were constructed.

The influx of people into the city led to urbanization, and many of Fresno’s rural areas were developed into suburban neighborhoods. The city’s downtown area also saw significant development, with new buildings, offices, and shops being constructed. The Tower District, located just east of downtown Fresno, became a popular area for entertainment, with many restaurants, bars, and theaters opening in the area.

Cultural and Social Changes

The 1960s were a time of significant cultural and social changes, and Fresno was not immune to these shifts. The civil rights movement was gaining momentum across the country, and Fresno was no exception. The city had a significant Latino population, and many residents fought for equal rights and opportunities. The Chicano Movement, which began in the late 1960s, significantly impacted the city, and activists organized protests and demonstrations to bring attention to their cause.

Fresno’s African American community also saw significant changes during the decade. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and many African Americans in Fresno began to demand equal treatment and opportunities. The city’s black population grew during the decade, and African Americans became more active in politics and community organizations.

The counterculture movement also made its way to Fresno during the 1960s. The hippie movement, which began in San Francisco, spread throughout California and influenced many young people in Fresno. The city’s college students and young adults embraced the hippie lifestyle, and new music, art, and fashion forms emerged. The Tower District became a popular area for the counterculture movement, and many young people flocked to the area to express their creativity and individuality.

Economic Development

The 1960s were a time of economic growth and development for Fresno. The city’s agricultural industry was booming, and Fresno County was the top agricultural county in the United States during the decade. The city’s farmers grew various crops, including cotton, grapes, citrus, and almonds. The agricultural industry provided many jobs for the city’s residents, and the industry’s growth contributed to the city’s economic success.

The city’s location also made it an ideal transportation hub, and Fresno was a significant stop on the railroad line between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The city’s airport also saw considerable development during the decade, and new airlines began offering flights to and from Fresno. These developments helped to make Fresno a major economic center in California’s Central Valley.

#1 Bus stop on Fulton by the historic Warnors Theatre at the NW corner of Tuolumne and Fulton.

#3 A college friend while driving through Manchester Center in Fresno, California, in 1966.

#5 South bound on Clovis Avenue in 1961 about 1/8 mile from the Olive intersection in east Fresno, California.

#6 A 1958 Chevy parked on street behind a 1959 Ford in front of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority house in the older part of Fresno near Fresno City College.

#8 Somewhere northwest of old downtown Fresno. Address on sign for the Health Food Store reads 1522 Fulton.

#12 A 1964 evening view of the K-Mart shopping center at Kings Canyon Road (Hiway 180) and Chestnut Avenue in east Fresno California.

#13 Evening view in 1961 of winery at Olive & Clovis Ave in east Fresno, California.

#14 Evening view in 1961 of the winery at Olive & Clovis Ave in east Fresno, California

#15 A college friend while approaching the Barton intersection west bound on Tulare near Roosevelt High School in Fresno, California, in 1966..

#16 South bound on Clovis Ave in 1961 approx 1/2 mile from the Olive intersection in east Fresno, California.

#17 Along the main Santa Fe tracks in south Fresno in California’s San Joaquin Valley back in 1962.

#19 Along the Santa Fe tracks In south Fresno in California’s San Joaquin Valley, 1962

#20 An old GMC flatbed truck versus a 1956 Ford Fairlane 4-door sedan in Fresno, California, at tjhe intersection of Belmont and Fresno Street.

#21 View southeast from the top of the Security Bank Building, downtown Fresno, California.

#23 On Van Ness at the Tulare Street intersection in Fresno, California. The Chester Rowell Building is in the background. These are the Roosevelt High School letter girls.

#24 Looking north from the corner of Broadway and Tulare Streets in old downtown Fresno, California.

#25 Looking north at the corner of Broadway & Tulare Streets in Fresno, California.

#26 Drive -by shooting of the Dari-Delite franchise in old west Fresno, California.

#27 The newer east building of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Fresno, California, in 1961.

#28 The campus of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Fresno, California, as it looked in 1961.

#29 The campus and main building of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Fresno, California, as it looked in 1961.

#30 McKinley at Van Ness in Fresno, California, in sbout 1964 just a couple blocks south of Fresno City College.

#31 The Anna Woodward memorial fountain facing Van Ness Avenue in Fresno’s Courthouse Park.

#32 View south from the top of the Security Bank Building, downtown Fresno, California.

#33 View west from the top of the Security Bank Building in downtown Fresno, California.

#34 View north north west from the overpass over the Southern Pacific tracks SE of downtown Fresno, California.

#38 The historic old Fresno Bee building, at the intersection of Van Ness and Calaveras, is at the left edge of the picture.

#40 View south from the control tower at the new Fresno Air Terminal shortly after its completion in 1962.

#50 The campus of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Fresno, California, as it looked in 1961.

#51 Last days of the old Fresno County Courthouse. The demolition contractor’s fence is up and the tear down is ready to begin. As viewed from Van Ness Avenue.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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