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Albert “Pete” Hetebrink was born in 1900 in Fullerton, California, the third of seven children. His father, John, was a successful tomato and citrus rancher. In 1914, John Hetebrink built the large mission-style house that still stands on the Fullerton College campus, on the corner of Chapman and Berkeley. At the time, the area was tomato fields. The Hetebrinks owned two 40 acre ranches in the area.
Pete spent his early days helping his father on the ranch, hunting, and fishing. He attended Fullerton Union High School and Fullerton Junior College, when the two schools shared a campus. He was a football player, photographer for the annual Torch yearbook, and was elected Student Body President in 1923.
After graduating, Pete began managing his father’s ranch, and changed it from a tomato to a citrus ranch, when oranges became the profitable local crop. On Sundays, the Hetebrink family would often drive their Jackson car to the beach, a full day outing. The Hetebrink House was a popular gathering place for holidays and celebrations. In the 1924, Pete (along with numerous local leaders like Louis Plummer) was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, which had a fairly large membership in Fullerton.
Most of the laborers on the Hetebrink Ranch were of Mexican descent, some of whom lived on the ranch. Others were hired as low-paid picking crews through local packinghouses, and lived in segregated housing on the other side of the railroad tracks or in “citrus towns” that were separate from the dominant/Anglo community. Rosemary Castro, whose family lived on the Hetebrink Ranch in the 1940s, remembers Pete as a kind man who treated his workers like family.
As the citrus industry declined and the Southern California real estate boom began following World War II, Albert eventually sold his ranch to Fullerton College. The Hetebrink House is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.
Student Body President/Athletics
1923, Fullerton College Student Body President
1924, Member, Ku Klux Klan
Hetebrink, Albert, as interviewed by Tracy Smith. August 7 and 13, 1999. O.H. 2779. Fullerton College Alumni Association and California State University, Fullerton Oral History Program.
“List of Orange County Members K.K.K.” History Room. Anaheim Public Library, CA. Gift, Leo J. Friis, date unknown.
Cocoltchos, Christopher Nickolas. The Invisible Government and the Viable Community: The Ku Klux Klan in Orange County, California During the 1920s.” Ph.D. Dissertation. University of California, Los Angeles, 1979.
Photos were included in the text of the Hetebrink Interview. Courtesy of Center for Oral ad Public History, California State University, Fullerton