The common name for the neighborhood east of Interstate 5 and north of Mission Avenue is “Eastside.” Today this would puzzle many people because Oceanside city limits go much farther east than the Eastside neighborhood. However, after the turn of the century when the area was being developed and populated, this neighborhood was near the most eastern city limits.
Families from Mexico who came to Oceanside in the 1910s and 1920s settled in Eastside, which included the subdivisions of Mingus & Overman, Reece, Spencer, Higgins & Puls. Most of the early residents were laborers who worked in the fields of the San Luis Rey Valley and the Rancho Santa Margarita (now Camp Pendleton).
Anita Cruz Romero came to the United States from Mexico in 1910 with her son Ralph Romero. Mrs. Romero was one of the first residents in the Eastside neighborhood and purchased property and lived in a home on Higgins Street. Romero was a widow and made a living as a housekeeper for affluent Oceanside residents. To supplement her income she sold her home-made soup. According to Eastside resident Aurora Soto Badillo, Mrs. Romero placed her soup in a hot pot on top of a little red wagon and walked throughout the barrio, shouting "Posole, posole!" While there may be another version of why Eastside was called Posole, many longtime residents still remember Anita Romero and her posole.
Ygnacio and Socorro (Duarte) Adame migrated to Oceanside from Michoacan, Mexico in 1926. They moved to the "Eastside" community, also known as "Barrio Posole", and established a home at 408 San Diego Street. In 1945 they established the La Chiquita Market next door at 410 San Diego Street. Socorro cooked and sold fresh tortillas and tamales and the market also provided fresh produce.
Another popular store was the Mission Market situated near the corner of San Diego Street and Mission Avenue. These markets were important because residents were often not able to walk to downtown Oceanside and back for their groceries and other needs. The Eastside Neighborhood was segregated and separated in many ways. Eastside was separated from the rest of Oceanside by a large canyon or gully (now Interstate 5). In the 1930s their children, many of which spoke only Spanish, were sent to the Americanization School on Division Street where they were immersed in English. The neighborhood had dirt streets while most of Oceanside enjoyed paved ones. Indoor plumbing was nonexistent because there was no sewer system (all the way up until the late 1940s).
The neighborhood welcomed its own school when Laurel Elementary was built in the late 1950s. Today the school has a wall of fame featuring former residents which have become successful citizens who including Oceanside Police Officer Sylvia Guzman, Junior Seau, Willie Buchanon, Dr. Duane Coleman and more.
Lucy and Marie Chavez, who operated the East Star Market on San Diego Street, became community activists due to the plight of Eastside residents. Lucy fought long and hard to bring needed improvements to the Eastside Neighborhood. She also held neighborhood forums to help register voters and inform Eastside residents concerning issues important to them as citizens of Oceanside. Her continued efforts and role as a voice for the people launched her political career, later becoming Oceanside’s Deputy Mayor in the 1980s.
In 1957 Eastside dedicated its own community center. It was noted that the building was “begun by a group of people – not officials, not councilmen, not rich men, not poor men, but citizens who lived in the neighborhood.” Residents took it upon themselves to build, plaster, pour cement and raise funds to make the center a reality. The building is now known as the Chavez Resource Center and for years was manned by local residents including Joe Chavez and Concha Hernandez Greene, two community activists who had a passion for the neighborhood. In 1970 a new $300,000 community center was built in Balderrama Park, formerly known as the Eastside Recreation Park. The park was renamed in 1967 in memory of John "Joe" Balderrama who was killed in action during World War II on October 13, 1944. His family lived on San Diego Street across from the park.
Although many in Oceanside referred to Eastside as “Mexican Town,” by the 1950s the mostly Mexican community became more diverse as African-American families settled in the neighborhood. Others families from the Philippines and Samoa who came in the 1960s continued to diversify Eastside.
While many new families make their home in Eastside today, there is a still a rich history interwoven in the streets of the neighborhood.