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Porterville at a Glimpse ~ 1980-1989

“Everything's Waiting For You, Downtown!”
By Luisa Herrera, Administrative Services Department

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The 1980’s began with newly elected President Ronald Reagan at the helm.  Reagan’s economic policies were based on the theory that a greater supply of goods and services would lead to economic growth.  These policies, known as Reaganomics, included tax cuts to increase consumer spending and business investment.  The early years of the 80’s decade were marked by recession in the U.S.  However, by 1984 the economy would rebound and experience one of the longest periods of economic growth since WWII, and inflation remained below 5 percent throughout most of the decade.  During this same period the national deficit drastically increased from 74 thousand million to 221 thousand million, before coming back down to 150 thousand million. 

Here in Porterville, the promotion of consumer spending and business investment was being mirrored in our own Downtown area.  Consumer spending was on the rise, and Downtown was the place to be if you were in need of some retail therapy. Various events, some of which we still enjoy today, drew people downtown for great deals and family fun.  These annual events included, but were not limited to:  parades, Crazee Days festivities, a Downtown Hoedown Arts and Crafts Fair, Classic Car Cavalcades, and the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. 

Heart of Porterville Association

HOPA Mascot,

Much of the activity downtown was due to the efforts of the Heart of Porterville Association (HOPA).  Heart of Porterville Association was the first organized downtown merchant group.  Their mission was to promote downtown with promotions and activities to bring shoppers into the downtown area.  This group was behind the movement that led to the 1st Main Street Association, which received a California Main Street designation. HOPA was in existence from 1976 to 1986, before becoming Main Street Porterville.

New World Record

On June 13, 1981, nineteen hot air balloons ascended from downtown Main Street and successfully established a new world record for most hot air balloons to take off from a downtown central business district.  Hundreds of people gathered downtown to witness the third annual balloon ascent, which was organized by Heart of Porterville Association (HOPA) to celebrate its anniversary.

In 1980 strong wind currents thwarted efforts to break the record, and only fifteen balloons were able to soar away.  In 1981, the clear calm weather allowed nineteen balloons to ascend in less than one hour, and drift to their final destination, the Porterville Airport and Moonlight Fly-In.

ravenballoononmain    balloonsonmain     balloonstakeoff_000

Local Hangouts

Two popular local hangouts for young people were both located downtown:  The Porter Theater and Poor Richard's Pizza.  A typical Friday night consisted of checking out a movie at the Porter Theater, like Gremlins (1984) or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989); followed by pizza at Poor Richard's.  The area in front of the Porter Theater was often utilized by dancers for “breaking”, which was a popular street dance style in the 80’s; and provided an additional form of entertainment.  The cost of two movie tickets in 1986 was $7.00. 

First Woman Mayor

Mary Dougherty
In March of 1981, the City Council voted unanimously to appoint Mary Dougherty as the first female Mayor in the City of Porterville.  Mary Dougherty was appointed to the Council on January 3, 1978, and remained on the Council until 1985.  During her time on the Council, she was instrumental in starting the Senior Citizen's Housing Project, and was active in many clubs and civic organizations. She served as Mayor Pro Tem from 1979-1981, and was Mayor from 1981-1983. 

In 1985 Mary Dougherty passed away after a continuing bout with cancer. She was 55.   Prior to her appointment on the Council, Mary served on the Planning Commission.  She and her husband co-owned and operated Bullard's Department store on Main Street.

Local High School Bands Represent

Porterville High School

1987 Tournament of Roses Parade
Porterville has always had a reputation for having outstanding high school bands.  Where did this reputation come from?  It was largely due in part to the leadership and dedication of Porterville Band Director Buck Shaffer and Monache Band Director Dale Anderson.  Community support of these programs, and enthusiasm amongst their members, led to many accomplishments over the years.

In the 1980's our local high school bands proudly represented the community of Porterville at various events and competitions, some local and some not so local.

The Porterville Panther Band performed in the Annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena and the Hollywood Christmas Parade, which were both televised events; and also performed at Disneyland during the 80's.

In 1987, the Monache Music Program flew to Hawaii to compete in the World of Music Festival.  The Monache Band and Choir spent seven days competing against two other bands from the U.S. and touring the island.   The Monache Music Program was awarded first place in percussion, banner, solo twirler, majorettes, color guard, Concert Choir, Ensemble, field band and parade band; and second place in concert band and jazz band.

The band also marched at Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm; performed at a San Diego Chargers game and the Los Angeles Olympic Games; and went on a summer tour of Europe in the 80's.

Monache Band and Choir Members at the Punchbowl Cemetery in Hawaii in 1987
World of Music Festival,
Awards Banquet

The Cellar Apartments Fire

The Cellar Apartments Fire

$175,000 Loss
A historic building on Main Street was nearly destroyed on October 17, 1987 when a fire engulfed the six apartments located in the upper stories of the building at 244 N. Main Street.

The fire started at the main electrical panel late in the evening, and was discovered by a tenant who then quickly notified all but one other building tenant.  Upon their arrival, firefighters were able to successfully rouse the last tenant and get him safely out of the building.

Fire personnel fought the blaze by shooting water into windows, which had to be shot out by Police personnel. The Mint, which was located on the first floor of the building, and The Cellar on the second floor escaped fire damage but sustained water damage.  Nearby businesses were protected by fire walls.  This major fire was one of three that occurred in Porterville during the 1980's.

National and Local Timeline


  • John Lennon Assassinated
  • Pac-Man Video Game Released
  • Ronald Reagan Elected President
  • Porterville Hosted the California Downtown Association Conference
  • City Ordinance Adopted Banning Drinking Alcohol in City Parks


  • First Woman Appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court
  • New Plague Identified as AIDS
  • Personal Computers (PC) Introduced by IBM
  • Porterville Redevelopment Agency was Formed
  • Dial-A-Ride Services Became Available in Porterville


  • E.T. Movie Released
  • Michael Jackson Released Thriller
  • Vietnam War Memorial Opened in Washington, DC
  • First Artificial Heart Transplant Took Place
  • Outhouse Races Took Place During Crazee Days in Porterville


  • Cabbage Patch Kids Were Popular
  • First American Woman in Space
  • U.S. Embassy in Beirut Bombed
  • Major Fire at The Ranch House, 247 N. Main; $500,000 Loss
  • VanPelt 1500 GPM with 75' Aerial Ladder (Quint) Pumper Purchased for the Fire Department (see right)


  • PG-13 Movie Rating Created
  • Los Angeles Olympic Games Were Held
  • Reagan Re-Elected in Landslide Election
  • Sante Fe Depot Re-Opens as a Senior Citizens Center
  • Tulare County Humane Society Provided City's First Dog Control Services


  • Hole in the Ozone Layer Discovered
  • New Coke Hit the Market
  • Wreck of the Titanic Found
  • Porterville City Firefighters Construct a Drill Tower at Porterville Fire Department Training Facility located at 500 N. Newcomb
  • 911 Emergency Phone System Began Operation in Tulare County


  • Martin Luther King Day Observed for the First Time
  • Challenger Space Shuttle Exploded
  • Iran-Contra Scandal Unfolds
  • Porterville Rreceived Designation as One of the First State Enterprise Zones; and One of Five Main Street Program Demonstration Cities
  • A Kit Fox was Captured by a California Fish and Wildlife Biologist Near Hwy 65 and Scranton Ave
  • Split Vote by the Council Eliminated the Planning Commission


  • DNA First Used to Convict Criminals
  • New York Stock Exchange Suffered Huge Drop on "Black Monday"
  • Major Fire at Stagecoach Motors, 788 W. Olive; $100,000 Loss
  • Ben Webb Became the 1st Tulare County Supervisor to be Convicted of a Crime While in Office
  • City Council Adopted Ban of Smoking in All City-Owned Buildings


  • CDs Outsold Vinyl for the First Time Ever
  • Prozac was Introduced as an Anti-depressant
  • Fires in Yellowstone National Park
  • Pioneer Water Company Marked 100th Anniversary
  • City Council Approved the Renaming of Westview Park to Veterans Park, and the Installation of a Monument


  • Lucille Ball Died
  • The Stealth Bomber was Finished
  • Collin Powell was Appointed Joint Chiefs of Staff          
  • Monache High School's Varsity Boys Basketball Team Earned its First Ever Berth in the State Championship
  • Vietnam War Memorial Dedication at Veterans Park
  • Police Station on D Street Constructed


  • The Porterville Recorder
  • Monache High School Yearbooks
  • Porterville High School Yearbooks
  • Dan Holloway, Porterville Fire Department
  • Denise Marchant
  • United States History - The Economy in the 1980's (
  • The People History Website (
  • Box Office Mojo Website (
  • Wikipedia Website (

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