You probably have seen the house at the corner of Placentia Avenue and Palm Drive. It's the Nenno House and is one of the City's historic landmarks. Who were these early residents? John Nenno and his wife, Antoinette, were three years married when they arrived in Placentia from Pasadena in 1892. Employed by the Berkenstocks as a fumigator, he bought a parcel of about nine acres and built their first modest home, consisting of three rooms. The back porch contained a handpump, which pumped water from a cistern for use in the house. During the winter the cistern collected the rainwater and in the summer the cistern was filled from the nearby irrigation ditch of the Anaheim Union Water Company. Drinking water was hauled by Mr. Nenno from the school well about a mile and a half from his house in wooden barrels covered with a sheet.
The three Nenno girls, Orpha, Bernice and Faustina saw their father go off to his dangerous but highly lucrative job. The orange trees had to be tented and sprayed with lethal chemicals to maintain a good crop. One night he nearly lost his life when he accidentally inhaled too much of the poison gas.
While the Nennos and the three little girls lived in this first little house, the floodwaters were so deep one winter around the house that the parents debated about taking the girls up into an orange tree for safety. Orpha, their first born died at age six after a long illness, just about four years after their arrival in Placentia. Mrs. Nenno recounts in a later Courier newspaper article "it was typical of the spirit of friendliness in the neighborhood that the school was closed on the day of the funeral, and all came to pay her respects, though she was too young to have ever gone to school".
That was no mean feat when you consider that the roads at that time were dry and dusty in the summer and muddy and treacherous in the winter. Placentia Avenue was the first paved road in the town. Thomas Strain, one of the Nenno's good friends, was the first in the area to have an automobile. Antoinette Nenno wrote: "Living on the main road as we did, I could see the cars pass, the women struggling with their hats in the wind or wearing silk scarves that puffed out on each side and I said I wouldn't have one of those things".
Daughters Beatrice and Faustina were delighted with the playhouse their father built using tule from the Tuffree Reservoir for the sides and palm fronds for the roof. About this time, they were aware that their mother was excited about the founding of a club, the Round Table, and Beatrice and Faustina decided to interest their friends in organizing a club to meet in their playhouse.
Certainly, Antoinette was honored and thrilled to be invited to the home of Mrs. Parkins in 1901 along with Mrs. Bradford, Mrs. Hale, Mrs. McFadden, Mrs. Pendleton, and Mrs. Chapman, to mention a few. From this first meeting evolved the Placentia Round Table. Antoinette served many years on its board.
At the time the Round Table was being organized, there was a spurt in home building among the early families, roughly around 1903-1904. The Bradfords, the Pierottis, the Keys, and the Berkenstocks, as well as the Nennos all built homes larger and more attractive than their original dwellings. Housewarmings were the happening of the day. In addition, the Nenno's were proud to provide their huge new barn as a venue for gatherings - parties, Christmas programs as well as Round Table events. Daughter Faustina often sang as part of the entertainment, trained by her mother who for awhile gave singing lessons. To Antoinette Nenno wrote: "In those early days when there were few people in the community, when all were struggling along together, and when entertainment depended entirely upon our own resources, the ties of friendship were close. Everyone knew the joys and sorrows of everyone else and sympathized and rejoiced accordingly.... Though many changes have come down through the years, there still remains in Placentia a friendliness among all its inhabitants that makes it indeed a pleasant place in which to live." Next time you drive north on Placentia Avenue, note the house on the Northeast corner at Palm Avenue and think of the Nenno's.