January 12, 2015

Secrets Revealed

I drove down a street the other day.  A street that, once upon a time, was banned from me using it.  Now I take it for granted...

entrance to McClellan Park
Up until McClellan Air Force Base was privatized in 2001, anyone entering had to have permission.  The guard booth and bars were removed and this palm tree lined main entrance is what greets me today.  There are still reminders of what once was a thriving base and yet it's evolving into something better.

one of two identical pillars frame the entrance

When we first located our business near McClellan AFB in 1993, I would wonder what secrets lay behind the bars and guards.  Two years later Jessica's ballet class performed as part of the entertainment for the officers holiday party.  We had to be there a little early.  We were allowed entry into the forbidden base.  It sure would have been exciting to venture beyond the specific route, but we didn't dare chance it...

McClellan had been a logistics and maintenance facility for a wide variety   of military aircraft.  During our years in the area it was primarily a repair facility for F-111, FB-111 and EF-111 aircraft, as well as the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft.  Often times we would hear the test flights and see the jets zoom nearly vertical less than a mile away.  It was only bothersome if we happened to be on the phone at that particular moment.  Otherwise, it was an awesome sight to see!

Ron and I wondered what was going to happen to the area once the base was closed.  We envisioned increased crime rates, increased transients and decreased property values.  Thankfully, those were all fears that did not develop into reality.

I remember the first few times I drove through the base.  It was unbelievable to me -> McClellan was actually a city within a city.  I was amazed that they had their own gas station, their own movie theater, their own fitness gym complete with tennis & basketball courts, their own grocery store (commissary), their own hospital, lots of housing and plenty of very large warehouse type structures.  I knew nothing about military bases or their need to be autonomous.  I was a young mom whose only concern was her family.  What a mind full of new information I received.

Over the years I have driven through the base, now called McClellan Park, more times than I care to count.  I know the back roads and the short cuts.  I regularly visit clients who are tenants at the park.  But there are still a couple of places that I am not allowed to visit.  The commissary requires a military ID to enter.  The VA Hospital is for military personnel only.  The Coast Guard occupies the same area they previously did and is the only remaining government entity at the park.  Of course, the airstrip is off limits too.

While driving through the park to capture these photos, I wondered what life was like in the days of old.  Days when the buildings housed assembly lines of engines awaiting repair .  Days when blackout curtains were the normalcy.  Days when the airstrip held hundreds of planes waiting to fly off into battle.

Enjoy the following photos of McClellan Park and imagine yourself in years gone by:
a grassy area outside the officers quarters

the Headquarters Building is still looking glorious

the General's house sits next to the Headquarters Building

I wonder what was in here

the retired control tower


private and corporate jets occupy the tarmac now



As for myself, I am glad to be neighbors with  McClellan Park.  Although, I do miss a good ol' Mach 1 takeoff...    


  1. I miss the days when we could watch the F-16's go vertical right outside our office window. So loud and such power!!

    1. Yep, work would stop and we'd all go out front and watch them until we couldn't see them anymore.

  2. Heard talk of McClellan often when I worked in Sacramento but never had cause to drive by or through, so this was a really fun intro to both its history and the grounds. It's also encouraging that it has been given a new life that avoided the sad state of some other bases! While the convenience of having everything on base was probably helpful, I can't help but thinking it must have seemed somewhat like a prison :-( Great post, thanks for sharing.

    1. My first trip through was simply to get a closer look at what was always so close but out of reach. Our neighbor was a civilian worker there and he told us some crazy stories.
      It's quite an interesting place. The gas station is still operational. In fact, there were three cars there while I drove past. The gym has been turned into a California Family Fitness location. The tiny museum is now in a new 37,500 sq. ft. building! There's even an indoor RV storage facility in one of the old hangers.
      Perhaps it felt like a prison to some. Luckily the area is surrounded by a major city and also has wide open spaces nearby for a day trip. Even back in the early years of McClellan, there was always the river and mountains for distraction if you wanted to get away from the city.


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