Civic pride and prejudices

Last issue, I mulled over the deep-rooted rivalry between Chico and Oroville. Maybe rivalry is too weak a word—in some corners, there’s downright animosity.

For newcomers like me, this all seems overblown and passé. But both cities are full of old-timers, and their prevailing opinions persist. To help sort things out, I asked Chicoans to tell me what’s wrong with Oroville; Orovillians to tell me what’s up with Chico; and Ridge folk to offer the 2,000-foot view.

Readers answered the call. I promised anonymity in exchange for candor, so I’m quoting without attribution.

• “As a local historian, I can assure you that the strained relationships go back at least to 1860. Chico tried every way possible to leave Butte County to Oroville and to make the North County its own entity. Why? County government was organized by and for the benefit of gold miners.

“As the gold mines faded, Oroville could never come up with an economic replacement equal to them. But Oroville still claimed the county offices and kept its grip on county tax money, and Chico fumed.”

• “The building of the Oroville dam complex in the early ‘60s was quite an economic kick, but it seems that in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Chico thrived (relatively speaking) while Oroville didn’t.”

• “There is some baggage around here, between various regions. One thing I know: Oroville hates Chico, because they perceive (and it’s kinda true) that Chicoans take all their higher-paying jobs and then drive back to Chico to pay property taxes. And it’s not just Oroville—it’s all the little outlying towns.”

• “For many decades, the high school rivalry in this region was Chico High vs. Oroville High. Occasionally, some rascal would change the ‘O’ on table mountain to a ‘C’ just to irritate the Orovillians.”

• “While shopping for property, I noticed that real estate listings here often seemed to go to great lengths to avoid describing an Oroville address, choosing instead to use every nearby tiny burg or community surrounding it to describe the property’s location.”

• “It’s always been a rough town. The last 10 years, the scumbag quotient has been getting less. But the Oroville [welcome] sign has a cyclone fence with razor wire on top—that speaks volumes about how Oroville shows itself.”

• “When my wife and I were planning to move up here 12 years ago, our relatives told us to avoid Oroville as it was a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Many folk I have seen down there I would never turn my back on, and there are certain neighborhoods I will not drive through again regardless of the time of day. Overall, though, I find Goldtown a very cool place.”

• “I moved to Oroville from Chico after my husband and I built our home here. We could never have afforded the inflated prices in Chico. I have to admit I was apprehensive because I never heard one good word spoken about Oroville and its Orovillians! But, after calling Oroville home for three years, I have grown to like it.”

“Oroville is definitely trying, and in the meantime it needs to be cut some serious slack by the snobs from the ‘progressive cultural oasis’ and ‘World Class Art Town’ that Chico would fancy itself to be.

“Now if we can just work on Paradise/Magalia’s ‘geezerville’ reputation …”