Support Your Local…Oh, Wait a Minute

Below is part of an ad in the San Diego Union of January 3, 1925 for Waite’s Economy Stores:

As of January 1925, Waite’s had 10 stores in San Diego County, eight in San Diego city and one each in Coronado and La Jolla.

They weren’t through growing. Just a few months later, in its April 26 issue, the Union announced, “As a necessary part of its expansion program, Waite’s, Inc., one of San Diego’s big grocery chain concerns, has moved its headquarters into a new warehouse, 753-56 Union Street.”

The chain was up to 13 stores, according to the article, and the company was in the process of building a new store “in Escondido, on one of the best corners,” and planning on opening one in National City as well as another new one in San Diego city.

“Their business has grown rapidly,” the article concluded. “Large volume buying makes it possible for this company to sell merchandise at low prices.”

Waite’s had grown to 20 stores by September 1925, but the ads under that name disappeared from local newspapers. The reason for that was found by your History Seeker research team which uncovered this item in the September 1925 issue of a marketing publication of the day, The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal:

“The Safeway Stores, Los Angeles, have taken over the 20 stores of the Waite’s Incorporated Chain of San Diego and will operate them under the Safeway name and system. This gives the Safeway chain a total of 306 stores.”

“Large volume buying” in more ways than one.

County Snapshot-August, 127 Years Ago

Here’s a sampling of goings-on in a few San Diego County communities according to the Poway Progress newspaper’s edition for the week of August 24, 1895.

Over in Dehesa, “It was very hot last week and somewhat uncomfortable, but is considered good for grapes.”

Farmers raising other crops in the area were doing well too, apparently. For example, “E. E. Davis is hauling his peach crop to San Diego…[and] reports good prices.”

Likewise, “J. S. Harbison is hauling his honey to San Diego. A good crop is reported.”

In the El Cajon valley, “Mr. Fisher of the Chase ranch has been shipping very nice pears, peaches, apples and grapes to [produce and commission merchants] Nason, San Diego.”

Even back then, the market for county produce wasn’t just limited to San Diego or even California or the the southwestern United States. The paper’s “La Mesa Lines” column reported that “The La Mesa Lemon Co. are packing a car load of lemons for shipment to an eastern market.”

But while agriculture was becoming big business, the local farming community was still a relatively tight-knit community where people knew each other by family names rather than geographic location. That’s evident in this entry in the “Poway Points” column: “The road from the creek crossing along in front of Mrs. Higby’s place and to the corner north of it is undergoing a much needed overhauling.”

I guess most of the paper’s readers knew where “Mrs. Higby’s place” was then!

That same column also provided some foreshadowing of the area’s potential as both a tourist and retirement destination. Reporting on the visit of a couple and their young son to the Poway valley, the item noted that “They are recently from the east and were much pleased with their stay here, so much so that it is within the range of possibilities that they may make their home here. They were for 12 years teachers in Wellesley College, and are now seeking rest.”

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Mustang Milk Shake

I’ve written in the past of the plusses and minuses of the original horsepower. I was reminded of one of the historic hazards when I saw the headline of an item that appeared on page 4 of the Daily San Diegan newspaper’s edition of Monday, February 13, 1888:

“Early Sunday morning a pair of frightened mustangs, attached to a milk cart, were seen dashing wildly up F street, making frantic attempts to clear themselves of the clattering wagon behind them,” began the article.

While noting that “There were too few people on the street to make the plunging steeds especially dangerous to passers by,” the reporter went on to write that “the sight was extremely ludicrous, the street literally strewn with milk cans as far as the eye could see, from which the precious lacteal fluid flowed in streams”

“The loss will not fall so heavily upon the dairyman, however,” continued the article, “as the unsuspecting populace, who will have to drink a trifle more of the aqueous fluid in their diluted milk for two or three days more to come.”

A reminder to us all to be glad for milk cartons.

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Chronicling and Making History from Adversity

“The pricelessness of water in a land where no rain falls during six months of the year cannot be appreciated by one who has not lived in such a country. There is a saying in South California that if a man buys water he can get his land thrown in. This is only an epigrammatic putting of the literal fact that the value of much of the land depends solely upon the water which it holds or controls.”

Helen Hunt Jackson, from her book, Glimpses of Three Coasts, published in 1886.

I recently discovered that very perceptive description of life in southern California while examining books by Jackson and other sources on western U.S. and southern California history. Glimpses of Three Coasts was published posthumously a year after Jackson’s death from cancer in 1885 at the age of 54. Her early death was the last of a long line of personal tragedies that had traumatized her life. Those tragedies began with losing her mother to tuberculosis when Helen was just 14 and losing her father to the same disease before she’d turned 18. Her 1852 marriage marriage to Edward Hunt, an Army engineer, would see one child die in infancy, Edward perishing in a military accident in 1863 and their only other child, Warren, dying of diptheria at the age of 9.

Her personal sorrows led her first into writing poetry, then prose, both fiction and non-fiction for magazines, then books.. Facing her own case of tuberculosis, Helen, a New Englander by birth, took a doctor’s advice and headed for Colorado. She visited California as well, becoming a chronicler of the west and also a voice of activism, speaking out against the oppression of Native Americans in books like A Century of Dishonor, published in 1881, the 1883 Report on the Conditions and Needs of the Mission Indians of California, co-written with Abbott Kinney,  and the novel Ramona, published in 1884.

I salute Helen Hunt Jackson for her resilience in the face of personal hardship, and for both revealing new history while making some of her own.

Sources for this post included a number of online archives including and .

Merle and more

Below is an item from the May 5, 1894 issue of The Poway Progress newspaper:

Many readers may know that grain growing was an important part of San Diego County’s economy in 1894. Not as many may know where Merle is, or, I should say, “was.”

Merle is one of what I call the Lost Towns of San Diego County. You can find out more about Merle and other such communities this Saturday, June 18, when I present my talk on the Lost Towns at the 4S Ranch branch of the San Diego County Library. The lecture begins at 1 p.m. in the library’s Community Room. Admission is free. Looking forward to seeing some of you history-seekers there!