Talkies Come to Chula Vista

The ad below appeared in the Chula Vista Star newspaper on Friday, February 7, 1930, on page 6. The same edition also carried a front-page article announcing an upcoming “Gala Opening” at the theater on Sunday, February 9th.

The Seville Theatre, at 388 Third Avenue, had been open and showing movies in the town since 1927. But those movies had been silent. While sound films had been introduced in 1927, the technology was still new and still spreading slowly to movie houses across the country, and across San Diego County. So the premier of a “100% All Talking Program” at a local venue was a special occasion.

“Last Sunday night marked the opening of one of the finest talkie theatres in Southern California with the introduction of sound at the Seville Theatre,” proclaimed an article on the weekly Star’s front page on the following Friday, February 14.

“Third Avenue was appropriately decked out in its finest flags and banners for the occasion,” reported the article. A line of searchlights scanning the skies Hollywood-style included a truck-mounted “six million candle-power light…loaned by Airtech at Lindbergh Field.”

The box office opened at 5:45 p.m. as a 20- piece orchestra “composed of local music students” entertained the crowd. When the lobby doors opened at 6:15 moviegoers were greeted by the recently elected “Miss Chula Vista,” Louise Turner.

The filmed program consisted of a Metrotone newsreel, an “animated talking cartoon…Harry Langdon’s first all-talking comedy,” and ended with “the big feature of the program,” Joan Crawford starring in “Untamed.”

“The entire house was sold out for the first show,” reported the Star. “By 9 o’clock the lobby was again packed and the line extended around the corner of the theatre and down Third Avenue, waiting for the second show.”

The Seville continued to operate until 1955. It was demolished in the early 1960s.

Sources for this post included historic San Diego County newspapers and the website, Cinema Treasures.

Illegal Vines

The headline below is from a front-page article in the Escondido Times-Advocate’s edition of Saturday, October 9, 1920:

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Prohibition had gone into effect in January 1920, transforming the growing of grapes, which had been part of San Diego County’s agricultural scene going back at least to the days of the Spanish Missions, into a crime.

“Several thousand gallons of mash in vats ranging in size from 500 to 1,200 gallon capacity, hundreds of gallons of wine and five tons of grapes were seized in three raids made in and near Escondido by federal and county officers Wednesday evening,” began the article, which went on to say that “The haul at the trio of wineries is the most extensive raid yet made in this county and brings the number of places raided around Escondido to a total of five during the last few weeks.”

The law allowed for a certain amount of winemaking for individual family consumption and for the making of “sacramental” wine for religious purposes. A number of San Diego winegrowers utilized those exemptions to try to survive.

However, only four San Diego County wineries survived after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, according to Richard Carrico’s 2016 book, Of Wine on the Lees Well Refined:A History of Wine and Wineries of San Diego County.

Winemaking thankfully made a comeback here. As of 2019, there were over 150 commercial wineries in the county, according to the San Diego County Vintners Association.

To that the History Seeker can only say: Cheers!

Attracting Patients and Doctors

The photo below is from a promotional pamphlet for the Florence Hotel, which opened for business in January 1884 on Fir Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues in downtown San Diego.

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The Florence was one of a number of new hotels built to accommodate a rising tourist trade in San Diego County in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. San Diego’s mild climate made “health tourism” an important part of the travel market of the day. The owner of the Florence, W.W. Bowers, who also happened to be Alonzo Horton’s brother-in-law, was interested in promoting his hotel for all comers, not just “invalids” or “consumptives,” to use two popular terms among the San Diego business community in those days. But he certainly wouldn’t turn down business from anyone either, including doctors themselves. In late 1883, as he was getting ready to open the Florence, Bowers felt compelled to write a letter to the San Diego Union that included this:

“I am not a doctor, neither am I building a sanatorium, asylum, hospital, nor home for the friendless. I am engaged in erecting what is intended to be a first-class family hotel, nothing more-no-less; the guests will, I suppose, do as at other hotels, choose their own physician if they desire one without the advice or interference of any employee of the house; I state this because I have in one day received as many as four applications for the position of physician-not from the doctors here, but from friends and relatives of doctors who want to come here.”

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Bear Valley

Recognize this?

The photo is from the book, Picturesque San Diego, which was published in 1887, and the caption reads, “View near entrance to Bear Valley.”

The description of “Bear Valley” accompanying the photo describes the area as “a very productive section, about 40 miles north of San Diego. Population about 1,000. Store, blacksmith shop, school-house, brick church. Productions: Fine stock, hogs, bacon and grain; some honey is also made. The rainfall in this Valley is more than three times as great as on the coast, and a crop failure has never been known there.”

Bear Valley also had a small post office, whose postmaster chose a name by which we’ve all come to know this section: Valley Center.

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Making Things Better Together

In these complex, seemingly fractious times we’re going through right now, I thought I’d offer a little example of the history of San Diegans working together for the common good.

The two photos appearing in today’s post are from the website of the Library of Congress and are from April and May of 1942. This was shortly after the United States had entered World War Two. Both photos show the San Diego offices of the Pacific Parachute Company, one of a number of companies aiding the nation’s defense efforts. When the company opened its doors at 627 Eighth Avenue in downtown San Diego in March of 1942 it was proclaimed as the first defense plant in the city, and perhaps the first in the whole country, to be managed by an African-American. That manager was Howard Smith, who is shown in the photo below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another photo showing the company’s main workroom reveals a predominantly, though not exclusively, female workforce:

Accounts in the local media of the time describe the workers as including African-American, Asian and Latina workers as well as Caucasians. It was a workforce that looked like America, working to meet the needs of a nation at war. Rather like a lot of American workplaces, then and now.

Just a little reminder of the historic reality of America.

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