The Road to Boulevard

On the way back from a vacation driving trip to Arizona, as we took a little detour onto what’s now called Old Highway 80, we passed through Boulevard. And we wondered, how did this still very-rural looking place, which even today is referred to as a village, with a current population of roughly 315 residents, get to be named “Boulevard?”

Two definitive books on the origins of California place names attribute the name to the role played in the community’s development by the “boulevard” of Highway 80, linking the area with the Imperial Valley.

A check of the U. S. National Archives register of post offices shows the first Boulevard post office being designated in November 1909. The first postmaster was William H. Ruby. The Rubys were a ranching family in the area tracing back to the late 1880s. In 1913 William Ruby’s brother Don took over as postmaster, a position he would hold for almost 30 years.

You can find references to the Ruby family in newspaper accounts over the decades serving their community not just as postmasters but also election poll officials and volunteer firefighthers. Which lends credibility to the most direct story on Boulevard’s name.

In 1964, a reporter for the San Diego Union interviewed some longtime county residents about the origins of several place names. One of the places the reporter looked into was Boulevard. The person he spoke to was Vi Ruby, the widow of Don Ruby, who told him that when the U.S. Postal Department decided to create a post office in their village, they asked the Rubys if they had any suggestions.

Vi Ruby said that during that period race driver Barney Oldfield frequently came through the area on his way to racing events in San Diego and other southern California towns. Other race drivers would have been following that route as well. Which may explain why Vi’s sister-in-law, William Ruby’s wife Pearl, said, “People are making a boulevard out of it, so why don’t they call it Boulevard?”

“She entered the suggestion as a joke,” Vi Ruby told the Union, “but it was selected.”

In addition to the aforementioned U. S. National Archives register of post offices, sources for this post also included historic San Diego County newspapers and the books California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names by Erwin G. Gudde, and San Diego County Place Names A To Z by Leland Fetzer.

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