The Elevator in the Barn, or “Ground Floor, Cows and Horses”

In a 1922 book on the history of San Diego City and County, historian Clarence Alan McGrew referred to Chula Vista as “one of the most attractive sections of San Diego County.” At that point in time the town had a population of around 2,000 people, and many of them were engaged in farming. McGrew referred to the city at that point as “the center of a great citrus-growing section, about 3,000 acres being devoted to that end and doing much to give the San Diego County high rank among the lemon producing districts of the United States.”

One of those lemon growers was William G. Brown, who had moved to Chula Vista in 1920 with his wife Emma and three young children. The family was well-traveled, having previously lived in Atlanta, New Orleans and the island of Cuba, where William Brown, a chemical engineer for the United Fruit Company, had served as a “General Superintendant of Sugar Manufacturing,” as his daughter Anita would note years later in an account for the Chula Vista Historical Society.

I mention them being well traveled as background for the anecdote of Anita’s which follows. Because the children, having experienced travel to a number of places while their father was on business, would have known something about city life as well as farm life. So here’s Anita’s anecdote, coming from a period when she would have been between about 8 and say, 15 or so, talking about play time with her slightly older and four-years-younger brothers:

“We had space all around us to play, but our favorite play area was the barn. There we could pretend we were on an elevator. We tied a thick stick to one end of a heavy rope. We sat on the stick and tossed the other end over a big beam in the hayloft. We took turns lowering each other down to the floor through the hay chute into the horse stall while calling out numbers of imaginary floors we passed going down. We enjoyed the activity until we grew too heavy for one another to handle, and we didn’t fit in the hay chute any more.”

An interesting snapshot of child’s play in one particular family in San Diego County in the early decades of the 20th century.

Sources for this post:

  1. McGrew, Clarence Alan, City of San Diego and San Diego County: Birthplace of California, Volume I, Chicago and New York, American Historical Society, 1922.
  2. Black, Samuel F., San Diego County, California: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement, Volume I, S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.
  3. The Chula Vista Historical Society Presents: Family, Friends and Homes, Chula Vista, Chula Vista Historical Society, 1991.

Face to Face with Early History

Apologies to my readers for the delay in blog posts recently. The demands of the “day job” took up all available time. Then the need to get off the treadmill led my wife and I to seize some time off: a driving trip to Arizona, which brought me back to a face-to-face with history again! The photo below was taken outside the Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix. It shows part of an adobe compound constructed by indigenous peoples some 2,000 years ago. Such structures reflect the kinds of communities found by the first Europeans to arrive in what we today call the American Southwest.

I was reminded of examples of masonry practiced by the original indigenous residents of San Diego County. The people we now know as the Kumeyaay inhabited San Diego County and the Baja Peninsula when the first Europeans came in 1769. These indigenous people had been on the local scene for approximately 2,700 years prior.

You can learn more about this early history of San Diego County this Saturday at the Rancho Bernardo History Museum in the Bernardo Winery. One of my duties as a volunteer at the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society is coordinating the society’s monthly Speakers Series. Our speaker on June 8 will be Cindy Stankowski, executive director of the San Diego Archaeological Center. Her topic will be: “10,000 Years: The Prehistory of the San Diego Region.” Admission is free to the public.  For more info visit ,