Feeding San Diegans and the Nation

The photograph below appears in the the book, City of San Diego and San Diego County:

The Birthplace of California, by Clarence Alan McGrew, published in 1922:

McGrew was not kidding whan he referred to the Escondido Valley as both “beautiful and productive.” Below see a clip from the Escondido Times-Advocate from the same time period, September 23, 1924:

I remind my readers that the reference in the article to “carloads” refers to railroad cars full of produce. And note among the destinations that the grapes, grape juice and tomatoes were being shipped to were Pueblo, Colorado, Chicago, Illinois and Newark, New Jersey.

And it wasn’t just the Escondido area shipping its farm products across the country. I can show you similar newspaper and local government reports of communities throughout the county shipping all manor of crops. Over one hundred years ago, San Diego was feeding itself and the nation. You can find out more by attending my lecture, “Eating Local in the Roaring Twenties,” this Friday at 10 a.m. at Oasis in Grossmont Center.  To find out more including how to register, visit https://san-diego.oasisnet.org/catalog/ .


Sometimes A Name is Lost, But the Town Goes On

Mount Fairview, a community on the San Luis Rey River between Oceanside and Pala, was enough of a settlement that it was the location of a polling place for an 1894 election, as shown in the notice below from the Escondido Times issue of August 2, 1894:

An article in the San Diego Sun of September 19, 1883 noted that “The approach to Mount Fairview is very pretty and as a farming country will have a great future. Farm houses although few and far between are met surrounded by orchards and vineyards, all giving proof that the industry of the community is well rewarded.”

The community had a busy post office and schoolhouse, but by the end of the nineteenth century the post office and the school’s names had been changed, at local residents’ request, to the name of a respected local nursery owner and retired Methodist minister, James Bonsall.

Mount Fairview is one of the places I’ll be covering when I next speak on “The Lost Towns of San Diego County.” on February 1 at 10 a.m. at the Santee City Hall Complex.


This past Saturday my wife Peggy and I sought some time away from work and the world at a favorite spot of ours—the Self-Realization Fellowship Hermitage, Retreat and Meditation Gardens in Encinitas. Strolling along the bluffside paths among ponds and gardens, stopping to sit here and there and gaze out at the ocean, all served as the ultimate refresh. Here are some visual examples of what that spot offers:


The SRF Encinitas Ashram Center was founded in 1937 by Paramahansa Yogananda. From 1938 to 1942 the grounds also included a structure called the Golden Lotus Temple, which attracted visitors and worshippers until erosion of the bluff on which it stood caused the building to slip off its foundation and slide almost two-thirds of the way down to the sea before it was dismantled in the summer of 1942. The rest of the campus remained intact, and continued to attract visitors and worshippers. Through the founding of various ashrams and the authorship of books like The Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda had by the time of his death in 1952,  earned worldwide recognition as an advocate of the principles of yoga and meditation. In the words of an informational brochure published by the center, he “dedicated his life to uniting East and West in the lasting ties of spiritual understanding, and to helping others toward realization of the limitless resources fof love and peace that exist within every human being.” Food for thought as well as nourishment for the rest of your senses. SRF is open to visitors Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Mondays. For further info 760-753-1811 or visit their website, www.yogananda-srf.org

New History Source

“We were all from somewhere else.”

Spoken to me in an interview for a newspaper article in 2007, these were the words of a woman who’d moved to Rancho Bernardo from the Los Angeles area in 1970. At that time, Rancho Bernardo had a population of maybe 5,000 people (compared with 65.000+ today), and there were still cattle grazing in some areas of this neighborhood that its developers still called “the ranch.”

Less than a decade earlier, the urban neighborhood today called Rancho Bernardo had been a working cattle ranch, populated by maybe a dozen people, members of the ranch owning Daley family and their ranch hands. But in 1961 the Daleys joined with developers Harry Summers and Fritz Hawn, creating a joint venture, Rancho Bernardo, Inc. to transform the ranch into a planned urban community.

The first residents moved into the new community in 1963, and Rancho Bernardo was soon growing rapidly. By February 1964 the population had reached 1,300. By June of the same year it was up to 2,000.

At that point RB, Inc. was advertising their new community in newspapers and magazines across the country, and the results of their efforts were reflected in the influx of new residents from, well, everywhere.

Summers and his team were inspired to create a questionnaire which they sent out to all the new residents asking where they’d moved from.  Here’s a photo of Summers and RB, Inc. Vice-President Dick Weiser at the information center in the RB sales office in November 1964, taken from that month’s issue of Bernardo Brandings, a community newspaper published by the developers. It shows Summers putting in the first pin on a map of the United States reflecting some of the first survey results.

The first published figures showed RB residents came from 43 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and five foreign countries.

Survey results showed some interesting details. California was, not suprisingly, the biggest contributor of residents with 190 families. Fifty-one  of those families were from the Los Angeles area, while 26 came from San Diego.

The next biggest contributor was the state of Illinois, from which 39 families came, 25 of them from the Chicago metro area. Ohio ranked third with 20 families, six of them from the Cleveland metro area. Then came New York state with 18 families, nine of them from New York City and vicinity.

Foreign countries represented in the new community included the UK, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.

The fate of this map is unfortunately unknown today, along with the fate of an enormous relief map of the RB area that was also on display during those promotional years.

Fortunately, the original survey results did survive and, thanks to the efforts of the archives team at the Rancho Bernardo History Museum, they have been scanned and are now available to the public on the museum’s online collections database. Go to rbhistory.org, the homepage of the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society, scroll down to “Search Our Online Collections Database” and click on the link labeled “Rancho Bernardo Online Collections Catalog.” Then click on “Keyword Search” and type “residents’ register”.You’ll get access to all 93 surviving pages of the survey. You can click on each individual page and enlarge them.

A shout-out to the museum archives team, led by museum archives manager Peggy Rossi—who also happens to be my life and business partner and an expert at uncovering and preserving history!

Diversity on the Menu

Earlier this week I gave a talk at the invitation of the Archives Department of the San Diego City Clerk’s Office. It was part of their annual Archives Month program, held every October and featuring stories from historical archives throughout San Diego County. (Thanks again to the Archives Department folks for holding this event and for inviting me to participate.)

The subject of my talk was “Eating Local In the Roaring Twenties.” One of my lecture points was that eating out in San Diego in the 1920s offered a diverse menu of dishes, reflecting the diverse communities growing within the city and county. As an example, here’s a typical bunch of restaurant ads you’d find in 1920s San Diego newspapers, in this case from one page of the San Diego Union’s edition of December 16, 1928:

We see cuisines on offer from Italian to Mexican to Chinese to what some might consider your basic Anglo meat-and-potatoes dishes. I could show you more ads for French, Japanese and Kosher offerings as well. My research indicated that many, if not most of these places were run, at least at the start, by individuals and families who’d immigrated to San Diego from other parts of the world. And their clientele came to cross racial and ethnic borders as well. These places often became popular hang-outs and meeting places for all local residents, regardless of race or ethnicity, as the “Dine and Dance” reference on the ad for the Nanking Café illustrates.

Food for thought, you might say

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