“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!