Who’s Who in Clairemont: 2020

It’s 2020!  How did this happen so fast? Before you know it, it will be 2100.

Thanks to the following readers who sent e-mails to “Squaremont” during 2019. In a tradition dating back to 2016, you have been selected for inclusion in “Who’s Who in Clairemont: 2020.”

Monta Gardner shared memories of living in Clairemont since 1965. She was 12-years-old and her dad was in the Navy. San Diego was his last duty station. She remembers his stories about the Moonglo Cocktail Lounge and the “West Pac Widows.” Monta worked at the Clairemont Theatre as it transitioned into its “99¢ admission” swan-song. Her son played Little League at Hickman Field.

“I used to tell people that Clairemont had no social redeeming value; that it is a bedroom community; a real L-7; totally square.” (I don’t have a cellphone, so I don’t understand texting symbols and abbreviations. When I figured it out, you’ll notice that Monta’s “L-7” was used for the masthead of this month’s Squaremont column.)

Monta signed off with, “Clairemont, my home, sweet home.”

Christine Brun’s family moved into a Del Webb home in North Clairemont in 1958. She remembers “tarantulas and rattlesnakes” in the newly developed neighborhood. Their home cost $12,500. A vivid memory remains from when her five-year-old brother and his friend wandered off. She rode through Clairemont in a police car to assist in identification of the missing kids. There were many five-year-old explorers in Clairemont back in the 1950s. The police couldn’t find Christine’s brother and his friend, but at the end of the day, “The little adventurers emerged from the canyon where they had enjoyed total freedom!”

Christine noted, “Our great adventure as kids was walking to the library on Clairemont Drive. After checking out books, we crossed the street to the brand new Jack-in-the-Box and could buy our lunch for under a $1.00 as I recall. The Square was a major destination and held so much fascination for a kid.”

Beverly Downing sent a very lengthy perspective about growing up in Clairemont.  “I enjoy your columns on the life and times of Squaremont. I, too, have lived in Clairemont since the mid-1950’s. I am torn regarding the development of Clairemont.  My parents and the families around us were solidly and proudly lower middle class. All the men in the neighborhood were either in the Navy or Marines, or worked for Convair, Solar, Rohr or Ryan. Mom’s mostly stayed home and took care of house and home. Those Moms who did work, tended to be nurses, secretaries, retail clerks and waitresses.

My parents explained to me that our part of Clairemont was built as, what we would call today, low-income housing.  Our development was built entirely of rental housing.  There were no fences (which made the fields behind the houses a grand place to play).

The developer would rent the houses for a certain period of time, and then offer the houses for sale to those living in them.  We (the kids) were very proud to walk our monthly rent – and later – mortgage payment in the little brown envelope over to the duplex on the northwest corner of Clairemont Mesa Blvd and Pocahontas.  The kind lady who took our checks or cash knew each of us by name.

At first there were no phones – just a phonebooth on the corner of Jemez Dr and Pocahontas.  Some kids started school in garages rather than school buildings.  The neighborhood school was the afterschool and weekend “hang-out” for elementary school kids. Every school had an afterschool “coach” who checked out balls and jump ropes and carom boards – and was willing to listen to our problems and head off any arguments.

Clairemont was a grand place for the growing middle class family to get a firm foot on the ladder of opportunity that would lead to fulfilling the “Great American Dream.” (Sorry, Beverly, but there isn’t room for the rest of your letter.)

In response to “Captain Schlack’s One-Man War with the “Surf Riders,” three e-mails were received from former Carl A. Schlack Award recipients who appreciated the profile of Schlack, because they previously knew nothing about him.

Dan Whelen sent supportive e-mail about my futile attempts to get the traffic signals fixed at Morena Boulevard and Avati Drive. He described similar problems dealing with the City of San Diego. (The traffic signals at Morena and Avati are still not functioning properly.) He also suggested that I should write about well-liked, former police officers who lived in Clairemont.

Thank you, Marge Suess, for a valuable spelling lesson. She wrote, “I have lived in San Diego since 1962 so I especially enjoy reading your columns in The Clairemont Times.  In your May issue you refer to ‘Dr. Suess.’  I believe you meant ‘Dr. Seuss.’ In the old days when I used to write checks at the grocery store and other retail places, I was frequently asked if I was related to Dr. Seuss.  Also, when we made reservations on the phone for dinner, it was often a question.”

(If anybody would know how to correctly spell “Seuss,” it would be Marge Suess.)

Michael Prine was searching for baseball history and slid into Squaremont. “Your article about the Clairemont Bowl (May 2018) sparked many wonderful memories. Seeing the photo in which the woman is riding a triceratops (haha) reminded me of a specific memory.  When I was 13, my friends and I were riding in the parking lot of the newly named Sunset Bowl and came across a film crew. Turns out they were filming an episode of Silk Stalkings, and this episode happened to feature actor Gilbert Gottfried. The “Mud-Queen Murders”, with the opening scene (photo below) featuring our beloved Clairemont Bowl (well, Sunset Bowl if we’re being particular) and the Volcano Club.

Filming 1994 episode of “Silk Stockings” at Sunset Bowl in Clairemont (photo: Michael Prine)

Don Geelan enjoyed “Where is Bay Park?” His family moved to Deerpark Drive in 1951. Don attended Longfellow, Marston and Clairemont High School. He worked at Hal’s Bike and Stanley Andrews in The Quad. He suggested visiting Dualtone Automotive on Mission Bay Drive to study “photos of early Bay Park around the railroad right of way and the reformation of Mission Bay” on the walls.

Jerry Hermann approached me at the June funeral for beloved St. Augustine baseball coach Bill Whittaker. He saw my name tag and said that he enjoyed Squaremont. I told him about Jack Carpenter and his proposed Mid-Century Modern architectural tour of Clairemont. Jerry asked if he could join us. Unfortunately, he was unable to make the tour, but it was nice to meet a fan of the column.

Kevin Lees, a Washington, D.C. attorney, is writing a book about history and culture along the U.S./Mexican border from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. He found “Squaremont” online and was interested in the early history of the Pacific Coast League Padres and subsequent growth of San Diego during that time period. We got together twice.

I shared the story of Manuel “Nay” Hernandez who was the only Padres player killed in action during WWII. I took Kevin to the Veterans Memorial in Chicano Park that honors the Mexican-Americans who gave their lives for our country. I believe their sacrifice should be an important chapter in his border story.

Tom Rey is a retired SDPD detective. He liked the column about good citizenship. I haven’t seen Tom for 40 years when he was in SDPD’s juvenile division and I was a probation officer on Kearny Mesa. I liked this line from his e-mail, “Having worked juvenile for 21 of my 30-year career, I just shake my head sometimes at the difference between now and then.” When Tom retired, he was the senior officer in the juvenile division. We’ve seen a lot of change, haven’t we, Tom.

Lena Miller wrote, “Loved the article and photo of your first day in First Grade. Interesting commentary on behavior and citizenship, too.”

Lou Rodolico shared grade school memories, including an incident about getting “wrapped on the knuckles with a ruler by a nun for doing homework before it was assigned.” He also recalled penmanship with “pages of coils and pages of specific vertical zig zags.”

Harry Cummins loved the PCL Padres at Lane Field as a kid. He sent a link to an article he wrote about them for the San Diego Community News Group. I’m surprised by how many e-mails about baseball that come to my Clairemont Times account.

Kismet “Kitty” Henderson sent an e-mail from Office Depot. The manager would not allow her to make copies of the October 2019 article I wrote about her. I called the manager to give permission, but he required permission be sent by e-mail. Technically, he is correct, but how many times have you copied newspaper articles at a retail store that offers copy service without having a problem? How many of you are African-American?

1913 Southern California League Class D San Diego Bears baseball team (photo: Sandy O’Toole)

Sandy O’Toole of the San Diego Padres sent a photo of an early San Diego baseball team. I identified the team as the 1913 San Diego Bears of the Class D Southern California League. The Bears were San Diego’s first professional baseball team.

Jack Gladstone enjoyed “Floyd Smith shares P.B. Point Surfing History” (March 2019). Jack is an old friend of the surfing legend. Contact information was sent to Floyd and he was glad to reconnect with Gladstone.

William Blakeslee sent an e-mail to publisher Chris O’Connell about “Why rename Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School” (December 2019). He attended Lindbergh and Lafayette schools. Because of his own hearing disability, Will has fond memories of the original Sunshine School which drew disabled students from all parts of the city. He remembers Lindbergh played a softball game against their next-door neighbor Sunshine School and Sunshine won. Will hit a triple, but it wasn’t enough to change the outcome of the game. He does not believe Lindbergh Schweitzer should be renamed.

Ruth Yancey: While doing research about Boyd Canyon, I met Ruth Yancey who recognized my name from the Squaremont column. Then she told me that I was older than she expected.

Perplexed Santa asks, “Where are the kids?” at Spreckels Organ Pavilion during 2019 December Nights in the Park (photo: Jeri Lynne Swank)

Jack Carpenter e-mailed to inquire, “Was that you in this morning’s UT.” Diane Bell’s December 10, 2019 column was headlined, “Santa feels different vibe at Balboa Park’s 2019 December Nights.” That was because something surreal happened this year. There is always a long line of kids waiting to see Santa in the east wing of the Organ Pavilion, but at 7:00 PM on Saturday, The Village People gave a free concert onstage at the Organ Pavilion… and, instantly, there was nobody in line to see Santa!

Ho! Ho! Ho! Happy New Year, Clairemont.

To read prior columns about Who’s Who in Clairemont click here

Email: Bill@ClairemontTimes.com

To read all the Squaremont columns, visit:


Sign up to receive the latest news direct to your inbox

Previous articleJanuary 2020 Police Blotter
Next articlePresidential Primary Election – March 3, 2020