Afternoon, Spider Rock © Robert Sommers 2023

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bygone North County

A San Diego native, I have spent much of my life in northern San Diego county. I was poring over some old maps this morning, thinking about some of the North County towns that are shown that no longer exist and have faded from our collective memory. Towns like Stuart, once located north of Oceanside, Moosa, Lilac, Delphi, Ponto, Fallbrook Junction, Chappo, Ysidora, Las Flores, Buena, Farr, there are far too many of these forgotten places to count.

Rancho Guajome, circa 1891
My own Santa Margarita Valley and the surrounding area is shown on the 1948 Auto Club road map with names of old forgotten ranches, Weaver Ranch, Doville Ranch, Pearson Ranch, Harris Ranch, Radcliff's Grove, Shrobe Ranch and the elegiacally named Olympian Society.

Some of the spots have merely changed hats. Stuart is now part of Camp Pendleton. The picture on top shows Carlsbad's Red Apple Inn, erected in 1927 by A.G. Blair. It was purchased in 1936 and became the Army Navy Academy, which still exists and uses the lovely original buildings.

I was thinking about some of the other neat places in North County that have changed in my lifetime and thought I would write a short list.

*Hobbit Houses, Leucadia - When my family first moved to North County, the Hobbit Houses were still perched at La Costa Blvd. and Coast Highway. the Hobbit houses were a rather motley assortment of sharp peaked cottages. Home to a great bunch of assorted, artists, bohemians and misfits, I loved visiting this spot and knew several of the cast of characters. Paul, Mashid, Carol, Jim E. were a few of the people I knew that lived at this interesting place. Now I can't even find a picture, anybody have one?

The pictures on the left are the famous boat houses in Encinitas, close by my first apartment on I Street, the Lanikai. They still exist. The other architectural feature in Encinitas that I always liked was the house with the twin spiraling red brick fireplaces on Vulcan.

Encinitas was most fun when it was still a funky beach and surf town. Place never recovered from the money that started rolling in the late seventies, right around the time the Lumber Yard was built. Lost a lot of charm.

Many of the coolest homes were of course, eventually torn down, the little twenties bungalows that dotted San Elijo with their ancient succulents, aloes and pride of madeira.  Unfortunately they mostly made way for an awful assortment of boxy, lot line hugging, tasteless monstrosities with ugly mansard roofs and a decided lack of design.

On a slightly more mundane plane, I will always have a fondness for the old oceanside DMV. It was located in an old bungalow somewhere off of Hill St. You waited on a big ramp outside the house. The cool thing was that the neighbor had an old mynah bird that would talk to you while you were waiting in line.

Anybody remember the old gunite slides in San Dieguito Park? They were long and brown and a whole lot of fun to slide down. Finally removed as a safety precaution long ago after kids started crashing down them on their motorcycles, skateboards and stingrays. The old Ashley's Market in Rancho Santa Fe? The Castle in Valley Center?


Escondido had its own share of funky spots but it all has to start at Rube's Market. Cows on the roof, cigar in his mouth, old Rube Nelson was a cultural icon. Corner of Washington and Broadway, Rube would patrol the place in his apron.

Other spots that resonated for me were the Checkered Shirt, a funky hamburger stand on the north end of town that I would stop by when I was hitchhiking up and down the state.

Escondido and San Marcos both had their own restaurant barrels, selling bad mexican food for as long as I remember. San Marcos also had George Burgers, now moved and renovated and missing it's early charm and my favorite pie shop, Rog-O's. Across the street was one of North County's only chiropractor's, a wacky guy who had a giant rabbit sculpture outside.

C.J. Paderewski designed dome, Palomar College - 1958

Del Dios is still the largely untouched jewel in the lotus, thanks to a long standing sewer moratorium. Del Dios store was the site of a lot of nice imbibing and dancing, wonder if it will ever re-open?

Carlsbad, of course, had its most famous landmark, The Twin Inns. There were two of them when I was a kid. Built by early developer Gerhard Schutte of the Carlsbad Land and Water company in the 1880's, his partner D.D. Wadsworth built a mirror match two hundred yards south.

Twin Inn's was expensive and a very rare treat when I was young, about $6.50 for dinner. They were known for their fried chicken which was truly superb. I most remember their fantastic corn fritters. Where in the hell can you get a decent corn fritter nowadays?

Oceanside was a place of foreboding in the late sixties and early seventies. Especially scary was the Strand and the area around the Greyhound Station. Junkies and hookers, the place we thought would never clean up, but it has cleaned up.

Used to take old Les Gampp to the ancient Rosicrucian Hall on the hill for thanksgiving vegetarian dinners, beautiful spot, haven't been back in thirty years easy. Place had just the right touch of Buck Rogers.

My dad's favorite place to grab a bite when I was young was the Royal Palms in Carlsbad. It is now Fidel's, used to serve great italian. Place was beautiful with its large hand adzed beams and mediterranean revival decor.

Vista never had much going for it that I can see, with the exception of a great burger and soda spot, the Pepper Tree Frosty that has been there forever. And Peto's. When I was young I remember once visiting the magnificent but crumbling old two story Delphi mansion near Foothill and Vista Way that gave the locale its early name, Delphi's Corner.

Encinitas was hippie, laid back surfer cool. Nice A&W on the bluff held on for as long as it could. Turkey dinners at Encinitas Cafe are still wonderful. I liked Boneyard Beach, had a rope I could climb down. Whole beach topography has changed. Swami's of course, they threw me off their basketball courts as a kid, said they were only for the monks. Whoever heard of a monk playing basketball?

Swami's collapse, early 1940's.
La Paloma Theater is a regional gem. I loved it in the old days before they tore the couches out. Spent many a night bonged out on the couches for surf, Fellini and Pink Floyd film marathons. Used to have a great bookstore next door. Green Dragon across the street.

I Street, Sattwa, Sunflower, a ton of cool health food stores back when too. Encinitas Post Office records show that early in the last century there were at least two more streets to the west, now reclaimed by mother ocean.

I remember attending the infamous Stone Steps Surf contest, when contestants had to chug a beer between heats, never forget Donald Takayama and his finalist foe smashing each other's boards in a semi drunken rage.

Solana had the roller rink on cedros, now an antique mall, that I used to enjoy. Cory Brother's Mens Store in the Plaza de las Cuatro Banderas. Now you mention the Plaza de las Cuatro Banderas and people look at you funny, the name has been largely forgotten. Also home to Another Bird, a cool concert hall near once near Pillbox. The northern People's Food. Marshall's shoes. The old and funky waffle house, now history.

Never got up to Fallbrook much until the mid seventies for keggers. Places of interest were Port's clothing and The Westerner. Mike is celebrating his 94th birthday next tuesday. Rusty's Ammo Room, although me and him never exactly got along.

Fallbrook, once known as Mt. Fairview, was of course home to the second largest ostrich ranch in the country in the early part of the last century. And the Weirz, known for their iconic single, Gypsies from Bonsall.

I know that I am naturally missing a lot and anxiously await your contribution.


Anonymous said...

speaking of Fallbrook, how about Richardsons Drive In (now Pedros Tacos), the A&W Root Beer, Duke Snider's bowling alley, the Fallbrook Enterprise...no 15 freeway, just old 395..i used to eat at Rusty's all the time with my family and their friends..it was a simpler time.


MC. said...

Thanks for the great tour through the North County of old. Karon arrived in Oceanside in 1971, at age 18, and then moved to Encinitas. I arrived in Encinitas in 1972, moved in next door to her in 1974, and 6 months later asked her to marry me. Although we love Fallbrook, our plan for retirement is to return to Encinitas to live out our sunset years.

shawnintland said...

The "Hobbit Houses" Glenn & Maschid, "Sunflowers" with Bart & Elaine, the old "Community Market" on the West side of 101...hadn't crossed my mind in 25-30 years! Is the old "Bee Inn" at 837 Stratford still in existence since TM moved on? It should be a shrine to Encinitas' hippy days. Thanks for the memories!

Unknown said...

I worked @ Sattwa and shopped @ the Community Market ... Fun dayz ...