Dan Soderberg Photography

The Campus Drive In

The neon masterpiece stood at El Cajon Boulevard at College Ave in San Diego – Razed 1983. The Majorette Portion of the neon was preserved and is presented today by Save our Heritage Organisation at College Grove shopping center.


Historic Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Park

  1956 Kodachrome Slide  Courtesy Erik Hanson

That relatively small sign on a wooden post reads “Scripps Cove Park.” Documents show that in 1887 it was designated as La Jolla Park.  It was also known as La Jolla Shoreline Park. Those names changed on October 18, 1927 – the 91st of birthday of La Jolla and San Diego regional philanthropist  Ellen Browning Scripps – when San Diego Park Commissions dedicated the park to her and renamed it the Ellen Browning Scripps Park. It was, in a manner of speaking a ceremonial renaming. An official change came in 1961 when it was designated in the charter as Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Park.

Besides being one of the most actively used parks, especially for one so relatively small, it is one of our great cultural landscapes with it’s nature growth of tress and shrubs. The “soldier row” of Mexican palms, the twisted and turning Australian tea trees, and the single-trunk dragon trees.

With a look to the future new plantings of the Mexican fan palms are spaced between their elders as the life expectancy of those historic trees draws nearer. A gift that will keep giving for generations to come.

Special thanks to Historian and Researcher Vonn Marie May for her discussion with me about one of her passions. Historic landscapes. I’ve included her article from La Jolla Historical Society TimeKeeper newsletter below. 

Diary of Helen Hussey

All About Town As December Arrives


Wednesday November 29, 1939 “Up Early and to the park with Sam. To Clement Street – shopped. Matinee at the Alexandria. Nite – read.


Thursday November 30, 1939 “Up early and walked in the park with Sam. Downtown bought hat, gloves and blouse. Very cold! Jeanne came home early with a bad cold – went to bed early. Sam and I drank a quart of Port. Good.”


Model Sailing – Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park


Friday December 1, 1939 “Jeanne stayed home from school. We walked along Land’s End – Jeanne napped later. Tony phoned. Nite – read and listened to the radio.

Family Archives
Family Archives

Saturday December 2, 1939 Met Tony downtown. Window Shopped. Nite Sam and I to Fillmore and then downtown. Ran into bar opening – Counihans, Tommy’s father and uncle, cowboy – etc…Fun. Home at 2 AM. Duke over – sent Jeanne a nice bouquet.

Sunday December 3, 1939 Hangover. Duke came over and we all went to Land’s End. Duke here for dinner.

Duke and Helen. After high school Jeanne and Duke were no longer dating, but they all remained friends. This is Duke with Helen somewhere in Southern California after he got married. He came visiting the Martin/Husseys with his bride. I sense Duke enjoyed a high level of Helen’s approval.

Image Source http://www.shorpy.com/node/20913

The Palace Hotel, middle. Call Building, distance.

Monday December 4, 1939 Met Tony at 5. To the Palace and then Hoffman’s for dinner. To opening at the Curran. Leo Carrillo in Bumble Bee. Very slow.

San Francisco Landmark #144: Hoffman Grill Building. Historic building got swallowed by a new beast. But at least it got saved.

Tony Schmidt. Helen’s constant companion in San Francisco. 

Tuesday December 5, 1939 To town and did first Christmas shopping. Sam worked overtime. Picked him up and we drank wine.





Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright In San Diego

What about the idea of a Frank Lloyd Wright designed Theatre in Balboa Park? That was perhaps on somebody’s mind when he was invited to speak here in 1955 when the idea of building a new civic theater was first being considered.

Frank Lloyd Wright was no stranger to San Diego over the years But the region has nothing to show of his work. This story written by Carol Olten fills in the details of that story.

I had the chance to work with Carol in 2008 as I did research for my documentary film “Four Decades of Historic Preservation in San Diego County.” She’s just the person to talk to about La Jolla History. And about the time Frank Lloyd Wright spent there and in the San Diego region.

Click on article and images to view full size

Click on the image to view full size


Belle Baranceanu

A scanned article from the San Diego Union February 11, 1980

I attended the artist’s reception on that night of February 13, 1980. I’d known Belle since 1974/1975. I met her through my school mates David and Erik Swanson. And through their grandmother Alice Sue Hardin, grandfather John Byrd Hardin, grand aunt Ettilie Wallace, and parents Anthony and Peter Swanson.

I probably can’t count the number of family dinners, birthdays, and holidays I shared with this family with Belle right there too. Being I was the teenager with a car I was often tapped to give Belle a ride to here or there on occasion. She loved to hear me play tapes of Bach while driving along.


Belle was part of that dynamic cultural pool of talent in San Diego during the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond. She knew Lloyd Ruocco, Sim Bruce Richards, Dan Dickey, Donal Hord, James Hubbell, Phil Foster – just to name a few. My list is no where near comprehensive.

As a young teenager I’d hear these names a lot. Saw some of these individuals come and go, particularly at Ettilie Wallace’s house where I twice had a room there. It wasn’t until later in life I began to fully appreciate that they weren’t your average circle of friends.

Bell had a hearty infectious laugh. Great sense of humor.

All along the long halls of the County Administration building hung Belle’s work. I remember Ettilie Wallace had devoted a lot of her time and energy putting this show together.

I asked Erik at what point in his life did he realize Belle was such a great and important artist. “Tonight,” he said.

And she knew James Britton.

Click on image to see in full size.