Red Roadway


It was either when my dad was going to what he called Oceanside College (Now called MiraCosta) or just after joining the Marine Corps. The time just prior to and in the wake of Pearl Harbor. He spoke of hitch hiking between L.A. and San Diego. I remember he said the hike through San Clemente was on a red roadway. The concrete of the street and sidewalks were cast with a color tint.


Bill Soderberg in his hitch hiking youth. Other stories he told about this period of time concerned working at the poinsettia farms in Oceanside and San Diego North County. His service in the Marine Corps, outside one stint on the USS Portsmouth, was all based at the Marine camps in San Diego County. Photo is dated 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbor, “Day of Infamy,” was December 7, 1941.


The distant building with a tower is San Clemente’s forever endangered 1938 Miramar Theatre. So far I haven’t verified the roadway itself was cast in colored concrete. Observing the black and white photos, one can see the car tracks darkened the pavement. And it was, and still is, typical for concrete roadways to eventually be paved over in asphalt. Clearly this is pre asphalt.

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 9.19.15 PM
The 1957 view of San Clemente. Note the colored sidewalks. Especially red on the right side.

A House On Bankers Hill

Mossholder Residence

Mom and Dad rented an apartment in this grand house at 5th and Grape, San Diego’s Bankers Hill, during World War II. They told about being able to nearly make eye contact from one of those windows with people in airplanes landing at Lindbergh.

1944 voter as Smart Object-1

Bill & Jeanne Soderberg

Mom and Dad in Balboa Park, a short walk from their home. The listing is from the 1944 Voter Register. Dad was a rifle instructor in the Marines. Mom worked in an aircraft factory.

Hawthorn To Grape 1906 SD 078

A map of the corner at 5th and Grape from 1906. It is the footprint of the house where Mom and Dad lived. It was the Mossholder Residence.

1909 MossHolder_ BarAssoc1

The Mossholder Bio.

Mossholder 245

What’s there today. The two grand homes on this side of the block were demolished for a parking lot. The retaining walls and stairs leading to the residences remain–the corner stairs covered in vines.


A glimpse of the original stairs and retaining wall at the corner of 5th and Grape. A sleeping bag indicates the vines provide shelter for someone still calling this corner a home.


As so often the case, great architecture was demolished to make parking lots.


The remnants of the second home on that block leveled for parking are very visible. And interesting to look at.


The medical clinic would do the neighborhood a favor by repairing and painting these doors. And help save a tiny slice of history too.


The stairs are still in use today.


Someone has taken the time to plant some flowers.

Mossholder257 as Smart Object-1

An impression at the base of the stairs. The same “stamp” is at both sides below the bottom step. Likely whomever built the stairs and retaining walls.


The 1908 City Directory shows a couple possibilities about the origin of the Jennings stamp.

Thanks to Sarai Johnson for providing some of these great visuals from her archives.

913 Cherry Street

Dates listed on this page of the photo album say 1923. Helen graduated from High School in 1921. Helen said she got married right out of high school to Val Rudolph Otto Martin when she was 18. Daughter Jeanne was born September 22, 1923 in Long Beach, presumably at the time Helen and Val began studio work in Hollywood. Note the stack of books and walking stick to her left.

913 Cherry Street, Santa Rosa. Evidently Helen and Val didn’t live here very long.

The house today is in Santa Rosa’s Cherry Street Historic District.

Camp Rose

In the year before my mother Jeanne Delano Martin was born (9-22-1923), her mother and father seemed to be enjoying their earliest years of marriage living in Sonoma County. Helen was 18 and Valentine Rudolph Otto Martin was 31.  When Jeanne was born in Long Beach, the couple had come to Southern California to work in the film industry. But in 1922 they traveled quite a bit throughout California including this adventure at Camp Rose near Healdsburg.

Photo, Healdsburg Museum

Since the turn of the century (1900) this area of the Russian River was a favorite summer retreat of locals and visitors alike. But in the 1920’s it was developed into a full blown attraction with lodging, food, drinks and other recreational amenities.

Healdsburg Museum

A terrific suspended sign, apparently neon, directed people to the destination from central Healdsburg. Helen said they made the trip from Santa Rosa by Bus.

The Camp Rose Inn as Helen and Val saw it.

Healdsburg Museum

Another view showing the Inn but also a fair amount of cars and people.

Healdsburg Museum

A tavern and guest cottages were clustered above the river and along the hillside.

Fun on the Russian River. Helen in a rental row boat–but also a rental Camp Rose swim suite!

Val taking in the sun at the river beach. Note the row boat in the background. The beach required some work to maintain. After Rose Camp’s decline the beach took on more of a roughness as a river’s edge.

The Russian River at Camp Rose today. Through the years some of the cabins were demolished, burned down, or remodeled. But the 1970’s brought some new interest in Camp Rose.

The Camp Rose Inn was made into a restaurant and later a dinner theater. The restaurant no longer operates, but there is still the theater, home of The Camp Rose Players.

A number of the old cabins remain and are available as vacation rentals.

Here are a couple of links to the vacation rentals available. The River Rose Cottage, Wine Country Lodges.

Valley of the Moon

Glen Ellen’s first post office was established in July 1871. Once railroad service was available to Sonoma County in the 1880’s, San Franciscans began spending their summers in Glen Ellen to escape the cold and fog in The City.

“Jack London lived in Glen Ellen ‘Valley of the Moon.’ We used to go out that way–beautiful country. And of course those days there weren’t the freeways like there are now”

Jack London lived, farmed and wrote in Glen Ellen from 1905 until his death in 1916. Jack London State Historic Park was created in 1959 with about 40 acres of London’s 1,400-acre Beauty Ranch.

Sonoma Hotel

“The little town of Sonoma; we used to drive over there.  That’s where they first raised the bear flag in California. It was a charming little place too. There was a hotel there, some Italians ran it, that had Oh! the best meals.”

“And there was an old Mission there, the Sonoma Mission.”
The Sonoma Mission was the last site and Northern most of the 21 missions founded by Fr. Junipero Serra. The Mission San Francisco Solano (Sonoma Mission) was selected and ceremoniously consecrated by Father Jose Altimira on July 4, 1823.

Leon and May Bridinger, left

The Historic Landmarks League bought the mission property in 1903, and they finished restoring the mission in 1926, when they turned it over to the State of California. After further restoration, the mission is part of the Sonoma Mission State Historic Park.

“There were a lot of Italians in Sonoma County. Many of them.  Wine makers, ranchers. A lot of wineries around there.”

The Seghosio family is just one example of the Italian influence in Sonoma County. Their winemaking roots back to the vineyards of 1800s Italy. That was when Edoardo Seghesio decided to pursue a new life in Sonoma County, which at the time was the home of a flourishing Italian community. Like other Italian immigrants at the time, Edoardo recognized the potential that this area had for creating terrific wines that reminded them of home.

Camping trip, all the comforts of home. May and Helen.

The “back country” wasn’t too far away in the 1910’s. Helen’s scrapbook shows excursions and camping trips the the Russian River Valley, River View Grove, Petaluma, Camp Rose, Peach Flat, Muir Woods, Cotati, Monte Rio, Guernewood Park, and others.

There is no caption for this photo, but likely this is one of the locations mentioned before. Lake Tahoe was another camping destination they enjoyed.

Group photo with the automobile. That’s mom’s (Jeanne’s) writing. She didn’t indicate Lawrence next to Helen.

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, May Bridinger with a new addition to the family.

May enjoying her kitties. Helen through her life kept both dogs and cats. But in my life she was a cat fancier. I remember Salome, Ulysses–both solid black cats. Then Adonis, pure white.

Next Chapter: “We’d Ditch School and Go To The Movies.”

“Jack London Was Standing Right There!”

After moving from their ranch in Healdsburg, the Bridingers moved to Santa Rosa. They lived for awhile “in town,” then moved to a ranch outside of town.

Helen, Santa Rosa. No indication of Helen’s friend with the head dress and suede clothing.

Before Mexican and Spanish settlers were in Santa Rosa in the early 1800’s, Pomo, Miwok, and Wappo Indians  populated the area. The first known permanent European settlement of Santa Rosa was the homestead of the Carrillo family. By the 1850s, a Wells Fargo post and general store were established in what is now downtown Santa Rosa.

The Occidental Hotel Building, 4th and B, Santa Rosa

In the mid-1850s, several prominent locals, including Julio Carrillo, son of Maria Carrillo, laid out the grid street pattern for Santa Rosa with a public square in the center, a pattern which largely remains as the street pattern for downtown Santa Rosa to this day despite changes to the central square, now called Old Courthouse Square.

In 1867, the county recognized Santa Rosa as an incorporated city and in 1868 the state officially confirmed the incorporation, making it officially the third incorporated city in Sonoma County, after Petaluma, incorporated in 1858, and Healdsburg, incorporated in 1867.

The Luther Burbank Rose Parade, Santa Rosa. Note the same Occidental Hotel (left) as in the previous photo. The Hotel building was replaced by a typical looking shopping mall. The building seen in the middle remains today, but heavily remodeled.

Luther Burbank, the famed horticulturist, made his home in Santa Rosa for more than fifty years. On his garden site and in nearby Sebastopol, Burbank conducted the plant-breeding experiments that brought him world renown. His objective was to improve the quality of plants and thereby increase the world’s food supply. In his working career Burbank introduced more than 800 new varieties of plants including over 200 varieties of fruits, many vegetables, nuts and grains, and hundreds of ornamental flowers. Note Southern California’s city of Burbank has no connection to Luther Burbank. It was David Burbank, a dentist, that founded Burbank, California.

“Then we moved to Santa Rosa and I went to grammar school there. I skipped 3rd grade and went into 4th grade.

I enjoyed English. One teacher I thought was terrific; she was named Francis L. Omira.”

“All the kids called Mrs. Omira “funny little old maid.” Kids told me “Gee, I hope you don’t get her, blah, blah, blah–she’s mean! But I had her and I thought she was one of the best teachers I ever had. We did a lot of writing and composition–I enjoyed her. Isn’t that funny how people will put somebody down? She was a great teacher.  I just got along wonderfully with her. I learned more from her than any other teacher I had.”

“Mother Bridinger was very strict. I had one teacher who assigned a book to read. I got the book out of the library and Mother wouldn’t let me read it. “Oh, that’s NOT for young people!” So I had to take it back and she told the Librarian to be very careful about what I picked out–which was stupid! I wasn’t even allowed to read the newspaper!”

“They’d take me to movies. My mother got indignant about something she’d get up and make us leave!”

Helen, Lawrence; right.

“When we lived on the ranch at Healdsburg a boy came to live with us named Lawrence–they were going to adopt him. When we moved to Santa Rosa, Lawrence was in his first year of high school.

“Leon piled so much ranch work on him to the point he ran away several times. One time he wanted me to run away with him to the mountains-and painted such a beautiful picture. You know how kids are. I didn’t go. But finally his real mother came to get him when I was 13 or 14. Lawrence later joined the Army and was a career Army man–and we stayed in touch.”

Leon and Helen.

“Mother Bridinger and I got along fine. But Leon, I didn’t like him. As a child I liked him–you know how little kids are impressed. He’d make faces and tease me. But as I got older I could not stand him. He called himself “Pennsylvania Dutch.” But there was nothing Dutch about him, he was Ohio German! Opinionated, stubborn–he knew it all. Nobody else knew anything.”

“Leon had a lot of goats. This little friend and I used to heard the goats. We’d poke them along the hillside so they’d eat. We’d watch them and then bring them back. A man and his wife worked on the ranch–they’d milk the goats. Leon would too–I guess. He was working at the bank.

At the county fair he would exhibit them. I can remember I posed for a picture pretending to milk the goats! I think I was about 13 then. Jack London was standing right there!”

Image, Piedmont Historical Photo Archive

Jack London and Xaviar Martinez. Both London and Martinez were members of the Piedmont Bohemian set in the early 1900’s. This picture was taken after London had moved to Sonoma County and shows him sitting for a portrait by Martinez. London’s most famous works are The Call of the Wild, White Fang, The Sea-Wolf, The Iron Heel, and Martin Eden.

One of Jack London’s books “Valley of the Moon” is named for the section of the Sonoma Valley around Glen Ellen with the same name.

Next Chapter, “Valley of the Moon.” The Bridingers take a drive to Glen Ellen, to the town of Sonoma, and go camping near the Russian River.

Up The Russian River

Part two of my family history, The Delanos. After Helen’s mother Julia dies in Silverton, Colorado, Helen is adopted by Julia’s sister May Delano Bridinger and her husband Leon. Wearing a white muff and a sign “I am an orphan,” Helen travels alone by train to California to join her new family.

These bridges are still intact along the Russian River

“We were living in Alameda when Leon (father Bridinger) got TB. He was working for the Diamond Rubber Company. We then moved to the country, Kernville first. Then up the Russian River. I went with him while Mother closed everything in Alameda.

I first went to school when we lived in Healdsburg. It was a one room school way up on a hill. I’d have to walk to school one mile. It was way up on a hill and there were six grades. There was an Indian boy who sat in back of me. His name was Sam. He was always pestering me! (laugh).

But that one room school. That was fascinating–kids in the sixth grade were grown up as far as I was concerned!

Healdsburg Plaza, the town square, photo Healdsburg Museum

Healdsburg Plaza today. Mature Trees, but still the focal point of central Healdsburg.

“In back of the little ranch where we lived there was an Indian reservation. Every Saturday Indians would trek by into the little town because there was a band concert in the little square.”

For thousands of years before White settlement, the lush area now called Healdsburg was home to the Pomo Indians. These early residents built their villages in the open, fertile valleys along the Russian River. They hunted the elk, bears, and mountain lions that roamed the dense oak and madrone forests along the meandering river.

Healdsburg Plaza with Fitch Mountain in the background. Healdsburg claims Captain Henry Delano Fitch just as much as Old Town San Diego. Fitch held a Mexican Land Grant in Healdsburg. He lived long enough to learn that gold was discovered in the area, but died before he could relocate from San Diego. His family however migrated to Healdsburg and built a large house that became known as “The Fitch Castle.”

Captain Henry Delano Fitch. Painting, Healdsburg Museum.

May Delano Bridinger and Helen Bridinger weren’t the first Delanos in Healdsburg. After the Mexican government established the vast 48,000-acre Rancho Sotoyome, this enormous land grant was awarded to sea captain Henry Delano Fitch in 1841. Fitch promptly hired trapper Cyrus Alexander to manage his bountiful rancho (the magnificent Alexander Valley is named for this early tenant).

Fitch’s father, Beriah, was a master of whaling ships whose ancestors in America date back to the 1600’s.

His mother was Sarah Delano.

The Delanos in America descend from Philippe de Lannoy. The family name was was anglicized to Delano. He was a Pilgrim of Flemish descent arriving at Plymouth, Massachusetts on November 9, 1621 at the age of 19. His was the Pilgrim ship after the Mayflower called the Fortune.

His descendants include Philip Delano Jr., Frederic Adrian Delano, Jonathan Delano and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, Calvin Coolidge, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert Redfield, Captain Paul Delano, and Alan B. Shepard.

Delano family forebears include the Pilgrim who chartered the Mayflower, seven of its passengers and three signers of the Mayflower Compact.

The Fitch Family Residence “The Fitch Castle,” began in 1840’s by Cyrus Alexander. Photo, Healdsburg Museum

The California gold rush of 1849 brought itinerants, squatters, and failed miners to the more generous farming land of the rancho. Over the years, these squatters settled on the verdant land owned by the Fitch family. In 1857, a fight named the “Westside Road Wars” commenced among the squatters. One of the winners of this colorful conflict was Harmon Heald, an Ohio entrepreneur. “Healdsburg” was incorporated in 1867.

The Fitch Castle. The couple seated in front is said  to be Anita Fitch Grant and her husband  J.D. Grant. Photo, Healdsburg Museum

Captain Henry Delano Fitch is not only an important name in Sonoma County history, but in San Diego history as well. Fitch was San Diego’s first permanent American resident, its first storekeeper, and an early “Mayor” of San Diego. The San Diego home of Fitch and his wife, Josefa Carrillo, still stands in Old Town San Diego. “The Carrillo Adobe,” is the oldest house in San Diego.

After gold was discovered near Fitch’s rancho in Healdsburg, he was anxious to move permanently to Sonoma County. But he died in 1849.

Fitch was buried in the church cemetery is in today’s Presido Park, San Diego.

Archeologist Ron May was part of the crew that discovered his grave on a “dig” in 1968. The letter F slowly began to to appear on the coffin lid. May and the crew knew this had to be none other than Fitch. Finally they read the initials H.D.F.  The lid to his coffin is decorated by designs made by the copper heads of nails. There is a cross, and under it, two hearts.

Ron May tells us “H.D.F was at least six foot, five inches.  According to Paul H. Ezell, who organized a Fitch reunion, there was a bible with a note that HDF actually died from poisoning in San Francisco and his body shipped to San Diego. His daughter, Natalia Fitch, was found adjacent to him and she too died in 1849.”

Fitch was one of the most colorful and romantic figures of early California history. His courtship and marriage of Josefa Carrillo is legendary.

The Healdsburg Museum

There’s a rivalry between Healdsburg and Old Town San Diego as to whom has dibbs on Captain Henry. A bidding war took place over the Captain’s ornate desk which he had delivered to San Diego around Cape Horn. Healdsburg, and one determined (wealthy) benefactor, prevailed in the bidding war. The desk now resides in the Healdsburg Museum. The building is an old Carnegie Library building, restored and looking good.

“Then we moved to Santa Rosa. Our ranch was just outside Santa Rosa but for a while we lived in town.

It was huge house, two story with a dutch-like roof on Humboldt Street. No gingerbread or anything like that.

It had a living room, dining room, kitchen, a little room in the back, a big back porch, and a little front room they called a parlor. They never did anything in there except there was a desk and  once in a while they’d write in there. And there was a huge bedroom clear across the front of the house. And then two other bedrooms and just one bath upstairs!

“Mother Bridinger wouldn’t talk about my mother Julia or what happened to my father.
They thought that I was so young that I would forget and think that Mother Bridinger and Leon were my real parents. I would go to bed at night and wonder “which is real and which is a dream.” But I always remembered.

“My mother Julia had taken a lot of snap shots. And I found them one day when I was older–in my teens, I guess. I think my Mother Bridinger knew I had found them. Next time I looked they were destroyed. Isn’t that awful?”

dazzled by the footlights

Apparently Helen had no knowledge of her natural mother’s stage renown as a singer and musician of San Francisco theater. It seems she never knew Julia had refused to live the role of a proper Victorian housewife by not giving up her San Francisco theater and stage career where she was an accomplished singer and musician. It’s a story that seems to have considerable indignation and outrage – if not total scandal-in 1902 San Francisco. The headlines practically demonize Julia.

Dazzled artcle

San Francisco Call January 30. 1902

SF CALL 4_29_02clip

San Francisco Call April 28, 1902.

The Humbolt Street House today.

Next, School Days and Life On The Ranch.

My Family Story, The Delanos. Part One, “Singing to…

These are sites familiar to my great great grandparents. The country from San Francisco up through Healdsberg, California. Towns like San Rafael, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, and Glen Ellen.

My great great grandfather Henry Marsh.

In the winter of 1980 I had a conversation with my grandmother, Helen Hussey about our family history in California.

“Your great great grandmother Julia Maria was a Delano from Boston. She married Henry Marsh and they came out to California.”

MarshDelanoWeddingRecord as Smart Object-1

Henry, 25, and Julia Maria Delano, 18 were married by Reverend C A Bartel on September 2, 1857 in Boston. The book “House of Delano” lists the date as September 7. According to the History of the New California Its Resources and People, Volume II they emigrated to California in 1869, and settled in San Francisco. They had five sons and two daughters, including Helen’s mom Julia, their youngest.

“They carved an estate in San Rafael, and I think they were pretty well fixed.”

Indeed the family was of some note in San Francisco as indicated by numerous mentions in the society pages. In one article Henry Marsh was described as a “capitalist.” Above he’s listed as a “Trader.” He had also been mentioned as a “glass whole seller.” City Directory lists him as president of Marsh And Kidd at 522 Market Street, agents of the National Glass Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Julia Delano Marsh was the youngest child, born on July 27th 1877. Her mother Julia Maria died only five months later – on Christmas day.

Julia married Edmond Cords. They had one child, Helen Margaret Cords, born on October 13, 1902 in San Francisco. She’s my grandmother.

“I was born in San Francisco, but my earliest memories are of a little silver mining town in Colorado called Silverton. I don’t remember my father and never knew what happened to my father.”

Helen indeed knew very little  about Edmond Cords. Who he was, when he and Julia got married, when they split, etc. Also how did Julia end up leaving San Francisco for small mining towns?

The photo caption reads “Helen with stepfather Larkin in Prescott, Arizona. 1906.” He is William Larkin. The Los Angeles Herald announced the “Larkin-Cords” marriage license on August 31, 1906.

Marriage License - LA Herald

Interesting this notice appears in the Los Angeles paper. Meaning they were in L.A.?

“Helen and stepfather Larkin, Prescott, Arizona. 1906-1907.”

There is a census listing for a William Larkin in Pima Co. Arizona in 1900. His occupation is listed as “Faro Dealer.”  There are a couple of articles about him in Arizona having to do with cards, gambling, as well as mining.
“In Silverton we lived on a street where there was a Catholic Church across from us on the corner. It looked to me like those steps were so long and I’d see the little kids in their white dresses. But when I went back as an adult the steps looked so small.”

Grand Imperial Hotel, Silverton, Colorado.

“There was a big hotel there, it was very fancy, and I can remember my mother singing accompaniment to a magic lantern show of color picture slides. And I remember buttercups. I could only have been 2 or 3 years old then. I was too young to go to school when we lived there, but I remember one day a little kid took me to the school, and they were talking about the North Pole. Someone must have just been there. Isn’t that weird to remember? And I remember going down in a mine one time too.”

The Rink 3_21_1908

Julia also sang at the rink. From The Silverton Standard, March 21, 1908.

silverton standard march 28 1908

The Silverton Standard also shows Julia “Mrs. E. W. Larkin” taught music, running a vocal and instrumental studio at her home.

Sudden Death Silverton Standardalt

Julia’s sudden death death , The Silverton Standard November 7, 1908. “My mother Julia died in 1908 when I was about 5 in Silverton.”

Sisters May and Julia. May Delano Bridinger, left.

“I was adopted by my mother’s older sister whom I called Mother Bridinger. She was married to a man named Leon Bridinger. I came out to California to live with them after my mother died.”

“I was put on a train to Oakland. Then took a ferry across. I wore a white muff and had a little sign “I am an orphan.” A kind porter on the train, a black man, looked after me and tucked me in at night.”

Helen to Alameda

Silverton Standard Saturday, November 28, 1908.

Chapter 2 “A life in Santa Rosa,” next.

Ruby and Nelms; “Rube Nelson’s Country Corner,” Escondido, CA

While we lived in San Marcos Dad discovered a chiropractor, Dr. Eugene Nelms. The practitioner just liked being called “Nelms.” His office was in Escondido. But even after my family moved to National City and later to Bonita, Nelms was the man we’d to go to for getting “cracked” and “bent” back into shape.
The good Doctor was a character. He had a gruff, gravely voice–almost like Mel Blanc’s Yosemite Sam. He was a story teller. With a combination of less than sound proof walls, and the carrying quality of his distinctive voice, waitees often got an earful of adventure.

Photos taken June 1983
Nelms favorite topic was Rube Nelson, an Escondido icon who was the proprietor of what was then North County’s premier shopping destination Rube Nelson’s Fabulous Country Corner. Nelms must have considered Rube Nelson a rival.
“‘Poor Ol’ Rube,’ is what he likes to be called,” Nelms would say. “He prints those damn words on just about everything he owns…but there ain’t nothin poor about him! There he is in those worn out striped overalls, corn- pone hat, and cigar he picked up off the street somewhere–and he’s a gawd dang bank board member!”

“‘Poor Ol’ Rube….’ He just hates it when I call him “Ruby.” Whenever I see him at the Grape Festival or Harvest Parade riding his donkey I like to yell out ‘Hey Ruby is that you?’ He tries to ignore me.”

“‘No Nelms, that ain’t me, it must be somebody else.”

“It must be somebody ELSE! Well I don’t know who that SOMEBODY ELSE might be, Ruby. All I see is you and all I see is the Jack Ass! But I can’t tell WHO is riding WHO!”

The paths of “Ruby” and Nelms crossed when Pacific Bell assigned them the same phone number except for one numeral. Brought memorably together by the phone company, they both continually got calls, one for the other.

“I get the calls for Rube Nelson Pharmacy,” said Nelms. “Old blue haired women wanting to know if their prescriptions are ready. ‘Yeah lady your prescription is ready, plus any other dope you might want to snort, sniff, chew or stick where the sun don’t shine!'” Nelms liked to laugh at his own stories. A big “haw, Haw, HAW!” often followed.
“I like to kid Poor Ol’ Rube. ‘You know what Ruby? You have got a low class clientele. And I mean a LOW class clientele. By god, you sell more tins of lard and spam per square foot than any store in the good ol’ U.S. of A.'”

Rube Nelson’s Country Corner Market stood at the corner of Washington and Broadway. And as a matter of fact, in its day, this discount dynamo actually did boast the highest volume per square foot of any store in the United States. The roof was adorned with a king-size chicken, colt, cow and calf. Nelms liked to point out “Bull” was there too.

Front door patrons passed a replica of the Statue of Liberty.

Inside were long lines of people at checkout stands, or strolling up and down the long aisles of goods. The place was almost a combination store-historic museum as dozens of objects of bygone eras adorned the walls and every inch of spare space.

He was a history buff and antique collector. Orange and Apple crates were between displays of antique printers and typewriters.

“Ruby,” as Nelms would say, “You’re nothing but a junk collector, I don’t care what fancy name you put on it.

“And if you’re going to tell me your life story again, let me just repeat it now, then you can just tell me if I left anything out…..

“You came to Escondido in 1927…you dug ditches for two bits an hour…they told you not to dig where the water lines were, but you did it any way….a big gusher went up. How many times you wanna tell that story now Ruby?

“Tell me one thing, Ruby. You’re one of the wealthiest men in Escondido. Why are you so cussin’ Cheap?”

(In telling these stories Nelms modulated two voices for the dialog).

“What do you mean by that now Nelms?”

“Well this is what I mean…I mean you got a broom standing at each one of your check out aisles. And by god, ‘buyer beware!’ You end up getting charged for a broom you don’t want; a broom and you never take home!.”

“Oh that’s not true now Nelms, you know that. What an old story! Besides with prices goin’ up, I’ve moved in high price mops to replace those brooms!!!!”

“I still say you are tight, Ruby, real tight”

“That’s not true now Nelms. I’m like Jack Benny. It’s not that I’m cheap…just conservative!”

“Well Ruby, you could afford a fancy vacation…why don’t you fly off to Europe somewhere?”

“Well Nelms, I’ve never had any desire to go to Europe because all those Europeans are after us American dollars.”

“You mean U.S. American dollars.”

“No, Nelms, I mean us American dollars because whenever they see us, they see dollar signs.”

“Well, by god Ruby, you got yourself a point there now don’t you.?”

“Well I sure do now Nelms!”

“Wah say, I do, I say, now Ruby!”


In the realm of nutrition, Nelms had one bit of advice. EAT CORN!

Over and over again patients were serenaded about the virtues of CORN!

“Corn is the FINEST FOOD. Indians ate CORN. They had the HEALTHIEST brown skin. The SHINIEST white teeth. The SMOOTHEST black hair. Yeah…YEAH CORN IS THE FINEST FOOD!”

Once in the waiting room, I noticed I hadn’t heard the corn lecture. I mentioned to someone else in the waiting room that the Doctor would normally have mentioned corn by then . He said “we’ll I’ll just have to ask Dr. Nelms if corn is good for me or not.”

Sure enough the scene played out. “Corn is a pretty good food isn’t it?”

“Why, by god, funny you should mention that. I was about to say Corn is the FINEST FOOD. You need to eat PLENTY of CORN! The Indians ate CORN. They had the HEALTHIEST brown skin. The SHINIEST white teeth. The SMOOTHEST black hair. Yeah..YEAH CORN IS THE FINEST FOOD!”

Rube Nelson’s Country Corner is long gone. Just another strip mall and parking lot now.

But the tradition of speaking about the virtues of Corn carried on. When I developed back troubles, I found an excellent Chiropractor in Santa Monica named Rex Taylor. I told him all about Nelms and his preaching the corn sermon. Rex loved the story. One time as I waited for my appointment, I could hear Rex in the next room telling one of his other clients. “….Speaking of diets there was a chiropractor in Escondido who was excited about CORN! He told all of his patients ‘corn is the FINEST food!’ You know the Indians ate corn don’t you?…”

California, An Endangered Species.

The past and the present. I was born at this location in San Marcos (San Diego County), California in 1956. Ten or fifteen years ago I could have found my way here nearly blindfolded. I had to really search for it this time–nearly all recognizable landmarks are gone. Quiet country living has given way to a freeway and strip malls.

Sam Soderberg and neighbor friend.

During the first half of the twentieth century there was what could be called a romance of California living. Frank Lloyd Wright once used the term California Romanza. City life was in a patchwork of what are called urban villages. Both San Diego and Los Angeles had a grid of metropolitan trolley lines. Planners in those days built many bungalows and bungalow courts along these trolley lines. In San Diego of 1947 you paid a nickel to ride anywhere among the urban villages. Downtown, North Park, Kensington, Normal Heights, Hillcrest, Mission Hills, University Heights were among the familiar names along the way. Many dwellings came without garages–it was typical for many to get around without an automobile.

But city living was only one option when living the California Romanza. There was also the country life. Quiet, wide open spaces and fresh air. San Marcos of 1956 was a part of a much more expansive patchwork of areas perhaps too sparsely populated to be called villages. You really only became aware of entering San Marcos because of a cluster of signs indicating the agricultural organizations of the area. The chicken population of San Marcos was vastly greater than the human population.

Gone are the picket fences, the old farm houses, chicken ranches, and livestock. Echo Lane, which was then a dirt road (It washed out during wet years) is now a drive way into the parking lot for big box retailers including Home Depot.

The sign at the edge of the property read “Echo Lane Kennels.” My mom and dad raised beagles and won a shelf full of trophies and ribbons from dog shows. We had this horse for a short time. It was a temperamental creature that liked to throw its rider and kick.

Not a horse friendly sight now. The parking lot and architecture could really be anywhere. All across the country there are countless such developments. A homogeneous strip mall model has cookie-cut its way from one end of the country to the other. The landscaping here falls into a term commonly used: “mitigation.” When enough people decry the ugliness of a development, a few bushes and trees are added to “mitigate” the impact.

These were the “star” breeders for Echo Lane Kennels, Marilyn and Joe–named after Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. These two beagles produced many a prize winning offspring.

Sam and Zack Soderberg

And there were sheep. A child’s life centered around household animals and livestock on several acres of land can only be found in California nowadays in areas far more remote than San Marcos. Once just a dot on the map, San Marcos today is joined at the hip with Escondido as a mini megalopolis.

No longer a place where “the sheep and the antelope play.” One of the reasons so many of us “old timers” got involved with the effort to save Trestles and San Onofre State Park is because we have witnessed the huge change in California in our life time. The creation of the California Coastal Commission was largely the result of a realization that California was being lost to development. Having this commission was a figurative drawing of a line in the sand. We’ve pretty much lost the interior of California to freeways, subdivisions and strip malls. The country life of communities such as San Marcos is gone forever. But the creation of the Coastal Commission was to say “hands off” when it comes to the coastal corridor. Yet even with that, it is a difficult struggle to keep what is left.

This small country house I was born in was certainly no Buckingham palace. However it was very sad when I drove by here in June of 1983 and found the old familiar gravel driveway no longer attached to any structure.

The house used to be on the left side. Straight ahead there was a barn. Nothing left in 1983 but the foundations and rubble.

The kennel and former home of Joe and Marilyn. My dad told me that shortly after I learned to walk I became very adapt at climbing this fence. He seemed to enjoy recalling how my toes curled around the wire just as my fingers did when scaling the fence.

And then it came to this. A pile of rubble in 1983. Finally a parking lot and strip mall.

And Echo Lane is no more. This is like a metaphor of what has happened to California. An echo barely heard of a time prior to the day of the red trolley cars being sent to the junk yards. Before public transit was forsaken. Before the automobile and freeways became priority. In fact this is how my family came to leave San Marcos. The freeway built there lopped off part of our property. And once the freeway went in, everything else followed. Many of us who have seen this play out time and time again in California had to step up and say “NO!” to the freeway proposal through San Onofre State Park. Once a park is gone it doesn’t come back. Just as Echo Lane will never be again.