Dan Soderberg Photography

Headwater and Delta

Frank The Trainman, since 1946. The store at this location on Park Boulevard at the headwater of where El Cajon Boulevard begins was replaced by a credit union building. The neon sign was preserved and remains in various states of repair and operation today. The following blog details one memory of the old store. http://www.ogaugewatch.com/ogaugewatchcom/2006/02/frank_the_train.html

Originally a Piggly Wiggly Shopping Center. It is the hinge, so to speak, of The Boulevard’s front gate. The Boulevard is stilled signed “Business Loop Interstate 8.”

I first described The Boulevard as San Diego’s version of the Mother Road. A term associated with Route 66. I’ve discovered the actual nick name. Old U.S. Highway 80, which The Boulevard was a leg of, was known as The Broadway of North America. Commissioned in 1926 until 1964, U.S. 80 ran from San Diego to Tybee Island, Georgia. Indeed, a road rivaling Route 66.

Heading east, The Boulevard’s delta is Main Street of El Cajon. Colorful jazz musician statues herald your arrival to Main Street and The East County Performing Arts Center.

From El Cajon heading west The San Diego stretch of U.S. 80 went from Main Street to El Cajon Boulevard to Washington Street onto Cabrillo Freeway (co-signed with U.S. 395) through Balboa Park to downtown San Diego and Market Street to terminus at U.S. 101, Pacific Highway.

Anyone up for a road trip? Reconnect old U.S. 80. http://www.gbcnet.com/ushighways/US80/index.html

Dan Soderberg Photography

The Manor

Lafayette Hotel. A former co-worker of mine Kathryn Synodinos clearly remembers The Lafayette as the site where she filed her citizenship papers after immigrating from in Greece in 1966. “The U.S. Immigration Office operated from a suite at the back of the hotel.”

In 1955 it was called The Manor. “Occupying a whole city block, The Manor is one of San Diego’s finest hotels. It offers, in one convenient location and under one hospitable management, an unlimited variety of accommodations. Luxurious hotel rooms, spacious cottage apartments, poolside cabanas, modern motel units–you’ll find them all at The Manor. Guests have their choice of facilities of a big city hotel, the excitement of a sparkling resort, or the restful quiet of their own home. The Manor’s rates, too, are designed to offer this same flexibility and wide choice. Cabana rooms are as low as $6.25 and there are suites from $15 and apartments up to $40. Special monthly rates are quoted upon request.

“The Manor is built around its heated Olympic – size Star Pool. Here guests enjoy swimming and sunbathing virtually every day of the year.

“Family applications are being received in the new Manor Summer Club. For low monthly dues, members are entitled to use the pool, outdoor play area, shuffleboard, and other sports facilities. There are children’s and adult’s swimming classes as well as instruction in most other sports. Massage, hot room and steam bath facilities are available both for men and women.

“A new chef and new management bring you food and service that will make you come back to The Manor again and again. Breakfast, luncheon and dinner are served in the beautifully redecorated Mississippi Room. A special Fashion Show Luncheon, with professional models showing the season’s newest styles in clothes and accessories, is presented every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. As an added service, guests at the Fashion Show are invited to bring their children. For no extra charge The Manor’s competent attendants care for them while their mothers ‘get away for awhile.’

“Following the Fashion Show, the guests are invited to use the pool. A complete Fried Chicken Plantation Dinner for $1.50 is a popular feature at The Manor on Sundays. After dark the Mississippi Room becomes one of San Diego’s gayest supper clubs. There is dancing every night with Mack McLean and his Orchestra.

“The Manor, located in the quiet residential heights of San Diego, is but six minutes from downtown. Out of city motorists can drive right to its door without passing through mid-town traffic. A lobby-entrance garage and a large lot solve parking problems. To reach The Manor from the North, turn right just beyond the first overpass as you approach San Diego on Highway 101 and follow the Mission Valley Freeway to Texas Street. Turn right up the hill and right again at El Cajon Boulevard (Highway 80). The hotel is but a block away.”

Related links:


http://www.urbanhousingpartners.com/projects.html  Scroll to Lafayette Residences.

Dan Soderberg Photography

Happy Hour

It is drinkin’ time on The Boulevard

The gals at Crickets Cocktails

“Hey Bartendah…” turn your sign around.

Drink ‘Em at the T P Lounge.

“Midnight at the Oasis. Bring your camel to bed.”

Second Wind. Of course.


And more liquor.


Rust ‘N’ Dust

The Boulevard is a stream of constant change. An ever present “pardon our dust” sign.

Dust. The Desert Inn, photo circa 1980. A loss of Boulevard neon around College Avenue second in importance only to the loss of the Campus Drive-In Theatre.


Dust. This Streamline Moderne dinner night club. It spent its last days as a Chinese Buffet before being bulldozed.









Dust. Chuck Wagon Restaurants. There were three. Pacific Highway, Midway Drive and El Cajon Blvd.  The Chuck Wagon on Midway Drive was the largest. Besides the expansive downstairs eating area, there was a “Longbranch Saloon,” and the “Gaslamp Room.” Both sections featured live music and entertainment. Most remembered performer, Dr. Michael Dean, the hypnotist. Then a local talent at the time Regis Philbin mangaed the Gaslamp Room in the 1960’s.









Of the three only the Pacific Highway structure remains. Look for it if you will, but it bears no resemblance to its glory days pictured above.

Rust. Old mechanic’s shop.

Rust. A closed Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream store. Windows blacked out and thoroughly “decorated.” (Apologies here to Mr. Hitchcock.)

Rust and Dust–must be. The proprietors descended upon me and the camera like Britney’s bodyguards. “You can’t take pictures here!” They called the police. I said “Good! I’ll be happy to hear the policeman say I can use a camera here on the side walk.” The police said as long as I’m not on private property or pointing my lens into someone’s window, I have every right to shoot pictures on a public street.  The man calmed down and disappeared. But the wife was unrelenting even after the police had left. Weird, huh?

Rust. The Boulevard is a gallery of faded, rusted signs and skeletons of signs.

Dust. Remaining portion of State Theatre’s terrazzo.

Detail, State Theatre terrazzo.

State Theatre and its space needle spire.

State Theatre Interior.

State Theatre snack bar.

Dust. The very first Jack In The Box, 63rd and El Cajon Blvd. Dull, bland commercial architecture is there now.

All is not rust or dust fortunately. The outstanding Featheringill Mortuary and Fairlane Cleaners do survive at 63rd and El Cajon Boulevard.

Dan Soderberg Photography

Keeping “Kewl”

Kids of The Boulevard.

Staying “kewl” on a summer’s day.

Being “kewl.”

Kewl and on the move.


Grand Breakin’ Master.

The Boulevard as play yard.

81º at 7 p.m. Being “kewl” in sweats.

“It’s not called a scooter. It’s a RAZOR.”

Dan Soderberg Photography

From Dirt Road to Premier Strip

Dedicated to the ease of automobile access The Boulevard was San Diego’s premier commercial strip until 1960 and 1961. That is when Interstate 8 was completed. The malls of College Grove, Mission Valley and Grossmont Center were built. The traffic and customers El Cajon Boulevard once saw went to those areas.

Pearson Ford. The jingle is true, “They stand alone at Fairmont and El Cajon,” as the only remaining new car dealership of the strip.

Many of the old lots remain, but now dealing used cars.

The Schwinn Bicycle Center once occupied the purple building, left side. Also of note is the United Car lot and the little Queen Anne house at this site.

3747 El Cajon Boulevard today.

The Emma Schnug residence, 1910. The little house knew The Boulevard when it was still El Cajon Avenue and only a dirt road.


Signage Of The Times

1950’s architecture exemplified ideas associated with bringing the future to present day. It was an era of test pilots, sonic boom, sputnik and the atom. The Boulevard saw roof lines that seemed to lift off and soar. Signs had aeronautical features.

I remember it as Fosters Freeze or Dairy Queen. They saw the slanted roof line as the perfect style befitting their soft ice cream treats.

The Flying Wing of the day was never quite successful. However something about the design resonated with architects.

The Flying Wing as motel architecture.

The Flying Wing was reincarnated later as the Stealth Bomber.

Or was it as a funeral parlor? The term for this futuristic mid-century style of architecture is Exaggerated Modern.

The signage of the times shared the same ideals as the architecture. One saw boomerang and trapezoidal signs, and huge arrows pointing towards the best place to go. No sign on The Boulevard had more style at shouting “shop here!” than this Honda landmark. A whirling arsenal of boomerangs speeding across a bow. As car dealerships relocated to Mission Vally and elswhere, Honda abandoned its Boulevard sales venue. The sign was taken down.

La Cresta Motel was once among the cream of The Boulevard motel crop.

An ordinary square sign would have been considered both ordinary and “square.” With a touch of neon, this was a most respectable offering.

Good signage was especially important to liquor store owners. This could either be viewed as a jet wing or arrow feather.

The building (right) is nearly all in one with the sign itself.

Neon was an essential element of the era.

Dan Soderberg Photography

Ben Hur

From Interstate 5, outside downtown San Diego, you can see a Ben Hur. He won’t be thundering along at 95 miles per hour though. He’s stayed put there at 800 W. Ivy since way back in the 1920’s as Ben Hur Coffee, Tea and Spice Products, Inc. They were based out of Los Angeles in a building that also remains. However there the original art work is gone. Only a faded trace of the letters “Coffee.” Another sign “Angeles Desk Company” was painted over it. Luckily, this handsome display in San Diego survives and adorns the urban landscape.

Ben Hur Coffee, Tea and Spice had its day though. With plants also in San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. They had a good contract going with Lucky Markets as producer of their store brand.

Six years after buying A. Schilling and Company of San Francisco, McCormick and Company then acquired Ben Hur Products, Inc in 1953. Schilling lived on in brand, but Ben Hur fell by the wayside.


You may find an old Ben Hur coffee tin on ebay selling for a hundred bucks. Or maybe a spice tin is more budget friendly.


Home and Family

Madame Paint

I wondered about the delicately dappled white calico that studied me all the time. Then I began to receive mysterious “gifts” at my doorstep. Miscellaneous socks, underwear, panties, etc. The mystery continued day after day. I mentioned this to my neighbor Connie. “That’s Paint, the white calico, doing that,” said Connie. “She’s telling you she loves you!”

Sure enough I caught her red handed, or clawed if you will. At the doorstep looking up at me with a brazier clutched in her jaws. Offering to me what I surely most wanted in the world. I discovered she routinely raided the laundry room at an apartment building next door.

When I went for walks I had the strange feeling I wasn’t alone. I turned around to look about. Nothing. But then out of the corner of my eye a white feline figure moving in the bushes. There was Paint. She had been following me for some time on all my walks. Darting from bush to bush. And unknown to me at first even across busy streets. “You crazy little cat,” I told her.

I never knew such bravado from a creature as dainty and delicate as she was.

There was no doubt I had been adopted. Such persistence was irresistible.

Connie’s husband Mil was a veterinarian. They had been caring for Paint and her great big son Tiger. But Connie has rather severe allergies to cat dander. Otherwise Paint and Tiger would have had a good home. However, they made sure the cats had access to water and excellent food at a sheltered window sill of their place. Mil took Paint and Tiger into the clinic. Gave them shots. Spayed and neutered as well. Paint required antibiotics and medicine because of internal injuries she suffered.

Paint’s early life was at a house where two men lived. Two miserable examples of human existence that routinely kicked Paint about for entertainment and laughs. The men were away frequently. Paint had to fend for herself in the alley ways. Though barely past being a kitten herself, a big nasty tom cat had his way with her. She then had kittens of her own. The “men” reacted by throwing Paint and her litter out onto Riviera Drive. It is a busy street in Pacific Beach notorious for speeding vehicles. Paint managed to save herself and only one kitten, Tiger. Her litter was crushed by rushing cars.

For weeks Paint roamed the alleys for whatever scraps of food she could find. So skinny and weak she could barely walk and carry kitten Tiger by the nap of his neck. As she searched for the next bit of garbage food.

Connie and Mil discovered Paint much the same way I did. Offerings left on their doorstep and window sill. Rags and gardening gloves belonging to the lady owning the house I lived at. Connie showed her the gloves. “So that’s what happened to my rags and and gardening gloves.” It was all Paint’s doing.

Connie and Mil nursed the cats back to full health. Tiger grew up to be seemingly twice the size of Paint. She decided however that he was big enough to be on his own. Paint constantly sought to push him out of the nest. But Paint was all Tiger ever knew. He wasn’t about to leave no matter how much punishment she dished out in the form of hissing, spitting, swiping and batting. He just took it like a punching bag. Not that Tiger’s experience with Mom and nasty humans hadn’t affected him. He grew up to be afraid of his own shadow.

Connie loved Tiger dearly. She and Mil found a home for him in Mission Hills. Paint adopted me. They all lived happily ever after.

Paint was certainly resilient. Somehow not losing an instinct that there was a human out there she could trust. But she was going to chose carefully. Finding a veterinarian was good instinct on her part. And then how she knew I would succumb to her charms, I don’t know.

Most people never saw the charming Paint. For understandable reasons she had no interest in people at all beyond her chosen one. But she wasn’t the kind of cat to run and hide under a bed. She stood her ground under all circumstances. Some saw her as aloof. Others thought she was rather regal. Queen like. She kept her mostly white coat of fur spotless. Her gate was light and dainty. Almost ballet like. And perhaps because of her early life encounter with that old alley cat, she did not tolerate any other cat whatsoever. She patrolled her turf and took on intruders no matter how much larger they were.

When I moved to Normal Heights Dad installed a cat door at the front of the house. I was afraid with so many creatures of all sorts in the neighborhood some would find their way through that door. Paint was always on guard though. Once a cat managed to stick its head through. Paint responded immediately and dished out a severe penalty to the intruder. As always she cleaned up thoroughly after dirtying her paws on the riff raff.

It was never done better on Leave It To Beaver, or Father Knows Best. She knew the sound of my VW at the curb. Without fail charged out her little door to greet me. To side rub my legs and escort me in. And yes, most likely over to the food dish.

She was a bird lover. She easily caught them. Or if she saw them through the window she clicked and clattered her jaws while observing. She ran to the television at the sight of any animal or bird shown. Sometimes taking a few bats or swipes at the screen.

Paint liked being on the bed at night, kneading out her selected location. That’s unless she suspected trespassers might be lurking about. Then she’d guard the door. Otherwise she’d jump on the bed, circle her spot, turn on the purr machine and get cozy. Invariably I woke up to the sound of her cleaning duties. The licking and chewing. Occasionally if she felt I hadn’t passed inspection, she licked and chewed on me as well until I met standards.

Since Paint has gone on to Heaven, I haven’t sought a new pet. Maybe a beta fish or two. But not a furry four leg variety. Her legacy of tragedy, triumph, heart, determination, loyalty and personality is unique. And quite irreplaceable it seems to me.

Dan Soderberg Photography


The VW snapped a tie rod somewhere along I-15 in the vast reaches of the Mojave desert as I was headed for the Grand Canyon. Triple AAA brought me to Yermo. A bit of a town that amounts to a quick gaze from a single highway exit.

The Garage was closed for the day. I’d be spending the night in Yermo. No worries about needing to check in to sleep somewhere. VW is home away from home.

Besides, A truck stop cafe was at hand. Style and living all the way. The handy duty mechanics at Yermo Garage got me rolling along the next day all right.

Related links.