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.



Dan Soderberg Photography

Thoughts and Prayers

Reverence on The Boulevard. Blessed Sacrament Church.

The Boulevard has not one…

…But two Churches of Christ.

Theosophy examines “truth” found in all religion.

Church activist.

It is either the first or the last stop on the road to Heaven. Boulevard Chapel, Goodbody Mortuary.


Echoes and Remnants

Unknown boarder.

Mrs. Burbidge’s Boarding House at Ingraham Street and Union Avenue near downtown Los Angeles is where Gunhild and Bill Soderberg lived after Gustav Soderberg left the country, late 1920’s. It is apparent from the photos this was a most pleasant neighborhood with fine old homes. This is where Keith Teter met Gunhild.

Ingraham Street no longer exists at Union Avenue. A school yard completely covers the grounds of the former street block.

Of the few remaining blocks of Ingraham Street, this was the only old house I found. All the rest are ramshackle apartment buildings or commercial type of structures. Not far from Union Avenue, Bill and Gunhild must have passed this house numerous times.

After Gunhild and Keith were married, they and Bill moved to a house on Shatto Street. As with Ingraham Street, little remains on Shatto that resembles a residence. In his extreme old age Bill went back to this neighborhood. He lamented not finding familiar sites. Little evidence of the world he knew as a child in Los Angeles. This landmark, however, remains. The Commodore. Gunhild worked here as a housekeeper when they lived on Shatto. They were still at Shatto when Greta was born.

Only 3 or 4 blocks from the former site of Mrs. Burbidge’s Boarding House stands this outstanding Queen Ann home of 1894 called the Mooers House. It is located on Bonnie Brae Street. Mr. Mooers made his wealth from the discovery of placer gold, a mountain of it, which became the claim known as Yellow Aster. It was one of the largest gold producers in southern California and one of the noted mines in the State. Mr. Mooers enjoyment of his wealth was unfortunately short lived and tempered by ill health. He died in 1900.

I’m intrigued with the peak enclosure there above the second floor. That paisley swirl opening. Almost a beach wave motif.

All that ornamentation.

Next door is another gorgeous home. Both homes stand in sharp contrast to their surroundings of ugly dirty commercial structures and slum dwellings filled with lay-abouts or druggies. Save for two or three exceptional structures this fine old neighborhood was completely discarded.

Keith and Gunhild’s house on Cheviot Drive in Cheviot Hills is still up and well. With additional structure added in back.

August 2007

World War II. Keith, Milo Foster, Greta, Bill and Jeanne. The shutter design to the right is also on the kitchen window (behind Keith). Later photos show the addition of a flagstone retaining wall, but the shutters removed from the kitchen window.

The added flagstone features. House numbers moved to the right of the spot in previous photo. Zack and his catch of the day.

Sam, a four leg friend and Noah’s Ark (on the table) about where the additional structure or add on seems located today.

Zack (right), Sam and tortoise. That sun room in back may now be joined with the added room.

Related Links:


Marstrand, Pt. 2. A life in Los Angeles.


Oui, oui, oui…City of Lights

Las Vegas is a town that took the Disneyland approach of replicating familiar world wide sites as “themes.”

Some will say the Las Vegas Strip is the epitome of a synthetic environment and monument of greed. Others may point to a strange if not extreme kind of beauty.

At any given moment I relate to either sentiment.

My stay in Las Vegas, August 13 and 14 was at Hotel Paris. Besides the obvious iconic miniature Eiffel Tower and hotel marque in the form of a hot air balloon, the facility is faithful to the theme down to the smallest details.

I was struck by the number of guests in the lobby, restaurants and elevators I heard speaking French. Apparently, oui, this is home away from home for many a French tourist.

The intensity of summer heat in Las Vegas isn’t apparent in photos. Imagine, though, after a short time in the sun my camera became too hot to touch.

Dusk provides only some relief from the heat. At least one can hold a camera without burning the fingers. Here is Hotel Bellagio. The immense fountain is one of the seven wonders of the entertainment world. Fountain jets are seemingly capable of shooting water nearly as high as the hotel itself. The water blasts and light effects are timed and synchronized to music played over a superb outdoor sound system. Sinatra is most typically played. But I’ve heard orchestral pieces and popular movie themes played as well. It is simply impossible to walk by without stopping during a performance.

Flamengo Neon would better be illustrated with a video clip. But looking good a still, nontheless. One of the more recognizable landmarks and light displays of The Strip.

Ballys and Paris are effectively one hotel. One traverses from one property to the other without stepping outdoors. Ballys is an older hotel, formerly the MGM. At another site a new MGM Grand was built after the old facility was stigmatized. On November 21, 1980 A fire killed 84 people and injured 785. At the time it was the second worst hotel fire in modern U.S. history. Ballys however seems to thrive and flourish. 1980 is now considered olden times. A growing population of people born after 1980 check in. Guests unaware of the tragic event.



The Beatles “Love” by Cirque Du Soleil

It is a ripping and a rocking good show there in Las Vegas by Cirque Du Soleil. A portion of The Mirage Hotel and Casino is dedicated as “Love” theater. The design and colors of the box office, theater entrance, The Beatles Revolution Lounge and night club hearken to 1960’s Carnaby Street in London. A modern “mod,” if you will. All shiny, plastic and eye catching.

In the tried and true tradition of performing art, the show sets right off to grab the audience. The already kettle boiler Get Back is potently supplemented by a digitally remastered layer of drum and guitar work from Abbey Road; The End.

Action on stage is so busy and swift moving, it is hard to pick any one spot of the “three ring circus” to follow or focus upon. An unrelenting rush upon the senses.

The opening set is an homage to the rooftop performance of Get Back by The Beatles in 1969. Its a rooftop whirl, swirl, jumping and jive hullabaloo of dancers, acrobats, odd characters and costumes. The visual climax comes as the entire set seemingly destructs. Chimneys and brick walls crumble and implode every which way. Then all transfigured into something else altogether as the songs and various digital sampling of songs flow forth. Every moment is captivating if not thrilling to watch and listen too. I was ready to stay seated after the show and watch once more. An additional 26 songs would be just as wonderful and easy to enjoy.

Dan Soderberg Photography

The Campus and The College

Campus Drive In dsoderblog.com

There was probably no landmark more associated with The Boulevard than the Campus Drive In Movie Theatre. From 1948 The Campus Drive In was famous for its 50-x 80-foot neon mural and 46-foot tall majorette complete with twirling baton and Indian headdress. The background scene of the mural included the old SDSU campanile–Hepner Hall– the Hardy Memorial Tower, goal posts and Cowles mountain with an “S” on it.
Tickets were 50 cents a piece. You had the choice of walk in (200 available seats) or drive in (700 cars).

If memory serves me correctly, Sam J. Russo, chief operator of The Campus Drive In, also brought forth the neighboring College Theatre. In its day The College Theatre was among San Diego’s most renown in terms of screen size, seating comfort, and sound quality. I also have this memory of seeing a picture there called The Loved One in 1965, starring Jonathan Winters. A few of the more choice movie theatres offered reserved ticket sales. The days of movie going as an event.

By the time I got my first job as a film projectionist at the College Theatre in 1979, the connection between The College and Campus Drive In was dissolved. Separate owners. The operator of the The College was a man named Herb Krapsi. Apparently bored in his retirement years, he ventured into the film exhibition business. He made the big beautiful College into 4 small “plex” theatres, The College 4. He seemed to consistently demonstrate a tendency to be penny wise and pound foolish. The smaller theatres were not especially well constructed. Sound transfered through walls. The additional projection booth floors rendered footsteps to ears below. And if walking wasn’t done carefully, the projectors jiggled enough to give a shaky or bouncy picture. Intermission music came from the cheapest 8 track tape players made. the J.C. Penny Penncrest. He bought them second hand at a swap meet. The Barbara Streisand tape he insisted upon sounded so bad I heard one customer complain “That’s Moms Mabley singing–DRUNK!”
Worse than that was his automated projection system. The machines were prototypes from a company that went into and out of business overnight. They ran horribly. It must have cost Herb more money to replace damaged film than the cost of buying decent equipment.


The Classic Pre Automation Drive In Theatre Projection Booth.  This one is the Lackland Drive-In Theatre in San Antonio. Image source: The Top Shelf, A blog about Special Collections at the UTSA libraries. The article, The San Antonio Drive-In Movie Theaters, August 19, 2013

The old fashioned projection booth had two projectors. There was a precise system of alternating between the two for projecting separate reels of a movie continuously and uninterrupted. Under normal circumstances that is. If the projectionist messes up, the audience may see numbers on the screen or “jumps” in the movie. A projection mishap audiences tend to enjoy, however, is when a movie frame gets jammed or stopped in the film gate. The image melts and burns before their eyes evoking “whoops and hollers.” Nothing like a hot and heavy love scene suddenly vaporizing.


Image Source: Big Screen Blog – Celebration! Cinema

One might think of an automated projection system along the lines of an 8-track tape. A bit different though. The above shows film feeding out through a control mechanism in the center. That mechanism precisely monitors and regulates the speed of that platter with the feed rate of the projector. The separate reels spliced together on this platter are discernable as “bands.” The first reel of a movie is wound upon a core ring at the center of this platter. All the reels are spliced together. The core ring is removed, then the film is wound through the control mechanism and over to the projector via rollers and guides. After the film is projected it runs back to a “take up” platter. It winds, again, upon a core ring. And on it goes.

The platter is most typically made of a light alloy or anodized metal designed to be static resistant.

The platters Herb Krapsi installed at The College 4 were plastic. On some days you walked into the booth your hair stood straight up because of static electricity. Or lighting bolts sparked between yourself and objects you reached for.

“I love it,” said Herb. “My projectionists can’t sleep on the job!”

But there were more problems in his projection booths. Those mechanisms for controlling the speed of the platter went hay wire sometimes. For no reason other than the machines were junk, the platters spun out of control whirling and whipping motion picture film every which way through the projection booth. The projectionist had run over and resolve the calamity. Running caused the picture to jiggle and jump on the screen. When the film feeding into the projector broke, an automatic “trip” was set off to close the curtain, bring up the auditorium lights and play music.

Barbara! “The waaaaaaaaay we were.

The man in charge of holding together Herb’s plastic prototype film platters was named Mike Boyer. A man I should be ever grateful to for giving me my first job as a projectionist. But there are two thoughts that come to mind at the mention of his name. First his almost Hitler like mustache. Second his need for “Heads and Shoulders” shampoo. The sight of him scratching his head and “sprinkling” an ice cream cone he ate wasn’t pretty.

Boyer and I were standing in the lobby with a number of people milling about the snack bar.

I asked “doesn’t Herb give consideration to the number of complaints he must get about film breaks here?”

His reply was “Herb worry about complaints? That’s why he doesn’t care about complaints.”

I looked to where he was tipping his flaky head. A woman with her hair up in big rollers was eating out of a tub of pop corn as a dog would eat except she wasn’t on all fours or eating off the floor.

Mike sensed I hadn’t observed completely. “You didn’t look at her hair, did you?”

A second look revealed several six legged creatures with long antennae crawling in and out of her curlers.

“That’s why Herb doesn’t care,” Boyer finished his ice cream cone.

Interesting though, Mike Boyer noticing someone’s hair but not his own.

Herb Krapsi was especially excited with the release of Scanners in 1981. “This is going to make us a lot of money,” he said. “Run the preview in all four theatres.” Only problem was it was an “R”rated film. The trailer or preview was to be used appropriately. We pointed out previewing Scanners for the audience watching Disney’s Song of The South might not be a good idea.

“F___k ’em,” he said. “Run it!”

Below is a link for the preview. You’ll see what mothers and young children watching Song of the South were presented with. The outrage was fierce and intense among the people storming out of the auditorium to complain. Herb pleaded ignorance. He said his projectionist failed to inform him about the horrifying subject matter.

Yep, that’s right. I did it.

. . . . photo San Diego Reader, 7/6/06, “Field of Screens,” p.26

The Campus Drive In closed in February 1983. The College Theatre carried on awhile longer. The Majorette Portion of the Campus Drive In mural was preserved. It can be seen today at College Grove Center. I wondered with all the new construction at SDSU over the years why a wall of one of those buildings couldn’t have been dedicated not only to the majorette but the entire mural. Precious little of our past landscape survives. Those imaginative elements with colorful and unique detail seem so easily discarded. And replaced by what?

Scanners Preview

YouTube featurette shows a projectionist at work.

Dan Soderberg Photography

Mother Road

“Mother Road” is the name reserved for Route 66.  El Cajon Boulevard is San Diego’s version of that.  Before Interstate 8 it was the western leg of the only highway between San Diego and El Centro.  The character of the entire stretch of road was determined when the automobile became king.

Auto Camps were unique to The Boulevard.

Tents and trailers sat under shady trees.  Guests and campers enjoyed the spacious grounds.  There is little evidence today of that by gone era.  Just this one little area I found.

These Motor Hotels, “Motels” were the standard back in the day.

A large percentage of San Diego’s inventory of guest accommodations were along The Boulevard.

The Grand Daddy of The Boulevard was the Layfayette Hotel.  Here is The Red Fox Room. The interior was brought over from England by Marion Davies for her Malibu beach house. When she tired of it, it was put into storage and eventually incorporated into the Red Fox Room.  The interior comes from an English Pub or Inn dating from the 1500’s.

Appropriately The Boulevard was also the premier car dealership zone in San Diego.

Guaranty Chevrolet relocated. There’s a furniture store in there now.

The Boulevard also had San Diego’s finest furniture stores.  “Top of the top.”  Lloyd’s Furniture, though, is long gone.

Dan Soderberg Photography

The Boulevard Colors

The Pink Poodle.

At The Live Wire Bar you see red and distorted reality going in as well staggering out.

And then a Bloody Mary for breakfast.

With plenty of mass produced grease available to soak up a hangover.

The essentials of generic fast food architecture.

Der Wonnerful places.

However The Boulevard also boasts having just about any ethnic or world cuisine you might imagine.