Back in May 1991, San Diego Union reporter Roger Showley wrote a nice piece on local history books, which included a valuable list of favorite titles nominated by local historians (list attached here: Favorite Books).
That was 22 years ago. How about we update that list? This doesn’t have to be limited to professional historians. Let’s hear from students and history buffs, too.
What I’d like to know is simply:
a. What are your favorite San Diego history books (perhaps your top five?)
b. Why do you like these books?
You can leave a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll give you all a couple of weeks then I’ll post the results on this site.
In 1960, Long Beach entrepreneur Allen Parkinson (inventor of Sleep-Eze) had a clever idea to speed people across the international border at San Ysidro. Partnering with Tijuana businessmen, Parkinson would build a mile-long aerial tramway to whisk passengers across the line in a Disneyland-style skyride. Regrettably, the scheme fizzled, but not before architect Frank L. Hope produced this fascinating rendering.
Chris Boyd’s superb documentary on “The First Padres” is now available on DVD. Check it out on this link: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/thefirstpadres. Chris includes great archival footage of the Lane Field days and interviews with players and local historians. The film premiered on KPBS back on October 8. It’s well-worth owning.
The “Great Thirst” of Prohibition ended in April 1933 with the repeal of the 18th Amendment. Here’s how drinkers celebrated the arrival of retail beer in San Diego:
The premier of ”The First Padres” by filmmaker Chris Boyd is coming to KPBS television on October 8 at 9:00. Check the website for more details http://thefirstpadres.com/ and view the trailer here. This is a wonderful documentary on the history of our team. Be sure to tune in.
In my day job at the San Diego Public Library, I supervise the Wangenheim Rare Book on the third floor at the Central Library. (Here’s the library web pages that describe this great collection: http://www.sandiego.gov/public-library/locations/wangenheim.shtml) We try to keep this special place open daily in the afternoons. But we rely on docents to make this happen and right now we need some new volunteers.
Docents are vital to Wangenheim Room operations. Docents welcome visitors, conduct tours, and answer questions about exhibits in the Room. To be a docent, you must interact well with people, be able to remember text of tour script, present in friendly manner and feel comfortable working in a quiet setting. An appreciation and understanding of historical artifacts is desirable. You also must commit to working 1 day a week for 3 hours a day for at least 6 months. For more information, contact me, Rick Crawford, at (619) 236-5852.
For those of you I’ve missed so far . . . On Tuesday evening, June 19, I’ll be giving a book talk and signing for The Way We Were in San Diego. It starts at 6:30 at the Clairemont branch library, 2920 Burgener Blvd. Interesting tales and photographs of San Diego history and maybe a good discussion, as well.
The library at San Diego State University has unveiled an invaluable tool for researching local history: a digitized database of the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune. This product by NewsBank Inc. is keyword searchable and provides pdf images of the original newspaper copy.
For decades local researchers have relied on the microfiche index to the Union produced by city librarians years ago. As important as this index as always been, it was never completed by the Public Library and was limited by the infamous “gap”—the years between 1904 and 1930 that were left un-indexed. The NewsBank database bridges that gap and also covers the historic Tribune, a separate newspaper until its merger with the Union in 1992. The digitizing is not yet complete and some years are not available.
I would encourage anyone looking for historical information in San Diego newspapers to make a trip to the SDSU library. Parking is a minor hassle but there are several lots on the campus perimeter that cost $1 per hour. The best way to go is on the San Diego Trolley, which takes you close to the library from a station in the center of campus.
This week San Diego’s PBS station aired “Wyatt Earp,” a new segment from the American Experience series. The one-hour program spends most of its time on the Tombstone years, remembered for the celebrated “Shootout at the O.K. Corral.” But San Diego history buffs know that Earp and his wife spent some time here during the “Boom of the 80s.” Unfortunately, the PBS program botches this local fact by saying the Earps moved to Los Angeles at that time, and then illustrates their mistake by showing an entry from the San Diego City Directory of 1889-90 (which the show’s writers seem to think was a Los Angeles directory).
Which brings up an interesting question. How much do we really know about the Wyatt Earp experience in San Diego? Not much, I’m afraid. While there is no shortage of popular secondary accounts of Earp in town, they all seem to repeat the same tired, poorly documented stories. We’re told the notorious gunfighter turned “capitalist” owned some San Diego property, ran card games, refereed boxing matches, and ran race horses—all of which may be true. But I’ve yet to see an Earp biography that corroborates these particulars with primary source citations, or demonstrates any attempt at research.
Much of our local Earp knowledge comes from biographer Stuart Lake whose 1931 book Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall was based in part on his interviews with the gunfighter taken shortly before his death in 1929 in Los Angeles. An adept magazine writer, Lake penned a thrilling narrative with only scant commitment to historical accuracy. But the book sold well and created an enduring noble-Earp mythology. An early Hollywood take on the O.K. Corral, “My Darling Clementine,” was based on Lake’s book, as was the 1950s TV show starring Hugh O’Brian.
Stuart Lake says little about San Diego in his book Wyatt Earp but an article in the September 6, 1957 edition of the San Diego Evening Tribune cites Lake for a few specifics. According to Lake, who lived much of his life in San Diego, Wyatt and his wife Josephine bought multiple lots of land in the downtown and Hillcrest areas in 1887. And Earp leased gaming concessions from several saloons. “It was a licensed, respectable business at the time,” Lake claimed.
More San Diego information comes from Glenn Boyer’s 1976 title I Married Wyatt Earp, a book which purports to be based on the recollections of Earp’s widow. Boyer devotes an entire chapter to the Earp’s in San Diego with particular attention to the couples “horse racing days.” Alas, Boyer’s fidelity to truth seems even less than Lake’s and today, most historians believe the book’s sources to be spurious.
Casey Tefertiller’s 1997 biography Wyatt Earp: the Life Behind the Legend is the most reliable Earp account seen yet. It is soundly researched and respected by historians and critics; regretfully, Tefertiller offers only a single paragraph on Earp in San Diego.
There’s a new book on Earp that sounds promising. Garner Palenske’s Wyatt Earp in San Diego, Life After Tombstone (Graphic Publishers, 2011), tells “the real story of Wyatt Earp’s time in San Diego. . . a story that has never been told before.” We have that book on order here at the San Diego Public Library but as yet, it’s unseen.
Just a reminder. Tomorrow night at the Central Library I’ll be giving a book talk and signing for The Way We Were in San Diego. It starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library. Interesting tales and photographs of San Diego history and maybe a good discussion, as well. Book Talk
And by the way, if anyone has the book already feel free to give it a review on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1609494415 It really helps!