Category Archives: History

Mardi Gras, New Orleans, 1995

Picture of the Moment

Moving is like archaeology. You’ll discover things that you never knew you had or that had been lost for years, maybe even decades.

Which reminds me of a home inspection I did many years ago for an 87-year old woman whose children were forcing her to downsize from the large home that her husband had built. After coming out of the attic I commented to her that there still was one piece of luggage in the attic. She exclaimed, “No! Everything was supposed to be brought down. Can you bring it down?”

I did.

She started crying.

The luggage had all sorts of memorabilia and family heirlooms in it that she thought had been lost over 50 years ago when they moved into their new home.

Happiest person in the world at that moment, and her children were pretty happy, too.


Back in 2004 I started scanning photographs in my photo albums and saving them as digital files. Once I had something scanned, I threw the item away.

Then, I suffered the Great Hard Drive Crash of August 2005. Lost everything. All of those pictures—mom, dad, siblings, relatives, pets, places, events, things—all gone.

However, apparently I had not finished scanning everything because yesterday I discovered a stack of old photographs, including this one of New Orleans Mardi Gras in 1995:

1995 Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That was the first Mardi Gras that Jim and I went to together. We had been an item for just ten months at that time, so this is a nice picture for us to have.

Now, of course, all my digital files, especially my collections of music, photos, and Photographic Art are backed up multiple times.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Out & About—Windansea Beach in La Jolla CA

Out & About

I had a home inspection in La Jolla this afternoon at 1:30, so I left at 6:00 this morning. Granted, the property in La Jolla is only 30 miles from me but, as my wise old grandmother always said, “You can never be too early!” (Although in my later years I discovered that yes, you can be too early!)

Actually, as many readers probably have already guessed, I can’t go north of Interstate 8 without turning the trip into a photographic adventure. Why should today be any different?

After discovering Del Mar Shores beach last week, my goal this morning was to find more beaches. And I did!

Surfers were out all along the coast. I found the Pacific Beach Surf Club at Tourmaline Beach and the Windansea Surf Club at Windansea Beach. Windansea was a larger beach, and had better breakers and more surfers this morning.

img_3054 surfer windansea la jolla

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

img_3059 surfer windansea la jolla

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Windansea Beach and the surrounding neighborhood were after the 1909 oceanfront Strand Hotel when it was renamed Windansea Hotel in 1919. The Windansea Hotel, located on Neptune Avenue between Playa del Sur and Playa del Norte, burned down in 1943. Surprisingly, I could find no historical pictures of either the Strand Hotel or the Windansea Hotel.

The beach is defined geographically as extending north of Palomar Avenue and south of Westbourne Street.

windansea beach map

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The distinguishing landmark at Windansea Beach is a palm-covered shack originally built in 1946 by Woody Ekstrom, Fred Kenyon, and Don Okey. Looks like this:

img_3059 windansea shack la jolla

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

“The Surf Shack at Windansea Beach” was designated a historical landmark by the San Diego Historical Resources Board on May 27, 1998.

Although there is limited parking at the Beach, there is plenty of parking on neighborhood streets. Also, there are no drinking fountains, showers, or public restrooms although the main drag through La Jolla (La Jolla Boulevard) is just one or two blocks away. There you should be able to find drinking water, showers, and public restrooms.

Windansea Beach has a storied past, serving as home beach to many notable surfers, including Joey Cabell, Del Cannon, Pat Curren, Mike Diffenderfer, “Longboard Larry,” Mickey Muñoz, Chris O’Rourke, and Butch Van Artsdalen.

The Windansea Surf Club was founded by Chuck Hasley in 1962 and included members such as The Endless Summer star and first Vice President Mike Hynson.

img_3053 windansea shack la jolla

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San Diego Historical Landmarks—#14G: Casa de Machado y Stewart

San Diego Historical Landmarks

Old Town San Diego State Historic ParkWithin Old Town San Diego State Historic Park (San Diego Historical Landmark #14) are many historic buildings and rebuilds. We’ll explore nine of them since they also have been designated San Diego Historical Landmarks.

The seventh landmark, San Diego Historical Landmark #14G, is Casa de Machado y Stewart.

img_8738 la casa de machado y stewart stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The museum was undergoing renovations when I was there, which means two things: (1) I don’t have any good pictures, and (2) I will get to go back!

img_8739 la casa de machado y stewart stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Casa de Machado y Stewart was built around 1835 (some sources say as early as 1830) by José Manuel Machado, a retired soldier from the presidio. Its walls are sun-dried adobe bricks, and the home originally had just a bedroom and a living room.

Rosa, José’s youngest daughter, and her husband, Jack Stewart, a sailor and carpenter from Maine, moved into the home after getting married in 1845. During their residence there—it was their only home—they added rooms, lime washed the adobe walls, built a barrel clay tile roof, and added wood-paned windows and a rear piazza (columned porch) for outdoor gatherings. It should also be noted that they raised 11 children in the home.

The building was listed as a California Historic Landmark in 1932, but its historic integrity and appearance had been significantly changed by previous large-scale alterations. For example, in 1911, Frank “Pancho” Stewart, Machado’s grandson, completely remodeled the home. He built a new wooden porch, covered the exterior adobe walls with wood siding, and laid interior wood board ceilings and tongue-and-groove floors. He also added a fireplace at the building’s west end to go along with an outdoor oven. By the late 1930s, the building didn’t look anything like an adobe building:

1937 view la casa de machado y stewart

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The house was occupied by descendants of the Stewarts until 1966. The California Department of Parks and  Recreation acquired the building in 1967 and hired Coneen Construction to repair and restore it to its original appearance circa 1835-1845.

The building underwent more significant repairs in 2011 and, since I was there in December 2014, we know that it was undergoing repairs then.

Casa de Machado y Stewart is one of five adobes in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Adobe buildings require regular maintenance so it’s not unusual for such a building to appear to be undergoing constant repairs. Inspections are critical especially after San Diego’s rainy season. In fact, Mrs. Carmen Meza, the last resident of the home, was forced to leave it due to severe damage sustained in the rains of 1966.

la casa de machado y stewart

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For the introductory blog post to San Diego’s historical landmarks, click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

For previous posts in the San Diego Historical Landmarks series, go here.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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This junk is for sale!

Picture of the Moment

When I moved to Houston in May 1977 after four years at Texas A&M University, a friend (I’ll call him Thad since his name was Thad) and I started a company called “Yesterday’s Treasures.”

Yesterday’s Treasures specialized in finding unique junk and antiques, fixing them up, and selling them, usually to specialized antique places in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Beaumont, Houston, Victoria, and Corpus Christi.

Thad was from Corpus Christi and had the “unique junk and antique” knowledge. I was the man with the money. We complemented each other very well.

This morning I went driving up Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 101), stopping here and there to take pictures, which resulted in 259 pictures and 2 videos during a 6-hour drive.

One of the places I visited was the Cedros Avenue Design District in Solana Beach. It’s only three blocks long but definitely one of my favorite areas.

Cedros Avenue Design District in Encinitas, California

Cedros Avenue Design District in Solana Beach, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Thad and I didn’t have a store front, but if we did, this sign would have fit us perfectly:

img_2430 cedros design district encinitas junk for sale stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The business looks like this:

img_2340 vintage treasures cedros design district solana beach junk for sale stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I could not determine the actual name of the business, and the Cedros Avenue Design District web site is all messed up right now.

I do like the sign under the arbor that says “Vintage Treasure” and the little pink circle sign above the third window from the right that says “Fancy Junk.”

If you’re in the San Diego area and looking for unique items for your home, check out the Cedros Avenue Design District. For a previous post about the Cedros Avenue District, see “I learned something today….

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I’m so confused over religion and war

Halls of History

When I was 10 and told my wise old grandmother that I wanted to be either an anesthesiologist or a history teacher, she advised me to become a history teacher. “How come?” I asked. “Because I don’t know what the other one is, but I know that if you study history, you won’t have to repeat it.”

She had been born in 1911, so she suffered through the Great Depression and World War II, and saw her oldest son go off to the Korean War and youngest son go off to the Vietnam War.

I quit wanting to be a history teacher once I found out how much money teachers made in Texas. I knew being a teacher and making that kind of money would not allow me to escape the poor and low-income families that I had been with for my first ten years of life. Yes, at the age of 10 I was able to determine that one needed money in life….

Nonetheless, I always have enjoyed reading about, and studying, history, especially war history. I find it fascinating what people will do to other people in the name of patriotism and religion…. crucifixions, beheadings, drawn and quartered, iron masks…. all sorts of unique ways to torture and kill.

Ever notice, though, that the sons and daughters of the wealthy and privileged never go off to war. There’s always some sort of exemption for them.

Rebel YellIn the book that I just finished reading about Confederate General Stonewall Jackson (►), one of the themes that ran through the general’s life was his religion. He loved his war, though, believing that everything he did in his life, including killing people, sometimes even his own soldiers after he judged them guilty of whatever sin they had allegedly committed, was directed by God. His god, of course.

So I found the beginning paragraph in Chapter 43 quite interesting. It’s a long paragraph so I have broken it up here to make it more readable:

Eighteen months after the first shot at Fort Sumter, there were certain truths that the soldiers had come to know. Death in war was neither picturesque nor peaceful, and dying bravely didn’t make you any less dead, or mean that you would not be dumped into the cold earth of a mass grave with everyone else, brave and not brave. Nor was there likely to be anyone to hear your last miserable words.

People of the era cherished the idea of a ‘good death’—a peaceful, dignified passing wherein God was embraced and sins repented and salvation attained, preferably in your own bed with your family gathered devotedly around to hear your last murmurs of Christian resignation. War made a mockery of all that. War made a mockery of the idea of a benevolent God. It replaced the family home with the rank, power-scorched horrors of the battlefield. These were the new truths.

In war you lived outdoors like a wild animal. You lived in blistering heat, drenching rains, and knifelike cold. You were exposed and vulnerable. The majority of men who died did not even have the honor of dying in a fight. Two out of three were carried away by diseases that killed them just as surely as minié balls. Those who survived did so on a quarter pound of bacon and eighteen ounces of flour a day—one-third the regular meat ration—with the infrequent small issue of rice, molasses, or sugar. (The rice ration was an ounce.)

Men lived without shoes or coats or blankets. Food was short all over the South. Soldiers hunted up sassafras buds and wild onions to ward off scurvy. Horses died for lack of forage. In Richmond, where much of the eastern army’s far was gathered and transshipped, there were bread riots.

I have never understood why an all-powerful, all-knowing God needs men to fight wars for it. That certainly does not sound like a benevolent God. Wouldn’t a benevolent God make sure that his warriors had shoes and food, the basic necessities? I’m so confused over religion and war.

And yet, get this, the beginning of the second paragraph:

In spite of these hardships, which seemed to multiply as the war dragged on, many of the men in the Confederate States Army remembered the winter of 1862-63 as one of the most extraordinary times of their lives.

Say what?

People are weird, which is probably why there never will be peace on Earth, not unless country boundaries and religion cease to exist.

fabricate supreme being

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Creepy, just creepy

Halls of History

When I was 10, I wanted to be an anesthesiologist, but only because I could spell it. What I really wanted to be was a history teacher. Fifty years later, I still want to be a history teacher. Alas, I teach chess in after-school enrichment programs………

Rebel YellI just finished reading an Advance Reader’s Edition of “Rebel Yell—The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson” by S. C. Gwynne. Advance Reader’s Editions usually are full of typos and errors, and this one was no exception, including it noting that Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) signed the Constitution in 1887…….

Notwithstanding that, though, I learned about a horse that is 165 years old! Its name is Little Sorrel (1850-1886) and it was General Jackson’s horse from the Civil War. “How,” you might ask, “is General Jackson’s horse 165 years old? Well, I’m glad you asked!

The Appendix, titled “Other Lives, Other Destinies,” includes this bit about Little Sorrel:

Lost after the Battle of Chancellorsville [which is the battle where General Jackson was wounded, wounds which eventually caused him to contract pneumonia, from which he died about nine days later] the horse Jackson called ‘Fancy’ was eventually recovered by a Confederate soldier and sent to Virginia governor John Letcher, who in turn sent him to live with Anna Jackson [Stonewall’s wife] in North Carolina. The horse became a much-loved pet, famous for using his mouth to lift latches and let himself out of his stable. In Anna Jackson’s memoir she said that he would ‘go deliberately to the doors of all the other horses and mules, liberate each one, and then march off with them all behind him … to the green fields of grain around the farm.’ Fences proved no obstacle to him, either. He would use his mouth and muzzle to life off fence rails until the fence was low enough to jump over. He later lived at VMI [Virginia Military Institution, where Jackson taught before the War], where he grazed on the parade ground and was a favorite of cadets, and spent his last days at the old confederate Soldiers’ Home. His hid was stuffed and mounted and can be seen today at VMI.”

Of course, I had to search the Internet to see if Little Sorrel still was at VMI. Indeed, he is:

Little-Sorrel-VMI

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Personally, I think that’s creepy.

My dad killed an 18-point deer when he was very young. Granddad had the deer head stuffed, and it hung on the wall of the living room. I despised that thing. In 1968, my oldest uncle from Los Angeles, California, came home to visit Kingsville, Texas, for Christmas. He took the deer head back to L.A. with him. I was never so happy to see something gone.

Stuffed heads and animals are common interior decorations, especially in the South. Unfortunately, my favorite restaurant here in San Diego County, Famous Dave’s BBQ in Vista, has some stuffed animal heads in their restaurant. Fortunately, when I go with Jim and his mom and boyfriend, we always get seated far, far away from those stuffed animals.

Maybe I’ll have Zoey the Coot Cat stuffed when she dies….

NOT!

Creepy, just creepy.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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I might be in for some interesting times

Did you know?

Occasionally one of my home inspection Clients appreciates my work so much that s/he will send me a gift after escrow closes.

A gift I got several years ago was three volumes of “Messages and Papers of the Presidents” by James D. Richardson (1843-1914), copyright 1897. Richardson served in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War and was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Tennessee, from 1885-1905.

The pages are in excellent shape, although yellowed on the edges. The bindings, however, are in very poor shape

IMG_2190 books

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Thus, I had never opened the volumes until yesterday.

Printed on tissue paper and inserted at the beginning of the first volume I opened (Vol. V) is this priceless gem:

IMG_2189 how to open a book small

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

How I miss the days when the captions for photographs were printed on tissue paper, as these books have.

img_2191 picture caption on tissue paper

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I remember many of the books that my wise old grandmother had, had tissue paper picture captions in them. They were fragile, yet awesome.

I don’t know when such tissue paper captions ceased but I suspect it was shortly after World War II when the world took on a faster pace. My suspicion is derived from the fact that all of the books I have with tissue paper captions were published before the War.

Until yesterday, I never knew that each sheet of paper in a book is called a leaf, and the two sides of the leaf are called pages. It also took me a while to find the definition of start relevant to books. After much searching (which means I’m now behind in unpacking!), I found this definition way down in a list of definitions for start:

to spring, slip, or work loose from place or fastenings

The fact that the definition was so far down the list probably indicates that the word it not used much anymore, if at all, to mean that.

My intent is to keep these books and eventually have the bindings restored. I have never done that before, so I might be in for some interesting times.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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