Category Archives: History

Out & About—Pottery Canyon Natural Park in La Jolla, California

Out & About

My wise old grandmother introduced me to the joys of gardening, so anytime I see a plant nursery or anything related to plants, including pottery, I tend to stop and take a look.

When I found Pottery Canyon Natural Park in La Jolla, a little sign was zooming by me at about 50 miles per hour…………Wait. Maybe I was zooming by it………!

Therein is the problem. The poorly marked entrance to Pottery Canyon Natural Park is on a curve on one of La Jolla’s busiest roadways. If you don’t plan your method of attack appropriately…. an accident in the making. Not only that, but Pottery Canyon Natural Park is not on any map anywhere. Here’s where it is, though:

Location of Pottery Canyon Natural Park in La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The little stub of a street on the right side of Torrey Pines Road is Pottery Park Driveway. Although there is a traffic signal there, I have never been through there on Torrey Pines Road where the signal was anything other than green with cars going up the hill at 50 mph or more. That presents a problem if you’re coming out of Pottery Park Driveway because the light is always red for the Driveway and traffic on the other side going south backs up from all the traffic signals at the messy Torrey Pines Road/La Jolla Parkway intersection. As you’re leaving the Park, I recommend turning right and going north to La Jolla Village Drive to get back to Interstate 5. Otherwise, plan on a long wait at the traffic signal in order to go south.

Pottery Park Driveway leads to a small parking lot big enough for four motorcycles or two Mini Coopers or one 2002 Toyota Camry V6, black.

With that said, what did I find at Pottery Canyon Natural Park? Well, it’s a eucalyptus grove with a hiking trail that is wide, mulched, and short, maybe a half mile, round trip. Easily hiked. Heck, even my husband, Jim, went hiking with me and he’s not the outdoorsy type like me.

That’s it.

Pottery Canyon Natural Park in La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There is history behind this little park, though. According to research, there is a sign about the history. I couldn’t find the sign, which is kind of odd since the park is so small. Nonetheless, according to the La Jolla Historical Society, here’s what the sign apparently says:

Cornelio Rodriguez, an accomplished potter, came to La Jolla in 1928 from Tomatlan in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. He was looking for a suitable site where he and his brothers, Abraham and Ubaldo, could start a pottery works. Here, at the bend of what was then called La Jolla Canyon Road and which was the main route to Los Angeles, he found potter’s gold, the perfect clay deposit, otherwise known as “barro.”

Mission San Diego de AlcalaHe purchased the property, and he and his brothers established the La Jolla Canyon Clay Products Company and built it and their houses here. Their families and their company flourished. They produced handmade roof tiles, unglazed floor tiles, and adobe brick for more than 20 years. Tiles used in the restoration of Mission San Diego de Alcala [picture ►], the construction of the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club and La Jolla’s Mary Star of the Sea church came from here, as did the roof tiles of numerous houses of the Mission Revival architectural period.

In the 1950s, the brothers were no longer able to use the large oil-fired kiln of earlier days. Many in the large family moved, but Abraham and Cornelio lived out their days here. Cornelio and his wife, Matiana, continued making pots and other clay products on a more limited scale. Using hand-dug clay shaped on a potter’s wheel and fired in a circular wood-burning kiln of ancient Roman design, they supplied the community with unique pottery and delighted generations of school children with deomnstrations of their skill.

All that remains of the original tile works is the old wood-burning kiln, which continued in use until the 1980s.

Sadly, I did not find the old wood-burning kiln either. The missing sign and kiln makes me wonder how long ago that was written by the La Jolla Historical Society.

Pottery Canyon Natural Park in La Jolla, California

Pottery Canyon Natural Park in La Jolla, California

Pottery Canyon Natural Park in La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Music on Mondays (1-26-15)—I don’t want to get thin

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

My wise old grandmotherToday would have been the 104th birthday of my wise old grandmother (1911-2003).

In her honor, I thought I would feature some songs that were popular in 1911 when she was born.

I thought that I wouldn’t find anything and would have to resort to modern renditions of 1911 songs.

Well, there actually are recordings on YouTube of original versions from 1911.

The first song I discovered was by Sophie Tucker (1887-1966), and since I knew the name, I decided to delve more into who she was. Once I started researching her, I decided to feature her instead of songs from 1911. I think my wise old grandmother would be okay with that….

Sophie Tucker (neé Sonya Kalish) was a Ukrainian-born American singer, comedian, actress, and radio personality. She was bornto a Jewish family en route to America from Tulchyn, Vinnytsia Region, Russian Empire. The family appropriated the last name Abuza, settled in Hartford, Connecticut, and opened a restaurant. She was one of the most popular entertainers in America during the first half of the 20th century, widely known by the nickname “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas.”

Here is the first song I found:

“Some Of These Days” by Sophie Tucker (1887-1966)

“Some Of These Days” was entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1995. “Some Of These Days” also is the title of her 1945 autobiography.

Considered “big and ugly,” Sophie Tucker in 1908 started including “fat girl humor” in her burlesque shows.

Two of her most famous fat girl songs are “I Don’t Want To Get Thin” and “Nobody Loves A Fat Girl.”

Listen closely to the lyrics from 104 years ago. Seems when it comes to “fat girls,” nothing has changed in over a century. That, in my view, is a sad commentary on society, or maybe a sad commentary on a male-dominated society. I think we need more Sophie Tuckers in the world….

“I Don’t Want To Get Thin”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

“Nobody Loves A Fat Girl”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Out & About—The La Jolla Munchkin House

Out & About

There is so much to see and do in La Jolla. After 21½ years living in the San Diego area, I’m still going to La Jolla to see and do things.

Recently I made a trip to La Jolla just to see the famous Munchkin House. Looks like this:

The Munchkin House of La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Munchkin House of La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Munchkin House of La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There used to be four of these Munchkin Houses, and there are many rumors about them, foremost of which is that after the success of “The Wizard of Oz” movie, released in August 1939, several “Munchkins” took their earnings and built four houses high up on the hillside overlooking La Jolla, houses that were not as tall as traditional homes.

Sadly, the facts aren’t near as exciting as the rumors.

IMG_9271 framedThe last of the remaining houses is located at 7477 Hillside Drive in La Jolla. Public records indicate that the house was built in 1935. That right there destroys the rumor that Munchkins took their earnings from a 1939 movie and had the houses built.

The house was designed by noted architect Cliff May (1909-1989). May grew up in San Diego and is best known for developing the suburban post-war dream home, the California Ranch House. He designed over 1,000 custom residences, and over 18,000 tract homes bear the imprint of his model house prototypes. He died at his mansion in Los Angeles in Brentwood, a neighborhood made famous worldwide by O.J. Simpson in 1994.

The Munchkin House has 1,176 square feet, two bedrooms and one bathroom, and was last sold in August 2003 for $975,000. Although 1,176 square feet certainly is small for a La Jolla home, look at the rear of the house—love the wraparound deck!—as well as the sweeping view it has of La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean:

The Munchkin House of La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Ocean view from The Munchkin House of La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The other reason why the Munchkin rumors hold water (pun intended) is due to the lay of the land. I could easily touch the top of the roof without jumping. The house is built into the hillside, so some of it is below street level, leading to the optical illusion that the home’s height is lower than normal, perfect for Munchkins!

Look at the first picture, paying close attention to the doorway. See the path from the street to the door, below ground level? Then look at the window north of the doorway. See how the ground slopes up, making it look like the window is not as high as normal? It’s just closer to the ground is all.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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San Diego Historical Landmarks—#11: Villa Montezuma

San Diego Historical Landmarks

The Villa Montezuma is unique in its appearance and its history. It is located in the historic Sherman Heights neighborhood at 1925 K Street.

The City of San Diego owns Villa Montezuma and operates it as a house museum. It was being renovated when I was there, so I did not get to go inside, which means a future trip to get interior pictures.

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Villa Montezuma was built in 1887 by the William and John High, two wealthy ranchers and real estate developers. It was built specifically to lure Jesse Shepard (neé Benjamin Henry Jesse Francis Shepard) to living in San Diego. And it worked!

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Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Jesse Shepard was a renowned pianist, composer, singer, spiritualist, mystic, poet, and, using the pen name Francis Grierson, an author. He was born in Birkenhead, England, on September 18, 1848. Soon afterwards, the family moved to the United States, eventually settling in Sangamon County, Illinois.

As a youth, Shepard attended the last of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 in Alton, Illinois. Lincoln’s spiritual strength and the atmosphere leading up to the Civil War inspired his two books, The Valley of Shadows and Lincoln, the Practical Mystic.

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In 1869, convinced of his musical talent and charm, as well as a great deal of self-confidence, went to Europe in search of his fame and fortune, a quest that continued throughout his life until his death, while performing, in 1927 in Los Angeles at the age of 79.

His belief in himself resulted in a growing popularity in the salons of Paris. That popularity resulted in countless invitations to many countries where he would spend weeks or months at the homes and estates of many noted men and women of wealth and influence, entertaining such titled patrons as the Czar of Russia, England’s Prince of Wales, and Alexander Dumas, the great French novelist.

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In 1871, while in St. Petersburg, he expanded his interest in Eastern mysticism, and when he returned to the United States in 1874, he visited the celebrated medium, Madame Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy.

While living in Chicago, Shepard gave seances and claimed to be in touch with ancient Egyptian spirits, putting on a musical performance which included singing “in two voices,” made possible by his great vocal range. He sometimes claimed that the spirits of famous composers or pianists performed through him and he considered his musical talents to be the result of intuition rather than study and practice. His concerts were usually given in dimly-lighted rooms, and described as “mysterious and entirely unique.”

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Sources at the San Diego History Center indicate that, in 1885, Shepard met Lawrence W. Tonner, a man fifteen years his junior, but who became Shepard’s secretary and devoted companion for over forty years. Was Jesse gay? According to the Villa Montezuma Museum itself:

It’s possible, but Jesse was a private person regarding his personal life. Unlike other writers, he never alluded to the nature of his relationship with Tonner in his writing. (Homosexuality was illegal and not openly discussed then. Also, in our modern times we don’t understand how privacy was respected and valued then.) We honor the more than 40-year relationship and devotion between Jesse and Tonner, who were together until Jesse’s passing in 1927.

Tonner’s name seldom appeared in articles by or about Shepard and he did not even rate a listing in the San Diego City Directory during the years that he and Shepard lived in the Villa Montezuma.

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Shepard first visited California in 1876 on a musical tour during which he played and sang at several of the old missions. At San Diego, he wrote: “I found the Mission in ruins, with owls roosting over the dilapidated doors. But what a mysterious charm this old ruin cast over that placid region, serene in an atmosphere of transcendental silence.”

Shepard returned to San Diego in 1886, making San Diego and the Villa Montezuma his home for two eventful years, delighting audiences with his musical galas which always ended with his own musical composition, “Grand Egyptian March.” Sadly, I could not find a rendition anywhere of any of his music. I did, however, find a review of one of his 1878 performances.

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Stained-glass windows costing $7,000 depict his two favorite composers, Beethoven and Mozart; Rubens and Raphael, two of his favorite artists; and Shakespeare, Goethe, and Corneille, his favorite poets.

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In December 1889, Shepard announced that he was leaving San Diego permanently, giving a public farewell concert on December 17, the same day on which he completed the sale of the Villa Montezuma and all its furnishings to David D. Dare.

Contemporary news stories indicate that the Villa Montezuma was built for $19,000 and that it was sold to David D. Dare, in 1889, for $29,000. Dare, called “a high-flying financier,” had ruined a bank in Cheyenne, Wyoming, before moving to San Diego. In San Diego, he opened a bank and a cable car railroad and swindled many trusting investors before the bank examiners began investigating his affairs. In addition, Dare was forced to sell the Villa within a month after its purchase, thus beginning a cycle of chronic turnovers that would plague Villa Montezuma throughout its history. Dare fled to Europe in 1890, and never returned.

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Villa Montezuma was designed by the architectural firm of N.A. Comstock and Carl Trotsche, and the builders were Cheney & Leonard. One interpretation for the name is that it is close to Mexico. Another is that when the Shepards left England, they came to America on a migrant ship called “The Montezuma.”

A benefit dinner given for Shepard on the evening of May 29, 1927, marked his final performance. Lawrence Tonner described the occasion:

“It was Sunday evening… We had a number of people invited for a musical recital at our home — about thirty. A collection was to be taken up. Mr. Grierson had played a number of his marvelous instantaneous compositions on the piano and had given the company a talk on his experiences and impressions of France and Italy.

“He turned to the instrument and announced that the next and last piece of the evening would be an Oriental improvisation, Egyptian in character.

“The piece was long, and when it seemed to be finished he sat perfectly still as if resting after the ordeal of this tremendous composition. He often did that, but it lasted too long and I went up to him — he was gone!

“His head was only slightly bent forward, as usual in playing, and his hands rested on the keys of the last chord he had touched.

“There had not been the slightest warning. He had seemed in usual health…and he had been smiling and laughing with the company even a few moments before he passed away.”

Villa Montezuma flourishes as a center for art and music, with exhibitions, recitals, poetry readings, and receptions held regularly in its beautifully and handsomely furnished rooms. In other words, there might be a few more blog posts about Villa Montezuma in the future!

Villa Montezuma in San Diego, California

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

Need a unique gift?
Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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San Diego Historical Landmarks—#10: Torrey Pines Area, part 2

San Diego Historical Landmarks

If you missed Torrey Pines Area, part 1, here it is.

Let us start at the far north of the Torrey Pines Area as defined by this map:

Torrey Pines Area

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That blue just below Carmel Valley Road is Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. It’s a great place to go train watching since Amtrak, Coaster, and BNSF freight use the single track through the marsh.

Amtrak under the Del Mar Bridge at Torrey Pines State Beach near San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Those trees you see on the hill behind the bridge are torrey pines in the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

The torrey pine (Pinus torreyana) is the rarest pine species in the United States. It grows only in a small area here in San Diego and on Santa Rosa Island, one of the islands in Channel Island National Park off the coast of Southern California.

Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana)

Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana)

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I went to the Reserve at 7:00 one morning and did everything within my power not to just sit out there and watch the trains go by. Long-time readers probably realize how difficult it was for me to ignore the trains. Nonetheless, here’s a walk through a couple of the trails in the Reserve:

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The first time I visited the Reserve was back in May 1993. As I remember it, there was very little sunshine to be found on the trails since it was a fairly dense forest of torrey pines. Sadly, the pines slowly are losing their fight for existence due to drought, insect attacks, and pollution from nearby developments and roadways.

There are two named beaches below the 400-foot cliffs of the Reserve: Torrey Pines State Beach and Blacks Beach. Blacks Beach is one of the world’s largest and best naturist beaches. It is difficult to get to because one has to navigate trails down the 400-foot sandstone cliffs, and each time you go, the trails are different due to erosion from human traffic and rainfall during the winter weeks.

My knees don’t like me going up and down cliffs anymore, so these pictures are from a trip a couple of years ago:

Blacks Beach

Stairs to Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Torrey Pines Golf Course is San Diego’s best and most beautiful course, and it’s a municipal course! It is where Tiger Woods won his last major championship, the U.S. Open, back in 2008.

Torrey Pines Golf Course

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Overlooking the golf course is The Lodge at Torrey Pines, a AAA Five Diamond hotel:

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The University of California at San Diego (UCSD) is in the Torrey Pines Area. UCSD was established in November 1960, and in just 54 years has risen to prominence among universities worldwide, with U.S. News & World Report recently ranking it as the 18th Top World University.

The campus has many unique buildings and public art, and is worth spending a day just walking around gawking at everything. The library, shown in the first picture, is named after Theodore Geisel, better known as “Dr. Seuss.” Geisel was a La Jolla resident when he died, and many of his works are in the Geisel Collection in the library.

Geisel Library at the University of California San Diego

UCSD Sun God

University of California San DiegoUniversity of California San Diego

Computer Science & Engineering Building at University of California San Diego

House at the University of California San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Across the street from the campus is the historic Torrey Pines Glider Port. I have been known to sit there for hours at a time and just watch the hang gliders.

Torrey Pines Gliderport, San Diego

Torrey Pines Gliderport, San Diego

Torrey Pines Glider Port

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

On the beach below the Glider Port is the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, founded in 1903, and one of the world’s foremost oceanographic institutions. The Institution is now a part of the University of California San Diego, and also includes the Birch Aquarium. Take an afternoon to visit the Aquarium because the view of the beach and ocean is unparalleled, and the aquariums and fish are pretty nice, too!

Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego

Scripps Institute of Oceanography, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

At the very south of the Torrey Pines Area is the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:

Salk Institute, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Salk Institute was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine. It often is ranked as the premier biological & biomedicine institute in the world.

Constant praise is heaped upon the architecture, but I find it to be absolutely atrocious. Bare concrete everywhere; just depressing and oogie.

Salk Institute in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There you have it. An absolutely gorgeous and historic area, so if ever you are in San Diego, take a day out of your schedule and go visit the Torrey Pines Area in La Jolla. You won’t regret it.

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

Need a unique gift?
Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

San Diego Historical Landmarks—#10: Torrey Pines Area, part 1

San Diego Historical Landmarks

It has taken me a good amount of time to research San Diego Historical Landmark #10, Torrey Pines Area, because there is no good description of where this area is. There is a weird description in one source that defines the area as

One mile strip: both sides of Soledad River from 3 miles north of Del Mar to 5 miles south of Point Pinos.

The problem:

(1) I can locate no Soledad River in San Diego County. There is a Soledad Lagoon but it is south of Del Mar, not 3 miles north.

(2) The only Point Pinos I can find is up near San Francisco.

(3) To me, it sounds like the “one mile strip” is at least an eight mile strip, i.e., from 3 miles north of Del Mar to 5 miles south…. Confusing.

One source has notes which say, “Torry [sic] Pine Trees, one of the largest Torry [sic] Pine reserves.”

Since I can’t find a definitive area, I’m going to make my own map of the Torrey Pines Area as I think it might be, based on what I know about the area along North Torrey Pines Road:

Torrey Pines Area

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In part 2, I’ll start exploring the Torrey Pines Area beginning at the north. On our trek to the south, I’ll take you to:

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve,

Torrey Pines State Beach and Blacks Beach,

Torrey Pines Golf Course (where Tiger Woods won his last major championship, the U.S. Open, back in 2008),

Torrey Pines Lodge and maybe a couple of other ritzy hotels in the area,

University of California at San Diego,

Scripps Institute of Oceanography,

Salk Institute,

the historic Torrey Pines Gliderport.

Here are a few pictures to whet your appetite:

Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana)

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

 Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Torrey Pines Gliderport, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Geisel Library at the University of California San Diego

Geisel Library at the University of California San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Scripps Institute of Oceanography, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Salk Institute, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Torrey Pines Glider Port

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

Need a unique gift?
Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat