Category Archives: Halls of History

Out & About—If it’s old, I’m there

Out & About San Diego

I tried taking a shortcut out of an older residential area the other day and got lost instead. In the process of getting lost, though, I discovered the “Old Town Stairs.” Looks like these:

Old Town San Diego stairs

Anytime I see something looking like that, I’m parking the car, grabbing my camera, and taking off.

There was a sign at the foot of the stairs telling me that part of the trail ahead was used by soldiers and families two centuries ago to walk from California’s first Spanish mission and presidio to the area below where they had their gardens and livestock. Eventually the long walk caused many families to build homes in the valley below, resulting in what now is known as Old Town San Diego. Many archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians believe that the Carrillo House, now being used a golf shop for the Old Town golf course, was the first. The golf shop is the oldest adobe structure still standing in San Diego. It is clearly visible from the path:

Pro shop at the Old Town golf course

The path leads to the Presidio and mission (pictures and more about the Presidio, mission, and current Serra Museum are here).

The path was very quite and secluded, and I was the only person on it that morning.

Path from Old Town to Serra Museum

Path from Old Town to Serra Museum

The Old Town stairs are at the intersection of Mason Street and Jackson Street. The gray dashed lines on the map below are paths you can easily walk:


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Out & About—Mission Hills with a downtown view

Out & About San Diego

When I was delivering packages for Amazon Prime Now at this time last year, one of my goals was to find interesting places, nooks and crannies, that I probably wouldn’t find on my own. One such place I found was 1802 Puterbaugh Street in Mission Hills. It sits on a large lot on a high hill with a beautiful view of downtown San Diego.

1802 Puterbaugh Street, San Diego, California

View from 1802 Puterbaugh Street, San Diego, California

According to public records, the house was built in 1911 and has 2,088 square feet with 4 bedrooms and 1½ bathrooms. It also has a 2-car garage, something that may or may not be original to the property. Mission Hills in 1911 was an upscale, affluent neighborhood. It still is. Many of the people who lived in Mission Hills in 1911 could afford cars, and in today’s world their cars typically are top-of-the-line BMW’s, Mercedes-Benzes, and similar luxury cars.

Since it was dark when I made my delivery, I noted the address and went back a few weeks later during daylight to get some pictures. I thought the home might be a historical landmark but I haven’t found it on any lists so far.

The home last sold on September 7, 2010, for $650,000 to a man and woman with different last names. I mention that because on September 1, 2015, the man relinquished to the woman his interest in the property via a Quit Claim Deed. In other words, he simply gave her his share of the property, no questions asked. Sounds like a parting of the ways.

1802 Puterbaugh Street, San Diego, California

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Music on Mondays (2-20-17)—I once was a choir boy

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

Each day after I have accomplished 90% of my goals for that day (I always was an A student), I reward myself by exploring the book “Top Pop Singles” by Joel Whitburn. I’m looking for music that I like but don’t have in my collection.

Radio used to be my preferred method of discovering new music but I haven’t listened to radio since CD players started appearing in cars back in the late ’80s. However, with YouTube, Spotify, and various music sites like, it’s not difficult to have a listen to music without buying it. Now, with car stereo systems accepting flash drives, bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, I don’t see me ever going back to radio.

Here are five of the individual songs I added to my collection this past week:

“Wild Women Do” by Natalie Cole, 1990
I always liked this song from “Pretty Woman” but not enough to buy the Soundtrack back in 1990. Over the years I forgot about it. Last week I re-discovered it and bought it.
It spent 10 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, peaking at #34.

“Time for Letting Go” by Jude Cole, 1990
Jude Cole had 5 minor hits from 1990-1993. This was his second.
I had never heard of him or his music before last week.
“Time for Letting Go” spent 15 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #32.

“Shelter Me” by Joe Cocker, 1986
Although I knew of Joe Cocker because of his covers of Beatle songs
(“With A Little Help from My Friends” and “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window”), I never really liked his music enough to buy it.
I knew just enough about him to have an intelligent conversation
about him and his music. This song doesn’t sound like Joe Cocker.
“Shelter Me” spent 4 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #91.

“C’mon Everybody” by Eddie Cochran, 1958
Eddie Cochran was was just 21 when he died in 1960 in a car accident.
I was 5, and living in northern Utah,
so this type of “devil music” never made the radio stations there.
I’m only now discovering his music.
“C’mon Everybody” spent 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #35.

“Run To Paradise” by The Choirboys, 1989
The Choirboys had one hit. This is it.
It spent 7 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #80

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Out & About—Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park

Out & About San Diego

When I’m out in the world and find books sitting around begging for eyes to look at them, well, I have those eyes. I could be at one of those restaurants that has shelves and shelves of old and tattered books on the wall, and I’ll be standing over the booth where YOU are eating, looking at the books on the shelves above your booth. I’m not stalking you. Really, I’m not….

Several years ago I found a book in such a fashion. I noted the title, went home and did a Google search, and found me a used copy. On January 1, 2017, I found the book and decided that it looked and sounded interesting enough to read. The book is “The Historic Backcountry” by Christopher Wray. As I was reading through it I was creating driving tours of the backcountry. Then I discovered that he already has done that, too, in his book “Highways to History.”U.S. 80 Historic Route

On January 26, 2017, I set out on one of the driving tours, “Highway 80, El Cajon to Ocotillo.” Highway 80 used to be the main thoroughfare from San Diego to Arizona. Then they built Interstate 8, and Highway 80 became an also-ran. Now it’s a “Historic Route.”

The route is about 86 miles but that’s only if you are successful in not having to do any switchbacks, wraprounds, or U-turns, and if you don’t take any of the short side trips. My trip wound up being 131 miles, one way.

One of the first stops on the tour is the ruins of Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park.

Marshal Scotty's Playland Park, El Cajon, California

Marshal Scotty's Playland Park, El Cajon, California

Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park was founded in the 1950s by Frank Hobbs as Scotty’s Kiddy Rides in National City. It was named for his wife, Scotty. He moved it to El Cajon (some sources say Lakeside; the two city boundaries are there) when he bought the small Wally Park amusement park that was there. Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park opened on January 1, 1967.

It grew into a western-themed 25-acre amusement park offering 15 carnival rides (Tilt-a-Whirl, a 20-foot Ferris wheel, bumper cars, mini-boat rides….), the River Canyon Raceway go-cart track, a miniature train, the Raging River Innertube Ride which snaked 500 feet down a hillside, a roller coaster, pony rides, an arcade, shops, and facilities for volleyball, horseshoes, softball, swimming, and picknicking under the California live oak trees.

Ownership of Marshal Scotty’s changed several times between 1967 and 1986 when Bill Lee bought it. Lee invested $500,000 with the intent of developing it into a world-class water park. He’s the one who added the go-cart track and the water slide, at the time the longest water slide in Southern California. Lee filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1990, from which Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park never recovered.

In 1995, the property and equipment were sold in foreclosure to United Leisure Corp. of Fountain Valley for $1.6 million. The company named the park Frasier’s Frontier ( some sources say “Frazier’s Frontier”) and established Camp Frasier, a day camp for children, on the property. In 1996 and 1997, Camp Frasier attracted about 200 campers each summer.

By 1998, United Leisure closed Frasier’s Frontier and Camp Frasier, and put the property up for sale. No buyers. It sat empty from 1998 to 2011. Rudy and Carrie Ludeke re-opened the the go-carts as Canyon Raceway on November 5, 2011, with operating hours scheduled as 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 2 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Canyon Raceway eventually closed but I could not find the date of closure.

What’s left of the amusement park is private property behind a chain-link fence, which is why I only have two pictures of it. However, in researching for this blog post, I found out that for the past two Halloweens the property has been open as “Marshal Scary Scotty’s Scare Trail.” The 2015 flyer said about the park that it is

“….haunted by past park employees! This year, see the Bumper Car carnage, try to stay in one piece through the Slaughter trailer and the hunted [sic] park offices, visit the frighting [sic] ferris wheel….and don’t forget to brace yourself as you walk through the remains of the death coaster. Marshal Scary Scotty’s Scare Trail is packed full of spine tingling, heart pounding effects that are so real they will keep you screaming for your life as you try to find your way out.”

Marshal Scary Scotty's Scare Trail

Notice that for 2015 the Scary Trail was “Sponsored By Saving Horses Inc.” Apparently they plan on donating proceeds to a charity each year because a post for 2016 said, “Our Charity this year is: Lyonhearted Foundation.”

I guess you know what I’ll be on the lookout for come Halloween 2017.

The movie, “Scavenger Hunt” was filmed here in San Diego, in the locker room of the San Diego Chargers, at the San Diego Zoo, downtown San Diego, Crown Point, La Mesa, Pacific Beach, the Embarcadero, and, of course, Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park. It had an all-star cast: Richard Benjamin, James Coco, Scatman Crothers, Ruth Gordon, Cloris Leachman, Cleavon Little, Roddy McDowall, Robert Morley, Richard Mulligan, Tony Randall, Dirk Benedict, Willie Aames, Stephanie Faracy, Stephen Furst, and Richard Masur. It was released on Christmas Day 1979 with its premiere right here in San Diego.

Here is the movie from YouTube, which I will be watching later today:

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Out & About—Natural springs in a desert city

Out & About San Diego

Not too far from me—in fact, directly across the street—is Collier Park. It’s a quaint little park with tennis courts, a boarded up unused building, a non-working drinking fountain, some picnic tables, a creek which somehow always has water in it (this is a desert), some very tall very old eucalyptus trees, and some unpaved trails bordered by California pepper trees. Pretty much the only people who use the park are tennis players from the high school not too far away and people playing with their dogs.

Collier Park currently is being renovated. Since renovation often means “historical destruction,” I decided to do a little research and get some pictures just in case what was there would be no more.

Collier Park is named for Colonel David Charles Collier, a distinguished San Diego citizen and early La Mesa developer. Collier is perhaps best known for organizing the Panama-California Exposition at San Diego in 1915. However, he also built a railroad line to Ocean Beach in 1909 which led to a real estate boom at the beach.

Colonel Collier bought East County lands in 1905, which included the natural springs and what is now Collier Park. By 1907 he had established a bottling works on the site. Those bottling works are the Spring House. From everything I can find, apparently the bottling works are still in existence inside the Spring House.

La Mesa Spring HouseCollier Park La Mesa, California

La Mesa Spring House, Collier Park, La Mesa

Spring House ca. 1912La Mesa Spring House, ca. 1912

The natural springs made it a seasonal stopping place for the Kumeyaay Indians. By the 1860s, rancher Robert Allison owned most of the southern part of La Mesa, and his family used the springs to water their herds of sheep.

Water still springs forth from the natural springs, which is why there is water in that creek all the time. Here’s the little drainage line that comes out of the Spring House, draining that natural spring water into the little creek:

Natural spring drainage in Collier Park, La Mesa, California

In 1910, Collier donated a portion of what is now Collier Park for public use, and by 1920 the City was developing the site for use as a municipal park.

Natural spring creek and spring fountainCollier Park La Mesa, California

The red brick structure in the picture above is the Spring Fountain. Originally it was located at the La Mesa Depot of the San Diego & Cuyamaca Eastern Railroad, as seen in this picture from 1912:

Spring fountain at La Mesa Depot, ca. 1914

Water for the Spring Fountain was pumped from La Mesa Springs about a mile away. The Spring Fountain was in use until the 1960s when it was moved to Collier Park.

Renovation plans indicated that the Spring House was to be destroyed but the citizenry appeared to have rebelled, and those plans of destruction appear to be on hold while the City tries to figure out what to do. I vote for opening it up as a tourist attraction. It wouldn’t be on the scale of Disneyland but I think quite a few people would stop by to see natural springs smack dab in the middle of a thriving city.

Collier Park La Mesa, California

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Out & About—Cajon Pass, Mormon Rocks, and the Blue Cut Fire

Out & About The World

My wise old grandmother was the epitome of efficiency. She never just went for a drive, or went for a walk, or went out just to go out. I’m the same way. I always have a purpose for going out, and I always try to get several things done in one long trip rather than making several short trips.

So when I’m out and about and run across something interesting that’s not on my list of things to do, I have three choices:

1. Stop and do it.
2. Ignore it.
3. Make a note of it and come back some other time.

I usually prefer to stop and do it since I’m rarely on a schedule, just trying to get things done on my list.

When I was out in the Mojave Desert last week on Highway 138 heading to Cajon Pass, I was zooming along at 69 mph when suddenly I came upon the Mormon Rocks. Look exactly like these:

Mormon Rocks

The mountains are rugged and the desert floor is flat, so to have those suddenly pop up in front of you is like something out of a Stephen King novel… “The Stand” or “The Dark Tower.”

The Mormon Rocks basically are at the intersection of Highway 138 and Interstate 15. According to Wikipedia, “In 1851, a group of Mormon settlers led by Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. Rich traveled through the Cajon Pass in covered wagons on their way from Salt Lake City to southern California. The Mormon Rocks are where the Mormon trail and the railway merge.”

The Mormon Rocks are visual evidence of the San Andreas fault that runs through the area. They were so big and enormous that I couldn’t get them all in one picture, so I took 17 pictures and then used the Photomerge function in Photoshop to create two panoramas:

Mormon Rocks

Mormon Rocks

The vegetation in the pictures, coastal sage scrub and chaparral, is black and leafless because a wildfire roared through this area in August last year. Scrub and chaparral tend to be brittle, dry, and oily, perfect for wildfires.

Here in California we name our fires, kind of like the southeast names their hurricanes. We don’t consider fires to be people, though, so we usually name our fires after some landmark in the area where they started. This wildfire is known as the Blue Cut Fire since it started on the Blue Cut hiking trail.

The Blue Cut Fire was first reported on August 16, 2016, at 10:36 a.m. A red flag warning, also known as a fire weather warning, was in effect with temperatures near 100°F and winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour. By August 18, the fire had burned 37,000 acres of land and destroyed 105 homes and 213 other structures.

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Music on Mondays (2-6-17)—Normal people don’t

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

When I get sad, depressed, and suicidal (my dad committed suicide), I try to do something unusual, or I sleep, or I read, or I shop, or I disappear.

Yesterday, I disappeared. I’m back.

I drove 573 miles yesterday in search of unique locations in which to take pictures and videos of trains.

Here’s a cool railroad tunnel that I found yesterday, used by Metrolink on its journey from Los Angeles east to Lancaster and Palmdale.

Metrolink railroad tunnel

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I had a lot of music with me, as always, but I didn’t have any train songs. Interesting.

Since I was on a search for interesting, unique locations, I thought I’d post a couple of interesting, unique songs about trains.

First up is “The Carrollton March” by Philip Antony Corri. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, began composing in 1802, helped found the London Philharmonic Society and the Royal Academy of Music, and by the 1820s, had adopted the name Arthur Clifton and settled in Baltimore, Maryland.

“The Carrollton March” is the earliest known “train song,” having been copyrighted on July 1, 1828. Clifton composed it to commemorate the July 4 groundbreaking of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. It’s a solo piano piece here but I don’t know if it was originally solo piano or if it was transposed by the pianist here.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This next one, “Cross Tie Walker” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, was very much me in my youth. I still walk the cross ties occasionally although getting caught doing so can be a significant fine.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Here’s a picture I got last month in a lonely, forsaken place where I was talking the cross ties. I was out near the border with Mexico, so I got stopped five times by the Border Patrol. After all, normal people don’t walk abandoned railroad tracks out in the desert near the Mexican border………..

Walking the ties

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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