Category Archives: Uncategorized

Out & About—Thank you, Amy. You’re great!

Out & About San Diego

El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego currently is signed as a business loop for Interstate 8. Prior to that, it was the principal thoroughfare from San Diego to El Cajon and points farther east as U.S. Highway 80. In the ’50s and ’60s it was known locally simply as
“The Boulevard” and was the cruising strip where high school and college  students went to see and be seen.

I drive El Cajon Boulevard quite often, but since it’s a heavily used, I’m usually watching traffic instead of looking at sights. In early January when I decided to take a driving tour of what remains of U.S. Highway 80, now called “Old Highway 80” or “Historic Route 80,” my tour started at the corner of Park Boulevard and El Cajon Boulevard. My goal was to see sights, traffic be darned.

One of the earliest stops on the tour was 3727 El Cajon Boulevard, a 5-story building with a huge mural on the corner:

Mural at 3727 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, California

Mural at 3727 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, California

Other than the mural showing old cars on El Cajon Boulevard and a California US 80 sign, I have not been able to find out anything else about it. The building, however, is the historic Bekin Building. It originally was constructed as a storage facility for Bekins Van Lines, founded in 1891 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and used by Bekins for several decades.

Currently it hosts a variety of light manufacturers, office dwellers, artists, and creative craftsman. Tenants include The Boulevard Business Improvement Association, a cabinet shop, several upholsterers, a mid century modern furniture reseller, an industrial lighting designer, and several Etsy & Ebay professionals.

According to public records, the building has 31,500 square feet and was built in 1941. The property is zoned warehouse industrial. Interestingly, the current owner is R&C Bekins LLC. R&C Bekins does not appear to be related to Bekins Van Lines, and the company was founded just a couple of weeks before buying the building. I’m thinking that the owner of R&C Bekins, Amy Campagna, had a soft spot for Bekins and this building and decided to buy it. Maybe she worked there for many years.

According to sources, her intent is to provide an affordable and unique environment with a flexible range of spaces to house small businesses and creative persons. With property taxes on this building being in the $30,000 range annually, I can’t believe that she makes enough money from rents to pay both the taxes and the mortgage on the building, so all I have to say is, “Thank you, Amy. You’re great!”

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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Halls of History—Then the tax bills started arriving

Halls of History

I always have done a lot of reading. People have always asked me how I had so much time for reading. I call it multitasking.

When I was in college at Texas A&M University, the lines were long for football tickets, Aggie rings (called “senior rings” at other schools), and the Aggieland (called “yearbooks” at other schools). I learned to take a book or magazine with me to read while waiting in line. Most of the time it was a textbook back then—priorities, you know.

In today’s world, magazines pretty much don’t exist anymore, so Books R Us. I’m usually reading two concurrently, a history book and a fiction book (Stephen King, Lee Child, Lincoln Child, etc.).

The history book I’m reading right now is a history of the area where I currently live: Our Hills and Valleys: A History of the Helix-Spring Valley Region by Thomas Joseph Adema. Here are some tidbits, excerpts, and thoughts:

Picture it. Early 1930s.

Great Depression. You are barely surviving.

You own four acres of land. Your property tax bill arrives.

$1,200. Four times what the land and home are worth.

What are you going to do? Why, stop paying taxes, of course. The Mattoon Act will take care of you.

Must have been the greatest law ever, right? Can’t pay your property taxes? Fall back on The Mattoon Act.

San Vicente DamThe Acquisition and Improvement Act, its proper name, was passed by the California legislature in May 1925. The bill was intended to streamline the process for, and provide funding for, the construction of needed public works—paved streets, lighting, bridges, reservoirs, better and more reliable water delivery.

Property condemnation was quicker and easier. Community authorities had the power to create “improvement districts” that crossed city and county lines. Thus, if a new sewer line was needed, the areas benefiting were designated “improvement areas.” Bonds were sold to fund the construction, and landowners in the improvement district would pay off the bonds with a yearly ad valorem tax.

Real estate developers loved the law. They used public funds to install street lamps, build parks, and widen and pave roads in their newly subdivided neighborhoods. City councils and utility companies also loved it.

Homeowners initially liked the law because their neighborhoods were improved, but they had no choice about which improvement districts they were thrown into. It was entirely possible that if you lived at the boundary of three cities, you could be in three improvement districts.

Meeting of La Mesa, Lemon Grove, and Spring Valley CAAs an example, I live at the corner of the boundaries for La Mesa, Lemon Grove, and Spring Valley. Imagine all of them putting me in their improvement districts and taxing me for anything and everything from which I might benefit as a member of the public. Then throw in that suddenly I am unemployed and the nation is in the midst of a Great Depression. Sunk, I would be.

Then the tax bills started arriving.

The killer provision in The Mattoon Act said what would happen if one could not pay one’s taxes: The rest of the members of the improvement district would have to pay them.

So if Johnny could not pay his taxes, no big deal.

Back in the days of The Mattoon Act, Spring Valley had ten households. When Johnny could not pay his $1,200 tax bill in 1927, his tax bill was split between the other nine households.

Joe, after paying his $1,200 tax bill, suddenly got another tax bill for $133.33, his share of Johnny’s bill. Joe couldn’t pay the additional $133.33, so his tax bill was split between the other eight households.

Mary, after paying her $1,200 and her $133.33 share of Joe’s bill, now got yet another tax bill for $16.66. On and on it went.

Spring Valley CAHomes were lost to foreclosure for failure to pay taxes, or tax liens were placed on their homes, making it impossible to sell the property. Homes fell into disrepair, making them even more difficult to sell.

It didn’t take long before the population rebelled, and The Mattoon Act was repealed in 1931. The damage had been done to many people and many cities and for many years to come. People lost their land and homes but there was no one to buy them so the cities were left with land but no money to pay the bonds on the projects they already had completed. Oh what a tangled web….

In 1935, the United States Supreme Court ruled that The Mattoon Act had been legal, so cities and taxpayers still had to pay the debts which had incurred. It took several years before cities and taxpayers were tax free.

Targeted relief plans were passed, including a gas tax to pay off road bonds. Landowners were given final sums that they could settle with cash. In the case of Johnny, whose home had been foreclosed back in 1927, he got his home back by paying $250 to settle the tax bill.

Money

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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Music on Mondays (3-13-17)—Five minor hits from 1987-1990

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

When I bought my 1989 Ford Mustang GT, it came with a CD player. Ever since that day, I have listened to very little radio, which also means that I have missed out on a lot of individual songs from American Top 40 and, later, the Billboard Hot 100.

For the most part it was never an issue because I hung out at the record stores and kept track of what my favorite bands were doing.

However, even my favorite bands occasionally released a single that was not on the latest album and did not make it to the next album. I completely missed out on those bands that I was not following but which released a single that I otherwise would have bought.

Those misses are why I am going through the songs which made the Billboard Hot 100 from 1955 (the year I was born and the generally accepted date of the beginning of Rock ‘n’ Roll) to the present.

Here are five songs that I discovered by doing that and which now are in my music collection:

“World Shut Your Mouth” by Julian Cope, 1987, #84

“Run To Paradise” by The Choirboys, 1989, #80

“Let The Day Begin” by The Call, 1989, #51

“Pride & Passion” by John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, 1989, #66

“Time For Letting Go” by Jude Cole, 1990, #32

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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This is history, folks, happening right before our eyes

Halls of History

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Is the United States in the midst of a coup?

Britannica defines a coup as “the sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group,” differing from a revolution in that it happens quickly and doesn’t depend on large numbers of people. Instead, it requires only “a change in power from the top that merely results in the abrupt replacement of leading government personnel.”

One might question whether or not what’s going on is violent. Certainly it’s violent in a way to those who are fearful of President 45—blacks, single women, Muslims and other non-Christians, battered and abused women and children, the hungry, the poor, the sick, the elderly, non-heterosexuals…………..

A presidential election, especially one where there is a change in parties, and where the party of the new administration is the same as the party which controls Congress, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, certain provides a good time for a coup that probably wouldn’t be recognized by a great super majority of anyone in the world except for dictators and kings of other countries, and possibly their citizens.

The United States had a constitutional crisis in 1973-74 with President Richard Nixon, the most recent, perhaps only, attempt in the United States to create a dictatorship or kingship. Jonathan Aitken says in “Nixon: A Life” that of he and his brothers—Harold, Donald, Arthur, and Edward—four of them were named after kings who had ruled in historical or legendary England. It’s well known that President 45 likes kings and dictators.

I was a mere child of 19 in 1974. The crisis resolved itself because of the unique type of republican democracy that is the United States. With its three separate but equal branches of government, its reliance on the rule of law, the fact that Democrats had a 56-42-1-1 majority in the Senate and a 241-192-2 majority in Congress, and the fact that the Supreme Court had ruled 8-0 against Nixon in United States v. Nixon, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, rather than be impeached.

In a motion to quash the Watergate subpoena earlier in 1974, Nixon’s attorney, James D. St. Clair, stated to Judge John Sirica of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, “The President wants me to argue that he is as powerful a monarch as Louis XIV, only four years at a time, and is not subject to the processes of any court in the land except the court of impeachment.” Wow. Nixon did have an ego.

What do you do, though, when the President 45 has an even bigger ego and his Republican party cohorts are in the majority in the Congress and the Senate, and the Supreme Court is at an impasse with a 4-4 split and with President 45 probably nominating a new justice to the Supreme Court as early as tomorrow?

This is history folks, happening right before our eyes. It might not end well for the United States as we have come to know it.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Alternative facts are the new fake news

I live in my own little world

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Since Facebook and Twitter are trying to put a stop to fake news, or at least tag it as fake news, the current administration seems to have come up with a way to get around that by calling their fake news alternative facts.

My oh my.

Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, brought up alternative facts on “Meet the Press” this morning, and the world is having a lot of fun with it. Even Urban Dictionary is getting in on the fun. Their definition:

When truth is so unfavorable to a pathological liar that they must invent a whole new category of lies to describe their nakedly intentional acts of deception.

Examples: “Kellyanne Conway told CNN that the President and his Press Secretary presented alternative facts about inauguration photographs that prove conclusively how few people attended the ceremony.” #lies #falsehood #intentional lies #pathological lies

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”

If these alternative facts didn’t have the capacity to do so much damage to so many people’s lives, it would actually be funny.

It has encouraged me to write two books concurrently, one about the history of railroads in San Diego County and the other a day-by-day account of this administration alternative facts.

Alternative Facts

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I might die of laughter before I die from lack of health insurance under this administration.

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If you know where to look and what to look for

Did you know?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Many decades ago, when I was but 11, I wanted to be an anesthesiologist, probably because I could spell it. Then I discovered that I would have to go to college, followed by medical school, followed by an internship. Hmmm. Too complicated, and too much schooling.

So I decided to be a teacher. A history teacher. Then I realized that I would probably have lots of little Russels in my classes. That might have caused me to become a murderer. (Actually, I discovered how much money teachers made and decided that wouldn’t be enough, especially if I had to put up with a lot of little Russels.)

Then I decided that I wanted to be a writer. I have written so many books, the best books, with really good words, lots of words, the best words, the best sentences, believe me, really good sentences, and paragraphs, the best paragraphs with the best sentences with the best words….

Well, in reality, I only have written about 50 Chapter Ones and then I quit. I guess I really am a quitter!

Writing a book is on my mind again. I’m exploring a book about the history of railroads in San Diego County. That would combine my love of history and trains with writing. I have discovered that it would also require a lot of reading, something that doesn’t bother me in the least.

A couple of days ago I was taking a video of a BNSF freight arriving in San Diego, I got interrupted by a fellow train enthusiast who works for the City repairing/repaving streets. He told me that there is a lot of evidence of the San Diego Electric Railway (SDERy) if you know where to look and what to look for. SDERy operated from 1891 to 1949. Yesterday I went out to a spot he told me about and, sure enough, evidence.

Evidence of the San Diego Electric Railray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I followed the curve and looked down the street. One can see where the railroad tracks are even though covered by asphalt:

Evidence of the San Diego Electric Railray

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I found a map of the SDERy system (through research and reading) and put a black arrow on it indicating where these pictures were taken.

Map of the San Diego Electric Railway

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I also discovered in my research that in the poor areas of town which don’t provide a lot of tax revenue for maintenance, shortcuts are taken. In this case, the old tracks were never removed; too labor intensive. They just poured asphalt and concrete on top of them and moved on.

I know a couple of other places where the rails are actually poking through the worn asphalt. Next on my list.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Alone but not lonely

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My dad was in the Air Force from 1950 to 1954, receiving an honorable discharge in December. After his discharge he worked for Missouri Pacific in Texas until his death by self-inflicted gunshot in 1961. Mom moved us to Brigham City UT after his death, which is where her side of the family was from.

Granddad also worked on Missouri Pacific, and the two of them often let me ride on the trains with them, either in the engine or the caboose (my choice!), between Kingsville TX and Bishop TX, a round trip distance of 10 miles. It was just a switch engine switching cars on tracks in rail yards in the two cities, and between them, so track speeds were not high.

The fascination with T&T (Tracks & Trains) had infected me, and northern Utah was a hot bed of activity for the Union Pacific Railroad. I was a fan.the-box-car-children

When I was in first grade in 1961 in Brigham City I read a book published in 1924 titled “The Box-Car Children.” I sooooooo wanted to be a Box-Car Child, and I did everything I could to make it happen, hanging out on the UP line between Brigham City and Ogden. I often walked the tracks down to Ogden and hopped a box car ride back, a round trip of 50 miles. Mom never knew because she was always too drunk. The life of a child with no love or discipline. The life of a box-car child.

The picture below, although taken in San Diego, very much reminded me of a time and a place 56 years ago, a time when one could walk the tracks, stand on the tracks, wait for the trains, no one else around, alone but not lonely…….

Tracks at sunset

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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