Tag Archives: la mesa

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.


Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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Out & About—The secret stairs are no longer secret

Out & About

I have lived in La Mesa CA (or so close that I had to go through La Mesa to get anywhere) for 18 years. In all that time I kept hearing about the secret stairs. They were so secret that I never found them until one day I was browsing Google Maps to find the street names near some stairs that I knew about. That was when I noticed that stairs are on Google Maps, so I scrolled over to La Mesa and began looking for stairs. I found them!

Location of the La Mesa secret stairs

img_1592 zoey the cool cat preparing for the weekendThere are five blocks of them! My little heart was all a-pitter-patter, so I got dressed, told Zoey the Cool Cat that I would be right back (she was oblivious), hopped in the car, and drove over to what I was sure were the secret stairs.

Interestingly, everyone seemed to know about the secret stairs yet no one could tell me where they were, and they are not in any tourist guides or books about La Mesa. That’s how secret they are.

The stairs have quite a few places to stop and rest, which is good because I’m 61 and don’t do a lot of stair climbing. There are about 100 steps for each block—and there are five blocks—of which about 75 of those steps in each block are actual stairs. A few of pictures of the stairs and the views of La Mesa:

La Mesa secret stairs

La Mesa with Grossmont Center mall and hospital in the upper leftView from the La Mesa secret stairs

La Mesa secret stairs

The Interstate 8-California Highway 125 intersection
with a nice view of the Santa Rosa mountain range
which are about 30 miles away.View from the La Mesa secret stairs

The stairs are in regular use by physical fitness buffs. It took me almost two hours to traverse them up and down, and to wait for people to get out of my pictures, and to do a couple of re-starts when I was trying to count them!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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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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Sunrise, sunset

Picture of the Moment

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

We have been having beautiful sunrises and sunsets since mid-October.

My home office faces east, and, like my wise old grandmother, I get up before the sun does. Thus I see the sunrise every day. Following is the sunrise of December 2:

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I wasn’t prepared for that sunrise so I had to take the picture through my home office window (only slightly dirtier than the windows in a coal mine) and through the screen. So all the smudging will forever prevent me from using that picture for anything other than a snapshot for a blog post.

Here’s another from October 24 through my home office window:

Sunrise in La Mesa, California, on October 24, 2016

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen might be that of December 5:

Sunrise in La Mesa, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I was prepared for it, so the window was open and the screen had been removed.

The only sunrise that might compete with it is the sunrise on September 17, 2012, that I watched from the top of Mount Helix, also here in La Mesa (Mount Helix is a mountain 900 feet tall—if they are taller than us, we call them mountains here in San Diego):

Sunrise from the top of Mount Helix in La Mesa, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I have billions of sunset pictures because I have to make myself all beautiful and go out into the world in order to get sunset pictures since there is a mountain behind me blocking my view to the west. My favorite sunset pictures usually involve water or boats, like panorama of San Diego harbor on November 7, 2016:

Sunset on November 7, 2016, San Diego harbor

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My favorite sunrise and sunset pictures usually have a lot of colors in them, like these three:

Sunset in San Diego California

Sunset at La Jolla Cove, 10-17-12, La Jolla, California

October 17, 2012, sunset in La Jolla, California

Top picture: Sunset at Imperial Beach, California, on November 5, 2011
Middle picture: Sunset at La Jolla Cove in La Jolla, California, on , October 17, 2012
Bottom picture: Sunset at La Jolla Cove in La Jolla, California, on , October 17, 2012

La Jolla’s sunset on October 17, 2012, was pretty spectacular throughout the course of about two hours, and if you’re ever in San Diego, go visit La Jolla. Such beauty throughout the is to be experienced, photographed, and shared.

We all know that the sun sets in the west but occasionally here in La Mesa, California, it can look like it sets in the east. Here is the sunset from last night, December 10, but looking east instead of west:

Sunset in La Mesa, California on December 10, 2016, looking east

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I was not prepared for that sunset so, again, a grainy smudgy picture unsuitable for anything other than a snapshot of a sunset.

And lastly, here is what a certain queen in the house thinks about all my sunrise and sunset excitement:

Zoey the Cool Cat

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Picture of the Moment

I have sang at several weddings for friends, the last one in 1984 in Boerne, Texas.

The song I sang for Thad & Charlotte was “Sunrise, Sunset” from the movie “Fiddler on the Roof.”

While I liked the song and realized what it was about, without ever having seen the movie (it came out in 1971, while the musical is from 1964), I was the only one of my friends who was always up in time to watch the sunrise and late enough to bed to catch the sunset, so just the title of the song made it a favorite of mine.

Sunrises and sunsets in 2016 here in the San Diego area have been spectacular almost every day so far.

Following are two of my favorite sunrises, the first one being from this morning.

San Diego (La Mesa) sunrise, January 14, 2016

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego (La Mesa) sunrise, January 6, 2016

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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The Boulevard in San Diego, California

Out & About

Many decades ago the main east-west thoroughfare to and from San Diego was El Cajon Boulevard. About twenty miles long at its peak before the Interstate system, it is a prime example of growth and development that was shaped by the automobile. About six miles of the middle section was obliterated when Interstate 8 was built in the early 1960s; there is a small section remaining in El Cajon. The western end, from Normal Street in San Diego to Spring Street in downtown La Mesa is about eleven miles long.

The remaining eleven miles of El Cajon Boulevard presents to the historian the site of the very first Jack in the Box restaurant built at 6270 El Cajon Boulevard in 1951. Jack in the Box gave us the first drive-through and the innovation of a two-way intercom to allow one car to place an order while another car was being served. Jack in the Box has its corporate headquarters here in San Diego.

Jack in the Box corporate headquarters in San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

At the other end of El Cajon Boulevard is the historic Lafayette Hotel, built in 1946 with an Olympic-sized swimming pool designed by Johnny Weismuller, winner of five Olympic gold medals and the actor who played Tarzan in twelve movies, arguably the best known of the many actors who played Tarzan on film and on television. The first guest when the hotel opened in 1946 was none other than the incomparable Bob Hope.

businesses along the boulevard (7) lafayette hotel stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In the latter part of the 20th century (in other words, when I came to San Diego in April 1993), El Cajon Boulevard was a hotspot for prostitution, both male and female.

El Cajon Boulevard also was the site of the El Cajon Boulevard Riot. Also known as the Drag Strip Riot, it was one of the first major youth riots of the 1960s.

The riot began during the evening of August 20, 1960, as an organized protest over the closing of Hourglass Field, an unused Navy airfield, to drag racing. Although drag racing had been organized by the San Diego Timing Association, a local group of hot rod clubs, it was unauthorized. Both the Navy and the police looked the other way because, at the time, Hourglass Field was the only off-street venue available for drag racing. On August 8, 1960, three (maybe four) bystanders were injured during a drag race, causing the Navy to shut down the airfield to drag racing.

Location of Drag Strip Riot in August 1960 in San Diego, CaliforniaAt the intersection of El Cajon Boulevard and Cherokee Street on the nights of August 20 and 21, an estimated 3,000 teenagers and adults blocked three blocks of El Cajon Boulevard and began holding impromptu drag races with just enough room for cars to race two-abreast down the street. When police arrived to disperse the crowd, many protesters fought back, showering officers with rocks and bottles.

Although I found lots of information about Hourglass Field, I found very little information about the riot itself. My research mind is in overdrive.

I’ll have to put it on my to-do list to take you on a tour of The Boulevard during daylight hours.

For the rest of this post, though, we’re going to take a darkness tour because there is a lot of nighttime fun on The Boulevard.

Here ya go:

img_1126 el cajon boulevard stamp img_1125 el cajon boulevard stamp img_1122 el cajon boulevard stamp img_1119 el cajon boulevard stamp img_1118 el cajon boulevard stamp img_1116 el cajon boulevard stamp img_1115 el cajon boulevard stamp img_1112 el cajon boulevard stamp img_1111 el cajon boulevard stamp img_1110 el cajon boulevard stamp img_1109 el cajon boulevard stamp img_1107 el cajon boulevard stamp img_1103 el cajon boulevard stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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The lemon pie tasted horrible!

Out & About

Not too far from our new home is a new 55+ complex with two utility boxes at the street.

Recently the utility boxes got painted, not that they needed painting since they are new, but we love to paint our utility boxes here in San Diego County.

img_2063 lemon pie stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

img_2061 life gave you lemons stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

img_2062 lemon pie stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Although I live in La Mesa, across the street from me is Lemon Grove.

Sadly, the lemon pie tasted horrible!

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