A look back at Lemon Grove, 57 years ago this week:
And The Waters Flowed: Or not. This edition of the Review was flowing with water issues, starting with a corruption story aimed at no less than Harry Griffen ("Mr. Helix Water District").
In November, 1954, the Review charged Griffen with "trafficking" in real estate lots formerly owned by the water district. Allegedly, Griffen purchased some 50 lots from the district while he was a sitting board member. Five weeks prior to taking title to the lots he sold them to a construction firm, Bates & Garcia. Under irrigation district law, no board member could personally profit from deals involving board-controlled business.
The Review also charged that if lots were held off the tax rolls, Griffen's action was "reprehensible." The water district said he bought the lots under a 1949 contract that had expired. The Review said there was no record of the contract expiring.
Worse, in the week of Nov. 3, 1955, the water district offered for sale 25 of the lots in the Monterey Heights area allegedly still owned by Griffen. The district wanted $15,000 for all 25. Griffen would get just under $200 per lot. Hence the renewed accusation of collusion for personal profit between Griffen and the district.
Stay with us, dear readers, as the plot thickens. Mr. and Mrs. Jack Arbuckle, Ensenada Street, tried to buy three of the lots only to be told the titles were "not merchantable." Smelling a rat, the Arbuckles launched a recall drive against Griffen. As this edition of the Review went to press, 250 petition names had been collected, with about 400 more needed (10 percent of the electorate).
And get this: The water district was gearing up for a $5 million bond issue in January, 1956, to "improve service throughout the district." Nameless water district insiders opined that Griffen should resign from the board to improve public relations for bond passage.
2,000 New Taps: Or not. The Lemon Grove Men's Club heard Walter Bollenbacher, developer of Allied Gardens, describe his new, 400-acre development on Sweetwater Road just south of Lemon Grove. Of 2,000 new homes, he would build 1,500, together with a shopping mall at Sweetwater and Jamacha (it's there now).
Bollenbacher couldn't get the water district to confirm water delivery to his development, so had applied to the City of San Diego for annexation. Meaning part of Spring Valley and part of Lemon Grove would be annexed to San Diego to get water and sewer lines. Men's Club members evinced outrage over possible annexation, noting "the string of encirclement would be tightened and land nibbled from Lemon Grove."
Bollenbacher said his firm would build its own sewage plant for the development, but an uncertain water supply was holding up the project and annexation was his last resort. No word on whether Men's Club members threw tomatoes from their luncheon salads, or spread oil and vinegar on the troubled (non) waters.
Irrigation Board Pays Bills: Their Oct. 25 agenda was a bill-paying spending spree. Harry Griffen got a per diem of $32.53 for his trip to Glendora to study transpiration and rainfall evaporation at watersheds. They bought a new Ford truck for $2,360. Richfield Oil Corporation got $7.96 and Standard Oil Company, $19.17, both for gas. Harland Dye got a $144 raise, while Chester Reidsema got a $1 raise.
The board reported 20,992 working water meters and beaucoup publicity in 11 newspaper stories, five radio stories and one television story, all extolling the water resources of the region.
Water Tax Level Rises: The waters didn't rise any further than a drought-stricken area could summon, but the Lemon Grove Water Works tax bill (mailed separately from the county real estate tax bill) rose 40 cents, up from $1.10 to $1.50. Anyone who didn't receive a water tax bill was urged to contact the irrigation district. No word on how well the latter worked.
Drought Stymies Style Show: The ladies of the Lemon Grove Juniors were hard at work preparing their third annual style show with fashions from such leading local shops as Lane's, Evelyn Wigton's, Marsi's, Walker Scott, Patricia's, Mary Monroe and Lowe's Toggery. All was well for the noon luncheon until they turned on the taps in the junior high cafeteria and nary a trickle emerged. The culprits, apparently, were the drought and a broken cast-iron pipe.
But the ladies were undeterred as they schlepped jugs and bottles of water from home. By the 8 p.m. curtain for the fashion show, the pipe had been repaired and the water trickled once more. Toddlin' town.
Living It Up at Lido's: Lido's, still going strong at 7252 Broadway, ran a full-page ad headlined "All Aboard for Lido's!"
If you were "too happy to go home" you could "drop in after bar closings" and make merry until 4 a.m. when you could order black coffee, toast, two strips of crispy bacon and two fresh local eggs for 40 cents. Or you could order pizza for 85 cents and spaghetti for 95 cents.
Interestingly, you had to "let us know if you want water." Wine and beer were readily available.
Tom Baliestieri and Leonardo Cusenza were your hosts in the days before the superb Simi family and their legendary sauce arrived in these precincts from Lucca, Italy.
Game On: Lemon Grove hunters Bob Hendrickson, Roy Harris, Harry Smith and two Vanlandingham brothers went to Wyoming and shot two moose, four elk and five deer for a total of 2,300 pounds of meat. They trekked home caravan style, carcasses atop their trucks, antlers gleaming in the moonlight. Lemon Grove Camera was there to record their triumphant arrival in the Big Lemon (see photo).