A look back at Lemon Grove, 54 years ago this week.
The new year began with tear-downs and upgrades as the town eviscerated the old to make way for a new, improved look.
Pole, Axed: Here is the last known photograph of a loathed Lemon Grove institution—the utility pole that had stood in the middle of the parking lot outside the Lemon Grove Post Office for a decade and supplied power to nearby businesses.
The base of the pole was chipped away by the bumpers of countless postal patrons' cars and adorned with graffiti that can't be repeated on Patch. One of the least offensive and most succinct was, "I hate you, pole, die, die!"
Ridding the town of the pole involved a three-year effort by four agencies: SDG&E, Public Utilities Commission, California State Assembly, U.S. Postal Service—and the old pro, Max Goodwin, editor of the Lemon Grove Review, who, yet again, went to the barricades for his town.
SDG&E devised a new plan to supply power to the businesses. Charles Kerch, manager of Curtis Coleman Associates, which owned adjacent buildings, paid some $500 to remove the pole. A giant corkscrew arrived from El Cajon to dislodge it and the deed was done in a morning.
Among the grateful was Irv Marder (standing center in the attached photo) of Marder's Stationery, another local institution that had suffered loss of parking facilities due to the pole.
Casey, Gone: "A Casey" was a portable toilet and a landmark in town. For a time, people had them in place of their old outhouses. For over a decade some 200 of them had stood outside George F. Casey Company at Broadway and New Jersey, awaiting shipment to construction sites. Casey had operated from World War I into the 1970s, first as a privy, septic tank, cistern and well cleaner, then as a portable toilet renter.
But as 1959 dawned, Casey moved the whole operation out of town, thus ending a major chapter in the story of plumbing in the Big Lemon and eliminating a word ("Casey") that had passed into the local lingo.
Need we add that a rite of passage for local boys was overturning Caseys on Halloween.
Boîtes Reborn: Key local watering holes got the improvement bug:
Bueno's Mexican Restaurant, 7309 Broadway, trapped in cross-cultural confusion, shut down in January, citing "dingy décor and Chinese food" and vowed to reopen with "Latin flair and improved tacos."
Pal's Steak House, Imperial at Lester, briefly shut down to install its new, "safer, fool-proof" grill. This may have been a dig at Michael's Pub and Steakhouse around the corner on Broadway, the scene of many a grease fire.
Michael's ran an ad proclaiming, "Our steaks are second to none, our martinis are legendary and our clientele distinguished." Actually, these claims were true of this politically connected bistro. Never was steak so rare, martini so chilled, nor under-the-table deal so fascinating since Michael's bit the dust.
Emporia Revived: Local shops launched a rebirth.
Ray and Bea Purtee's shoe sale success took them through two Purtee's Shoe Shops and into a third at 7741 Pacific at Olive, where, Ray promised, "a new look will thrill the shopper."
The Purtees demolished the interior and installed a "patio look" with bamboo reeds over shelving, woven matting instead of carpet, potted plants and tall mirrors to "enhance the exotic atmosphere." In a first for Lemon Grove, they installed a play area for tots to cavort while Mom shopped for that 13th pair of shoes (free if you bought 12 other pairs).
Lemon Grove Rexall Drugs announced, "Closing for redecorating! All stock must go NOW!" You got the Cloud 7 cologne for $1, the stuffed skunk for $2 and the Colonial Dames Night Cream for $1.50. The latter had a disclaimer, "Not connected with any society," lest the Daughters of the American Revolution march on Lemon Grove. As for the skunk, you had to be there.
Freddie Fix-It, the cartoon handyman at United Plumbing & Heating, Broadway at Massachusetts, waxed poetic with "A better sink is yours to buy when you give our store a try."
But Vinnedge & Moore, contractors on Sanford Drive, went for the jugular when they urged homeowners to "Let us remove your sink, toilet, water heater, pipes, roof, flooring and driveway."
Here's our favorite ad: Lemon Grove Laundromat vowed, "If we rip your shirt we'll replace it with a new used one."
Wisdom of the Ages: Columnist Delphine Wilson, home economics guru for the San Diego County Agricultural Extension, wrote, "A home is where people live. Furnishings, down to ash trays, should be honest. Put out your cigarette in a properly shaped tray, not a fake frog or bird. Chairs should fit the body. Lamps should give light. They should not be a dancing girl with her feet in a bed of ivy holding a parasol."
Fortunately Mrs. Wilson missed, by 24 years, the fishnet stockinged Leg Lamp in Gene Shepherd's immortal 1983 movie, "A Christmas Story." That lamp, howled over by countless movie fans, is available online for $149 (50-inch version) or $14.99 (night light version).
Boredom at Bay: Columnist Dorothy Jonson ("Dorothy Digs in the Garden") headlined her column "A Time to Kill." We learned that in January citrus trees were lunch for borers, a species Mrs. Jonson blasted as "bad, beastly and depraved in their constant gluttony," giving one an image of a toga-clad bug peeling grapes while reclining on cushions with Cecil B. DeMille.
Legal But Not Tender: The Review's Legal Notices continued their circumlocutory assault on the English language. From the verbal demolition derby we extracted this choice morsel:
"Notice to Creditors: I hereby announce to all interested parties that I, Henry ("Hank") I. Taylor, renounce and refuse any and all responsibility for debts incurred by my son, Henry Taylor, Jr., and/or my grandson, Henry Taylor III, and/or my cousin, Henry Jackson Taylor and notify any and all interested parties that the aforementioned members of my family are now disinherited and are solely responsible for their personal debts real and imagined."
Wow. Apparently, as the four Henrys entered 1959, their pater familias's outrage over profligate spending had driven him to heights of legalese coined, we suspect, sans consultation with an attorney.
New Year's Resolutions: These had the heartfelt sincerity and unconscious humor of all self-betterment vows made as the new year approached, then jettisoned when it started.
Hal Matheson of the Huff 'N Puffers square dance club said he'd give up Chesterfields so he could dosey-doh without gasping.
Sally Schrupp promised to clean up her room if brothers, Hughie and Billy, cleaned up theirs, but "I won't if I have to put away all my Barbies." (Historical note: Barbie was born in 1959, but best buddy Ken didn't emerge until 1961.)
Mrs. Robert Kennison vowed to lose 10 pounds and become the new "Lemon Grove peeler."
Mrs. Doris Mae Rundle spent 90 days in county jail for being in possession of two husbands. She vowed never again to two-time two hubbies twice in a row.
And so it went as the last year of the Fifties dawned on our favorite town—and though we weren't there to ring in the New Year, we continue to thank the old Lemon Grove Review for capturing the heartbeat of the town with so much verve and commitment.