A look back at Lemon Grove 39 years ago.
Dearly Beloved: The red dress was a dead giveaway. She, Bridget O'Connor, had won fame, or perhaps notoriety, singing in various bistros in Southeast San Diego and Spring Valley--and she always wore a red dress.
Lying by the side of Sweetwater Road, red dress askew, hair matted with mud and rhinestone-studded mules flung into the roadway, Bridget was nobody's Valentine. Sheriff's deputies termed the case a homicide and the old pro, Max Goodwin, editor of the Lemon Grove Review termed it another great story.
In his weekly editorial, Goodwin excoriated the bum who did in Bridget, likening the deed to a rising crime rate, loss of family life and "vacancy at the center of society." He opined that "when a girl can't sing for her supper and go home in one piece, the whole world is in trouble."
Apparently, Bridget finished her set in Chad's Bar, Jamacha Road, and went to a pay phone outside. This was not a call to Mother. Witnesses heard her cursing someone in verbiage too potent to repeat. Then she got into her beat-up Datsun and peeled out. How she ended up in a ditch not far from the bar sent deputies on the hunt county-wide.
Stay tuned for the rest of the Case of the Murdered Songstress.
99--A Very Good Year: Over magnums of Dom Perignon and chocolate cake with 99 candles, 25 guests sang "Happy Birthday" and presented valentines to William West, the pioneer who had personally planted thousands of lemon trees on his 18-acre ranch, spreading north and west from his home at the eastern end of Mt. Vernon Street.
Born near London in 1875, West emigrated to San Diego in 1903 and to Lemon Grove in 1914. He bought land at $200 per acre and later sold it for $6,000 per acre. His lemon crops earned from $7,000 to $10,000 annually.
He was the first president of the Lemon Grove Chamber of Commerce and a director of the first Lemon Grove Mutual Water Company. He persuaded Harry Griffen ("Mr. Helix Water District") to get involved in local water supply problems.
In 1974 Mr. West was Lemon Grove's oldest resident. He had never been hospitalized, had 20/20 vision (but used a hearing aid), and loved TV quiz shows, usually answering the questions before the contestants did. Into his 80s he piloted a fishing boat that slept seven.
Following the death of his wife, Ada, Mr. West moved in with Henry and Lena Eckler, his daughter and son-in-law of rabbitry fame. Mrs. West had been Lemon Grove's librarian back when the library was a three-day-a-week operation on the corner of Golden and Imperial.
William West died in 1977, age 102. Today, Liberty Charter High School (formerly Palm Middle School) and Mt. Vernon Elementary stand on his former orchard lands. Everyone in the neighborhood has fruit trees and one of the West family homes still stands.
Can You Spare a Dime: The U.S. Post Office was struggling (again). To ward off a ballooning deficit, first class mail rose from eight cents to a dime, postcards from six cents to eight cents and air mail from 11 cents to 13 cents. The average postal worker salary rose from $8,800 to $9,500 and would rise by $400 in July, 1974.
Delivery service, according to polls, was considered to be excellent with next-day delivery for local mail and two days for air mail. Yet, despite a record mailing on Valentine's Day, the USPO's heart troubles and other internal suffering cried out for annual rate increases.
Ponying Up: Effective Jan. 1, 1974 your racehorse was taxed and you had to pony up before Feb. 15 to avoid a penalty. In a horsey town like Lemon Grove, the topic raised hackles, for racehorses and breeding stock were now depreciable assets. But you had to prove to the IRS that your were conducting a business, not a hobby, or you couldn't write off racing and breeding expenses any longer.
If your balance sheet was generally in the black and you held sales, belonged to horse organizations and kept good accounting records, the IRS deemed you a business. But without a business structure and name, Stewball's feed, tack, shoes, training and vet bill meant zilch. Gone was the "two out of seven" rule when you could show a profit for two years and deduct your horsey expenses, then forget about showing a profit in the other five years.
Boy Scouts in Space: A microdot bearing the names of 800,000 Boy Scouts in the Western states shot into space on Feb. 27 from Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard NASA's SCOUT-181, an unmanned, solid fuel rocket booster.
The mission marked the 67th anniversary of the founding of the Scouts in 1907 in England by Lord Baden-Powell. The unusual project, called "First in Space," was actually a recruiting drive for new scouts. If a boy signed up between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 1973, his name was included in the space shot.
The boys' signatures -- 6,000 from San Diego County -- were photographed at Rockwell International and reduced to an inch-wide microdot that was affixed to the payload of the rocket booster.
I Won't Park, You Can't Make Me: Merchants complained to the Lemon Grove Chamber of Commerce about the new center median and curb dividers installed by the county on Broadway, saying customers were parking "any old place to avoid the obstructions."
But when Chamber president Dell Lake summoned a brace of county engineers and supervisors to address the problem, officials outnumbered merchants three to one. Only five people showed up to voice displeasure and hear solutions.
"I better not hear any more complaints about Broadway," fumed Lake.
John Graham, owner of Purple Turtle (remember how we thrilled to their clear plastic stilettos emblazoned with faux diamonds--and those chartreuse cocktail hats--to die for!), vowed to contact all 33 merchants in the affected area to ensure a better turnout "at some future point."
Chacon Redux: Pete Chacon, Assemblyman for the 79th District, which then included Lemon Grove, came to town to avow his dedication to the well being of all humanity.
"I have concerns for all the people," he said. "I cannot separate the rural from the urban, the majority from the minority, or favor one economic class against another."
But Democrat Chacon, who served 22 years in the Assembly (1971-92), led a career marked by campaign funding scandals and fines. He was California's first Latino legislator and an ardent proponent of bilingual education. His office was on G Street in a large house build in the early 1900s by Lemon Grove orchardist and dentist, Dr. Charles Good.
Sensing that he would lose to up-and-coming candidate Steve Peace, Chacon retired in 1992 "to spend more time with family."
Wisdom of the Ages: The Review's fillers were literal one-liners in this edition, to wit:
Give chocolates to your valentine to ward off feelings of rejection.
If your valentine argues with you, give him/her more chocolates.
A fool and his money are soon parted, but a car owner and his porsche are welded together forever.
If your light bulbs blow out, it is best to change them to avoid tripping over the carpet.