1959: Center Stage

News from the Jan. 8, 1950 issue of the Lemon Grove Review when inhabitants of The Big Lemon prepared for lights, cameras and plenty of action.

Vivian Kincaid (center) and Les McIntosh (R) were featured in "Cast a Proud Shadow" in La Mesa.
Vivian Kincaid (center) and Les McIntosh (R) were featured in "Cast a Proud Shadow" in La Mesa.

Silver Screen:  It was in the La Mesa Fine Arts Center and the feature film ran an hour and 23 minutes.  "Cast a Giant Shadow" screened on a triple bill with "Ambush" and "The Drunkard," all products of La Mesa-based La France Productions Motion Picture Workshop and offered at $1 for adults and 50 cents for kiddies.

Writer-director Rene La France followed in the footsteps of Flying A Studios, which flourished in La Mesa in 1911-12.  La France shot 3,000 feet of film, cast 51 people -- among them 'Grovians Vivian Kincaid as a dance hall floozie and Les McIntosh as a grizzled gunslinger -- and starred himself as Charles Russell, famed cowboy artist of 1880s Montana.

We're guessing La France's tab was around $640 for seven or eight cans of 400-foot 16mm film in 1958.  Actors were doubtless unpaid, though renting lights, costumes, and the Growler Bar in Spring Valley, where the flick was largely filmed, cost something.  

Charles "Kid" Russell (1864 - 1926) forsook a well-to-do life in St. Louis for life in Montana, where he created some 4,000 art works on the waning days of the old West.  But for the marketing skills of his young wife Nancy (she was 18; he was 32), he would have languished in obscurity.  Thanks to Nancy, in 2005 a Russell painting sold for $5 million.

Off Off Broadway:  The Lemon Grove Junior High auditorium, "just off Broadway," became the Lemon Grove Teacher's Association's playhouse of choice as they staged "The Whole Town's Talking" in an effort to raise $200 to pay for two faculty scholarships to San Diego State College (today, SDSU).

The play, directed by Keith Richards of San Altos School and Rick Stammerjohn of Monterey Heights, was written by Anita Loos in 1926 for On Broadway.  The show became a hit comedy in 1935 with Jean Arthur and Edward G. Robinson as ad agency executives caught up in a mistaken identity plot.

Richards and Stammerjohn promised staging "as smooth as a Broadway play."

Mad Men Ads:  All of the models drawn in the Review's display ads looked like Don and Betty Draper of the popular TV series, "Mad Men," begging the question did the show's producers do their homework or what.  Past was certainly prologue.  The image icons of the late 1950s were chiseled, slim and blank -- and, as we now know, inwardly tortured.

Nevertheless, the Don Draper look-alike in Lane's Menswear, 7765 Broadway, peddled slacks worsted and gabardine ($8.88), suits ($34.88), dress shirts ($2.50 down from $5), and plaid boxers for 68 cents.

At Patricia's Style Shop, 7887 Broadway, the Betty Draper look-alike hocked cocktail dresses ($18), casual dresses ($12.98), blouses ($2.99) and half slips for 98 cents.

Hopper Redux:  'Grovian Bob Turnbull's "Hollywood Highlights" column for the Review noted that fellow actor and Helix High School buddy, Dennis Hopper (who spent his teen years in the 'Grove), had stayed with the same Hollywood agent for five years -- probably because no one else wanted him. Insolent behavior, addiction and other shenanigans limited Hopper's career in the 1950s until no less than John Wayne took him in hand and cast him in "The Sons of Katie Elder."   

Then it was just a short decade to "Easy Rider" and inexplicably lasting fame.  Apparently, Hopper grew on people, like moss.

Queen of Chicks:  The San Diego County Farm Bureau threw open the barn doors to applicants for the 1959 Miss Slick Chick contest.  The winning lassie had to be 16 to 25 years old and be more than just another pretty face.  She had to prove she'd lived and/or worked on a poultry farm and knew from egg candling, pullets and capons.   In Lemon Grove, formerly home to seven big chicken ranches and still rife with backyard chicken coops, there was a potential candidate on every block.

Miss Slick Chick had to hostess a year's worth of poultry-related events, be seen beheading chickens and roasting same, and preside over the Annual Good Egg Breakfast.  For this labor, she got $50 and one "completely new outfit" from the Farm Bureau folks, who gave new meaning to the term "tightwad."  

Our Girls in Pasadena:  The 70th Annual Tournament of Roses Parade, hosted by Ronald Reagan, Audrey Meadows and Mel Allen, stepped off in Pasadena with Lemon Grove represented by the Rock 'N Riders Girls Drill Team.

Also appearing in the 65-float "extravaganza of beauty and glamor" were Bill "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd, Richard Boone of "Have Gun Will Travel" TV fame, Gale Collins of "Annie Oakley" fame and Guy "Zorro" Williams.  

Three-Time Hit:  'Grovians Ray and Bea Purtee, owners of Purtee's Shoes, were on a roll.  They'd opened and closed two stores to wild acclaim, each time moving to larger quarters.  Now they were opening store #3 at 7741 Pacific next to a new building recently constructed by local realtor Ira Durham to house the Lemon Grove Library

The Purtees' Family Shoe Plan awarded a free 13th pair if you bought 12 other pairs.  In the Fabulous 'Fifties you hung out a sign in this town and never looked back, hence the large number of specialty shops, department stores and markets all doing a booming business.

Craven Colossus Quits:  He was a bum incarnate given to breaking down back doors of local bars and swiping bottles of brandy.  Apparently, only the good stuff would do:  Napoleon Brandy 1900.  They stocked this at the Branding Iron Inn on Campo Road?  Whatever.

But Ricky Chandler, a human bacterium of base commercial motives, didn't down the digestif himself.  No, he hocked the hooch from his humble hut on Helix Street, where deputies found a repository of mescal, schnapps, brewskis, aperitifs and, of course, brandies suitable for serving at the Ritz, all boxed and labeled for delivery to points along the U.S.-Mexico border.  Tacky!

As deputies gazed in amazement, the six-foot six-inch, 250-pound Chandler emerged through a side door, arms upraised and turned himself in.  As the Review went to press, sentencing was pending, but we presume the cell was extra large and dry as a bone.

Sheriff Shackles Schnooks:  It was the case of two butchers, their dog, a bricklayer and his girlfriend.  They met at Mt. Miguel High School in the wee hours and attempted to wrench the school safe out of the wall.  Failing in this endeavor, they swiped school rings and pins, five typewriters, ballpoint pens, the secretary's petty cash and cokes from a jimmied soft drink machine.

The dog drooled and committed other unspeakable acts.  The foursome left footprints, handprints, finger prints, matches and cigarette butts.  When the school counselor, who'd come in on a Sunday to catch up on some work, found the mess he called the Sheriff.  Intrepid gumshoes traced the trail of evidence to Linda Vista and arrested the bricklayer and his inamorata, who led them to their confrères in National City.

We can't resist noting that things did not go better with Coke.

Mrs. Goodwin's Makeover:  The old pro, Max Goodwin, editor of the Lemon Grove Review, often referred to his wife as a "pint-size hurricane" and "all business."  Certainly, she was the power behind the press.  But in early January, 1959 she arrived home and "slithered" in the door aglow with herbal potions and engulfed in floral fragrance after a daylong press briefing at the brand new Golden Door, which had just opened in Escondido.

Apparently Mrs. G. bathed in a pool "with the frothy buoyancy of the inside of a champagne glass," had her complexion renewed with Countess Isserlyn cosmetics, downed several "Golden Door Cocktails" (herbal, floral), practiced "easy calisthenics," reviewed 14 gorgeous guest rooms, ate "unusual but tasty" fare, enjoyed an herbal massage and vapor bath, and mapped out a personal rejuvenation plan with Golden Door founder Anatole Robbins.

All this for $375 a week in 1959 ($3,000 in 2014 dollars).lemo  

Wisdom of the Ages:  Here is the best of the Review's legendary fillers in this edition:

     A would-be humorist must surround himself with people at least as witty as he or risk having his so-called jokes fall flat.

And so it went 54 years ago in a town where all the world was a stage and all the men and women major players.

Happy New Year!

About this column:  Compiled by Helen Ofield, president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, from newspapers archived at the H. Lee House Cultural Center.  Each week, we take a peek at the past with some news and advertising highlights from a randomly chosen edition of the Lemon Grove Review.  Ofield was awarded first place in 2013 and second place in 2012 in non-daily column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists.  In 2013 she received third place in the "History" category from the San Diego Press Club.


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