My mom went out to do interviews with some of the founders of our beach community before time flew by and they and their memories were gone forever. This is some of the oral histories my mom took down from my grandmother that is available on tape at the Imperial Beach Library (California)
April 12th 1976
"We came to the IB area in 1930 to live. We bought a house a little way from the bay on what is now 7th Street. It had belonged to an Army officer. It was landscaped and had a gardener to keep it up and he continued to take care of it for awhile after we bought it until we could no longer afford him. There were 2 1/2 acres of orange trees, fig trees, grapefruit and big old olive trees and flowers. This place was located near Paul Smith's home. We had a post office in IB but the mail was delivered by car from Palm City. We had lived in Coronado before moving to this area. We were looking for a place to buy and in our wanderings found this lovely place with gravel paths and flowers. It was a gray shingled house with a green roof and flower boxes with blooming purple pentunias. There were trellis's at the end of each gravel path with an arbor over the end of it with purple bougainvillea covering them. It was so charming that we fell in love with the grounds and house.
But alas after we had lived there 2 years we came home one night and found nothing but ashes. It had burned in our absence. There was a fire truck in Palm City and I believe Paul Smith called the fire truck when he saw the smoke coming out of the roof of our house but the truck was out of gas and they didn't find that out for some time so by the time they got there to work on putting out the fire the building was pretty well gone. The fire was supposed to have started because of defective wiring in the home. It was a dreadful loss and we were heart broken. It had been a 4 bedroom house and we had all our clothes in there, I had just bought Patty new clothes, she was the only child we had that was old enough to go to school at that time.
Then we moved to a house we had rented at the beach. It was situated by the only park that Imperial Beach had at that time. We bought a house a few weeks later on what is now Evergreen between 2nd and 3rd street. I have forgotten what they called the streets in those days. After living there for about a year we moved to the house I still live in.
By this time it was 1933. We bought this place and started remodeling it. It had originally been a board and bath California type house with a living room, 2 bedrooms and kitchen with a closed in back porch. And then we started adding several rooms on the back. None of it was well planned because we worked as we could afford it and although my husband had plenty of time he went fishing a great deal and occasionally he would have a job that was quite large and so that was about all we had in the way of income except a very small government pension that my husband had for a disabled knee. He was a painting contractor."
"There was one school at this time, Emory (located at what is now Saturn Blvd and Coronado Ave.) and the children went to it by bus. At that time we had three children, Patty, Joyce and Buddy as we called him. His name was really Alan, an old family name. Buddy was born in Coronado, Patty in Omaha Nebraska and Joyce in San Diego at Kettner Blvd. Patty was 9 years old in 1932 and the only one in school. Joyce was 5 but they had no kindergarten down here at that time. They had to be 6 to go to school. Buddy was 2 1/2.
There were lots of vacant lots but quite a number of houses too along the beach and scattered about on the different blocks. As it was the time of the Depression there was little work. Mostly the people around here went fishing, we went to the beach every day and for entertainment we had beach picnics and swimming and we would go to Mexico fishing too but there wasn't anything but a dirt road in Mexico and it was kinda rugged after Rosarito.
At that time at the beach there was still quite a bit of the old pier. Mrs Nixon owned it and had a bait house on it that sold bait The old pier was at the foot of what is now Date Street I guess. The boardwalk which begin at Palm Avenue on the beach and extended about two blocks along the ocean had a building on it where they rented bathing suits. At that time there was still an old bandstand on what is now 1st and Date on the NW corner just a bit up from the pier. Nobody gave any concerts anymore but I understand from some of the poeple who had lived here for many years before we ever came to the beach that there was a band that played there every Sunday afternoon for years. There was the old green post office with it's wooden sidewalk and some buildings on the same walk, a 1/2 a block of them. The post office also had the public library and one of the buildings beside it was used as a reading room for the public. Really to us the whole beach area made us think of scenes in some of the old movies of western towns.
Before we moved down here, while we were still living in Coronado, we had looked at some of the houses thinking of renting a cottage for the summer. They were so old fashioned to our eyes that we found them quite fascinating. Cooking had to be done on an oil burning stove in most of them and they were heated, if at all, by little fat iron stoves which burnt wood or coal, whatever you had. Some people would pick up drift wood at the beach for their winter fires. And we used to do that too after we bought a house here."
"The Desingers were quite interesting people and Eva, (I talk to her sometimes) she told me about the boats that came down from Coronado at the time that she was a very young girl. Her father had been the post master before her and I suppose owned the buildings too and it was all left to them when he died. I don't know when she became post mistress but anyway she was, with a gentleman's help, they were the only two running the post office at that time. They had this store besides the library where they sold penny candy and tablets and all the things the children liked to buy. When she was a young girl they used to go to dances in Coronado and to clam bakes there on the beach and they used to come home after the dances were over on these boats, they's all be singing and laughing and really having a good time. At the time she was telling me she was not a young woman at all and you could hardly imagine her being a gay young thing. She wasn't gay at all at this time, nice but not gay. She had never married.
Later her brother George came to help too. He was quite a fellow. He used to clean his fingernails sometimes while we were waiting for our mail and we had to wait til he got through before he'd give us our mail. Back then we had post office boxes because we had no house to house delivery. And of course the rural mail, the Palm City mailman didn't deliver mail to our mailboxes anymore at the beach proper. (Palm City only delivered as far west as 3rd Street)
There was an old dance hall, large old barn like building on the southwest corner just below the pier really, across from the band stand I talked about earlier. They had dances there every Saturday night and sometimes we went to the dances but not very often. In fact the crowd got rather rough and we didn't go much except the first two months when we first lived here. But it caught on fire and burnt down sometime during the second world war and my husband was down there helping put out the fire (we didn't even have a volunteer fire department here at the time). I didn't go down around the fire I was here at home but somebody came to my door and said my house was on fire. My husband was off fighting the fire at the other place but when their Flam-O tanks (that's what they had for cooking) when they exploded the burning cinders flew very high in the air and flew and landed on our roof. I didn't know what to do then but I got the hose and these two boys that were going up the alley got up there and put the fire out but all our clothes got wet in that bedroom. The fire had been just above our bedroom on the roof there. I thought it was very ironic that my husband would be off fighting that fire and his own house was burning at the time."
Mr Ord tried hard to form a community center in those early days and they rented a building on Palm Avenue where Jo Bennett's beauty shop now stands, it was about 1932 I think. He painted the building and paid the rent. Everyone who joined was supposed to help about 2 dollars per month to pay for the lights and the water but many never paid so he paid it himself many times. People played cards, some danced were held. And there was a piano that we had put there that Mr Ord had taken as payment for some job he had done, a painting job. Once the lights at the family home were cut off because the community center owed the light bill and they were in our name, we had to pay it and our lights were not turn on til the bill at the hall was paid.
Mrs Monson (sp?) played the piano, she lived up on the beach in one of the newer homes, her husband had built it and the one next to it. Christmas parties were given for the children. Disabled Vets furnished many of the toys and the children seemed to enjoy it although I remember I was trying to put on a little Christmas program that didn't work out to well because the children forgot their lines and people talked while the children were singing and Mrs Monson was mad that night and she refused to play the piano so they had to sing without piano so it wasn't good enough I guess.
He also tried to organize another Veterans group. One time he lost money on a dance because the orchestra was all colored and the people refused to dance. We found the Depression years were pretty hard although my husband really enjoyed all the time he had to go fishing. There weren't many jobs, but he usually had a few each year that along with the small government pension carried us through some way or the other. We had a large garden and did at that time have quite a few fruit trees and did some fruit canning too."
"In 1936 the twins were born at Paradise Valley Hospital in National City, Dennis and Hughie. Mr Ord was working for the Civil Service at this time and finances were better. He ran for County Supervisor and this cost money again for posters so besides taking up all his time that he could have used to better advantage by painting...but of course there wasn't alot of painting that needed to be done. He came in third in this race but that wasn't good enough.
Marilyn was born in 1938 and she entertained her friends by holding slumber parties in this big tent that my husband had put up for her in the side yard. That was one thing Mr Ord was very good about, he always tried to have plenty of entertainment for the children. Took them on all his fishing trips and had swings in the backyard and made them a teeter totter, a trick bar and all the children came to play in the yard from Palm City up.
In 1941 everyone was still able to go to a large picnic area with green grass and trees overlooking the ocean on Silver Strand. Many cypress trees provided shade for family groups and a group of men came from Coronado to play polo there quite frequently. It was called the Coronado Heights. During World War II the Heights was taken over by the Army and Fort Emory came into being. Men were trained there before going overseas and Silver Strand Blvd was rerouted at that time and moved back down to about 7th Street.
In 1944 Linda was born. In the early years I was a member of the Emory PTA and charter member also at Westview where Linda attended when she was old enough to go to school. At that time they had a kindergarten. Before that there was no kindergarten here at the beach. Their 1st grade even was held in a small house up on the ocean front. The twins went to that but by the time Marilyn was old enough to go to school she went to Imperial Beach school. It had been built sometime during that time.
Then as Marilyn went into Southwest Junior I was a member of the Southwest Junior PTA and a charter member of Mar Vista high school. I was historian the first year of Mar Vista PTA, sold christmas cards to raise money for scholarships. At Westview I was the hospitality chairman. At Mar Vista we held carnivals for several years. Many teachers had pies thrown in their faces in the pie throwing booth and the students loved this."
This is all the story that is listed on the Imperial Beach web site forum, but if you go to the library, I know you can find a tape Mama made with Grandmother.