HERITAGEVolume 34, Issue 2 www.elcajonhistory.org April 2013


Step back in time at historic home tour

Privately owned by ECHS Vice President Jonna Waiteand her husband Ken Waite, the historic JPR Hall RanchHouse is rarely open to the public

Capturing the flavor of the El Cajon Valley at the turnof the century, tours of the historic JPR Hall Ranch Housewill be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 4.

Built in 1896, the house was the focal point of a 60-acre ranch and has fondly been called the “House of 12Halls” for the parents and 10 children.

Located at 1591 Madison Ave., El Cajon, this historichome remains a reminder of the past amid the moderntract housing that now surrounds it. Wear flat shoes asthere’s steps, stairs, and uneven walkways.

Complete your journey back in time by sipping ice teaand lemonade in the garden while enjoying live entertain-ment.

Tours of the house cost $15 in advance and $20 at thedoor to benefit the El Cajon Historical Society. For advancereservation, mail checks to ECHS, P.O. Box 1973, El Cajon,CA 92022.

It’s been a long time since wehave had music at a Quarterly Meet-ing, and at this next meeting we arebringing music back in a grand way.

We are pleased that the TrinityBrothers have agreed to perform forus. Although their main interest insinging is gospel-oriented, their talentis diverse and extends to other typesof music which they will demonstrateat our April 25th meeting.

The Trinity Brothers are a groupof men that formed purely out of theirlove of music and singing, and it isevident as they perform. They canfrequently be heard lifting their voiceson Sundays at the Trinity Baptist

Church, 1150 Merritt Drive, often toa standing ovation gathering..

The quarterly meeting will begin at11:30 a.m. Thursday, April 25, at theEl Cajon Sizzler Restaurant, 1030Fletcher Parkway (next to Smart &Final).

Come tap your feet and enjoy thewide range of musical numbers thatwill likely include some of yourfavorites.

Seating is limited for this musicaltreat so get those reservations in early.See the back cover of this newsletterfor lunch information and the meetingreservation form. The deadline isMonday, April 20.

It’s Music Time

Trinity Brothers (from left) RichardAshby, Charlie Laughery, and BobWinterton Jr.



President’s Message


Dear Members and Friends of El Cajon Historical Society,Greetings. The California Poppies are in bloom and that means “spring” to me. It’s time for our April 25th

Quarterly Meeting. Our Vice Presidents Jonna Waite and Joe Klock have a nice lunch and program planned foryou so be sure and make you reservations early. It will be at the Sizzler Restaurant again and we promise tohave more than one public address system ready for back-up. I know how annoying it is not to be able to hearwhat’s happening.

We have some more dates coming up for your calendar. VP Jonna and husband Ken have generouslyoffered their historic home for a “fund-raising tour” on Saturday, May 4th. Entertainment and refreshments will

complement the tour of their beautiful home. Do plan to “visit” and spend some timewith us.

The next important date is Monday, June 3, when we have the historic essayawards for the 3rd grade students from our local schools. We eagerly anticipatethe community center once again filling with parents, teachers and students. Theclasses are currently touring the Knox House Museum in preparation for their essays.

The next Downtown Walk will be June 21 featuring a “Red, White & You”theme. The walk will be from 5 to 8 p.m. and the Knox House will be participating.Other dates for your calendar include “Hauntfest” on October 25 and “Wings inSnow” on December 6. Stop by and have your passport stamped at the Knox.

I want to share a part of my recent remembering the past adventure with mygranddaughter when she took me to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park at Coloma, a short drivefrom Sacramento. Being a docent for the Knox House, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated how otherdocents share history. There is a two-stamp gold mill at the park and the docent explained in great detail theprocess of grinding the ore and how they captured the gold on the copper plate. He showed us a gold rock hehad found in the tailings and we could see the streak of yellow gold surrounded by white quartz looking similarto gold found in our area.

When we were through with the mill tour he suggested (firmly) that we visit the little wood frame buildingnext door as his wife was docent there and hadn’t had any visitors that day. The docent was sewing aprons on aportable Singer Sewing Machine from about 1901. She told us the machines were changed to a portable with ahandle to turn the wheel so it could be transported easily across country. She also had a little gold nugget sheshared with us the same as her husband did.

We continued on next door to the Blacksmith Shop where they had the fire going in the forge and werehammering on the red hot metal. The smells and sounds were all good.

We continued our day’s tour to the State Capital in Sacramento. I had never been there before and wassurprised to find it in a setting more like a small town. Very little traffic and few people. We took the one hourtour of the Capital Building and then visited the Capital Park right next to the Capital Building. We toured theMemorial Grove and the White and Pink Camellia Trees were in full bloom. They were as big as our full grownorange trees. Also a huge magnolia tree was in full bloom. The State of California Women’s Club (GFWC/CFWC) currently has a project to place new tree markers on the trees in the State Garden. There are 1500trees that were collected from all over the world.

Springtime abounds with activity



Local third-graders competein 32nd Annual Essay Contest

Plans are underway for El CajonHistorical Society’s 32nd AnnualThird Grade Essay Contest. Third-graders from throughout El Cajon arebusy researching and writing theiressays covering various aspects of ElCajon’s history in the hopes of takinghome a coveted trophy.

Everyone is invited to attend theawards ceremony to be held at 7 p.m.Monday, June 3, at the RonaldReagan Community Center, 195 EastDouglas Ave., in downtown El Cajon.Historical characters from El Cajon’spast will be in attendance.

ECHS would like to thank theViejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians forunderwriting the program for the fifthyear.

Also, thank you to the CajonValley Union School District for 31years of partnership.

Special awards will be given atthe awards ceremony in addition to1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place:n The Fred and Nettie Kersten

Award was established by theirdaughter Chloris Scott.n The Virginia Stead Award

bears the name of the first person tochronicle and publish informationabout plants in the San Diego area.n The Rexford L. Hall Award is

in memory of Rex Hall who dedicatedhimself to the education of children.n The Alice J. Rodriquez

Heritage Award was established tohonor her dedication to children andtheir multi-cultural heritages.n The Olaf Wieghorst Award is

provided by Wieghorst Museum andhonors this internationally-recognizedpainter of the West who lived in ElCajon.n And the Judges Award is

given in recognition of the Kumeyaay,El Cajon Valley’s first inhabitants

Historical characters from El Cajon’s past greet arrivals at last year’s ThirdGrade Essay Contest awards ceremony.

Items are continually being addedto the El Cajon Historical Society’swebsite at www. elcajonhistory.org.

Visit the History page to readpersonal stories and narratives aboutEl Cajon’s past. These include someof the memorable articles by G.Carroll Rice about the Corona Hoteland the Model T. You may alsosubmit your own personal remem-brances to the historical society.

You’ll also find Hazel Sperry’shistory of the Knox Hotel which wasrecently added to the History page.

The website also lists scheduledevents at the Knox Museum andoutlines resources that are availableby visiting the Knox.

Past issues of the Heritage datingback to January 2001 are availableon the Resources page. Currentissues of the Heritage are usuallyposted on the web before they aredelivered via the postal service.

If you can’t wait until next issuefor Milman Youngjohn’s personalstories about growing up in an orangegrove environmentin the El CajonValleyin the 1930’s, you will find italready posted on ECHS’s websiteon the History page.

The website also offers a virtualtour of the Knox House Museum inaddition to photos giving a briefglimpse at how much El Cajon hasgrown in the past century.

ECHS continually addsnew items to website



Red Hatstour KnoxMuseum

The Ladies of the Lake Red Hats toured theKnox House Museum on February 20. In theabove photo, ECHS Vice President JonnaWaite, center, explains items that werecommonly found in kitchens 100 years ago.

The windows at the Knox House,some of which are 137 years old,have recently been rehabilitated..Old window film has also beenremoved and new film installed.

We gratefully acknowledge thecontribution and assistance of theCounty of San Diego, the City of ElCajon, and Architectural Film Design.Without their generosity the comple-tion of this project would not havebeen possible.

Knox Housewindows fixed

by Becky TaylorDocents are needed to help with

the growing number of visitors to theKnox House.

More than 500 students, teachers,and parents from six schools will havetoured the Knox House Museum thisyear by mid-April. Many of them saidthat they have passed the museummany times and never realized howmuch local history it represents.Several parents have expressed theirdesire to return and tour the museumwith their entire family.

During every school tour, “new”questions are asked so the docentsare constantly learning. On a recenttour, a student asked me how theCampbell’s soup can would have beenopened, and I said I didn’t know. Aswe were leaving the kitchen, one ofthe parents told me that the first can

opener was patented in 1858! (Ah,the joys of “smart phones”.)

Being a school tour docentdoesn’t involve extensive knowledgeabout El Cajon history, just a willing-ness to “learn as you go” and a loveof watching the excited faces ofchildren and adults as they “connect”with their city’s heritage.

You may even get a compliment.During one of the tours, a student

sidled up to Eldonna Lay, stroked herperiod skirt, and remarked, “You’reso beautiful!”

If you are interested in learningmore about becoming a docent,please call (619) 444-3800 and leavea message for Becky Taylor or sendan e-mail to [emailprotected].

Recent school tours from VistaGrande, Rancho San Diego, Bostonia,Avocado and St. Kieran were madepossible thanks to docents BeckyTaylor, Carroll Rice, Fran ParsonsHill, Eldonna Lay, Jonna Waite, AliceRodriquez, Carla Nowak, and PaulaKyser.

Thank youto our docents

Museum needs docents for school toursNo special knowledge required

The Summer issue of theHeritage will feature an articlewritten by Milman Youngjohnabout growing up in an orangegrove environmentin the ElCajon Valleyin the 1930’s.

In the next issue...

A 2-day tour has been scheduledfor an adult education class ofseniors from San Diego CommunityCollege - a course called Rediscov-ering San Diego.

Forty to fifty people will visit usand the Wieghorst over two days:May 28 and May 30; beginning at9:30 a.m.

Adult Ed classto visit the Knox





Donated by Horace DoddThe San Diego Corral is dedicated to the preservationand dissemination of the history, art and lore of theAmerican West. These books were published invery limited editions, with scholarly articles penned bylocal authors and illustrated by local artists. This fantasticdonation is literally jam-packed with fascinating articles onthe old West. Take this opportunity to visit the KnoxMuseum and read or research from our growing library oflocal history.

W.D. HALL NAMEPLATEDonated by Michael TaylorThis 1" x 2½” nameplate was originally attached toa piece of equipment sold by W.D. Hall, El Cajon’slargest distributor of lumber, hardware and ranchsupplies for over six decades. Supplying the valleysince 1897, W.D. Hall sold lumber, block, sand,motors, paint, glass, plumbing and appliances ... youname it. During the early growth of El Cajon, nary afarm, ranch, household or school existed that wasn’tfurnished by and through the W.D. Hall Company.

by Mike Kaszuba, Curator

ECHS would like to give well-deserved thanks to Jean Immenschuhfor her donation of children’s booksowned by her mother at the beginningof the 20th Century. They will be usedin the school room exhibit in ourupstairs museum room.

As revealed by the Union-Tribune,El Cajon’s Drum McComber is aregionally loved Santa Claus duringthe holiday season. He’s also some-one who purchased some in-perfect-condition Copley books from arandom sale. A big thank you toDrum and his wife Jane (daughter offormer city councilwoman/countysupervisor/historical society presidentLucille Moore) for bringing themdirectly to us for inclusion in our newresearch bookcase.

ECHS book collection growsthanks to recent donations

Volunteers are needed to readessays on El Cajon written by third-graders and then select the top threeessays in their group of about ten.The selected three essays from eachgroup advance to the finals.

To volunteer, please contactBecky Taylor, Alice Rodriquez, orJonna Waite at 619-444-3800.

ECHS needsvolunteersto read essaysAnd thank you to Horace Dodd

for the complete set of Brand Books.(See New at the Knox below)

Those desiring to do research onEl Cajon and surrounding areas willbe grateful for our growing collectionof books and articles on El CajonCity and San Diego County areas.ECHS also many early copies of theEl Cajon Valley News and the laterDaily Californian newspaper. Checkour website on how to access them.

New at the Knox



Excerptsfrom Mrs. Owens’ Cookbook

and Useful Hintsfor the Household–1883

Courtesy ofHelen Nelson

TO CURE WARTSGet from a homeopathic pharmacy a small vial of

causticum. Give half a dozen pellets three times a day forthree weeks and the warts will disappear.

Food Exhibits are the BIG THING at the Smithsonian,Brooklyn Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, andother leading museums

The New York Times recently ran a series of articlesabout leading museums adding examples of foods intotheir kitchen and dining room exhibits – all to make thosetwo rooms more “palatable” for visitors. The same thing isgoing on at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and its“Supper with Shakespeare” as well as for “Playing House”at the Brooklyn Museum in their American period rooms.

Seen and written about in the Times “Arts & Culture”sections in Sunday papers, the idea is being picked up byhouse museums the country over. At the Knox, however,food examples have been used for some time includingmuffins and pie in the warming ovens, a “baked” chickenin the oven, and bacon and eggs “frying” on the stove.Upon visiting the Knox, children often say they’re “gettinghungry”, especially upon seeing the Hershey bar, animalcracker box, Oreo cookie tin, and the cornflake box inand atop the kitchen cabinet. There is a marshmallow tin,too, and a bowl that holds the remnants of a soft-boiledegg – a yolk-spotted egg shell and a yellow-smearedspoon.

Now an extended exhibit on the dining room tableshows visitors what our settlers ate for regular meals.Based upon what was locally available from farms andranches, cookbooks and lovely tableware Boston-bredand other cultured ladies from “back east” brought with

by Eldonna Lay

them to Southern California and our valley, our table foodreplicas illustrate what was enjoyed by families and friendsdespite living on the frontier. A pretty honey container anda bottle of Heinz ketchup are there, too – bringing a touchof nostalgia to counter the intrusion of modernity due toHeinz’ recent sale to someone with an equally well-knownname: Warren Buffet.

El Cajon Historical Society Board Members BonnieFredensborg and Jonna Waite will conduct a photo tour ofhomes in El Cajon that are 100 or more years old on April18 as part of the “Journey to our Historical Past” speakerseries. Held the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month,presentations begin at 6:30 p.m. at the downtown ElCajon Library in the Community Room, 201 East DouglasAvenue, El Cajon. Admission is free.

Upcoming presentations include:nApril 4 Peter Drinkwater of Gillespie Field, “ A

Historical Look at Gillespie Field:“Ranches – Gooney Birds & Bonanzas”

nApril 18 Bonnie Fredensborg and Jonna Waite,“This Old House”

Gillespie Field, Old Housesfeatured this month

Knox Museum showswhat settlers ate

An exhibit on the dining room table at the Knox Houseshows visitors what our settlers ate for regular meals.



A Look at the Lively Arts in El Cajon1892 – 1952

by G. Carroll Rice

Part 3

(continued on page 8)

MOVIE GLAMOUR BRIGHTENED THE HORIZONThe mechanics of the motion picture; film, cameras,

projectors and the associated technical equipment werepretty much in their final stages of development in the1890’s. Early practitioners had begun filming such land-marks as the Hotel del Coronado in 1898, but the industryremained centered in the East, primarily in New York andNew Jersey. Producers trying to avoid patent infringementsuits and domination by the Edison and other interestsmoved West, and, impressed by mild and sunny weather,settled in Southern California. ‘The Flying A’ Studios,managed by Allen Dwan settled in La Mesa in 1910.Much has been written about those hectic days of fastfilming, quick processing, and rapid distribution of films;for some of the best, I recommend reading the publica-tions of the San Diego Historical Society. Additionalinformation is available from the La Mesa HistoricalSociety. Dwan, who later became known as one of thegreatest Hollywood directors of all time, produced over150 films, mostly Westerns, in the years 1911 and 1912.

The El Cajon Valley, including Lakeside and Santee,offered venues ranging from the wide-open spaces of therugged frontier to the sophistication and fashion of theCorona Hotel, offered a catalog of cinematic backgroundsfor the action films of the day. Most of the Flying A filmswere only 10 to 12 minutes long (one reel), but packed highadventure into every minute. Many of Dwan’s early filmsexplored the story-lines, themes and techniques that madehis work famous. In Bonita of El Cajon (1911), thedaughter of a rustler falls in love with the sheriff. Furious,the father shoots his daughter and suffers for his misdeeds.In The Poisoned Flume, the story line is involves a villain-ous rancher attempting to acquire the herd of a prosperouswidow by marrying her daughter. Rebuffed and orderedoff the range by a handsome new foreman, the rascalattempts to poison the herd by poisoning the water supply.With plenty of gunplay and heroics, the villain ends up inhis own poison and you-know-who gets the girl. And allwithin a reel or so, a matter of minutes!

Essanay Studios were here, featuring the best-knowncowboy stars of the time, including Gilbert ‘Broncho Billy’Anderson, Tom Mix, George ‘Pete’ Morrison and hiswife, Lillian Knapp. Dozens of local people were hired asextras in these films and as one man told me years later,“One day we’d be cowboys, and the next day we’d be

the Indians.” Dr. Charles Knox told the story that one ofthe more popular cowboy stars, unknown to his fans, wasdeathly afraid of horses. He was so well liked and other-wise admired that no one ever told how in one close-upscene he had to mount his horse without a double. Thehorse spooked and ran away with him. It was the nextafternoon before real cowboys from Lakeside were ableto locate him in Fletcher Hills and take him off the animal.Still, many years later, although the incident was remem-bered, no one would name the unfortunate actor.

Columbia Pictures was shooting in a barn near theGrossmont summit, and other companies, less well known,had studios scattered around the region. The unfortunatelocally-financed S-L Film Company failed and was takenover by Col. Ed Fletcher who with former stockholdersrenamed it Grossmont Studios. Films were produced atGrossmont from 1925 until 1929, when the falteringeconomy forced closure. The Grossmont studio building,where Anthony’s Fish Grotto is today, was later used as aroller skating rink and burned down in the early 1930’s. [Iwas just a little tyke when my parents drove up to see theburned-out shell, and pointed out a car which had beenburned by falling power wires.]

Big history was made in El Cajon and La Mesa withthe production of Flight, an aviation/adventure film withsound. The theme of aviation was exciting enough in 1929,but the development ofsound systems brought anew dimension to motionpictures. Flight, directed byFrank Capra and distrib-uted by Columbia Picturesstarred Jack Holt, Lila Leeand Ralph Graves. Theproduction headquarters wasat the Arthur Embletonproperty on Chase Avenue(the Embleton’s house hadindoor plumbing.), and thefilm was dedicated to theUnited States MarineCorps, which providedairplanes and technicalsupport. Flight had currencyin its story line about the

Portions of the 1920 movieFlight were shot in El Cajon.



Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua (1926 – 1928), andwas an immediate technical, artistic, and financial success.


Even in 1914, the people of El Cajon were no strang-ers to the movies. The Harris Store (‘near the Hotel’ isabout all we know about it) celebrated its opening byshowing five reels of motion pictures (a reel lasted be-tween 10 and 12 minutes). They charged 10 cents to seethe films – not named – and 50 cents to attend a danceafterwards. As an ugly sidebar, they specified “Americansonly; no Mexicans” at the dance; perhaps that is why theyare no longer remembered.

Details are fuzzy, but a paper by Hazel Sperry statesthat at some time in this period, motion pictures wereshown in a corrugated iron building on North Magnolia, inthe vicinity of today’s Crystal Ballroom.

Eugene Vacher once recalled his first viewing of themovies at the Presbyterian Church, about 1920. They hadput up sheets for a screen and his Uncle Alpheus had handcranked the sprocket-drive mechanism. The film, itself,was a post World War I Erich Von Stroheim epic filledwith battle action and civilian excesses. The violence ofwar offended no one, but certain ladies found scenes ofsmoking and drinking utterly offensive. Henceforth, it wasdecided, there would be no more movies at the church.

In spite of any objections, the movies were here tostay. An advertisem*nt in the El Cajon Valley News forJune 2, 1920, announced the regular presentation of “firstclass’ motion pictures two nights a week at the El CajonHotel Annex. The movies were offered by a Mr. HarrisAnderson, from Imperial Valley, operating as the ‘MoonTheatres.’ Showings were Wednesday and Saturday in ElCajon; Monday and Friday at the La Mesa Opera House;and Tuesday and Thursday at the Lakeside Hall. The firstshowing was scheduled for July 6th featuring NormaTalmadge in Forbidden City; and the following offeringwould be Charlie Chaplin in The Fireman. Tickets? Adults,20¢, Children, 10¢

The 1922 arrival of Andrew Molins, his wife Maryand daughter Rose, marked the beginning of a new era ofentertainment in El Cajon. Mr. Molins was a man with theenthusiasm, drive and business acumen to bring his dreamof a movie theatre in El Cajon to reality. In January 1924,he bought the old Stell-Burgess store which had beenmoved about 150 feet east when the Lyon Building wasbuilt at the northeast corner of Main and Magnolia. Heimmediately set about renovating the building and purchas-ing the necessary seating, projection equipment, and pianofor the 250-seat theatre. Shrewdly, he kept his costs down

by making an arrangement to rent films from a theatre inLa Mesa and returning them immediately after showing.Opening in March, just about the time his second daughterJosephine was born, the adventure soon proved to be sopopular that by May, the program had to be expanded toinclude matinees as well as evening showings.

As time went on, it became obvious that a larger,more modern theatre would be necessary to meet thedemands of his growing audiences. In 1926, he bought theland at the northwest corner of Magnolia and DouglasStreets and drew up plans for a new building. From thebrilliant electric sign in front to the balcony seats, everyfacet of the new theatre was judged by the local newspa-per as ‘fireproof,’ ‘grand, ornamental, up-to-date, andimpressive.’ The grand opening took place on May 18,1927, with all 551 seats filled by the entire membership ofthe Rotary Club and local dignitaries. Pharmacist Harry L.Hill was Master of Ceremonies and the communityenthusiastically applauded Andrew Molins and the theatrebuilder Roy Fuller. The admission for children remained at10¢ and increased to 25¢ for adults.

With the introduction of the ‘talkies,’ the nationwideweekly motion picture attendance grew from 57 million in1927 to 90 million in 1930. However, as the Depressionforced families to cut back on entertainment dollars,attendance declined to 50 million in 1933. Facing ruin, themotion picture industry and theatre managers like Mr.Molins had to invent new strategies to cut costs and stilldraw paying audiences.

The film producers responded with grand adventures(King Kong), musical shows (Gold Diggers of 1933),and zany comedies (Animal Crackers) that locked thehard times out of the theatre. Times were terrible in 1933,but Disney’s Three Little Pigs sang “Who’s Afraid of theBig Bad Wolf,” defying the fierce Depression. The nextyear, Shirley Templebroke hearts in Stand Upand Cheer in April, thendanced and warbled“Good Ship Lollypop” inBright Eyes in December1934. For the next tenyears great films com-peted fiercely for theaudience dollar, and inreturn delivered escapefrom harsh reality.

The popularity of themovie stars was furtherenhanced by professional publicists and a host of publica-tions, peaking in the 1930’s. In El Cajon, if not the wholeworld, the dimes and quarters that didn’t go to the movietheatre went for fan magazines that glorified the silverscreen. I remember how my high-school-aged girl cousins

Shirley Temple starred in the1934 movie “Bright Eyes”.

(continued from page 7)Lively Arts



and their giggling friends lapped up every gossipy morselthey could smell out about the stars; every snippet wasmulled over, discussed, and embellished like a revelationfrom holy writ. Lana Turner, Mae West, Gloria Swanson,Carole Lombard, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and flights ofother luminaries kept their admirers on mental tiptoe,breathless and wide-eyed. Studio publicity departments,free-lance writers, and publishers worked overtime to feedthe demand for the latest, most outrageous, flattering, andalways ROMANTIC adventure from the world of cellu-loid. I hasten to say, of course, that Shirley Temple wasalways reported so charming, wise, pure and wholesome itmust have been hard to have lived up to the ideals and stillsmile . . . but, according to all reports, she did.

Competition on the technical side of the film industryfostered innovations such as 3-D, vastly improved soundsystems, at least two color processes and new animationtechniques, all of which added to the ‘gee whiz’ aspects of themedium. In the main, it appears that the creative response bythe film makers countered the depression-created difficultiesand powered the ‘golden age of Hollywood.’

At the El Cajon Theatre, not only did patrons forgettheir troubles for a couple of hours, but door prizes suchas mattresses, fresh fish, groceries, furniture, and boxes ofdishes added to the lure of Wednesday nights. Theyounger patrons rejoiced in Saturday matinees not onlyfraught with the breathtaking serial adventures of GeneAutrey and his Melody Ranch, Buster Crabbe as FlashGordon, but they received coupons for ice milk bars atHarry Hill’s drug store after the show. Until sound systemswere perfected and installed, Dorothy Smith played theplayer organ and changed pre-recorded rolls to keep upwith the action on the screen.

In passing it should also be noted that Andrew Molins,like other business men of the community was active incivic affairs. For example, in 1926 he was appointed CityMarshall, El Cajon’s law enforcement officer. The post wasnot only an honor, but Molins was expected to activelyenforce City ordinances. When he resigned in 1927, he wasappointed to the position of Deputy Marshall. In addition tohis civic duties, he was an active Rotarian and Grand Masterof the El Cajon Masonic Lodge. At his death in 1939, theEl Cajon Theatre was sold to Burton Jones and then passedon to Gerald Gallagher in November 1941.

Wartime restrictions forced the postponement ofcritical repairs and a remodeling, but the theatre continuedto operate at full capacity as thousands of new residentspoured into El Cajon. The new management offeredspecial rates to service personnel and gave tickets toreward Boy Scouts and other groups gathering aluminum,steel, rubber and paper in various ‘drives’ to recycleessential defense materials. In April 1945, the building,which had been believed to be ‘fireproof,’ caught fire andburned to the ground.

Rebuilding the theatre during the war was unthinkablesince lumber and all building materials were being allocatedto the war effort. However, the resourceful managementreplaced the screen, brought in new projection equipmentand converted the ruin into an outdoor theatre. Seats werereplaced by benches and on chilly evenings the patronsbundled up and grumbled, but still they came to the movies.I remember watching the news reels of the Normandyinvasion there under whatever stars might have beenshining through.

April 2, 1946, saw the opening of a new El CajonTheatre on West Main Street. First-class in every aspect,it featured beautiful décor, state-of-the-art sound equipment,and excellent acoustics. Making life even more comfortablefor everyone, there was a ‘crying room’ so that mothers withfussy babies could watch without disturbing their neighborsand a ‘smoking room’ for those who needed a puff during theperformance. Owned and operated by the Gallaghers, thetheatre was built by pharmacist Chet Hardin in memory of hisson James who was killed in action during World War II.

Time has a way of changing economics and the adventof television brought dwindling audiences. The theatre wassold to the puss*cat Entertainment interests who used it todisplay X-rated films. As the novelty of sexy movies woreoff, the theatre was sold once more. Totally renovated, itwas operated briefly as the El Cajon Family Theatre, buttelevision, home air conditioning, and changing tastes inentertainment spelled the doom of this beautiful theatre. Itnever recovered its early prestige and, in spite of localprotest and sentiments, it was torn down in July 1992.

El Cajon theatres, like those elsewhere, have morphedinto multiplex units and have become integral elements ofthe great shopping malls; but we still maintain our love forthe movies and fondly remember the pioneers who madethem possible.

From Tap to Ballet, from Country Music to GrandOpera, Black & White Silent to Talkies in Color, andVariety to Shakespeare in only 60 Years! Oh, whatfascinating trip it was!

The people who chose the El Cajon Valley as home inthe 19th and 20th Centuries were generally prosperousbusinessmen, laborers, and farmers who brought the cultureof their former homes with them. They, and those whofollowed, joyfully created entertainment for themselveswhen it was unavailable from outside the community. Asthe population grew and transportation improved, betterfacilities became available and the opportunities for bothexpression and patronage expanded. Every step thereafterhas promoted participation, support and appreciation of thelively arts. It’s the way it was . . . and probably always will be.

A Look at the Lively Arts, in its entirety,is available at www.elcajonhistory.org.



Almost every American over the age of 70 can tellsome tale involving a Model T Ford. Truly ‘people’s cars,’far in advance of the German concept of ‘Volkswagon,’they were called Tin Lizzies, Tee Bones, Flivvers, and,sometimes, just Tees. They were the butts of jokes and theobjects of kicks and curses, but over fifteen million ofthem were produced between 1908 and 1927 and mostserved their owners well. With a variety of body styles anda cast iron 20-horsepower engine that could burn gasoline,kerosene or alcohol, they were adaptable to a rural,agriculturally-based America without paved roads, andthey could be maintained with the bag of simple tools thatcame with the car.

Who could forget the unique huff-puff sound of thatlow-compression engine and the buzz of the spark coils?There were just three pedals and lever on the floorboards thatchanged gears and applied the brakes, and you can look invain for an accelerator pedal. The throttle was a lever onthe steering column, under the steering wheel on the left side.On the opposite side a lever controlled spark advance andretard. (Heaven help you if you tried to crank the enginewith the spark advanced; the kick could break an arm.)Yes, the controls were pretty simple, but those Model Tcars and TT trucks were the low-cost, low-maintenancecore of American transportation for a whole generation.

Built high above the ground, the Model T could bedriven over rocks and stumps, across streams, and overruts that would cripple most modern cars in minutes. Onceat a work location, they could be lifted up on jacks andtheir rear wheels fitted to drive belts that powered sawmills and farm machinery. Not only that, there were directpower take-offs available that attached to the differential.

Within a few years of the Model T’s introduction, kitswere sold by the Sears, Roebuck company and otherretailers to spiff up its basic chassis with a sporty ‘road-ster’ body, or even change it into a tractor. In any settingor modification, it was rugged, reliable, and affordable;providing a vital contribution to the needs of the growingpopulation of middle-class Americans. By the mid-1920’s,a little over $250 would buy a new Model T that couldtravel up to 45 miles-per-hour while getting between 13and 21 miles-per-gallon of low-cost gasoline.

Photographs of El Cajon dating between 1920 and1930 show the predominance of Model T Fords on thestreets, and one of them might have belonged to the Rices.In 1927, my newly-married parents drove their shiny newModel T coupe from San Francisco to El Cajon where my

grandparents had bought property near the corner of Thirdand Lexington. This is the first car that I remember, andlike most early childhood memories, I recall it only in thecontext of certain scenes. For example, there is a distinc-tive rock formation near Descanso that I can’t passwithout a smile and reminiscing about my first encounterwith snow. I remember shivering in the cold and warmingmy little hands on a heater that was strapped to the leftfront side of that car. Most peculiarly, my mother calledmy attention to a pile of snowballs someone had leftbehind, and for years thereafter, I thought that snow fell inballs, just like in the comic strips in the Union and Tribunenewspapers.

When I was very small, my father sometimes had towork late, and my mother would sit by the living roomwindow, rocking me and anxiously watching for those faintyellow Model T lights coming up the long driveway fromLexington Street to the house. My mother was a city girl,and being alone at night in the middle of a dark orangegrove with no telephone was a source of terror for her.She later admitted keeping me up late so she would havesome company while she waited.

Another flash memory dates to no later than 1932when my father sold our work mare, Jill, to a man wholived on Mollison Avenue and agreed to deliver her. As mymother drove slowly down Washington Street, I stood onthe seat next to her and watched out the back window,while my father followed on horseback. My mother neverdid have a license, but in those more relaxed days a lot ofpeople had no official paper and a ‘chauffeur’s license’ fortruck drivers was a metal badge that was worn on the hat.

Those Terrific Model T Fordsby G. Carroll Rice




Some Terrific Model T Fords



The real ‘miracle machine’ at our place was a ModelTT 1916 truck that apparently came with the place whenmy grandparents bought it. It could sit for months, evenyears, in the barn or outside in the weather, unused, itstires almost flat, its under-the-seat gas tank all but empty.But when it was needed to haul a load of manure fromStacy’s Dairy or bales of hay, my father would pump upthe deflated tires, check it over for any problems (somecaused by kids playing in it) and it would start on the firstfew cranks. The lack of doors and seatbelts would whitenthe faces of today’s safety advocates, but no one worriedabout it at the time. Even though I was fascinated by thebuzz and blue sparks of the spark coils in a box on thefirewall, my Daddy insisted that I sit on the bench seatbeside him and not move when the truck was moving.

I’ve long since forgotten why we made trips toLakeside and crossed the long wooden bridge across theSan Diego River, but one memory persists. Yes, eventoday, when I cross that long modern concrete bridge onHighway 67, I hear the spark coil’s buzz, the hollow puffof a Model T engine, and the rattle of bridge planks underthe tires.

My friends and I often abused that old TT as wescrambled over it playing cops-and-robbers. Worse yet, Ipracticed my youthful mechanical skills by removing partsfrom its engine and body – parts that my father had to boltback on before the truck could be driven. The end of ourold Ford truck, like so many others, was a matter oftransformation. My father traded the engine to a neighborwho needed it to drive a pump, and in exchange, theneighbor turned the bed and wheels into a trailer to haulsprinkler pipes. Today, you can still buy original Model Tand TT parts from any number of automobile supplyhouses. Their forms persist as proof that most old flivversnever died; they just morphed into new hot rods, newmachinery and automotive immortality.

Chug on in peace, old friends.

President ....................................... Fran Parsons HillVice Presidents .................... Joe Klock, Jonna WaiteTreasurer ............................................... George DallRecording Secretary ............................Carla NowakCurators ....................... Mike Kaszuba, Eldonna LayArchivist ..................................................... Fran HillOffice Manager.....................................Mary SaxtonMaintenance .............................................. Rick HallMembership ....................................... Christy KlockEssay Contest ............Alice Rodriquez, Becky TaylorCentennial Representative ..........Bonnie FredensborgHeritage Editor ..................................... Anita TinsleyMembers at Large ............................Ellen Anderson, Richard Lay, G. Carroll Rice, Karna Webster

El Cajon Histor ical SocietyBoard of Directors

Telephone Messages 619-444-3800

A Model T, far right, could be seen on El Cajon’s MainStreet in the early 1900s.

Recalling Our PastHere’s what was happening in El Cajon 100 years

ago, in April 1913.n Knox Hotel arrivals included: from San Diego,

Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Hastings, Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Huston,H. H. Hilles, D. M. Brewer, and Sherwood Wheaton; Mrs.F. A. Brown from Des Moines, Iowa; Arthur and FlorenceSwannell from Kankakee, Illinois; Mr. and Mrs. F. C.Lake from Ocean Beach; and Caroline H. Odell fromYonkers, New York.n C. C. Clark and family will, in a few days, move

back to their home on the ranch east of town.n Mr. and Mrs. Morgan of Trenton, Tennessee,

arrived in El Cajon and are guests of Mr. and Mrs.Wilkerson of the Knox Hotel.n The Meridan School baseball team played

Lakeside and were beaten.n Prize Lemon Ranch sold for $30,000. J. W.

Dougherty sold his fine ranch near Bostonia to a Wiscon-sin man.n The annual meeting of the stockholders of the San

Diego Inland newspaper company will be held at the officeof the El Cajon Valley News on May 8, 1913, for thepurpose of electing a board of directors for the ensuingyear and transacting other important business. W.D. Hallis president and C.O. Smith is secretary.n Good Jersey milk cows are for sale for $35 to

$75 each by J. P. Miller, who’s home phone is 483.n Also for sale, grape vines cut for stove or heater

for $3.50 per cord by Thomas Ballantyne.n The W.D. Hall Company wants grain sacks.






Return Service Requested

El Cajon Historical SocietyP. O. Box 1973El Cajon, CA 92022

A big “thank you” to all of you who sent in yourmembership dues — and a kindly reminder for thosewho haven’t done so yet. Your membership expirationdate appears on your address label, located to the right.

By sending in your dues before your renewal notice,you save ECHS costly mailing expenses, and thus enableECHS to make better use of its resources.

Membership dues remain $12 for Individual, $20Family, $30 Organization, $40 Business, and $500Enhanced Life.

Thank you for your support of ECHS.

Thank You Renewed Members!

Number Attending ______ ($15 each)

Amount Enclosed _______

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April Meeting Reservation Form

Reservations not keptbecome a donation

Mail reservations and checks to:ECHS, P.O. Box 1973, El Cajon, CA 92022-1973

The El Cajon Historical Society’s April QuarterlyMeeting will begin at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, April 25,at the El Cajon Sizzler Restaurant, 1030 FletcherParkway (next to Smart & Final). Lunch will beserved at 12 noon followed by an outstanding musicalprogram.

Three lunch entrees are available: steak, chicken,or shrimp. (Vegetarian upon request.) All mealsinclude tossed green salad, an item from the dessertbar, and ice tea, coffee or soft drink. The cost for themeeting remains $15.

Members will also have the opportunity to parti-cipate in, or contribute to, an opportunity drawing.

Reservations are mandatory and must be receivedby Monday, April 20.

April Quarterly Meetingoffers rare musical treat

Welcome New Members♦ Marilyn R. Brucker♦ Linda Hjelle♦ Dorothy Miller

♦ Mike & Tamie Schirlls♦ David & Robin Hart

Taylor Family



What is the oldest building in El Cajon? ›


The oldest building still standing is located at 169 E. Main Street. Until the early 1900's it housed the Home Telephone Company, the Cuyamaca Bank and the El Cajon News ...

Where did the name El Cajon come from? ›

The city takes its name from Rancho El Cajón, which was named for the box-like shape of the valley that surrounds the city, and the origin of the city's common nickname "the Box".

What is the history of El Cajon Boulevard? ›

El Cajon Boulevard has a rich history. In the early 1900s El Cajon Avenue was the main wagon road connecting San Diego to the east county. In 1937,the El Cajon Boulevard Civic Association hosted The El Cajon Boulevard of Progress Festival to celebrate the acceptance of the street as the terminus of Highway 80.

What does El Cajon mean in Spanish slang? ›

Surrounded by foothills in every direction, the "Big Box Valley" became the namesake for the City ("El Cajon" translates to "the box" in Spanish).

What is the oldest brick house in San Diego? ›

The Whaley House is an 1857 Greek Revival style residence, a California Historical Landmark, and museum located in Old Town, San Diego, California. It is currently maintained by Historic Tours of America, Inc (HTA) and is the oldest brick structure in Southern California.

What is the ethnicity of El Cajon? ›

The 5 largest ethnic groups in El Cajon, CA are White (Non-Hispanic) (56.7%), White (Hispanic) (12.6%), Other (Hispanic) (9.4%), Black or African American (Non-Hispanic) (6.22%), and Two+ (Non-Hispanic) (4.72%).

How many Chaldeans are in El Cajon? ›

In fact, El Cajon, California is home to the largest population of Iraqi war refugees in the world. It hosts the second-highest population of Chaldeans in the United States, behind only Metro Detroit. Roughly 50,000 Chaldeans live there.

Is El Cajon a low income city? ›

In 2018, the median income for the East County region was $79,586, slightly higher than the median household income for all San Diego County, $79,079. Among cities in East County, El Cajon has the lowest median household income. Half of all El Cajon households have annual incomes below $52,500.

What movies were filmed in El Cajon? ›

Some of the popular projects filmed in El Cajon include Bonita of El Cajon (1911), Play It Cool (2021), Satan's Blade (1984), Mighty Oak (2020), The Raw Ones (1965), Ghostline (2015), Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story (2014), Bullets, In the Cage (2013), and The Naked Peaco*ck (1975).

Who named the Cajon Pass? ›

On November 24, 1819, Padre Nuez named it solemnly el Caxon de San Gabriel de Amuscopiabit, the name appears in the following decades with various spellings. The abbreviated form Cajon Pass, is used on Gibbes' map of 1852.

What county does El Cajon belong to? ›

El Cajon is located in Southern California, just 15 miles due east of San Diego and is the sixth largest of 18 cities in San Diego County.

What is the oldest wooden structure in San Diego? ›

The William Heath Davis House is considered to be one of the most significant buildings in San Diego's history. Visitors are intrigued by the exciting stories of the people who lived in it and the fact that it is the oldest wooden structure in San Diego.

What is the oldest stone building in California? ›

Today as the last remaining Spanish presidio church in America, the Royal Presidio Chapel is also significant as the oldest stone building in California and longest continually operating church on one site in the State.

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