"We Were There:" San Diego's Living History



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Children in bathing suits at La Jolla Cove, circa 1906"We Were There" was a local history project created by SDSU's Educational Growth Opportunities (EGO) program in 1978-1979. It featured interviews with local residents discussing the history of aviation in San Diego, as well as local businesses, the neighborhoods of North Park and La Jolla, and more.



Image credit: Children in bathing suits at La Jolla Cove, circa 1906. Still image from "The Village: La Jolla," Special Collections & University Archives.




DeGraff Austin:

DeGraff Austin was born in Fallbrook, California, in 1895. He attended Pomona College and served in the Army Air Service during World War I. From 1946 to 1971, DeGraff Austin's public service career in San Diego included terms as city council member, vice mayor, county supervisor, and port commissioner. He established the San Diego City-County Camp Commission, and an outdoor education program that achieved national recognition. Austin died in 1980.

In this interview totalling approximately 64 minutes, Austin discusses the growth of the Port of San Diego. He also talks about the men who made it possible such as John Spreckels and George Marston.

Interviewed by Mildred Garvin on audio cassette on 7/12/1979, the year before Austin's death.

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Franciska Bale:

Franciska Bale was San Diego's first woman contractor, licensed in 1928. In this interview totalling 38 minutes, Bale describes her contracting business, obstacles along the way including male resentment, and buildings she built over the years 1921-1948. She was 85 years old at the time of this interview.

Interviewed by Lucile Sheridan on audio cassette on 2/27/1979.

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Walter Ballard:

Walter Ballard was an early pilot, barnstormer, and designer. Over the course of his aviation career, he flew for five airlines, including one for which he carried dynamite in Central America. At the time of these interviews, he was involved in the restoration of old planes and volunttering at the San Diego Aerospace Museum.

In this interview totalling approximately 58 minutes, Ballard talks about his early experiences flying and barnstorming. He also covers aviation history in San Diego and compares flying then to now.

Interviewed by Jerry Johnson on audio cassette on 6/2/78, 8/14/78, 1/31/79, and 2/9/79.

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Merle Clayton:

In this interview totalling approximately 1 hour, Clayton describes his experiences in the theatre, including his acting experiences with the Old Globe Theatre. He did script writing for radio and ABC Broadcasting, in addition to writing about downtown theatres, and also worked at Marston's Department Store during World War II.

Interviewed by Charles Brockman on audio cassette on 9/12/1979.

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Martin Jensen:

Martin Jensen learned to fly at Rockwell Field, an Army air base located in Coronado, California. He won second prize in the Dole Derby in 1927, which was an air race to cross the Pacific Ocean from California to the Territory of Hawaii. He once barnstormed from San Diego to the East Coast in a Curtiss JN-4 Jenny.

In this interview totalling approximately 1 hour, Jensen recalls his duties as a naval aviator at North Island during the 1920s. He also discusses barnstorming and other early flying experiences, Captain William "Billy" Mitchell, and his experiences designing and building airplanes for the U.S. Navy.

Interviewed by Jerry Johnson on audio cassette on 3/10/1979.

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William Scripps Kellogg:

In this interview totalling approximately 58 minutes, Kellogg describes his family background as the descendant of newspaper founders. He tells of his life in La Jolla with his aunts, Miss Ellen Browning Scripps and Miss Virginia Scripps, and relays many family anecdotes. He also discusses in depth the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, which his father founded. W.S. Kellogg managed the club after his father's death and expanded it into a successful vacation destination.

Interviewed by J. Edward Bungay on audio cassette on 5/14/1979.

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Edward Morrow:

Ed Morrow was an early aviator, designer, and engineer who worked on the original Spirit of St. Louis when it was built in San Diego. The Spirit of St. Louis was the aircraft in which Charles Lindbergh made his groundbreaking non-stop solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927.

In this interview totalling approximately 49 minutes, Morrow talks about his early days in aviation including flights in old airplanes. He discusses working on the original Spirit of St. Louis in San Diego, and the local celebrations that took place after Lindbergh's successful flight. Morrow also describes his involvement with building the replica of the Spirit of St. Louis for the San Diego Aerospace Museum.

Interviewed by Jerry Johnson on audio cassette on 2/21/1979.

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Steve Stagnaro:

Steve Stagnaro once owned a 60 ft. and 102 ft. tuna boat and spent 40 years bait-tuna fishing. In this interview totalling approximately 59 minutes, Stagnaro recalls the fishing industry, early San Diego, World War I, the flu epidemic, the Depression, and World War II.

Interviewed by Mildred Garvin on audio cassette on 7/10/1979. To learn more about Steve Stagnaro, see: Fishermen of San Diego, The Journal of San Diego History (Fall 1981, Volume 27, Number 4).

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All videos were produced by Corita Gravitt and Jerry Johnson in 1979.

Aviation: Yesterday and Today


These people come from many backgrounds, but were connected in some way with early aviation: pilots, barnstormers, wingwalkers, mechanics, builders, and just observers of the changing aviation scene. Interviewees include: Vincent Burke, Walter Ballard, Ed Morrow, Ken Kirkwood, Philip Myers, Martin Jensen, Lillian Boyer Werner, George Coath, Joe Jessop, and Larry Springer.

Total running time: 28:25.

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Early San Diego Businesses


Very soon nothing will be left except a few buildings, but the dedication and risks involved in running these early businesses have been preserved with profiles on nine local businesspeople including: George Despie, Franciska Bale, Wadham Gazlay, Gracia Mae Ogden, Sherman Pethley, Guy Carmichael, Armond Viora, and Dave and Margaret Fearnley.

Total running time: 19:27.

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Reflections of North Park


One woman called it, "A small, Midwest village within San Diego," and North Park was very much like any close-knit community those words conjure up. Here residents remember work time, play time, the Depression, and the Second World War through almost seven decades of North Park living. Interviewees include: Winnie Cropley, Myra Horton Couchman, Arthur Old, Guy Carmichael, Vivian Henderson, Josephine Panosch, Mr. and Mrs. O.E. Dillon, Clifford and Myrtle Miller, Franciska Bale, Dave and Margaret Fearnley, and Cora Whitaker.

Total running time: 24:33.

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The Village: La Jolla


A sleepy small town, a jewel by the sea, but already a well-known resort around the turn of the century... and La Jollans remember it fondly. Interviewees include: Jeannette Rushton, Barbara Stockton, Francis V. Howell, William Scripps Kellogg, Rosemarie English, John Clarke Rose, Karl Zobell, Robert Hill, Gerard Burchard, Bob Wilson, Elizabeth Sellon, and Robert Barrymore. Featuring historical photographs from the La Jolla Historical Society, Charles Brockmann, and Jerry Johnson.

Total running time: 17:11.

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Special Collections & University Archives Contact

Location: SDSU Library & Information Access, Love Library Room 150
Phone: 619.594.6791
Email: askscua@sdsu.edu

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