History of the 101 Club aka The Main Attraction

Oceanside’s infamous adult club will soon be no more. While a strip club and its clientele may be a loss to some, an eyesore to most, and a curiosity to others, the building dates back to the early 1940s and has an association with some of the biggest acts in Country and Western music. 

Once owned by notable resident David Rorick, the two acre parcel of land had a small building fronting the west side of the coast highway. This building was leased or rented to William L. D. Hamilton and George A. Strahan, who operated Red and Bill’s Café. (Behind their café was a large vacant lot which was used for several years as a baseball field. It also served as the location for a traveling circus in the 1940s.)

“Bill” Hamilton and his wife Minnie lived in Los Angeles during the early years of the Depression, where Bill worked on the California Aqueduct as a cook. In 1935, Minnie Hamilton moved to Carlsbad to help take care of her ailing grandfather.  Bill soon followed and began working as a cook at the Bridge Café, located near the San Luis Rey River Bridge on Highway 101 north of Oceanside. 

Mary and George “Red” Strahan at the Red & Bill’s Cafe, 1940s

While Bill Hamilton was working at the Bridge Café, he met George “Red” Strahan. The two decided to go into business together and opened a café of their own. In 1946 Hamilton and Strahan purchased the land on which their restaurant stood at 939 North Hill Street. Their café was so successful, they opened another in Solana Beach.

In July of 1948, the partners sold their café property to John and Mary Vieszt, who just three years later, sold the property to R. G. Hunter, a resident of Vista. It was likely at this time the building at 939 North Hill/Coast Highway was substantially enlarged. On May 1, 1952, with George Duros as the new proprietor, “The Wheel” held its grand opening featuring The Valentines, an “all girl orchestra” as entertainment. The Wheel, soon to be renamed the “Wheel Club” served food and cocktails with live entertainment and dancing. No longer just a small café, it became a popular night spot on the Highway 101.

Newspaper ad from 1953

The nightclub was not without scandal. In 1956 its then manager Jerome Apelby was arrested for showing obscene material. Described in local newspapers as a coin-operated “peep hole moving picture machine featuring five pornographic movies”, it was confiscated by police on November 2nd. At a hearing the films were shown on a screen in a courtroom and deemed “not decent by any stretch of the imagination.” Apelby was found guilty, fined and given a suspended jail sentence. In response, the club was declared “out of bounds” by military personnel at Camp Pendleton. The Alcohol Beverage Control department revoked the alcohol license due to the conviction and owner R. G. Hunter foreclosed for failure to pay rent.

In 1957 Jimmie (sometimes spelled Jimmy) Brogdon began operating the Club. Jimmie Clarence Brogdon was born in 1929 in Hornersville, Missouri. He was the third child of Clarence and Mary Irene Brogdon. Jimmie’s father, a piano salesman, was murdered over a heated business dispute in 1933 when Jimmie was just 4 years old. Mary Irene Brogdon moved her four children to Southern California in the mid 1940’s, and Jimmie attended his senior year of high school in South Pasadena in 1947. 

1954 ad

Brogdon was living in Escondido in 1954 and it was there he played piano for the band “Hidden Valley Boys” at the Squeaky’s El Patio. The band played at the Wheel Club in September of 1954 and by 1957 Brogdon was managing the Wheel Club along with Milton Forester. Brogdon was successful in bringing notable acts to Oceanside, including Freddie Hart, who appeared on a weekly television program, along with Merle Haggard, Little Jimmy Dickens, Johnny Cash and the Maddox Brothers and Rose.

Times Advocate, Nov 26 1965

Known as “America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band” the group consisted of four brothers, Fred, Cal, Cliff, and Don, along with their sister Rose. After leaving Alabama during the Depression, the Maddox family settled in Central California. Tired of endless hours of picking cotton to make ends meet, the Maddox siblings tried their hand at singing and by 1937 made their live radio debut when Rose was just 11 years old.

In the 1950s and 1960s Rose Maddox had over a dozen hits as a solo artist and four solid hits with legendary Buck Owens. She is considered one of the “grand dames” of traditional country music.

On December 7, 1959 Brogdon married country western star Roselea Maddox Hale in Las Vegas, Nevada. Lyle Duplessie wrote in 2015 biography of Rose Maddox: “Rose had met Jimmy Brogdon, owner of the Wheel Club in Oceanside. Brogdon was well connected in the music industry and his club regularly hosted such luminaries as George Jones, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, and the up-and-coming Merle Haggard. Brogdon would now host another star: Rose. It didn’t take long before Brogdon and Rose were in love.”

In an interview before her death Maddox said of her career in the late 1960s, “Times were changing. Nightclubs were using house bands instead of guest stars. We weren’t working as much. I found out I could make as much money as the whole family by myself. I had a son to support. I got married to a man in Oceanside. Jimmy Brogdon. He still lives in Oceanside. When I married him he was a nightclub owner. Now he owns half of Oceanside.

Despite these claims, in 1959 Brogdon was living in a modest 700 square foot home at 410 Grant Street, behind Oceanside High School. However, by 1970, in addition to owning and managing the 101 Club, he was the general manager and owner of the Oceanside Ice Company on South Cleveland Street. In 1986 Brogdon stated that his company handled “between 50 percent and 75 percent of the cube ice delivery business in San Diego and Orange counties, providing 200 tons of block and cube ice per day to more than 1,500 convenience stores, markets and produce companies.”

Aerial of the 101 Club at 939 North Hill Street, circa 1967

Another star who performed at the 101 Club was Barbara Mandrell, a local girl who graduated from Oceanside High School in 1967. She performed with her family, The Mandrell Family Band, at various local nightspots and one of their first records was recorded in Oceanside. Barbara Mandrell would go on to be a huge star with several hits and a variety television show.

The Mandrells recorded their first record in Oceanside, Barbara Mandrell is far right

In 1971 Cpl Garry Lee Hanson was murdered outside the 101 Club after an altercation inside the bar. The City of Oceanside noted in a study that in a one year period a number of felonies had been committed at the Club, along with a dozen misdemeanors, a variety of reported crimes and an equal number of citations and violations. But the City Council and planners were more concerned with the high concentration of crime in the downtown area, particularly what they termed “the honky tonk area”, establishments which were seen as “major deterrents to the revitalization of the downtown area, attracting prostitutes, drug peddlers, transients and other negative elements which produce a climate that seems to encourage crime.” The study presented in 1977, reported that in 1973, 47% of felonies and 51% of misdemeanors were reported in downtown Oceanside within a four to six block radius and arrests for felonies had increased 80 percent. So despite the declining reputation of the 101 Club, because it was outside of this “zone” it was not considered a public nuisance.

First Edition Disco in 1979

By 1979 the roadside club went from a Country & Western bar and restaurant to a disco called “First Edition”. An ad that ran in the Los Angeles Times that year seeking a part-time disc jockey and a fulltime promoter which went on to say “promotion [is] very important, unless experienced in promoting successful disco do not apply.”

Two years later the establishment was changed to “Francine’s” and advertised dancing and cocktails to “Top Forty” hits. One year later Francine’s introduced “Tuesday Night Ladies Only” which featured adult male entertainers, which was considered a novelty act at the time. Performers known as the Lone Ranger, Macho Man and Indian Jim were “regulars.”

Soon after its foray into adult entertainment, the club was renamed Pure Platinum, and featured female semi-nude dancers. Another name change occurred in the late 1980s when the club went by Dirty Dan’s, and lastly, in 1990 it was renamed The Main Attraction. Jimmy Brogdon dissolved his management company in 1987 and died ten years later on November 18, 1997.

939 North Coast Highway, February 2020 Google view

For years people have mocked Oceanside for having such an establishment on Hill Street (aka the historic Highway 101) across from the Chamber of Commerce, no less. Some are now lamenting its inevitable demise. Regardless of its reputation, its association with country music is worth remembering.

The Boathouse at the Buena Vista Lagoon

An old boathouse slowly collapsed into the waters of the Buena Vista Lagoon in the 1970s, sliding into a watery grave. Many longtime residents remember this old boathouse but few may remember its history.

View of the boathouse at Buena Vista Lagoon, looking east.

The Buena Vista Lagoon, once a slough, has a murky history much like its waters. Sloughs are “ecologically important as they are a part of an endangered environment; wetlands. They act as a buffer from land to sea and act as an active part of the estuary system where freshwater flows from creeks and runoff from the land mix with salty ocean water transported by tides.” (Wikipedia)

At times large areas of the slough were completely dry. In 1910 and 1911 residents from both Carlsbad and Oceanside gathered to race horses on a half mile track on the dried “lake bed.” In the mid 1920s the dried bed of the eastern end of the slough was considered for a landing field for planes. Of course, these activities were temporary because during heavy rains the slough would fill, sometimes past its natural capacity, and spill out over the Coast Road and into the Pacific Ocean.  

In 1939 the County ended any hunting at the lagoon, although fishing was allowed. The area was declared a bird sanctuary eventually named after Bombardier Maxton Brown of Carlsbad, who was killed during World War II in action in North Africa.  

Shortly afterward, a weir was built at the mouth of Buena Vista lagoon. A weir is a barrier used to control the flow of water for outlets of lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. Once in place, the weir changed the natural tidal flow of the slough, transforming it into a “freshwater brackish lagoon”.

Before the lagoon was altered in such a dramatic way, in 1901 the California Salt Company attempted to harvest salt from man-made evaporation ponds on the north end of the Buena Vista Lagoon. These ponds are shallow basins designed to “extract salt from seawater, salty lakes, or mineral-rich springs through natural evaporation.” As the water dries, the salt crystals are harvested by raking.

The July 13, 1901 edition of the Oceanside Blade reported: “The forces of the California Salt Co. are still at work in the slough between South Oceanside and Carlsbad. They are preparing to put down wells in the slough bed where points will be put in. The entire system will be connected to a pump and the brine pumped into the vats. Pumping operations are expected to commence in a few days.”

Salt Evaporation Ponds in view with boathouse on the southwest corner, 1946

The endeavor failed, however, and in a few short years the Salt Company had left town, leaving the evaporation ponds intact which were visible for decades. Because of this some have assumed that the boathouse dated back to the Salt Company.

The first evidence of the boathouse in historic photographs (dating back to 1932) reveal that the boathouse was constructed by 1946. An aerial of that year shows the boathouse adjacent to the western end of the abandoned salt evaporation ponds. In 1999 Nancy Tenaglia wrote in an article about the lagoon that her father Kenyon Keith of St. Malo had the boathouse built to store rowboats and a small sailboat. However she stated that the boathouse was eventually “abandoned.”

The boathouse was then utilized by hotel owner Dr. Clifford Elwood Brodie.

Brodie, a chiropractor, was a native of Washington State. He moved to Oceanside in 1939 and was actively involved in both business and politics. He built his first hotel, the Brodie-O-Tel at 2001 South Hill (Coast Highway) in 1939. Described as “colorful”, Brodie was married no less than five times (one marriage lasting just two months after securing a quickie divorce from a previous wife in Reno). He served on the City Council, but was the subject of a recall in 1945 because in part of his “bickering” with other council members.

After opening a twelve-room motor lodge overlooking the Buena Vista Lagoon, Brodie an avid sportsman, sought to have the lagoon transformed into a recreational spot for boaters and fishermen. He housed a boat of his own in the boathouse which was accessible from his property by way of the salt ponds.

He advertised his hotel, Brodie’s Motor Lodge, on signage and newspaper ads that said, “Sleep Where It’s Quiet.” His boathouse was painted with the words “Motor Lodge”.  

Boathouse painted with “Motor Lodge” and signage that reads “Sleep Where It’s Quiet, Brodie’s Motor Lodge”

The hotel was put into “receivership” for a time during a hotly contested divorce in 1949 and during that time it was reported that the boat kept at the boathouse was stolen. It very well could have been Brodie himself who took the boat in order to keep his wife Florence from having it. Brodie was found in contempt by the courts, after locking the hotel and leaving with both funds and records (and perhaps the boat).

Entrance into the Brodie Motor Lodge from South Hill Street

In 1950 Brodie attempted to sell his hotel at the lagoon, advertising it as a Mexican style hotel with a full length porch, panoramic views and sea breezes.

The Brodie Motor Lodge, 2128 South Hill Street (Coast Highway)

Despite his earlier recall, Brodie ventured into the political arena, running for county supervisor and later for an open council seat in 1952, but was not successful. He was, however, successful in renewing a relationship with one of his former wives, Edith Wolfe, and they remarried.

Clifford Elwood Brodie

Clifford E. Brodie died in November 1953 after suffering a fatal heart attack. The lodge which bore his name continued operation.

In fact, in 1958 a very special guest checked into the Brodie Motor Lodge. Heavyweight Boxing Champion Floyd Patterson arrived in Oceanside in July of that year along with his manager Cus D’Amato. Patterson was training for his title defense against Roy Harris in a match held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, on August 18th. His training took place at the Beach Community Center, but he stayed “where it’s quiet” at the Motor Lodge overlooking the lagoon.

Boxer Floyd Patterson at the Brodie Motor Lodge (from the Los Angeles Times)

After his training camp ended Patterson published a personal note in the Oceanside Blade Tribune saying in part: “I’m certainly going to miss Oceanside.  I know when I get back to New York I’ll be thinking of this place.  I also know that wherever I go to train for my next fight, I’ll be remembering the fine time, the perfect climate and the wonderful people of Oceanside.”

By the mid 1960s the Brodie Motor Lodge was torn down but the boathouse remained on the lagoon. Eventually the paint faded and the wooden structure began to deteriorate. It began to sink, even while children and teenagers ventured in and around it, One of the last published photos of the boathouse was in 1978, with a young boy perched precariously on top of it to fish.

Boy fishing on the collapsing boathouse, August 1978

Eventually Brodie’s boathouse slipped under the waters of the Buena Vista Lagoon and while it may be lost to the elements forever, the boathouse lives on in the memories of many.

Thank you to Edith Wolfe-Badillo for sharing some of these wonderful photos with the Oceanside Historical Society.

Ray’s Radio & Television Service

If you’ve ever driven down South Freeman Street near Godfrey, which borders the Oceanview Cemetery, you might have seen and been curious about this vintage neon sign. It does seem an odd place for an electric sign. How did it get there and who is Ray?

Raymond (Ramon) H. Nolasco was born in 1918 in Brawley, California. He was the youngest child of Pedro and Barbara (Ayala) Nolasco, who immigrated from Mexico in 1913. By 1920, the Nolasco’s were living in Oceanside on South Hill Street, near Short Street (now known as Oceanside Boulevard). Pedro was supporting his wife and three small children working as a truck driver.

When Ramon was just three years old, his father died and his mother was left to care for and support her children. However, the family received assistance from local community leaders, and in particular four Oceanside women: Mrs. J. E. Jones, Julia Scott, Mrs. W. M. Spencer and Anna Bearhope all petitioned the county welfare office to have a small house built for the widow at 508 Godfrey Street.

Ramon and his siblings attended Oceanside schools and more than once he was noted in the local newspaper as being a good student, receiving “honorable mention” for his grades.

In about 1939 Ramon, now known as Raymond, married Barbara Arebalas. In 1940 he was employed doing roadwork and living at the same tiny house on Godfrey Street in which he was raised. That same year they welcomed the birth of their daughter Barbara.

Raymond later went to work for George Yasukochi, who was a “tenant farmer” on the Rancho Santa Margarita. In 1945 Raymond enlisted in the Army and was sent briefly to Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, California. He was discharged in 1946.

Two years after his discharge, Raymond began working for the new Eternal Memorial Park Cemetery which opened in 1947. As a former servicemember, Raymond likely took the advantage of the VA home loan program, when in 1951 he built a house (directly behind his childhood home) on the corner of Freeman and Godfrey Streets.

Original location of Ray’s Radio & Television Service at 108 South Hill, 1956

While continuing to work for Eternal Hills, Ray apparently ventured into his own business and around 1956 opened Ray’s Radio & Television Service, which was located at 108 South Hill Street (Coast Highway). He was at the location just one year, when he moved his business next door to his home at 1217 South Freeman Street. It was likely at that time he erected the neon sign at his store front, which at that time could be seen by vehicles traveling on Hill Street (Coast Highway). While the business is no longer open, the sign remains at this location.

Ray’s Radio & Television Service at 1217 South Freeman Street

Ray continued operating his service repair store until the early or mid 1960’s, all the while maintaining his job as groundskeeper at Eternal Hills, then as Cemetery Superintendent, until his death in 1982. So beloved was Raymond Nolasco by the cemetery, that a water feature, “Nolasco Falls” bears his name.

Courtesy Findagrave.com

For nearly all of his life, over six decades, Ray lived on the same “corner”; first on Godfrey Street and then on South Freeman. But from a humble beginning, Ray Nolasco made his mark on the history of Oceanside, both in neon and in bronze.

Do you have a local mystery?

The yellow “Beach Motel Area” sign is missing.

A local resident recently asked what has happened to a sign at the southeast corner of Wisconsin and Coast Highway. It had been there for several decades and has been removed. While I don’t currently have the answer, it’s worth looking into! Do you have a local history question? A family mystery? Contact me and I will see if I can help.

History of the Blade Tribune Building, Irving Gill’s Last Design

Brothers Paul and Harold Beck arrived in Oceanside in 1929 from Iowa. Their father had arranged to purchase the local newspaper and eventually merged it with a weekly publication, the Oceanside News, creating the Oceanside Daily Blade Tribune. With this purchase, they became the youngest newspaper publishers in the State of California.  Paul Beck was just 24 years old, Harold 26.

Harold Beck

Paul wrote about himself: “[I] as a young man, with a degree in Journalism from Stanford University, barely three months experience as a cub reporter on the “San Jose News,” and with an ardent desire to make a success of my first business venture. It had long been my desire to become a newspaper publisher.  A desire that had been instilled in me by my Dad, who published the “Centerville, Iowa Daily Iowegian” since 1903, and by my Mother, from a famous Iowa newspaper family with all four of her brothers publishers of different newspapers in that state.”

Paul Beck

Their newspaper office was located on Second Street (Mission Avenue) and Tremont Street in a building that used to house the Ladies Emporium.  In a 1977 article Paul wrote: “The staff of the “Blade-Tribune” consisted of Harold as editor, myself as business-advertising manager, Stuart Langford, shop foreman, Ken Stanley, linotype operator, Ora Magee, society editor, Betty Maxwell, office clerk, Bill Spencer, who formerly published the “Blade,” office manager, a part time high school boy as press room helper and about 12 carrier boys.  High schooler, Lionel Van Deerlin, now a U. S. Congressman, sports editor was a “stringer,” which means he was paid 5c a column inch for published material.”

Oceanside Daily Blade Tribune newspaper office at Mission and Tremont Streets in 1931

Both Harold and Paul were actively involved in the community. Harold served as President of Oceanside Chamber of Commerce in 1931 and Harold in 1934.

As Oceanside grew, so did the newspaper and soon the building they occupied was too small to accommodate a growing operation. In 1936 the brothers hired architect Irving Gill to design a new building for their newspaper plant at Tremont and First Street (now Seagaze).

Irving Gill was born in New York in 1871. He came to San Diego in 1893 where he practiced his field. He designed homes and buildings in San Diego as well as Los Angeles, where he later relocated. Gill’s architectural style evolved to eliminate ornamentation, with a decidedly modern style. In fact he was considered “one of the first of the moderns” and combined modern with Spanish architecture. Gill biographer Thomas S. Hines wrote: “In his own lifetime, Gill saw himself and was seen by others as a maverick, an innovator, and a modernist.”

Architect Irving Gill

His modern and simple designs fell out of favor in the 1920s when the Spanish Revivalist style became popular. Under appreciated and with little work, Gill left Los Angeles and resided in Carlsbad by 1930. However, Los Angeles’ loss was Oceanside’s gain, as Gill would go on to design a total of five buildings in Oceanside.

The first Gill designed was Oceanside’s Fire and Police Station in 1929. Originally, plans were for a larger civic center complex. But due to lack of funding, only a portion of it was built. Located on the corner of Pier View Way and Nevada Street, the Fire Station is still in use today, but the building has been modified several times to accommodate the growing Fire Department and to house larger equipment and engines .

Gill’s second work in Oceanside was the Americanization School on Division Street, completed in 1931. The school was built at a cost of $4,400 and featured a domed rotunda. Gill took advantage of the southeast exposure giving the building large windows providing natural light. The building was saved from the wrecking ball and restored. It is presently used as a neighborhood community center. Also built that year and designed by Gill was the Nevada Street School, located on the 500 block of South Nevada Street. It was dismantled in the 1970s.

The Americanization School designed by Irving Gill

Gill’s fourth project in Oceanside was in 1934, that of a new city hall building. While Oceanside Councilman Charles Hoegerman prepared preliminary plans for an addition to the civic center, (which comprised the fire and police station), they apparently were similar to Gill’s earlier design from 1929. Gill then changed and revised them to conform to earthquake standards. The new city hall was located at 704 Third Street (Pier View Way) and dedicated December 19, 1934.  This building is now the home of the Oceanside Museum of Art.

Gill’s last project was the Blade-Tribune Building at 401 First Street Street (Seagaze Drive). Designed in 1936, the building is a mix of Modern and Art Deco. Designed to look both modern and glamorous, Art Deco architecture features rectangular, or block forms often arranged in geometric fashion with curved ornamental elements. Building materials include smooth exteriors made of stucco, concrete or stone, with flat roofs adorned with parapets or spires. Gill died just one month before the building’s grand opening. 

Construction of new building in 1936

Louis Gill wrote of his uncle: “To my mind Irving Gill was much more than a pioneer architect in California. He was an innovator, constantly devising new ideas, not only in exterior design, but in hundreds of details, always considering such fundamental things as cost and materials and methods of construction, and always abhorring anything done for show. An indefatigable worker, never satisfied and quite willing to sacrifice anything to his art. In fact, to me, he seemed obsessed with the idea.”

Congratulatory flowers filled the newspaper building for its grand opening. Note view of second floor offices.

Built at a cost of $10,000, when the Blade-Tribune building was formally opened on November 24, 1936, it was flooded with telegrams and congratulatory flower arrangements which lined the counters, stairway and desks.  Among the many dignitaries and public officials which sent their regards, none was higher than President Roosevelt who sent a message to the Beck Brothers: “I am glad to learn that the Daily Blade-Tribune and the weekly Oceanside News have shared in the return of prosperity as evidenced in your acquisition of a new building.  Please accept my hearty congratulations and extend to all of your readers my hearty felicitations.

Completed building in December 1936

The San Diego Union Tribune newspaper described the building:  “The new building is situated at the corner of First and Tremont Streets. It is of reinforced concrete and fire and quake proof.  The editorial, news, business and circulation offices are on the main floor. The second floor contains an auditorium suitable for civic gatherings. The composing room, metal and stereotyping room are so situated as to make them easily accessible to the news room.”

The building was expanded in 1953 and the Becks sold the Oceanside Blade-Tribune newspaper in 1954 to Tom Braden, due to Harold Beck’s failing health.  However, Paul and Harold maintained ownership of the building.  Harold Beck retired to Palm Springs and later died at the age of 58 in 1963. 

Paul remained active in civic and business affairs as a member of the Oceanside Elks Lodge, supporter and benefactor of the Oceanside Boys Club and chairman of the board of the Oceanside Federal Savings and Loan.  In a 1986 interview Paul said, “I would like to think I helped make the city what it is.” He died in 1991 at the age 84.

In 1978 the building was purchased by Roosevelt Campbell, Jr. and Oscar and Ruth Culp. They together, with George Mitchell, formed CMC Furniture and for over three decades the former newspaper building was used as a furniture store and warehouse. In addition, a portion of the upstairs was made or converted into apartments.

Building at 401 Seagaze Dr (formerly First Street) when it was CMC Furniture in 1991

It is worth noting that both George Mitchell and Oscar Culp, upon joining the United States Marine Corps in 1943, were assigned to the Montford Point Marines, an all-Black division of the Marine Corps. Both men were recognized for their service when Congress bestowed our nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal, along with more than three hundred other Montford Point Marines. 

Master Sergeant Oscar Culp
George Mitchell, USMC

One of the most notable features of this historic building is a stepped motif parapet upon which is “engraved” the name of the two newspapers owned by the Beck Brothers in the smooth cement finish. This, however, had been covered for decades in a blocky (or even splotchy) stucco pattern. When the building was being remodeled and restored just a few years ago, that stucco finished was removed revealing Gill’s original design and the name of Oceanside’s longest published newspaper, the Blade Tribune.

Today the building is the home of the Blade 1936 restaurant, a name given as an ode to its history.

Blade 1936 Restaurant, January 2020

History of the Oceanside Harbor

For decades, it was the hope and dream of many in Oceanside to have a recreational harbor. Even as early as 1949 a development and study of a proposed harbor was made by Leeds, Hill and Jewett for the City of Oceanside.  However, a major roadblock to those plans was the military “top brass” at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Opposition to all harbor proposals and plans was because land, as well as access, was needed from the military base.

Oceanside Harbor circa 1965

But in 1958 General Reginald Heber Ridgely Jr. stated he would “interpose no objection to the concept” of the Oceanside Harbor constructed on Camp Pendleton property.  That year the Corps of Army Engineers requested a feasibility study of the proposed harbor.  A delegation of Oceanside officials visited Washington D.C. to discuss details with U.S. Marine Corps, the Bureau of Yards & Docks and the Secretary of the Navy.

The city delegation met with Camp Pendleton officials in March of 1959 regarding a lease of 68 acres upon which the harbor would be partially located.  Later that year City Attorney Dale Austin and Mayor Erwin Sklar were authorized to meet with congressional representatives and the following month Camp Pendleton transferred the needed 68 acres to the City for one-half of appraised value.

Many recognize Erwin Sklar as instrumental in the development of Oceanside’s Small Craft Harbor.  Sklar served on the City Council for twelve years from 1956 to 1968, during which time he also served as Oceanside’s mayor and deputy mayor.  Erwin Sklar has been touted as someone who “did more for the city personally, than anybody else we ever had in the council.” It was Sklar’s ability to persuade and negotiate that helped bring the Harbor from a dream into a reality.   

Erwin Sklar at the Oceanside Harbor Headquarters

Additional land for the Harbor was also needed from the Beachlake Trailer Park.  Beachlake was a popular recreation and camping spot since the 1930s and owned by developer and former city councilman Albert Zaiser.  To acquire land for its new harbor the city made a deal with Zaiser, essentially exchanging land for the needed property immediately north of the San Luis Rey river mouth.

View of Beachlake Trailer Park before Harbor Construction

With the gaining momentum, Oceanside voters overwhelmingly approved formation of a Harbor District in 1960.  The Board of Directors of the Oceanside Small Craft Harbor held their first meeting on February 11, 1960.   With enthusiasm running high, the first Harbor Days was held that year at the Del Mar Boat Basin before the harbor was even built! The Mayflower II, owned by the Goodyear Company, flew over Oceanside the evening before the Harbor Days celebration carrying an illuminated 10-foot high message publicizing the event. Oceanside Harbor Days is the City’s longest running event.

In 1961 the Oceanside Press Courier proclaimed that “Monday, February 6th will be a great day in Oceanside.”  That day marked ground breaking ceremonies for the Oceanside Harbor and was touted as the “most historic event in the history of Oceanside.”  The groundbreaking ceremonies were held at 10:30 a.m. marking “A Day of Hope and Promise” according to then Mayor Jerome Jones.

 Cox Brothers Construction was awarded the contract for the first phase of construction and the contract to clear away land for a 300-foot groin and floodwall at a cost of $396,400.  The Oceanside Harbor was dedicated and formally opened in June of 1963.  The Oceanside Harbor cost approximately $7,000,000, and originally contained just 520 slips.

View of Oceanside Harbor before Harbor Village was built

The Oceanside Yacht Club was founded in 1963 shortly after the harbor opened.  The founders met in a small rented office until the present building was completed in 1965.  The first Commodore of the Yacht Club was Robert Welden, then after John Steiger, Byron Jessup and Monte Yearley.

Left to Right: John Steiger, Max McComas, Byron Jessup and unidentified man at the Oceanside Yacht Club.

Monte Yearley was a fixture at the Oceanside Harbor. His sailboat shop was one of the longest running businesses, established the same year the Harbor. Monte could be found most any day on a sailboat or in his shop visiting with friends until his death at the age of 90.

Ray McCullah, owner of Oceanside Sport Fishing at the Harbor

The McCullah Brothers operated Oceanside Sportfishing, Inc. at the Harbor. They had previously operated from the Oceanside Pier for close to twenty years before moving their enterprise to the harbor shortly after its opening. They used the Dolphin Inn and Sportfishing building near the southeast corner of the harbor until they sold the business in 1973.

The Dolphin Inn and Sportfishing Building before it was moved.

The Dolphin Inn building was moved in 1976 to what is now the Oceanside Municipal Golf Course to make way for the construction of Charthouse Restaurant. Today this building is occupied by Joe’s Crab Shack.

A large lot just east of the railroad tracks was paved but in order to accommodate direct access from the harbor, a vehicle tunnel was made under the train bridge. In recent years this tunnel has been closed to all but pedestrian traffic for safety issues.

Harbor Tunnel to parking lot

On January 16, 1964, ground was broken for a $300,000 fishing village-style shopping center with a six-story lighthouse to be called “Lighthouse Village.” City officials along with the developer, Isaco Inc. of Beverly Hills, participated in the ceremony.  The center has been known as “Cape Cod Village” or simply Harbor Village.  

The Oceanside Lighthouse has become an iconic landmark but is more decorative than functional. It has an interior spiral staircase which leads to an observation deck. This was a popular attraction for years but access was closed by the city for liability reasons.

One of the earliest and most successful establishments at the new village was the Harbor Light Restaurant owned in part by Erskine Johnson. According to IMDb, “Johnson was a Hollywood gossip columnist who worked for the Hearst newspaper chain and appeared on the radio and in motion pictures, including his own newsreel productions. His syndicated column was called “Hollywood” and “Hollywood Notes”. Between 1937 and 1960, Johnson appeared in eight movies and two TV series, mostly as himself or as a reporter.” With his connection to Hollywood, many celebrities frequented the Harbor Light including Jimmy Durante and Preston Foster, and its walls were filled with autographed photos of notable and famous guests.

Actor Preston Foster, in uniform, pals around with his Hollywood buddies at the Oceanside Harbor

On March 27, 1964 the largest earthquake in North America’s recorded history hit Alaska. This 9.2 earthquake lasted just over four and half minutes and while it devastated Anchorage and surrounding area, loss of life was minimal in comparison to the subsequent tsunamis that it created.  A tsunami eventually reached as far south as Oceanside but rather than a surge of ocean water or tidal wave as many expected, the water instead was sucked out of the harbor. Two harbor docks were damaged when they came into contact with  submerged rocks after the water level dipped dramatically and rapidly.

Aerial view of dredging in Harbor in 2018

Dredging of the harbor entrance has been an ongoing necessity. The channel becomes full of sand and silt-clogged, making it hazardous to boaters. Dredging is therefore necessary. Just one year after the Harbor opened, emergency dredging was urged because both the Harbor’s entrance and the military’s boat basin at Camp Delmar were too dangerous to maneuver. The annual dredging of the Harbor mouth is used to help replenish the beach at the Oceanside Municipal Pier.

View of the Jolly Roger Restaurant

In 1973 the Jolly Roger Restaurant opened on North Harbor Drive and on October 3, 1984 Monterey Bay Canners opened its doors. One of the longest running restaurants is that of Harbor Fish and Chips. Owner Terry Cross was born and raised in Oceanside and this family owned and operated business has been a mainstay at the Harbor for over fifty years and continues to be a favorite of locals.           

Ladies dressed for Harbor Days at Harbor Fish and Chips

The Oceanside Harbor was the home port of the United States Coast Guard Point Hobart from 1969 to 1999. Its primary purpose was to provide additional security for President Nixon when he visited the ‘Western White House’ near San Mateo Point.  The Point Hobart also provided search and rescue services.  

Coast Guard Cutter Point Hobart at Coast Guard Dock

In November of 1978 Oceanside’s City Council approved the building of a fishing pier at the Harbor at a cost of $50,000 with State funding.

In the early 1990s the Oceanside Harbor District was annexed by the City of Oceanside and all District employees became City employees, including the Oceanside Harbor Police.  In 1999, Point Hobart was decommissioned and the Oceanside Harbor Police became the only rescue vessels between Dana Point Harbor and Mission Bay.  Currently, the Oceanside Police Harbor Unit remains the primary response vessel for over 37 miles of coastline, assisting in mutual aid calls for service from San Mateo Point to Del Mar.

Oceanside Harbor Patrol in 1970

Today the Oceanside Harbor is more popular than ever before. It is a favorite for surfers of all ages and the home to surf competitions. Over the years docks and slips have been added and the Harbor can now accommodate over 900 vessels.

People watching, dog walking, and biking are favorite past times. There’s no shortage of food choices and gift shopping or beach essentials can be found at the Harbor Village Shops. Many people come to view the sea lions that swim around the harbor looking for a fish dinner. Sea lions congregate on a floating dock near the Harbor’s fishing pier, laze in the sun and bark at one another. Whale watching and Dolphin tours are available, along with deep sea fishing. Visitors can also rent boats and paddleboard to get an ocean level experience. The Harbor beach is wide with no shortage of sand. RV camping is available.

Oceanside Harbor (photo courtesy Visit Oceanside)

Since its opening over 50 years ago, the Oceanside Harbor is one of Oceanside’s most popular spots with tourists and residents alike. Locals might like to hear that the Harbor’s beach fire rings are back, so bring on the weenie roasts and s’mores!

Hollywood in Oceanside

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The popular drama “Animal Kingdom” will soon finish filming its sixth and final season in Oceanside. But did you know that Oceanside has been a popular site for film and television studios for over 100 years? For almost as long as Hollywood has been making movies, Oceanside has been a film locale and our hotels used to house cast, director and crew.

Filming Animal Kingdom in Oceanside; Photo courtesy Zach Cordner/The Osider  

For decades our locals have played extras while Hollywood has used our beaches, Mission San Luis Rey and other landmarks as backdrops. Oceanside has also been a getaway for movie stars and entertainers. 

Many of the earliest movies filmed in and around Oceanside have not survived, but some still exist to this day. The following is a list of some (not all) of early as well as contemporary movies and television episodes that have been filmed in our City.

Director Cecil B. De Mille

Beginning in 1914, the Laskey Feature Film Company stopped in town with film director Cecile B. De Mille. Noted as the “founding father of the American cinema” De Mille made 70 films between 1914 and 1958, and it is noteworthy that one of his first was filmed partly in Oceanside. De Mille, a registered guest at the Oceanside Beach Hotel, was here to film David Belasco’s drama, “The Rose of the Rancho” featuring scenes from the Mission San Luis Rey and Pala.

The Beach Hotel (aka El San Luis Rey) along North Pacific Street

The Beach Hotel where De Mille frequented several times, was located at Third (Pier View Way) and Pacific Streets. This three-story hotel opened in 1904 and was originally named the “El San Luis Rey Hotel” after the Mission San Luis Rey. (It was reported that the fireplace mantle in the lobby was made from “one of the original timbers from the ruins of San Luis Rey bought from Father O’Keefe for ten dollars.”) The Beach Hotel was often used for a variety of film crews and actors over the years.

Another view of the Hotel where many crews and stars stayed while filming.

In 1917 the Signal Film Company used the San Luis Rey River Bridge for the scene of a “thrilling wreck”. Directed by J. P. McGowan, “The Lost Express,” took advantage of the old cement bridge over the San Luis Rey River which had washed away in the Flood of 1916. The film company ran a 1913 Studebaker off the north approach. The Oceanside Blade described the scene in which the two stars put themselves in danger:  “When the car started it was occupied by Miss Helen Holmes and Eddie Hearn, and driven by a dummie chauffeur.  In leaving the car, Eddie Hearn had a narrow squeak from taking a tumble himself.  The auto jumped in the air then made two complete somersaults and landed on the wheels right side up, without puncturing a single tire.” After filming the film company donated the wrecked car to local resident Brownie Dodge of the Oceanside Garage.

The San Luis Rey Bridge was destroyed in the Flood of 1916. Filmmakers took advantage of the wreckage for a thrilling scene.

In November of 1918 the Blanche Sweet Film Company shot scenes of a war film entitled, “The Unpardonable Sin”.  One scene included an automobile wreck at South Oceanside, but most of the action involved chasing after “German spies” on the coast highway south of Carlsbad.

In 1922 Warner Bros. Studio filmed stunts from the “tops of moving trains and bridges”. While filming these daring scenes the movie cast and crew stayed at Oceanside’s Beach Hotel.

In July of 1922 the Cosmopolitan Picture Company established headquarters at Oceanside for the filming of Peter B. Kyne’s story, “The Pride of Palomar.”  Scenes from the Santa Margarita rancho, San Luis Rey Mission, Rancho Guajome and Oceanside were used.  The film company registered at the Beach Hotel. 

Rancho Guajome where the “Pride of Palomar” was filmed.

Universal Pictures filmed scenes for a western, “The Love Brand” on the Rancho Santa Margarita in 1923 and it was noted that it featured a cattle roundup and “real buckaroo work”.  The film starred Roy Stewart who played “Don Jose O’Neil”.

Cattle roundup on the Rancho Santa Margarita

The local newspaper noted that Stewart, a San Diego native and an expert horseman. “spent much of his time on the famous Santa Marguerite (sic) rancho, one of the biggest and most famous in the West. After the style of vaqueros of the Southwestern cattle country, Stewart acquired a taste for beautiful saddles and bridles and eventually procured one of the finest looking outfits in the country. He utilized this equipment for the first time before the camera in “The Love Brand” his latest starring vehicle for Universal. The saddle is silver mounted, carved in a beautiful Spanish design, and the bridle is also extravagantly, though beautifully, decorated with silver. The outfit is very valuable, but Stewart never figures its value in dollars and cents. He wouldn’t part with it at any price. Stewart rides his own horse, a beautiful thoroughbred, in the play and other principals in the cast also ride horses from his famous stables, although dozens of horses were available for “atmospheric players” at the Santa Margarita rancho.”

Roy Stewart

When the film was released, it played at Oceanside’s Elysium Theater in November of that year and the theater owner noted in his weekly newspaper ad that the movie was locally filmed. It was a crowd favorite and Oceanside residents never tired of seeing the local landscape and notable landmarks on the screen.

Hollywood’s most famous silent movie stars and notable couple, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, were frequent guests to Oceanside.  In June of 1923 Fairbanks and Pickford established a beach camp used by other film notables throughout that summer as well.  Fairbanks reported that it was his “sixth season here and that Oceanside has undoubtedly the finest beach in California.” The June 21, 1923 Blade reported:  “Among the guests of the tent colony of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford on the beach during the past week has been Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. of New York. 

The Tiffany Company of the Bud Borsky Productions filmed a 1927 production on the ship “George Billings”. The boat was owned by local Harry Brodie. It was used to take groups out to sea to fish but for its Hollywood debut the boat was fitted with a new “suit of sails”. The cast included Montagu Love, Dorothy Sebastian, and Ray Haller and they along with the film crew stayed in Oceanside. The film was released as “The Haunted Ship” based on a story White and Yellow written by Jack London. 

The “fishing boat” that was used for the movie “The Haunted Ship”

Many Oceanside residents became movie extras in the spring of 1936 while shooting for the picture, “Vigilantes,” by the Republic Production company, with the Mission San Luis Rey used as a background.  The plot “centered on early California history … when the Fathers were having a struggle to keep the missions free from corruption, and invasion by the Indians”.  Many local residents appeared in the picture, including well known resident Bill Lawrence.  The film was released with a new title “The Vigilantes Are Coming” and was a serial with 12 parts, many of which feature the Mission San Luis Rey, its bell tower and interior. The film’s star was Robert Livingston who played a masked vigilante “The Eagle” and was a precursor to the more widely known “Lone Ranger” with his mask and white horse.

In 1942 comedian Bob Hope and members of his comedy troupe visited the 101 Cafe:  “Herb Evers, of the 101 Cafe, at Hill and Wisconsin, says that he can’t get ahead of Comedian Bob Hope in wise cracks, but that Bob admitted Evers could prepare a better steak than he could.  Hope and other members of the radio troupe stopped in the 101 this week for dinner and all ordered steaks.  For a while the 101 was a regular radio show, while the troupe enjoyed their steak dinner.”

In 1949 “Sands of Iwo Jima” starring John Wayne was filmed at Camp Pendleton, and for which Wayne received his first Academy Award nomination. Other war films including “Flying Leathernecks”, “The Outsider”, “Battle Cry” and “Retreat, Hell!” were filmed at Camp Pendleton.

John Wayne, Cast and crew of Sands of Iwo Jima with Camp Pendleton Marines

In 1951 Oceanside children were the “stars” in the “Kidnapper’s Foil”. This short film was just one of hundreds made by Melton Barker between the 1930s and 1970s. Barker traveled across the country hawking his vanity film projects in small towns. Each film would include hometown children as actors. Barker was paid by parents in exchange for the privilege of their child to appear.  

The plot of each short film was repeated in each film: “A young girl is kidnapped from her birthday party and rescued by a search party of local kids. The relieved neighbors celebrated with a party where youngsters would display their musical talents.” The finished film would be shown on hometown theater screens to the delight of the children and their families.

Actual ad that ran in the Oceanside Blade Tribune

In July of 1951, Melton Barker ran in an advertisement in the Oceanside Blade Tribune in which the headline read: “OCEANSIDE CHILDREN WILL STAR IN MOVIES”.  The ad text provided the details: “Melton Barker will arrive in Oceanside to produce a two-reel comedy, according to an announcement by the manager of the Crest theater. The picture will be made In Oceanside using local children as well as children from surrounding territory in the cast After the cast has been selected, there will be two or three days of rehearsals, teaching them to act before the sound camera. There will be a small charge for this training. However, there will be no charge for registering or tryouts. Children between the ages of three to 14, wishing to try for parts, must register at the Crest Theater at once. When the casting director arrives in town, he will get In touch with those who have registered and arrange for tryouts.”

This ad (with the word kidnapper misspelled each time) ran in the Oceanside Blade Tribune for the film’s screening.

The film featuring the Oceanside children was shown at the Crest Theater after the movie “Angels in the Outfield” in October of 1951.

The Mission San Luis Rey was used for a backdrop in the popular “Zorro” television series starring Guy Williams .  An episode entitled “Zorro Rides to the Mission” aired on October 24, 1957 and featured the cemetery gate of the Mission with the skull and crossbones. Some have attributed this to Walt Disney Productions, but this element of the cemetery gate predates the Zorro series.

Cemetery gate of the Mission San Luis Rey with skull and cross bones circa 1938

Again in 1962 the Mission was the location for another television series: “Have Gun – Will Travel”. In Season 6, episode 10 “A Miracle for St. Francis” aired with the lead character Paladin, played by Richard Boone in search of a rare brandy and the Padre in search of a rare statue.

In 1972 “Baby Blue Marine” starring Jan Michael Vincent was filmed at the barracks in the 13 Area of Camp Pendleton. The Aaron Spelling/Leonard Goldberg production for Columbia Pictures told the little known story of the Marine Corps’ “washouts and misfits” and the title refers to the blue suits they were issued to go home in.

“Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” a movie that is just as bad as it sounds, was filmed in Oceanside and San Diego in 1978. Although a very broad and silly “horror” film, a very serious and near-deadly helicopter crash occurred during filming.  While filming at the Wackerman ranch off North River Road, a helicopter piloted by Thomas Watts with two actors, George Wilson and Jack Riley, crash landed and burst into flames. All three men escaped without serious injury but the crash captured on cameras was incorporated into the film.

In 1984 filming began on Camp Pendleton’s beach for a television miniseries based on James A. Michner’s fictional account of the American space program, which covered the years after World War II to the Apollo moon landings. Despite the crowds enjoying a summer day, the film crew captured footage of vintage planes in flight simulating air combat.

Filming of the television miniseries “Space” at Camp Pendleton

In 1985 filming began of what would become a box office blockbuster and when it was released on May 12, 1986 the film launched Tom Cruise to super stardom. “Top Gun” was shot on location at Miramar, San Diego and Oceanside.  The “Top Gun” house at the corner of Seagaze and Pacific streets was featured as the home of Cruise’s love interest, played by Kelly McGillis. 

Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise in Oceanside filming in 1985.

Scenes in this popular movie featured Cruise on his motorcycle racing Oceanside’s beautiful palm-lined Pacific Street, overlooking the ocean.  Today, the newly restored house has been moved just one block north and sits between two new resort hotels.

Newly restored “Top Gun” House. Historically it is the Graves house, built in 1887. Photo courtesy John Daley

Beginning in the summer of 1986, Heartbreak Ridge was filmed at Camp Talega, Chappo Flats and Mainside at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton starring Clint Eastwood. Camp Pendleton Marines were used as extras. A barroom brawl scene was filmed at Carl’s Tavern in Vista. While the film was initially supported by the Marine Corps, it was not without controversy with its loose story line and the way Marines were portrayed as “undisciplined.” Still when it was released in December of 1986, it drew crowds of local moviegoers to Oceanside’s Mann’s theater.

Oceanside’s Mann Theater. “Heartbreak Ridge” opening day with local Marines and residents in line to view.

In January of 1995 “The Women of Spring Break”, a television movie starring Shelly Long and Mel Harris aired on CBS.  Much of the movie was filmed at Oceanside’s beach and pier with the characters staying at Oceanside’s Mira Mar Motor Inn, which had long seen better days. The made-for-TV movie was later renamed “Welcome to Paradise”.

In 2004 “Veronica Mars” starring Kristen Bell aired on the UPN television network. Many of the series’ scenes were filmed at Stu Segall Productions in San Diego, California and most of the scenes featuring “Neptune High” were filmed in Oceanside. The director liked that it was “a seaside town that still feels like middle-class people live there.” The setting of Neptune High, which was featured in the first two seasons, was also located at Oceanside High School, which was paid $7,750 for the use of the campus and extras.

Kristen Bell played Veronica Mars. Oceanside High School was featured as “Neptune High”

“To Save a Life” was filmed in 2009 and released the following year. Featuring a large cast of locals, it was filmed at various North County locations including Oceanside High School, MiraCosta College and Eternal Hills Memorial Park.   

Scenes of the popular 2010 cheerleading movie, “Bring It On” starring Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union were filmed at the Oceanside Amphitheater.  It was so popular it became a franchise with a series of sequels.

Screen shot of the movie “Bring It On!” at the Oceanside Bandshell

Pop star Katy Perry filmed her music video “Part of Me” at Camp Pendleton. The video was shot over three days in February of 2012 and scenes were filmed at Red Beach and Camp Horno.  The video depicted Perry as a Marine training with male Marines. Today this is now reality with female Marines training alongside Marines at the School of Infantry starting in 2018, for decades only training men.

TNT’s Animal Kingdom followed the fictional Cody family and their exploits while living in Oceanside. Viewers around the world see some of Oceanside’s best assets, the Pier, Harbor and Strand. Filming has been done in over 70 locations in our City including the Real Surf Shop and Surf Bowl on Coast Highway. Character Daren Cody’s fictional bar has been a popular location at 314 Wisconsin, as well as a beach cottage on the South Strand where character “Baz” lived with his girlfriend.

314 Wisconsin Ave was a popular locale for the Animal Kingdom series. Photo courtesy Zach Cordner/The Osider  

While Oceanside has been the backdrop for Hollywood for years, the Oceanside International Film Festival was established in 2009 to provide an opportunity for independent filmmakers to have their work screened and considered for wider distribution. Many local filmmakers, along with those from around the world, converge on Oceanside to show their films each year.

No doubt our City will “star” in another cinematic feature soon. It’s still as thrilling to see Oceanside through the lens of a camera as it was in the early days of film.

Roberts Cottages – The History of the Iconic Pink Houses on the Beach

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Shortly after the turn of the century, a large section of Oceanside’s Strand (once called Paseo Del Mar) was owned by the Oceanside Development Co., headed by C. J. Walker as President. This group of investors was from Long Beach and they held interest in Oceanside real estate, owning many lots throughout town, including several blocks of oceanfront land. The Strand Tract addition was recorded in 1904 and soon after the Oceanside Development Co. set about an advertising campaign throughout Southern California.

Advertising excursion to Oceanside by the Oceanside Development Co., The Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1904

Trainloads of potential buyers and investors made their way to Oceanside. The December 17, 1904 Oceanside Blade reported: “About 600 excursionists from Los Angeles and Long Bench come down Wednesday on a train of seven coaches arriving about 11 o’clock am and leaving at 3 in the afternoon. The excursion was arranged by the Oceanside Development Co. to open the sale of their Strand tract on the beach, and many lots were sold there, though there were also sales in other portions of town. In the Strand Tract thirty-three lots were sold, including all of blocks 1 and 9, and lots in and lots in 4, 5, and 6.

The 700 block of North Strand remained unimproved (or vacant) and in the possession of Charles J. Walker until 1924 when it was purchased by A. J. Clark.

Alfred J. Clark arrived in Oceanside in 1924 from Idaho, and subsequently purchased the Oceanside Bath House just north of the Oceanside Pier. Clark was also the manager of the “Fun Zone” a concession area near the Pier, as well as the manager of Oceanside’s newest and grandest theater, The Palomar, which was located on the 300 block of North Hill (Coast Highway).

Fun Zone north of the pier once operated by A. J. Clark

In January 1928 it was reported that Clark had received a permit to build beach cottages on his property on The Strand at a cost of $25,000 by the Whiting-Mead Company. A row of twelve small cottages were built which the fronted The Strand and eleven identical cottages were built behind them, staggered and situated to afford ocean views. A larger cottage was built on the south end of the property and was used as both a dwelling and office. A structure to house automobiles was perpendicular to the office, and another similar structure was located on the north end of the property (but no longer exists). The name of these new cottages were “Clark’s Cottage DeLuxe” (or a variation of such) and were available for vacationers by the summer of 1928. Rental fees were as little as $3.00 a day.

Auto camps were established before modern motels. Municipal camp sites operated by cities, chambers of commerce or individuals allowed travelers a place to park their car, perhaps set up a campsite, for a small fee, and were offered basic amenities such as outhouses and running water. With a growing population on the move, a demand for better services made way for more traveler-friendly sites.  

Leland Bibb and Kathy Flanigan wrote in the Role of Transportation in the Growth of the City of Oceanside (1997):Camping [became] a popular recreational experience for many motorists in the 1920s. The Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, desirous of capitalizing on this activity, proposed the establishment of a municipal camp ground on its property located on Ditmar, Nevada, Third and Fourth in September 1920. By May 1921, with the City in possession of the block, work began on improvements necessary for vacationers. Water was piped into the area, and a fence and hedge surrounded it. A building, constructed in the center of the lot, provided toilets, lavatories and shower baths for men and women. The remainder of the land was divided into camping spaces with simple brick and concrete stoves placed along the tier of spaces on the west side of the block. Electric light was furnished. An existing house on the property underwent renovation for a caretaker. A small charge was to be collected for use of the park and its conveniences by autoists, basically to keep indigents away.”

Cottage City was located south of Clark’s Cottages on the Strand

Oceanside had several auto courts in the 1920s and 1930s. At least three survive today, one on South Coast Highway and another on South Cleveland Street. Roberts Cottages is the only surviving beachfront auto court. Cottage City (which was also located on the Strand) was first established as “Tent City” in about 1919 and offered few amenities to campers. In response to demands of the traveling public and long term vacationers, in 1925 Cottage City underwent extensive renovations and improvements. Ten two-room cottages were added, which featured kitchenettes, along with garages for automobiles. Cottage City was torn down prior to 1972.

Clark’s Cottages DeLuxe, 704 The Strand North, circa 1929

Clark sold the cottages to A. S. and Pearlie Gholson in June of 1929, but before year’s end they had sold it Doren Perrine of Encinitas. Perrine and his wife Ella occupied the larger cottage while managing the cottage rentals. However, the Perrrine’s may have defaulted on the mortgage as Oceanside Lot Books still record Clark as the owner in 1930.

Later that year William Wallace Roblee of Riverside purchased the property and the name was modified to the “DeLuxe Cottages”. Roblee’s son Hewitt and his wife managed the property during the summer months. The June 29, 1934 Blade reported: “Mrs. M H. Roblee has arrived from Riverside to take over the DeLuxe Cottages on the north Strand.”

One Los Angeles newspaper described the beach cottages in 1934:  “The Bungalows DeLux (successors to Clark’s Cottages) at Oceanside are as modern as your home. The bungalows of English style stucco are furnished most complete. Every bungalow has a picturesque ocean view from the Paseo Del Mar Drive” (The Strand).

The beach cottages under the name of Surf Motor Court, circa 1938

In 1937 Marion and Margie Arbogast purchased the cottage property and it was during their brief ownership that the cottages were named “Surf Motor Court.” Unfortunately, the Arbogast’s defaulted on their loan and lost the property.

The Mutual Building and Loan Association of Long Beach sold the beach cottages to Harry and Virginia Roberts in January 1941. The Oceanside Blade Tribune announced on June 11, 1941 that the cottages were being remodeled and renamed:

An improvement along North Strand that is attracting attention is renovation of Roberts Cottages. Mr. and Mrs. Harry Roberts, for five years associated with Cottage City, purchased what were known as the Surf Motor Cottages in January, and have been remodeling ever since. This week the exterior of the 23 cottages are being painted. Woodwork is being painted a bright red and black trim to set of new concrete porches with a black railing.

Brilliantly colored beach umbrellas and bright colored beach chairs will be in front of each cottage. To complete the colorful effect red geraniums have been planted in containers in front of each cottage.

The interior of each cottage has been refinished. Walls have been plastered and all woodwork is in an antique finish.  New showers, new furniture, new mattresses, new cooking utensils have been installed to make the cottage a cozy home that will appeal to the vacationer.

Mr. and Mrs. Roberts are enthusiastic over the future of Oceanside, and are pleased to contribute their beautification of North Strand to the progress being made in the community as a whole. 

Harry Roberts was a native of Columbus, Mississippi and Virginia hailed from Texas. The two were living in Denver, Colorado before coming to Oceanside. They first purchased and managed Cottage City, a row of beach cottages on the south corner of the Strand and Sixth Street (Surfrider Way).

As their predecessors, the Roberts owned the cottages a relatively short period of time, but their name has been attached to the property to this day.

The cottages were sold to Reginald Willhoyt Hampton and his wife Mary in 1944. Hampton was a native of San Luis Obispo and a contractor by trade. The Hamptons owned the subject property just two years when it was sold to Ervin [misspelled as Irving] and Vera Willems.

In 1952 the cottages were sold to William B. Settle III, and his wife Gladys. Settle served on the Oceanside Planning Commission for nearly two years, and also owned the El Sereno Apartments at 835 South Pacific Street. The Settles relocated to Bakersfield in 1954 after selling the beach cottages to Harvey Olen and Ruth (Settle) Forquer the prior year.

The Forquers lived on the property while Harvey worked as a detention officer for the department of U. S. Immigration. Ruth Forquer was a sister of William B. Settle, the prior owner. The Forquers entered into a partnership with George and Zelda Henry, of Hollywood, to own and manage Roberts Cottages.

After an unsuccessful attempt to sell the cottage property, in 1956 it was suggested to break up the property and sell the cottages individually to separate owners. It has been proposed that this may have been “the first time someone had used the ‘own-your-own’ condo concept in California.”

Oceanside Realtor Tom Harrington had the listing to sell the cottages, with Wilma Stakich working as his sales agent. Harrington ran an ad in the local paper that there were “only 20 left”. The advertisement which first ran June 29, 1956, read: “Own Your Own Beach Cottage only $5,250 total. Completely furnished. Only $1,150 down. Tom Harrington Realtors, 1213 So. Hill St.” (now Coast Highway).

Just one month later Harrington announced that there were just 12 units remaining and by September 1956, just two cottages were left unsold.  It was advertised that each cottage could be rented for $60 and that owners could “gross from $l40 to $175 per month in summer.”

Dean R. Hansberry and Jean B. Hansberry acquired Unit 24 in October of 1956. Dean Hansberry was a Captain the United States Marine Corps stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Jean Hansberry was a real estate agent. However, in 1958 it was discovered that Captain Hansberry, a disbursing officer had embezzled $63,000 “between December 1955 and June 24, 1957.” During the criminal investigation and trial, the couple had spent nearly $30,000 over their income in a two year period. It was also discovered that Hansberry had used $2,000 of the absconded monies as a “down payment on the 704 Strand Street property.” He was convicted and sentenced to six years in Federal prison.

Roberts Cottages in early 1990s

In 1961 Wilma Stakich and her sister Grace Baker shared an interest in Unit 24 and managed the cottages for some of the owners many years, up through the 1980s.

Today many of the cottages are still owned individually and several rented out for vacation rentals. In recent years owners took to painting the cottages in different colors rather than the traditional pink they have been known for many decades. However, today the cottages are once again their customary color, while some trims vary slightly.

San Diego’s Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO) has Roberts Cottages on their list of “Most Endangered List of Historic Resources.” They describe the 24 units as “a rare and finite collection of historic buildings” and “are the best surviving examples of auto-court beach cottages.”

SOHO goes on to note: “When leisure travel by auto became all the rage, convenient lodging along the way became necessary. The first generation of these auto-courts, built in the late 1920s, 30s and 40s, were known as cottage courts or traveler’s courts. Roberts Cottages is one of the first. These unique beach buildings represent an important part of Oceanside’s early tourism industry.”

Roberts Cottages today, photo courtesy of Visit Oceanside

Today Roberts Cottages are part of Oceanside’s wonderful beach landscape, an iconic feature that captures the attention and imagination of residents and visitors alike.

History of the Keisker Hotel at 133 South Coast Highway

Before Julius E. Keisker purchased the property on the northwest corner of Topeka and Hill Streets (Coast Highway), Edward and Mamie Fairchild had hiredC. G. Rieke to build a new home at the site. But just two years after their home was built, a real estate deal was made and the Fairchild residence was moved to the corner of Ditmar and Michigan Streets, where it remains today. With the lot cleared, Keisker was ready to build a new hotel which would bear his name. 

The Fairchild Home which formerly occupied the hotel site now at 239 South Ditmar Street

The Blade newspaper described the proposed hotel in 1926: “Plans are now being drawn for Mr. Keisker for a stucco building of two stories 66×100 feet in dimensions, with thirty-two sleeping rooms above, and a lobby and two store rooms on the first floor. It is the expectation that very shortly bids can be asked for the erection of the new building, which the owner plans to make an attractive addition to the hotel buildings of the city.  The approximate cost the improvement is stated to be about $140,000.”

In January of 1927 the newspaper reported that: “Work is now going on for the foundation of a hotel building which is to be erected by J. E. Keisker on Hill street near California.  The building will be 70 x 100 and of two stories.  The lower floor will be divided into a large store room and a lobby.  Upstairs will be 26 sleeping rooms.  The building is to be of heavy frame and stucco and will be heated by steam, a very necessary convenience demanded by the traveling public.  The construction work is being done by O. M. Wallace.”

No known photos exist when the Hotel was first built. Here it is as the Hotel Dewitt

When the hotel opened in June of 1927 a grand opening was held and headlines read: “Keisker Hotel Open to Guests”.   The Oceanside Blade announced:

With a public reception Friday evening the fine new Keisker hotel on Hill Street near California formally opened its doors for guests.  A large crowd of well-wishers from this entire section attended the opening.  Dancing was enjoyed until a late hour and punch and wafers were served.

The new hostelry contains twenty-six rooms all handsomely furnished, comfortable and home-like.  The rooms are quite large averaging 180 square feet and many are provided with private baths, several being ensuite.  Downstairs is a spacious lobby with large plate glass windows on two sides and handsomely finished in brown jazz plaster.  The lobby is furnished in wicker and a handsome writing desk and other furnishing add to the provision for the comfort and convenience of guests.

Steam heat, and hot and cold water in every room is provided for with a hot water plant and automatic distillate furnace located in the basement.  A call system and other modern equipment are installed and every convenience provided for the proper operation of the hotel.

Adjoining the lobby downstairs is a large store room which will be leased.  The outside appearance of the building is enhanced by Moorish awnings over the upstairs windows and a handsome glass marquee over the front entrance bearing the name of the hotel.  An electric sign on the roof is visible at a long distance and the hotel building makes a handsome addition to that section of the city.

In the construction and furnishing of the hotel some of the local firms participating were the Berg Electric Co.; Oceanside Furniture & Hardware Co.; A. E. Franklin, plumber; H. W. Maddux, Rock Gas; Glen Titrell, plastering; R. H. Simmons, cement contractor; O. M. Wallace, general contractor; James H. Campbell, lathing; Hayward Lumber Co., lumber; Fred Franks, painting; and Central Roofing Co., roofing.

In 1930 the hotel’s flooring was replaced by multi-colored tile, “almost exactly like the flooring in the Agua Caliente Hotel, Agua Caliente, Mexico.” The Oceanside Blade stated that this new feature proved “that Agua Caliente has nothing on Oceanside in the way of hotels, at least.”

As the hotel was located on the 101 Highway between Los Angeles and San Diego, (and all the way to Mexico), it was a popular spot for the traveling public. Well to do clientele, including notables associated with Hollywood and the movie industry frequented the hotel, especially those on their way down to enjoy, purchase and even transport alcohol during the Prohibition years. 

In 1934 the hotel was purchased by Robert and Jessie DeWitt, who in turn renamed the building as the Hotel DeWitt.  Jessie DeWitt was a noted artist and a member of the San Diego Artists Association, Women Painters of the West, Laguna Beach Artists Association, La Jolla Artist Guild and the Carlsbad-Oceanside Art League.

Hotel Dewitt in the 1940s. Note Master Automotive Supply in its original storefront.

With the establishment of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in 1942, Oceanside grew dramatically. With thousands of Marines arriving to train and 5,000 civilians to aid in construction and support, Oceanside was the nearest town to accommodate the great influx of people. The City was hard pressed to meet the essentials the military and civilian personnel demanded with restaurants, schools and hotels bursting at the seams. The Southern California Telephone Company had to enlarge 4 times in four years to keep pace with the mounting demands. The business office was moved to the DeWitt Hotel to accommodate workers.

The hotel was sold in 1950 to Mr. and Mrs. Orville T. Schwarz of San Marino.  The hotel was managed by their son Elman. Soon after, the hotel’s name was changed to the Dolphin Hotel. In 1953, the S&S Cafeteria opened hotel building, operated by George H. Swain and Robert H. Stevens.

A new highway was built in 1954 diverting traffic from downtown Oceanside. Newer motels with parking and more complete amenities were in demand.  Because of its antiquated features, namely its lack of ensuite bathroom facilities, it fell out of favor with tourists and eventually the condition of the hotel deteriorated. 

Hotel DeWitt ad in 1950

In the late 1970s the hotel was purchased and renovated by a trio of enthusiastic owners, Richard Rogers, Barbara Werle Rogers (movie, television and stage actress) and Paul Griesgraber. They filled the rooms with antiques and gave them names such as the Polynesian Room, the Hollywood Room and the Bridal Suite.

The Dolphin Hotel, far left in 1984 as Hill Street (Coast Highway was being resurfaced

But by the 1980s the hotel was renting for $22.95 a day or $115 a week. Its clientele were not tourists and its reputation was “seedy.” The hotel’s glory days seemed a distant memory, and there was no one left to remember when it was a gem on the Highway 101.

The Dolphin Hotel entrance in 2017

Everyone loves a great comeback story and the Dolphin Hotel has been reborn –from the inside out. Rooms have been completely reconfigured and rebuilt, not just refurbished, giving guests the hotel experience they expect and demand with a downtown vibe only Oceanside can give.

The Fin, a nod to the Dolphin, has made this vintage hotel building retro cool. Its back with style, flavor and a cool new mural. Julius Keisker would be proud to see his hotel still serving the traveling public, vibrant and alive. The Switchboard Restaurant and Bar is a popular eatery housed in the same building. Its name pays homage to the telephone workers who occupied the hotel in the 1940s. What’s old is new again!

The Fin Hotel and Mural (courtesy Visit Oceanside)

History of the Martin Building

John Franklin and Henry B. Martin arrived in Oceanside around 1900 and opened Martin Brothers’ Meat Market on Second Street (Mission Avenue).  They leased 1,700 acres on the Kelley ranch and raised cattle.

From 1900 to 1983 the Martin family operated a meat market in Oceanside, one of the oldest family operated businesses.  The Martins were known for their fine meats but also for their work ethic and integrity.  Many were staunch members of the First Baptist Church and active in civic affairs. 

Martin Brothers’ original Meat Market on Second Street (Mission Avenue)

John F. Martin served several terms on the Oceanside city council and was appointed mayor in 1931. He also served on the Oceanside school board, was elected President of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce and was a charter member of the Oceanside Elks, Mason and Kiwanis Clubs. 

John Franklin Martin

Resident Helen Beegle Osuna remembered that “Frank Martin’s Meat Market was the only meat market in town.  He also ran a meat wagon delivery, house to house in the San Luis Rey Valley once a week.  His brother was driver and butcher of the one horse wagon.”

In 1903 J. F. Martin purchased property at the northwest corner of Tremont and Second Streets (now Mission Avenue), just east of the tiny, modest market he operated with his brother.

As Oceanside grew, so did a demand for larger store to accommodate a growing customer base. Construction of a new store building began in 1923.  The headline in the Oceanside Blade newspaper for January 20, 1923 read:  “J. F. Martin Prepares to Start Work of $17,000 Structure on 2nd Street.”

The new Martin building, housed not just the Meat Market but a storefront for other businesses.

“Arrangements are being completed and it is expected that the contract will be let in a few days for a fine business block which J. F. Martin is planning to build on his property at the west corner of Second and Tremont streets on the site now occupied by Martin’s Market and the offices of the Pacific Telephone company.

“The building is to be a fireproof structure of reinforced concrete throughout.  It will be 50 x 100 feet in dimensions and of one story with a basement 30 x 70 feet under the east portion of the building.  There are to be two storerooms fronting on Second street and one of Tremont street.  One of the former will be occupied by the Martin Market with new and attractively arranged equipment and it is expected that the room on Tremont street will be occupied by the other present tenants.

“There will be lavish use of plate glass on both fronts with recessed doors and other features to make the building an attractive and sightly addition to that section of town.

“It is hoped to begin work within two or three weeks.  It is likely that because of the need to provide accommodations for present tenants the rear portion of the building will first be completed and this with the time required to remove the other buildings will make the period for completion at least six months.”

On December 23, 1923 the Oceanside Blade published an article featuring the new Martin’s Meat Market and storefront.

“The last word in modern equipment best describes the modern meat market now building by J.F. Martin, and located at Second and Tremont streets.  This market will be one of the most up-to-date establishments of its kind in this section.  It was established by Mr. Martin in 1900 and has been under his personal and successful management since that year.  But since the early years in business and the present time, wonderful changes have taken place and a modern refrigerating plant now takes the place of the old-fashioned, unsanitary ice box of years gone by, the equipment providing every advantage for the proper care of meats and other products.

“In the old days meat was served to the patrons within a few hours after the animal was killed, but the present day plan is entirely different, the meat being first being allowed to thoroughly cool in the cold storage department, thus increasing its value as food.

“With nearly a quarter of a century in business in Oceanside, Mr. Martin naturally is greatly interested in everything helping to upbuild his town and community and when called upon he may be counted to do his part in all movements that spell progress.”

In 1952 the Martins built a new building at Ditmar and First Streets (now Seagaze) to house their meat shop.  The building downtown then became the home of Harry Turk Men’s Clothing. At that time it appears that the building was “modernized” and additional store windows were added along Tremont Street.

This photo shows the vacated storefront but still bearing the name of Mr. D’s, circa 1979

In the early 1970’s a business named “Mr. D’s Service Center” occupied the building.  In 1980 the building was renovated by developer A. Marco Turk, son of Harry Turk, and Carlsbad architect John Landry. American Travel Service occupied the building in the 1990s, and it has served as real estate sales offices. It is currently a retail and souvenir shop. 

Martin Building in 2011 (google view)