Escondido, CA


Venturing ‘Off-Grand’ in the 1950s to Rube Nelson’s and beyond



In last week’s essay, I had you spend the entire day back in 1952 without leaving Escondido’s Grand Avenue and being able to buy virtually anything needed or finding some form of entertainment. I didn’t intend to mislead you, because our fair city was pretty darn self-sufficient. So, let’s return to those early years of the 1950s – and venture “off Grand” to discover some of the other establishments available in outlying blocks to us Escondido residents.

Sears, a competitor of J.C. Penney which was on Grand Avenue, was just a block over at the corner of Broadway &Second. Pete Galindo was the clerk we always looked for to wait on us. There were four other car dealers awaiting customers who weren’t interested in a Ford or Studebaker (yes, this make was still available in the ‘50s), whose dealerships were on Grand: Eric Peto’s Lincoln-Mercury sales on South Escondido Boulevard; Charlie Weseloh’s Chevrolet and B.J. McManus’ Pontiac-Cadillac sales at the intersection of Broadway and Ohio Avenue (now Valley Parkway); and Pat Murray Buick at the corner of Broadway and Washington.

As the citrus industry was still big back then, we had both an orange-packing plant and a lemon-packing plant, it being the largest of its kind in the country under one roof. The lemon house was way out on West Ohio Avenue where the Barnes and Noble book store is now. Its migrant-pickers’ camp of cabins was at the corner of Quince and Ohio where the transit center is now. The orange plant was on Metcalf between Washington and Grant Avenue {now Mission).

No, there was no modern transit center, but, heck, we had a Greyhound Bus-stop right downtown at Dick Blandford’s little “depot” and lunch counter at the corner of Kalmia & Ohio, right next door to Jack Owens’ Radiator and Glass shop. (It was at Dick Blandford’s depot that I stepped from a Greyhound bus in June 1952 after a cross-country trip. Six weeks later on August 1, I started work as a sports writer at the former Daily Times-Advocate.)

At the corner of Broadway & Washington was Rube Nelson’s Market. Rube was one of Escondido’s old-timers and a real character. He and Bill Oates, who owned and operated a blacksmith shop on Ohio Avenue, joked about the “mayor” of Broadway (Rube) challenging the “mayor” of Ohio Avenue (Bill) to a “race” for the mayorship. Rube’s was not the only place you could buy meats (Rube’s brother, Don, managed the butcher counter); Talone’s Meat Packing and sales plant was out on Hale Avenue near Washington Avenue.

South of Grand Avenue on Escondido

Boulevard were two quaint, family oriented restaurants – Los Amigos (owned and operated solely by the Cueva family) at the corner of Second Avenue; and Laura’s (owned and operated solely by the Scardino family), offering Italian cuisine at the corner of Tenth Avenue. Los Amigos could accommodate only about 15 persons at one time, so there usually was a line of people waiting outside on busy Friday nights. There also was Estrada’s old-line Mexican restaurant on South Quince and El Nopal’s Mexican restaurant on West Ohio.

If you wanted to grab a beer, a couple of places I remember were Honest John’s on East Ohio and Dante’s on South Escondido Boulevard.

The old Charlotta Inn on Howell Heights was still operating. Escondido’s three-story high school, the only high school in town, was on the hill at Fourth & Hickory. The high school football field was at the corner of Valley & Fig. The first two elementary schools in town were Central at Fifth and South Broadway, and Lincoln at Lincoln and North Broadway. Little Orange Glen Elementary School on East Valley was all by itself in what then was a semi-rural and separate elementary school district from the Escondido Union Elementary School District. The city-owned Finney Field on North Escondido Boulevard (current site of the arts center) was the venue for the Nightball League (fastpitch softball) and Escondido High and Palomar College baseball.

Two mortuaries were in town: Alhiser Wilson, owned and operated by Ralph Wilson, at Third & Broadway; and Palm Mortuary, owned and operated by Donald Palm at Second & Kalmia.

The train depot, into which one freight train a day came, was still just west of Quince and on the south side of what is now West Valley Parkway (the depot was still years away from being preserved and moved to Grape Day Park.) City Hall, the police and fire departments were on Valley Boulevard at Grand Avenue. Grape Day Park was the only park in town. Kit Carson and Washington parks were still to be developed.

And at the end of the day and as darkness settled on our fair city, you could gather the family in your vehicle of choice and head over to enjoy the double feature at the drive-in movie theater at the corner of Grant and Highway 395 (now Mission & Centre City Parkway.)

* * *

In last week’s essay, I said there were only two banks in town in 1952, Bank of America and Security, both on Grand Avenue. I want to make a “correction.” There were only two banks, but there also was a savings and loan on Grand — Palomar. Murray Ehmke was the manager and my old boss, Fred Speers, editor and co-publisher of the Daily Times-Advocate, was a director. How could I have forgotten that?

* * *

Ron Kenney was a reporter and editor for the former Daily Times-Advocate from 1952 to 1979 and was a copy editor on the pages of the San Diego Union-Tribune from 1985 to 1997.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *