A vibrant city has to evolve to remain so. Change is inevitable; especially in the Southern California Sun Belt, of which Escondido is an integral part in a bursting San Diego County. As a city grows, businesses come and go; here today, gone tomorrow. It’s called progress. For the good? That sometimes is debatable. In previous essays, I’ve talked about how different Escondido’s Grand Avenue was 60-plus years ago, and about some of the “off Grand” businesses.
Today, I want to take you on another trip down memory lane. During those 60-plus years, since 1952 when I started work as a young, raw, rookie sports writer with the former Daily Times-Advocate, there have been an untold number of businesses and establishments that called Escondido home. Some flourished for years, others only a short time; but today, all are gone. Some were replaced under new management with a new name; others lost out to new technology; some just got tired and closed up shop; others withered away when the populace lost interest in the fad. Some were memorable; some were, well, so-so.
One of the more memorable (if that’s a proper usage) – and I think that many Escondidans would agree – was the Escondido Village Mall on land at Ash Street and Valley Parkway where the cows of Ed Bulen’s Dairy once roamed.
The covered mall, one of the first of its kind, anchored by the Walker Scott and Sears department stores, was a unique, intimate, pleasant place to just roam. Its court in front of Walker Scott was a favorite place to hold public events. “Progress” in the form of the planned North County Fair mall at the south end of Kit Carson Park proved the eventual demise of Escondido Village. What a loss.
Just east of Escondido Village was the Vineyard, another unique “mall,” this one a two-story wooden structure with a central covered stage for public events, but it didn’t really “catch on.” Some of its tenants were a popular wine and cheese shop, Country Gentleman’s Restaurant (which later closed and reopened under new ownership as Gentlemen’s Choice), a dollar movie theater, the Patio Playhouse and the KOWN radio station.
Escondido has always had places to eat. You didn’t have to leave town to enjoy yourself at a pleasant eatery. There was the Fireside at the corner of Washington and Centre City Parkway, popular with Escondido’s “establishment.” But my all-time favorite was Chuck’s Steak House, a free-standing restaurant in front of the Escondido Village Mall. Remember the lantern wine bottles on which the menu was printed, one on each table?
Downtown in the 300-block of East Grand Avenue was Davey Jones’ Meat Locker, which was replaced in the same location by Mulvaney’s and its water glasses, consisting of a variety of jars. At the corner of Grand and Centre City Parkway was Bob’s Big Boy, later replaced by Carrow’s.
There have always been a slug of pizza joints in town, but three that I and my family enjoyed were Shakey’s at the corner of Brotherton and Centre City, with its picnic-style tables; Strawhat Pizza on North Escondido Boulevard just north of Washington Avenue, with its waiters and their 1920s-style straw “boaters;” and John’s Pizza on South Escondido Boulevard, with its picnic-style tables and free old-time silent comedy movies. Fond memories!
When the city had less than 10,000 population 65-plus years ago, the popular spot for Escondido teens – young adults, too – was the Car Hop, an intimate drive-in at the corner of Juniper and Grand, ala the movie “American Graffiti.” Years later, the A&W Drive- In opened in the 100 block of West Washington, but it just didn’t have the charm of the Car Hop.
A restaurant with real class – panache, if you will – was Pat Brillo’s, an adobe, hacienda-style offering Mexican cuisine on South Escondido Boulevard. It was succeeded by Los Amigos on the site now occupied by an equally classy Hacienda de la Vega. One thing that made you want to return to Pat Brillo’s was the most congenial host by the same name. A popular “watering spot” was the Red Coach Inn on Pine Street (frontage road off Centre Parkway) between Grand and Valley Parkway.
The Brookside Winery and its tasting room held sway for a few years on South Escondido Boulevard (on the site now occupied by Canterbury Gardens). Just down the block at the corner of the Boulevard and Brotherton Road was a hotel with restaurant, but it couldn’t make it, being too far off the beaten trail.
Escondido at one time supported two major bowling alleys: Escondido Bowl at the northwest corner of Washington and Centre City; and Palomar Lanes, the more popular on North Escondido Boulevard between Washington and Mission. Escondido Bowl was the first to close. Why can’t the populace support a major bowling alley?
Another activity that caught our fancy for many years before waning interest caused its demise was the public roller rink. Remember Chet Love’s Ups ‘n Downs roller skating rink on Broadway just north of Mission? (The building is still there.) It was a place where all ages enjoyed themselves.
How about Golfcraft, that manufactured golf equipment, on West Mission; and a little farther west on Mission was Calavo, an avocado-packing plant.
There was K-Mart at the corner of Mission and Quince; Montgomery Ward on North Escondido Boulevard; Handyman hardware farther north on Escondido Boulevard near Mission; Mayfair Market at the intersection of Hickory and Valley Parkway; Fed- Mart on East Valley Parkway; North County Bank at Fourth and Escondido Boulevard; the movie complex on East Valley; and the last hurrah for the drive-in movie theater was at Mission and Quince (now site of the swap meet).
And last, but not least, was the demise of the Daily Times-Advocate under publisher Carl Appleby at its locations in the 200 blocks of East Valley Parkway and East Pennsylvania.
All of these businesses contributed in some way to the growth of the city, but now have faded into history and our memories.
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Ron Kenney, a 60-year resident of Escondido, was a reporter and editor for the former Daily Times-Advocate from 1952 to 1979 and was a copy editor on the editorial pages of the San Diego Union from 1985 to 1997.
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