Escondido, CA


All about the library, past and future



I’m reflecting today on a long-time city librarian; on the proposed site for a new library; a couple of comments about the elections on the local level; and then a little change of pace and what I hope will be some fun in the last item.

Librarian Graham Humphrey

All five members of the Escondido City Council recently expressed enthusiasm about the possibility of a new and larger library somewhere north and adjacent to Grape Day Park. This got me to thinking about Graham Humphrey, the former long-time city librarian who retired in 1990. Graham, you might say, was one of those rare residents for his time – a native-born Escondidan.

A 1949 graduate of Escondido High School, Graham was studious, an intellectual who, I believe, reached his dream job – city librarian in his hometown. Graham was reserved and came across as all business-like, but polite and mannerly. He was a different person among friends.

Graham and I served together on two community groups: a committee that organized and financed the publication of the late Alan McGrew’s history of Escondido; and on the board of directors of the Escondido Historical Society. The McGrew committee was in 1988; we met at the library. Our Historical Society directorships were about the same time; board meetings were in the train depot in Grape Day Park.

It was at one of our board meetings that I asked Graham where he had attended college. When he said that it was in Ohio, I said I was a native of Ohio and might know the name. It was Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. While I was familiar with the name of both, I had never been there. Yellow Springs is in the Western part of the state near Dayton, not far from the Indiana state line.

I asked Graham what prompted him to go that far across the country to college. He said he was looking for a small college out of state. He certainly found small-college life at Antioch. In Ohio’s government lexicon, Yellow Springs is a village, whose population is and was less than 4,000; Antioch’s student enrollment is and was about 800.

The last I heard of Graham was that he had moved to Washington state.

Proposed New Library

Now, about that proposed new library. Two major accomplishments must be achieved before it can be realized: approval of a bond measure and securing the property on which it would be constructed.

Obtaining approval of a bond measure, which would require a two-thirds majority of those voting, could be a tough sell, as are all tax increase issues. Securing the property could be a long road to realization. If the property owners involved are not willing to accept the city’s offer of fair-market value for their parcels, it could mean the city invoking some form of its eminent domain powers if it wanted to continue pursuit of obtaining the property. But this is only supposition.

The city council is projecting a proposed site for a new library beginning at the southeast corner of Washington Avenue and Escondido Boulevard and calling it an extension of Grape Day Park. One council member even alluded to that corner as being in “downtown” Escondido. I think it’s stretching the point on both counts: that corner becoming part of Grape Day Park and in “downtown.”

The property the city would seek to acquire extends south on Escondido Boulevard to Woodward Avenue and now has a gas station at the corner of Washington and Escondido Boulevard and a sushi restaurant at the corner with Woodward. There are a few other businesses behind the sushi restaurant that probably also would be involved. All this supposedly would “attach” to Grape Day park at Woodward Avenue, which abuts the parking lot that primarily serves the arts center. From that point, it still is about 200 yards, the length of two football fields, to the actual confines of Grape Day Park proper.

In all my 60 years as an Escondido resident, I’ve never heard anyone talk about the corner of Escondido Boulevard and Washington Avenue as part of our city’s downtown. Putting a library there won’t make it so.

In the Election Aftermath

Wow! Common sense won out in the rejection of Measure B, the attempt by that wealthy land developer to amend the county’s General Plan for the Lilac hill Hills Ranch area in Valley Center. He wanted to build 1,700-plus homes on the 608 acres on which the General Plan called for up to 110 homes. And he spent more than $1 million to gather enough signatures to force a countywide initiative and to promote his cause. Frankly, I was surprised that it lost, but certainly pleased that it did – resoundingly. It garnered only 34 percent of the vote. That meant that 66 percent of the voters said: “NO!”

It must have caused a bruise to Escondido’s ol’ Mayor Sam Abed, who had exhorted his constituents to vote in favor of B, whose vote should have been limited to Valley Center residents.

In Escondido, Olga Diaz was reelected to a city council seat with 59 percent of the vote, a healthy total. For Mayor Sam, it had to be another bruise to his ego to have his nemesis back on the council. But Olga’s presence gives the council at least some modicum of diversity.

Let’s Have Some Fun

Time for that change of pace and time for a little fun. Just a few questions to help make your day. Some are scientific; some will get you to thinking; some may have you scratching your head; some may be a little nonsensical, but all, I hope, will make you ponder. Here goes.

Why are there polar bears in the Arctic, but none in Antarctica? Why are there penguins in Antarctica, but none in the Arctic?

Why do giraffes exist only in the wild in some African countries? Why do pandas exist in the wild only in China? Why are there no tigers in the wild in Africa? Why do koalas exist in the wild only in Australia?

Did you know that Escondido once had a privately owned bus system (long before the North County Transportation system), with only one bus, 25 cents a ride?

Which state in the Union has only one syllable in its name?

Which state in the Union abuts only one other state?

Which is the more brutal sport: boxing or professional football?

Would you believe that there are 98 species of lemurs in the world, and all of them exist in the wild only on the island of Madagascar?

When it is draining, why does water swirl only counter-clockwise here in the Northern Hemisphere; but always clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere?

In the world of college athletics, why is the Big 10 Conference composed of “14” members? Why does the Big 12 Conference have only “10” members?

Why is an infraction in a football game called a penalty, while an infraction in a basketball game is called a foul?

Who was the only president appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court (as chief justice) after his presidency?

Who was the only president to serve in the U.S. Senate after his presidency?

Who was the only president elected to the U.S. House of Representatives after his presidency?

And the ultimate question: With billions of galaxies and a like number of stars in this infinite universe, is there intelligent, sentient life existing elsewhere, or are we unique?


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.

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