This Month in History: Glimpses into Pacific Beach’s past

The San Diego College of Arts and Letters was built in 1888 where Pacific Plaza is currently located in Pacific Beach.
(Photo courtesy of the Pacific Beach Historical Society)

This Month in History is a feature in PB Monthly highlighting local happenings from yesteryear. John Fry is a writer, publisher, historian plus co-founder and president of the Pacific Beach Historical Society. He also is the author of “Images of America: Pacific Beach” and “Pacific Beach Through Time.”

125 years ago

March 1897

When Sacramento gave the go-ahead to establish a Normal School in San Diego, folks in Pacific Beach were pretty sure the Teachers’ College would end up here. After all, the buildings from the old San Diego College of Arts and Letters, built in 1888, were already in place where Pacific Plaza is today.

Sadly, the powers that be chose University Heights, perhaps because of its name. Some can remember the old building on the south side of today’s Education Center on Normal Street. The teaching college moved to Montezuma Mesa in 1931 and is today’s San Diego State University.

100 years ago

March 1922

City Manager Fred Rhodes announced that the new city budget would provide 74 new “arc lights” around San Diego to be installed by the San Diego Consolidated Gas and Electric Company. Street lights at the beach were scheduled for the following locations: Cass and Turquoise streets; Bayard and Reed avenues; Bayard and Grand avenues; Lamont and Reed streets; and the north end of Mission bridge, Mission Beach.

75 years ago

March 1947

Robert Apitz, head of the Pacific Beach Chamber of Commerce, wrote to the San Diego City Council, asking that “every Pacific Beach intersection that does not already have a street light should have one” and “many existing lights should be made brighter to improve night visibility.”

“MOVIES IN YOUR CAR!” That was the promise held out in the advertisement of March 6, advertising the grand opening of the Midway Drive-In Theatre at Midway Drive and West Point Loma Boulevard.

50 years ago

March 1972

Mission Bay High Senior Cynthia Grace Carpenter was chosen Miss Pacific Beach in ceremonies held at the Catamaran Motor Hotel on March 17. Glenda Billey and Sandi Pedersen were selected as first and second runners-up.

Cinema Leo opened at 944 Garnet Ave., also on March 17. Featuring 85 seats, with upholstered backs on tiered platforms, the venue promised “outstanding films from the past.” The opening bill featured 1932’s “Grand Hotel” with Greta Garbo, and 1952’s “Pat and Mike” starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.

25 years ago

March 1997

Misty Young, 23, was chosen Miss Pacific Beach on March 9. Runners-up were 17-year-old Aja Perrin and 19-year-old Michelle Patton in the ceremony held at the Catamaran’s Cannibal Bar.

The “old” Pacific Beach Library, at 4606 Ingraham St., which opened for business in 1951, closed its doors on March 29. It is currently the home of the Beach and Bay Family YMCA. The “new” library on Cass Street was scheduled to open on May 3.