Remembering Pacific Beach icon Annie McDaniel: Legacy of Community Life Well-Lived

Kathy and Annie McDaniel at the 2018 PAESAN event in Crown Point Park, just a month before Annie died.
Kathy and Annie McDaniel at the 2018 PAESAN event in Crown Point Park, just a month before Annie died.
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Annie McDaniel. Her name is synonymous with community involvement in Pacific Beach . When she passed away at age 92 on Oct. 31, 2018, friends and family members agreed that she epitomized the heart, soul and spirit of PB in a way that few residents who’ve come before her — or after her — have.

The youngest of her three children, Kathy McDaniel, recently sat down with PB Monthly to share her mother’s legacy.

Annie was awarded Woman of the Year in 2016 for co-founding PAESAN (Police and Emergency Services Appreciation Night), the 38-year-old community barbecue in September that honors the first-responders who serve the community throughout the year.

Annie was also president of the Pacific Beach Town Council several times, and was instrumental in planting trees along Garnet Avenue in the 1960s. She worked diligently with San Diego City Council members in the 1970s to get the height limit for buildings established in Pacific Beach. She also created and organized all of the PB Fests that occurred during the 1980s, as well as PB Block Parties and the PB Christmas Parade.

Annie and Art McDaniel contributed to significant changes, both in the character and the aesthetics, of their beloved Pacific Beach.
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Annie was also named Honorary Mayor of Pacific Beach in the 1980s.

With all that community involvement, she gave a lot of speeches. But standing only 4 feet 11 inches tall, she didn’t always rise above the top of the podium, so her family made her a box to stand on, inscribed on the side with the words “Annie’s Soap Box.”

As Kathy informs, Annie was born in Boston, and met her husband, Art, during World War II. She was a welder on the Navy ship upon which Art was stationed. She followed him to California; they bought a house in Pacific Beach and never left. When Art died in 2016, the couple had been married for 70 years.

Kathy said she became her mother’s caregiver during the last few years of her life. The memories of her mom are vivid and bountiful, and very much alive in the house where she grew up. “She immersed herself in the beach culture,” Kathy recalls. “By the time we started school at PB Elementary in 1963, that’s when she really threw herself into her community. She became president of every organization she could find ... president of PB Town Council, president of North Shore Women’s Club ... She became very involved at St. Brigid’s Church. She was a yard-duty teacher over at PB Elementary. That was great, except when she benched me at recess, and benched all of my friends. That was a little embarrassing.”

Honorary Mayor of Pacific Beach, Annie McDaniel (in red), poses with her Garnet Avenue Clean-Up Crew in the 1980s.
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Annie also taught backyard swimming to all the kids in Pacific Beach, as well as to her own.

“My mom made sure we were all confident ocean swimmers by the time we were toddlers,” Kathy remembers. “We started out at the Children’s Pool, the Casa we called it, in La Jolla, where there were really no waves. Once we got older — maybe 7 or 8 — my mom would take us down to the foot of Diamond Street so we could learn to body surf, and all the fun things like that.”

Kathy says her mother created and organized the St. Brigid Church Talent Show in the 1960s and 1970s, which was a major event for Pacific Beach at the time.

“Everybody went to it,” Kathy laughs. “She got all of the old ladies from the church — at least they seemed so old to me at the time — in her garage, and she would teach them how to dance. It was the funniest thing because there were maybe like 20 of them, and they were called the Gone Gone Girls, instead of the Go Go Girls, and they would perform in the talent show.”

PB Town Council president Annie McDaniel (left) with California State Assembly member Mike Gotch and her best friend, Mary Wilding. The trio was instrumental in seeing environmental protections for Pacific Beach.
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Annie’s husband, Art, was a civil engineer who owned McDaniel Engineering (formerly on the corner of Cass Avenue and Emerald Street). Art designed all three of the bridges in Pacific Beach — the two on Ingraham Street and the one on Ventura Street. Annie was there for every ribbon-cutting.

“I was so proud of my mom,” Kathy gushes. “Because of her, I felt like I was a bit of a celebrity myself. She was just so full of love and she was such a spirited person. She instilled in all her children, a real sense of pride for the community in which we were raised.”

Kathy now lives in Point Loma and is very involved in her own community. She admits: “I’m trying to follow in her footsteps, but there’s no way ... her shoes were like a size 3, but they were big shoes to fill.”

Growing up in PB in the 1960s and ‘70s was the classic small beach-town experience, Kathy insists. “It was lovely. You rode your bike everywhere, on Halloween you went trick-or-treating without adult supervision. The town was very friendly, and it seemed like we knew everybody.

“In those days, PB had everything you needed. There were shoe stores, clothing stores ... we had J.C. Penney. There were automotive and furniture stores. I didn’t know there was a downtown San Diego until high school!

“I still think PB is a beautiful little town by the ocean,” she sighs. And that’s pretty the case, thanks to the lasting impact Annie had on her beloved beach community.

For creating the PAESAN event, Annie McDaniel receives the Woman of the Year award in 2016 from State Assembly member Toni Atkins.
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