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Friday, October 28, 2022


30th & University, North Park (San Diego) circa 1952.

By Thomas Shess, editor in chief of this blog
--This was the happening place in 1952 just before all the shopping malls opened to drive business to Mission Valley and away from North Park.

North Park was the first urban suburb of San Diego going way back to 1907.

The Ramona theatre (look on the left edge of the vintage photo) sold seats at two for fifty cents.  Kids a quarter each.  They had Keno nights on weekends.  We would arrive in our 1947 Chevy with the rear seat occupant (me) needing a raincoat on those fall/winter storms.  It wasn't that bad because rain in San Diego lasts about five minutes unless it's one of those occasional pineapple expresses blowing in from the West.

Don't remember any of the movies, but I do remember one night the chandelier falling mid-showing into the aisles.  My dad thinking it was an earthquake whisked us out of the building.  No earthquake just an old building.  We never went back. The Ramona soon closed, but the frame of the building still stands as a pancake joint at University and Ray Streets.

The big building at the top of the photo was Penney's department store.  Until I moved away after college I bought my blue oxford twill button down dress shirts there.

I always liked blue business shirts.   I digress but when as a magazine travel writer I traveled on assignment for Pan Am Clipper magazine to hilly Asalo, a village outside of Venice, I wore a Brooks Brothers blue oxford shirt to dinner.  The manager of the restaurant inside the Villa Ciprani resort said he'd trade me two bottles of excellent red wine and a soccer jersey if he could have the shirt.

"Why not?"  

The wine was superb.  The stay and the fellowship unmatched.  I finished dinner with my fellow journalists wearing my new futbol jersey.  Later,  I traded that jersey for a T-shirt from the Washington Square Bar & Grill softball team.  The Square was a North Beach media hangout in San Francisco.  I played on that team while I was editor of San Francisco Magazine.  The bar/cafe owner Ed Moose organized his softball team to travel to New York, Paris, Moscow.  I made the Paris and New York trips.  Sportswriter Ron Fimrite wrote about the Paris trip in Sports Illustrated.  Look it up.  I played left field.

Let me take you back to the photo.  The cross street remains 30th Street under the original North Park sign.   It runs left to right (or north to south).  If you flash forward 70 years and make a left turn at the intersection go half a block you'll run into Caffe Calabria.  Caffe is one of the best all around coffee emporiums in the City.

It used to be a branch of Bank of America before becoming a long standing thrift store called Armstrong's Emporium.

I mentioned Italy, which instantly reminded me that a few steps north and still on 30th you'll do yourself great justice by dining at Siamo Napoli.  First rate.  It runs somewhat under the radar outside of North Park.

 How often do you get to dine with Sophia Loren?  Wait (fact check), I haven't been there in a month is she still working the table at Siamo Napoli?

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