History Blog

Toyland Tinman

Hometown Testament to Day of Infamy

December 7, 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of US Naval forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which thrust the United States into WWII.

That morning, incoming communication of the attack was received at both the Communication Command on Point Loma and the Navy’s Chollas Heights Marconi Transmission Towers between College Grove and Lemon Grove. Meanwhile, North Park residents busily prepared for the annual North Park Toyland Parade.

Years before, in 1936, merchants of the North Park Business Association had finalized plans for the first North Park Toyland Parade community parade, which quickly grew to include over 100 floats, numerous animal performers, bands, and street vendors with trinkets and keepsakes.

By 1939, The Wizard of Oz, a Technicolor film adaptation of the beloved children’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, was released to wide acclaim. Baum, a New York interior designer, furniture maker, and children’s book author, incidentally wrote four of the fourteen books that comprise the Wizard of Oz series during winters vacationing near the Hotel del Coronado.

San Diegans, inspired by the beloved character from the hit film, constructed the Tin Man in time to appear in the 1941 parade. As news of the bombing spread locally, the military mobilized to thwart a mainland invasion by halting public transportation, instituting a curfew and black-out conditions for civilians, manning anti-aircraft gunneries along the Point Loma ridge and near La Jolla, and positioning armaments atop the El Cortez Hotel. In light of these conditions, the North Park Business Association cancelled the parade and did not resume it for the duration of the war. Floats and displays were dismantled and carried away by merchants and builders.

The Tin Man, at this time unpainted metal or painted silver, was acquired by Julius A. “Judge” Sabol, who operated Sabol Service (“Sabol Service with a Smile!”) located at University Avenue and Bancroft Street in North Park. His axe was replaced with a wrench and the Tin Man became a North Park landmark, towering over Mr. Sabols’ business until the late 1960s. Mr. Sabol first leased and then sold his business to Harry Vinal who operated Harry Vinal’s Auto Repair and in 1976 the business was relocated to 35th Street and University Avenue where the Tin Man found a new post on a service station island greeting customers. It is believed that it was during this period he was painted his present colors.

Prior to its donation to the San Diego History Center in 1991, the Tin Man resided at the home of Allen J. Jones.

The Sabol Service Tin Man is currently on display in our atrium and remains a large and unique example of American Folk Art and Trade Signs.

By Gabe Selak

By Gabe Selak

San Diego History Center History Ambassador

Grave Matters: History Lies Beneath Our Feet!

Did you know that a convicted boat thief, an American fur trader, and a former religious leader of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, are just a few of the thousands of people interred in San Diego’s earliest graveyards and cemeteries. To most travelers, and residents alike, little is known of these individual’s lives or of their final resting place. El Jardín de Reyes (King’s Garden), Calvary Cemetery, and El Campo Santo Cemetery are names of the three final resting places that these three individuals are interred. You would never know to look at them today because they are well manicured locations on public grounds. Go visit one of them and you will be surprised that there is nothing to indicate that beneath your feet are the interred remains of thousands of past residents of San Diego, whose grave markings have simply melted into the surrounding environment, obscured by the passage of time and the elements, or have been covered over to allow for the expansion of the city. Some locations have bronze plaques dedicating the location to those who are interred, but nothing describing how at one point, that was hallowed ground. This can be a bit arresting for some who have picnicked or laid upon the grass on Presidio Hill in Presidio Park to learn of the human remains that could be found beneath them.