Balboa Park History 1985
January 10, 1985, READER Crime visits Balboa Park, by Gordon Smith.
Intriguingly, a comparison of the number of car thefts and break-ins in Balboa Park with those in New York’s Central Park suggests the best way to eliminate most of the crime in Balboa Park is to eliminate the cars themselves. There are few parking lots in Central Park, and most of its visitors arrive via mass transit of some kind — bus, subway or taxi. In the first nine months of 1984, just six cars were stolen there — compared to one hundred stolen in Balboa Park. There were also 594 car break-ins in Balboa Park during the same period. (No equivalent figures for Central Park were available, but grand theft, a category of crime which includes many car break-ins is more prevalent in Balboa Park than in Central Park.
Various consultants hired by the city have long advocated getting rid of cars in the middle of Balboa Park, and the above statistics suggest the possibility that the park could end its chronic congestion and parking problems as well as much of its crime simply by banning automobiles.
January 10, 1985, READER. No safety in numbers.
January 22, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-5. A year long bash for Balboa Park begins tomorrow, 70th anniversary of Exposition, by John Furey.
January 24, 1985, READER, Letter, Poor-Excuse — Old Globe and Festival Stage cater to well-heeled Yuppies, by Patricia Petterson.
January 31, 1985, San Diego Union, C-6. Plans are in for Old Globe outdoor stage.
Contractor is Trepte Construction Co., builders of the Old Globe Theater after it was destroyed by fire. Architects are Liebhardt, Wesson and Associates and landscape architects are Wimmer, Yamada and Associates. Theater designer is Richard L. Hay, who designed the new Old Globe, and acoustician is Ron McKay of Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Inc.
Hall also announced that individual seats in the new facility may be purchased for $500, including the cost of a dedication plaque and that 250 of the 613 seats already have been dedicated.
February 3, 1985, San Diego Union, F-2. Grateful San Diegans will salute Balboa Park and the Expositions, by Roger Showley.
February 3, 1985, San Diego Union, F-54. Alcazar Garden is a touch of Spain without the privacy, by Carol Greentree.
February 14, 1985, READER. Letter, Old Globe Theater a cow?, by Richard Amero.
The richer people are and the farther away from Balboa Park they live, the more likely they are to tell underprivileged, inner-city people what Balboa Park should be used for. The last phrase of Lori Elder’s letter in the last issue (February7) of the READER, “tell those derelicts to get a job,” is cruel.
George W. Marston gave money to victims of mental illness, economic downturns and natural disasters. Rich people in La Jolla and Del Mar take from the government and the poor and give nothing in return.
February 15, 1985, San Diego Tribune, A-35. Balboa Park struggles against the ravages of age; A beauty in decline?, by Herb Lawrence.
It’s generally felt by the city and local Balboa Park supporters that replacing the House of Hospitality and the House of Charm is a much wiser course than trying to prop up the troubled buildings continually.
February 27, 1985, San Diego Union, B-1. San Diego Zoo fearful of cutbacks if tax is killed, by Daniel C. Carson.
Sacramento – A deputy director of the San Diego Zoo says the institution risks personnel and program cutbacks and admission fee increases if a special voter-approved zoo property tax is wiped off the books by the courts or the Legislature.
Word of that “contingency plan” came in a telephone interview with Richard Binford, the zoo’s deputy director for finances and administration. While zoo officials are trying to interest lawmakers in efforts to preserve the zoo tax, they are already bracing for the loss of roughly $1.5 million a year.
While the fall zoo budget is $45 million, Binford said, “we’ll have to scramble,” if the special tax is wiped out as being out of compliance with the 1978-tax-cut Proposition 13.
An appeal to the city to replace the funds had been virtually ruled out.
Educational programs might be affected by the financial loss, he said, and some breeding programs to foster endangered species “might be put on the back burner. We would have to recover part in price increases. We would make some cutbacks in personnel.”
Members of the San Diego County legislative delegation, who gathered yesterday for breakfast, were urged to fight to keep the zoo tax. “We’re appealing to members of both house,” said San Diego city lobbyist John Witzel. “It’s a lot (of money) to the zoo.”
The object of Witzel’s concern is SB 149 by Sen. Milton Marks, R-San Francisco. The bill’s main impact would be to prevent cities from exploiting a so-called loophole in Proposition 13 by a court case to raise their property taxes above the limits set by the 1978 Jarvis-Gann initiative.
The object of the bill is to prevent those localities from imposing tax increases amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, ostensibly to pay for employee pension plans.
The Marks bill would spell out a narrow definition of debt that excludes pensions. It also excludes any extra property taxes to pay for ongoing local government activities — such as the zoo.
March 1, 1985, San Diego Tribune, A-1, A-20. Park Crime: slaying of Old Globe actor David Huffman stirs concern, by Joe Hughes.
Capt. Winston Yetta, head of the Police Department’s Central Division, said: “Because of its geographical location, the park is very difficult to patrol. We have looked at statistical information that shows us where the problems are located. Those are the areas we are going into.”
March 5, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-1. Balboa Park patrols capture interest of citizens, police, by Ann Levin.
Uniformed but unarmed “Park Rangers” will patrol Balboa Park’s lush tropical cliffs and canyons if San Diego city and police officials have their way.
March 5, 1985, San Diego Union, B-1. San Diego Police to urge special Balboa Park force, by George Flynn.
Other cities surveyed reported that specialized park units have been traditionally relied upon to hand park responsibilities, some of them since the turn of the century.
March 5, 1985, San Diego Union, B-3. Move to kill Zoo support tax fading, by Daniel C. Carson.
The threat of state legislation that would invalidate a special property tax supporting the San Diego Zoo has faded, although the courts still may upset the 50-year-old levy.
March 6, 1985, San Diego Union, B-6. EDITORIAL: Making the park safe.
But merely providing additional police or park rangers won’t rid the park of crime. Another imperative is for the City Council to enact several security measures recommended in the Balboa Park Master Plan. That plan is still ensnared in City Hall red tape and cannot be adopted before fall. But the council should immediately implement its recommendations to increase area lighting, to eliminate unnecessary side roads that lead to “cruising,” and trim or remove dense vegetation that provides cover for lurking criminals.
March 7, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-12. EDITORIAL: What to do about park crime.
Justice must be swift and certain. That would make a real difference. It wouldn’t just be window dressing.
March 7, 1985, San Diego Union, B-3. San Diegans, Inc. sees park, plaza link by mall as downtown attraction, by Terry L. Colvin.
Creation of the so-called “arts district” would be financed by increasing the city’s hotel-motel room tax by a penny.
March 7, 1985, San Diego Union, B-3. California senate panel moves to save tax for Zoo; does tax violate Proposition 13?
Sen. William Craven, R-Oceanside, won unanimous approval for an amendment to a property-tax-related bill by Sen. Milton Marks, R-San Francisco, that would have eliminated the zoo tax which generates about $1.5 million a year.
March 11, 1985, San Diego Union, B-2. Thursday Club ousted from Conference Building; hosts party to get auto museum rolling, by Pam Drake.
Amidst several vintage autos, about 50 curious passers-by and a marching bagpiper, the philanthropic club welcomed the museum to its new home. The building will be renovated with private funds and the museum should open by the end of the year, according to Reid Carroll, president of the museum’s coordination committee and a reporter for KFMB Radio.
March 12, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-1, B-10. “Diamond Edge” plan mapped for Zoo, Animal Park, by Rita Calvano.
The San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park have received their official blueprints for the future, all aimed at making them so attractive people will visit them repeatedly, which will ensure the Zoological Society of San Diego the money it needs to operate the popular attractions.
The new plan, approved unanimously yesterday by the society board, means visitors “will come to a zoo, whether it’s the zoo or Wild Animal Park, that is unique and fresh and brings them the very most-up-to-date approach in the exhibiting of animals and plant species,” said society president Sheldon Campbell.
Called the “Diamond Edge” plan because it provides an agenda through the zoo’s 75th anniversary in 1991, its key goals are to provide a rich educational experience for visitors and improved environments for animals to encourage breeding, especially of endangered species.
All of that takes lots of money, Campbell said, noting the operating budgets for the zoo and park now total nearly $50 million.
He said visitor money from newcomers or repeat visitors is critical to staying in business.
He added that the need for a master plan, the first in the zoo’s 69-year history, arose from success.
“It’s the largest and most successful zoo operation in the world,” he said, basing his remarks on extensive travels. Smaller organizations “can fly by the seat of their pants . . . on a month-to-month basis,” he said. “But an organization the size of this one requires you to project your plan out further.”
Particular emphasis will be placed on the Wild Animal Park in San Pasqual Valley to make it self-supporting by 1987. So far, with the exception of one year, the park has spent more than it has received in revenues and since its opening in 1972 has had to be partially supported by the zoo to the tune of nearly $21 million.
Here’s what’s in store because of the new plan, some of which has been phased in already or will be in the next couple of weeks. Other parts will be built as money is raised to finance extensive new construction projects.
- “Close Encounters” at the Wild Animal Park will begin March 30 and allow visitors a chance to meet the gorillas or elephants individually in their bedrooms or barns. Included in the price of admission for adults and children, “Close Encounters” is an attempt to make the Wild Animal Park more personal for visitors.
- More graphics at the zoo and the park, more films and opportunities to talk with the keepers to find out about their work and the animals.
- More bluegrass music and ballad concerts at the park instead of rock groups that have performed in the past, to draw families to the attractions.
- An end to the $2 concert fee, begun last year, but stopped amid protests from any society members. The $1 parking fee at the park will continue. A proposed parking fee at the zoo is still under study by the city.
- A major change of exhibits at the zoo in which animals will be placed in settings similar to their native environments. Animals of the same region will be mixed together, not separated by species. As a result, the animals will have more room and may behave more as they would in the wild.
Through the exhibits, graphics and other means, visitors to the zoo will be able to better understand the ecology of plant, animal and human life.
Some animals are still in cages at the zoo and exhibited according to species — as in Dog and Cat Canyon.
Despite its financial difficulties and too few visitors, the Wild Animal Park is still considered a success in two important ways — propagation of endangered species, the purpose for which it was opened in 1972; and providing spacious grounds for animals to roam.
However, the public has had little opportunity to see how the Wild Animal Park works to protect and propagate these animals.
One of the park’s greater accomplishments has been the raising of baby California condors, as the zoological society participates in a program it hopes will save the birds from extinction.
But the condor project perhaps best illustrates the important work done at the park and also the disadvantage to visitors, who by necessity are kept away from the birds. Scientists hope to release the condors to the wild when they grow strong enough and therefore keep them out of sight of humans, if possible, so that they can survive in the wild.
March 12, 1985, San Diego Union, B-1, B-7. Zoo trustees okay “Diamond Edge: five-year plan, by Gina Lubrano.
Trustees of the Zoological Society of San Diego yesterday approved a five-year strategy plan that will guide operations of the Zoo in Balboa Park and the Wild Animal Park in San Pasqual for the next five years.
The plan is called “Diamond Edge” because it will take the 69-year-old society to its diamond, or 75th anniversary in 1991. Implementation will begin immediately.
The plan for the first time places an emphasis on plants. In the past, the focus has been on animals and plants have been an afterthought, a Zoo spokesman said.
The plan addresses five key areas: a comprehensive plan to integrate animals, plants and facilities, making the Wild Animal Park self-sustaining; make the zoological organization more responsive to its operating environment; increasing revenues; and improving the visitor experience.
“It is important here to note that the strategic plan did not begin as a reaction to any internal difficulties,” said Sheldon Campbell, president of the society. “From the start, it was wholly an initiative on the part of the staff and trustees who during a period of 69 years, have, with the good will of the media and the community, built the largest and most successful zoo operation in history.
“That’s a staggering statement, but it’s true. The very success of the organization created the need for a long-range plan that would perpetuate it.”
Campbell said the “Diamond Edge” name was selected because the plans calls for the society to maintain the “edge that our institution has had as far as the zoological world is concerned.”
Diamond Edge is the first long-range plan developed for the society and for the first time defines a mission for the two parks. At present, the society’s bylaws define the goals of the parks as conservation, education, recreation and research.
The society, according to the new plan, “is dedicated to increasing understanding and appreciation of all life-forms by exhibiting animals and plants in natural settings and applying its efforts and influence to the conservation of the earth’s wildlife.”
The plan recognizes that the Wild Animal Park will continue to be dependent on the Zoo for another two years but should be able to pay its own bills by 1987. Since it opened in 1972, the park has received $20.8 million in subsidies from the Zoo.
Work on the 118-page plan began on March 22, 1984. Before it was completed, it was worked on by 110 employees, trustees and other volunteers. Trustees saw the completed document for the first time on February 23 and approved it, with minor changes in wording at a meeting yesterday.
The nucleus group that prepared the plan, in addition to Campbell, included Charles Bieler, executive director emeritus; Dr. Kurt Benirschke, director of research; Richard Binford, deputy director of finance; and Zoological Society trustee Dallas Clark.
Other members are horticulturist Chuck Coburn; Dr. James Dolan, curator of mammals; Pegi Harvey, director of education; Wild Animal Park general manager Robert McClure; Doug Myers, executive director of the Zoological Society; Jim Oosterhuis, head veterinarian at the park; David Rice, director of architecture; Carole Towne, director of public relations and marketing; society trustee Betty Joe Williams; and Zoo general manager Terry Winnick.
March 13, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-10. EDITORIAL: Balboa Park needs auto museum.
An auto museum in Balboa Park is bound to be a big attraction. The park should have something for all of us, and old cars, as well as airplanes, are important to a large part of the population.
March 13, 1985, San Diego Union, C-5. Old Globe Theater broke ground for Davies Outdoor Theater yesterday, by Anne Marie Welsh.
March 17, 1985, San Diego Union, C-3. Fellowship is their reward for volunteering to serve in the House of Nations (House of Pacific Relations), by Willard Edwards.
March 17, 1985, San Diego Union, C-3. Zoo becomes hot bed for Komodo dragons, by Deborah Yaeger.
If all else fails to improve a lizard’s love life, try a waterbed.
March 17, 1985, San Diego Union, F-53. A reading of palm trees in California, by Robert W. Chapman.
March 19, 1985, San Diego Union, B-11. It’s time to take back park from criminals, by Richard J. Hanscom, Municipal Court Judge.
The plight of the park is something San Diego can and must deal with. Events in other cities show what can happen when lawlessness is allowed to encroach on part of a city. People will avoid the area and soon this abandonment leads to more crime. These who care nothing about the rights of others become more brazen and crime increases. When transients and criminals are tolerated, shameful urban decay has begun.
March 20, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-11. Non-profit oligarchies — Zoological Society, Museum of Art, La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, Natural History Museum; same board members show up term after term, by Herbert Fredman.
At a time when our national government is highly critical of many countries where elections are charades, it’s too bad that here in San Diego, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are busy concocting tricky legal schemes to deny the vote to those who should be entitled to it.
March 21, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-3. Central Balboa Park Association seeks more safety for Balboa Park.
(City Manager Blair’s office) is expected to develop an anti-crime strategy for Balboa Park and Mission Bay Park, including patrols by unsworn personnel.
March 22, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-10. EDITORIAL: Let members run museums, Zoo.
In this era of higher costs, the museums and the zoo face a bigger fiscal challenge than ever. To meet that challenge and to thrive, they must be responsive to their members. Democracy will inject new vigor into our cultural institutions.
March 24, 1984, San Diego Union, F-14. Hal Sadler, architect, tells five-year plan for downtown.
Sadler’s plan suggests creation of “Center City, including Balboa Park, as a cultural center and arts district; appropriate transition to a 21st century integrated transportation, circulation and parking system; all types of housing to serve Center City, and improvement of the physical environment on downtown streets.”
April 1, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-6. Letter, Auto museum site hits sports groups, by David Freifelder.
I would like to correct a serious error in your March 13 editorial about the newly planned auto museum in Balboa Park. I do not want to raise the question about whether San Diegans really need an antique auto museum as your article stated (I do have an opinion) but rather to comment on the proposed site of the museum.
In your article you stated ” . . . the Conference Building, now used for events only about 38 days a year, seems the perfect place.” This number is quite wrong.
The Conference Building is in use nearly 300 days per year by a variety of groups. It has been the home of the San Diego Table Tennis Club for, I believe, 24 years. This club, which has more than 500 members, has been producing nationally ranked players much of this time and sponsors play five nights a week, year-round. One night a week a local tournament is held in the Conference Building.
Tournaments sponsored by the U.S. Table Tennis Association and open to players throughout the United States and the world are also held several times a year.
The building is also the home for an important group consisting of several hundred handicapped San Diegans. Two nights a week for the past two years the handicapped play indoor field hockey.
These people have a great time and certainly know the Conference Building as their home.
The 38 days referred to in your editorial undoubtedly applies to weekend events, such as dart tournaments, dancing, rummage sales, etc. Since the table-tennis group and the handicapped use the building regularly for 260 days per year, The Tribune should have stated more correctly that “since the Conference Building is in use for 298 days per year, and on a regular basis by about 700 people, the Conference Building does not seem to be the appropriate place for the museum.”
As a relative newcomer to San Diego, I have been continually impressed with the extraordinary athletic facilities provided by the city for its variety of citizens. To me, this contributes significantly to the “Finest City” image and should not be changed.
I have heard that the Parks and Recreation Board is trying to find usable facilities for the various groups that will be displaced by the potential conversion of the Conference Building to an auto museum. They should be commended. I hope, though, that a new place will be found before the eviction notice comes and that the City Council recognizes that facilities now in use by nearly 1,000 San Diegans have immediate value, neither tourists nor San Diegans will be left out by a delay in setting up the museum.
April 2, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-6. EDITORIAL: Milestone for Children’s Museum.
We hope the Children’s Museum finds a permanent home in Balboa Park or downtown.
April 11, 1985, San Diego Tribune, A-1, A-6, A-7. Twelve trustees mold future of Zoo, by Ann Levin (photos of trustees).
The people who have served as trustees of the San Diego Zoological Society loom large in the city’s history.
They erected skyscrapers, courted commerce and industry, shaped public policy, raised millions for charity, nurtured the arts.
Then they were rewarded with what many consider the city’s ultimate plum — a seat on the zoo board. While older Northeastern cities flaunt prestigious opera and museum societies, San Diego — young, exuberant and outdoorsy — loves its zoo.
The volunteer work is demanding. Dinner jackets and evening gowns collect no dust in their closets. Lengthy board meetings supplant quiet evenings at home.
Not that the job lacks perks. In their official capacities, some have met the Duke of Edinburgh, petted a giant panda at a Chinese game reserve, drank free champagne on international flights.
Who are these people that set policy for a 100,000 plus member society and allocate pieces of a $50 million pie?
Their average age is 63. Most are millionaires.
The Tribune, in an effort to shed light on the inner workings of a very private society, requested and received interviews with 11 of the board’s 12 voting members, as well as several trustees emeriti.
The Zoological Society of San Diego was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1916 by founder Harry M. Wegeforth, known simply as “Dr. Harry.” A man who spent his boyhood in Baltimore as ringmaster of a backyard circus — built from candy animals, cigar-box wagons and a bigtop tent made from four sacks — Dr. Harry harbored secret dreams as a youth of being a circus high-wire walker.
If the frustrated showman were alive today, ironically enough he would hear zoo critics say his 69-year old stationary ark is fast becoming a stationary circus.
Complaints are voiced privately that management has neglected the society’s slated goals of conservation and education in favor of theme park entertainment.
Eventually, the buck stops in the zoo’s board room where an elite group meets once a month beneath an artist’s interpretation of an African village to carry forward Dr. Harry’s dream.
In addition, trustees lead 10 individual committees composed of about 150 community volunteers, who advise the board on every aspect of the society’s operations.
To arrive at the board, one starts off on a committee. The waiting lists are long.
Betty Jo Williams, the board’s only woman and one of three female trustees in the society’s history, joined the board in 1979 after a stint on the membership committee.
A past president of the Junior League, former director of the Natural History Museum and major fund-raiser for her alma mater Stanford University, Williams knows volunteer work.
“It’s great fun. It if volunteering you can’t have fun, move on,” said the Point Loma housewife who assists her stockbroker husband, Harold, with his Old Globe Theater fund-raisers.
Though some zoo committee chairmanships are rotated every year, Williams has headed the education committee for six years. She is most proud of the zoo’s long-standing policy to admit all city school second-graders to the zoo for free.
Joining her regularly at her committee meetings is colleague Robert Sullivan, the oldest voting trustee at age 72. He has seen the fruits of the zoo’s education efforts. “My little grandson is proud to tell me that a koala is not a bear, it’s a marsupial.”
Sullivan chairs the membership committee where he often runs afoul of colleagues and zoo officials unhappy with gate and concession receipts.
Sullivan rankles at their suggestion that paid-up members, admitted free on a variety of annual or life-membership plans, drain the zoo’s resources when they make frequent visits, picnic hampers in tow.
“More power to bigger memberships,” Sullivan counters.
The board has always needed money, he points out, especially in the midst of the Depression when bankers were wary of loaning the zoo essential money for survival.
“We did not have any collateral except animals. Bankers take a dim view of loaning money on a rhinoceros.”
During the 1930s the society boosted the number of directors from nine to 12 — picking a banker, lawyer and newspaper publisher — to widen its influence in the community.
Says Sullivan, “The board was always selected from people who were successful in their field of business and endeavor, because the zoo needed help in finance, business. . . . If you ever had to pay those fellas what they have been worth on the zoo board each year, it would be millions of dollars.”
Next year, Sullivan will have served on the board 50 years — but has mixed emotions about retirement. While acknowledging that the board is in need of new blood, he hates to say goodbye to an old friend.
“It gets to be so much a part of your life that what do you do without it.?”
Formerly in the lumber business, Sullivan has served on the San Diego Civic Light Opera, Great American First Savings Bank and the Old Globe Theater boards. The prestige now associated with membership on the zoo board is a fairly new phenomenon, he said. In the beginning “Nobody seemed to care. They just knew there was a roar in Balboa Park.”
Sheldon Campbell, current zoological society president, was attracted to the roar at an early age.
Campbell spent his 16th summer as an assistant to the reptile keeper, scrubbing the backs of turtles to keep them algae-free. For his labors he received a rattleskin from which he fashioned a belt — but the real payoff came later.
That summer he worked closely with his friend, the late Chuck Shaw. Shaw later became the zoo’s reptile curator, and in 1962 angles to get his old friend appointed to the zoo’s public relations committee.
Campbell, then a stockbroker and writer, organized the zoo’s golden anniversary celebration with such zest he was asked to join the board when a vacancy arose in 1968.
“Being on a zoo committee was seen by most San Diegans as one of the most desirable volunteer tasks you can undertake. The zoo was to San Diego what a symphony or an opera might be to another city.”
In 1978, flying home from Paris in the economy-class section, Campbell encountered a steward who noted the zoological society insignia on Campbell’s jacket. Delighted to meet a representative of the world-class zoo, the steward kept Campbell’s glass full of complimentary champagne from the first-class pantry for the rest of the flight.
Campbell deftly deflects criticism of the zoo, proudly stating the zoo pumps $250 million into the local economy. Problems will be solved, he says, with the unfolding of the zoo’s “Diamond Edge Plan,” a five-year plan names in anticipation of the zoo’s 75th anniversary.
About a number of recent Tribune articles based on U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports reporting deficiencies in the zoo’s sea lion tanks and large cat and bear housing, Campbell says the stories “left out factual material.”
Trustees were aware of the problems, he says, and improvements were already in the works before the articles were published. “We’ll get it changed. It’s just a continual struggle,” he vows.
Nevertheless Campbell says some trustees responded with “indignation to the newspaper reports.” The zoo is not used to that. We’re used to a good press. We’ve created the largest and most successful zoo operation in the world due to the climate, the people of San Diego and the media. The media have contributed greatly.”
Wegeforth’s society was incorporated one drizzly September day in 1916 in the offices of a San Diego newspaper in what was to be the first of many fruitful collaborations with the press.
Dr. Harry had convinced Clarence McGrew, and editor of The San Diego Union, to publish a plea to start a zoological society. The day before, while traversing Balboa Park with his brother, Dr. Harry had overheard the roar of a lion on display at an exposition and remarked, “Wouldn’t it be splendid if San Diego had a zoo? . . . I think I’ll start one.”
The first animals Wegeforth adopted were the leftover lions, monkeys and bears from the 1916 Panama-California International Exposition. The next year, the zoo received animals from a beached Hollywood production about Noah’s Ark.
In its early years, inventory swelled by trading rattlesnakes and sea lions, readily available in Southern California. San Diegans would bring wild rabbits, bobcats, skunks and mountain lions from the countryside.
In 1924, a youthful Ivor de Kirby, destined to become a trustee, bought an $8 donkey with his brother, but after the braying disturbed neighbors, the brothers donated the beast to the zoo for rides.
Sailors supplied the society’s first Kodiak bears. After the bear grotto was full, Dr. Harry orders the surplus bears butchered and the meat sold to hotels.
Though today’s zoo fans might condemn such a facile solution, his son, Milton, a board member for 40 years and now a trustee emeritus, explains, “I don’t think there was any concern in the preservation of wildlife up to 1941,” the year the elder Wegeforth died.
During the zoo’s early days, when a payroll couldn’t be met, the newspaper would announce the feeding of a boa constrictor. Dr. Harry would charge a 10 cents admission to watch sailors stretch out a long snake, insert a hose down its throat, hook up a sausage grinder and grind it full of food.
The shows were popular. The payrolls were met. The zoo always had a friend in the media.
Howard Chernoff, a former newspaper reporter, editor, television executive and now zoo trustee emeritus, joined the board in 1952, having served earlier on the public relations committee.
He lost no time pressing for one of then-director Dr. Charles Schroeder’s pet projects — a children’s zoo.
His colleagues received the idea coolly, but the patient and persistent Chernoff resolved to persuade them. With his wife, Melva, the traveled 20,000 miles through the United States to find out what a children’s zoo should look like. Back home, it took 18 months to raise the money.
Chernoff took baby animals from the zoo on the lunch and dinner fund-raising circuit as part of his sales pitch.
“When a 6-year old looks at an elephant, he might as well look at the Empire State Building,” Chernoff recalls explaining to skeptics.
Chernoff took emeritus status in 1969 after he was asked to be U.S. ambassador to Japan’s Expo 70. That experience kicked off 11 years of intricate negotiations to obtain a pair of rare Manchurian cranes.
Through business contacts in the South Pacific, Chernoff became personal friends with the King of Tonga, from whom he acquired a pair of Tongan iguanas — three-foot long lizards.
Explains Chernoff, with a twinkle in his blue eyes, “I asked the king. He said, ‘Sure.’ He got us the iguanas then he came here to see them.”
Chernoff, in his 80s, says the board would benefit from younger members — and more women. He suggests conferring emeritus status at age 65 instead of 75.
When Chernoff was KFMB Channel 8 general manager in the 1950s, he asked station manager Bill Fox to produce “Zoorama,” a weekly program filmed at the zoo and syndicated on some 200 independent stations around the country during the 1950s and 1960s. Aired in Europe, Japan and Africa, it has been credited by zoo officials with putting the San Diego Zoo on the map.
After six years of show production, Fox was invited to join the zoo’s public relations committee. In 1978, Fox replaced trustee Lucy Killea, the society’s second female board member. Killea, now in the California Assembly, left the board for the San Diego City Council.
Fox, now general manager of KCST Channel 39, tapped newspaper, radio, advertising and retail talent to serve on the public relations committee, which he chairs. Channel 39 recently started airing “Animal Express,” a show featuring zoo goodwill ambassador Joan Embery and zoo animals.
Aware of intense competition from other entertainment, Fox, 58, produced the packaging of exciting experiences to keep visitors returning to the zoo and Wild Animal Park.
“There was a time when there was a zoo in San Diego and there was not a lot of competition. The zoo lived on its reputation and people went there because it was there. Not anymore. For the last 15 years competition for leisure time has been growing.”
Lt. Gen. Victor “Brute” Krulak, former newspaper executive, agrees. Says the retired U.S. Marine Corps officer, “There’s no doubt that Southern California is becoming a more recreation-intensive locality with every passing year.”
A board member since 1968, Krulak, 70, was reluctant to express his individual opinions about zoo business.
“The zoo should speak with a sold voice. That’s how we stick together. That’s how we get on so well. That’s way we’re a success story.”
Krulak logs about nine hours a week as chair of the zoo’s buildings and grounds committee and vice-chair of the finance committee. He dismisses the notion that the board membership is “glamorous” preferring to call it hard work. He adds, “The zoo has always been like motherhood in San Diego.”
Formerly a vice president of Copley Press, Inc., Krulak still writes an opinion column in The Tribune. Active in civic affairs, he has served on about 45 local and national boards.
His favorite zoo creature is the koala. “Koalas are very dear to this zoo and they’ve always been very dear to me. And they belong here. They eat only one thing — eucalyptus. That means they’re in Fat City in San Diego.
Though local board members have diverse backgrounds, they have been criticized for a lack of botanical and zoological expertise. Some zoo employees say trustees reject the advice of expert professional staff, interfere with day-to-day decisions, commit money to impractical projects and play favorites among the staff.
The board also has come under fire for a “good old boy” system of director selection, resulting in few women and no minorities in its history.
One employee said some committee members are appointed, not because they have a specialty valuable to the committee, but because they are a friend of the chairman or other official.
Recently, the board was criticized by Herbert Fredman, Tribune op-ed columnist, who accused it of operating a “non-profit oligarchy.” Fredman argued that because the zoo receives $1.5 million in annual city taxes, and, like all tax-exempt organizations is subsidized by other taxpayers, it should be accountable to the public.
Indeed, some of the board’s unilateral actions, such as the decision to destroy eucalyptus trees in the Balboa Park parking lots, have enraged local citizens. Another storm of protest erupted when the zoo announced — and later delayed — plans to charge parking fees in the same city-owned lots. A parking fee was instituted at the Wild Animal Park.
And some trustees say privately that San Diego’s changing demographics should be examined in selecting future board members. But publicly, they say their dazzling successes have been achieved because they have operated in private, free from the compromises required when negotiating for public money.
Trustee Ivor de Kirby, 69, made his fortune in cars. A former city councilman and longtime Ford dealer, de Kirby was admitted to the zoo board in 1966. He was names Mr. San Diego four years later.
A childhood friend of the Wegeforths, who donated his pet donkey to the zoo for rides, de Kirby ingested zoo talk with dinner as a guest in Dr. Harry’s home.
Chair of the animal park’s buildings and grounds committee, de Kirby admits the park’s “obscure” location next to Escondido worries him.
But with bullish optimism, he says improved signs, more advertising and a good road between Interstate 5 and the park will draw enough tourists from San Diego, Orange and San Bernardino counties to keep the breeding park alive.
De Kirby opposes further government aid to the society because of the strings it would attach.
He was among a group of 15 who tool former zoo director Schroeder on a five-week trip to the African wild as a retirement present.
And he traveled with a delegation to Australia in 1976 to pick up six koalas, a gift from that country. En route, the cuddly marsupials dined on eucalyptus leaves and rode in the airplane’s passenger section from which seats had been removed to accommodate the bulky cages. During layovers, the koalas napped with the delegation at fancy hotels.
Another driving businessman is trustee A. Eugene Trepte, 59, president of one of San Diego’s larger and older construction firms.
Trepte built the Old Globe Theater, a pioneer solar system at University High School, a surgical wing for Children’s Hospital, and, at the request of the Tom and Suzanne Warner family, the zoo’s $1.9 million Warner Administration Building two years ago.
Chair of the finance committee, Trepte says of the board. “Those 12 seats are very precious. We have always rowed the boat well together. . . . We have come to the realization that we are not going to think alike, and when the majority rules, we shut up.”
Trepte also sits on the Old Globe Theater, San Diego Trust and Savings Bank and University of San Diego boards.
A strong backer of the Wild Animal Park, Trepte considers it “the zoo of the future” as San Diego County continues its expansion north.
Limited parking in Balboa Park will hold zoo attendance at about 3 million annually for years to come, he guesses.
Although a parking structure has been discussed, the builder says he doesn’t think it likely.
Noting the public has fought to leave as much greenery as possible in the park, Trepte says, “I kind of go along with them.”
Trustee John Thornton, 53, ranks among the city’s top businessmen. The only member of the board who refused to be interviewed by The Tribune, Thornton recently resigned from Wavetek Corp., which had named him president and chief executive officer at age 32.
He earned a reputation as “boy wonder” for turning a small $1-million-a-year instrumentation firm into an $84 million company in 20 years.
Thornton joined the board in 1972, after serving on the public relations committee more than 10 years. In a deposition taken last year when the zoological society was sued, Thornton admitted the directors and top executives lack zoological backgrounds.
“What I would loosely call the technicians, the people with the animal skills, didn’t necessarily have some of the other skills, and that’s why there frankly are very few if any with curatorial or animal skills in the administrative segment of the business.”
Though trustees lack professional credentials in botany and zoology, as a group the dote on animals and tend lush gardens.
Dr. Harry kept turkeys, chickens and blue-ribbon stock on his 10-acre Paradise Valley ranch. One day he took some ranch bantam hens to the zoo because “the little children could care less about a tiger or an elephant, but they liked to chase the animals,” explains Milton Wegeforth.
Dr. Harry experimented with official fund-raising tricks. One he went to a businessman for help in efforts to buy an elephant. The man replied, “If you find me a white elephant, I’ll give you the money.” Wegeforth whitewashed an elephant and got the money.
Wegeforth’s successor, Belle Benchley, matched him in spirit. Though called an executive secretary, in fact, she ran the zoo from 1927 until 1953, blazing a trail as the first zoo director to keep leaf-eating monkeys alive in captivity. Her secret — feed then alfalfa.
Benchley adored Mbongo and Ngagi, two male mountain gorillas, now cast in bronze inside the zoo’s gates. The pair was captured in the Belgian Congo in the 1930s by the husband-and-wife exploring ream of Martin and Osa Johnson, who donated them to the zoo.
Benchley once barred cub reporter Sheldon Campbell from entering the zoo after his newspaper, the now-defunct San Diego Sun, ran a photograph of Ringling Bros. Circus gorilla Gargantua next to a Campbell story on the popular pair.
Benchley said the zoo was a public trust. When Schroeder, a veterinarian employed as a production manager of New York’s Lederle Laboratories, replaced her in 1953, she gave him one piece of advice. “Just keep in mind this is not a business.”
“This is a business,” Schroeder later recalled in an interview. “I immediately instituted all the things you would do in a business right away. We used to say at the zoo that you have a product and your concern is selling. It’s a continuous thing, money, money, money. You have to be very cold, very practical.”
The first thing the new director did was to buy a mechanical sweeper and a Dictaphone.
The debate between public trust versus the bottom line has raged ever since, as the society has grown from 41 members in 1917 to its present strength of 102,795.
Trustee Dr. Albert Anderson, 61, admits that when he joined the board four years ago, succeeding Milton Wegeforth, he thought a little more commercialism was the way to go. He has since changed his mind.
“I’m probably not quite as conservative as possibly some of the other board members and I was very interested in corporate programs and interested in some things which I felt would bring more people in. When I first went on the board, I felt that maybe we should be more like a Disneyland, doing some exciting things. Now I have learned that this is not what people really want. They want animals.”
A dentist, board member of Children’s Hospital, Mr. San Diego of 1981, past president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, member of the Stadium Authority, vice president of President Reagan’s Committee on Metal Retardation, and former campaign manager of Sen. Pete Wilson’s mayoral and U.S. Senate campaigns, Anderson says, “I’m a social prostitute. I just enjoy doing it.”
He was asked to serve on the board by two-term president George Gildred. Before joining he had served on the public relations committee about five years.
On a zoo’s trustee’s perks, Anderson mused, “We got to meet the queen’s husband . . . I travel a lot in Europe and whenever I do I always take my zoo cards with me, like a business card, if I visit any of the zoos around the world. It just gives us an entree that is sensational. It’s like a big fraternity. They minute you say you’re from the San Diego Zoo, they want you co come and see their best exhibits, the back of the zoo.”
If Anderson is a civic star, trustee Gildred shines as brightly.
Gildred, 51, remembers as a lad hearing zoo howls from the family’s Cypress Avenue house. His father, the late Philip Gildred, built the downtown Fox Theater and backed other projects — the Community Concourse — Anza-Borrego State Park and the county administration building. The elder Gildreds donated a half-million dollars to build the Fine Arts Gallery east wing.
George, now in a real-estate partnership with is brother, joined the board in 1973 after serving for years on the animal collection committee.
His three-page resume lists associations with more than 35 cultural and civic boards, including consul to the Republic of Chile, a post he inherited from his father.
In 1982 Gildred, then society president, joined a 13-member delegation on a visit to five Chinese cities, clearing the way for the subsequent arrival in San Diego of China’s golden-haired douc langur monkeys.
In a zoo near a giant panda game reserve in the Szechwan Province, Gildred and others were paid a great complement — keepers led a 13-month-old panda into a public area and let the U.S. visitors pet the rare animal.
One of the board’s youngest members, Gildred bubbles with enthusiasm when he talks of the golden monkey exchange — “more important than letting the pandas out” — or his dusk excursions on the Wild Animal Park monorail or the antics of his “dear friend” Kakowitz, a pygmy chimpanzee who died five years ago.
“He was such a wonderful father. I loved watching his tribe grow up around him. He was an ideal family man.”
From Gildred’s 20th-floor office in the sleek, modern Imperial Bank building downtown, it is two blocks to the old-fashioned San Diego Trust and Savings building, where trustee J. Dallas Clark works on the 10th floor. Clark’s grandfather founded San Diego Trust and Savings Bank in 1889.
Clark, an industrial developer, became a trustee in 1969 after having served on the buildings and grounds committee for 11 years.
His small office is decorated with a portrait of an African Masai woman, animal sculptures from the zoo gift shop and a painting done by one of his two daughters, an artist who paints botanical subjects.
On his desk is a large photograph of one daughter clutching his new grandchild. Clark is tall, soft-spoken, methodical. Freckles dot his balding sunburned scalp, fringed with white hair.
In the early 1970s, Clark started the development — or fund-raising — department — an activity that “you’re just always doing.”
He chairs the animal collection committee. It is typical, he says, for trustees to attend meetings of committees other than their own. When Trepte’s finance committee meets, for instance, in addition to its three board members, five others are likely to attend.
“I’ve never known a board with such unanimity as this one.”
Clark laughs at the suggestion a trusteeship is glamorous or prestigious. “Maybe I’m kind of low-key, but I don’t go for that. It’s hard work.”
What does he find exciting in 1975. Clark visited the Canton Zoo with a delegation that included mammals curator Dr. Jim Dolan. They passed by an enclosure for two rhinoceros given to the Chinese by zoo officials. When the beats heard Dolan speaking English, they trotted over to see him. Dolan reached out and stroked their scaly hides.
“And that’s a sight I don’t think any of us will forget — this one rhinoceros running over and Dr. Dolan patted his head!”
Heading up the research, conservation and health committee is Dr. Lee S. Monroe, a retired Scripps Clinic internist and author of several books on parasitic diseases.
He was drafted for the committee about 10 years ago because of his medical knowledge and appointed to the board about five years later. His committee meets once a month with about 12 zoo staff members. “It’s fun, but it’s some work. They have more meetings at the zoo than Carter has pills.”
Monroe, 65, notes the zoo’s contributions to animal-disease research — including a project to study a virus killing African cattle and another to design a hormone pump to increase the reproductive abilities of an endangered Komodo lizard.
But Monroe warns than panic at the current financial squeeze could backfire. He cautions against luring visitors with flashy new programs of marketing. Instead management should “have a steady hand on the wheel and not get too excited.” He says the zoo’s natural attractions will suffice.
Monroe vehemently opposes any more government aid to the zoo. He dismisses the current 2-cent tax levy, saying it “really doesn’t even pay the water bill.
“The thrust should be toward making this a San Diego Zoo that is run for and by the people, with their money.”
These trustees have seen changes in animal husbandry unimaginable to the zoo’s founders — the disappearance from the wild of hundreds of species, forcing zoos to rely on expensive breeding programs, restrictions on animal trade since passage of the 1972 Endangered Species Act, sky-high prices for animals once donated to the zoo, unstable political situations in the rest of the world hampering certain animal exchanges.
Furthermore, the environmental movement of the last two decades has caused people to view animals with greater reverence — as links in a complicated and vast network that ultimately supports man. Meanwhile, advances in science have revealed animals’ complex physical and psychological needs.
Back in the days when Wegeforth patrolled the zoo’s chaparral-covered 100 acres o his Arabian stallion, “”people weren’t as considerate toward animals,” Campbell admits.
Now, some zoo keepers with advanced degrees in animal behavior and the sciences assail the board and the administration for lack of scientific training.
They dismiss the board as a rich man’s social club, while envying its power.
Trustees admit the board’s power is awesome, even compared to other boards on which they have served.
Says Fox, “The society board is so involved in the operation that we are not an advisory board, we’re like the board of directors of a major corporation that makes the decisions.”
Says Anderson, comparing the zoo board to the Stadium Authority, “I don’t think the Stadium Authority is as important as . . . the zoo board. The stadium authority is advisory. On a number of occasions where the stadium board has voted in favor of things, the city council has overriden them.”
The city council does not override the zoo.
Those who wonder in what direction the zoo is headed might recall the answer to the question about where a 10,000-lb. elephant sleeps — anywhere it wants.
Says president Campbell, noting the zoo’s multimillion-dollar needs, “There’s an old Chinese adage that says, ‘He who rides the tiger can’t get off.’ And we’re riding a tiger.”
(Tribune staff writers Susan Duerksen and Rita Calvano also contributed to his report.)
April 11, 1985, San Diego Union, B-2. Board of Supervisors has agreed to allocate $20,000 to Balboa Park museums, whose county funding was cut last year.
April 12, 1985, San Diego Tribune, A-1. Talented trio shapes Zoo, Wild Animal Park, by Ann Levin and Susan Duerksen.
The trio that runs the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park knows the business of attracting and amusing tourists — each had made a career of organizing tours, designing show stages, and feeding hungry throngs.
All three came to the San Diego Zoological Society in the past three years, two from Universal Studios and one from an Anheuser-Busch theme park. Their ages range from 31 to 36. Two have no college degrees and the other finished college four years ago.
They are known for working long hours in an effort to bring innovative business sense to what has become a mammoth corporation facing strong competition for the entertainment dollar.
- Douglas Myers, 35, took over as the society’s executive director, the top administrator for both and zoo and park in February.
After holding several managerial positions at the Busch Gardens parks in Los Angeles County and Williamsburg, Va., Myers was hired as general manager of the Wild Animal Park in January 1982.
- In June of that year he brought in Robert McClure as operations manager of the park. McClure, 31, had been an assistant food-service manager at Busch Gardens before moving on to food management with Marineland and then Universal Studios tours in Los Angeles.
When Myers became the society’s deputy director in 1983, McClure took over as general manager of the park.
- In June 1982, Terry Winnick was hired as general manager of the zoo. Now 36, Winnick has spent 14 years with MCA Inc., a conglomerate that owns Universal Studios. Starting as a tour guide, Winnick worked his way up to managing shows, special effects and other visitor services for the studio tours. His former colleagues say he was a “whiz kid.”
Myers worked as a bird-keeper at a sanctuary attached to a Busch brewery in Van Nuys for a year and a half. He then moved into what he calls “front level management” in charge of the animal collection.
Myers then spend three years as a general services manager and director of park operations at the Williamsburg Busch Gardens. While there he finished a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies at Christopher Newport College in Newport News in 1981.
Winnick studied architecture at the University of Southern California and McClure took business administration and biology courses at California State University at Northridge, but neither finished his degree.
Zoological Society President Sheldon Campbell said a business management degree is preferable but not necessary, for a general manager. “You can make an awful mistake hiring people on the basis of a piece of paper,” he said.
The lack of degrees and experience in animal care is offset by McClure’s food management expertise, which is important to the wild animal park and Winnick’s skill as an entertainment entrepreneur and construction manager, Campbell said. Both men supervise a staff of experienced curators with doctorates in animal sciences.
Campbell said the board gives the executive director total authority to hire the two general managers. Winnick was hired by a former director, Andy Grant, who had worked with him at Universal and now manages tours of Leeds Castle in England.
April 12, 1985, San Diego Tribune A-1, A-12. New era dawns at Zoo; administrators juggle “show biz” research, by Susan Duerksen.
Lush greenery, shocking pink flamingos, screeching macaws, fragrant blossoms and towering palm trees overwhelm the visitor stepping inside the gate of the San Diego Zoo.
For many out-of-towners, already seduced by the sunshine and sea breezes, the jungle paradise confirms everything they’ve heard about the San Diego Zoo — it’s the best in the world.
Over the years the zoo has become a worldwide legend. Its reputation spread by visiting military personnel, the internationally broadcast “Zoorama” and, more recently, by Joan Embery’s 45 appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight show.
Other established cities had their operas and museums — San Diego was known first for its zoo. And its residents, who take the zoo’s pre-eminence as a tenet of San Diego life, have supported the non-profit zoological society with memberships, donations and generous bequests.
But take away the foliage and San Diego’s climate and you’re left with a 69-year old institution that some say is feeling its age and scrambling to keep up with younger competition.
And for the past decade financial losses at the zoo’s Wild Animal Park near Escondido have further strained the budget at the main zoo, contributing to policy decisions that are being criticized by some animal specialists both within the zoo and elsewhere.
As the management experiments with new revenue-boosting attractions, discontent has swelled among animal “purists” who fear the venerable institution is going show-biz. The conflict erupts in sometimes rancorous accusations by animal caretakers who question the Hollywood occupation of a new breed of managers.
While the zoo still is considered among the best in the world, zoological experts across the nation say some smaller zoos are overtaking San Diego with creative exhibits, biological research and conservation programs — on much thinner budgets.
“The San Diego Zoo is, of course, very well known among other zoos — it’s one of the most highly advertised,” said Elvie Turner, director of the Fort Worth, Texas, zoo and president of the 156-member American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums. “But it’s not quite like it was. Other zoos are catching up. I’ve heard some complaints that it’s beginning to be an amusement-type operation rather than what is generally regarded as a scientific type of operation.”
But Sheldon Campbell, president of the San Diego Zoological Society board, which runs the zoo and the Wild Animal Park, said only three other zoos in the world — East and West Berlin and the Bronx Zoo in New York City — even come close to the number and rarity of animals in the San Diego collection.
“The zoo operation we run is the largest and most successful in history. There’s no question about it.”
Together, the San Diego and Wild Animal Park’s expenditure of about $45 million, is more than double its main U.S. rival, the Bronx Zoo. The San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park have 5,400 animals, surpassed only by the West Berlin zoo, which has 8,000 animals.
William Conway, director of the Bronx Zoological Society, said it’s hard to rate zoos, but San Diego has some stiff competition.
“The best waterfowl collection in the world is in England (near Stroud). The best exhibit of nocturnal animals is in the Bronx. The greatest number of species is in West Berlin. The best gorilla exhibit is in Seattle. The best seals and sea lions are in Tacoma. San Diego has a long history with koalas but Los Angeles put together a much more exciting exhibit.”
David Hancocks, a zoo-design architect and former director of Woodland Park Zoological Gardens in Seattle, made a harsher assessment. “My feeling is that if you took away those nice flowers and ferns the San Diego Zoo would be a pretty bleak place. All the animals ever see is the perimeter of the wall around them . . . but they don’t have places to get out of view.”
In response, San Diego Zoo officials point to their long-range plan to rebuild the entire zoo in roomy, natural exhibits. That plan will take at least 35 years to complete, but in the meantime the older enclosures are renovated as money becomes available, Campbell said.
“The exhibits range from bleak to outstanding, and in they future they will all be outstanding,” Campbell said. “We’ll get it changed. It’s just a continuous struggle.”
Zoo directors in colder climates and with smaller budgets admit their criticisms sound like sour grapes. While viewing the San Diego Zoo with a tinge of jealousy, some also are annoyed by its unwavering claim to be No. 1.
They laud the zoo for its research, particularly genetic breeding and its program to raise California condors and return the endangered bird to the wild. About a third of the research department’s $800,000 budget is obtained through private donations and the rest comes from general zoo revenues.
And they agree San Diego maintains the largest collection of animals, and is the most self-supporting of major zoos, using taxes for a tiny fraction of its $50 million budget.
However, inside the zoo, dozens of employees, ranging from animal keepers to department heads, in confidential interviews with The Tribune have questioned the spending priorities of what has become a large corporation. In recent years, they say, the emphasis has been on recreation and entertainment at the expense of conservation, education and the quality of animal exhibits.
Some animal handlers say privately that animal care is neglected, resulting in boredom, illness or even death. They say visitors who look closely would see monkeys crowded in substandard 5-year old pens, cats pacing old-fashioned concrete and wire cages and bears and rhinos without mates.
Board President Campbell counters that many employees are not aware of the money spent on “off-view” facilities benefiting the animals, including construction of a $1.4 million animal hospital in 1977 and two primate-breeding centers built in 1979 and 1983 for about $1.1 million.
“All these most of our employees haven’t seen,” he said.
The highly visible food stands and gift shops, which have cost about $2 million to build in the past 10 years, have long ago paid for themselves and continue to support the rest of the zoo, Campbell said.
Concessions such as food sales now account for 36 percent of the revenue, while another 28 percent comes from admissions and 9 percent from annual memberships.
In a five-year plan unveiled two months ago, zoo officials announced their intention to get half their revenue from as yet untapped sources by the end of 1989, reducing the reliance on gate receipts. Executive Director Douglas Myers said it “would not be good business” to reveal potential new revenue sources.
In addition to the ongoing courtship of monied animal lovers, the zoo is turning to sponsorship of specific exhibits or programs by corporations. For instance, local companies financed many of the zoo’s current tour buses and Eastman Kodak has become a major corporate sponsor, pledging $100,000 a year for five years.
The new $800,000 Hunte Amphitheater also is expected to increase revenue by drawing visitors away from the congested front areas of the zoo and improving crowd turnover, Campbell said. It was built with money from a donor who picked the amphitheater from a list of five zoo projects that needed financing, he said.
The $1.9 million Warner Administration Center, built in 1983, is another object of criticism from some employees. But donors Tom and Suzanne Warner specified their money was to be used to consolidate the zoo’s administrative offices, which had been scattered in several buildings.
Donors are more inclined to given money to build “brand new things” than to repair the old, Campbell said.
Day-to-day decisions on spending money are made by the zoo’s administrators, not donors. Many of the lifelong “animal people” who work for the zoo are chafing under the leadership of young executives whom they blame for tilting the zoo away from conservation and education and toward competition with a myriad of Southern California attractions, such as Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and Sea World.
Executive Director Myers and the general managers of both the zoo and the Wild Animal Park were hired within the past three years. All three have management backgrounds with Universal Studios or Anheuser-Busch theme parks and none has zoo experience.
This hiring pattern bucks a national trend, said Bob Wagner of Jackson, Miss., executive director of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, which was headed last year by Charles Bieler, former executive director of the San Diego Zoological Society. About 15 years ago, zoos across the country tended to seek administrators with business or management backgrounds, but now have reversed that practice, he said.
“In most cases in recent years, when there has been a change in zoo directors, the search committee has selected zoo-trained professionals,” believing it better to hire assistants with business expertise, Wagner said.
“You need an animal person at the top, and put the business people under him,” said Edward Maruska, director of the Cincinnati Zoo. “The man at the top is the controlling factor on how well an exhibit is built, how well the collection is managed.”
Campbell said that although Myers does not have a zoo background he is an “animal man” who worked closely with the 136-species bird collection at the now defunct Busch Gardens in Van Nuys. Beginning as a bird keeper, Myers also was a tour manager, animal collection manager and general service manager during his 11 years with Anheuser-Busch Co. Shortly before the bird sanctuary was closed five years ago to make way for expansion of a brewery, he moved to the Busch Gardens location in Williamsburg, Va.
“I have a significant amount of animal experience,” he said, noting that the theme park also had a collection of otters, penguins,, sea lions and small primates.
However, Campbell said Myers was hired “primarily as a manager” when he was selected to manage the Wild Animal Park in 1982. He was promoted to executive director of the society in February of this year.
Myers, in turn, said both general managers who report to him, Terry Winnick of the zoo and Bob McClure of the Wild Animal Park, were hired for their management experience.
McClure had worked in food and merchandising for Busch Gardens in Van Nuys, Marineland in Palos Verdes and for Universal Studio tours. Winnick spent 14 years at Universal Studios, staring as a tour guide and working his way up to director of special effects and shows, including trained animal acts.
Myers said their management strengths are supported by an unsurpassed group of curators who are in charge of the animals.
“We need somebody to watch the business side, because we have tremendous professionals on the animal side,” Myers said. “It’s a balance.”
McClure said he depends on the animal and plant expertise of his staff and sees himself as the coordinator of a team that runs the park.
But to some of the animal caretakers they supervise, these newcomers have a distorted focus on the balance sheet instead of the animals.
“Upper management doesn’t understand animal-health themes because that’s not a high priority for them,” one employee said. “So you go home with a twisted gut (when something happens to an animal) but they don’t because they’re worried about whether Canyon Café came up short that day.”
Said another, with 10 years experience at the zoo, “The emphasis of the management has certainly changed. Its’ gotten more and more removed from going a good job for the animals. When I first started at the zoo, money was not an overriding, all-encompassing concern.”
Among the controversial allocations in the zoo’s budget is $5 million a year for advertising and promotions — more than the entire budget of such other prominent zoos as Cincinnati, Denver and Los Angeles. Myers said the expenditure is necessary to draw the 4.5 million visitors to the zoo and park each year.
In addition to TV ads and a magazine, those promotions include trained-animal acts, one of the sharpest points of contention in the entertainment debate.
The Wild Animal Park features three such shows and the zoo just spent $800,000 to build it second amphitheater for a new show. But national association president Turner said the use of trained animals is becoming less common at other zoos.
“Most of the zoos feel they are not in that kind of business,” Turner said. However, he added that San Diego has “a giant operation, and the revenues are very important. I know everybody has to try to make money.”
Wagner, the national executive director, said the animal acts he has seen in San Diego are “in good taste and educational,” but he would not use them at the Jackson, Miss., zoo where he is director.
“I’m a bit of a purist,” he said. “I think trained-animal acts are fine for circuses and captive displays and conservation are for zoos.”
San Diego also excels in the scientific areas, Myers said, with a breeding program responsible for upgrading the status of white rhinos from endangered to threatened and unprecedented successes with many other species.
Myers said San Diego’s shows are carefully planned to illustrate natural behaviors of the animals. Amid public criticism, Myers recently canceled plans to use non-zoo animals trained for movies in a show at the new zoo amphitheater. Zoo animals will be used instead.
In addition to questioning priorities, some zoo employees cite what they consider to be wasteful use of funds, including several exhibits they say were poorly designed, requiring repair and remodeling.
- A solar-heated room designed to hold up to 70 monkeys at the $809,000 breeding center, built in 1983, has been overly successful at stimulating tropical conditions. Temperatures have soared up to 150 degrees. The room has been empty since a marmoset died there last spring.
Campbell said the design of the heating system is faulty, and estimates for fixing it range from $1,500 to $60,000.
- The Heart of the Zoo, a facsimile of a Southeast Asian rain forest, has had several design and building changes during and after its construction two years ago. The original $2 million budget for the ape and bird complex has ballooned to $3.5 million, which even Campbell has said was “probably too much.”
Contractors had to uncover and reseal leaking basement walls, reshape moats around the monkey islands and darken a building to allow visitors to see through the glare in a glass enclosure. A Seattle architectural firm recently was hired to make the Siamang monkey islands escape proof.
- A $70,000 filtration system on fiberglass pools housing the sea lions that perform at Wegeforth Bowl has been inadequate to clear the water and has malfunctioned and drained the pools.
Although a consultant advised replaced the filters at a cost of $150,000, zoo officials say they are withholding final payment for the system, hoping the contractor will fix it. In the meantime, sea lions are suffering from eye infections and other ailments and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited the zoo for potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
- In-house workers spent several months last year renovating the Bongo exhibit, now widely scorned by zoo employees as an unnatural concrete fortress little changed by the massive remodeling effort. Although Myers said he “would have liked to see a little more softness built into it,” the exhibit has produced a burgeoning population of the exotic antelopes. “The bongos seem to like it,” he said.
- Plans to build a hydraulic lift for the tour bus loading docks were scrapped in 1982 after $32,000 was spent on a design and prototype that didn’t work, said zoo architect David Rice.
“We see this and say, ‘Why couldn’t the money have been used for the animals? I think the animals are secondary now,” one employee said.
Exhibit renovation has lagged because the zoo has spent $20 million to subsidize the Wild Animal Park in the 13 years since it was opened.
“I think that all their time and talent and their funds have gone to the Wild Animal Park, and they have just not kept up to date with the downtown facilities,” said Sue Pressman, former director of captive-animal exhibits for the Humane Society of America in Washington, D. C. Pressman now is a private consultant to zoos.
Campbell said that spending pattern now is reversed and the park will be pushed to stand on its own.
The Wild Animal Park symbolizes the difficulty of balancing conservation with economics. The brainchild of Dr. Charles Schroeder, who retired in 1972 after 20 years as director, the Wild Animal Park was conceived as a breeding ground for endangered species. It covers 600 acres of an 1,800-acre site in the San Pasqual Valley.
Part of Schroeder’s idea was to put people “in cages” by use of a monorail to view free roaming animals instead of old-fashioned exhibits in which visitors roamed free to view animals in cages.
But Schroeder’s vision of an animal preserve divided into areas resembling five geographical regions of the world did not attract the volume of visitors to put the park in the black.
Thus, concerts were added three years ago to draw crowds, and a “Close Encounter” program began this March 30 to make animals more accessible and the park more interesting to children. The new attractions include tours of the elephants’ bedrooms, photo opportunities with koalas, trivia questions on plaques near the exhibits and devices to test your strength against an elephant.
Trustee Ivor de Kirby said reaction of visitors during the first week was enthusiastic but some animal keepers are wary of dangers and inconveniences of bring the public closer to the beasts. Myers said “all precautionary measures” have been taken to assure safety.
With the next two years, Myers hopes to build lodging — envisioned as a giant hut on stilts — where paying guests could spend the night watching the animals at the park.
Myers said covered outposts will be built along the monorail this summer for daytime observation of the herds. He plans to conduct marketing surveys on the idea of the overnight accommodations, patterned after the Treetops safari hotels in Kenya.
Local developer Rick Taubman, whose family owns Seaport Village, said he originally suggested the “overnight resting place” as a way to boost the park’s income. No developer has been chosen.
Campbell emphasized that the idea is “pure talk,” has not been approved by the board, and would not be built for at least four years if it were approved.
Talk of future construction plans is too far off to satisfy some whose daily jobs involve animal care. While managers map out the elaborate rebuilding of the zoo and expansion of the park, animal custodians worry about the less glamorous but immediate needs of their charges.
While some employees agree with a colleague’s assessment that the zoo has become “a madhouse of low morale,” many say they are happy and proud of their jobs caring for one of the world’s premiere collections of animals. Even those who complain bitterly insist that are not just grousing, but are hoping for constructive change.
One employee described zoo workers as “concerned professionals, people who feel let down in some of the priorities management has established.”
“There are probably a lot of people on the board who think everything is fine, and then they hear a disparaging word and they think it’s coming from some troublemaker,” he said. “But it’s not. It’s from a loyal employee who wants to see things made better.”
(Tribune staff writers Ann Levin and Rita Calvano also contributed to this report.)
April 18, 1985, READER. COMBO Funding Requests.
COMBO, San Diego’s official arts funding group, was formed in 1964 to discourage music, dance and theater troupes from hounding the city council and local businesses for donations. This novel system (is) now being tested again by the Old Globe Theater and the San Diego Civic Light Opera Association.
April 18, 1985, San Diego Union, B-5. Public Services & Safety Committee favors linking Balboa Park rangers with police, by Michael Smolens.
A proposal to combat crime in recreation areas by deploying a new squad of park rangers was praised yesterday by a City Council committee, which favors making the rangers part of the Police Department rather than the Park and Recreation Department.
April 25, 1985, San Diego Tribune, A-1, A-12. Joan Kroc’s $3.3 million gift to Zoo, by Ann Levin, Susan Duerksen, and Rita Calvano.
Joan Kroc, owner of the Padres and a millionaire philanthropist, today gave the San Diego Zoo the largest donation in its history, $3.3 million to rebuild a major portion of the zoo, including all of Cascade Canyon.
Kroc, the widow of McDonald’s restaurants founder Ray Kroc, pledged the money after The Tribune disclosed last month that the large-cat exhibits have failed to meet federal safety standards and that a variety of other problems plague the zoo.
The donation by Kroc will free up other money to correct problems in the area housing lions, tigers and other big cats, officials said.
Problems cited by a federal inspector indicated crumbling walls and roofs, improper drainage, rusting gates and a lack of heat and light in the holding pens behind the exhibits. Some of the exhibits were built 50 years ago.
Zoo officials said Kroc decided to make the multi-million-dollar gift after reading newspaper reports of the structural problems.
Executive Director Douglas Myers today said the donation will be used to reconstruct the Cascade Canyon area into a major multi-species exhibit housing birds, reptiles and mammals found in Asian tropical rain forests.
The two-acre canyon will be renamed in honor of the Kroc family.
The reconstruction of the canyon is expected to cost $4 million. Zoo fund-raisers already have collected $800,000 from an anonymous donor for a Sumatran tiger exhibit that will be built at the base of the canyon.
Charles Bieler, executive director emeritus of the Zoological Society of San Diego, said he received a phone call from Kroc’s office on Monday and met with her Monday afternoon to arrange the donation.
As he was presented with the check for $3.3 million today, Bieler said, “I’ve never seen so many zeroes at one time on a check. We think it’s a gift that has come at a most appropriate time, at a time of need.”
The largest prior gift to the zoo was $1.5 million in the 1960s from Elmer C. Otto. Thomas and Suzanne Warner gave $1 million to help construct the zoo’s Warner Administration Building, and $950,000 was given by Helen Woodward to help build the Heart of the Zoo exhibit.
Mike Sund, director of public relations of the Joan B. Kroc Foundation, read a statement from Kroc at the press conference today:
“I am making this personal gift on behalf of my late husband Ray and our family because we have always felt that, in addition to being the finest zoo in the world, the San Diego Zoo literally provides something for everyone in this diverse community of our.
“Much like the National League Championship our Padres brought home last year, the zoo is a source of pride and entertainment that young and old, rich and poor, can share and enjoy. Best of all, the zoo has never had a bad year!
“We are especially pleased that our gift will help to create a simulated natural habitat where these animals can live in a way that reflects appreciation for the dignity of all living things.”
Sund said today’s $3.3 million contribution is a personal gift by Kroc.
Kroc also gave a personal $100,000 gift to establish a family survivors fund for the victims of the San Ysidro massacre. Which was followed by a $1million donation from McDonald’s restaurants.
With the new donation in hand, zoo officials expect to break ground for a new tiger exhibit this fall and complete it before next summer. Construction of new lion housing will begin next year, Zoo Executive Director Doug Myers said.
“The dollars seem to be in hand to accomplish that schedule,” Myers said.
When the new Sumatran tiger exhibit at the base of Cascade Canyon is completed next spring, the lions will take over the old tiger housing, which is in slightly better shape than the lion exhibit, Myers said. The lion building then will be torn down and rebuilt.
Eventually, the entire cat and dog canyon is to be rebuilt as part of a 35-year plan to reorganize the zoo into “bioclimatic” zones reproducing the vegetation and animal groupings of certain areas of the world. Plans call for a mountainous region exhibit in the canyon.
In the meantime, though, the antiquated exhibits must be rebuilt for the health and safety of animals and visitors.
The Asian rain forest complex will be located just inside the zoo’s entrance, between the reptile house and primate exhibits. It is expected to be completed within a year.
The architectural design of the complex will be done by Jones and Jones, a zoological architectural firm from Seattle. Bieler said he expects to take bids for construction by August or September.
The new exhibit will include enclosures for crocodiles, a python, Malayan tapirs and a species of wild swine as well as a variety of birds.
The concrete structures housing and displaying the lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards and some species of dogs failed a U. S. Department of Agriculture building inspection a year ago and a re-inspection yesterday.
Reports filed by federal veterinarian Frank Enders last year detailed cracks on the walls, crumbling roofs, rusting gates, improper drainage, and a lack of heat and light as deficiencies that must be corrected to meet federal standards.
Enders had set a one-year deadline for the exhibits to be upgraded to meet federal standards. On a re-inspection yesterday, he found that the problems have not been fixed, but said the zoo is making substantial progress.
Enders said he will recommend that the zoo be given another year to rebuild the structures before it is cited for violating the Animal Welfare Act.
He said some of the buildings must be torn down and rebuilt, and others housing jaguars and leopards require further remodeling.
The decision on granting the zoo a one-year extension of the deadline for correcting the problems will be made by the Department of Agriculture’s regional office in Sacramento, after Enders files his re-inspection report.
Accompanied by zoo officials, Enders took a cluster of reporters on a tour of the cat and dog housing yesterday. He said he was impressed by the care animals are given, despite substandard conditions.
Similar problems were fund in the enclosures for Chinese dholes, a red dog. Several zoo employees linked the inadequate heat and housing to the hypothermia deaths of a litter of dhole pups in 1982.
In a recent series of articles examining the 69-year old zoo, The Tribune also disclosed water quality problems in the sea lion tanks and structural defects in a new $3.5 million primate exhibit.
Part of the problem in the cat and dog canyon is a lack of electricity, which is needed for lighting, space heaters and water-heated sleeping pads. Some areas had temporary electricity from a power source at the top of the canyon, but City of San Diego building inspectors yesterday required the removal of indoor wiring that had been strung illegally through the trees.
Two days after The Tribune story noting lack of heat and light in Cat Canyon appeared, the zoo accepted bids from San Diego electrical contractors to bury a cable along the canyon.
One jaguar exhibit has been renovated and four other large cat areas are scheduled for the same treatment within the next two months. The renovation, at a cost of about $10,000 per exhibit, includes replacing concrete floors with dirt and grass, adding skylights to provide better lighting in the holding pens behind the exhibits and installing specially heated sleeping pads.
April 25, 1985, San Diego Tribune, A-12. Zoo removes unsafe wiring; some animals to lack heat.
Unprotected indoor wiring was found strung through trees at the San Diego Zoo yesterday by city building inspectors.
The illegal wiring was immediately removed by zoo workers from the cat and dog canyon, where it had been used to power water-heated sleeping pads in some of the animals’ holding pens.
City officials decided this month to begin enforcing building codes at the zoo, after The Tribune reported that most construction there has been done without building permits or inspections. In the past, city officials said, they have not routinely inspected the zoo.
The Romex wiring used at the zoo is intended only for the inside of walls in residential buildings and must be enclosed in a metal sheath even inside walls in commercial structures, said Dan Cole, city supervisor of permit issuance. He said the wiring is not safe for outdoor use.
Carmi Penny, mammals curator at the zoo, said the removal of the wiring has caused greater danger to the animals’ health because they no longer have the heated beds.
“We’re not electrical engineers. It works; we’ve all used it,” Penny said.
A temporary generator is expected to be installed today to provide power for lighting at some of the exhibits. Within a year, zoo officials said, permanent power sources should be installed throughout the zoo.
May 26, 1985, San Diego Union, E-1. The Old Globe celebrates 50 years:
Wednesday, May 29 – Dedication of the Lowell Davies Festival Theater.
Friday, May 31 – 50th anniversary party in Balboa Park (for Old Globe members only).
Wednesday, June 5 – Festival ’85 opens with “Greater Tuna.”
Friday, June 7 – “A Midsummer Nights’ Dream” opens.
Wednesday, June 12 – “Fallen Angels” opens.
Saturday, July 13 – Reunion and brunch for Old Globe volunteers.
Friday, July 19 – Festival ’85 continues with opening of “Painting Churches.”
Sunday, July 21 – “London Assurance” opens.
Friday, July 26 – “Richard III,” the Globe’s 500th production opens.
Saturday, September 14 – Jubilation Gala dinner dance
May 26, 1985, San Diego Union, E-1, E-4, E-10. The Globe spins mightily; the artistic bastion is built on solid 50-year foundation, by Welton Jones.
Humanity should have a history as evenly productive as the first half-century of the Old Globe Theater.
Since Thomas Wood Stevens and Marc T. Nielsen signed an agreement 50 years ago Wednesday to provide the California Pacific International Exposition with bits of Shakespeare in a replica of his Elizabethan theater, that certain corner of Balboa Park has led a charmed existence as a bubble of culture in an environment often indifferent and occasionally hostile.
Every time there’s been a crisis, the necessary solution has been discovered close at hand and the Old Globe has emerged stronger than before.
At the end of its first half century, the Globe’s history falls into six eras, the Exposition years, the San Diego Community Theater years, the dormant war years, the long slow growth from 1947 to 1971, the maturing years around the 1978 fire and the professional era which began with the opening of the new Old Globe in 1982.
Halfway through the fourth season of the latest era, it’s still too early to see the future. Programming since 1982 has been conservative, the risks have been carefully calculated. The theater’s artistic integrity is unquestioned but there are few surprises.
Today the Old Globe Theater is the IBM of the San Diego cultural establishment, a trim, efficient and self-confident enterprise which also is the only performing arts management able to claim 50 years in the same or, for that matter, any location.
Rare indeed are the unsold seats to Globe shows, although the theater’s board of directors refuses to let the staff sell more than 90 percent subscriptions to the dozen productions each year, just so there will be something to sell at the box office.
Few frontiers have been pushed back by the Globe during all those seasons, true. But theatrical frontiersmen usually find early graves, whereas the Globe just keeps on serving its audience, all its risk in context.
Just as the politicians main job is to get elected, a theater company’s first task may be survival. As is shown by its production history, the Globe knows how to survive and even flourish.
The history of the Old Globe forms a long, smooth curve with a blank over the World War II years and an abrupt upsweep at the end.
Soaring above the war, fire, fads, economic fluctuations, intrigue, personnel turnovers and all the other churning signs of life, the Old Globe’s productions have continued to flow in a serene, uninterrupted progression which says more about the theater’s management than any other tribute could.
Since the traumatic arson fire which destroyed the original Globe that dismal morning in March 1978, the theater not only has recovered, it has prospered.
The annual budget that fire year was about $300,000. Today, it’s more than $6 million. The difference is that between a nice, cost-effective, amateur community theater and one of the country’s major professional companies.
In retrospect, as always with Globe history, the 1978 fire can be seen to have been a blessing in disguise, the biggest in an ongoing series of jolts which may explain why the theater never has sunk into atrophy.
The Globe was born fighting for its life. Thomas Wood Stevens was a scholar turned entrepreneur by the Depression. A 15-year veteran of the Carnegie Tech Drama Department in Pittsburgh, the country’s first college-level theater school, he had founded the Goodman Theater in Chicago only to be fired after five years for setting artistic standards too high.
In 1934, the “Century of Progress” exposition in Chicago was entering its second season and was in need of some good solid midway attractions like the successful “Belgian Village” and “Streets of Paris” exhibits. Stevens was hired to provide the centerpiece of a “Merrie England” exhibit, with an Elizabethan theme, specifically five short Shakespeare plays a day.
As is well-known now, Stevens and his assistant, B. Iden Payne, filled the bill so well that the operators of the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego lured them to Balboa Park hoping to duplicate their success.
What is frequently forgotten, though, is the fact than Stevens and his people were not opportunists or charlatans, butchering Shakespeare for a couple of bucks. “The really hard thing,” Stevens wrote to a friend in 1934, “is the cutting of the plays — we should have that done by somebody who hates Shakespeare, instead of people like Iden and me.” Still, 14 plays were eventually hacked to a length ranging from 36 minutes for “A Comedy of Errors” to 45 minutes for “Julius Caesar” and a company of actors which eventually numbered such luminaries as Martha Scott, Sam Wannamaker, MacDonald Carey, Bertram Tanswell and Irene Tedrow was hired to perform five of these a day.
In the second year of the San Diego exposition, Stevens and Payne were long gone, but the replacement troupe — called the Fortune Company — carried on with notable success until the fair closed that fall.
The structure built for the shows and called “the Old Globe” was intended to be a temporary building and the fair management already had sold it to wreckers for $400 before local theater patrons awoke to the fact that the only professional house in town was about to be trashed.
The first galvanizing crisis produced a fund-raising committee that found the money, purchased the building and prepared it for the first season of the newly-formed San Diego Community Theater. The Globe officially reopened December 2, 1937, with John Van Druten’s “The Distaff Side,” directed by Luther M. Kennett, Jr. and featuring, in a supporting role, a young San Diegan named Craig Noel.
The playhouse taken over by the San Diego Community Theater was no more a “replica” of the original Elizabethan Globe than Thomas Wood Stevens was the reincarnation of Shakespeare. What had started out as a vaguely authentic structure open to the sky had already been modified to an enclosed hall with a proscenium arch stage.
At the end of that first 1937-38 season, there was $17.70 in the treasury (according to John Eugene Donnelly’s invaluable 1957 San Diego State University’s thesis, which provided most of the historical material included here) and a second season was inevitable.
By the time World War II shut down the theater’s operations, Noel had replaced Kennett as the resident director and the company had presented 39 shows, including one world premiere (Lynn Rigg’s “A World Elsewhere”) and one tour to Los Angeles (Mark Reed’s “Yes, My Darling Daughter”).
Indirectly, the war was yet another break for the Globe. Craig Noel had resigned from the theater to go to Hollywood that October, 1941. Both his career and the Globe’s might have been different if there hadn’t been a war to fight, but within a couple of months, along with most of his generation, Craig Noel joined the Army. He came home just in time to direct the first postwar show at the Globe, and he’s been there ever since, the premiere symbol of the theater’s leadership continuity.
After the war, it took many months to jiggle the Globe loose from the Navy and from a city administration that seemed to have forgotten who had turned it into an asset. An exchange of correspondence in the Donnelly thesis indicates that the city wasn’t sure any group should be awarded exclusive use of the reopened Globe.
That crisis was the first big one for the new man of the hour at the Globe, Lowell Davies, who became president in January 1945 and served until 1976, when he became chairman of the board.
In Davies and Noel, the Globe had a leadership tandem of energy and sophistication unmatched in San Diego arts history before or since. Each respected the other and neither infringed on the other’s turf. Davies kept the theater open and Noel provided the reason why.
From 1947 until 1962, when William Roesch was signed as second staff director, Craig Noel directed seven or eight shows a year. All but four were presented on the main stage of the Globe during that period and some for the summer Shakespeare festivals as well.
The first festival in the summer of 1949, brought B. Iden Payne back to town for a production of “Twelfth Night,” co-sponsored by San Diego State. Payne returned for two shows each summer through 1952, when San Diego State withdrew from the partnership, taking its financial support with it.
Yet another crisis loomed, with yet another smooth, natural solution. One of the biggest Broadway hits of the period, Joshua Logan and Thomas Heggen’s “Mister Roberts” came available that summer and gave the Globe its first really big, long-running (69 performances) hit.
And the following season when the members began to grumble about the lack of Shakespeare, the Globe was able to reinstate the festival with the first of its three-show summer season of rotating repertory.
To this day, audiences still complain when there’s not enough Shakespeare in the Globe’s schedule.
During the 1950s the Globe settled into a peaceful era of five or six amateur winter productions and three professional summer shows. Usually the former paid for the latter, but there were notable summer hits, too.
In the season of 1961-62, the Globe expanded its program to Sherwood Hall in La Jolla, with a three-play schedule of fare somewhat experimental — Jean Anouilh, Arch Oboler and Edward Albee that year. The audience was there, and, in 1963-64, the shows were moved from La Jolla to the Falstaff Tavern, an auxiliary building next to the Globe, originally built as a restaurant during the 1935 exposition.
By the 1968-69 season, the tavern had become the present Cassius Carter Center Stage and the Globe’s annual pattern had become five shows each on the main stage and the Carter during the winter with a three-show Shakespeare repertory and a fourth production at the Carter for summer. This arrangement continued until the 1978 fire, when the company moved its Globe winter productions downtown and its Shakespeare Festival to the temporary outdoor Festival Stage, designed and built in just four months.
The Globe was ill-prepared to mount a major fund-raising effort. Decades of careful management had brought the theater a stability rare in the business, with an enormous proportion of its operating budget earned at the box office. The theater board and staff had virtually no experience in soliciting grants or major donations, and the early efforts were painfully ineffective.
But new heroes emerged, a new generation of leadership, including Stacey Sullivan, Deborah Szekezy, James Mulvaney and James Milch, and the Globe gave itself on-the-job training so effective that the company emerged from the fire crisis with an entirely new, completely modernized approach to operations as a year-round professional company.
When the new $6 million Old Globe was finished and opened in 1982 several changes took place. Noel replaced himself with three people — Artistic Director Jack O’Brien, Managing Director Thomas Hall and himself as executive producer — and the company replaced its winter company of faithful, unpaid, amateur actors with professionals performing a winter season of six shows on the two inside stages and a summer rotation of six other shows on all three stages.
Last year, the Globe ended years of quiet struggle with environmentalists by securing City Council approval to make the outdoor Festival Stage a permanent facility, but plans to remodel it in memory of Lowell Davies, who died in 1983, seemed to languish.
Enter the latest disguised blessing in the form of yet another arson fire which destroyed the Festival Stage. Once more the Globe was forced into fund-raising and rebuilding. The Lowell Davies Festival Theater will open this week.
But all the changes weren’t buildings or personnel. The Globe’s repertoire was evolving too.
The first two seasons of the San Diego Community Theater provided Broadway hits with certain whimsical variations — from “Once in a Lifetime” to “Hedda Gabler” in 1937-38, “Heartbreak House” to “Three Men on a Horse” the next season — but thereafter the programming settled into a steady diet of Broadway mainstream which persisted well into the 1970s.
There was an occasional musical comedy — “Lady in the Dark,” “On the Town,” “The Boy Friend” (twice) — and the most popular works by controversial new playwrights — Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and “A View from the Bridge,” Tennessee William’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Rose Tattoo” — but the majority of the programming during the amateur winter seasons came from the middle of the road, the staple of stock theaters around the country.
Between 1947 and 1971, the playwright with the most plays produced on the Old Globe stage, second only to Shakespeare was Norman Krasna, with “John Loves Mary,” “Dear Ruth,” “Who Was That Lady I Saw You With” and “Sunday in New York.”
But the changes begun in the Sherwood Hall season of 1961-62 had continued to eat away at the theater’s reputation for winter fluff, with playwrights such as Jean Genet, Harold Pinter, Shaw, O’Neill, Pirandello, Brecht and Brendan Behan attracting enthusiastic audiences.
In 1971-72, the main stage fare began a slow shift away from the lightweight with productions of John Guare’s “House of Blue Leaves” and Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” The Krasna days were gone for good.
After that season, mainstage programming grew nearer to that on the Cassius Carter Stage. Arthur Kopit and Joe Orton were represented the next year. Tennessee Williams and Brecht the year after that. By the time of the 1978 fire, plays were being assigned based on which stage they fit best.
Part of the change can be attributed to the beginning of subscription sales, in the 1973-74 season. Prior to that year, patrons could purchase coupons good for any show during the season, so box-office returns were carefully watched before plays were chosen. By buying subscriptions, theatergoers received preferred seating in exchange for their faith that the theater would provide good shows.
But another reason for the change in programming was the Globe’s participation in a national trend toward a more institutionalized theater, a theater not tied directly to box-office sales but free to pursue quality with the advance income of subscriptions and grants, a theater where artists could work in a situation which inspired quality while providing a decent wage.
In an era with no dominant playwrights, production became more important. Audiences all over the country began to realize that Shaw and Ibsen could be exciting, given the proper staging, as this season’s Broadway hits. With their future guaranteed at least for the season at hand, the institutional theaters could leave the commercial plays to tours and dinner theaters, concentrating more on mining the past and developing the future.
The Globe, having sharpened its audiences’ perceptions with a steady diet of Shakespeare over the decades, was in a better position than most to become what its new artistic director called “an American classical theater.”
Increasingly, the Globe has taken its place nationally as an exemplary producer of a safe repertoire. But the sudden crosstown preference of the revived La Jolla Playhouse, currently the darling of the country’s art theater establishment, brings the Globe’s audience an alternative to conservative programming. Eventually, a marketplace comparison of each theater’s artistic judgment may be possible.
Whatever the outcome of such comparisons, history suggests that the Globe will adjust accordingly.
Some problems are yet to be resolved at the Old Globe. There is still some debt to retire from the rebuilding of the past years. The staff is chronically overworked. No clear use of the months between September and December has been established.
Most importantly, if all seats are sold for all performances, something must give. New sources of revenue must be found. In the case of earned income, this means some combination of more performances, more seats or higher ticket prices.
The best solution may be to borrow a page from the commercial theater and make the hits pay better by moving them somewhere after their subscription runs are done, either on tour to other cities or into a theater somewhere else in San Diego.
Typically, the Globe leadership is close-mouthed about its long-range plans. But there’s a committee studying the question.
Perhaps solutions will be found which don’t require a crisis to congeal. But if there is a crisis, history teaches that the Old Globe Theater will be a good bet to survive and flourish.
May 26, 1985, San Diego Union, E-10. Where the Globe Festival’s money will go in 1985
Total expenses $2,884,268
Direct production expenses (Artist’s and crew members salaries, sets, costumes, royalties, advertising, box office and usher expenses) $2,136,961
Fixed operating expenses (Administration, theater upkeep, fund-raising) $ 747,307
Source: Old Globe Theater
May 26, 1985, San Diego Union, E-1, E-7. Three guys cultivate culture and the public reaps results, by Anne Marie Welsh.
“Over that art which you say adds to nature is an art that nature makes. . . . This is an art which does mend nature, change it rather, but the art itself is nature.”
Polixenes instructing Perdita in “The Winter’s Tale.”
For Craig Noel, Tom Hall and Jack O’Brien, culture is like horticulture. When they talk of their mutual passion for the Old Globe Theater, Shakespeare hovers about the conservation and 50 years of growth and change seem a continuity. “All that the Old Globe is was there from the beginning,” says O’Brien, the artistic director. “We’ve not grafted onto this plant anything unnatural. We have taken a situation remarkable for its rightness, its timing. And the three of us have had a healthier effect than maybe one of use could.”
O’Brien is 45 years old, a nationally accomplished director, who joined the Globe’s full-time staff in 1982. Hall came aboard then, too, and in three years has given the Globe the largest subscription base of any regional theater in the country. At 33, he is the youngest member of the ruling triumvirate.
Craig Noel, the executive producer, associated with the theater almost since its inception, will be 70 this fall.
Together, they shape each season and the future of San Diego’s most distinguished arts institution.
“When things get real rough,” says Hall, “we go to Craig’s hose and sit in the sun and say nobody can leave until we’ve decided on the plays. Because of the subscription series, we are under a printing deadline that is unbelievable. At least six months in advance of a season.”
“Eight months actually,” said O’Brien.
Noel explained the intricacies of the negotiations. “It’s other things than just choosing a season of plays. Actor availability, for instance. It isn’t just a mater of ‘I love this’ or ‘I love that.’ Sometimes my absolute favorites were bombs at the box office or bombs artistically.”
“It isn’t just three people sitting in their room with their egos, like “Star Wars,” O’Brien said. “We are like Harry Truman saying he as just the one renting the hall. There’s the Globe and there’s the audience. Craig might say a work will never sell in this city. Or he might say we did it before and shouldn’t do it again. Or we already did it and should do it again. Talking to someone who has been over this part of the sea tells us whether there is a shark over there.”
However unusual, the troika system has worked well enough to earn the Globe a Tony award last year for achievement in regional theater. “It isn’t as if we’ve all just got acquainted,” Noel says of the ease in the relationship. “Jack’s first production here was in 1969. Over the years we’ve learned to regret things together and to celebrate things together.”
Hall acknowledges that the first meetings in January 1982 were anxious. “We were worried at first,” he said, “that we would have different points of view.”
“It was very awkward,” O’Brien said. “But the tone was already here, because it began as a community theater wanted by the community. It was like a musical instrument with a certain character and quality of sound. For me, the Globe always represented happy times, lots of laughter, really classy people. The tempo or quality of life here has not changed. The quality of spirit is the same.”
The changes, besides the obvious move from a semi-professional winter season to a fully professional one, have been structural, they say.
“Our being comfortable with each other has led to structural changes, a new process,” said Hall. “We have weekly meetings of artistic and management staff to hear what people want and need. When either group has a problem, we talk about it. It would be interesting for you to hear what a businessman hears — the ‘What if’ of the artist.
“Just last week we spent four hours together finding a solution to a very specific problem. We had a financial problem with a part of ‘Dream’ (‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ set to open the new Lowell Davies Festival Stage on June 7). The problem scene was going to take 20 seconds. We talked and were able to work out a solution that was acceptable to Jack.”
“With very little compromise,’ O’Brien said, adding, “The councils have been very interesting. Maybe it’s now even a wise thing to do. A lot of people don’t do it. The heads of most organizations are perceived as creatures of mystery and fear.”
“I try to tell them (actors and crew) everything, everything. I’m thinking and I name names and mention problems. If it gets out of the room that tells me what I need to know about the persons and the process.”
Noel, who directed his first production at the Globe in 1939 and will direct his 201st during the Jubilee season, said the transition to an Equity company of actors went about as smoothly as the transition to a three-man leadership. “A professional actor and director can love his discipline just as much as an amateur. The love affair leads on to professionalism. For a long time we lived in that strange area so that there was a summer season that was Equity and the rest of the year we were a community theater.”
“Many times in regional theater, a smart young man such as Jack would go to Syracuse, for instance, and say, ‘There’s no theater here.’ He would go to the city council and say that and they would say, ‘yes, he’s right we should have a theater and he should run it.’
“The very fact that the theater was here for the (1935) Exposition and the people wanted to keep it is an important part of our history. We’ve had more people wanting it than not. They had seen Shakespeare. They wanted to see more Shakespeare.
“The reverse thing happened on the East Coast in Stratford, Connecticut. A group of actors said you need a Shakespeare Festival. But the people said,” and Noel rose gesturing, ” ‘We don’t need this. We don’t want Shakespeare. You are jamming that down our throats.’ Nobody cared about it.
“Here in San Diego, though, the people did want it and when the number os Shakespearean plays last summer was cut back from the traditional three to two, there were some complaints.”
Hall leapt into the conversation. “We realized we’d get flak for cutting Shakespeare down from three to two. But look at the roster of actors in Jack’s ‘Dream.’ Now they can give it great depth. If we still tried to do three, we realized one might be lousy. The quality might go down.”
Shakespeare will remain a mainstay of the Globe future, along with projects as contemporary as cable television. O’Brien again grew animated on that subject.
“There are creative outlets for us that are obsessing me. I have a lot of ambition to take the generic seeds of what we are doing here into television — not network television obviously, but into that outlet,” he said. “But we live very and to mouth here. If there were just a little shred of space, a little time to think about these projects . . . ”
Success has had its costs and posed new problems for the Globe. With the winter subscription audience filling 76 percent of available seats, with overall attendance of 94 percent, and the cost of producing quality work still escalating, there is little room for growth in earned income.
“There are two ways to keep pace,” said Hall. “Maximize income or cut back on the expenses, which might mean cutting back on the quality. Our subscribers, however, will not sit back and watch bad work. They are sophisticated, they have seen a great deal. They expect a certain level of quality.”
And so the Globe is investigating the possibility of sharing productions with other theaters. “We’re working on other methodologies of production. We’re actively seeking sharing productions,” said Hall, adding that the concept differs a bit from the new custom in which ballet and opera companies share a production’s sets and costumes.
“We’re talking up front about sharing all costs and all ideas from the inception of the idea. If it is sometimes difficult for the three of us to arrive at a consensus, imagine us working with the management and artistic director of other companies.”
When asked what theaters might be involved in the new project, the triumvirate waffled.
“They are all West of the Mississippi,” said Hall.
“And bigger than a bread box,” said O’Brien.
“And not as far West at Japan,” chirped Noel.
On other possibilities for the future, they were more forthright. Demand for Globe productions has not peaked, and so Noel says he would love having another theater. A fourth house would not solve the problem of escalating costs, however, since neither Noel not Hall nor O’Brien wants to build one big enough to help them recoup expenses.
On this point, Noel has been adamant for decades. “I feel very strongly about this,” he said again last week. “I loathe and despise the Schubert Theater in Los Angeles. I hate the necessity for amplification. Perhaps we could add more seats by adding more balconies to something like the Festival Stage so that the audience could remain exactly so many feet away from the stage. That would be the only way.”
O’Brien is just as passionate about keeping live theater real. “I did the last acoustically honest musical in New York — ‘Most Happy Fella.’ With an enormous number of people having Walkman in their ears and enormous number of children watching television, people have become passive in terms of visual experience and dependent verbally.
“We are still selling that leap of faith between our stage and your mind. A theater has to have less than 1,800 seats or it becomes us versus them. The generation that had a love affair with technology with the amplification of the guitar is now 20 years older and still equating pummeling with affection. People are marked by isolationism. They are watching talk shows rather than talking.
“We ban on those that still want an honest experience, who want to be real observers. We are filling a very interesting need in this society. Because theater is both very primitive and very sophisticated at the same time.
It a big theater is out as a solution to the Globe’s success, an endowment fund is definitely in.
“Our earned income is 70 percent. Yet people say, ‘The Globe is wealthy, the Globe is wealthy.” We are not wealthy,” said Noel.
“An endowment would allow us not to impose that artificial 70-30 split (between earned and un-earned income). You know everyone thinks new plays are being done because we crave creativity and novelty. It’s really because they are cheaper to produce, just three characters and one set. Most theaters don’t do the classics anymore because they can’t afford to.
“I can’t write your story for you,” said Noel. “But of vital, utmost importance for us is the creation of an endowment. That is the real answer.” As it has been for universities and museums, he might have added, the institutions that transmit our shared values to the next generation.
Culture as horticulture.
May 26, 1985, San Diego Union, E-2. Festival curtain will rise, on time, by Anne Marie Welsh.
On a sunny morning two weeks back, a giant of a man dressed in a business suit cheered his construction crew on, discussed the fate of a singed eucalyptus tree, then turned to the Old Globe’s Tom Hall and promised the job would be done — on time for the opening of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Seven months is not a long time to design and build a new theater. But Gene Trepte’s men are working night and day to meet the deadline.
The new Lowell Davies Festival Theater will be dedicated Wednesday as part of the Old Globe Theater’s 50th anniversary festivities. It will replace the outdoor theater destroyed in a pre-dawn fire of suspicious origins last October 29.
Ironically, the Festival Stage was built as a temporary theater to house Old Globe productions while the main theater was being rebuilt after an arson fire in 1978.
The $1.5 million Lowell Davies Festival Theater, named for the Globe’s longtime patron and board president, has just eight fewer seats (612) than the old (620). The playing area proper is about the same size as the previous one. But the Lowell Davies Festival Theater is a permanent outdoor facility with more sophisticated technical support than that of its predecessor. Eventually, it will have traps and stage elevators.
Patrons, however, are likely to notice its solid, attractive facade first. Architect Scott McNair of Leibhard Weston and Associates designed a semi-Elizabethan entrance of stained -pine. Its cedar, shingled roofing complements the roofs of the Old Globe and Cassius Carter, the indoor theaters nearby. By the end of the year, says Hall, the shingles will have the desired, weather-beaten look.
Acoustics will be enhanced by the roof overhanging the walkway to the seating area. At intermission, the two side accesses that had previously been used as entrances and exits will solve any foot-traffic problems.
East summer, the Old Globe presents at least two productions in its outdoor theater, generating 22 percent of its revenue from this largest of its three houses.
The new Festival Theater will open June 7 with a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by Globe artistic director Jack O’Brien.
May 26, 1985, San Diego Union, E-3, E-10. The Old Globe story is a picture of transformation, by David Gregson.
The story of the Old Globe is the story of a double life — of two distinct personalities in the same body, but finally reconciling themselves into one powerful new identity.
For many of the Globe’s 50 years, one of its faces was the San Diego Community Theater face, a profile drawn in countless hours of volunteer labor and in thousands of performances given by talented amateur actors. The other face was that of the National Shakespeare Festival, a professional summertime enterprise that gradually earned an artistic and financial success quite distinct from the Globe’s fall and winter offerings.
“There was a time when the winter season of Broadway hits used to pay for the artistic success of the summer Shakespeare plays,” recalls William Roesch, veteran director of more than 50 winter productions. “But then there was a complete reversal. Because of the enormous influx of tourists and people who were interested in Shakespeare, it became a question of Shakespeare paying for the fall and winter seasons.”
And as the professional Shakespeare seasons grew in importance, the community theater aspect of the Globe moved into an eclipse. In this inexorable process, many aspiring local actors had to find other outlets for their talents.
Of course, it was Shakespeare that brought about the birth of the Old Globe in the first place. On April 28, 1935, ground was broken for the original theater building, an attraction of the California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park. The Old Globe opened May 29, 1935, with a repertory of 13, 50-minute Shakespeare adaptations.
Jackson Wooley, now a retired artist living in San Diego, appeared with that very first season’s repertory company. “A number of us were from Carnegie Tech where we had played in Shakespeare plays directed by B. Iden Payne and where we acted on a Shakespearean set. The big point Payne made as a director was doing Shakespeare continuously every scene right after the other. The actions in one scene would go off one way, and the actors in the next scene would come on another way, and the next line would be spoken. Payne was very strict about this.
“Once I was playing Claudio in “Measure for Measure.” I forgot my hat and was a little late coming on stage. Payne was backstage in a minute, raging because of the little time between scenes. But actually, this method of switching quickly from one scene to another was move like movies or TV than the regular stage, where elaborate sets are changed.”
During the first year of the Old Globe’s existence, the O-shaped theater was roofless. Plays were staged to match the overhead environment. “In the day when it was bright and sunny, we would do the comedies,” says Wooley. “We would do tragedy at night.”
After the Exposition closed in 1936, a group of interested citizens raised $10,000 to remodel the Old Globe into a permanent structure and improve two adjacent buildings that had been part of the exposition’s Elizabethan complex — Falstaff Tavern and Ye Olde Gift Shoppe. Then, in 1937, the San Diego Community Theater, a non-profit organization, was chartered by the State of California to raise funds and produce amateur plays.
The newly remodeled theater began operations December 2, 1937, with “The Distaff Side,” directed by Luther M. Kennet, Jr. In the cast was Craig Noel, a hopeful young actor who would later become full-time director (1939), artistic director (1947) and executive producer (1981).
Noel had been working at a Fifth and Laurel drug store when Wooley first arrived in San Diego. “Some of us used to go over there for lunch,” says Wooley. “That’s the first I knew of Craig. He was very young and still in school, I think.” By 1939, Noel was directing all the San Diego Community Theater productions.
Noel’s steady rise to power was interrupted, however, by the longest intermission in the Old Globe’s history — World War II. Except for military-oriented lectures and entertainments, the Globe was dark from December 8, 1941 to October 29, 1947, when William Saroyan’s “The Time of Your Life” began the first post-war season.
“Meanwhile I lost track of the Globe people because, frankly, I still thought of myself as a professional,” says Wooley. “But in the summer of 1949, Payne came to San Diego to direct “Twelfth Night” in association with San Diego State University. I was chosen to play Malvolio, but, as far as I know, all the other actors were students.
The next summer I was Petruchio in “Taming of the Shrew: and Payne’s assistant in “Romeo and Juliet.” This time the plays were not connected with State College. And somewhere between that time and 1959, they started bringing in more advanced actors on scholarships.” In 1959, the first professional (Actor’s Equity) acting company was employed to perform what had become known as the San Diego National Shakespeare Festival.
Bill Roesch came to the Globe as a member of the Community Theater staff in the 1961-62 season. “I was the first associate artistic director,” he says. “Up to that time, Craig had simply directed every play that came along, including four of the summer festival offerings. (Payne, Allen Fletcher, William Ball and Ellis Rabb were among the Carnegie Tech-associated directors working the festival.) In that season the board had decided to expand, another theater — Falstaff Tavern, now the site of the Cassius Carter Center Stage (opened October 1968).
“The main stage by that time had become very much established as a successful sort of San Diego showcase for accepted Broadway plays — the forerunners of the Neil Simon comedies and so forth. But we wanted an outlet for a much more adventurous, avant-garde sort of theater.”
And they got it. “One season we had Craig’s production of Genet’s “The Balcony,” and mine of “The Killing of Sister George” (both in the Carter), plus “The Owl and the Pussycat” (main stage) and this was evidently too much for some San Diegans. There was an editorial in The San Diego Union asking questions to the effect, ‘What’s happening to the Globe?’ and saying, ‘We had better re-examine the values of our community.’ In fact, these plays were rather mild by today’s standards.”
Roesch has much to say abut the “double life” of the Globe. “There really was a division,” he says. “The paid staff would swell in the summertime, naturally, since the technical aspects of the festival required many more people than we had during the winter. But the reverse of that situation was in the fall and winter when we went back to being a community theater. Then, with the help of volunteers, we worked our buns off to get the job done.
“We had to do everything ourselves. There was a period when I, Craig and Peggy Kellner, our art director and designer, used to empty out our houses to put sets on the stage. We joked that if we used a certain piece of furniture or rug or bric-a-brac more than once in a season, the audience might notice. I don’t think they ever did — but really, it was a bit like those Hollywood films where Mickey and Judy throw a show together in the barn.”
“The Globe was, of course, a community theater, but the progress into what it is now was so very gradual I really think the fire (arson destroyed the 43-year old theater on March 8, 1978) was the catalyst. It was so devastating in every way — physically, mentally, emotionally — that it twisted everybody’s way of thinking. Even before the fire, the board was divided for a number of years. “Should we remain a community theater or should we become totally professional?”
Roesch says that Noel was especially concerned over the possible loss of the amateur company and that he tried, although unsuccessfully, to acquire the Mission Playhouse (not the Old Town Opera House) as a non-professional venue which would operate concurrently with professional mainstage productions.
But after the fire and the resurrection of the theater (dedicated on January 5, 1982), the Globe went professional. By January 14, 1982, the first Actor’s Equity Company took over the performance of winter season plays.
Carnell Kirkeeng, a local actor who has been popular with Globe audiences since appearing in the “Caught in the Act” review of 1949, says the hopes of many San Diego amateurs have been disappointed. “Everybody was gong to be discovered at the Globe and then go to Hollywood or New York,” he says. “Fortunately, I never felt that way . . . But there is no question that many of the Globe actors had a career on their minds.”
According to Kirkeeng, the dedication of some Globers through the years has been remarkable. “I can remember Peggy Kellner doing all the sets and costumes for shows and having only a few volunteers for help,” he says. “Now Peggy jokes that the same job is done by 40 professionals at full salary.”
Although Kellner was a paid staff member, her 23 years of contributions above and beyond the call of duty have become part of Globe legend. Now a professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Kellner first came here for the Shakespeare Festival in 1955. “Before I got to the Globe, all the costume designers would go crazy from so much work and simply leave. One day I got a call from Craig saying, ‘Be here yesterday!’ Someone he’d hired from North Carolina had quit. After I got to the theater, Craig didn’t even come to see me for two weeks. He was afraid I wouldn’t work out.
“In those days the shows opened one right after another. I had one assistant who actually slept in the shop. . . . Now everything is run differently.
“I do think the new theater is gorgeous though. The other one was really difficult to design form. IT had a 19-foot, 11-inch proscenium, and a 30-foot apron which came 12 feet out. There was an isolated rotunda which was hard to light, and two fire doors, which couldn’t be covered up due to regulations.”
If Kellner was a hard worker, so were her volunteer helpers — and the Globe has an inspiring history of volunteerism at every level, from those who served refreshments to the fund-raisers, the Globe Guilders. Irma MacPherson started the Guilders in 1935. “From the very beginning, they were the backbone of the Globe,” says Kirkeeng. “They put in hours and hours, selling tickets, arranging parties, getting their husbands there and getting people interested. They were the ones who pushed us to the status that the theater enjoys today.”
Today, after all these years of love and dedication, the Old Globe has the largest subscriber base of any non-profit theater in America. The outdoor festival stage, a victim of arson in 1984, has been rebuilt as the Lowell Davies Festival Stage. The 500th production looms on the horizon. A Tony award for outstanding achievement for regional theater is only one year in the past. There has been a satellite telecast (“The Skin of Our Teeth”) from the main stage and Queen Elizabeth II has paid the theater complex a visit.
Perhaps after all, it was inevitable, that thanks to the blood, sweat and tears of dedicated people, that the profession face of the Old Globe now turns into the sun of a promising future.
(Gregson is a free-lance writer.)
May 26, 1985, San Diego Union, E-4. Critic Welton Jones finds his favorite hits at Old Globe Theater.
Since my arrival in San Diego half-way through the 1965-66 season I’ve seen 255 productions at the Old Globe Theater, 53 of them by William Shakespeare.
My first look was a production of Sidney Shelton’s mindless comedy “Roman Candle” and nearly everything since has been on the upswing.
There is no doubt at all that production standards have soared at the Old Globe Theater during the past 20 seasons. Today, the budgets are higher, the staff is larger and more professional, the artists include some of the best working in this country and the large, contented Globe audience testifies to the fact that none of this is wasted.
But there were some dandy shows in the past, too, and some of them hold up in memory as real landmarks in a theatergoer’s career.
On the occasion of the Globe’s 50th anniversary of producing shows, and on the eve of my 20th anniversary in watching them, I have selected truly outstanding productions from the past.
Top 10 lists are a journalistic tradition, but in fairness to the uncertainty of memory, these 10 are in chronological order.
“Two Gentlemen of Verona,” directed by Allen Fletcher, 1966. – Too much happiness for a guy new in town! My first Shakespeare Festival included this thoroughly delightful musical comedy version of a play scholars dismiss but audiences adore. Peggy Kellner, then the resident genius and costume and set designer, provided delightful pastel cartoon decor. Conrad Susa found music for Shakespeare’s verse, and Fletcher invented a wacky mime vocabulary for the supporting cast. Jon Voight and Anthony Zerbe were spirited and love-mad as Valentine and Proteus and Laurie Peters as Sylvia broke everybody’s heart with her fresh charm. The same three were seen in a moving “Romeo and Juliet” (Zerbe was Mercutio) that summer directed by Mel Shapiro, who later gained fame and fortune for his Broadway version of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” Hmmmm.
“Twelfth Night,” directed by Edward Payson Call, 1967. – From the moment that Donald West as an unusually pensive Feste entered the house from the rear and strolled onto Peggy Kellner’s dark, rich set, casually picking up a lute and blowing away the dust covering it, this production was magic, a sweetly melancholy version of this familiar tale with each role superbly cast and Call’s somber vision never slipping for a moment.
“Macbeth,” directed by Ellis Rabb, 1969. – Something went wrong that summer – some delay or shortfall of money – and this production had fewer performances than usual. But of those who saw it, few have forgotten it. Richard Easton’s mad Scot was afloat in a universe of evil, peopled mainly by three witches, who assumed all the minor roles in his tragedy until, at last, only they surrounded him. Of all the 255 Globe shows, this is the one I most would want to see again, to check if it really was that intriguing.
“Tartuffe,” directed by Charles Vernon, Cassius Carter Center Stage, winter season, 1973-74. – The very best non-professional show the Globe did in those 20 years. Vernon’s staging of Moliere’s timeless satire had everything – wit, cynicism, energy, sex appeal and a fabulous casts, headed by Ron Ray, Julia Shelley and Lyman Saville. With perhaps one exception all the players were once or future members of Actors’ Equity, the stage union and at least one was an Equity member working under a phony name, just to be associated with the Globe. Ironically, that was the winter of the great gasoline shortages and some of the actors had trouble finding and affording the fuel to get to the theater, where they played to continuous full houses – for no pay.
“The Tempest,” directed by Ellis Rabb, 1975. – Probably the best. No, certainly the best of the 255 Globe productions I’ve seen so far. Rabb not only conceived a “Tempest” of surpassing depth and beauty, he also played the leading role of Prospero in an unforgettable performance which regularly hushed audiences in awe. The Peggy Kellner decor was as clever as it was sumptuous and the masque scenes, usually omitted, were given spirited and glorious life. Shakespeare’s most magical play and the Globe’s best actor-director combined for the old playhouse’s finest hour.
“Our Town,” directed by Jack O’Brien, 1975-76. – Craig Noel returned to the stage for the first time in decades, then quit while he was ahead, leaving memories of his wise and pungent performance as the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s masterpiece. In agreeing to do the part, Noel may have been hinting at the identity of his successor, for O’Brien was named artistic-director just five years later. In any event, O’Brien provided a reading of this seminal American plan which can stand as definitive, and the final tableau, with Noel walking upstage through the opened loading dock into the foggy reaches of Balboa Park was unforgettable.
“The Country Wife,” directed by Jack O’Brien, 1980-81. – Though he didn’t need to, O’Brien solidified his new status as artistic director with a sparkling version of William Wycherley’s Restoration comedy which was so delightful that it was optioned for Broadway. O’Brien turned down the deal when the entire cast couldn’t rearrange their schedules, thus sending signals of a perfectionism which subsequent seasons have confirmed. Tovah Feldshuh was a pixie dream in the title role.
“The Tempest,” directed by Jack O’Brien, 1982. – On Douglas W. Schmidt’s haunting, ethereal set, O’Brien challenged the memory of the great 1975 “Tempest,” even inviting Ellis Rabb to repeat his performance as Prospero. Aided by the technical resources of the rebuilt Old Globe, O’Brien didn’t overwhelm the memory of the earlier version, he enhanced it with his own vivid poetical vision as a gentle tribute to Rabb, his former mentor and now collaborator.
“The Miser,” directed by Joseph Hardy, 1982. – It was quite a summer, with Ellis Rabb playing Prospero, Harry Groener (later, David Odgen Stiers) in Craig Noel’s wondrous staging of “Billy Bishop Goes to War” on the Carter Stage and outdoors on the Festival Stage, Paxton Whitehead as Moliere’s immortal miser. This was the production that introduced Tom Lacy to the Globe audiences, as a memorable French servant, but the stage belonged to Whitehead, one of the glories of the American theater today.
“Strange Snow,” directed by Warner Shook, 1984. – The impact of this modest three-character drama by Steve Metcalfe was all the stronger for being so unexpected. Audiences were challenged, charmed and, in many cases, changed by the insights, Metcalfe brought to the aftermath of the Vietnam War. By focusing down to the story of just three little people, the playwright managed to indicate a healing way back for a whole nation. Shook drew superlative performances from his three actors and the whole production proved again the power of theater to enlighten as well as entertain.
The next 11 would include the 1974 – Asaad Kelada staging of Simon Gray’s “Butley,” with William Roesch in the title role. Kelada’s “The Little Foxes” in 1976, with two of the Globe’s finest actors from the pre-professional period, Jenifer Henn and Nina Midlam; Jack O’Brien’s 1978 staging of “A Midsummer Nights’ Dream” being revived this summer; Ken Ruta’s hilarious outdoor “Comedy of Errors” in 1979 utilizing the sounds of the park; Craig Noel’s clever “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and Jerome Kilty’s droll “Love’s Labor Lost,” a delightful pair of comedies transplanted into unlikely settings, the aforementioned “Billy Goes to War” in 1982; O’Brien’s spectacular “The Skin of Our Teeth,” televised live to a national audience and Noel’s superb version of A. R. Gurney, Jr’s. “The Dining Room” in 1983; and two other shows from last season, David Ogden Stier’s antic “Scapino!” and O’Brien’s bubbly rewrite of “Kiss Me Kate.”
Happy anniversary, Old Globe, from a satisfied customer.
May 26, 1985, San Diego Union. The theater’s half century – a chronology.
May 29, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-10. EDITORIAL: Old Globe is a lively theater at 50.
At 50, the Old Globe is nearly as venerable as the Bard himself, who died at age 52 in 1616. But its performances are as encompassing as the seven stages of life memorialized in “As You Like It.”
May 30, 1985, San Diego Union, B-1. At 50 the Old Globe has the stage and the players, by Welton Jones.
Showered by confetti and illuminated by flashbulbs, artists from 50 years of Old Globe Theater history bowed to a standing ovation yesterday as an audience of supporters sang happy birthday to Balboa Park’s landmark theater.
After the morning ceremony in the Globe, most of the crowd lingered to witness the formal opening of the Lowell Davies Festival Theater, the new 612-seat outdoor facility which replaces the temporary Festival Stage, destroyed by fire last fall.
June 2, 1985, San Diego Union, F-2. A secular cathedral in the park: the Botanical Building and Lily Pond reflect well on city, by Carol Olten.
The arcadian dream — so alive in San Diego at the time of the 1915 exposition when a stroll into Bertrand [sic] Goodhue’s exposition was an invitation to paradise, seeks rediscovery. The Beaux Arts revival of the ‘80s may be underway.
June 2, 1985, San Diego Union, F-50. Kate Sessions – radiant beauty will forever flower in San Diego, by Patricia Post.
Kate O. Sessions’ achievements are important to remember. She was one of San Diego’s first environmentalists and conservationists. She loved the joy that a well-designed, colorful outdoor environment would bring, and fortunately for San Diego, she was willing to fight to have it done right.
June 8, 1985, San Diego Union, D-1. Globe’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” falters, by Welton Jones.
The “Dream” that opened last night is a dry, diffused meandering production, indifferently cast and overly preoccupied with decor. There seems to be no conceptual linkage, just random highs and lows.
June 8, 1985, San Diego Union, D-1. “Engineer Dave” and his romance with miniature Balboa Park railroad.
“I really struggled with the decision for the last two years,” David Weir, owner of the miniature Balboa Park railroad, said of the 50 percent fare increase announced June 1, from 50 to 75 cents. “I hated to do it. I really did. I’d love to charge 10 cents like they did in 1948.”
June 9, 1985, San Diego Union, F-45. Dinosaurs go for free ride at Natural History Museum, by Kay Kaiser . . . Jim McMurren of C&M Crane Rental of Spring Valley lifted almost full-grown dinosaurs to a special door cut 20 feet above the ground, vaguely equal to the second floor of the Natural History Museum as a volunteer service.
June 9, 1985, San Diego Union, F-59. There is a botanically grand palm canyon in Balboa Park, by Dale Ward.
In 1983, 7.7 million people visited Balboa Park. Yet, most of those visitors were not aware of the regal collection of plants from around the world that grow there. Balboa Park can boost about 1,000 plant species spread over its 1,000 acres.
Concentrated in a tropical rain forest-like setting, in an area appropriately named Palm Canyon, is an impressive garden that is home to over 70 exotic species of palms. This lush lies area west of the Organ Pavilion and southeast of Alcazar Gardens. Many of the plants that grow here are rare and some are threatened with extinction. Sorry, no coconuts here. San Diego winters are too cold and summers too low in humidity.
The history of this canyon dates back to the early 1800s, when it was called Pound Canyon. This is where early San Diegans would find their stray horse, cow or other missing animals for it was the city pound — sort of an early zoo. In 1873, a water company drilled a well in the canyon. A subterranean stream was tapped 300 feet down and two reservoirs were constructed on the mesas above.
The tallest palms rising from the canyon floor were probably planted prior to 1900. These Mexican palms or Washingtonia robustas now have slender 80- to 100-foot swaying trunks, and have characteristic “skirts” of old dead leaves at the top. Washingtonia palms are named after our first president and represent the only genus of native palms native to the entire state of California. They create quite an exotic look from the wood bridge and stairs built in late 1976 at the top of the canyon. This bridge was inspired by a log that once spanned the canyon’s midsection during the 1935 exposition. During those days one could take a leisurely evening stroll over the log bridge while admiring handsome palm trunks with lights at their bases; one of the earliest uses of this kind of night lighting. Overflow from the lily ponds in front of the Botanical Building was sometimes used to irrigate these palms.
Many horticulturists over the years have planted palms here. Fred Bodey worked hard planting this canyon for both the 1915 and 1935 Expositions. Today, with the help of interested park employees (and) the California Palm Society, (Palm Canyon) remains one of the greatest palm gardens on the West Coast.
The triangular trunked Neodypsis decaryi from Madagascar is on the endangered species list. Examples of the rare palms are thriving in a mixed planting of feather-leafed palms along the sidewalk directly west of the Organ Pavilion, next to the restrooms and hot dog stand.
(Ward is a local horticulturist who conducts botanical tours.)
June 11, 1985, San Diego Union, B-10. EDITORIAL: One -of-a-kind-expense. $100,000 city contribution to Lowell Davies Festival Theater in Balboa Park, a one-of-a-kind expense.
June 12, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-8. EDITORIAL: Giving Starlight Bowl a better twinkle; rebuilding Bowl in Balboa Park; $1.2 million is needed to build a modern stage, wing spaces, a fly gallery, state-of-the-art lighting and sound and special access for the handicapped.
June 20, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-4. Fifteen San Diego non-profit programs and groups to get $900,000 more from city; actions were approved on a 5-0 vote of the Public Services and Safety Committee yesterday; full council action is scheduled for Monday..
June 21, 1985, San Diego Union, B-3. Charges of poor care of inner-city parks and of a “system of separate and unequal facilities for whites and minorities” to be studied, by Philip J. Garcia.
June 30, 1985, San Diego Union, B-3. Dirty park complaints spur action; officials blame staff shortages, visitor abuses, by Philip J. Garcia..
July 3 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-10. EDITORIAL: Our city parks need better care.
The problem is the lack of money to clean up litter and paint over graffiti; keep public toilets clean and flushing; repair and replace tables, benches and cooking grills; mow, water and weed lawns; irrigate and fertilize shrubbery and trees.
July 7, 1985, San Diego Union, B-1. Balboa Park’s 117 and still a paradox, by Ed Jahn.
Sixty years ago, George Marston was worried about Balboa Park. The businessman-turned-park-commissioner had shepherded the park from a rock-strewn patch of open fields and dusty canyons into a lush setting with national prominence. Now, in 1925, he saw disturbing omens.
The 1,400 acres of land set aside in 1868 were slowly being whittled away. The Navy had become firmly entrenched on the park grounds with a hospital. A menagerie left over from the 1915 Panama-California Exposition was growing into a zoo.
July 14, 1985, Los Angeles Times, VIII, 2. When a public park becomes a private preserve, by Sam Hall Kaplan.
July 25, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-12. Letter, Park signs lacking, by Steven Marlo . . . missed turn-off to Balboa Park because there were no signs saying “Balboa Park” or “Zoo” or anything.
August 17 – 25, 1985. America’s Finest City Week.
August 20, 1985, San Diego Tribune, D-1. City budgets $1 million more for arts in fiscal 1986 than it did last year, by Zenia Cleigh.
August 20, 1985, San Diego Union, B-1. Symphony’s Octoberfest loses key Sixth Avenue site; jets overhead may drown out the oom-pah-pah; fund-raising event relegated to an area near the Aerospace Museum on President’s Way, by Michael Smolens.
. . . the Council vetoed the request largely over concerns of fencing off a popular portion of the park from the public in order to charge admissions.
September, 1985, San Diego Magazine. Balboa Park, the romance continues, by Thomas Scharf.
On Florence Christman’s birthday this June, Mayor Roger Hedgecock issued a proclamation marking the day as “Florence Christman Day” in San Diego. He urged all residents ” . . . to dedicate themselves, as Florence Christman has, to making San Diego an even finer place to live.”
September, 1985, San Diego Magazine. Balboa Park, paradise still at risk, by Sharon M. W. Bass.
When it comes to planning, Balboa Park has not suffered any lack. Nor has it suffered from lack of love. The key question is: How much good has it all done? This fall, environmental experts and planners will be analyzing yet another park master plan in fine detail. They will prepare reports on the more controversial portions for citizen review, perhaps by the first of the new year. The plan is known officially as the Balboa Park Development and Management Plan. In local shorthand, it is called the Pekarek Plan, after Ron Pekarek, whose Mission Bay design firm prepared it over the last several years. Because San Diegans have an absolute love affair with Balboa Park, the review process will be thorough — and it will be painful.
September 6, 1985, San Diego Union, B-6. EDITORIAL: Safer Park.
Balboa Park’s reputation as one of the nation’s safest urban parks is being restored through the efforts of the San Diego Police Department and a private security force.
A dramatic increase in crime in the 1,300-acre park made many San Diegans reluctant to attend evening events there. Although the most prevalent crimes were car thefts and parking lot burglaries, the public’s perception of the park as a dangerous, high-crime area was threatening the well-being of the park’s museums, theaters, and other attractions.
It took the daylight stabbing death of Old Globe actor David Huffman in February to bring the added police patrols that have again made Balboa Park much safer for visitors, day and night. Shortly after Mr. Huffman’s tragic death, police made the park a separate beat, instead of including it in a larger patrol area that stretched to the waterfront.
In addition, undercover officers, unarmed community-service officers, and even uniformed officers on bicycles have been assigned to patrol the park. Next month, a police-trained park security force will replace the private security company that was hired in June to assist police in patrolling the park.
The increased enforcement effort has paid off. Police report a 31 percent decrease in crime during the first six months of this year and predict an even lower rate for the remainder of the year.
Balboa Park, its museums, its zoo, and its other attractions are civic treasures. We’re glad they are finally getting the police protection they deserve.
September 22, 1985, San Diego Union, F-59. It’s a jungle out there with all those leafy creatures, by Dale Ward.
Many plants have comical names, especially those named after animals. In Balboa Park there is a jungle of plants with animal names.
September 23, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-3. Newest Balboa Park attraction, a $225,000 trust fund, by Rita Calvano.
September 26, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-4. Councilmen Uvaldo Martinez and Bill Cleator envision golf course on South Bay land, by Jeff Ristine.
September 26, 1985, San Diego Union, B-4. Councilman Martinez makes pitch for golf, tennis complex south of Tijuana River estuary, by Michael Smolens.
September 28, 1985, San Diego Tribune, C-1, C-2. Balboa Park fund starts with grants totaling $225,000.
The Arthur P. Pratt and Jeanette Gladys Pratt Memorial Fund contributed $150,000. And $75,000 came from the California First Bank which also administers the Pratt fund.
September 28, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-3. $225,000 trust fund newest Balboa Park attraction; benefactors, city hope for $10 million in endowments to cope with area’s growing needs, by Rita Calvano.
Kevin Munnelly of the city endowment fund said Kevin Munnelly of the city endowment fund said Tribune editorials in July 1984 prompted him to approach the bank for a major gift. Munnelly cultivates donors to the city.
September 28, 1985, San Diego Tribune, C-3. EDITORIAL: Balboa Park needs our help.
The city’s Public Facilities and Recreation Committee reports that the 20-year needs of the park total $72 million. Clearly, private and corporate donations cannot cover it all.
Will it come down to parking and admission fees? We hope not, but such user fees may be an inevitable part of the answer.
September 28, 1985, San Diego Union, B-6. $75,000 donated to Balboa Park from California First Bank and Arthur P. and Jeannette G. Pratt memorial fund.
“It’s our goal to see the Balboa Park Endowment Fund grow to $10 million,” said Joseph W. Hibben of the San Diego Community Foundation, a tax-exempt charity that will administer the fund under the supervision of the city.
September 30, 1985, San Diego Union, A-3. Proliferation and price of museums is worth musing, by Daniel C. Carson.
There are strong indications these days in the (Sacramento State) Capitol that museums are becoming the hot new pork barrel.
October 3, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-1. Various uses urged for 35-acre park site which the city will receive from the U.S. Navy in three years, by Vicki Torres.
Military veterans and genealogical researchers were among those who spoke yesterday on what should be done with the 35 acres in Balboa Park which the city will receive from the Navy in three years.
October 4, 1985, San Diego Union, B-10. EDITORIAL: Balboa Park’s future.
The newly established endowment provides San Diegans with their first opportunity to contribute directly to the park, a city treasure this fund will help preserve for future generations.
October 7, 1985, The City of San Diego Report to the Park and Recreation Board, Information 402.
Attention: Park & Recreation Board, Agenda of October 15, 1985
Subject: Japanese Garden, Site Plan Revision
A Japanese tea garden was constructed for the 195 Panama-California Exposition. This garden was gradually removed in the 1940’s and its site is now included within boundaries of the Children’s Zoo. The 1960 Balboa Park Master Plan allocated a small site for a new Japanese Garden immediately south of the House of Pacific Relations. The 1966 Park and Recreation bond issue allocated modest financing to initiate the garden. Subsequently, interest in locating the garden in the western branch of Gold Gulch Canyon, behind the House of Hospitality, began to develop. At this time the San Diego-Yokohama Sister City Society began to actively promote the proposed garden and to solicit contributions toward its construction. Placing the Charles C. Dail Memorial Japanese Gate along the mall northeast of the Organ Pavilion in 1968 reinforced this site as the future home of a Japanese Garden. In 1972 the Park and Recreation Board confirmed this site as the Garden’s future home by adoption of a master plan for the Gold Gulch area.
In 1976 the City authorized the funding of consultant services for the preparation of a master plan for a new Japanese Garden in order to define a scope of work and the required budget. To proved a means whereby interested citizens or groups could participate in the garden planning process, an Ad Hoc Advisory Committee was formed in March 1977. After more than a year of planning effort, a master plan for the garden was approved by the Park and Recreation Board and its committee.
This master plan, adopted by the City Council on January 8, 1979, contains basic goals: recommendations on garden design, philosophy; development program elements; descriptions of these elements; and suggested policies regarding the design, construction and operation of the facility. The plan document also contains a number of graphics of suggested design details and a site plan to illustrate the goads and objectives of the Master Plan.
Early in the design process it became apparent to staff that implementation of the plan’s goals and objectives, particularly those of authenticity and artistry, would require freedom from the City’s many legal restraints and regulations. We envisioned an organization associated with but relatively independent of the City, similar to the San Diego Zoological Society, as the administrator of the garden. On October 7, 1979, the City Council Committee on Public Facilities and Recreation endorsed this concept by adopting the Japanese Garden Financing Plan.
With staff encouragement, the San Diego-Yokohama Sister City Society and members of the Ad Hoc Citizens’ Advisory Committee incorporated as the Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego. On August 31, 1981 the City entered into an exclusive negotiation agreement with the Society and on April 2, 1984 a final lease agreement for the Master Plan’s Study Area was approved by the City Council. Provisions of this lease require development of a Japanese Garden “substantially in conformity with the Japanese Garden Master Plan” previously approved by the City Council and cites specific design elements to be included within the development. The Society is granted control, but no exclusive use of the small parking lot south of the “Master Plan Study Site” and the City Manager is authorized to make a final determination as to lease boundaries after the development and staff approval of a final site plan.
Upon execution of the lease, the Society contacted with Ken Nakajima, a noted Japanese landscape architect; advised by Professor M. Yokoyama, formerly of the Department of Landscape Architecture, Nihon University; to review the approved Master Plan and to make specific recommendations relative to development of the study area. Kurano Associates, Inc., architects, assisted by Kawasaki, Theilacker & Associates, landscape architects, are under contract to the Society to provide local project coordination and to prepare final schematic plans for the project.
Under our normal operating policy, the Park and Recreation Board does not review developments within the interior of leaseholds in Balboa Park. However, due to the significance of this project, and as a courtesy to the Board, the Society desires to share with you its proposed revised site development plan. Staff has evaluated the proposal and finds it to be in substantial conformity with the approved Master Plan, and, therefore, consistent with the Society’s lease. At our request, the City’s Environmental Quality Division has reviewed the revised site plan and finds it consistent with the Negative Declaration adopted at the time of the Master Plan approval, even though the revised plan requires the importation of a substantial amount of additional fill soil. The determination is based on the finding that the revised proposal does not significantly alter the land form, particularly as viewed from abutting park areas.
The major changes in site development are as follows:
- The floor of the canyon is raised to provide a large area for water features and to make more of the garden easily accessible to the general public;
- The size of individual structures has been changed and in some cases have been relocated;
- To provide access for handicapped individuals it was necessary to extend the garden development along the east side of the small parking lot within the leasehold;
- The general park circulation element in the east branch of Gold Gulch will be relocated to the canyon’s east rim; and
- The east slope of the canyon will be included with the garden to provide an appropriate setting for the major garden features.
The first phase of the project is expected to function as an introductory and promotional area for the garden. It will be located east of the Organ Pavilion and will be open to the public during the day without charge. The area, however, is panned to be enclosed and secured at night. The details of this phase are still under consideration by the Society. It is our intention to bring this particular increment of improvement, when a final decision has been made on the scope of the work, to the Board and its Committees for review and recommendation, based on the project’s critical location and the Society’s intent to open this area to the general public without fee.
(Signed) George L. Loveland,
Park & Recreation Director.
October 10, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-10, Balboa Park Administration Building, by Richard Amero.
Because Irving Gill’s name carries more weight than Carleton Winslow’s or Frank P. Allen’s, the State of California and the U.S. Government might be induced to put up money to restore the Administration Building if they could be persuaded that Gill designed it.
October 15, 1985, San Diego Union, B-7. Letter, Use old Naval Hospital Buildings as city offices, library, etc., by E. V. Redondo, San Ysidro.
Shouldn’t this be cheaper in the long run than buying land and building new buildings for this purpose?
October 17, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-12, Letter, Balboa Park museums valued by all, by Pamela D. Crooks.
His (Amero’s) statements that museums along El Prado are valuable only to the “educated and upper-class people” and are not enjoyed by the general public, are unfounded.
Aside from their providing one of the few places for the adult populace to exercise their minds, not just their bodies, in this sports-oriented city, thousands of school children visit these museums every year on field trips at no charge.
October 23, 1985, San Diego Union, B-1.
Column by Tom Blair: OVER THEIR HEADS: The Musical Foundation Board has been given a three-year option on Balboa Park’s House of Charm — enough time, the board hopes, to raise money and formulate plans to turn the old home of the Hall of Champions into a music center. Alas, the old building has been declared structurally unsound, and any plan undoubtedly would necessitate tearing it down and starting from scratch — a $6 million to $8 million project. The city just spent $60,000 on a new roof — with a 20-year guarantee.
October 23, 1985, San Diego Union, B-3. Fourth and six-grade pupils find learning is fun at Border State Park by Lorie Hearn.
Post Children’s Cereals and Pacific Bell put up the money for the trip (to the Border Field State Park) and for teaching materials sent out to more than 3,000 classes in the major metropolitan areas of the state to prepare for the first Junior Ranger Field Trip, border park ranger Randy Hawley said. No taxpayers’ funds were used, he said.
October 24, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-1. Reclaimed water for use in Balboa Park is proposed, by Sharon Spivak.
A San Diego City Council committee has been told that a new wastewater treatment plant should be built atop a knoll southwest of Morley Field in Balboa Park, with a goal of reclaiming 1 million gallons a day that would be used to irrigate the park.
Construction of the Balboa Park building could begin late next year, and the Mission Valley facility would close when it was completed. The plant would tap into a main sewer in Florida canyon and use that wastewater for reclamation.
November 6, 1985, San Diego Tribune, B-2. Balboa Park officials study dying fish in Lily Pond.
Gary Stromberg, park grounds maintenance manager, said most of the fish — mainly goldfish and koi — have been dumped into the pond by visitors. The lily pond was never meant to be a fish pool but simply a reflecting surface for the botanical garden buildings that lie behind it, he said.
November 10, 1985, San Diego Union, F-47, F-50. Balboa Park stands as a verdant monument, by Betty Newton.
The Navy wants to fit into the Balboa Park look, but the art-deco or postmodern touches on the long chunky buildings set their own style. Not a satisfactory one at this point. The burden of making the hospital a good neighbor now is apparently up to the trees.
November 10, 1985, San Diego Union, F-53. Redwood grove thrives in Balboa Park, by Dale Ward.
Heading north from downtown on State 163 take the Quince Street exit into the park and you will pass right by this giant redwood grove.
November 17, 1985, San Diego Union, F-48, F-49. Balboa Park has its roots in Expositions, by Betty Newton.
As we talked of Balboa Park and the (1935-36) exposition, Eileen Melander (an exposition visitor) repeated, “It’ll be fine if they don’t change to much; make it too modern. They should keep it as it is.”
November 23, 1985, San Diego Union, B-3. Dr. Frank Enders, veterinarian from U.S. Department of Agriculture says progress at Zoo is satisfactory, deficiencies cited early this year are being corrected.
Enders said many problems are due to the Zoo’s age. “They’ve got some old facilities (that) will not be up to standard until they are gone – either renovated or razed,” he said.
He said other problems can be blamed on poor design and others can be corrected with more attention from the staff.
Enders cited problems with the water quality in an inspection last March, but found none Tuesday.
November 24, 1985, San Diego Union, F-36, F-37. Balboa Park is great now, but you should have seen it in 1935, by Betty Newton.
The Prado is different today (from 1915). Lighter. It is no longer dominated by eugenia bushes and the acacias. In its place are palms: tall queen palms, shorter kentias, clumping Senegal date palms, an occasional old, heavy-fronded Canary Island date palm; and tall old dracaenas and good-sized camellia bushes. The new light look lets the beloved buildings, whether old or reconstructed, show off.
Years ago an 18-foot oak was planted near the Balboa Park Club honoring John Morley, park director through all the formative years, 1911 to 1938. The oak did not make the transition to its new location. It died. A second commemorative Morley oak lives today about 150 feet west of the organ pavilion.
After Proposition 13 passed in 1978, gardening crews citywide were reduced. Instead of 40 gardeners at Balboa Park, there now are 25. And some are employed seasonally.
Dave Roberts, deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department, says, “The whole park is a lot shabbier than in used to be. Things that normally got caught up on in a slow season, such as tree-trimming, re-landscaping, cleaning canyons and taking care of picnic tables, just don’t get done any more.”
December 4, 1985. San Diego Tribune, D-1. It’s Christmas on the Prado, by Gregory Nelson Joseph.
Shirley Phillips remembers the first Christmas on the Prado in 1978, when the weather became so chilly that organizers conceded privately it also might be the last such holiday celebration along the popular avenue of museums in Balboa Park.
Return to Amero Collection.
BALBOA PARK HISTORY
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