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Gold in the Sun, 1900-1919

CHAPTER TWELVE: The Military Appreciated What the Natives Did Not

The time had come again to pose the question of the future development of Southern California. Los Angeles had passed San Francisco in population and its industries which largely had supplied only local markets were expanding outward, in oil and canning and clothing manufacturing and motion pictures. A few weeks before the exposition formally closed its gates at San Diego, a decision was reached to preserve as many of the buildings as possible, as had been urged by Theodore Roosevelt. The San Diego Zoological Society acquired possession of the animal exhibit and the Board of Park Commissioners agreed to provide a site for a permanent zoo.

Still basking in the glow of the praise for the exposition, the officers vowed that “a veritable enchanted city…will open its gates to every San Diego visitor and to the citizenry for a time beyond present estimate.” The plan to preserve the temporary buildings drew strong protests from the exposition’s principal architect, Bertram Goodhue, who believed they were mostly stage scenery and their features playful and meaningless while the bridge and California quadrangle had been designed to express and insure permanence in the manner of the great monuments of the past.

Though it had closed with all operating expenses paid, for the first three months of 1917 a small charge was made for admission to the grounds in order to help defray the cost of moving exhibits and restoring the gardens. The glow, however, soon faded. The number of tourists dropped alarmingly and war approached. In late 1916 voters had failed to approve a bond issue for rebuilding Lower Otay Dam, but in February of 1917, with private construction work slowing down, a $682,200 bond issue carried by a safe majority, though a contract for the work could not be awarded until the Fall.

The same voters, however, in 1916 approved the transfer of 500 acres of submerged land to the Navy Department for the proposed Marine base. The vote was 40,288 to 305. The Navy Department also agreed to purchase 232 adjoining acres from private interests for $250,000 and was persuaded to retain the architect Goodhue, who had created the exposition buildings, to design the base.

The efforts of Congressman Kettner to bring more military operations into San Diego ran into a generally unfavorable report of the Helm Commission. The commission of five ranking naval officers appointed by the President was to study the defense of the Pacific Coast from Point Arguello to the Mexican border and specially recommend a site for a submarine base. It found that San Diego was suitable for flying and training, because of its climate, but it was of no commercial importance, as its railroad and steamship service was inferior and it was not at the time a natural outlet for any large interior territory; it lacked adequate harbor defenses and its proximity to the border was a distinct disadvantage, and the bay itself lacked sufficient deepwater anchorages. The Los Angeles-San Pedro area, the commission said, was far superior as a location of a submarine base.

By Spring San Diego was in economic trouble. This precipitated the most vigorous campaign for mayor in the history of the city. The voters were told that they had to decide between smokestacks and geraniums. For the second time George Marston became a candidate for mayor, upon the urging of most of the community’s leading citizens who included nearly all of those who had participated in the exposition and in development of the park. He was opposed in the primary by the banker Louis J. Wilde and Charles H. Bartholomew, a former postmaster.

The campaign was only a few days old when William Clayton, manager of the Spreckels interests, was shot in the abdomen by a former employee who had been crippled in a street car accident. Clayton was just entering his auto parked in front of the Union Building when Lorenzo Bellomo stepped up and fired two shots, because “he is rich and I am poor.” Clayton recovered. Bellomo, whose hospital bills had been paid by the company and who had been given other jobs which he failed to perform, was sent to prison.

The result of the primary election in March was a surprise. Wilde led with 8749 votes. Marston had 7582 and Bartholomew, 2295. Wilde and Marston went into their final campaign. Wilde’s supporters charged that Marston was holding out “a beautiful figment of the imagination for the tourist and the pensioner” while Wilde offered the working man and the permanent resident a true opportunity for prosperity. In support of Wilde, James E. Wadham, the former mayor, stated:

“George W. Marston has been in San Diego for nearly half a century, and in that length of time has established one business. Louis J. Wilde has been in San Diego for fourteen years, and has identified himself with twenty permanent and flourishing institutions.”

The accusation that Marston was against industrial development, and thus not concerned with employment opportunities, was refuted time and again, by Marston himself as well as his supporters. In his talks, Marston stated:

“I feel the development of the city’s beauty and civic welfare can go along with the industrial development…I am in favor of all things that make for commerce, manufacturing, for all business activity…It is absurd to say that I am not in favor of industrial development. I believe in a Greater San Diego–everything that makes for a bigger city. Let us build a great city on a good foundation. Let us have our industries as large as possible. Let us build a complete city.”

Whether the exposition would have the beneficial effects promised or expected, either in the short or long range growth of the community, produced arguments from both sides. Speaking for Wilde in a rally in the Hippodrome Theater, Charles Sumner said:

“For twelve years we have been banqueting, making speeches and resolutions; it is time now we are doing something…Now the exposition is closed and the days of entertaining are over and we need to have a city that produces something. We need not merely the idle rich, but the working man and woman.”

Those who had supported the exposition had not lost confidence that it had advertised the beauty, climate and possibilities of San Diego to an extent that in time the city was bound to experience new growth and prosperity. Marston told the Wide Awake Improvement Club that:

“What we need most of all is harmony…we stand at present on the threshold of the greatest prosperity San Diego ever dreamed–unless we have war–and to take full advantage of it we all must have a properly qualified man for the office of mayor. What have so-called smokestacks to do with the qualifications for mayor?”

A newspaper advertisement in the closing days of the campaign, on behalf of Marston, posed the issue and for the first time used the words “smokestacks” and “geraniums” together, and it stated:

“Mr. Wilde’s campaign managers refer to Marston as Geranium George…They are terrified at the thought that the aroma of flowers may destroy the fumes from the smoke emanating from ten thousand smokestacks…They cry aloud in terror to the citizens to vote for him who is called the Smokestack candidate and save the city from Beautification…voters of San Diego, be consistent…vote for Marston, a man who is not ashamed to be for flowers for all times.”

Though he was strongly supported by both the Spreckels and Scripps newspapers, Marston was badly defeated in the general election early in April. He received 9167 votes and Wilde 12,918.

The election barely had come to a close when Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. San Diego was severely shaken and its economy dipped even further. There was no use arguing over smokestacks now. Marston and Wilde shook hands beneath a large American flag at a patriotic dinner at which $3922 was collected to be used to help influence the erecting of additional defenses for San Diego. Exposition buildings were offered for military training purposes and 300 San Diegans offered their automobiles to the government.

The emergency nature of the times also overruled the objections to San Diego as listed in the Helm Commission, report. While Memorial Day on May 30 was being observed with a parade and speeches, the Secretary of the Navy recommended that aviation and submarine bases be established at San Diego and that $500,000 be set aside for development of North Island. This was an opportunity San Diego could not afford to miss. If it couldn’t have smokestacks, it could have ships and airplanes.

Immediate construction work on all of the projects was not in sight. The seriousness of San Diego’s economic condition led Kettner into an inter-city struggle to obtain the U. S. Army training cantonment which the War Department planned to locate somewhere in the Southwest. San Diego once again was ranged against Los Angeles and San Francisco. The rivalry became so bitter, particularly between San Diego and Los Angeles, that the War Department eliminated Southern California from consideration.

In June, representatives of the chambers of commerce of San Diego and Los Angeles met and as a result Los Angeles abandoned its claim and supported that of San Diego. The War Department reconsidered its rejection of Southern California, as the result of a study made of comparative costs of training camps on the Atlantic seaboard and near ports of embarkation, but with adverse weather conditions, as against those which might be placed on the southern Pacific Coast, where year-round outdoor training was possible. In the long run, despite the geographical disadvantages, it was found that camps in Southern California would prove to be less expensive. A site was leased in San Diego on Linda Vista mesa and the camp named in honor of Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny, who had led the American expeditionary force to California in the War with Mexico. It contained 3254 acres within the city limits and 9466 adjoining acres in the county.

The finding on weather versus geography had an important bearing on the location of additional military camps, especially of flying schools, on the southern Pacific Coast.

For a number of years the Army had sought to obtain North Island, where the Signal Corps had established its flying school, but had found the Spreckels companies uninterested in selling. Now with war in progress, a bill was introduced in Congress to take over the property and let the courts decide on the price. Kettner, with the support of San Diego’s civic and political leaders, helped to carry the fight on the floor of the House of Representatives and after various amendments had been offered, it was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President on July 30, 1917. It was named Rockwell Field. Before the year was out, on November 8, 1917, a total of 524 acres were transferred to the Navy for use by the Naval Air Service. Four years passed, however, before a final court settlement of $6,098,333, which included interest from 1912, was made.

Another proposal to move the Pacific Coast Naval Training Station from San Francisco to San Diego, as had been suggested by Franklin D. Roosevelt, was experiencing slow progress, and meanwhile the Navy leased exposition buildings in the park for immediate recruit training and hospital purposes. The Marine Corps also moved into exposition buildings and set up a temporary recruit training camp and built a rifle range between Camp Kearny and La Jolla. By September construction of Camp Kearny was well under way, at a cost rate of about $17,000 a day. It was predicted that the camp would cost in all about $3,500,000. Here were trained the men from California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah who made up the 40th Division. When the 40th was dispatched overseas, it was replaced by the 16th Division.

Just as it appeared that San Diego was emerging from its troubles, the Wilson Administration took over management of the railways and all railroad building was halted. The San Diego & Arizona, beset these many years with financial and construction problems, seemed destined to be left in an unfinished state; for how long, nobody knew. This blow came just as John D. Spreckels and the Southern Pacific had reached an agreement to share the cost of completing the line through the Carrizo Gorge to the desert. San Diego’s only direct connection with Imperial Valley and the East still was by the rough road carved out of the steep mountain sides and which at the east side of the valley crossed the sand dunes on a makeshift bed of planks. The original plank road of parallel wooden tracks on crossties had been replaced in 1916 with one made of solid crossties coated with asphalt and sand.

Spreckels and representatives of the Southern Pacific went to Washington and appealed to William Gibbs McAdoo, the new railroad czar and a friend of San Diego as the result of his visit to the exposition. They insisted that completion of the road was necessary because of its route along the international border and for supplying the new military bases contemplated for San Diego and Southern California. The San Diego & Arizona was exempted from the order and work continued, though money and materials were scarce and progress continued to be agonizingly slow.

With the cooperation of Congressman Kettner San Diego managed to wrest from Los Angeles a government-subsidized shipyard which was established late in the war by the Pacific Marine and Construction Company, on the bayfront between Twenty-eighth Street and the boundary of National City. It eventually produced two concrete tankers of 7500 tons.

Though the federal government was committed to the spending of approximately $19,000,000 on military establishments in the San Diego area, and business was being stabilized, population slowly declined and by the end of 1917, as far as can be determined, the city had about 4000 less residents than in 1915. Developers who looked more to agriculture and residential opportunities were not discouraged. With the financial backing of the Santa Fe Railroad, the San Dieguito Mutual Water Company organized by William G. Henshaw and Ed Fletcher was building Hodges Dam on the San Dieguito River, to serve the railroad lands in Rancho Santa Fe and the new frost-free irrigation districts and towns on the north coast.

The city of San Diego, so long influenced by the Spreckels interests, at last became alarmed when Fletcher and the Cuyamaca Water Company began to exercise claims to ownership of all the water of the San Diego River. Several dams were proposed, one of them a large one at a site known as El Capitan, and its reservoir would flood the Capitan Indian Reservation. The city came into possession of a filing on the river which had been made secretly by a discharged employee of the Cuyamaca Water Company, and went before Congress asking on its behalf permission to flood the Indian lands by the building of a dam and reservoir at the El Capitan site.

However, the testimony before a Congressional committee by City Attorney Cosgrove indicated that the city was more interested in conserving any surplus waters of the San Diego River, and preventing flood damage below the Cuyamaca system, than in asserting ownership of water being diverted to East San Diego, La Mesa and El Cajon. It was acknowledged that the development of the surrounding backcountry by the Cuyamaca Water Company could only contribute to the general prosperity of the community. As its rights to most, if not to all of the water, were not being directly challenged, the Cuyamaca Water Company withdrew objections to the city’s proposal to build El Capitan Dam, but made it clear it was going ahead with a large diverting dam above its intakes higher up the river. Congress granted the city permission to flood the Indian lands, with compensation to the Indians for the loss of their homes and lands. However, James, A. Murray, the Montana financier who was backing private development of the river, continued to move cautiously.

Murray made a million dollars available to the Cuyamaca Water Company for the construction of the diverting dam on the upper river on the understanding the Common Council by resolution would formally state it had no objections. At the last minute this assurance was not forthcoming. The proposed dam was abandoned. It was becoming all too clear that Cosgrove and the city were playing for time. They no longer were interested in preventing flood damage, but in taking possession of the entire river. Cosgrove had become convinced that the city had slept for a century on its historic rights.

With the approach of the Fall of 1918 the nation felt the second and most deadly wave of a world-wide influenza epidemic. In late September there were eleven cases under observation at Camp Kearny, though they were described as only of the “common garden variety.” By October 20 there were a total of 329 reported cases in the city, with seventy-seven new cases and eleven deaths being reported to health authorities in one day. Gauze face masks had been ordered for all persons in positions of public contact and all public gatherings were discontinued. Fifty-five new cases and four deaths were recorded on October 27 and a supply of anti-influenza vaccine was due to arrive the next day. The Board of Health appealed to all persons to wear gauze masks. By November the situation had eased and the general quarantine was lifted on the 17th. Churches, theaters and other public halls reopened though schools were to remain closed until December.

The disease had not run its course, however. By early December it was necessary to close all stores for three days, from December 6 to 9, and face masks became mandatory. This phase of the epidemic began to recede, and for good, though schools remained closed until January 6, 1919. In the city in 1918, in all, there were 4392 cases and 324 deaths in a population of perhaps 70,000; in 1919, 648 cases and 44 deaths. The epidemic was compared in its severity with the Black Death. More than a half million persons died in the United States, four times the number of Americans who met death in Europe, and 20,000,000 throughout the world.

The war had come to an end and San Diego was never to be the same again. It was now a military city and would so remain. And for the country an era was drawing to a close and the Roaring Twenties were not far away. On November 27, nine days after the Armistice had been signed, 212 airplanes from Rockwell and other nearby Southern California military aviation fields flew in massed formation over the city. Aviation was coming of age and was to profoundly change not only San Diego but the world. With the close of the war Rockwell Field had 101 officers and 381 enlisted men and 497 planes of all types. The Navy had spent almost $2,000,000 on its Naval Air Station on the same island and was providing for forty officers, 110 student officers and 800 enlisted men.

Rear Adm. J. S. McKean was named to head a new commission appointed by the Secretary of the Navy to study future naval operations on the West Coast. McKean had been enthusiastic about San Diego ever since he had been able to maneuver his battleship division into San Diego Harbor to take on coal, even though the Helm Commission had stressed the lack of deep water. The McKean Commission agreed with the Helm report that San Diego was ideal for expanded naval aviation training, but went further and said that fleet operations would require additional facilities at San Diego consisting of a large supply base, a repair base for all but capital ships, and a large addition to the fuel supply depot. However, the war already had taken care of some of these recommendations and the Navy was beginning to look upon San Diego as “home.”

The access to quiet water appealed to the Navy as well as the mild climate which the Army had found so advantageous, and the Navy acknowledged interest in transferring the Naval Training Station from San Francisco to San Diego, as had been suggested by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The San Diego Chamber of Commerce sent Rufus Choate to Washington to lend assistance to Kettner and the House Naval Affairs Committee was invited to visit San Diego, at the chamber’s expense, to check the progress of the Marine Base, then under construction, and the proposed site for a Naval Training Station. This site adjoined the Marine lands on the north in the area known as Loma Portal. Melville Klauber, president of the Chamber of Commerce, banker Frank J. Belcher Jr., Mayor Wilde and George Burnham organized a two-week campaign to raise $250,000 to purchase 135 acres owned by private interests and the Council agreed to donate seventy-nine acres of submerged land on the bay. Kettner told business men, “raise this money and I’ll assure you the finest harbor in the United States.” They responded again with contributions as they did in assuring the completion of the U.S. Grant Hotel and in financing the exposition. With Spreckels donating $15,000 and Marston $10,000, a sum of $280,000 was raised. The land was accepted by the Navy.

In August of 1919 Adm. Hugh Rodman brought all of the Pacific Fleet units into the harbor except the battleships which were anchored as customary in the Coronado Roadstead. With the fleet was Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels. In an interview upon arriving at Hotel del Coronado on August 7, he cautioned against allowing the Navy to deteriorate as had happened after the Civil War, and envisioned the day when a larger Navy would be just as much at home in the Pacific as the Atlantic. The next day he told a huge throng of San Diegans at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion that he would not be satisfied until Congress had appropriated sufficient money to make San Diego Bay one of the great harbors of the world. San Diego Harbor became an operating base for squadrons of the Pacific Fleet, and home port for mine and aircraft detachments and torpedo boat destroyers with their tenders, tugs and other auxiliary craft. Capt. H. C. Curl, in command of the temporary war-time hospital in the park, favored San Diego as a site for a permanent hospital. A sum of $500,000 already was available in the Navy Department for construction work and an additional appropriation of $1,975,000 came from Congress. Again there was a gift of a site, this time in Balboa Park, in 1919, of about eighteen acres.

A San Diego quite different from the one foreseen by the early settlers was emerging. The pioneers who had placed all their faith in a transcontinental railroad terminus were largely gone from the scene. Those who had seen the future in terms of new factories had met frustration. But commercial fishing had grown almost unnoticed into a sizable industry. Fish canning in nine years had grown from one to ten canneries in San Diego for a total of twelve in the area. Albacore had become the principal fish for canning, and had risen in price from $20 to as high as $200 a ton. Sardine canning was also on the increase. The ten San Diego canneries employed 1500 persons, and more at season peaks, and employed 150 boats. In the deep sea as well as fresh market fishing there were now more than 600 fishermen and the Portuguese who early in the Century had moved into the fishing shacks of the Chinese at La Playa now were exceeded in numbers by Japanese and Italians. By 1920 there were 368 fishing boats, 188 of them registered at San Diego and 180 elsewhere.

After the passing of all the years the olives that were so important to the mission and Spanish days still constituted a sizable industry. In 1919 the local canners packed 60,000 cases of olives and 10,000 cases of olive oil. The gold mines which once had promised so much were almost forgotten, but not the gem mines. Sporadic mining continued and it was John Ware, a watch maker turned jeweler, who found in the pegmatites of Aguanga Mountain surprising pockets of blue topaz and Nile-green tourmaline crystals. One blue topaz weighing seventeen carats was cut in a pear shape to bring out its full brilliance and later it was exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Though times still were hard, population was slowly rising again, as it always had done. Spalding, one of the numerous wealthy Eastern and Midwestern people who had been attracted to San Diego by its climate, had died. The war had taken E. W. Scripps away from San Diego and then a stroke forced him to abandon much of his activity and he took to the sea. Lyman J. Gage and the Henry H. Timken family maintained their interest in San Diego. Timken was a member of a St. Louis family which had founded a carriage making company and then invented the roller bearing so important to the mechanical age. When he first came to Southern California, he settled on a ranch in Escondido. E. S. Babcock, who had been a partner in the building of Hotel del Coronado and in early water development projects, and had come to the end of the road with Spreckels, was almost bankrupt. He never recovered from the losses sustained by his salt works in the South Bay and by his La Jolla Railway in the flood of 1916.

Babcock’s misfortunes were not peculiar to this frontier region. Horton, the founder of New San Diego, and his partner in so many enterprises, Ephraim W. Morse, and the Kimball Brothers who founded National City and once estimated their worth in the millions, all had died poor, victims of the “booms and busts” of the early rush to the West.

The exposition had an influence totally unexpected. Throughout California appeared a new style of architecture in homes, the Spanish-Colonial. Rows of bungalows, as well as gasoline stations and mortuaries, sprang up with white or pink plastered walls and red tile roofs. The exposition buildings designed by Goodhue got the credit–or the blame. Irving Gill and his simplified style passed out of favor before the rush of people to attain, however so flimsily, a bit of life different from that they had known on the plains and in the drab cities of the East and Midwest.

Interest in restoring the old Spanish missions also revived. By 1919 Protestants as well as Catholics of San Diego, under the leadership of Marston, and with the encouragement of the Right Rev. John J. Cantwell, Bishop of Monterey and Los Angeles, raised $6,000 to begin the restoration of Mission San Diego that had been talked about for so long. The restoration of Mission San Luis Rey, which had been begun and carried on slowly by Fr. Joseph O’Keefe, O.F.M., was continued under impetus of the Franciscans after his departure in 1912.

The decline of the Theosophical Society of Point Loma was well advanced by the end of the first two decades. The war had cut off revenue from overseas, and other lodges in this country had been starved of funds by the demands at Point Loma. As a result membership and support were falling away. The legacies on which Madame Tingley had counted, from the estates of the wealthy people whom she had attracted to San Diego, had proved disappointing and those that she did receive were often tied up in will contests. The Spalding estate had yielded nothing, though she was able to borrow $125,000 from Spalding’s widow by mortgaging the Isis Theater. To the end she hoped for financial assistance of some kind from Gage as well, but had been disappointed. In addition Mrs. Tingley was beset by other embarrassing and trying legal troubles, including a $100,000 alienation of affections suit which dragged on for years, and which she eventually lost.

The change in efforts and goals tempered the old civic quarrels and produced new ones. Wilde ran for re-election and was accused of having attended only eighty-five of the 179 meetings of the Common Council in the two years he had been mayor, and of having allowed vice to run rampant. In his defense Wilde contended that he had been unable to fire the chief of police, Stewart P. McMullen, because of Council resistance, and as for his original promises to assure industry for San Diego, an advertisement in his support stated:

“If he had been let alone, or given any support whatever in the past two years, San Diego would now have two big permanent shipyards, the Otay dam finished…good roads completed, a new city hall occupied, a sensible and workable charter and a lower tax rate.”

There was no reference to any choice between “smokestacks and geraniums.” His opponent in the general election, A. P. Johnson, promised to clean up the town and declared that “I want smokestacks–with smoke coming out of them.” Wilde won easily, by a margin of 2047 votes. The smokestack issue had lost its appeal.

On the national scene President Woodrow Wilson was fighting a losing battle for United States participation in the League of Nations. On September 19, 1919, he spoke in the city stadium which was filled for the first time with an overflow crowd estimated at 50,000 and which heard him over a new electric voice amplification system. He waved aloft a copy of the League of Nations covenant and declared “the heart of humanity beats in this document” and that it would be a “death warrant” to the children of the country should League participation be rejected.

Though it seemed that at last the San Diego & Arizona Railway was conquering the mountains, California was fast becoming a state on wheels. Voters in the state in 1919 approved a $40,000,000 bond issue for highway improvements and voters in San Diego County a bond issue of $2,300,000 to pave roads leading to county towns. The federal government was aiding in improving the road over the Tecate Divide while the state was paving twenty-six miles of mountain roads between San Diego and El Centro, and planned to lay a paved road across the sand hills.

San Diego was suggested as the terminus for two transcontinental highways. One was the Bankhead National Highway running from Washington, D. C., and through the Central States southwest to E1 Paso and west to Yuma, which was advocated by the Bankhead Highway Association. The other was the Dixie Overland Highway which would traverse eight Southern states as an all-weather route and which had been advocated by the Dixie Overland Highway Association. Fletcher, as president of the Dixie Association and vice president of the Bankhead Association, warned that 100 to 150 autos a day were entering Southern California and Los Angeles by way of the Needles gateway on the Colorado River, along the route followed by the Santa Fe Railroad:

“I don’t blame Eastern people for stopping at Los Angeles and saying “this is good enough for me,” after driving across 400 miles of desert waste from Ash Fork (Arizona) to Barstow to San Bernardino.”

With transcontinental travel increasing at the rate of fifty percent a year, Fletcher urged that pressure be brought for construction of the highway between El Centro and Yuma and said that when it was completed through Arizona it would mean the diversion to San Diego of all the traffic of the Dixie and Bankhead Highways and fully half of the travel then going to Southern California by way of Needles.

Much of the thinking on the future was returning to envisioning San Diego as a point of transshipment, of the heart of a trading empire, a conception consistent with the ambitions of Spreckels who knew the history of San Francisco and whose family wealth had been built by the importing of sugar. The war had interfered with commercial shipping before the value of the Panama Canal to San Diego and the West Coast had been fully demonstrated. Whatever it might mean to San Diego was expected to depend to a large extent on the San Diego & Arizona Railway. Cotton from Imperial Valley and cattle from California, Arizona and Baja California, for the markets of the Pacific, would, or so it appeared, call for more piers and for stockyards, packing plants and refrigerated ships. And the potentials of fruit and vegetable packing with the expanding agricultural development in Imperial Valley could not even be guessed at.

The people of Imperial Valley had lived for a decade with the threat of disaster from Colorado River floods and the vulnerability of the canal running through foreign territory. For years Mark Rose, a pioneer developer, had been advocating a new canal on the valley side of the border and through the sand hills in order to obtain water for land on the 200,000-acre east mesa. While the mesa is west of the sand hills it is higher in elevation than the valley proper and could not be watered by gravity flow of the Imperial Canal. Rose proposed to get government permission to reclaim and sell mesa land to finance a separate canal. He contended that the plank road had demonstrated that the sand hills were not as unstable as had been believed.

Becoming apprehensive of Rose’s plans to draw off water before it reached the valley, and perhaps acquire prior rights, the Imperial Irrigation District sent its young attorney, Phil D. Swing, to Washington to suggest a comprehensive plan for development of river resources. If an All-American canal was to be built, the district proposed to do it. The chief of the U.S. Reclamation Service, Arthur Powell Davis, agreed that there should be a new canal but pointed out that to reclaim the east mesa would require a storage reservoir higher on the river, which would not only conserve the water but also remove the threat of floods. Rose fell in with this plan and the Reclamation Service recommended to Congress the building of a dam in Boulder Canyon and construction of the All-American Canal. Long years of struggle against almost overwhelming political and financial odds lay ahead.

The railroad that would link all this together–the wealth of the interior with the service of the port–had crept as far as Jacumba Hot Springs by July 18, 1919. Forty-four miles of its tracks had passed through the territory of a foreign country, under the name of a Mexican division, and still it had not reached the peak of the mountain barrier which was more than sixty miles thick.

Thirty-six miles out of San Diego ten miles of bow knots and horseshoe curves had lifted the line up out of Redondo Valley, 766 feet in elevation. Soon after leaving the little Baja California settlement of Tecate, at an elevation of 1685 feet, and already fifty-two miles from San Diego on its rambling journey, it had begun to climb again and crossed the international border through a tunnel to reappear in the United States. This was not far from Campo, sixty-five miles from San Diego and a thousand feet above Tecate. From there it crossed Campo Creek on a spectacular trestle, 600 feet long and 180 feet high, bridging Stony Canyon and reached its highest elevation, the Tecate Divide at Hipass, and eighty-two miles from San Diego at 3660 feet. From there it was downhill ten miles to Jacumba at 2835 feet. Jacumba was about seventy-four miles from San Diego by highway but by the San Diego & Arizona it was ninety-two miles. Ahead was the sharp descent to the desert. To go east where it wanted to go the line had to go north and turn down the great gorge.