The Rising Tide, 1920-1941
CHAPTER ONE: Envy of Cities
In the days of the great cattle ranches Los Angeles County had been referred to derisively by northern Californians as the queen of the “cow counties.” By 1920, however, the City of Los Angeles had surpassed San Francisco as the most populous city in California.
From the lordly hills on its narrow peninsula, San Francisco had watched with unconcern the successful efforts of Los Angeles to obtain the industry, shipping, railroads and highways that would bring the people to buy the land which stretched level and inviting for miles in all directions.
This had not been so with the City of San Diego, still a branch line town lying between the mountains and the sea near the southern end of the state. Many if its citizens had persisted in challenging the economic domination of its rival 135 miles to the north, even though they long since had lost the race to become the principal Southern California terminus of the transcontinental railroads. They were not sure how it had happened, but they were not ready yet to concede the greater glory of Los Angeles.
When the results of the federal census of 1920 were announced, The San Diego Union in an editorial consoled its readers as follows:
“The citizens of Los Angeles have been waiting and scheming many years for this triumph. They have lain awake nights devising methods for the accomplishment of their object. Now that they achieved their goal, their exaltations will echo in a paean of joy to be heard around the world.”
The San Diego Union was certain that San Francisco would dismiss Los Angeles as a sprawling aggregation of immigrants from other states who could not make good in the northern city. San Diego had “other fish to fry in the Los Angeles pan” and the editorial reflected the confidence of the city in the possibilities of its harbor:
“In the meantime we are building a great seaport with which Los Angeles will have no rivalry, because it is utterly impossible for Los Angeles to have any kind of a seaport…Los Angeles cannot beat San Diego by annexing the lagoon port of San Pedro.”
San Diego had one of the world’s finest landlocked harbors and it was the first port of call on the Pacific Coast of the United States for steamers northbound from the Panama Canal. One of its most energetic citizens, and one of California’s wealthiest men, John D. Spreckels, almost single-handed had driven a railroad line across a mountain barrier to tie into the Southern Pacific’s main line running from New Orleans to Los Angeles. Hopefully, it would provide access to the great railroad junction at El Paso.
Other citizens had carved out a road down the steep and dry side of the same barrier to meet or tap transcontinental highways then in a state of planning and development.
They had been told they lived in one of the most favored spots of the earth. It was never too hot in summer and never too cold in winter, with a fresh wind blowing off the sea during the day and a so breeze blowing over the land at night. The federal government had recognized the unique geographical and climatic position of San Diego and was converting its bay front lands into military establishments where training on the sea and land, and in the air, could be undertaken the year around.
Most of the nation had been made aware of San Diego by the Panama-California Exposition of 1915 and 1916 which, though on a much smaller scale than the international fair in San Francisco which celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal, had been a thing of beauty and charm that even the most casual visitor never forgot.
Real estate promoters had no doubt but that there was enough land, fronting on the bright bay, and on the high, broad mesas and in the warmer interior valleys, to support at the very least a million persons. Before full advantage could be realized from the favorable publicity resulting from the exposition, World War I had intervened. By 1920 the memory of the war was fading fast and a nation was being put on wheels and on the move.
Though more people still lived in northern California than in Southern California, a trend had set in that never was to be reversed. In ten years from 1910 to 1920, the population of Los Angeles had increased from about 319,000 to 576,000. Los Angeles advertised itself as the “City of Destiny.”
San Diego had shared in the disproportionate growth of Southern California, more than doubling its population in ten years. The actual figures, however, told a different story. In a century and a half since its founding, as the birthplace of Christian civilization on the Pacific Coast, it had been left a city of only 74,683. In the decade that saw Los Angeles surpass San Francisco, San Diego had added just 35,105 new residents.
All of the people residing in San Diego did not share the enthusiasm for growth. Many of them had fled congested eastern cities and the rigors of the Midwest to seek retirement in a mild climate or to obtain work which would not interfere too much with the enjoyment of sun and water. They grew geraniums and oranges and lemons and were content. They could stroll down Broadway and meet somebody they knew in every block. If they wanted to climb mountains or see snow once again, they had only to travel sixty miles to reach an elevation of 5000 feet. If they wanted heat, there were the interior valleys and the desert.
People lived longer in San Diego, too, though there were those unkind enough to say that it just seemed longer. The death rate per 100,000 was 11.5 in San Diego, 13.7 in New York, 16.4 in Kansas City, and 19.9 in New Orleans. In the rival Pacific Coast cities, the rate was 15.2 in San Francisco and 12.5 in Los Angeles.
It was true with San Diego, however, as with other Western towns, that much of their swelling populations had come not as settlers but as promoters and speculators in the quest of quick wealth. The fever that had risen in Southern California in the late 1880’s persisted through depression and war.
Whether industry followed population, or people followed industry, had never been answered satisfactorily. It was not clear, either, just what San Diego expected in the way of industrial development. The end of the war had brought economic dislocations, in part because of the closing of two large plants which processed kelp for potash to be used in the manufacturing of explosives. After the war, efforts to develop kelp by-products had not been too successful and the kelp industry had faded away. A federally subsidized shipyard had turned out two concrete ships. A munitions plant barely survived the war and a struggling tire company, which had been established by Arthur W. Savage in 1912, was taken over by John D Spreckels.
A thriving packing industry, in agricultural as well as fish products, which reflected the semi-tropical nature of the land and the rich possibilities of the sea, was almost ignored in the economic calculations for the future. In 1919 local canneries packed 60,000 cases of olives, 10,000 cases of olive oil, 250,000 cases of tuna, 150,000 cases of sardines, 15,000 cases of turtle meat, 70,000 cases of fruits and vegetables and 26,000 cases of tomatoes.
In the county there were almost a million bearing trees with products valued at more than $3,000,000 a year. The annual lemon crop alone was valued at nearly $2,000,000. Almost all fruits grew well, and avocado production was getting a start. However, cattle, which once had been the only source of wealth in San Diego County as well as most of Southern California, had been driven into mountain ranges and no longer were considered an important source of income.
Though four coastal steamship lines called regularly at San Diego, as well as many tramp steamers, trade was largely in local products. The goods of the world were not moving back and forth across the town’s waterfront, as they had for so many decades through San Francisco and now were doing through Los Angeles. If its commercial potentials had not been fury realized as yet, the port certainly was becoming important to the entire country. Federal investments in military establishments on the bay were approaching $13,000,000, and the port was “home” to the light forces of the Navy’s Pacific squadrons.
If San Diego couldn’t attract industry and commerce, without first having more population or developing more possibilities for trade, it was convinced it had the assets to attract people. And people bought land, which was still the basic source of wealth in the West. How land could be made to produce, not crops, but cash, occupied the attention of its business leaders. In this they were not any different from the others in Southern California who already were experiencing and profiting by the first impact of a new migration unparalleled in the country’s history.
The San Diego-California Club, the first of the nation’s booster organizations, had been formed in 1919. It was a matter of debate for awhile whether San Diego should appeal directly to people residing in the Midwest, who had prospered during the war, or concentrate at a lower cost on trying to lure to San Diego new residents who already had been attracted to Los Angeles. San Diego decided that at the time it was no match for Los Angeles, with its economic opportunities, and instead, was to place most of its community advertising in the states east of the Rocky Mountains. Oscar W. Cotton, secretary of the San Diego-California Club, stated the case for San Diego at a public meeting:
“Shall we invite laborers? Shall we tell carpenters and plumbers and other skilled artisans we have jobs for them?
“Shall we urge businessmen who want a start to come and open more grocery stores, drugstores, clothing stores, meat markets, automobile tire stores, or fifteen-cent stories?
“Do we want more hotel men to build more hotels?
“Yes, when we can truthfully tell them that a need for their services exists here.
“To create that need, what we want first is more families to patronize the stores and hotels we now have. We want to build up a permanent, stable population of people who are going to locate somewhere, just to live, and who might just as well come here.
“The big outstanding opportunity that San Diego has to offer today is the opportunity to the man who has earned his pleasure and ease. To him we offer, at minimum cost, the greatest abundance of riches, the most charming place to live of any city in the United States.
“We can be honest with him, and in locating him in San Diego we are performing a service to him as great as to ourselves.”
By September the San Diego-California Club reported that $150,000 had been subscribed for its campaign and by Spring of 1920 more than 30,000 replies to the advertising program had been received and 200 new families had arrived. For the summer it was decided to extend the advertising campaign into the Southwest “hot belt,” Imperial Valley, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah, to attract tourists.
A survey of real estate values was made and Cotton found them still below those of the peak of the boom of 1912, when construction work was under way for the exposition and Spreckels was erecting or preparing to erect his three large buildings on Lower Broadway. He reported:
“We now have our direct eastern railroad, which makes possible the development of commercial enterprises here, manufacturing and harbor development heretofore impracticable. The city has been organized into a unit for the purpose of advertising our advantages and bringing people here from every part of the United States to share with us the delights of the most wonderful place in all outdoors in which to live and work…
“Just how long it will be before the awakening to real estate opportunities comes and the market price makes a jump to catch up and again pass the real value line, it is impossible to say. Of one thing we can be sure. Those who take advantage of the present situation, and make their investments while the prices are at low ebb, will reap deserved and noteworthy reward from their foresight.”
At the close of the year, 46,151 inquiries had been received and of these 3604 families had stated they definitely were coming to San Diego. Many of them did. A housing shortage developed, the sale price of houses doubled and land values began to rise once again.
At long last John D. Spreckels saw the possibility of realizing some return on the millions of dollars of the family fortune which had been built by his father in San Francisco, in shipping and sugar, and which the son had poured into the development of San Diego.
Spreckels dominated the political and financial life of the city. His holdings included two of the city’s three daily newspapers, the street car system and the San Diego and Coronado ferry company, a mercantile supply company, ranch properties, three of the largest business buildings on the town’s main thoroughfare, and control of one of the principal banks.
Construction of the San Diego & Arizona Railway, in fulfillment of his convictions that San Diego was certain to become the natural trading center of the Southwest and northern Mexico, had plunged him into financial difficulties from which he had been rescued by the Southern Pacific Railroad.
His faith in San Diego, however, never wavered. Impatient at times, generous and appreciative at others, he exercised a power common to American cities before the professionalization of municipal government and the ascendancy of public policy over individual interests. He did not differ greatly from the adventurous pioneers and financial plungers who a generation before him had laid the railroads across the Sierra Nevada and opened the mines and lands of California.
When pressed for money, he had sold to the city the water system on which it was so dependent and offered to rent for use as a city hall the Spreckels building which housed the ornate theater of which he was so proud. The Planning Commission rejected the offer, because, in the words of its chairman, Julius Wangenheim, as expressed in his memoirs, Spreckels already was too powerful without owning the City Hall. The mayor responded by firing the commission. The proposal, however, was forgotten.
The mayor, Louis J. Wilde, impulsive yet able politically, was a banker who had been elected on a platform of industrial development. He favored, as it were, smokestacks over geraniums. He once walked up to a councilman in a hotel lobby and punched him on the jaw.
He looked after his own. In 1920, the Prince of Wales, who later was to abdicate the throne of the British Empire, arrived at San Diego aboard the British battleship Renown on a two-day goodwill visit. On April 7, he addressed a crowd of 25,000 in the city stadium and in the evening attended a ball at Hotel del Coronado. Though he was official host to the prince, the mayor presented the ball as a coming-out party for his daughter, Lucille. There were few debutantes that season who could point to such an array of guests. They included a royal prince, the governor of California and most of the high-ranking officers of the United States Pacific Fleet.
San Diego prospered during Wilde’s regime, coincident perhaps with the success of the community advertising program and the general rising economic conditions throughout the state. Politically, it was the retirement from Congress of William Kettner that posed a serious problem to the city’s future. Kettner had exerted considerable influence on the executive and legislative decisions in Washington, D.C., which were converting San Diego into one of the world’s leading military centers. After eight years in Congress, Kettner, a conservative Democrat who also had received the support of Republicans, was tired and his insurance business had suffered by his long absence from San Diego.
The 11th congressional district which he represented embraced seven counties. Though its voice thus was a minority one, San Diego had been adroit in the manipulation of political power. From time to time Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties had tried to break San Diego’s hold on the congressional seat. At a meeting of representatives from the three counties to choose a candidate to oppose anyone from San Diego, the delegation from Orange County in a surprise move threw its support to Phil D. Swing, of Imperial County.
Swing, a former district attorney and general counsel for the Imperial Valley Irrigation District, and a superior court judge, already had made a reputation lobbying in Washington for federal legislation on control of the Colorado River. He had learned, though, that a project of such a size, even though it might be supported by federal agencies, needed a champion within Congress.
A dam on the Colorado River was imperative for the protection of Imperial Valley, where for two decades farmers had lived under the constant threat of floods. Just as important was a new canal, to replace one that delivered Colorado River water to valley lands through Mexican territory, where it was subject to large diversions and the whims of foreign officials. What was needed, Swing had told any congressman who would listen, was an All-American Canal.
When Swing went on to win the support of all three of the northern counties for the Republican nomination, leaders in San Diego promptly announced the candidacy of Ed P. Sample, the state senator who had been a district attorney in Kansas before coming to San Diego in 1913. Swing was undaunted and carried his campaign to the heart of the opposition.
Business houses in Imperial Valley closed their doors while their proprietors participated in an auto caravan to San Diego to tell its people why the nomination and election of Swing, and the development of dependable sources of water, were so important not only to Imperial Valley but to all of the district.
Enthusiastic articles in the San Diego Sun reported that 5000 persons had driven 125 miles and the caravan passed through streets before a “cheering Swing-mad crowd, eager to do homage to San Diego’s congressman.” The San Diego Sun, owned by E. W. Scripps, the newspaper tycoon who had settled at nearby Miramar, customarily supported anything opposed by Spreckels, and the candidates it backed ranged from liberal to socialist. The San Diego Union’s version of the Swing caravan was somewhat different. It reported the parade was a political fizzle, with 119 machines and only fifty of them from Imperial Valley.
After visiting stores in the business area, and carrying the message of Swing’s candidacy, his supporters held a rally at which Swing spoke. In his memoirs, he recalls:
“I referred to the Spreckels-controlled papers, which in their efforts to minimize the popular impact of this show of strength by my supporters, said the auto-invasion was made up mostly of Fords. I told my hearers I would be happy with the support of Ford owners, and let my opponent seek the votes of the…Cadillac owners.”
Spreckels, though dominant in the Republican organization in San Diego County, was publicly cautious in his handling of the Swing-Sample election fight. The railroad which he had sponsored at such great personal expense, the San Diego & Arizona, was the lifeline of Imperial County and it was with this line on which Spreckels had banked so much of his own future as well as that of San Diego County.
The heavy opposition to Swing came from Los Angeles, which was not even in the same congressional district. Harry Chandler’s Los Angeles Times accused Swing of not being a true Republican but a Progressive and a follower of Hiram Johnson. Chandler was a co-owner of 900,000 acres in Lower California, and Swing in his memoirs, wrote that the Times was bitterly opposed to the suggestion of an All-American Canal since it would deprive Chandler’s lands of a guaranteed water supply to be furnished at the expense of the people of Imperial Valley.
The nomination, however, did not turn on the water issue but on the question of service in World War I. In the closing days of the war Swing had waived exemption as a public official in order to enlist. Sample, a popular legislator, had no military record and quietly retired form the campaign.
Though a substitute candidate was put forth, and court action undertaken to force his name onto the ballot, it was too late. Swing won the nomination unopposed and in the general election easily disposed of the Democratic nominee. The San Diego Union, in endorsing the straight Republican ticket, gave its support to Swing:
“Judge Swing is a citizen of Imperial County. San Diego and Imperial are more closely related, commercially, industrially, politically and geographically than any other two sections in the state. They are virtually one community with diverse interests, interdependent and mutually necessary to the prosperity of each county. Judge Swing would represent these interests as a single factor in all phases of their congressional requirement.”
Upon taking his seat in Congress, Swing introduced legislation for construction of a dam and storage reservoir on the Colorado and an All-American Canal, and went to see Senator Hiram Johnson, the former Progressive Republican governor of California. His memoirs suggest he didn’t find Johnson enthusiastic:
“When I took him a copy of my bill…for him to introduce in the Senate, he put his arm around me in a fatherly manner and said, “Phil, you go ahead and put it through the House and when it comes over here, I will put it through the Senate.” “
At the driving of the golden spike marking the completion of the San Diego & Arizona Railroad in 1919, Spreckels had remarked that it was well that men could not foresee all the obstacles and difficulties lying ahead in the undertaking of great enterprises. It was just as well, too, that Swing could not foresee the long struggle ahead of him, and all the personal attacks which he would have to endure, in reaching the goal that he had set for himself, the conquest of the Colorado River.
The railroad on which Spreckels had so counted for the development of San Diego as a trading center for the Southwest, so far had proved disappointing. A winter of hard rains had caused landslides in Carrizo Gorge which resulted in a shutdown in operations for eight months. Service was resumed in November of 1920, but perishable products from the Imperial Valley were moving directly into eastern markets, by way of the Southern Pacific mainline, or for distribution markets in Los Angeles.
Regardless of the success of the community advertising, which was bringing to San Diego a flood of newcomers, the old idea that industrialization was a more certain road to prosperity did not easily die.
If industry did come, where would it settle? In 1921 the Chamber of Commerce organized a campaign to purchase 650 acres of waterfront land fronting on National City and Chula Vista. This land had been part of the holdings of a company organized by officials of the Santa Fe Railroad, when San Diego had been tentatively selected as the terminus of their transcontinental operations. San Diego had given way to Los Angeles. The land was purchased for $75,000 and deeded to the Chamber of Commerce, with subscribers to be reimbursed by future sale.
The speculative fever of the previous booms carried over into the 1920’s. In Los Angeles the development of the oil industry was helping to put the nation on wheels and enticing the unwary investor. In San Diego, Mayor Wilde organized a company for another of a long series of fruitless drilling ventures that yielded nothing. Wilde’s term drew to an end, and he announced he would not seek re-election. He was succeeded as mayor in 1921 by John L. Bacon.
Then pioneer atmosphere was gone. No longer did single developments determine the fate of cities or areas as had happened so often in the past. Many factors were entering into the business and industrial growth of Southern California. Most important was the westward movement of the American people. They were creating new markets and building homes and schools and shops and plants.
Though the “flivver” had replaced the covered wagon, and there were many thousands more of them, the newcomers arrived much as had those of another generation before them, with their possessions and their children and their hopes.
A number of transcontinental highways, made up more of designated local segments than developed routes, converged at El Paso. The Bankhead Highway originated in Washington, D. C., and passed through Roanoke, Virginia; Nashville, Tennessee; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Dallas, Texas. At Kent, Texas, it joined the Old Spanish Trail to El Paso. The Old Spanish Trail originated at Jacksonville, Florida, and went by way of Mobile, Alabama, and across the Mississippi River to Houston, San Antonio and El Paso, Texas.
It was at El Paso where the new settlers or the tourists could decide as to their ultimate destinations. After that point they could be diverted and lost to rival Los Angeles. At El Paso, the southern traffic could feed into a stream moving west toward San Diego over what was designated as the Borderland Highway. From El Paso it generally followed the international border to Deming, New Mexico, and through Arizona by way of Douglas, Bisbee, Tucson and Phoenix, where it swung southward to Yuma.
Phoenix and Yuma also were points of possible diversion. Roads also led from there directly to Los Angeles. At Yuma, California was entered by crossing a bridge over the Colorado River. The Borderland Highway then dropped below sea level on its route through Imperial Valley.
The routes followed in part the historic paths of migration, paths trod by Indians and rutted by carettas and stage coaches. Yuma had been the last post before the crossing of the deep desert which had taken its toll in suffering, from the days of Juan Bautista de Anza and the colony from Mexico that had founded San Francisco, to the time of Stephen Watts Kearny who led his Army of the West toward the conquest of California.
A pamphlet published in 1923 by the San Diego-California Club in cooperation with the County Board of Supervisors, read:
“From El Centro, the route goes over the last range of mountains, where the highest elevation is less than 3300 feet. On the last lap of the journey the motorist passes swiftly through the foothills and valleys and finally glimpses San Diego, spread before him in a wonderous panorama that includes mountains, harbor and ocean.”
In the first three years of the decade it was estimated that the population of San Diego rose from 74,683 to more than 116,000. With the adjoining communities of East San Diego, Coronado and National City, the metropolitan population was more than 142,000.
Over the years, ever since the earliest pioneering days, the city’s margin of survival had been a narrow one. With the average rainfall only about ten inches a year, it soon became evident that pumping of underground water was not enough and runoff of wet years had to be impounded to assure domestic supplies over relatively long periods of time.
In times of drought there was support for spending more money for water development. When the rains arrived and filled the reservoirs, public interest would lag.
In the winter of 1921-1922 raging flood torrents washed out railroad tracks and the highway bridge at Sorrento Valley, and sent two feet of water into the Union Station at the foot of Broadway. Seven billions of gallons of water swelled the city’s reservoirs. How best to conserve the water that at the same time always wasted into the sea precipitated one political struggle after another.
Spreckels had sold his own Otay-Cottonwood storage and delivery system to the city and had been influential in the selection of Hiram N. Savage, formerly with the United States Department of Interior, as the city’s hydraulic engineer. Early in 1923 the city’s Water Commission brought in a report rejecting Savage’s recommendations for development of the San Diego River. The two commissioners, Frederick M. White and Charles T. Chandler, opposed a reservoir site in Mission Gorge that had been selected by Savage. It also urged that the city not press its claim to all rights to the water of the San Diego River, and instead negotiate for purchase of the Cuyamaca system owned by the Ed Fletcher interests. Fletcher’s previous efforts to sell the system to the city had been blocked by Spreckels.
Mayor Bacon promptly removed the commissioners from office for “promoting dissatisfaction, inefficiency and discord.” Subsequently, a vote of the people abolished the commission.
But the great city that Spreckels thought he could command to rise on the edge of the bay and produce a commercial empire that would compare with the one built by his father at San Francisco, soon learned it no longer was so dependent on his economic and political leadership, as in the past. Power was being diffused.
The rapid increase in the number of automobiles resulted in paving of streets and the improvement of others. Spreckels’ street car company, however, had ignored a provision of the City Charter which required it to maintain the roadbed between the tracks and two feet on each side of them. Some of the worst conditions existed on Adams Avenue, along the rim of Mission Valley. Public complaints caused the City Council to request that the company live up to its franchise. When the company pleaded poverty and asked for time, the Council was forced into an investigation of its books which disclosed that in twelve years profits had equaled the original investment of $4,000,000.
At the same time Spreckels was seeking another franchise for a line on Sixteenth Street, between Market Street and Broadway, and business leaders protested that it would divert business from the downtown area centering along Fifth Street.
The city operations manager, Fred A. Rhodes, was asked for a routine report on the company’s request. To everyone’s surprise he recommended that it be denied. The town split into two camps, those favoring Spreckels and those opposed to him. Petitions were circulated demanding that the franchise be granted or put up to a vote of the people. The Council was driven into an open break with Spreckels and an election was set for October.
The climax came when the City Council called for bids to pave Adams Avenue and notified the street car company it would have to take care of its own roadbed. Shortly after midnight of August 26 1922, company work trains arrived at Adams Avenue and crews began tearing up the rails. Residents, awakened by the noise, thronged angrily into the street, some of them bearing arms. The mayor rushed to the scene with a force of policemen and arrested the company’s foreman. The city appealed to the State Railroad Commission, and it ordered the company to maintain street car service on Adams Avenue. A compromise eventually was reached on the matter of paving. Spreckels won a minor victory at the polls when the street car franchise for Sixteenth Street was approved by a seventy-one vote margin.
Nine months later, on May 19, 1923, Spreckels gave a dinner for a hundred or so San Diego business leaders, at his Hotel del Coronado, in the knowledge that while he had committed himself to many more projects, his active life was drawing to a close and his son must soon take over. From him poured out long pent-up feelings:
“Some years ago, when some of our peanut politicians were warning San Diego not to fall for the crafty schemes of the foxy “Spreckels interests,” a certain well-known wit and sage said that my name must be John Demented Spreckels because if I were not crazy I would not subject myself to this constant yelping of village curs, but would sell out my holdings, put all my money in government bonds, sail away on my yacht, and let San Diego go to hell-or look to the bunch of anti-Spreckels knockers to save the city, under the highminded leadership of the San Diego Sun.
“Gentlemen, he did not know me, or he would never have suggested a surrender on my part. Whatever else I may or may not be, I am not a quitter.”
He was particularly bitter about the opposition of the San Diego Sun and its principal owner, E. W. Scripps. He continued:
“Of course, we all know the chief source of the malicious influence which, by fanning the flames of factional strife, prevents San Diego from outgrowing its smalltown traditions, a scurrilous, unscrupulous and hypocritical newspaper whose life depends on stirring up discontent…it is one of a numerous string of similar sheets owned by a multi-millionaire who has publicly admitted that he made his millions by hounding other millionaires and by posing as the champion of the poor, downtrodden working man…What has he ever done for San Diego?”
Scripps, though he still maintained his home at Miramar, was not particularly concerned with San Diego and its troubles and spent most of his time at sea on his yacht. Spreckels had staked everything on San Diego and he was convinced the reason it had not yet become the metropolis and seaport that its geography and unique advantages entitled it to be, was because of a lack of civic cooperation:
“I have had my say. I have spoken frankly in the hope that from now on a larger and more genuine spirit of cooperation may prevail. If the young red-blooded progressive business men of the city will only get together and stick together, nothing will be too big to expect for San Diego.”
In his bitterness Spreckels perhaps forgot how San Diegans in years past had combined resources in a vain effort to become a national railroad terminus, had raised a million dollars for an exposition, and that the voters had agreed to city acquisition of some of his water system when he was in dire need of money.
As far as Scripps and his San Diego Sun were concerned, the speech was a “swan song” marking the decline of the influence of Spreckels:
“You’ve done too much in your full life to go out in a towering, thundering rage, singing your own praises at a banquet paid for by yourself, and damning all those who oppose you…
“An old man singing his swan song is not a pretty picture…passing along his crown to his son and seeking to pass along his prejudices and intolerances with his sceptre.”
Two weeks later 600 business men, including delegations from El Centro and Yuma, attended a “Spreckels appreciation” dinner in the ballroom of the U.S. Grant Hotel. In his response to many personal tributes, Spreckels referred to his remarks at Hotel del Coronado and said that “I know you have complied with the appeal that I then made to you for cooperation and teamwork.”
The toastmaster was Ed Fletcher, a long-time opponent of Spreckels on many issues, and he told of a visit with Claus Spreckels in which both of them pledged cooperation in the future for the good of San Diego. In turn, Claus told the 600 San Diegans:
“You never heard anyone in Los Angeles say a word against Los Angeles…My father has promised you tonight that I will go through with the rest of the game and further build up what he has started-and he is not going to break that promise.”
The warm pledges of cooperation for future progress were not long remembered. San Diego and Southern California were beginning to feel the full effect of a rising tide of change more powerful than the influence of any individual.
Return to Books.
THE RISING TIDE
Ch. 1 Envy of Cities
Ch. 2 Charting a Way
Ch. 3 Water is King
Ch. 4 The Flush Years
Ch. 5 The Long Chase
Ch. 6 The Boom Fades
Ch. 7 The Quiet Years
Ch. 8 Creating a Fair
Ch. 9 Making a River
Ch. 10 Changes of War