The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1984, Volume 30, Number 3
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor

Book Review

Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor

As I Remember Poway: Memoirs of Mary van Dam. By Mary Augusta van Dam. Poway: Poway Historical Society, 1983. Illustrations. Index. Maps. 140 pages. $10.00 Paper. Reviewed by Kama Webster, graduate student in history at the University of San Diego and past-president of the Congress of History of San Diego County.

As I Remember Poway. Memoirs of Mary van Dam presents an undocumented and personal view of this North County community. As the title suggests, Mary van Dam, who came to Poway at the age of two in 1893, has used her own experiences and memories as well as information gleaned from newspaper articles and other sources to write this book. During her lifetime, van Dam saw Poway grow from an area settled originally by homesteaders to a community of over 38,000 people. As a child she attended a one room school and was one of the first Poway graduates to go to the nearest high school, some twelve miles away in Escondido. Later van Dam became a teacher at Poway and often rode to the schoolhouse on horseback. She knew many of the people she writes about in this book.

The volume has three main sections. In the first part, “As I Remember Poway,” the author covers such topics as early history, early education, mail service, transportation, signs of gold and weather. She discusses briefly the following pioneer families: Blaisdell, Cravath, Crosthwaite, Flint, Griswold, Hilleary, Kear, Kent, Kirkham, Nelson, Parnell/Thatcher, and Witt. The section contains extensive but usually interesting excerpts from 1890’s newspaper articles and other sources. In some chapters, the excerpts take up more space than the text by the author.

A twenty-nine page photographic section forms the second part of the book. Most of the photographs are quite good except for one of the post office which did not reproduce well. The third part, “Memories of Family and Home,” is a short memoir of the life and family of Mrs. van Dam, who originally wrote this section for her grandson. A number of delightful illustrations by Diane van Dam Zinn, granddaughter of the author, add to the charm of this book. The index is helpful but incomplete in some instances.

If a second edition is contemplated, a light editing to omit a few typographical and other errors would be in order. For instance, the photographic section does not begin on page 80 as promised in the table of contents.

This book will be interesting to Poway residents and particularly to oldtimers of the area. The author has donated the manuscript to the Poway Historical Society, and proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to help build a museum at Poway.