Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor
It’s a Long Road to Comondú.
By Everett Gee Jackson. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987. Illustrations. 160 Pages. $15.95.
Reviewed by Raymond Starr, Professor of History at San Diego State University and author of San Diego: A Pictorial History (1986).
It’s a Long Road to Comondú is as charming a book as you are likely to encounter. A sequel to Everett Jackson’s Burros and Paintbrushes, it is a continuation of his stories about visits to Mexico. This collection of stories dates from 1928 to the recent past, and includes delightful accounts of many visits to Baja California, a 1950 return to Chapala (which had figured heavily in his previous book), and a lot of material about time spent in Mayan country. That part of the book focuses on adventures around San Cristobal de las Casas and a trip to Palenque. In addition to being some of Jackson’s best stories (his account of a plane trip and a flying chicken is my favorite!), these accounts may be the most significant, since Jackson was doing research for what was perhaps the first college course in pre-Columbian art in the United States. All of the stories feature marvelous character sketches, superb descriptions of the countryside (both natural and built), and thus show off the author’s skills as a master story teller.
Although it is clear that this is one of the most entertaining books you can find, why should it be reviewed in the Journal of San Diego History? The answer is that It’s a Long Road to Comondú provides excellent insights into the life, character and personality of two of San Diego’s most distinguished citizens, Everett Gee and Eileen Jackson. Everett Jackson came to San Diego from Texas and the Chicago Art Institute to eventually join the San Diego State College (now University) Art Department. He became chair in 1940, and for the next quarter century, he shaped that Department. At the same time, Jackson was active in the local art scene, serving for years on the board of the San Diego Museum of Art; and in pursuing his own career. He has focused on painting and book illustrations, and has been named California State University Most Distinguished Professor and in 1984 was honored as the Dean of San Diego Painters. His work is on exhibit in galleries and museums around the world. Equally well known locally is his wife, Eileen Jackson, whom he met on a very San Diego occasion – a grunion hunt! Eileen Jackson was born here and grew up near Ramona. She began a career in journalism as the first female editor of the San Diego High School newspaper, and went on to work for the San Diego Sun, the Union, the Journal and the Tribune. For half a century her reporting of San Diego news and society has set the standard. Everett Jackson’s books provide insight into both of these figures. He illustrates Eileen’s excellent powers of observation and analysis; his comments, especially on Mayan art, give insight into Everett’s art; many of his anecdotes show the incomparably complementary relationship between the two which has been the mark of their lives in San Diego. Thus anyone wanting to study the life and careers of two of San Diego’s most prominent citizens will have to read and study this book.
For sheer fun, for the pleasure of viewing reproductions of some of Jackson’s art, and for a glimpse into the lives of two major San Diegans, It’s a Long Road to Comondu is recommended without reservation!