• Which San Diegan swam the English Channel in 1951 and broke a 50-year-old record?
  • Where is the 514-acre underwater marine preserve, established in 1970?
  • Who built the first tourist hotel, opened in 1953, on Mission Bay?


If you don’t know, don’t bother entering the first San Diego History Trivia Smackdown, set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the San Diego History Center in the Casa de Balboa, just west of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.

Or go anyway and enjoy watching faces turn red as they flub the 50-question written test.

Gabe Selak, the center’s public programs manager, is the master of the mundane and momentous, when it comes to conjuring questions for long-time residents who think they know everything and newcomers who would like to.

“I went to one (pub trivia contest) in Spain,” Selak said. “I didn’t understand everything because I don’t speak Spanish. But it was a fun atmosphere. Everybody was having a good time… It was a great way of feeling a sense of pride in how much you know your community.”
Selak will turn the center’s Thornton Theater into a pub and hand out questions to individuals or teams of competitors to answer.

Whoever gets the most right answers will win a free $60 annual membership to the center. The cost is $10 and includes one drink ticket.

For the trivia-challenged, they have a chance to redeem themselves by attending Selak’s San Diego History 101, a three-part course at 10 a.m. Sept 12, 19 and 26, also at the history center.

Each session will include an illustrated rundown on local history, concluding with World War II, plus a tour of the center’s archives. History 201, planned for next spring, will bring things up to date.
Interest seems to be growing in San Diego’s heritage, Selak said, prompted by the coming centennial of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition held in Balboa Park.

“People are much more curious about what has happened and where we are today,” he said.

By the way, the answers to our questions, drawn from the history center’s Facebook page: Florence Chadwick; San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Reserve off La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores; William D. Evans.

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