The Coronado Ferry and the Bridge: Part 3

Part 3 is made up of notes, newspaper clippings from the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune and miscellaneous pictures I’ve collected over the years. Some of the clippings date back to 1961.

 

Land speculation and development was going wild in Coronado in the 1880’s. There was talk of grand hotels and resorts being built and the place was sounding like a potential gold mine. Two forward-looking men realized that getting workers and materials and later hotel guests across San Diego Bay quickly would be a great boon for the building and tourist industries. Riding in a buggy the length of the bay, around the south end, and then up the Silver Strand to Coronado seemed to take forever. It was only 5/8 of a mile across the bay and the solution found, was the formation of a ferry company. I have attached a clipping (San Diego Union, August 9, 1961) that tells the story of the first 75 years and gives details about those first days.

b-f_20

b-f_6

b-f_20cb-f_9

The first day of service for the Coronado Ferry Co. was April 15, 1886 and the last crossing was made August 3, 1969. That’s over 83 years of service and pleasure provided day in and day out. Unfortunately, this picturesque mode of travel reached the end of its era. The last day of service occurred on the opening day of the beautiful San Diego-Coronado Bridge. Crossing the bridge is a beautiful and unique experience in its own right. The bridge is 200 feet high because at the time it was built, the Navy insisted that the center span be tall enough to clear their tallest ships, diesel-propelled aircraft carriers. That condition was met, though the bridge isn’t high enough to clear the nuclear carriers. The height requirement had a lot to do with the long and curving lines of the final configuration. Also, there is a story that says the bridge had to be over a mile long to get federal funding so the curvature was added to give additional length.

The first day of service for the Coronado Ferry Co. was April 15, 1886 and the last crossing was made August 3, 1969. That’s over 83 years of service and pleasure provided day in and day out. Unfortunately, this picturesque mode of travel reached the end of its era. The last day of service occurred on the opening day of the beautiful San Diego-Coronado Bridge. Crossing the bridge is a beautiful and unique experience in its own right. The bridge is 200 feet high because at the time it was built, the Navy insisted that the center span be tall enough to clear their tallest ships, diesel-propelled aircraft carriers. That condition was met, though the bridge isn’t high enough to clear the nuclear carriers. The height requirement had a lot to do with the long and curving lines of the final configuration. Also, there is a story that says the bridge had to be over a mile long to get federal funding so the curvature was added to give additional length.

***********************************************************************************************

A lot of people are terrified when going over the bridge because, at the center, it is 200 feet tall. You can look out over the waterfront and the city and it’s a lot like being on the side of a mountain and looking into a vast canyon. A few years ago, Pat’s aunt and uncle had come from Wichita to visit us. On Saturday, Pat had to work so I decided to show them the beautiful bridge, San Diego Bay, the city of Coronado, and the Hotel Del Coronado. As we came off the approach and started up the bridge, these flat-landers from Kansas immediately started yelling. By the time we reached the center span, the highest point, they were really freaking out. The best I could come up with was that we were half way and would soon be on the ground. We lived through that experience did our sight-seeing. They had calmed down enough that they let me drive them back across the bridge rather than driving all the way down the Silver Strand and around. They actually enjoyed the view on the way back.
  san-diego-coronado-bridge

san-diego-coronado

 

 

Advertisements

The Coronado Ferry and the Bridge: Part 2

One day, Pat had been doing her regular chores and chasing the boys, who weren’t quite 3 years old, and trying to keep them in line and she was exhausted. She read the boys a story and put them down for a nap. Satisfied that the boys would be “out” for a while, she fastened the security chain to the front door, laid down, and promptly fell asleep.

Sometime later she was awakened by someone ringing the door bell. As she walked to the door, she realized that a chair had been pulled up to the door and that the security chain was undone. Pat experienced a feeling of panic as she got to the door, not knowing if she would open it to the Police or someone else with bad news. She threw open the door and saw a lady she recognized holding the hands of our two boys. She remembered that the lady lived 2 blocks away, across a busy street, and that the bus stop was in front of her home. The woman had seen Pat and our two boys at the bus stop before and was quite concerned to see the boys there by themselves. She asked them where there mother was and where they were going. They told her that their Mom was asleep and they were going to ride on the ferry and see the boats. Fortunately, the boys knew where they lived so the lady grabbed them each by the hand and walked them home. As Pat and the lady talked they quizzed the boys and discovered the rest of the caper. When getting on the bus in the past, they had seen their mother drop coins into the fare collection box so before leaving the house they had found her purse and grabbed all the change she had and put it in their pockets. That’s pretty good thinking for a couple of outlaws who couldn’t count or make change. Pat thanked the Good Samaritan and after that lady left, gave the boys a good chewing out and grounded them.

Having twin boys messes up your understanding of mathematics. You grew up thinking that 1+1=2 so it would follow that 1 boy plus another boy equals 2 boys but that’s not the way it works. This is why they invented the word “synergism”. One imaginative boy added to another imaginative boy equals 5 times more trouble than you can cope with.

As the time got closer for Pat to deliver, I had to make up my mind on driving the long way around or taking the ferry to Coronado. I decided to drive the long way because there were fewer stoplights and less traffic. Taking the ferry would have meant taking Highway 94 which frequently was jammed up and then going through all the stoplights downtown and hoping there was no delay at the ferry landing.

When the time came, we drove the long way around and everything worked out well when we got to the hospital. Pat had a few tough hours of labor but delivered a healthy baby girl that we named “Terri”.

b-f_5

Doug and Russ and their new sister, Terri

 

 

 

The Coronado Ferry and the Bridge: Part 1

My original intent was just to tell you about the Coronado Ferry but after thinking about it and discussing it with Pat the story grew a little. Back in the late 1950’s and 60’s San Diego Bay was a busy place. There was a fair amount of merchant shipping doing business at the 10th Ave. Terminal. The Navy had a lot of ship traffic at the 32nd Street Pier. National Steel and Shipbuilding was building and overhauling ships so there was a lot of traffic around their docks. There were usually 2 to 4 seaplane squadrons stationed at NAS North Island and they made take-offs and landings in the bay at all hours of the day and night. There were also Navy fighter squadrons stationed at North Island and they were visible from many spots around the bay.

The Navy had an Overhaul and Repair Facility at North Island taking care of aircraft that had returned from Westpac deployments via aircraft carriers. The carriers and other ships were docked at the North Island piers and sometimes there were other Navy ships at anchor in the bay. Convair was developing the Sea Dart, a jet-powered seaplane that could be seen taxiing in the bay. The tuna fleet was still operating out of San Diego. The fishing grounds within reach of this port were being “fished out” but the fleet was still pretty large. Toward the west end of the bay at the sub base there was traffic consisting of both diesel subs and the new nuclear boats. The ferry boats were on regular schedules and were plowing back and forth all day long. There were motor launches known as “nickel snatchers” that picked up passengers, mostly sailors, at the foot of Broadway and delivered them to the ships at anchor or over to North Island. Take all of this traffic and throw in the tour boats and private sail boats and you can imagine the apparent chaos all day long.

b-f_1

The picture below will give you some indication of the variety of traffic on the bay. The airplane in the upper left hand corner is a P5M-2 seaplane such as I flew in and it is coming in for a landing. The planes flew up the bay (north) and when over the ferry landing made a slight turn to port to follow the curvature of the bay. As they crossed over the ferry slips, the pilot keyed his mike and announced “Ferry slips” and the Air Controller in the tower would take a final look at the sea lane for traffic and acknowledge with “Cleared to land.”

b-f_2-copy

Being from Kansas, Pat and I weren’t used to large bodies of water or waterborne transportation so riding the ferry was a unique and wonderful experience for us. The bay crossing only took a few minutes but there was enough time to jump out of your car and go lean on the rail or go to the top deck and have a seat and enjoy the ride. I believe there were a total of 5 ferry boats. Our favorite was the Crown City because there was no roof over the cars. The other boats had large superstructures that covered the cars on the deck and made you feel like you were in a garage.

b-f_3

I was stationed at North Island, in Coronado, and we lived in Coronado for 2 years. In 1960, we bought a home in San Diego and that’s where my life as a commuter began. I found that even though it was farther to go south and around the bay and up the Silver Strand, it was faster than going through downtown San Diego and catching the ferry. Also, there was the money consideration. I was still in the Navy and riding the ferry would have cost me 90 cents a day but gasoline for driving the long way around was only 27.9 or 29.9 cents a gallon (I can’t remember exactly).

I was discharged from the Navy in March of 1961 and got a job with an electronics firm on Kearney Mesa which meant that I still had a long commute. We soon found out that Pat was pregnant and that made it tough because our doctor, Jim Turpin, was in Coronado and besides his practice being there, he was also associated with the Coronado Hospital. Our boys, Russ and Doug were born in the Coronado Hospital and we thought it would be a nice thing to have the new baby there as well.

b-f_4

A booklet published by Home Federal Savings

Being new on the job, I couldn’t take time off to drive Pat to the doctor for her pre-natal visits. She figured out that she could ride the bus to downtown San Diego, transfer to the Coronado bus and get off right in front of the doctor’s office on Orange Ave. She would take the boys with her rather than trying to find and pay a babysitter. I guess the bus ride wasn’t bad and the best part was that the bus could go on the ferry! Pat and the boys loved that! To be on a boat and crossing the San Diego Bay with all the other boats and ships was pretty heady stuff.

 

 

San Diego Chargers: Still Here

talking-football

“Me and Fouts…talkin’ football.”

Grandson, Jeff, and San Diego Chargers Quarterback, Dan Fouts.
Our son, Russ, took the picture.

I see on the evening news that disappointed San Diego Charger fans are having trouble dealing with the fact that the Chargers are moving to Los Angeles. They are whining and crying and burning their Charger memorabilia and are most certain that the end of the world has come. Well, folks, everything has an expiration date. The triple-crown winner retires, the aircraft carrier is de-commissioned, or maybe a favorite movie actress dies. Everything expires.

Let’s stand up and look this right in the eye. Over this past 56 years, or your part of it, you have stored up some wonderful memories. For the rest of your life you will have that treasure trove to draw on. Thanks to Air Coryell and some interesting and talented quarterbacks, you will remember the excitement. I’m talking about Jack Kemp, John Hadl, Dan Fouts, Drew Brees, Doug Flutie, and Philip Rivers. We even had the great Johnny Unitas toward the end of his career. And, not a quarterback but the scourge of quarterbacks, there was defensive end, Deacon Jones. The Deacon was exciting to watch as he beat opposing linemen and he always had something to say.

We saw some other exciting players, too, like Speedy Duncan, Chuck Muncie, and L.T. How about Lance Alworth? I got to meet him once. My son and grandson got to meet Dan Fouts. We will definitely remember those times.

You may have gone to Jack Murphy/Qualcom Stadium to attend your first Pro-Football game. Or, you may recall watching the games with good friends or relatives who are no longer with us. You will remember these times together.

In the coming years there will be many times and many circumstances that will spark your memory and cause you to pull up a giggle or a cherished remembrance. That’s the stuff that keeps us warm.

Dave Thomas
January 13, 2017