Hometown Memories

Submitted by Trudy

In 1932 it snowed in La Mesa. My father, Thomas Mitchell Self, then not quite 10 years old, walked in to the local newspaper office and informed the editor-- it was snowing in La Mesa. The editor is said to have told him that there was a typewriter on the desk-write the story. My father did and was hooked. He decided that is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He graduated from Stanford with a degree in journalism, worked briefly for UP and the opened the LA Office of Business Week in the early 1950’s and was an editor for BW for 28 years. In the late 1970s he became editor of a group of California business magazines. BTW the editor of the LA Mesa Scout was Thomas Mitchell Hancock, not as stated in the local Masonic history "Mr. Mitchell." He was Thomas Mitchell Self’s grandfather and my great grandfather. Their house was later the local headquarters (and was appropriately painted yellow for the occasion) for the Barry Goldwater presidential campaign.

Submitted by Deanne

 The Challenge Center
               The Challenge Center at Sunset Park

I have lived here for 45 years! I remember when Lake Murray was just for "fishing" – and when you could drive around the lake to chose your fishing spot.... and park right wherever you wanted along the road! Over by Sunset Park, the Chargers practiced and there was a children’s play area above the practice field – past the basketball courts. My girls would play.... and I would watch the Chargers practice. On Monday mornings the team would go into the "Challenge Center " for a debriefing and films (it was their gym then).

There have been many changes to "my" city.... Sometimes I just wish that we could have retained some of the "country" charm, with at least one horse still in a pasture. I certainly remember the permission granted for the last horse to live out its life over by Sunset Park. I think that the owner could ride around the lake late in the evening, too.

Lately I’ve been walking with "Walk & Talk La Mesa" on Tuesday mornings. They choose a new area each week in La Mesa! Harry Griffen Park is a lovely meeting place with its amphitheatre and dog park and children’s playground! I’ve seen many changes.... and I’ve been happy to call La Mesa my hometown!! So... my life has been blessed with meeting and knowing the "living history" of La Mesa!!  Perhaps I’ve added some bit of history of my own.

Submitted by Patsy

As a "navy brat" it was unusual for us kids to spend many years in one town, but we lived at Garfield and Madison Avenue and walked to Lemon Avenue School from 3rd thru 6th grades. We had Miller Dairy home-delivered milk through a little door in the house wall. Doctors came to us when we were sick. Bread trucks and fresh produce trucks had regular routes, as did the Good Humor man. We stopped them only occasionally because we had La Mesa Mart on La Mesa Boulevard, and the Safeway store across Lemon Avenue from the Methodist church (in which I grew up and got married) upgraded to Super Market when it moved a bit south to the now Sprouts location.

Lemon Avenue Elementary
Lemon Avenue Elementary- Photo courtesy La Mesa Historical Society

My siblings, Dick and Carol, and I played in our quiet streets afternoons and summer evenings with the neighbor kids. My Dad’s retirement returned me to all 4 years at Helix High School and on to SDSU. After the Air Force showed us the world, and much to my amazement, my husband Bob and I claimed La Mesa our home in the 1970’s. Our 3 children, Scott, Todd and Heather, were detoured from also attending Lemon Avenue Elementary by the Bancroft "line", and later to Helix rival, Grossmont High School. We’re now celebrating with them, our Half-Century Wedding Anniversary this La Mesa Centennial Year!

Occasionally, I walk those nostalgic avenues and spiffed-up alleys, glancing up at Mt. Helix, which through its Foundation has endured as a treasure to all who access its beauty. At least one memorable day was a NO SCHOOL ALERT, over the radio, because of the SNOW on Mt. Helix, glowingly visible for hours! I hear children laughing from other houses as I pass those of Don and Sharon and Janet, Kay, Marilyn and Larry, Donna, Julie (whose Mom, after school, creatively taught us 5th grade girls basic cooking skills), Anona, Carla, and Larry (your house is gorgeous purple now!). As I pass "his house" I remember the day our neighbor crashed through his front screen door in his urgency to alert us that our garage was on fire. I recall Saturday comic book reading over our sodas at the fountain next to La Mesa Mart (now, superb breakfasts at La Mesa Bistro and Cafe), and the sandy intersection where I skidded and tumbled on my brand new, Christmas bicycle. I am amusedly annoyed at all the traffic keeping me alert as I walk down the memory lane of this Jefferson-Madison-Glen-Jackson-Garfield grid. I pick up my pizza and/or ice cream and happily head home to the present.

Submitted by Janet

 Old La Mesa Library
                                          Old La Mesa Library

My family moved to Casa de Oro in 1958. There was no bank, church, stores or library. We went to La Mesa to do everything. One of our favorite weekly family car trips was to the La Mesa Library. I lived for these trips, as our television had broken and we read books all week. One night, in 1959, we started driving to the library. The fog was so thick it blocked out all vision and my mother turned the car around and told us we couldn’t go any further. We all started to cry, as we wouldn’t get any new books until the following week. My favorite to check out were mystery books, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden and Hardy Boys. I loved them so much I became a San Diego Police Officer in the early 1970’s, one of the first female officers hired and trained for patrol. I retired from law enforcement after 33 years and now live one block from La Mesa. I love La Mesa!!!

 La Mesa Historical Society
                Photo courtesy La Mesa Historical Society

Submitted by Brenda 

My roots go back pretty far. Not only did I grow up in and around La Mesa, but my mother who is now 83, did as well. When she was in high school her very first job was at La Mesa Pharmacy. Back then, the pharmacy had a soda fountain and she was a "Soda Jerk". One of her favorite stories was about the invention of whipped cream in an aerosol can. She was just getting used to using the can, when quite suddenly and by pure accident, the fluffy whipped cream literally "got out of hand". The town barber was at the fountain enjoying his soda when he was sprayed in the face! Everyone there got quite a laugh, including the barber! Mom ends her story with the admission that she did not charge him for the serving of whipped cream!

Submitted by Daughn 


La Mesa tree-lined street

                                La Mesa tree-lined street

Having read a few different publications on La Mesa’s upcoming Centennial celebration, I have been thinking a lot about my choice to live here. It plucked at my heart strings to realize that the people who have been coming here for 100 years, did so for the same reason as myself, the small town feel. My father was in the Navy, so we moved around every few years. I never really felt "from" anywhere. I joined the Navy as well, so I got to see the world, but I never put down roots. I’ve been a musician for years, and after the Navy I dreamed of life on the road. I lived a life of traveling, and never really considered settling down until I moved to La Mesa. I moved here in 1996, and instantly fell in love. I had never been a "part" of a community before, but I was welcomed right in. Now I feel, after 15 years, that I am "from" here. I gladly tell people that this is where I belong. From the people you see on the street, to the people running the shops and restaurants, you can’t help but feel a "part" of this community because you recognize people wherever you go. After a life of anonymity it’s nice to know people by name. It’s nice to have people wave at you when you walk down the street. It’s nice to have people coming here for that same feeling. Thank you La Mesa, it’s nice to know that in an increasingly hustle and bustle world, there’s still a place for those of us who want the small town life. I no longer dream of getting away, and I am proud to call La Mesa my home.

The stories featured on this page are submitted by the public.