A Tale of Two Parades

Happy brothers on Christmas Day (2009) (Swank photo collection)

Through the best of times and the worst of times, I have been Santa Claus at the Organ Pavilion for San Diego’s “December Nights in the Park.” I have watched many babies grow up on my lap. I’ve had kids bring their babies back to see me. I may not know their names, but I do recognize their faces and share their joy. Santa has been their friend since 2002. He’s always glad to see them again. Continue reading

Quarantine in Clairemont (2020)

South Clairemont neighbors wear masks and observe social distancing while enjoying weekly “Happy Hour” (photo credit: Linda Johnson)

Clairemont has been under quarantine for two months. How are residents dealing with “the new normal?” The following comments and observations are from a broad, cross-section of people who call Squaremont home.

Longtime Clairemont resident Diane Crane has been a nurse for 40 years. She works at a large San Diego health care system managing the corona virus epidemic.

She stated, “Working there shows me the impact of illness on families and patients. The sick patients are in the hospital alone without the support of their families. Fortunately the use of cell phones and iPads help out a lot.” Continue reading

House Arrest in Clairemont (2020)

Bill Swank outside the Buena Vista Garden Apartments on Cowley Way in 1955 with East Clairemont in the distance.

These are perilous times. Although the younger generation is physically and financially threatened by the corona virus, they still have to venture into the world to carry on with their lives and to help others.

In the meantime, most Clairemont seniors have found safety in “house arrest.”

Ironically, the first San Diego resident officially placed on house arrest over 40 years ago was a Clairemont juvenile. Today, he would be a senior citizen under new guidelines for house arrest. Continue reading

House Arrest in Clairemont (1977)

Juvenile Hall (1953) These juvenile delinquents would be in their 80s now… (Bill Swank collection)

Today, Clairemont is under house arrest.

On January 1, 1977, Section 840 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code (home supervision/house arrest) became law:

“Home supervision is a program in which persons who would otherwise be detained in the juvenile hall are permitted to remain in their homes pending court disposition of their cases, under the supervision of a deputy probation officer, probation aide, or probation volunteer.” Continue reading

The “C” word is very scary

March 3, 2020: Baseball Santa with his bat cane after he rang the bell at UCSD Radiation Oncology Center (photo by Jeri Lynne Swank)

The “C” word is very scary.

It is difficult to accept or even say out loud when it applies to you.

I didn’t want to talk about it.

Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz offered this pithy advice: “Never tell your problems to anyone… 20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.”

In November 2019, a “punch biopsy” from my forehead revealed a “malignant spindle cell sarcoma.” Continue reading

Crime in Farmington

In December 1972, Chief Jake Klotzbeacher retired after 25 years of service with the Farmington Police Department (Dakota County Tribune)

The local Police Blotter can be found in every edition of The Clairemont Times. Criminal activity in large cities is a serious matter. Residents want to feel safe and secure in their homes and neighborhoods.

Crime reporting in small town newspapers is also taken very seriously, but can be trivial and often hilarious. Continue reading

Keeping Big Band Music Alive

The teachers shook their heads. Ray Vinole explains the reception when he returned to Mission Bay High School as band director in 1976. (photo by Bill Swank)

Before there was Elvis, Bobbysoxers in the early 1940s were screaming for Frank Sinatra. World War II was raging, but on the Homefront, it was the era of Big Band music and ration books.

On January 19, 2020, at Dizzy’s in Arias Hall behind the Musicians’ Association building on Morena Boulevard, 80-year-old band leader Rey Vinole turned over his baton to Ray Fisher to ensure the Big Band jazz sound will survive in San Diego. Continue reading

History Uncovered: Lindbergh-Schweitzer

Principal Victoria Peterson, SDUSD Facilities Communications Supervisor Samer Naji and Special Education teacher Karin Wehsener at Lindbergh-Schweitzer School (photo: Bill Swank)

Shortly before the winter break, a meeting of the Site Governance Team at Lindbergh-Schweitzer Elementary School was held on December 19, 2019.

Kristen Straeter, a preschool special education teacher, apologized for being late. She had just come from making gingerbread houses with her students and reported that some of the gumdrops actually made it onto the houses. Continue reading

Why rename Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School?

Aerial photograph of Lindbergh (left) Schweitzer (right) Elementary School ➀ Whole Site Modernization and Joint Use Field (photo: San Diego Unified School District)

The Clairemont Town Council recently forwarded a message about plans for a 2020 ground breaking to modernize the Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School site. There is also a movement to rename the school:

The site governance team (SGT), which consists of students, families, staff and some community members, has a list of recommended names in order of preference:

  1. Clairemont Canyon Preparatory Academy
  2. Clairemont Canyon Academy
  3. Clairemont Canyon Elementary

Continue reading

Eclipse of the Sun

total eclipse (photo credit: A.E. Douglas, September 10, 1923)

San Diego Sun masthead (September 16, 1881)

“Suppose you are a woman, happily married, that you have a 21-months-old daughter, and that you know something valuable to the state in a murder trial; but that to reveal what you know will turn a shadow of rumor and suspicion upon yourself and probably cost you your future happiness, your husband and your child. What would you do?”

Continue reading

Kitty’s Zoo

Kismit “Kitty” Henderson loves Donito the green iguana, a prominent member of her Zoo. (photo credit Bill Swank)

In March 2016, while my wife and I were dining at Troy’s Family Restaurant in the Clairemont Square, an attractive and charismatic African-American woman was enthusiastically telling owner Pete Likomitros that she had just crashed the Oscars show in Hollywood. There had been bitter controversy that year, because, for the second consecutive season, only white actors were nominated for Academy Awards.

Continue reading

What happened to Good Citizenship?

1946 – Unhappy First Grader on First Day of school (Bill Swank collection)

With the start of a new school year, I reflect on my own early education.

My first day as a first grader at William Tecumseh Sherman Primary School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin remains an indelible memory. It was September 4, 1946. I was unhappy… very unhappy. My mother made me wear a suit coat and tie for this momentous occasion. My brother was in kindergarten, so he didn’t have to get all dressed up like it was Sunday.

Back in the 1940s, kids didn’t know how to read when they entered first grade. My mother was comfortable sending me to school to be educated by real teachers. In those days, first graders could walk five blocks to school in a big city… alone.

(Another thing, almost all of my elementary school teachers had the same first name: Miss.)

Continue reading

@sportsfansewing

Roger Hovey places numbers on replica of Fernando Valenzuela’s Dodgers jersey (photo by Bill Swank)

People have joked that my office is the food court at the Morena Boulevard Costco. I have certainly enjoyed meeting many interesting people under the red and white Kirkland umbrellas.

Last month, I was approached by a friendly woman who had previously overheard me talking baseball. Since I was alone at this time, she asked if I was a Padres fan. That’s all it took to start a lengthy conversation about baseball, Clairemont and life.

Continue reading

It’s a bountiful life: Ho-ho-ho to healthy eating

November/December 2017 California Bountiful magazine 
Interview by Jolaine Collins
Photos by Zeena Gregg

Santas Richard Eckland and Bill Swank collaborate with farmers at the Vista Farmers Market in San Diego County to encourage healthy eating and offer produce samples. Photo: © 2017 Zeena Gregg

If you’ve ever wondered what Santa and his helpers do when they’re not busy at the North Pole, the answer may be as close as San Diego County’s farmers markets. There, you’ll find red-suited characters like Richard Eckland (also known as Sustainable Santa) and Bill Swank (aka Baseball Santa) handing kids carrots instead of candy canes, and cards promoting healthy eating. Eckland leads this jolly group called Real Santas United to End Childhood Obesity.

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1909 Abilene High School nine was loaded with talent

As the Boston Red Sox play the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, how many old-timers remember the Abilene Red Sox?

Abilene has had two professional teams: the 1909 Red Sox and the 1910 Reds. Both teams finished third in the old Central Kansas League. The Sox had a 37-30 record in ‘09 and the Reds won 44 and lost 34 in 1910. The star of the team was affable player/manager Affie Wilson who, in death, would become famous beyond his wildest dreams.

1909 was also a good year for the local high school team. AHS was loaded with future pro prospects. The most famous member of the team would become president of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower. As a boy, Ike dreamed of being “a real Major League baseball player, a genuine professional like Honus Wagner.”

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A MAN AMONG BOYS: Ike played AHS football at age 20


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Eisenhower at AHS. Left to right, top row: Ralph Lucier, Frank Madden, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Earl Briney, “Six” McDonald, Howard Funk. Second row: Orin Snider, coach Raymond Sare, Ames Rogers, G.N. Huffman and Prof. Down. Bottom row: Dean Achers, Charles Barber, Earl Merrifield, Ron Coleman, Carl Nicolay

By Bill Swank

Special to Abilene Reflector-Chronicle

Sports : Wednesday, August 28, 2013 7:00:00 AM

How might football coach Jeff Geist respond if someone suggested Cody Whitehair would return to the Cowboys two years after his 2010 graduation from Abilene High School?

Something like this actually happened over 100 years ago.

Dwight Eisenhower graduated from AHS in June 1909. According to Tim Rives, assistant director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library, “Ike returned to Abilene High School in the fall of 1910 to prep for the West Point entrance exam; he took the opportunity to play another season of football. This is the odd part: he reportedly played under the name of Sweeney. Curious and curiouser.”

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Did Ike play pro before West Point?

By Diane Bell
UT San Diego, 03:03p.m. Aug 29, 2013

This 1911 Junction City team photo appeared in the 1912 Reach American League Guide. In the top row, the third player from the left was identified as Affie Wilson and was clearly not young Dwight Eisenhower. That is the only known image of Affie Wilson. — 1912 Reach American League Guide

A baseball mystery surrounding Dwight D. Eisenhower has been the subject of speculation for decades.

Did our nation’s 34th president play pro or semipro ball before entering the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, or didn’t he?

Continue reading