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Little Leaguers Walked in the 60s
May 2009 | Drew Keeling, writing from Zurich, Switzerland


Drew Keeling, 9, and his brother Ralph, 7, warming up for a Little League game in 1964.  Photo: courtesy of Lou Keeling.

When I grew up in Del Mar, in the 1960s, many boys my age played in Little League games at the old Del Mar Elementary School, on the corner of 9th street and Highway 101. The diamond faced southeast so there was the theoretical possibility of hitting a home run onto 101 though I cannot recall this ever actually happening.

Local merchants and business sponsors of the Little League got their names written on little uniforms that could be seen around town on a summer afternoon walking to or from a game. There were four teams in the “major league,” for boys aged about 10-12. I was on the Jefferson Realty (blue) team. The other three were Mobil (red), Firepit (green) and Menlo Farms (purple). Menlo was a grocery store, and Firepit a beach restaurant. A second grocery store, Del Mar Market, at 14th and 101, got its name on just one baseball shirt by sponsoring the “minor league,” for boys about 7-9.

Little Leaguers would sometimes walk along 101 where many commercial sponsors were situated. In the 1960s, Del Mar had many gasoline stations. Most lasted a few years after Freeway 5 opened, partly by selling other things. For example, the Richfield gas station, across from the school, had vending machines patronized by school kids walking home. Quite a crowd gathered one day when a rumor spread that the machines were broken and dispensing free candy bars.

Walking from 9th towards 15th streets one might pass the Texaco, Chevron, and Shell stations, the Flying A and Hancock near the Speedee Mart (another major destination for children), the Union 76, a second Chevron and Richfield, and then Mobil at 101 and 15th. Jefferson Realty was north of the Catholic School (now City Hall), which also supplied some Little Leaguers, and not far from the Catholic Church (now the Library). Also along the way was a shifting assortment of other businesses including a hardware store, Del Mar Market, Del Mar Drugs, and a barber. Today’s Americana restaurant on the corner of 15th was Gleason’s Variety Store, and later a coin and stamp shop. Many of these businesses did not outlast the 1960s. The Robin Hood restaurant across 101 and next to the Mobil Station eventually disappeared, along with its billboard featuring the distinctive figure in the green slanted hat, as did all other billboards from the south entrance to town. The names of these businesses survive in my memory.


Drew Keeling grew up on Cuchara. He is now living with his family in Zurich, where he teaches history at the University of Zurich and where he recently met up with Henry and Beth Abarbanel.


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