September 2010 home page

Are We Vital Yet?
Rich Simons | 11th Street

Texaco Gas Station between 10th and 11th Streets..
Courtesy Del Mar Historical Society.



We read a lot nowadays about “revitalizing” Del Mar’s commercial (downtown) area, and I couldn’t be more supportive. As it says right here in my Funk&Wagnalls, one of the definitions of “revitalize” is to restore life and vitality, and who wouldn’t want to restore the vitality that once coursed through our village.

It is hard to forget the vitality I encountered when I first arrived in Del Mar in the spring of 1970.  At the northeast corner of 11th Street and Camino del Mar there was a really vital pad of gravel upon which rested a trailer - the “Hitching Post” - an eatery serving hamburgers small in size but ample in grease.  Where the restaurant En Fuego is today, the lower level - that delightful al fresco dining patio - was a gutted pit from which tanks of gasoline had recently been removed. It served the community in a quite vital way . . . judging from the debris piling up in it, it was the city dump.

Meanwhile, over on 15th Street, the space that now houses Jimmy O’s bar and grill was the site of the “Thieves Den and Parley Room.”  The bar was a masterpiece of worn, dark, greasy wood.  Resting on top of it were large murky vats of hard-boiled eggs and pickled pigs feet.  Adjacent to the bar was an abandoned pool room, dust heavy on the felt of the tables, broken cues tossed recklessly into dark corners. The bartender was a old character named “Petey.”  He had eyes the color of the ocean and a great, bushy beard that would make Triton proud.

But I digress. My point is that the use of the prefix “re” ineluctably points to a desire to iterate or go back to something (OED, cf, ibid, etc.). Unfortunately, turning back the clock to our halcyon years will require that the Inn L’Auberge be demolished so the space can revert to an empty field with a smattering of debris, and the Union Bank building will need to be replaced with a service station.  Well - no one ever said that revitalization was going to be easy.

On the other hand, if “revitalization” means “lets make a buck,” for our business model we need to look no further than the Roaring Sixties, when every other lot in the downtown era hosted a gas station.  Now there was a cash cow!


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