Thursday, October 16, 2014

#ThrowbackThursday: Clairemont Memories by Donna Frye

In honor of "Throwback Thursday", here is a story from one of the Clairemont Community News' first"Clairemont History" issues, from August 2007 by former Councilmember and long-time Clairemont resident Donna Frye. Enjoy!

My family and I moved to San Diego in the late “50s. Our first home was in Clairemont off Clairemont Drive and overlooked Mission Bay and the canyon. The milkman delivered fresh dairy products to the house in the morning, and in the afternoons, we’d run to find change to buy some goodies from the bakery man or popsicle truck.

The canyon below our house was home only to the critters. There were alligator lizards, blue bellies, tiger lizards and sand lizards, but my favorites were the hornytoads  (they ate the ants and were mellow) and the skinks’ (they had vibrant colors and smooth shiny skin).

Donna Frye 1958
My brother and I would spend the days playing in the canyon, and catching lizards to bring home to release in the backyard. Every so often, we would sneak one of the lizards into the house and of course, it would get away. More than once, Mom found it when we were at school and it would scare the wits out of her. There were snakes too, and we were always on the lookout for one to bring home to show Mom and Dad.

The canyon plants were as amazing as the lizards. We saw patches of barrel cactus and prickly pear and the one that seemed to cause us the most pain, if we weren’t careful - the jumping cactus.

Our house had a big picture window that overlooked Mission Bay and during the day, we could see the barge dredging the bay. At night, we would watch
the lights come on from all around the city, but I especially liked the lights from Belmont Park.

The summers in Clairemont were the best. We could stay out and play with our friends until almost dark. We would ride our bikes, play kickball in the cul-de-sac or just sit around in the front yard talking and laughing.

In 1962, we moved to another part of Clairemont off Balboa. There were lots of canyons and open space, although there were more houses and some office buildings on the mesa.  It was pretty good lizard hunting too.

The elementary school I attended, Oliver Wendell Holmes, was right down the street and it was almost brand new. In the fifth grade, I was honored when I was chosen to read aloud the biography of Holmes as part of the school dedication. My teacher, Mr. Kay, was one of the best teachers I ever had. He was kind and patient and he read wonderful books to us. I especially remember the Island of the Blue Dolphins and how it touched me. We also had arts and music programs.

I was in the Girl Scouts and once a week we assembled in the front of the school to raise and lower the flag. We learned how to fold it properly and make sure it did not touch the ground. We also had a girls’ teamball team, and after school, we would go to other local elementary schools to compete. One year we were the teamball champions.

I also attended dance class after school that was provided by the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department. I took tap dancing, and the highlight of the class was a nighttime dance recital for our parents and our friends. My dance routine included jumping rope and tapping at the same time. Although it was good preparation for my current job, I am thankful that video cameras were not yet invented.

Donna Frye
Today, as I sit and write this, I am grateful for having grown up in such a caring and nurturing community. My husband, Skip, and I moved back to our family home in Clairemont to live with my Mom, after my Dad passed many years ago. We still have many of the same wonderful neighbors and we still bring in each other’s trash cans, and if someone goes on vacation, we pick up their mail and newspaper, and they ours.

There are still a few lizards around, although not as many, and the hornytoads have disappeared. Instead of trying to catch them, I grab the camera to document their appearance. Even though the community has changed since I first moved here, the memories remain, and I know there are many more good times to come.

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