Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ken Kramer's "About San Diego" Program

The Wednesday, 28 January CVGS program featured Ken Kramer, the Channel 7/39 host of the "About San Diego" local history program. Ken's curriculum vitae was posted here.

We had 64 persons in attendance today - pretty good considering our membership is only 93. There were 23 visitors, including several genealogy spouses, and quite a few from the community who had seen the notice in the newspaper and a local email political newsletter.

Ken talked about the development of the TV show, his own career, many examples of interesting San Diego area stories, and showed three videos of South Bay stories. Few people in the audience were aware of the Otay River flood in 1916, the Otay Watch Works and the Salt Factory on San Diego Bay.

Ken said he grew up in Los Angeles watching "Ralph Story's Los Angeles" stories on Channel 2. His goal for the "About San Diego" show is to celebrate the history of the area, the beauty of the county, and give viewers a sense of place - so that they consider it "theirs" - they identify as a San Diegan. The vignettes are really about "who we are" - stories about people and places in our home town.

There are some stories that Ken said he gets asked about all of the time -

* the midget houses (built for the munchkins in "Wizard of Oz") on Mount Soledad (not true - they just look small from the road when you look down on them);

* the Belmont Park roller coaster that went off the track and crashed into the Jack-in-the-Box next door (not true, it was a Taco Bell...wait, not true at all, never happened);

* Thomas Edison stayed in the Hotel del Coronado around 1900 and when the lights dimmed he went to the basement and added coal to the boilers (not true - the electric works weren't in the Hotel basement).

He mentioned how several street names were derived:

* "Lanoitan Street" in National City: "National" backwards is "Lanoitan."

* "Espola Road" in North County is not a Spanish name - it is the first two letters of EScondido, POway and LAkeside put together

* Pomerado Road" in North County is not a Spanish name - it is a combination of POway, MERton and RAncho bernarDO put together.

There were true stories from long ago:

* In the late 1880's, the city of San Diego contracted for a flume to bring water from the Cuyamaca Mountains to the city. When it was built, the city mayor, California governor and other dignitaries were put in little boats and sent down the flume - a wild ride before Mr. Toad! At the San Diego terminus, the valve was opened and nothing came out. So they hooked the valve up to the old water system, opened the valve, and the politicians praised the fresh, er, brackish water they'd been drinking previously.

* In the 1960's, Regis Philbin had a local TV show and took a Marine Drill Instructor along to spend the night in the Whaley House in Old Town (which was supposed to be haunted). By 11 p.m., the Marine was out in the middle of the street and wouldn't go back in the house, and Regis said that he would never go in the house again.

* In 1916, the City hired a rainmaker, Charles Hatfield, to fill Lake Morena in the back country for $10,000. Hatfield set up his rainmaking apparatus and put chemicals into the air, and it started to rain soon after, and didn't stop for days. After 22 inches of rain, the rivers and streams overflowed, the Otay Dam broke and washed away farms, people and livestock in the river valley below the dam, resulting in $8 million in damages. Hatfield wanted his money, and the city agreed, but said Hatfield had to be liable for any damages. He left town quickly.

Ken's current television show, "About San Diego" airs on Saturday and Sunday nights at 6 p.m. on Channel 7/39. Original episodes are shown on Sunday nights, and the Saturday shows are repeats about three months later. He has just signed with KOGO-600 AM to do segments in the morning show. He is also working on a book "About San Diego" and hopes to have it published by Christmas. Ken promised to come back to Chula Vista for a book signing. And more stories "About San Diego."

The audience really enjoyed Ken's personality, his career stories and the stories about the places we live and work. There seems to be a thirst for knowledge about local history in the population, partially because most people are from someplace else, and partially because our busy lives prevent us from reading local history books at our leisure.

For our genealogy society, this was a superb program. It brought many community people in who are non-members. Hopefully, it will cause some of them to join our society and discover the fun of genealogy and family history.

No comments: