Chris Hillman | former Del Mar resident
In 1947, the Hillman family moved from Los Angeles to a house on Las Planaderas in Rancho Santa Fe.
My dad would make the commute to work in LA every Monday morning from the Del Mar train station and would return home Friday evening. Like clockwork, we would all pile into the car to pick him up from the station every Friday. I loved going to the station because that was where they had an old vending machine where I could buy a piece of gum for a penny.
Directly across the street from the station was the Del Mar plunge. The plunge had a really good snack stand with incredible burgers; for example, I remember mom buying us salt water taffy.
Every summer after we had all taken care of our chores at home, we would jump into the car and take the “low road” (Via de la Valle) to spend a day at the beach.
There was one unforgettable character, Knox Harris, who was the head lifeguard at the guard station by the pier.
After a wonderful day, we would head home but not until we stopped at the small market in the alley across from the Del Mar drug store where dad would buy us ice cream sandwiches for the ride home. I remember going to Nick Giordano’s “Del Mar Drugs” whenever we needed a prescription filled.
At the Del Mar pier, I would watch the older guys throw their balsa surfboards off the end of the pier and then jump in after them. I knew in my heart that someday when I was a little older I would be joining them.
In 1950, we ended up going to 25th Street beach as many of our neighbors from the “ranch” went there. The “Inn” at Rancho Santa Fe had a beach house for its guests who were staying at the main hotel in Rancho.
It became a family tradition to go to “Tony’s Jacal” in Eden Gardens for Mexican food. Tony and Catalina Gonzales became very close friends with the Hillman family and to this day, some 64 years later, I still manage to stop by Tony’s whenever I’m close by.
Every year in June the fair would come and set up shop at the Del Mar fairgrounds; this was huge for all the kids in the county as there was an amusement park, rides and mysterious “fair food”. In 1988, it was a great thrill for me to come home and play a show on the main stage at the fair with my group, “The Desert Rose Band.”
After the fair packed up and left, racing season began. We would always see somebody famous from Hollywood down for the races. To see Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz drive by in their red Cadillac convertible was something.
Early every morning if you were driving south from Solana Beach you could usually catch the race horses being lead across the highway for some light exercise in the salt water.
What a time it was especially taking into account that the “101” was the main artery between Oceanside and La Jolla; for all us of us growing up back then it was our “window on the world”. Truly heaven on earth and yes it still retains plenty of charm and beauty but as all beauty fades with change, we cling close to our memories and those we will never lose.