Having grown up in Mira Mesa, I had lots of friends in Scripps Ranch. It was our neighboring community, and in the '80s the kids there all went to Mira Mesa High School because Scripps Ranch High hadn't been built.
Whenever I found out one of my classmates lived in Scripps Ranch, I always thought "rich kid." And if I went to his house, through the winding streets lined with trees, I would be surprised that some of the houses didn't look much different from those in Mira Mesa, although others were gigantic and beautiful, especially the ones that lined Lake Miramar. That's the lake where we always went fishing as kids, even though we never caught anything.
In last year's fires, Scripps Ranch lost almost 300 homes. Residents have wondered about the reconstruction and how bad that will make traffic on Pomerado Road, but traffic on that road has always been bad. It's the main artery (one lane in each direction) to I-15 from a lot of residential areas.
Right there on Pomerado, near the 15, is Alliant International University. When it was USIU I used to play basketball there. Junior Seau and Doug Flutie of the Chargers would show up to play. One time Flutie threw a perfect pass downcourt to a guy who scored a layup. Someone yelled, "That's the only pass you've thrown all year that's been caught." On the Mondays after games, Flutie's elbows would often be bandaged and occasionally he'd be limping. But he'd still be one of the best players on the court. Playing against professional athletes was one of the few times I dreaded "shirts and skins." For you nonathletes, that's where one team has to play without shirts so teammates can be distinguished. You realize you need to start working out when you look at Seau's chiseled body and are afraid to even glance down at your own gut. It was mornings when some of the Chargers showed up there, as well as a few former NBA players, including former all-star Don Kojis, who, even though he was in his 60s, blocked three of my shots in a row.
Scripps Ranch's history started with newspaperman E.W. Scripps. He came to California in 1890 to see his sister in Alameda. He visited San Diego, liked the climate, and built a home he called Miramar. He and his half-sister Ellen Browning Scripps bought 400 acres of what is today Scripps Ranch. They paid $5000. He ended up acquiring 2100 acres and built a winter home for when the cold months hit Illinois. But by 1900, it was his family's year-round home. The estate was covered with citrus, pine, and eucalyptus trees -- many of which can still be seen at the Scripps Ranch Swim & Racquet Club.
About the eucalyptus trees -- when I was a kid, my stepdad told me that Scripps brought them in because he wanted to sell them to make telegraph poles, and it was the first time eucalyptus trees were brought to California. Ellen Anderson, the bookkeeper for the Swim & Racquet Club, who's lived in Scripps Ranch for 14 years, told me she thought he brought in the trees to make railroad ties, but the wood turned out to be too brittle. (According to an article at the historical society, Scripps planted eucalyptus, but he wasn't the first in San Diego to do it.)
When I mentioned residents who have been here for a while, Anderson said, "You can always tell because they say they are going to 'Little Bear.' It's now a 7-Eleven and has been a few different convenience stores, but it was a Little Bear a long time ago."
I wanted to talk to residents of Scripps Ranch. I talked to Gloria Tran, who's the editor of the newsletter for the Scripps Ranch Civic Association. She has been here since 1997 and said, "I don't want to sound all Pollyanna, but it seems like most residents have younger kids. There are great schools here, and it's got a small-town feel, like Pleasantville." When I mentioned reading something about the schools, she said, "Dingeman Elementary was named after Bob Dingeman. You should talk to him."
I called Bob Dingeman, an 82-year-old retired colonel who fought in three wars and has a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart. He told me, "I moved here in 1976. I was looking for a nice country-living type of place. There were 900 homes and beautiful trees everywhere. And a sense of community. I could go jogging and see coyotes, deer, rabbits. There was this lot across from my house which Corky McMillin bought, and he put in 1400 homes. Around that time, I became a community activist -- in 1977."
Dingeman told me with pride about the fire station, which the community paid for, and its Orchid Award-winning architecture. He told me there are 900 acres of landscaping that the city doesn't maintain but the residents do.
We talked about the Old Pros, a group that's sponsored runs and bike rides for decades. He told me Scripps has a "Symphony in the Park" at Hoyt Park, with wine and cheese, on a stage that he put in.
I thought schools were named for people only after they had passed away. I asked him about Bob Dingeman Elementary. He said, "You know, I fought in three wars. I graduated from West Point and have over 32 air medals. I taught at Miramar College for 18 years. But when the school has Bob Dingeman Day and the kids hold flags and sing 'Happy Birthday' to me, it's amazing. Nothing is as thrilling as a little girl giving me a big hug."
He told me before I hung up, "We have more Girl Scouts than anywhere in the county."