"We also had the wonderful climate. People especially started coming after World War I. Men who had been gassed during the war and had damage to their lungs. There was a special sanatorium in Alpine just for treating those men. We were also on the route between San Diego and points east. Particularly Fort Yuma. So there were always people traveling east to west and west to east. Alpine became a stopping point. When the automobile became popular, we started having gas stations, motels, and restaurants. It just kept developing from there.
"The biggest population growth occurred between 1970 and 1990. This started after public water came to Alpine and Interstate 8 came through. I just saw a picture of the old fire station taken in the mid-1960s. There's a sign in the picture that gives Alpine's population as 2600. That was pre-water and pre-Interstate 8. We were connected to public water in 1962, and Interstate 8 came in 1969. Before that time, people had only well water to rely on.
"The house that we're sitting in, which now belongs to the historical society, first belonged to Dr. Sophronia Nichols, who came out to California in 1888 because her sister, Caroline Foss, lived here in Alpine. Nichols was a licensed medical doctor. She had California medical license number 26. She'd attended Boston Medical School. She lived and practiced medicine here in Alpine until her death in 1903. She practiced family medicine. Now, to give you an idea of how small and close-knit Alpine used to be, Dr. Nichols delivered Betty Noble's mother. Betty Noble is another of Alpine's interesting personalities. She was born in Alpine in 1923, and she was the granddaughter of B.F. Walker, who established the Willows, a resort and restaurant, in 1894. Alpine at that time was a resort town. People came here to get away from the hassle of downtown San Diego. There were about six different resorts up here. Asthma and tuberculosis, of course, played a role in this. Until the automobile, the air up here was considered particularly pure.
"Betty Noble joined the Marine Corps during WWII, and she remained a Marine until 1962. She returned to Alpine. She was a sergeant major. There were maybe only three or four women who ever reached that rank in the Marine Corps. She remained very active in the group for retired women Marines. She played golf with them. She never married. She was always a Marine until the end. She had that bearing. And she could still wear her uniform, fit into it, until the day she died. She died in South Carolina. She had gone to attend a women Marines' golf tournament and had a heart problem and died back there. But she is buried in our local cemetery. She always helped us when the historical society gave tours to grade-school children. Her memorial donations went to the Alpine Woman's Club and to the historical society. We've put the funds together, and we're having an engraved granite bench installed in Alpine Cemetery for her."
I asked Morrison how her own family had found its way to Alpine.
"We moved to Alpine in 1988 from Fletcher Hills in El Cajon. We wanted a house with more land that we could put our motor home and RVs on. We just kept looking in El Cajon. We didn't want to go to Alpine. That was too far. We kept looking in east El Cajon, but we couldn't find anything. So our realtor gave us Alpine listings, and when we came here we suddenly found houses that were what we wanted and that had land. We bought a new house that had been custom-built. It came with about one acre of land. The house is about 2200 square feet. We paid $250,000. At the time it seemed like a lot of money. The house we had in Fletcher Hills we paid only $72,000 for. Although we sold it for $235,000.
"When we got to Alpine in 1988, the main difference was that there was less traffic. No traffic lights. The only stop sign in town was at Alpine Boulevard and Victoria Drive. There was one grocery store. Two small shopping centers. There were fewer houses. Even where we live now on Victoria Drive, the land around us has been filled with houses. I think the population was around 11,000 when we moved here, and it's 17,000 now.
"One of the reasons that I definitely feel affection for this town is that my father was in the Navy, and we traveled around a lot. I attended five different elementary schools and three different high schools. I've lived longer in Alpine than in any other place in my life. Alpine is home. It has a strong sense of place because it still retains its rural atmosphere. My husband would say it's an escape from the congestion from downtown. Even now when I tell people that I live in Alpine, their reaction always is, 'Oh, that's a nice place!' So we have this sense of wanting to keep it nice. Wanting to keep it small and not have the problems that people have elsewhere. I don't think we have quite the problems that other places have with gangs and drugs. It's just more of a cohesive mixture of people."
What did Morrison see as the big problems facing Alpine in the next 20 years?
"Growth. Some people want to continue to build houses in an almost uncontrolled manner, and there are others who recognize the importance of growth but understand that it must be controlled. We want to keep the rural atmosphere. Controlled growth is possible, but there needs to be more cooperation between the slow-growth people and the developers. The Wright's Field issue is, I think, important because Wright's Field could be turned into our Balboa Park. Not that we're going to put a zoo in there, but it would attract people to Alpine. It has archeological sites on it. For example, there's a ten-acre area there that was walled in by the Indians. They were growing wheat inside the ten acres and wanted to keep the cows out. There are also some adobe ruins there. There's endangered species of different plants like the Engelmann oak and the chocolate lily. There are roads through Wright's Field that the stagecoach used to take. The Back Country Land Trust now owns most of Wright's Field and is now in negotiations to buy the rest of it, an additional 142 acres. That's one of the big issues facing the community."