Wayne Bamford knew more secrets about Linda Vista than anyone. It was the spring of 2007, and Bamford was helping me dig into the community’s ongoing squabbles. Two years later, in early May, I wanted to learn the latest on the fate of Skateworld, immediately north of the corner of Linda Vista Road and Comstock Street.
The roller-skating rink was facing a possible shutdown as part of local redevelopment plans. Bamford would be my first contact. I called the phone number I had for him. I emailed him. No response. A Google search eventually turned up a shocker: on April 30, 2009, Bamford, at 70 years old, had died unexpectedly at his daughter’s home. A memorial service would be held a few weeks later. “I found him when I got home from work,” his daughter later told me. “He was doing fine when I left in the morning. I really miss him.”
Linda Vista community activists miss him, too. Nick Hughes (not his real name) was one of Bamford’s closest friends. “Wayne could come up with information about every kind of issue. One time, we were together where a guy was entering a restricted-access area. [The guy] punched the keypad on one of those cypher locks. We were at a fair distance, but I noticed Wayne jotting down the numbers the guy had punched. I asked what the heck he was doing, and he said, ‘You never know when it might come in handy.’ He always seemed to be good at technical things, especially things related to law enforcement. We went up to the police academy off Miramar Road once, and Wayne was immediately familiar with a training simulator being used there.”
Mainly, however, Bamford seemed to have had a knack for convincing the right person to cough up the right information. Hughes kept duplicate copies of any interesting documents that turned up. “Wayne told me he had paperwork everywhere,” says Hughes, “and that if his house ever burned, a lot of important information might get lost.”
Bamford’s Linda Vista concerns ran from the seriously consequential to the trivial. “He never wanted leadership positions,” says JoAnn Carini, another longtime friend, “though he served on our planning committee and several other community organizations. Wayne liked to work in the shadows.” Carini tells me how Bamford obtained a badge for being a volunteer for the City of San Diego’s Neighborhood Code Compliance Department. “On weekends he would go to Morley Green, our neighborhood park on Linda Vista Road, where people were in the habit of setting up yard sales. It was making the community look like a ghetto. And Wayne would show up with his badge, like he was a City enforcement officer, and tell people they weren’t permitted to sell there. He’d say, ‘I’ll be back to check on you in half and hour.’ And the people would leave.”
But saving Skateworld was Bamford’s greatest preoccupation. He loved the skating rink, as many Linda Vistans still do. It attracted people of all ages and gave to neighborhood kids especially some great recreation and discipline. It offered them a place to connect with others. Parents could drop their children off and feel they’d remain safe and off the streets. There was structure. While in the facility, the kids had to follow strict rules; going in and out was forbidden, so the fun could not be mixed with drugs or alcohol. Skateworld also brought outsiders from all over San Diego County into Linda Vista, where they’d often spend money before going home. The rink served as a venue for birthday parties and school, college, and church outings. It staged benefits for worthwhile causes. And on and on.
Late in my 2007 conversations with Bamford, he finally hinted at what he considered to be the dark forces threatening Skateworld. He’d attended District 6 councilwoman Donna Frye’s Linda Vista appearances, most often at Bayside Community Center, kitty-corner from Skateworld, and ask her questions. Linda Vista contains a San Diego Redevelopment Agency project area, and Skateworld lies within it. Bamford told me he didn’t get much out of Frye. He said she always had a way of deflecting his queries.
But I couldn’t be sure about what he learned because Bamford kept sensitive information and suspicions close to the vest, perhaps waiting for the right moment to reveal them. For whatever reasons, his friends agreed, he confided different kinds of information to different people. I liked Bamford but found him to be a mystery. To understand him better, I pestered him about what his career had been before retiring. He wouldn’t say. So I guessed, more than half seriously, that he’d worked for the FBI. He made no response, though a wry smile appeared on his pleasant, round face. Then he went on to other topics. Recently, I learned that he’d retired from a career at General Atomics. Neither Carini nor Hughes knows anything further.
Bamford also gave me insight into his relentless yet circumspect modus operandi. He said that City officials seemed to think of Linda Vista as a doormat, a backwater full of know-nothings. I still have a few recordings of our conversations. “You can tell the Redevelopment Agency is planning something they know we won’t like,” he says on one, “and that something will split the community into bitter camps. Ultimately, the City will do whatever it pleases. And it is true; we are unsophisticated and simple people here, especially in comparison with the redevelopment honchos. By the time we figure things out, the game is already half over. What we need more than anything else is more participation by the whole community before decisions are made.”
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Skateworld is housed in a large rounded-roof building that looks like a World War II Quonset hut. As part of a shopping center built in the early 1940s, the structure was meant originally to serve as an entertainment facility for thousands of aircraft-manufacturing workers. Linda Vista was then a brand-new development built to house workers who came to San Diego to do their part in the war effort.