12. Squid Tuna Hook
This squid — a tuna lure — is the size of a man’s hand, made of brass and filled with lead. Its rooster feathers are string-cinched over animal skin: wet feathers, jumping on the ocean surface, resemble a squid, a bait tuna can’t refuse. It’s known as a three-pole squid: attached to three poles and wielded by three men, one of these hooks landed a 150-pound tuna. (Squids are on display at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.) From the 1930s to 1980s, San Diego was the tuna capital of the world. Catching and canning the Pacific bluefin and the albacore was the third largest driver of the city’s economy, behind the Navy and the aircraft industry. Before 1930, the Japanese in San Diego dominated the trade; after that, immigrant fishermen streamed in from Portugal and Italy and took over. Canneries at the Tenth Avenue terminal, such as Van Camp, Starkist, and Bumble Bee, employed thousands. Day and night, a whistle blew when loaded boats docked and gutters and cookers hustled to work. Small crews on bait boats motored south to the tropics, as far as the Galapagos Islands, for weeks or months. One by one, they caught the fish, slid them into the hold, and covered them with ice. A typical load was 100 tons. After well-enforced laws to protect the porpoise, a fellow-traveling mammal that got caught in the nets, the tuna industry went belly up.
13. National League Championship, Game 4 Ticket
Most (middle-aged/older) San Diegans remember where they were when they saw this game, October 6, 1984 — a few at the Murph, hundreds of thousands in front of their TVs. Michael Babida, who works for the Padres today, knows where he was: he saved his ticket. It was the greatest moment in our sports teams’ history, brought to us, vexingly, by an ex–Los Angeles Dodger, Steve Garvey, nicknamed “Mr. Clean.” In the best-of-five series, the Padres were down, two games to one, to the Chicago Cubs. The fourth game was tied 3-3 when the Friars scratched ahead in the bottom of the seventh inning, 5-3, only to be knotted up again by the Cubs in the next inning, 5-5. In the bottom of the ninth, after Tony Gwynn hit a single, Garvey, who arrived from the Dodgers in 1983 — $6 million over five years — took a ball. But not the next pitch. Boom! he connected, and the announcer called it: “Deep right field. Way back. Cato [the right-fielder] going back. To the wall. It’s gone. Home run, Garvey — and there will be tomorrow.” Like an Olympic athlete in protest, Garvey pumped his white-gloved fist in the air. The clutch hitter had five RBIs for the day, culminating in his walk-off home run. Everyone knew the gods would smile on the Pads again; coming from behind, they won the fifth game and earned the National League pennant.
14. Heaven’s Gate Purple Shroud
One day in March 1997, Heaven’s Gate’s 39 men and women put on new Nike hi-tops, identical black shirts, and sweat pants, ate Phenobarbital-laced apple sauce and pudding, chased with vodka, and lay down to await a painless death. In their Rancho Santa Fe mansion, they suicided in shifts. Each corpse was draped with a square purple shroud (one is on display at Hollywood’s Museum of Death), probably by their leader, Marshall Applewhite, the last to go. When found three days later by an ex-member and videotaped, a frenzied media revealed the uniformity of the horror. Each had made an “Exit Video.” They described their bodies as “vehicles,” their time on Earth spent “growing a soul.” (Strict cult rules meant behavioral conformity, high-tech jobs, no sex: over-testosteroned men were voluntarily castrated.) The planet was about to be “recycled,” so they “evacuated” en masse for the “Next Level.” Their “out” came as a comet, a 25-mile-wide chunk of ice called Hale-Bopp, passing near enough our solar system to catch. Attached to Hale-Bopp, in its 20 million-mile tail of gas, was, they thought, a spaceship (the Gate) they would board. In their videos, each member offers in the bougainvillea-bordered backyard, on a gloriously bright spring day, his or her unsentimental farewell. In the next life, each would be reborn as “nonhuman.” They would not die but return to space, where they belonged. Heaven, if you will.
15. Meyer Medal for Kate Sessions
In 1939, the American Genetic Association presented its Frank N. Meyer medal, today in the collection of the San Diego History Museum, to the 82-year-old Sessions, the “Mother of Balboa Park,” citing her long career of introducing foreign plants to the region. By turns a schoolteacher, nursery-owner, flower-shop proprietress, horticulturalist, landscape architect, and seed collector, Sessions was a force in local botany and gardening for 55 years, until her death in 1940. Under a land-lease agreement for her commercial nursery, every year she planted 100 trees in Balboa Park and 300 throughout the city. Here’s a short list of her green-thumbed propagations: agave, aloe, fig, cypress, pine, oak, pepper tree, eucalyptus, ceanothus, jacaranda, bird of paradise, poinsettia, one mighty still-standing Tipuana tree at the corner of Garnet and Pico in Pacific Beach, and the mesembryanthemum, or iceplant. If you loll in the park’s palm grove — she grew those Brahea brandegeei from seeds gathered in Baja California — thank Kate’s trusty spade and loving touch for the magnificent flora beside and above you.
16. Kumeyaay Rattlesnake Basket
Dating from the 1870s, this basket, from the Barona Cultural Center, belonged to the grandmother of Josephine "Sister" Romero, a descendant of the Capitan Grande Indians, who were split into the Barona and Viejas bands. (Kumeyaay is a language group, spoken by and identifying the ’Iipay/Diegueño people.) One theory of the basket’s design is that the white diamondback snake woven into the bottom — an animation prototype; motion lines indicate its slithering descent — would scare off squirrels, rabbits, and other small game from filching. The bundle coil is made of juncus, a riverine rush or plant stem; the elongated rods, darkened and almost pixel-shaped, are dyed. Alas, rattlesnake talismans didn’t stop the human filching. In 1930, the Capitan Grande Indians were ordered to leave one part of their homeland to greenlight the county’s El Capitan dam and reservoir. Pooling buyout money, some members bought land and relocated themselves in the Barona Valley. Not every removal ends badly. Today, the Barona Band is thriving with a mission, a golf course, a casino, and a 400-room hotel.