We had several brush fires come down from La Cresta for a visit: those crazy folks in La Cresta were always knocking over lanterns, shorting electrical wire, playing with matches. When I-8 was completed we ceased to worry—the freeway was an effective firebreak.
- Ross Flaven
- Amelia Drive, El Cajon
The house, once upon a time, sat by itself—overlooking acres of oranges, of lemons, of gently lapping hills. It attempted, and failed, to overlook El Capitan Mountain; instead, it accepted the mountain as a pleasant, yet distant, companion.
Ross Flaven. Mobile home parks went up down at Los Coches-and-Old-Highway-Eighty. On both sides of Los Coches.
I was nine when I first entered the house and called it home, 29 when I left it for the final time, in the interim a community had sprouted at its feet, had replaced the oranges and lemons, had grown between the nearness of house and mountain.
Before I-8 was even a gleam in the Department of Transportation’s eye, old Highway 80 had an older Highway 80—a very thin, very ragged strip of concrete slightly to the east: it still functioned. It carried in the dozers, the yellow tractors, the chipped grey cement trucks, the workers, the chain saws. It carried in the wood, the shingles, the wire, and, certainly, the kitchen sinks. And the OPEN HOUSE signs and pennants.
For a great while the acres below were in stasis, pimples white against the brown earth. We would stand against the great fireplace at night and watch the lights through the new picture windows — perhaps thinking that now we had a night view, the twinkling of a neighborhood.
It began as a sapling and turned to pine: the homes below became disguised with spruce, canary island, palm, shrub and an occasional pomegranate. I-8 burrowed between the hills and borrowed the top of Tunnel Hill for its granite. We did not play Christmas music outdoors that year: there had been complaints. Glenview was becoming known as Los Coches-and-Old-Highway-Eighty.
At night the coyotes took over. Yip-yip and a long mournful wail. A construction worker killed a bobcat. He claimed to have used a sledge. I still have a slide of the animal, a white lily next to the carcass.
A water tower went up in the distance and was painted orange. No matter how I concentrated on El Capitan’s gorilla face, my eye saw only an orange blot off in the periphery. Our water storage tank came down and we tied into Helix Water District. We had several brush fires come down from La Cresta for a visit: those crazy folks in La Cresta were always knocking over lanterns, shorting electrical wire, playing with matches. When I-8 was completed we ceased to worry—the freeway was an effective firebreak and we could sit on the lawn and watch in fascination the explosive chaparral as it flared and so quickly burned.
We played co-ed tackle football on an empty spit of land, long before we were aware that there was a distinction; we played soft and hardball on Amelia, long before we knew that traffic implied more than an extremely occasional (and interruptive) vehicle. Sometimes we played with a golf ball.
A friend and I inadvertantly started the engine on a huge piece of road machinery. It ran all night long, the road crew obviously thinking someone had started it for some good reason. It went chungtha-chungtha-chungtha for ten hours until someone turned it off for some good reason. Or until it ran out of gas.
Some parents were concerned whether their children would go to El Cajon High or the new' Granite Hills High.
Once in a great while El Capitan received a splatter of snow. In the far distance, the Lagunas were completely white. On those days, it seemed the air cracked and vision was a forever affair.
Old Highway 80, though not entirely ignored, lost much of its traffic when I-8 was completed, but old Highway 80 still retained a penchant for accidents. The eastern stretch coming up Tunnel Hill gave unobstructed vision for close to a mile; yet cars kept banging into each other with perverse regularity. Bang. Crunch. The neighborhood would turn out in mass on such violent occasions. We would wave curious traffic on and scowl at the looky-loos who slowed to watch.
A petition circulated. Someone had applied for permits to build a mobile home park on the hill behind McGraffs. Parents said to each other that we would and should meet again on a more social basis. Our kids went to the same schools. It was a shame there is no time to gather informally.
The mobile home park was built.
More and more, El Capitan would appear as an aging photo. Brown and somewhat indistinct. We did not notice when it was first noticed. Like the photo, it just happened with no starting point. Smog.
They re-painted the water tank sort of a green.
Mobile home parks went up down at Los Coches-and-Old-Highway-Eighty. On both sides of Los Coches. In the distance near Lake Jennings. And most view lots in the betweens.
The view at night was of an array of outdoor lights, bug lights, head lights, flash lights, brake lights, signal lights, window lights, street lights, an occasional star. 7-11, of course, came to Los Coches-and-Old-Highway-Eighty.
Two days after a hill in Wildcat Canyon was set afire, and quickly controlled, another fire gave it a try. The Laguna fire worked.
A teenager was arrested: a tool shed in the back yard was found to be packed with stolen goods. Mostly non-negotiable.
Another kid had been given a new Jeep. For weeks we listened to the screech of tires and the rack-roar of an engine plainly in the wrong gear. He overturned it, finally, and some of us were tickled pink.
A neighbor across the way coaxed a male German Shepherd into her car and turned him loose in Flynn Springs, several miles away. Her own dog, she explained, was in heat. The German Shepherd had tags—the neighbor never bothered to call the owner.
California Poppies were growing, the first in many years. They grew from seeds bought for 39¢ a packet from Woolworth. Plus tax.
I heard a coyote one night and walked outside to listen. A hundred beagles, poodles, collies, mutts and what-nots joined in. I couldn’t differentiate for sure, but I think the coyote shut up long before the dogs.
A hill below and to the right became criss-crossed with enduro, moto-x, tote-gote and mini-bike footprints. There was a pattern there, I'm sure.
A mobile home in the distance burst into flames one night. It was engulfed, totally, in mere moments. The new chaparral.
A petition was passed about for tie-in with public sewage. But we had enough of our own, thank you.
A private contractor began building custom homes — custom view homes — on a hill above and to the right. Assessments jumped in the neighborhood. So did equity.
A neighbor down below and to the left bought a powerful inboard boat. One night at 11:00 he ran it for an unmuffled half-hour.
For a week solid, someone drove past about 8:00 a.m. and tossed an empty Coors bottle onto the street. Same spot each time.
Our avocado tree bore three fruit but they were stolen before even ripe enough to steal.
An urchin just off the school bus was beating a stick against the street sign stanchion. Clang. Clang. Furiously.
Central heating was put into the house. The grand fireplace was not providing enough heat.
A few people can be seen jogging. A few people can be seen, at all.
We rented a 14-foot stake-bed and moved into San Diego.
The house is for sale. It's in a good neighborhood.
Editor: Sorry, we made assumption that photo was of author's house; removed "Flaven's house." If anyone has photo of the house, glad to add to this story.