I’ve lived in Mira Mesa all but 6 of my 34 years. I watched it grow from a community with one gas station, one grocery store, and the main street, Mira Mesa Boulevard, ending at Parkdale. The boulevard now goes from the I-15, past Parkdale, through Sorrento Valley to the 805. I remember the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which we walked to, since we lived around the corner. The ten-year-olds I hung out with were mad that we would no longer be able to ride our bikes down the dirt road to the old abandoned ranch or the olive grove where we shot BB guns. Sometimes we’d get adventurous at night and ride through the fields up to the cemetery and tell ghost stories. We’d always leave with security chasing us.
When Challenger Junior High School was built across the street from my house, I was bummed to be losing my favorite canyon. It was a canyon where my friends and I played cowboys and Indians, caught lizards and king snakes, and watched fires rage. My older brother caught rattlesnakes by pressing a tree branch against their heads and pushing them into a box. He’d ride his Huffy bike home, laughing as it rattled. Eat your heart out, Crocodile Hunter!
When they started developing the land leading to Sorrento Valley, they found Indian artifacts. As when the school was built, development stopped while the area was excavated. My brother and I went out there hoping to get rich finding arrowheads, but all we found was a teenagers’ fort with empty beer bottles, cigarettes, and a porno magazine (which our parents eventually discovered after we brought it back to our fort — which was, unfortunately, in our own back yard).
Mira Mesa High School was built in 1977. I graduated from it ten years later. We had close to a thousand kids in our graduating class because Scripps Ranch had yet to build its own high school. We had a lot of Asians, and Mira Mesa was often called Manila Mesa. I played basketball with the Filipino guys and dated Filipinas. And I loved the smell of lumpia and pansit, which their elders cooked at our recreation center on weekends.
I read in the paper that there are Asian gangs in this area, although I don’t see them. I do see their cars some nights, in a long caravan down the boulevard. They meet at In-N-Out Burger before heading off for illegal street races on Kearny Villa Road or in Sorrento Valley. Although I don’t see gang activity, I’ve been close to my share of violence. A guy I played basketball with, Tony Giles, was shot and killed at our rec center. At the same place 20 years later, my girlfriend’s daughter had an underage friend who died there because of drugs. The library next to the rec center has become the Epicentre, which is a teen center and an all-age music venue. A new library was built next door.
But there are so many things I love about Mira Mesa, like the House of Ice, which was fun in the summer, before we were old enough to drive to the rink at UTC. We have Lake Miramar, which we always fished at, although we never caught anything. Apparently somebody does, because the largest bass in San Diego was caught there in the late ’70s. We are one of the few places left that has a Farrell’s — the old-fashioned ice cream parlor, with old-fashioned candies and a player piano.
We didn’t have many celebrities in Mira Mesa. All through high school, I worked at the McDonald’s, and it was a big thrill when sportscaster Ted Leitner or Padre Tony Gwynn came in for a Big Mac. Both lived in Scripps Ranch. On the subject of baseball players, 1989 MVP Kevin Mitchell was often in Mira Mesa, playing pickup basketball and baseball games. We’ve had a few Mira Mesa High alumni make it into professional sports, including my high school teammate Ray Rowe — who had success at SDSU also. But the most famous athlete we had was Michael Pittman, who is now a running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
My stepdad delivered mail here for over 20 years (and it’s how he met my mom, just like in the mailman jokes). On Halloween, we walked his route with him and racked up lots of candy. It’s a middle-class neighborhood, with modest three-bedroom houses. My parents paid $21,000 for their place on New Salem Street. My mom and stepdad paid $46,000 for the three-bedroom, two-bath on Parkdale in 1977.
While I sit in an apartment in Mira Mesa, I long for the good ol’ days. Especially for those house prices.
And some of that Halloween candy.