Fifteen Years Ago
The death of shopping center czar Ernest Hahn last week got plenty of coverage in the San Diego Union-Tribune. There were three stories and one editorial the day after his death, and a fourth story and a Neil Morgan column after his funeral. All trumpeted Hahn’s accomplishments and legacy. Morgan even referred to the developer as “Mr. San Diego,” an honor he received in 1990 from the San Diego Rotary Club.
Oddly enough, there was no mention at all of Hahn’s ties to another one-time Mr. San Diego, C. Arnholt Smith, who had received the honor in 1961. The failed financier bankrolled Hahn’s very first shopping center back in 1967, La Cumbre Plaza in Santa Barbara. Smith also made Hahn a director of his United States National Bank, the notorious San Diego financial institution whose collapse in October 1973 ultimately led to the fall of the House of Arnholt.
Smith and Hahn initially met in the middle 1960s, when U.S. National Bank — then at the peak of its bank-buying spree — purchased Pacific State Bank, which Hahn had co-founded. Hahn, who also served as Pacific State’s president, was promptly elected to U.S. National Bank’s 18-member board of directors. In a telephone interview, Smith, now 93, recalled the deal: “We were looking for bank locations in that general area there, so we made a cold call on them to see if they would like to merge with U.S. National Bank. And out of that conversation came the deal.”
— CITY LIGHTS: “WHAT THEY DIDN’T TELL YOU ABOUT MR. SAN DIEGO,” Thomas K. Arnold, January 7, 1993
Ten Years Ago
I had seen Convoy play the previous night at ’Canes in Mission Beach. They opened for Lucy’s Fur Coat, a San Diego band that in 1994 was poised on the brink of stardom. Behind the antics of manic frontman Charlie Ware, Lucy’s rode the wave of a media-induced buzz: for a time in the early- and mid-’90s, San Diego was going to be the second Seattle. That never happened. Lucy’s Fur Coat released an album; then Ware quit the band to attend law school. A lawyer now with his own telephone extension, Ware rejoined the band, and on this night they headlined a show for a loyal local audience.
’Canes seemed more like a dance club than a live-act venue, with its tiered floors, disco balls, and DJ booth. The crowd of beautiful and fit college-age kids had dressed up —even wore cologne and perfume — to come hear music; I spotted several cigar smokers, flirting, lifting their chins to blow smoke. This crowd was here for Lucy’s Fur Coat, not Convoy.
The two bands have little in common. Lucy’s plays a guitar-driven hard rock, and Ware’s intensity incites something just short of moshing. Convoy plays original country rock, what [Jason] Hill calls “American music.”
— “SOUNDINGS,” Justin Wolff, January 8, 1998
Five Years Ago
I’m at a party in Point Loma celebrating the successful conclusion of a literary event that took a great deal of time and effort to put together. Everyone involved is letting go after months of preplanning, meeting deadlines, corresponding with finicky writers who demand this and that. We’re partying hearty, as they say in San Diego. I’m talking poetry and literature with several of the country’s best writers. The food is delicious; we’re standing outdoors on the terrace of a lovely Point Loma home with a magnificent view. Life is good. There’s just one problem. I’m drinking too much. The Chardonnay is going down like a soothing brain balm, making the night seem even more magical. I’ve got to be careful. Seven years ago I got a DUI, and that experience convinced me never again to drink and drive. But here I am at a party, drinking and having to drive home. The thought crosses my mind, “I’ll call a cab,” but it’s fleeting. “I’m not that drunk,” I tell myself.
— “DUI,” Fred Moramarco, January 2, 2003