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Best Reader stories from 1991

Bicycle deaths, Madame Schumann-Heink, Marshall South, Karen Wilkening, paving of I-15, Helen and David Copley, Luis Urrea's Tijuana

In spite of these gory occurrences Dan Gindling maintains that San Diego is a safe place to ride.  - Image by Robert Burroughs
In spite of these gory occurrences Dan Gindling maintains that San Diego is a safe place to ride.
  • Satan chasers

  • San Diego has many experts in the field of Satanism who say the county is a hotbed of Satanic activity. The hidden canyons of the back country, Ramona, Santee, Escondido, even Oceanside, are said to be riddled with the ritual sites of devil worshippers. But physical evidence of such groups is almost nonexistent. Much easier to find are those who believe Satanic cults exist.
  • By Mary Lang, Dec. 5, 1991
Rick Post: "I never met a Satanist who wasn’t into meth."
An amphipod. Amphipods are interesting because they have these things in their guts. You can isolate a large variety of very interesting microrganisms.
  • O we sail the oceans blue and our amphipod's a cutie

  • Our departure from the Nimitz Marine Facility at the end of Rosecrans on Point Loma has been delayed. Aristides Yayanos. who leads a scientific team from UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography, has had difficulty locating a forklift for his fiberglass shed full of research equipment.
  • By John Brizzolara, Nov. 27, 1991
  • Rebels without an engine

  • Standing on Pringle Street near Kettner Boulevard, looking up a precipitous grade of snaking asphalt, I tried to imagine Freddie Hafner's thoughts - aged 41 — one second before his death. Dressed in purple mesh tank top, gray cut-off jeans, brand XJ900 purple-and-white tennis shoes, music pumping through earphones into brain, Freddie blisters like a blur of blue on his bicycle. Then a truck.
  • By Ray Westberg, Nov. 14, 1991
  • Madame Shumann-Heink, the diva of Grossmont

  • Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink's life had the before-and-after quality of a fairy tale. She was born in poverty and achieved riches. She was plain in appearance yet had a regal and impressive bearing on the concert stage. She began her opera career modestly in Austria at age 15, but by the time she moved her family to San Diego, at 48, she was one of the most famous and revered women of her time, revered women of her time.
  • By Richard W. Amero, Nov. 7, 1991
Schumann-Heink performing at Spreckles Organ Pavilion, 1915
South, penniless, suddenly stripped of his regular income, he settled into the Julian Library, sleeping on a little cot and using the attached bathroom.
  • Marshal South and family, the hermits of Ghost Mountain

  • To choose this place for a home, to try to survive here month after month, year after year, building a mud-walled shelter, conceiving children, raising them up from infancy, to do all that in the absence of not just roads or telephones or electricity but even of water (other than what could be hauled up the trail or caught as rainfall) — this, for most people, would be unthinkable.
  • By Jeannette DeWyze, Oct. 17, 1991
  • Madam to San Diego elite

  • I think the police believed they'd uncovered an upper-strata, society-type call girl ring that they hadn’t known about. From what I've been able to reconstruct, they then designed an elaborate sting operation that took several months to arrange. They chose one of their young, attractive policewomen who had been a centerfold on a police calendar, and they sent her to my attorney friend.
  • By Karen Wilkening, Oct. 3, 1991
  • Like your road widened, Mister?

  • In the pre-dawn gloaming, the roadbuilding machines are just black shapes lined up beside the southbound lanes of Interstate 15. From the overpass at Miramar Way, only the light from streaking headlights betrays the angled outlines of multi-ton graders, pulverizers, rollers, trench cutters, bulldozers, and pavers. The neat lines of cars hurtling toward San Diego seem linked like iron chains anchored somewhere far away to the north.
  • By Neal Matthews, Sept. 5, 1991
Roads like Old Highway 80 were paved with concrete; but after the war, asphalt paving was perfected.
  • I will take spit on the tips of my fingers and draw tears down my cheeks

  • In our old neighborhood in Tijuana, my Aunt Lety and Cousin Hugo are in the family house on Rampa Independencia. They are waiting for Beto to arrive from his visit to Sinaloa. Hugo has built him a small bedroom where he keeps all Beto’s tokens — love letters, bowling trophies, moldering Playboys, a box of photographs. In those photos, my father is a skinny boy with a heart-shaped mouth.
  • By Luis Urrea, July 3, 1991
  • A son by any other name

  • “Margaret Hunt vs. John Hunt.” The day was October 13, 1951; a marriage was being quietly dissolved. Only 20 days earlier, the Hunts had been hastily wed in Marengo, the seat of Iowa County, 30 miles on the opposite side of Cedar Rapids. On the day of their wedding, both signed a prenuptial settlement agreement, which seemed to anticipate an early divorce. It was a marriage of necessity. She was pregnant, and the child needed a name.
  • By Matt Potter, June 20, 1991
Helen and David Copley. “When he came back, I asked him, ‘What makes you think it’s your son?’ He had never seen him before. And John, who used to be overweight — he was very big — says, ‘He looks just like me.’ ”
  • Blood of the Lamb

  • Although the severity of the scourging is not discussed in the four gospel accounts, it is implied in one of the epistles [1 Peter 2:24]. A detailed word study of the ancient Greek text for this verse indicates that the scourging of Jesus was particularly harsh.) It is not known whether the number of lashes was limited to 39, in accordance with Jewish law.
  • By Mary Lang, William Edwards, Wesley Gabel, Floyd Hosmer, M. Corinne Mackey, Adam Parfrey, March 28, 1991
The nails were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 inches long.
  • Heaven sent

  • Within minutes after the bombing stopped and the dark planes turned and flew almost silently to their aircraft carriers waiting 100 miles away on the coast, ragged crews of homeless, impoverished, drug-addicted, or simply brain-addled “range runners” grabbed their plastic buckets and raced each other to the target areas, where they began greedily picking through the rubble of wealth that the United States military had rained down upon them.
  • By Steve Sorensen, Feb. 28, 1991
“Long as you got ahold of that bomb, it’s yours, but if another junker comes along and grabs it, even if you saw it first, why, it’s his.”
  • Class wars: a note from the teachers

  • "We get to see all the schools in action.” But now Talbot has a list of schools she refuses to work in. And that list is growing. “Keiller [a middle school in Southeast San Diego] is the first,” she says. “Nobody wants to go there. The same goes for Gompers and Crawford [both in Southeast]. The worst day I ever had was at Point Loma High School."
  • By Brae Canlen, Jan. 17, 1991
The push is on in the district to make the black male feel good about himself. ”It isn’t building self-esteem. This is building insolence and arrogance."
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Tom Sudberry, Peter Cooper give to Barbara Bry
In spite of these gory occurrences Dan Gindling maintains that San Diego is a safe place to ride.  - Image by Robert Burroughs
In spite of these gory occurrences Dan Gindling maintains that San Diego is a safe place to ride.
  • Satan chasers

  • San Diego has many experts in the field of Satanism who say the county is a hotbed of Satanic activity. The hidden canyons of the back country, Ramona, Santee, Escondido, even Oceanside, are said to be riddled with the ritual sites of devil worshippers. But physical evidence of such groups is almost nonexistent. Much easier to find are those who believe Satanic cults exist.
  • By Mary Lang, Dec. 5, 1991
Rick Post: "I never met a Satanist who wasn’t into meth."
An amphipod. Amphipods are interesting because they have these things in their guts. You can isolate a large variety of very interesting microrganisms.
  • O we sail the oceans blue and our amphipod's a cutie

  • Our departure from the Nimitz Marine Facility at the end of Rosecrans on Point Loma has been delayed. Aristides Yayanos. who leads a scientific team from UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography, has had difficulty locating a forklift for his fiberglass shed full of research equipment.
  • By John Brizzolara, Nov. 27, 1991
  • Rebels without an engine

  • Standing on Pringle Street near Kettner Boulevard, looking up a precipitous grade of snaking asphalt, I tried to imagine Freddie Hafner's thoughts - aged 41 — one second before his death. Dressed in purple mesh tank top, gray cut-off jeans, brand XJ900 purple-and-white tennis shoes, music pumping through earphones into brain, Freddie blisters like a blur of blue on his bicycle. Then a truck.
  • By Ray Westberg, Nov. 14, 1991
  • Madame Shumann-Heink, the diva of Grossmont

  • Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink's life had the before-and-after quality of a fairy tale. She was born in poverty and achieved riches. She was plain in appearance yet had a regal and impressive bearing on the concert stage. She began her opera career modestly in Austria at age 15, but by the time she moved her family to San Diego, at 48, she was one of the most famous and revered women of her time, revered women of her time.
  • By Richard W. Amero, Nov. 7, 1991
Schumann-Heink performing at Spreckles Organ Pavilion, 1915
South, penniless, suddenly stripped of his regular income, he settled into the Julian Library, sleeping on a little cot and using the attached bathroom.
  • Marshal South and family, the hermits of Ghost Mountain

  • To choose this place for a home, to try to survive here month after month, year after year, building a mud-walled shelter, conceiving children, raising them up from infancy, to do all that in the absence of not just roads or telephones or electricity but even of water (other than what could be hauled up the trail or caught as rainfall) — this, for most people, would be unthinkable.
  • By Jeannette DeWyze, Oct. 17, 1991
  • Madam to San Diego elite

  • I think the police believed they'd uncovered an upper-strata, society-type call girl ring that they hadn’t known about. From what I've been able to reconstruct, they then designed an elaborate sting operation that took several months to arrange. They chose one of their young, attractive policewomen who had been a centerfold on a police calendar, and they sent her to my attorney friend.
  • By Karen Wilkening, Oct. 3, 1991
  • Like your road widened, Mister?

  • In the pre-dawn gloaming, the roadbuilding machines are just black shapes lined up beside the southbound lanes of Interstate 15. From the overpass at Miramar Way, only the light from streaking headlights betrays the angled outlines of multi-ton graders, pulverizers, rollers, trench cutters, bulldozers, and pavers. The neat lines of cars hurtling toward San Diego seem linked like iron chains anchored somewhere far away to the north.
  • By Neal Matthews, Sept. 5, 1991
Roads like Old Highway 80 were paved with concrete; but after the war, asphalt paving was perfected.
  • I will take spit on the tips of my fingers and draw tears down my cheeks

  • In our old neighborhood in Tijuana, my Aunt Lety and Cousin Hugo are in the family house on Rampa Independencia. They are waiting for Beto to arrive from his visit to Sinaloa. Hugo has built him a small bedroom where he keeps all Beto’s tokens — love letters, bowling trophies, moldering Playboys, a box of photographs. In those photos, my father is a skinny boy with a heart-shaped mouth.
  • By Luis Urrea, July 3, 1991
  • A son by any other name

  • “Margaret Hunt vs. John Hunt.” The day was October 13, 1951; a marriage was being quietly dissolved. Only 20 days earlier, the Hunts had been hastily wed in Marengo, the seat of Iowa County, 30 miles on the opposite side of Cedar Rapids. On the day of their wedding, both signed a prenuptial settlement agreement, which seemed to anticipate an early divorce. It was a marriage of necessity. She was pregnant, and the child needed a name.
  • By Matt Potter, June 20, 1991
Helen and David Copley. “When he came back, I asked him, ‘What makes you think it’s your son?’ He had never seen him before. And John, who used to be overweight — he was very big — says, ‘He looks just like me.’ ”
  • Blood of the Lamb

  • Although the severity of the scourging is not discussed in the four gospel accounts, it is implied in one of the epistles [1 Peter 2:24]. A detailed word study of the ancient Greek text for this verse indicates that the scourging of Jesus was particularly harsh.) It is not known whether the number of lashes was limited to 39, in accordance with Jewish law.
  • By Mary Lang, William Edwards, Wesley Gabel, Floyd Hosmer, M. Corinne Mackey, Adam Parfrey, March 28, 1991
The nails were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 inches long.
  • Heaven sent

  • Within minutes after the bombing stopped and the dark planes turned and flew almost silently to their aircraft carriers waiting 100 miles away on the coast, ragged crews of homeless, impoverished, drug-addicted, or simply brain-addled “range runners” grabbed their plastic buckets and raced each other to the target areas, where they began greedily picking through the rubble of wealth that the United States military had rained down upon them.
  • By Steve Sorensen, Feb. 28, 1991
“Long as you got ahold of that bomb, it’s yours, but if another junker comes along and grabs it, even if you saw it first, why, it’s his.”
  • Class wars: a note from the teachers

  • "We get to see all the schools in action.” But now Talbot has a list of schools she refuses to work in. And that list is growing. “Keiller [a middle school in Southeast San Diego] is the first,” she says. “Nobody wants to go there. The same goes for Gompers and Crawford [both in Southeast]. The worst day I ever had was at Point Loma High School."
  • By Brae Canlen, Jan. 17, 1991
The push is on in the district to make the black male feel good about himself. ”It isn’t building self-esteem. This is building insolence and arrogance."
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