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Best Reader stories from 1992

Underground papers, Clinton McKinnon, Michael Reagan, Windansea, I spied on Tom Metzger, Frontier housing, AIDS up close, La Mesa prison, Walter Keane, Michael Reagan, C.A. Smith, Bataan Death March

Only faggots, hemophiliacs, Haitians, and junkies got AIDS. The joke used to be that the toughest thing about getting AIDS was convincing your mother that you were a Haitian. - Image by Robert Burroughs
Only faggots, hemophiliacs, Haitians, and junkies got AIDS. The joke used to be that the toughest thing about getting AIDS was convincing your mother that you were a Haitian.
  • Notes from Underground

  • San Diego's Free Press (later renamed the Street Journal) was defunct by the end of 1970; the San Diego Door came and went with the Nixon Presidency, 1968 to August 1974.The O.B. Rag fell silent in September 1975, after reporting the pullout of all U.S. forces from Vietnam. But while they lasted, these so-called underground papers made a dent in the city's political ironsides.
  • By Neal Matthews, Nov. 25, 1992
Using the underground press as a gauge, the social ferment of the 1960s came late to San Diego.
  • The making of Mac

  • What, we have here is a profile of Clinton D. McKinnon, Jr., grand old man of San Diego publishing and politics. Such a colorful career you never did see —least ways, not among flesh-and-blood locals, folks you can still bend an elbow with. Is the man beloved? According to old-timers who worked under him in the '40s, when he put out the San Diego Daily Journal on a shoestring budget and paid his employees accordingly, it does appear the man is beloved.
  • By Margot Sheehan, Nov. 12, 1992
McKinnon's own newspaper announces his 1948 congressional victory. "Mac was lucky in getting into Congress; he ran against a real boob. Charlie Fletcher was always saying the dumbest things."
  • Wave gangsters

  • “I surfed the Shores initially, because the older guys wouldn’t let us surf at Windansea,” says surf club member Jim Neri, who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s just blocks from Windansea on Kolmar Street. “There was ownership at Windansea back then,” says Neri.
  • By Hoyt Smith, Nov. 5, 1992
Scot Cherry. Mike Hynson, the surfer from Bruce Brown’s movie The Endless Summer, said, “Are you Scot Cherry? I understand if I have a problem around here I should come to you.”
  • Jerry Frude's hands-on approach to washing machines

  • “When you go into people’s homes, you’re letting yourself into all kinds of things. You see every aspect of life. I used to go down to North Park and East San Diego, and, boy, was that a mistake. That ended real fast. I’m talkin' about Logan Heights and workin’ on this one refrigerator in this apartment complex that was cockroach city."
  • By John Brizzolara, Oct. 1, 1992
"He’s saying that there is a God number one, and secondly, that you will never see God, but that if you open your eyes, he’s all around you."
I personally donated various sums of money to Tom and WAR.
  • I spied on Tom Metzger for the FBI

  • For 27 years I was a drug dealer. Circumstances have forced my retirement, but it was jolly good fun while it lasted. Naturally many will find this to be offensive, but then, what do you gentle souls really know about “the trade”? The drug trade is merely business. A risky business, but business nonetheless, the bastard child of the great pharmaceutical houses. The demand they created lives on, and we are only here to fill it.
  • By James McDonnah Slade, Sept. 24, 1992
  • Loma Portal and Midway District during WWII - a walking tour

  • Don’t look for Frontier in the Journal of San Diego History or in any of those big picture books that Neil Morgan used to crank out. The only people who really remember the project are the people who lived there. Old timers who didn’t live there, even folks who drove past Frontier every day, will give you all kinds of cockeyed answers when you ask about it.
  • By Margot Sheehan, Sept. 10, 1992
Former La Mesa mayor Paul Fordham:“Substandard? I don’t think they were substandard. They were well built. Out of necessity, they were built quickly.
  • Ex-biker, would-be Trappist, soldier of fortune, San Diego powerlifter comes down with AIDS

  • Is that you?’ the burly black social worker asked me. pointing to a 13-digit code handwritten on a page in a huge and dirty ledger. The code was my Social Security number plus four digits I had selected to guard my identity even further from God knows-who might be prying— my wife, employer, insurance company, or, in my particular case, even the FBI or CIA.
  • By John Abraham Fultz III, Aug. 20, 1992
  • I’ll take you inside La Mesa prison in Tijuana

  • This hand-written manuscript arrived with a request from the writer to withhold his identity.
  • I am a third-generation Southern Californian. I graduated from Upland High School in 1962. Unfortunately, it looks like I will spend my 30-year high school reunion in a Mexican prison.
  • By Anonymous , June 25, 1992
Like most San Diegans I didn’t have a clue as to what the La Mesa prison was like. These guys filled me in as best they could. I had a hard time believing the stories.
  • Walter Keane: the saucer eye orphans have lost their father

  • As cultural archeologist Jim Morton points out in Pop Void, Keane kids were the true pop art, much more a mass phenomenon than Warhol’s Brillo boxes or Lichtenstein’s exploded comics. Keane waifs appeared on collectible plates, were re-created as “Little Miss No Name” dolls, sold by the million as greeting cards,
  • By Adam Parfrey, May 14, 1992
Walter and Margaret Keane sketch young actress Natalie Wood, c. 1961. Margaret: "I painted Kim Novak from a photograph and did Natalie Wood as a big-eye kid myself."
  • San Diego survivor of Bataan Death March evades Japanese for three years

  • Our stalemate with the Japs lasted until near the end of March. Several weeks we were in division reserve, and the only thing we did of any consequence was pull what they call sniper patrol around the headquarters and keep Jap snipers from infiltrating through your positions and shooting officers. The officers got where they took their insignias off their shoulders and put them underneath their collar, and they’d come up and talk to you and they'd flip their collar up and let you know what rank they were.
  • By Leon Beck, Neal Matthews, April 23, 1992
Leon Beck: "When I walked outside with him, I said, 'I promised everybody I wouldn’t shoot you, but I’ve got to show my contempt.' And that’s when I spit on him."
Michael Reagan: "What I wanted to do most when my dad got out of office was find out who Mike Reagan is. Because Mike Reagan has always been the son of somebody all of his life."
  • Up for adoption

  • Michael Reagan, former KSDO radio personality, shows up at the City Deli at Sixth and University promptly at 9:30 a.m. He is wearing dark sunglasses, a navy- blue sports coat, white shirt with button-down collar, and Levi’s. He has come, he says, directly from the gym after a red-eye flight from Milwaukee. Despite a receding hairline, possibly because of it, Reagan looks boyish, cherubic, childlike. It is as though he has finally come to embody the thing he has spent his adult life writhing against: a professional child.
  • By John Brizzolara, April 16, 1992
  • C. Arnholt Smith, in his own words

  • C. Arnholt Smith was the biggest player in the old boys’ network that ran San Diego between the 1930s and the early 1970s. The financier and industrialist rose from working-class roots in North Park to control the U.S. National Bank, with almost $1 billion in deposits, and the $200 million Westgate California corporate conglomerate that included National Steel and Shipbuilding, the Yellow Cab Company in major cities in California, an airline, a tuna fleet, canneries, ranches, the Kona Kai Club on Shelter Island, the San Diego Padres, and vast real estate holdings.
  • By C. Arnholt Smith, Linda Nevin, Neal Matthews, March 19, 1992
San Diego Mayor John Butler, Mrs. Robert Vogeller, Smith, c. 1953. By the late ’50s I felt I had to get rid of some of the damn things I was running. I think I got a bigger kick out of building and creating things than running them.
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Only faggots, hemophiliacs, Haitians, and junkies got AIDS. The joke used to be that the toughest thing about getting AIDS was convincing your mother that you were a Haitian. - Image by Robert Burroughs
Only faggots, hemophiliacs, Haitians, and junkies got AIDS. The joke used to be that the toughest thing about getting AIDS was convincing your mother that you were a Haitian.
  • Notes from Underground

  • San Diego's Free Press (later renamed the Street Journal) was defunct by the end of 1970; the San Diego Door came and went with the Nixon Presidency, 1968 to August 1974.The O.B. Rag fell silent in September 1975, after reporting the pullout of all U.S. forces from Vietnam. But while they lasted, these so-called underground papers made a dent in the city's political ironsides.
  • By Neal Matthews, Nov. 25, 1992
Using the underground press as a gauge, the social ferment of the 1960s came late to San Diego.
  • The making of Mac

  • What, we have here is a profile of Clinton D. McKinnon, Jr., grand old man of San Diego publishing and politics. Such a colorful career you never did see —least ways, not among flesh-and-blood locals, folks you can still bend an elbow with. Is the man beloved? According to old-timers who worked under him in the '40s, when he put out the San Diego Daily Journal on a shoestring budget and paid his employees accordingly, it does appear the man is beloved.
  • By Margot Sheehan, Nov. 12, 1992
McKinnon's own newspaper announces his 1948 congressional victory. "Mac was lucky in getting into Congress; he ran against a real boob. Charlie Fletcher was always saying the dumbest things."
  • Wave gangsters

  • “I surfed the Shores initially, because the older guys wouldn’t let us surf at Windansea,” says surf club member Jim Neri, who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s just blocks from Windansea on Kolmar Street. “There was ownership at Windansea back then,” says Neri.
  • By Hoyt Smith, Nov. 5, 1992
Scot Cherry. Mike Hynson, the surfer from Bruce Brown’s movie The Endless Summer, said, “Are you Scot Cherry? I understand if I have a problem around here I should come to you.”
  • Jerry Frude's hands-on approach to washing machines

  • “When you go into people’s homes, you’re letting yourself into all kinds of things. You see every aspect of life. I used to go down to North Park and East San Diego, and, boy, was that a mistake. That ended real fast. I’m talkin' about Logan Heights and workin’ on this one refrigerator in this apartment complex that was cockroach city."
  • By John Brizzolara, Oct. 1, 1992
"He’s saying that there is a God number one, and secondly, that you will never see God, but that if you open your eyes, he’s all around you."
I personally donated various sums of money to Tom and WAR.
  • I spied on Tom Metzger for the FBI

  • For 27 years I was a drug dealer. Circumstances have forced my retirement, but it was jolly good fun while it lasted. Naturally many will find this to be offensive, but then, what do you gentle souls really know about “the trade”? The drug trade is merely business. A risky business, but business nonetheless, the bastard child of the great pharmaceutical houses. The demand they created lives on, and we are only here to fill it.
  • By James McDonnah Slade, Sept. 24, 1992
  • Loma Portal and Midway District during WWII - a walking tour

  • Don’t look for Frontier in the Journal of San Diego History or in any of those big picture books that Neil Morgan used to crank out. The only people who really remember the project are the people who lived there. Old timers who didn’t live there, even folks who drove past Frontier every day, will give you all kinds of cockeyed answers when you ask about it.
  • By Margot Sheehan, Sept. 10, 1992
Former La Mesa mayor Paul Fordham:“Substandard? I don’t think they were substandard. They were well built. Out of necessity, they were built quickly.
  • Ex-biker, would-be Trappist, soldier of fortune, San Diego powerlifter comes down with AIDS

  • Is that you?’ the burly black social worker asked me. pointing to a 13-digit code handwritten on a page in a huge and dirty ledger. The code was my Social Security number plus four digits I had selected to guard my identity even further from God knows-who might be prying— my wife, employer, insurance company, or, in my particular case, even the FBI or CIA.
  • By John Abraham Fultz III, Aug. 20, 1992
  • I’ll take you inside La Mesa prison in Tijuana

  • This hand-written manuscript arrived with a request from the writer to withhold his identity.
  • I am a third-generation Southern Californian. I graduated from Upland High School in 1962. Unfortunately, it looks like I will spend my 30-year high school reunion in a Mexican prison.
  • By Anonymous , June 25, 1992
Like most San Diegans I didn’t have a clue as to what the La Mesa prison was like. These guys filled me in as best they could. I had a hard time believing the stories.
  • Walter Keane: the saucer eye orphans have lost their father

  • As cultural archeologist Jim Morton points out in Pop Void, Keane kids were the true pop art, much more a mass phenomenon than Warhol’s Brillo boxes or Lichtenstein’s exploded comics. Keane waifs appeared on collectible plates, were re-created as “Little Miss No Name” dolls, sold by the million as greeting cards,
  • By Adam Parfrey, May 14, 1992
Walter and Margaret Keane sketch young actress Natalie Wood, c. 1961. Margaret: "I painted Kim Novak from a photograph and did Natalie Wood as a big-eye kid myself."
  • San Diego survivor of Bataan Death March evades Japanese for three years

  • Our stalemate with the Japs lasted until near the end of March. Several weeks we were in division reserve, and the only thing we did of any consequence was pull what they call sniper patrol around the headquarters and keep Jap snipers from infiltrating through your positions and shooting officers. The officers got where they took their insignias off their shoulders and put them underneath their collar, and they’d come up and talk to you and they'd flip their collar up and let you know what rank they were.
  • By Leon Beck, Neal Matthews, April 23, 1992
Leon Beck: "When I walked outside with him, I said, 'I promised everybody I wouldn’t shoot you, but I’ve got to show my contempt.' And that’s when I spit on him."
Michael Reagan: "What I wanted to do most when my dad got out of office was find out who Mike Reagan is. Because Mike Reagan has always been the son of somebody all of his life."
  • Up for adoption

  • Michael Reagan, former KSDO radio personality, shows up at the City Deli at Sixth and University promptly at 9:30 a.m. He is wearing dark sunglasses, a navy- blue sports coat, white shirt with button-down collar, and Levi’s. He has come, he says, directly from the gym after a red-eye flight from Milwaukee. Despite a receding hairline, possibly because of it, Reagan looks boyish, cherubic, childlike. It is as though he has finally come to embody the thing he has spent his adult life writhing against: a professional child.
  • By John Brizzolara, April 16, 1992
  • C. Arnholt Smith, in his own words

  • C. Arnholt Smith was the biggest player in the old boys’ network that ran San Diego between the 1930s and the early 1970s. The financier and industrialist rose from working-class roots in North Park to control the U.S. National Bank, with almost $1 billion in deposits, and the $200 million Westgate California corporate conglomerate that included National Steel and Shipbuilding, the Yellow Cab Company in major cities in California, an airline, a tuna fleet, canneries, ranches, the Kona Kai Club on Shelter Island, the San Diego Padres, and vast real estate holdings.
  • By C. Arnholt Smith, Linda Nevin, Neal Matthews, March 19, 1992
San Diego Mayor John Butler, Mrs. Robert Vogeller, Smith, c. 1953. By the late ’50s I felt I had to get rid of some of the damn things I was running. I think I got a bigger kick out of building and creating things than running them.
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