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San Diego in books - first Datsun dealer to sell 100 cars in a month, Bob Woodward on Belushi

La Jolla's historian, Edmund Wilson on the Hotel del Coronado

Hotel del Coronado "is the most magnificent example extant of the American seaside hotel as it flourished in that era on both coasts."
Hotel del Coronado "is the most magnificent example extant of the American seaside hotel as it flourished in that era on both coasts."

IN ANTICIPATION of the start of Datsun sales, Nissan in March 1958, before a selling agreement had been reached, sent Mr. Uno, General Manager of the North American Department, Mr. Hara, General Manager of the Planning Department, and several engineers to the United States to initiate arrangements for testing Datsun cars and dealing with whatever technical problems might come up.

The company hoped to be able to ship at the rate of 500 vehicles a month by the end of 1958, but this goal proved unattainable. Datsun’s American sales in 1958 totaled 83 units....

Some delay in getting the operation started was predictable. It took time to recruit dealers for an almost completely unknown foreign car — “almost” because some Americans who had served in Japan or Korea had become favorably acquainted with Datsun trucks. In fact, the first Datsun dealer to be appointed could be said to have been drafted rather than recruited. He was Ray Lemke of San Diego, California, still in business as San Diego Datsun. He continued to make firsts. In 1965, he achieved recognition as the first Datsun dealer to sell 100 cars in a month and, in 1979, when he had completed twenty years with Datsun, he was the first to sign the new Perpetual Sales Agreement with Nissan Motor Corporation in U.S.A.

Lemke had begun as a mechanic. He was interested in small cars and in the late 1940s began selling Crosleys as an adjunct to his service and repair business in San Diego. He says, “I built my dealership from the back end up. We sell cars, but I feel that we have the best service and parts operation in the country.” When Crosley stopped production, he took on two now forgotten German makes, Lloyd and Goggomobil, for which Woolverton Motors was also distributor. One shipment of cars included a Datsun, a lOOOcc sedan, which Lemke accepted as part of the consignment. To his skilled mechanic s eye, it was the best vehicle in the assortment, and so he began to sell Dat-suns on October 8, 1958. (He now regrets that he did not keep this first car when it was traded in some years later for another Datsun.)

John Bell Rae Nissan/Datsun: A History of Nissan Motor Corporation in U.S.A., 1960-1980 1982

JOHN BELUSHI decided he needed a rest, and on September 1, 1978, he and Landis checked into La Costa, the famous health and weight-reduction spa outside San Diego. John took the health regimen seriously — the herbal wrap, the $13.80 massage and $13.80 facial. But he had a cache of fresh cocaine with him, and Landis discovered it and threw it out. John complained bitterly. A thousand dollars’ worth of coke had just been wasted.

One night, John and Landis ran into actor William Holden, who was also staying at La Costa. The three sat down for their 800-calorie, mostly vegetable dinner. Holden, who had won an Academy Award for best actor in Stalag 17 (1953) and had been nominated for Network, looked thin and seemed angry and frazzled about the press and reporters.

“You know they’re going to get you,” Holden said. “You know what they are? They’re vampires. You know what we are? We’re in our homes with garlic around the windows and hoping it will work.”

Being a star, Holden said, is transitory. He had been up, and then down, and up again, then down again, and then up once more. Hollywood was a mess. John loved the speech.

“They’re bloodsuckers,” Holden said. “They’ll fuck you.” Everyone in show business needed something on the outside to retain sanity. Holden said he had his co-ownership of the 1,260-acre Mount Kenya Safari Club, his hideaway. When things got fucked, he said, “I go to Africa.”

John hung on Holden’s words.

“You have to take it for what it’s worth. If they say you’re a genius, don’t believe it.”

Bob Woodward Wired 1984

Howard S. Randolph, 1939

NO STORY OF OLD LA JOLLA would be complete without mentioning old Uncle Tom, one of the really fine old colored men. Born in slavery in old Virginia, raised among the finest people (and horses) of this earth, in old Kentucky, he was a credit to those who raised him, and to his race. When one talked horses to him one talked as one expert to another. He had a way with horses, and the wildest ones gentled quickly under his kind but firm hand. His own beautiful sorrel horse “Tramp” was always groomed to perfection, and was a source of great pride and satisfaction to him.

He was hard-working and thrifty, and when Henrietta came to town as cook for one of the old families, and they were married, it was just one of those happy marriages that every one hopes to see. But times changed and a high-powered salesman sold Tom an automobile. Of course there were no self-starters in those days, and ... one day old Uncle Tom cranked and cranked until he fell unconscious and was carried into his house — but he was gone before they reached his bed. The people of his race, of whom there were quite a few in La Jolla by that time, just stood around in horror and terror. I drove my father there at once and I shall never forget it as he quietly folded “Uncle Tom’s” hands and closed his eyes, and held his hand on the dark brow and said “Good old Tom.” The tension relaxed, the terror was gone. “God was still in heaven and peace was on earth again.

Yes, we had our tragedies as well as our comedies in “Old La Jolla.”

Howard S. Randolph La Jolla Year by Year 1955

Edmund Wilson

THE CORONADO BEACH HOTEL was built by the California millionaire John Spreckels and opened in 1887—

[It] must represent the ultimate satisfaction of the dreams of the architects of the eighties. It is the most magnificent example extant of the American seaside hotel as it flourished in that era on both coasts; and it still has its beauty as well as its magnificence. White and ornate as a wedding-cake, clean, polished and trim as a ship....

[The] courtyard has real dignity and brilliance: with its five tiers of white-railinged porches like decks, its long steep steps like companionways, its red ladders and brass-tipped fire-hose wound on red-wheeled carts around corners, the slight endearing list of its warped floors and the thin wood columns that rise at the bottom from smooth flagstones level with the ground, it manages to suggest both an ocean liner and the portico of a colonial mansion. As you look out from one of the higher galleries at the green tops of the exotic tame palms and the little red ventilators spinning in the sun, you feel that you can still enjoy here the last moment before the power of American money, swollen though it was with sudden growth, had finally turned its back altogether on the human tastes and habits of the old non-mechanical world....

The Americans still tend to move westward and many drift southward toward the sun. San Diego is the extreme southwest point of the United States; and since our real westward expansion has come to a standstill, it has become a veritable jumping-off place. On the West coast today the suicide rate is twice that of the Middle Atlantic coast, and since 1911 the suicide rate of San Diego has been the highest in the United States. Between January, 1911, and January, 1927, over five hundred people killed themselves there. The population in 1930 was only about 148,000, having doubled since 1920.

For one thing, a great many sick people come here. The rate of sickness in San Diego is 24 percent of the population to 6 percent for the population of the whole country. The climate of Southern California, so widely advertised by Chambers of Commerce and Southern California Clubs, but probably rather unhealthy with its tepid and enervating days and its nights that get suddenly cold, brings invalids to San Diego by the thousand. If they have money to move about and have failed to improve in the other health centers, the doctors send them to San Diego as a last resort, and it is not uncommon for patients to expire immediately on being unloaded from the train. Furthermore, the victims of “ideational” diseases like asthma — diseases which are partly psychological — have a tendency to keep moving away from places, under the impression that they are leaving the disease behind. And when they have finally come to San Diego, they are cornered, there is nowhere else to move on to. According to the psychoanalysts, the idea of the setting sun suggests to them the idea of death. At any rate, of the five-hundred-odd suicides during the period of fifteen years mentioned above, 70 percent were put down to “despondency and depression over chronic ill health.”

Then there are the people who do not fit in, in the conventional American communities where they live, who have heard that life is free and relaxed in San Diego. There at last their special psychological bents or their eccentric sexual tastes will be recognized, allowed latitude.... San Diego is not quite large enough so that the people of any of the better-off or middle-class social groups don’t all know each other and follow each other’s doings with the attentive interest of people in a small town.

Edmund Wilson “The Jumping-Off Place” The New Republic December 23, 1931

The Reader will pay $10 for submissions to "Out of Context" that are selected for publication. Choices must be drawn from books or out-of-town periodicals. Include author, title, date of publication, and your phone number. Send to "Out of Context," 2323 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92102

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Harry Partch, Gustavo Romero, Diamanda Galas

San DIego's grand pianos; Spreckels, First Methodist, St. Brigid's organs; tenor takes lessons, the piano repairman
Hotel del Coronado "is the most magnificent example extant of the American seaside hotel as it flourished in that era on both coasts."
Hotel del Coronado "is the most magnificent example extant of the American seaside hotel as it flourished in that era on both coasts."

IN ANTICIPATION of the start of Datsun sales, Nissan in March 1958, before a selling agreement had been reached, sent Mr. Uno, General Manager of the North American Department, Mr. Hara, General Manager of the Planning Department, and several engineers to the United States to initiate arrangements for testing Datsun cars and dealing with whatever technical problems might come up.

The company hoped to be able to ship at the rate of 500 vehicles a month by the end of 1958, but this goal proved unattainable. Datsun’s American sales in 1958 totaled 83 units....

Some delay in getting the operation started was predictable. It took time to recruit dealers for an almost completely unknown foreign car — “almost” because some Americans who had served in Japan or Korea had become favorably acquainted with Datsun trucks. In fact, the first Datsun dealer to be appointed could be said to have been drafted rather than recruited. He was Ray Lemke of San Diego, California, still in business as San Diego Datsun. He continued to make firsts. In 1965, he achieved recognition as the first Datsun dealer to sell 100 cars in a month and, in 1979, when he had completed twenty years with Datsun, he was the first to sign the new Perpetual Sales Agreement with Nissan Motor Corporation in U.S.A.

Lemke had begun as a mechanic. He was interested in small cars and in the late 1940s began selling Crosleys as an adjunct to his service and repair business in San Diego. He says, “I built my dealership from the back end up. We sell cars, but I feel that we have the best service and parts operation in the country.” When Crosley stopped production, he took on two now forgotten German makes, Lloyd and Goggomobil, for which Woolverton Motors was also distributor. One shipment of cars included a Datsun, a lOOOcc sedan, which Lemke accepted as part of the consignment. To his skilled mechanic s eye, it was the best vehicle in the assortment, and so he began to sell Dat-suns on October 8, 1958. (He now regrets that he did not keep this first car when it was traded in some years later for another Datsun.)

John Bell Rae Nissan/Datsun: A History of Nissan Motor Corporation in U.S.A., 1960-1980 1982

JOHN BELUSHI decided he needed a rest, and on September 1, 1978, he and Landis checked into La Costa, the famous health and weight-reduction spa outside San Diego. John took the health regimen seriously — the herbal wrap, the $13.80 massage and $13.80 facial. But he had a cache of fresh cocaine with him, and Landis discovered it and threw it out. John complained bitterly. A thousand dollars’ worth of coke had just been wasted.

One night, John and Landis ran into actor William Holden, who was also staying at La Costa. The three sat down for their 800-calorie, mostly vegetable dinner. Holden, who had won an Academy Award for best actor in Stalag 17 (1953) and had been nominated for Network, looked thin and seemed angry and frazzled about the press and reporters.

“You know they’re going to get you,” Holden said. “You know what they are? They’re vampires. You know what we are? We’re in our homes with garlic around the windows and hoping it will work.”

Being a star, Holden said, is transitory. He had been up, and then down, and up again, then down again, and then up once more. Hollywood was a mess. John loved the speech.

“They’re bloodsuckers,” Holden said. “They’ll fuck you.” Everyone in show business needed something on the outside to retain sanity. Holden said he had his co-ownership of the 1,260-acre Mount Kenya Safari Club, his hideaway. When things got fucked, he said, “I go to Africa.”

John hung on Holden’s words.

“You have to take it for what it’s worth. If they say you’re a genius, don’t believe it.”

Bob Woodward Wired 1984

Howard S. Randolph, 1939

NO STORY OF OLD LA JOLLA would be complete without mentioning old Uncle Tom, one of the really fine old colored men. Born in slavery in old Virginia, raised among the finest people (and horses) of this earth, in old Kentucky, he was a credit to those who raised him, and to his race. When one talked horses to him one talked as one expert to another. He had a way with horses, and the wildest ones gentled quickly under his kind but firm hand. His own beautiful sorrel horse “Tramp” was always groomed to perfection, and was a source of great pride and satisfaction to him.

He was hard-working and thrifty, and when Henrietta came to town as cook for one of the old families, and they were married, it was just one of those happy marriages that every one hopes to see. But times changed and a high-powered salesman sold Tom an automobile. Of course there were no self-starters in those days, and ... one day old Uncle Tom cranked and cranked until he fell unconscious and was carried into his house — but he was gone before they reached his bed. The people of his race, of whom there were quite a few in La Jolla by that time, just stood around in horror and terror. I drove my father there at once and I shall never forget it as he quietly folded “Uncle Tom’s” hands and closed his eyes, and held his hand on the dark brow and said “Good old Tom.” The tension relaxed, the terror was gone. “God was still in heaven and peace was on earth again.

Yes, we had our tragedies as well as our comedies in “Old La Jolla.”

Howard S. Randolph La Jolla Year by Year 1955

Edmund Wilson

THE CORONADO BEACH HOTEL was built by the California millionaire John Spreckels and opened in 1887—

[It] must represent the ultimate satisfaction of the dreams of the architects of the eighties. It is the most magnificent example extant of the American seaside hotel as it flourished in that era on both coasts; and it still has its beauty as well as its magnificence. White and ornate as a wedding-cake, clean, polished and trim as a ship....

[The] courtyard has real dignity and brilliance: with its five tiers of white-railinged porches like decks, its long steep steps like companionways, its red ladders and brass-tipped fire-hose wound on red-wheeled carts around corners, the slight endearing list of its warped floors and the thin wood columns that rise at the bottom from smooth flagstones level with the ground, it manages to suggest both an ocean liner and the portico of a colonial mansion. As you look out from one of the higher galleries at the green tops of the exotic tame palms and the little red ventilators spinning in the sun, you feel that you can still enjoy here the last moment before the power of American money, swollen though it was with sudden growth, had finally turned its back altogether on the human tastes and habits of the old non-mechanical world....

The Americans still tend to move westward and many drift southward toward the sun. San Diego is the extreme southwest point of the United States; and since our real westward expansion has come to a standstill, it has become a veritable jumping-off place. On the West coast today the suicide rate is twice that of the Middle Atlantic coast, and since 1911 the suicide rate of San Diego has been the highest in the United States. Between January, 1911, and January, 1927, over five hundred people killed themselves there. The population in 1930 was only about 148,000, having doubled since 1920.

For one thing, a great many sick people come here. The rate of sickness in San Diego is 24 percent of the population to 6 percent for the population of the whole country. The climate of Southern California, so widely advertised by Chambers of Commerce and Southern California Clubs, but probably rather unhealthy with its tepid and enervating days and its nights that get suddenly cold, brings invalids to San Diego by the thousand. If they have money to move about and have failed to improve in the other health centers, the doctors send them to San Diego as a last resort, and it is not uncommon for patients to expire immediately on being unloaded from the train. Furthermore, the victims of “ideational” diseases like asthma — diseases which are partly psychological — have a tendency to keep moving away from places, under the impression that they are leaving the disease behind. And when they have finally come to San Diego, they are cornered, there is nowhere else to move on to. According to the psychoanalysts, the idea of the setting sun suggests to them the idea of death. At any rate, of the five-hundred-odd suicides during the period of fifteen years mentioned above, 70 percent were put down to “despondency and depression over chronic ill health.”

Then there are the people who do not fit in, in the conventional American communities where they live, who have heard that life is free and relaxed in San Diego. There at last their special psychological bents or their eccentric sexual tastes will be recognized, allowed latitude.... San Diego is not quite large enough so that the people of any of the better-off or middle-class social groups don’t all know each other and follow each other’s doings with the attentive interest of people in a small town.

Edmund Wilson “The Jumping-Off Place” The New Republic December 23, 1931

The Reader will pay $10 for submissions to "Out of Context" that are selected for publication. Choices must be drawn from books or out-of-town periodicals. Include author, title, date of publication, and your phone number. Send to "Out of Context," 2323 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92102

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