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Stories by Gordon Smith

Hot cars next to Ream Field

Get a great deal at an out-of-the-way auto auction

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Frances Ryan has planted 1,000 Engelmann oak trees in North San Diego County.

The oak lady

"It is an Engelmann oak, a species found in the inland valleys of San Diego County. There are stands of the oaks in Riverside County and a few in Los Angeles but none exist farther north.”

Wyatt Earp lived on Third Ave., downtown San Diego

Came here after the O.K. Corral when he was 39

One night Earp returned to the house on Third Avenue and told Sadie that a man “had sort of donated” a racehorse to him in a poker game. Earp raced it at the old Pacific Beach Racetrack.

Collections inside the San Diego Natural History Museum

Bugs and worms and dinosaur bones

There are some very strange things in the archives of the San Diego Natural History Museum.

San Diego's vegetable farmers

"Organic farming is my edge"

something goes here, and here

Crime visits Balboa Park

Just how safe is the park these days?

Crime Visits Balboa Park Police patrol on the Laurel Street bridge Just how safe is the park these days? It was 5:20 in the morning when Charles Hollinquest, a security guard at the Old Globe ...

How Life Flight helicopters work

A fast flight from death

At 6:33 p.m. the radio in the Life Flight operations center at UCSD Medical Center in Mission Hills crackles: two accidents have occurred in the East County. In Alpine, a young boy has fallen off ...

He's been mayor of National City since 1966

The long term of Kile Morgan

People in National City still shake their heads when they talk about the mailer. And if, after the mayoral election two years from now, the mayor of National City is no longer Kile Morgan — ...

Sideways views of the Intercontinental Hotel and San Diego ConVis Bureau

The Sheraton letters

Everything is pretty quiet down here, until suddenly a siren goes off on one of those little walkie-talkies that Garside has on his belt. It’s a code two, he says, which means someone smells smoke.

When dinosaurs roamed and volcanoes roared in San Diego

San Diego State's Gordon Gastil has studied the area's evolution for 20 years

The flexible joints allow a twenty-story skyscraper to sway one or two feet during an earthquake, but ask anyone who was in the Cuyamaca Club on the afternoon of April 8, 1968, how much two feet is.

San Pasqual Winery's hard beginnings

Spirit of the vine

In one corner of Kerry Damskey’s office is a counter littered with glass tubes, graduated cylinders. Bunsen burners, and small bottles with labels on them such as “Kesosol" and “T27 Lot 2.” The counter is ...

Indians, dust, and death along the old Butterfield Overland Stage route

Notes from a wagon seat

George McCain lives by himself in an old Airstream trailer beneath a eucalyptus tree, about half a mile from S-2, and after leaving Vallecito station Remeika and I drive up and bang on the trailer s door.

The Kumeyaay rock art at Hakwin

Hallucinogen datura explains symbols

There is something startling about the place called Hakwin: in the midst of this mountain valley, green with manzanita, juniper, and pine, the hundred-foot-high granite ridge looms like an apparition. It is perhaps a half ...

Crawford High more balanced racially now

SAT scores on verbal and math tests at Crawford in 1969 was 1015. In 1982 it was 871

After fourteen years I had only one uncomfortable moment, one feeling of small panic. It came halfway through the advanced English class I was monitoring as an observer. Maybe it was because the class was ...

Animal rights group attacks UCSD experiments

A protest at Sea World “would not win a lot of public support

Win D lay on the operating table with her belly on a pillow, her eyes closed, her sides heaving slowly and rhythmically as a nearby respirator pumped air into her lungs. A tube fastened to ...

Men's volleyball aims for Olympics from San Diego

More drama than you

Paul Sunderland is one of the top ten volleyball players in the United States. He has spent most of his life trying to perfect his knowledge and performance of the game, but in January of ...

How San Diego's comics and the Comedy Store co-exist

Mitzi Shore easy, Sandi Shore not so much

Pat Gorse was sitting in the living room of his parents’ North Park home one night four years ago, watching Rodney Dangerfield on the Tonight Show. Suddenly it came to him: he wanted to write ...

Santa Margarita – the last undammed river in San Diego County

Does Fallbrook need more avocados?

Q: Who wants to build dams across the Santa Margarita? A: The town of Fallbrook, the Marines, and a number of politicians. Q: Is this really such a great idea? The Santa Margarita River crosses ...

Jack Divine – Baja private investigator

He hunts missing planes and boats

Jack Divine banked his single-engine Cessna into a steep turn over the town of San Felipe, Baja California, squinting through the sunlight that glared on the plane’s windows. From an altitude of only 1000 feet ...

SDSU's Smokey Gaines good at recruiting

But weak at coaching

Smokey Gaines slid into a booth in a dimly lit Chinese restaurant one Monday afternoon not long ago, scanned the menu for about five seconds, and then laid it down. The restaurant is one of ...

San Diego's elite group of bird-watchers

The Group and other strange birds

Place the following in order of importance: (A) Food (B) World peace (C) A lanceolated warbler — from Bill Oddie’s Little Black Bird Book The call came through to Elizabeth Copper’s home in Coronado on ...

The vulnerability of Mission Valley

All the way to the banks

On February 13, 1980, a storm system from the Pacific Ocean moved across Sun Diego and dumped one-third inch of rain in less than twenty-four hours. It was a hard storm in a year that ...

North Park not that close to La Jolla Shores

White tablecloth, blue collar

When Charles Kap was nine years old, his father took him to see the movie The Buccaneer, starring Charlton Heston as Andrew Jackson and Yul Brynner as the pirate Lafitte. The movie is about the ...

San Diego's biggest apartment builder Ray Huffman faces creditors

The muffled roar

When the preliminary bankruptcy hearing for the Ray L. Huffman Construction Company was held last month, extra chairs had to be carried into the courtroom to accommodate the crowd of creditors, attorneys, former associates, and ...

San Diego's vulnerable water supply

Not with a flood but with a trickle

Two hundred miles northeast of San Diego a long gray cement building stands at the southern end of Lake Havasu on the Colorado River. From a distance the building looks a little like a barge ...

The rise & fall & rise & fall of Warner Hot Springs

You can see why the Indians loved it

Hecht remembers the mud baths and the three-dollar massages, the dance bands and the little guy from International Harvester who tried to pick her up one night in the bar.

Denise Carabet — from the Daily Transcript to the Union to the Business Journal

Life on the Bottom line

On a gray February morning not long ago, in the second-floor dining room of the University Club in downtown San Diego, about twenty businessmen who belong to a group known as the Metropolitan Club pushed ...

UCSD's visual arts department does not fit in

Today's subject is tomorrow's art

In a bathroom near the UCSD visual arts department’s main office is a scrawl of the type that has become a familiar sight on the walls of public restrooms from California to New York. Executed ...

Mystery of Scammon's Lagoon beaked whales

The least-known of the world’s large mammals

Hubbs and a few others sampled the meat of the whale. It was “of good flavor and tender when roasted or fried,’’ Hubbs reported. “About one hundred pounds were eaten by local residents.”

Brian Bilbray's Imperial Beach

The most southwesterly town in the continental United States

A sign outside of the Marina Inn in Imperial Beach proclaims it as the most southwesterly bar in the United States. It is no idle bit of public relations. From the inn’s parking lot you ...

The thing that ate Lake Murray

How do you get rid of hydrilla and keep it out?

“Here’s a cancer right in the middle of the city, and it’s untreated; it’s even been allowed to fester. And there’s been almost complete official and media silence on the whole thing for four years. ...

The water towers of San Diego

College Heights, Loma Citas, Coronado, University Heights

The day I drove out to look at the Loma Citas water tower the weather was hot and hazy. I had never been to see the tower before, but I didn’t have any trouble finding ...

The right place for the San Diego airport

There's trouble down the runway

Our plane taxis out onto the runway and comes to a halt, facing west down the long asphalt ramp of Lindbergh Field. Mike in hand, the pilot, Carlos Richardson, contacts the control tower for clearance. ...

Woes of North County flower farmers

Soil, water, light, and money

The first year Andy Mauro went into the flower-growing business he lost $30,000. He didn’t know when to plant his cuttings, when to spray the young plants for insects, even when to harvest the blooms. ...

Palomar prescribed burn watched carefully

Fire by design

The mountain appears to have been hit by a bomb. Smoke is billowing upward in thick streams that flow together into one vast column hundreds of feet high. On the hillside below, bright orange flames ...

What San Diegans do now when knee cartilage tears

The rise and falls of the amateur athlete

Flexibility and strength. Range of motion. These are the keys to avoiding any athletic injury, or so claims Phil Tyne. Tyne owns an athletic club in downtown San Diego and he is also the conditioning ...

North City West — the area between the freeways

Appearing soon: 40,000 people

An automobile moving at fifty-five miles per hour requires twenty-one minutes to travel up Interstate 5 from downtown San Diego to the Carmel Valley Road exit. Two gas stations and a Sambo’s restaurant are the ...

Jim Kemp – San Diego's largest cattle rancher

They’re all city people moving up to Campo now

“See that skinny cow there?’’ he asks, pointing to a thin, gray cow that eyes us steadily as she chews. “There’s something wrong with her — probably ate some nails or wire or something.

The downsides of San Diego's mostly science school

Research and envelopment at UCSD

He is a tall, bespectacled, grandfatherly with a mischievous laugh. His hands are large, as befits someone who was a football receiver in his college days. On the wall of his office in UCSD’s Bonner ...

San Diego starting to deal with its smog

There's something in the air

It started out as a typical spring day in San Diego: sunny skies, a gentle breeze coming in off the ocean, and light but persistent smog. Virginia Engler, a meteorologist for the San Diego County ...

My father's role in Hiroshima

“Couldn't there have been a demonstration first?”

As a ten-year-old exploring the dark corners of my family’s garage, I once found a huge knife sheathed in a worn leather case. It had a rawhide handle and an eight-inch steel blade. When I ...

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