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Stories by Neal Matthews

San Diego characters you should have known

Al Ducheny, Steve Kelly, Larry Himmel, Sam Spital, Stanley Siegel, Ed Miller

Bad blood in Barrio Logan Ducheny is most unpopular with those who run the government-funded agencies, people such as Rachel Ortiz, who directs the Barrio Station youth program; Jess Haro, chairman of the Chicano Federation; ...

Glorietta Bay yields the beautiful, elusive seahorse

Wake-up call to the Navy’s nighttime dredging operation

She rose from afternoon slumbers with something pinching her tail. Three feet below the surface of San Diego Bay her equine head, crowned with a five-point coronet, poked through a blanket of eel grass. Alarm ...

Randy Cunningham describes 1972 shooting down MiG over Vietnam - and his future

Among the few Navy fighter pilots still around with actual combat experience

Randy Cunningham taxied the F-4 Phantom onto the catapult aboard the USS Constellation, and both he and Bill Driscoll, the radar intercept officer in the back seat, turned to look at the spinning fingers of ...

Loss: what San Diegans left behind In 1992

Hair, friends, sports, youth, faith, Evening Tribune, John Sinor

Unlike 1984, when Ronald Reagan made it a point to finish his campaign at a giant rally in the parking lot of Fashion Valley, George Bush came to see the All-Star game and was booed by the locals.

An incendiary history of San Diego's counterculture press.

Notes from Underground

Both Ritter and Remer lay a small part of the blame for the closing of the Door on the Reader, which was established in 1972. "The original Reader was a joke; we laughed at it," Ritter recalls.

Mission Bay: pirates, dolphin races, volcanoes, and see-through blouses

All the good sand was deposited west of Ingraham Street

“If we knew then what we know now, we’d have done Fiesta Island a little differently,” Earnest reflects. “We would have mixed the west bay sand with the east bay muck to fill Fiesta Island.”

Children's Hospital gave AIDS to hemophiliacs

Tainted blood brothers

The Son, Rick Valdez: In a lot of ways my brother and I were opposites. Steven was conventional and I was the rebel. He was the good boy, and I always questioned things. We were ...

San Diego survivor of Bataan Death March evades Japanese for three years

Die free!

I was 19 when World War II broke out. I turned 20 going into Bataan on my birthday, the 12th of December 1941. I was in the antitank company, 31st Infantry, the only American infantry ...

C. Arnholt Smith, part two

The decline of a western tycoon

Kroc got on the phone and in a very high-pitched voice he said, “Mommy, I bought us a baseball team today.” There was a long silence, but I imagine what she said to him.

C. Arnholt Smith, in his own words – part 1

Mr. San Diego still rolling at 93

I don’t know why we expanded like this. I guess I’m a damn fool and like to work and create things. We had to have jobs, industry. San Diego wasn’t like Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Steel.

San Onofre power plant has four-foot-thick walls

Edison's temple of doom

It was one of those days when the beach is living cloisonne. Luminous layers of smooth gold, dappled brown, and rippling indigo. San Onofre State Beach on a bright February afternoon. To the north of ...

Origins of San Diego's central library

Now where's the worst place we can put a library?

Convinced that the City of San Diego had made a mistake when it acquired only half a city block for its new public library, civic luminary George W. Marston stated in 1899, "I believe the ...

Jorge Hank Rhon, Caliente racetrack owner, owned nine pet shops, six veterinary clinics

Tyger, tyger, sleek and bright- were you stolen in the night?

In mid-August, American customs agents stopped a southbound car at a checkpoint near the Mexican border. The car belonged to Jorge Hank Rhon, owner and operator of Tijuana’s Agua Caliente racetrack. Hank’s driver was at ...

Reader writers write about first day of school

La Mesa, East San Diego, Minneapolis, Logan Heights

Mr. Van Winkle asked the Student Council Reps, to indicate to the classes that if they can convince him through sound logical arguments that they should ride skateboards to school that he will reconsider his position.

Why they use asphalt on I-15 and Miramar Way

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 ...

San Diego drug bounty hunters pillage civil liberties

Days of plunder

Government bounty hunters netted $26 million in San Diego County last year by seizing the property of people believed to be selling, transporting, or manufacturing illegal drugs. This was the seventh largest take in the ...

The Moreton fig at Grape and Third

The tree that saw tomorrow

Years of drought and neglect led to a stunting of the tree’s growth as the thirsty roots searched beneath the asphalt parking lot for water. Vandals have defaced its intricate trunk with carved initials.

San Diego sewage hurting the Pt. Loma kelp beds?

Not a black-and-white case

If San Diego is eventually forced to build a multi-billion-dollar secondary sewage treatment system, the legal mandate for such an undertaking will be found in Federal Judge Paudi Brewster’s ruling on March 28. After an ...

Peter Bohmer, Franz Schnaubelt, Mac Heald, Tiffany Chin, Dorothy Morefield, Brian Batey, Alex Drehsler, Robert Cox, Louis Wenzell, Clifford Graham, Dr. David Reuben

San Diegans who were famous for a very short time

Heald’s surrender to Los Angeles police was delayed until he recovered from self-inflicted wrist slashes. Jim Holtzman told staffers if Heald was given probation instead of jail time, he would have the job of executive producer of the Channel 8 news.

The shady side of San Diego's tow trucks

Swept away... by an unusual destiny

It's 8:30 Sunday night, January 20, and 41 tow trucks are lined up with their engines revving behind the Dow stereo store on Sports Arena Boulevard. For the tow truck drivers, this will be a ...

Palomar's telescope mirrors maximize seeing

The Hale blinks

“One year Jesse and I were working on something we thought was a white dwarf. It was listed in all the white dwarf catalogues. I got a spectrum on it and realized it was a quasar.”

Curving bridge on Del Dios highway to damage San Dieguito Indian site

Dust flies over ancient settlement

Rogers named the oldest group the San Dieguito people because their stone tools were found along the San Dieguito River. The next group, whose artifacts rest above those of the San Dieguitoans, he called the La Jolla people.

Who's winning San Diego's preservation wars?

This place Is history

Ten years ago, two architects resigned in protest from the San Diego Historical Site Board, frustrated over the board’s inability to protect historic buildings that were in the path of the downtown redevelopment juggernaut. Architect ...

Unnatural erosion at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Is Point Loma Nazarene responsible?

It looks like a big vacant lot along the cliffs on the western slope of Point Loma, just below Point Loma Nazarene College, between Ladera Street and the fence marking the U.S. Navy property. There’s ...

Has the curtain finally fallen on Kit Goldman and the Gaslamp Quarter Theatres?

A critical stage

To Kit Goldman’s way of thinking, a new era has dawned for the Gaslamp Quarter Theatres, and all the rancor of the past three years is erased. She may be right. Then again, she may ...

The mysterious death of local Teamsters leader Rodger Whitehead

Motionless in the driver’s seat of his blue ’75 Maverick

During the autopsy, the medical examiner carefully studied Rodger’s throat to determine if he had been choked into unconsciousness before he was placed in the car, but no such evidence was found.

Caliente Racetrack owner Jorge Hank Rhon discusses the murder of "El Gato"

I'd say. 'Okay, Felix, what do you want?'

Last Wednesday, May 2, was a day of reckoning foretold by many Tijuanans. They may not have been able to peg the exact date it would happen, but they knew it was coming: Antonio Vera ...

San Diego pilot Tosh Plumlee flew narcotics for contras and other warlords - maps, names and dates

I ran drugs for Uncle Sam .

The details published here are just a fraction of what Plumlee knows about U.S. government actions in Central America. He can rattle off names of pilots and the secret, illicit missions they flew until the listener’s eyes glaze over.

The early years of AIDS in Tijuana

Emilio will take care of them


Port District does not like cab competition

I am furious yellow

Right now, San Diego taxicab owners can charge any fare they like up to $1.40 for the flag drop and $1.80 a mile thereafter. Some of the city’s 892 cabs are charging the full $1.80 ...

Reader writers: the story I wanted to write... but didn't

“Maybe an animal story”

Sandy and a girlfriend had gone into a liquor store, robbed the clerk, They locked the clerk in a walk-in cooler. Sandy started feeling bad about the guy. She went back and let him out.

What the city’s sewage is not doing to the Pt. Loma kelp beds.

The end of the pipe

A first-hand look at marine life near the sewage outfall at Point Loma.

The case of former doctor Philip Kees

Physician defend thyself

Philip Kees lives downtown in the Armed Services YMCA. and as he shuttles about on Broadway in shorts and a sailor hat pulled down over his bald head, he's indistinguishable from the mass of sidewalk ...

Eric Show, thinker with a sinker

Is Padres pitcher too brainy for his own good?

Manager Jack McKeon says he talked to Show about his politics in 1987, and he told him "to give it a rest. Personally, I don’t have any problem with it. But sometimes, Eric just talks too damn much.”

San Diego transexual Jerri Sousa recants

I am woman. I am man.

It’s the hottest place in hell you can imagine: not knowing what you are,” Jerri Sousa declares. She’s been there. Born a woman, wishing, and fantasizing, and finally believing that she was really a man ...

Don Zub – symbol of and insult to Coronado

A few days before the election, he was arrested for drunk driving on Orange Avenue

It was one of those Friday afternoons along Orange Avenue in Coronado when even the threat of rain couldn’t chase off the boys in wetsuits pulled down to their waists, the women in muumuus and ...

They fix Miramar's Screaming Eagles

When you take care of a Navy F-14, you own it.

It is the E-3 airmen and the E-4 third class petty officers who do most of the work on the airplanes. “It takes a college degree to break an F-14, and a high school diploma to fix it.”

The F-14: a bad bird?

"That crash over El Cajon just had a total hydraulics failure."

The F-14 Tomcat prototype crashed on its maiden flight December 21, 1970, and ever since then questions about safety have dogged the Navy’s frontline fighter/interceptor. Five F-14s, four of them based at Miramar, crashed in ...

Larry Stirling may be the most self-righteous, impatient, indignant state senator in California history

And he hopes to improve on that record.

Early on a frigid Tuesday morning in Sacramento, state senator Larry Stirling is quietly answering constituents’ letters in his office. You walk in, he jumps up and says, “You asked me yesterday about what I’ve ...

Old downtown San Diego landlords replaced by Japanese

The final frontier

Four high-rise office buildings opened for business downtown in 1982, flooding the market with 1.7 million square feet of office space and immediately giving San Diego the highest vacancy rate in the nation. But what ...

Do California drunk-driving laws make the problem worse?

Drinker, driver, slammer

Eugene Ellis is a forty-nme-year-old San Diego lawyer specializing in defending drunk drivers. He recently agreed to speak with reporter Neal Matthews about the changing nature of drunk-driving enforcement Matthews: In the city of San ...