Our appreciation to Barbara Zaragoza of the South Bay Historical Society (SBHS) for making the meeting arrangements and to Harry Orgovan, SBHS president, who gave us a tour of the Chula Vista Heritage Museum exhibit located in the Chula Vista Library, Civic Center Branch.
Dianne P. Cowen, President
The Congress of History of
San Diego and Imperial Counties (CoH)
Wow! I am still basking in the afterglow of the 2019 Congress of History Conference, Defining Moments 250 Years Extraordinary Events that Shaped the History of the San Diego Region (1769-2019). We are so appreciative of the sponsorship of the Portuguese History Center and the Portuguese Hall for the use of their convenient and comfortable venue for the conference. Thank you Louise Torio for leading the 2019 Conference Planning Committee.
Has it really been less than two months since we listened to engaging speakers deliver interesting talks that covered a range of topics over 250 years of history? From those speakers and from member organizations and our vendors, I am continuing to learn as I read through my 2019 book purchases.
Every year I enjoy exploring histories of new and familiar areas and people of the San Diego, Imperial, and Riverside Counties and Baja California. I have already passed-along one riveting read to a daughter-inlaw who is an avid reader. Some of the talks also led me to reread previous years’ purchases that are pertinent to this year’s topics.
Our appreciation to the South Bay Historical Society for hosting the upcoming May 18 Congress of History Board Meeting. Harry Orgovan, SBHS President, will lead a tour of the Chula Vista Heritage Museum exhibit following the meeting.
I am excited for this opportunity to update my knowledge of South Bay history. You are always welcome to attend and join our meetings. That is how I became involved in the Congress of History, after attending a few conferences with a friend.
The Congress of History has greatly increased my knowledge of local history. When I moved to San Diego in 1975, I was in new territory far from my Santa Barbara County home base. I am from that part of California where the ocean is south of the roadways.
Hawaii’s directions of “makai” (toward the ocean) or “mauka” (toward the mountain) make more sense when the ocean and the sunset don’t line-up like they do in all those gorgeous photos.
As a newcomer to San Diego, I read signs at the intersection of Interstates 8 and 5 in San Diego that gave me choices that I didn’t understand: “El Cajon and Beaches.” I didn’t want to go to the beach and I didn’t know where El Cajon was! There wasn’t GPS in those days, and there wasn’t even the handy Thomas Brothers map books.
Trying to both drive and read a foldout map with small print (and it wasn’t as small to me then as it is now) contributed to a lot of wrong turns or not turning when I should have. I did, however, become familiar with areas that were far from our rented house in North Park.
Through attending Congress of History meetings and conferences I have purposely explored east, west, north, and south. Even with all the GPS I still sometimes make wrong turns. However, now when I see signs for Coronado, Lakeside, National City, Vista, Fallbrook, Lemon Grove, Oceanside, Spring Valley, Barona, Çamp Pendleton, Sycuan, Villa Montezuma, Warner Springs, Tecate, Temecula, and many others, I’m confident that I know where to recommend a great museum or historic site in each community.
If I haven’t been to a place for a few years, I like to return to see what has changed. If you have children or grandchildren, you may have noticed that our member organizations and museums have many activities geared to children of various ages. Give it a go. You might find yourself enjoying those “kid” activities too!
Our 2020 conference will focus on the history of women in the San Diego Region. Co-chairs Rosanne Goodwin and Helen Halmay are enthusiastic about the topic. They are forming the committee and will set meeting dates and places. You are welcome to join in the fun and participate in preparing another first-rate history conference.
The Vista Historical Society will host the September 21 CoH Board Meeting at their Rancho Minerva site. On November 16 the Barona Cultural Center and Museum will open their doors to us. A special thanks to these members and to Lemon Grove Historical Society and the National City Historical Society for providing free meeting space and an opportunity to tour your museums. Each and every year six member organizations host the Congress of History Board Meetings. If you feel slighted because we haven’t visited your site, please contact me so that I can try to schedule you for 2020.
I invite you to commit to attend at least one event promoted in Adelante by our member organizations and museums. We are all busy with our own responsibilities so it takes commitment to reach out and explore. You will find some fun and interesting slants on history that will add to your own enjoyment and knowledge. Then tell me where you have been and one thing that you took away with you.
Great Speakers to Share Important “Defining Moments” at our 54th Annual Conference March 29 & 30
We are excited to share with you the names of the historians who will be presenting “Defining Moments” at the 54th Annual Conference on March 29 and 30, 2019, at Portuguese Hall. See the end of this article for the list. You may recognize some names of experts who have spoken at past conferences, while other speakers are joining us for the first time. Many of our talented speakers are also authors, and they will have their books available at the conference.
Topics from the Founding Era (1769 to 1850) will range from the initial Spanish exploration and settlement of the region, where Native American trails became the El Camino Real, the road northward, to how a modern day “mission walker” made the entire 1,600 mile journey herself while beating cancer. Sometimes fate can turn on a dime. But for the want of an anchor in 1770, the fragile San Diego settlement would not have survived. You’ll hear the extraordinary history of how Franciscan frontiersmen traveled all over the southwest, and their lasting contributions to the region.
For the Middle Era (1851-1950), we’ll see how dangerous sea travel was before building our first Point Loma lighthouse. Travelers discovered Southern California in droves, thanks in part to Helen Hunt Jackson turning her deeply detailed but rarely read research on the treatment of the Native Americans into the romantic myth of “Ramona.” By the booming 1880s, streetcar service evolved into more than transportation: it seeded neighborhoods and allowed for a growing population to live farther away from a city center. John D. Spreckels was one of those amazing men who had he not made San Diego his home, we never would be the same. And when we talk about “southern” California, it’s important to remember how much bigger San Diego County used to be. You’ll hear how Riverside County was formed and what it meant to the success of both counties.
Sometimes history sneaks up on you and has unintended consequences. You’ll learn how a San Diego neighborhood railroad became part of a giant national rail connection. You’ll also find out how a Progressive, well-intentioned state law to help build public works projects backfired terribly from the crushing local burden of repaying bonds. Without proper infrastructure for a growing region, we wouldn’t be able to feed ourselves. Representative of so many rural areas, learn how the creation of a water district allowed for a steady supply of water for rural agricultural development. The Native Americans have always lived here. In 1932, one band took the long view with clever thinking while being relocated to keep their people and their future intact.
The Congress of History has had conferences about wars before. You’ll see a different side of war via the poignant letters of students from San Diego State College, some of whom returned and some of whom did not. We’ll tell you the story about a very important African-American San Diego man who illegally (for the time) purchased a home for his family in 1947 in a restricted neighborhood, then went on to continue to break barriers and build partnerships in public service for over 50 years.
Does anyone remember slide rules and outstanding accomplishments made before computers? In the Modern Era (1951-2000), hear the fascinating true story of General Dynamics, the Atlas missile, and San Diego’s role in space from the youngest engineer on the team. Were you here in 1963? Culturally the Modern Era was extremely dynamic. Learn about how art and poetry came together for the avant garde, then hear how the Mexican-American community made history with the creation of Chicano Park from someone who was actually there. In theater, our region is known for developing plays and sending them to Broadway. You’ll understand what forces lead to that happening. And finally, everyone deserves a voice in preserving their history. You’ll see how one group claimed their history and created their own archives to share their struggles.
I am excited to be part of the Congress of History and the dedicated historians and history buffs who have volunteered untold hours to bring this conference to you. Thanks goes to our cosponsor, the Portuguese Historical Center, without whose support and partnership we couldn’t bring this quality programming to you in such a great setting. We again will have more than a dozen historical organizations with booths at the event, along with two history-supportive booksellers. Thank you to everyone for making this another great conference!
The conference registration form is available at our website atwww.CongressOfHistory.org and in Adelante. Please register today, and bring a friend. Share with others in your organization about this event. Support the organization that supports your work. And if you know of a deserving person or organization doing great things in our southern California region, don’t forget to nominate them for a Congress of History award.
Below is a list of confirmed speakers and the working titles for their presentations. We can’t wait for you to meet them in person at the Conference!
Friday, March 29, 2019
Founding Era ( 1769 – 1850 )
Max Kurillo: “1769: The First Spanish Intrusion into San Diego – From El Camino Real to the 1906 Commemorative Bells” [author]
Alex Bevil: “March 23, 1770: For the Want of an Anchor – How a Lost Sea Anchor Contributed to the Founding of San Diego 250 Years Ago” [author]
Robert Kittle: “1775: How Franciscan Frontiersmen Charted the West” [author]
Edie Littlefield Sundby: “December 2015: The Mission Walker’s 1,600 Mile El Camino Real Trek – Following in the Footsteps of Serra and Portola” [author]
Middle Era (1851-1950)
Karen Scanlon: “November 15, 1855: Finally a Lighthouse at San Diego – Creating the Beacon of Safety for Southern California Maritime Travel” [author]
Rosanne Goodwin: ‘1884: Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona – How A Romantic Myth of San Diego Captured America’s Heart and Brought Tourism To Town”
Douglas Mengers and Rhiannon Killian: “July 3, 1886: All Aboard! San Diego’s First Streetcar Service Blossoms into a Neighborhood-Seeding Commuter Rail Industry” [author]
Dr. Sandra (Sandee) Bonura: “1887 and Beyond: John D. Spreckels: Builder of San Diego”
Steve Lech, Riverside County Heritage Association: “May 1893: San Diego County Loses One-Third of its Territory – The Formation of Riverside County out of San Diego County” [author]
Bruce Semelsberger: “November 15, 1919: With the Driving of a Golden Spike, a Neighborhood Railroad Became Part of a Transcontinental Giant”
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Helen Ofield: “1925: Unintended Consequences – How the Mattoon Act Nearly Killed Southern California Development”
Jack Larimer, Vista Historical Museum: “February 27, 1926: The Vista Irrigation District Opens the Door to Rural Agricultural Development and the Creation of the City of Vista”
Laurie Egan-Hedley: “1932: The Barona Band of Mission Indians – Maintaining Sovereignty Through the Relocation Process”
Lisa K. Shapiro: “World War II: No Forgotten Fronts – The Poignant Letters from San Diego State College Students at War” [author]
Lynne Carrier: “1947: Leon Williams – Together We Can Do More; Breaking Barriers for the African-American Community” [author]
Modern Era (1951-2000)
Bill Ketchum: “1957: To The Moon on a Slide Rule – General Dynamics, the Atlas Missile, and San Diego’s Extraordinary Role in Space Exploration” [author]
Dave Hampton: “1963: Guy Williams’ Poems for Painters – Evidence of the Avant Garde in San Diego”
Maria Garcia: “April 22,1970: The Mexican-American Community is Heard – the Founding of Chicano Park” [author]
Welton Jones: “1980s: When San Diego Actors Stopped Giving It Away – Theatre Turns Pro”
Lambda Archives Staff: “1987: Deserving of Preservation – The Founding of the Lambda Archives to Preserve LGBTQ+ History”
TheCongress of History54th Annual Conference will be March 29 and 30, 2019. Once again, we think we’ve succeeded in gathering the best speakers of a wide range of historical “defining moments” that changed the course of our region. With 2 50 years of history to consider, we are delighted at the outpouring of interest from historians, authors, and dedicated history buffs who will bring to life important events. Some of these events were understood to be momentous at the time they happened. Some events, like the gentle rustling of a butterfly’s wings, were small stirring that resulted in big changes. Never have you seen a conference like this one!
Past conferences have tackled many topics. While acknowledging certain major historical events that shaped our history, we will not be covering ground covered at previous conferences. Instead, “Defining Moments” will bring you speakers who will explore new perspectives on some major moments from new and interesting angles. What we love about history is how historians and researchers can find a clue and follow a lead that will bring to light a fresh interpretation and give us a new way of thinking about the past.
Divided into a Founding Era, Middle Era, and Modern Era, we’ll cover 250 years of “moments” that have changed everything What would have happened had the Spanish packet boat San Antonio not needed an anchor? Who could have imagined that a romantic novel would do more to highlight the plight of local Native Americans than a scholarly work? What movers and shakers of the region almost didn’t choose to be here? What former secrets of the military changed the path of the Navy? What cultural happenings had big impacts on our region? Ah, you’ll have to attend the conference to find out!
We will again be in Portuguese Hall in Point Loma, thanks to the support of our conference co-sponsors, the Portuguese Historical Center. The conference dates are Friday, March 29, and Saturday, March 30. The conference registration form is available now for you to use. Don’t delay in sending it in. Consider bringing a friend. You will not want to miss these speakers, nor the exciting vendors and booksellers. Come for the speakers, stay for the networking, and let us enjoy the company of others like us who love a good (historical) story!
The Congress of History thanks you for your support of our 54th conference. Details of speakers and titles of talks will be confirmed and posted soon.
The Congress of History would like to extend many thanks to Christian Esquevin, the Director of the
Coronado Public Library, who told us about the library’s special collections. He also showed us many of the beautiful works of art which are an important part of the library space. The Winn Room was perfect for the Board Meeting