54th Annual Conference

Great Speakers to Share Important “Defining Moments” at our 54th Annual Conference March 29 & 30

Logo for 250 anniversary of San Diego - conference by the Congress of History

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”

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“Defining Moments”

Conference Showcases Unique Historic Happenings that Shaped Our Region

Register Now ( link to form )

The Congress of History 54th 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.

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Coronado Library Meeting

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

Link to Coronado Public Library :




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Request for Speakers

Congress of History of San Diego & Imperial Counties
54th Annual History Conference * Friday, March 29, & Saturday, March 30, 2019
Conference Location: Portuguese Hall, Point Loma, San Diego, CA

Final Request for Speakers

Thank you to all the historians who have responded.
This is our last Call for Speakers.
Contact conference co-chair Louise Torio at: HistoricSanDiego@aol.com
ASAP or (619) 233-8833
to see if your “defining moment” fits in with the 2019 conference theme.

Our region has an interesting past. A lot has happened in 250 years. While claimed by Spain in 1542 with Cabrillo’s exploration of the Pacific coast ( Joao Rodrigues Cabrillo in Portuguese, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in Spanish ), it wasn’t until the 1769 Portola expedition that Spanish/European exploration and settlement began in what would become San Diego in the State of California. For good or bad, nothing would be the same. Since that defining moment 250 years ago, events
and people (some famous, some little known) have dramatically influenced the course of the region. This conference explores the impacts, intended or not, of decisions that have brought us to where we are today.

Historians, researchers, writers, and storytellers: Each year the Congress of History presents a history conference on topics that reflect our region. We’ve done conferences on big themes (like the impact of world wars on the region). This year we seek talks about a defining moment within the past 250 years. This defining moment might be an event, movement, activity, uprising, or change in thinking that could have been impactful to the entire two-county region or to a specific town or area. What defining moments do you want to bring to our attention? What defining moments are important to you from the Founding Era (roughly 1769-1850), the Middle Era (roughly 1850-1950), and the Modern Era (roughly 1950-2000*)? [*Our cut off for this history conference is the year 2000.] And you don’t have to be a professional speaker, writer, or historian. Great presentations come from those who care! Are you an author? Bring your books for sale!

• Your topic may be something not widely known that had a big impact on a place.
• Or It may be about a person who did something of great impact in the region.
• Or it could be about an incident that changed the course of events.

If it was a defining moment, we want to hear your take on it!

Geographic Area: COH organization members range from southern Orange County to northern Baja California. Please use this region as your guide for proposing your historic talk.

Conference Format: 16-18 speakers over two days, each giving a 20-minute talk with 10 minutes for Q&A. Speakers must have a PowerPoint presentation (with lots of photos please, not so heavy on text).

Link to form ( Adobe Acrobat – 109 kb file size )

Email form to Louise Torio at HistoricSanDiego@aol.com. (OK to just answer all questions from the form.)


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Thank You

Our thanks go out to Carl Shipek and the Sycuan Cultural Center for hosting our meeting today
We will post photos and a recap soon.
We would recommend a visit to this wonderful center and take a tour.

The July 21, 2018 COH Board Meeting is confirmed for the

Sycuan Cultural Center

910 Willow Glen Drive,
El Cajon, CA 92109.
10 am
Carl Shipek is the Curator/Archivist with the Kumeyaay Community College Library/Archives


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The President’s Column

 Dianne Cowen, President
Congress of History of San Diego and Imperial Counties
e-mail: diannepcowen@gmail.com 

Summer musings –– Like some of you, I am an emigrant to California, as
our family followed my step-dad west for work. In the first 16 years of
my life, I was moved 16 times and lived in six different states and two
other countries!

As I grew old enough to understand what was happening,
I loudly and vigorously voiced my opposition to each impending move.
Now, I’m thankful that the last family move was to such a great state
which offered us many opportunities.

While my childhood and teen-age memories involve a lot of different places, the memories of my 97-year-old mother are of the rural community in which she was born and remained, until she moved to the city after high school graduation. . .

All of this is to say that each of us has memories that comprise our
personal history, and that history needs to be recorded. My children
know only part of my story unless I write, or tell, about the “BK years”
(before kids).

If you don’t have children, your stories are still important to record. You may not think your memories are special enough to write down, but they’re unique to you. You’ve seen your community and the world change. The historical society where you grew-up would be interested in your memories of your life, from childhood into adulthood.
Only you have these specific memories.

For example, when I married and moved to San Diego, the Del Mar Fair became part of my summer plans: Food, music, gardens, flowers, manning a booth, demonstrations, lots of people, items sold only at the fair, animals, rides, exhibits, arts,
crafts, & more! And, my experiences of all these aspects are unique to me.

One of my favorite places to visit at the fair is the historic
Alvarado House, which has exhibits depicting some of the history of Del
Mar. This historic residence has been moved a few times and is now in
the gardening/ landscaping area of the fairgrounds, where it’s open only
during the Del Mar Fair. The Del Mar Historical Society provides docents
to keep the building open. If you missed the Alvarado House this year,
put it on your must-see list for June 2019. . . .

During her recent visit from Portland, Oregon, my adult niece, Ana, asked to see Balboa
Park. She and her brother used to come here for several days every
summer and go to the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park, Sea World, the beach,
and camping in the Laguna mountains with my family. How delightful to
tour with an adult who is interested in Balboa Park’s history, art,
architecture, gardens, and other flora.

We enjoyed the Sculpture Courtyard outside the Botanic Library and then searched-out the architectural features explained in the exhibits. Ana also joined us for
a Monday night concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, where we were
thrilled to listen to the new San Diego City Organist Raul Prieto
Ramirez. I hope that you are able to enjoy the parks and history in your
neighborhood. We live in a region with so many different cultural
communities, which add to the exciting mix of available experiences.
Where will we go next? . . .

Thank you to the San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department Rangers at Los Peñasquitos for permitting us to meet in the conference room at the Adobe Ranch House in May. Thanks, also, to Docent Gloria Hinkley who gave CoH members an interesting tour of this historic adobe, where I am also a docent.

For our CoH board meeting THIS Saturday, July 21, the new Sycuan Cultural Center will be the host location. (For details see above.)
All our meetings are free and open to the membership; guests are also
welcome. Air conditioning will help keep us from thinking of the summer
heat and humidity!

Then, on Saturday, September 15, the meeting will be
held in the Winn Room at the Coronado Public Library. As with all
Congress of History Board Meetings, our meetings are free and open to
the public, and we do not have any items for sale.

Plan ahead to catch a ferry across San Diego Bay if you don’t want to drive over the Coronado Bridge. Or, you may drive the scenic route around, on the Silver Strand.

Unlike our usual meetings, the September board meeting will begin at
10:30 a.m. because the Coronado Library doesn’t open until 10 a.m. (More
details will be in the Sept.-Oct. edition of Adelante.) Looking forward
to seeing you soon,
Dianne P. Cowen, President


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Los Peñasquitos Adobe Ranch –

Photos by Pat Louis of our May meeting at the Los Peñasquitos Adobe Ranch.



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The President’s Column


Dianne P. Cowen, President
The Congress of History of
San Diego and Imperial Counties (CoH)

May is Preservation Month
Well, my feet have finally landed on terra firma, after floating on air for weeks following our 2018 Conference. What an event! The Portuguese History Center was a fantastic sponsor for “Believe It or Not, It Happened in My Neighborhood.” The variety of speakers’ topics and the number and variety of exhibitors indulged the passion for history among Congress of History members and guests.
Thank you to co-chairs Louise Torio and Eva Petersen for heading the planning committee. Thank you, also, to our other sponsors for their support, and to all who attended this special event, held at an outstanding venue! . . .
Now it’s off to the 2019 conference, when we will celebrate San Diego’s 250th Anniversary. This 2019 conference needs a chair and members who will lead planning and “birthing” of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Please contact me, or any other Board Member (see page 3), if you can join the fun. . . .
Thank you to Helen Halmay, Jonnie Wilson, Rosanne Goodwin, and Ray and Kathy Blavatt for joining me at the San Diego History Center (SDHC) for the April 10 Free Public Tuesday. When there, we take the opportunity to check-out the current exhibits before and/or after our table-time.
Kathy enjoyed seeing paintings by an artist who used to work a day job with her father. Helen was moved by the memorial to the late Gabe Selak (a SDHC employee, and friend of the CoH) in the Fashion Redux Competition clothing display. This was a project which The SDHC, and other Balboa Park museums, are moving beyond hands-on exhibits to visually draw visitors into smaller spaces that are packed with artifacts and information, delivered in interesting ways. Many of your organizations are doing similar things in their exhibit spaces. . . .
On a recent trip to Baja Calif., Mexico, with CAREM of Tecate (a CoH organizational member), I visited the new Caracol Museum in Ensenada, which has an environmental theme. Students of all ages (and non-students) are guided though exhibits to experience the current and future effects of changes in the earth’s climate.
We were amazed at what had been accomplished with a low budget. We also visited the site of Mission San Vicente Ferrer (1780) and Mission Santo Domingo (1775), which is still in use. Both missions were founded by the Dominicans.
. . .
May is Preservation Month, celebrated locally by SOHO with its People In Preservation (PIP) event annually (this year on Thursday, May 31; see the article on page 5). Congratulations to CoH member Susan Bugbee who this year is receiving SOHO’s top honor, the Preservationist of the Year Award. Susan will share this award with Kelley Stanco, David Swarens, and Bernie Turgeon, all honored for their tireless work over several years creating the South Park Historic District. (Then the S.D. Historical Resources Board and the City Council approved the district!) We’re so pleased for Susan, who was a speaker at our 2014 Conference. . . .
Plan Ahead – You are also invited to attend our July 21 Board Meeting, which will be held at the Sycuan Cultural Center, on Willow Glen Drive in El Cajon. The Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay have repurposed the former Cottonwood Golf Resort property for their use. (There will be air conditioning.)
Mark your calendar now for this meeting, that is open to all. We’re looking forward to hearing about what your organization or museum is doing.

Dianne P. Cowen, President 

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COH Next Meeting

The September  15, 2018 COH Board Meeting is confirmed for the

Coronado Public Library

Winn Room
640 Orange Ave
Coronado, CA 92118
Phone: (619) 522-7390

Please Note: We will start at 10:30 am due to the Library opens at 10am.




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A Wonderful Show!

This gallery contains 30 photos.


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