Western characters in mural at Old Town Saloon.

Several whiskered Western characters pose in a mural on Harney Street in Old Town.
Several whiskered Western characters pose in a mural on Harney Street in Old Town.

There’s a fairly new street mural in Old Town that I really like.  Every time I see it, my imagination travels back in time. Back to the first half of the 19th century.

San Diego for many decades was a tiny town seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Whether it belonged to Spain, or Mexico, or the United States, Old Town San Diego was a place of dusty roads and modest, sun-baked adobe houses, horses and wagons, rugged settlers and ranchers. Characters from that era seem to live again in this mural.

Artist Frank Mando painted this artwork in 2013. I couldn’t capture the entire piece in one shot. Enlivening a building at the corner of San Diego Avenue and Harney Street, the mural is divided in two by a door of the Old Town Saloon. Standing inside that door, as you’ll see, there seems to be a well-known movie star!

Freight wagon hauls a load of barrels in fun art that recalls early San Diego history.
Freight wagon hauls a load of barrels in fun art that recalls early San Diego history.
John Wayne seems to be coming through a door of the Old Town Saloon.
John Wayne seems to be coming through a door of the Old Town Saloon.
Elegant lady and girl from long ago stroll past Ye Old Curiosity Shoppe.
Elegant lady and girl from long ago stroll past Ye Old Curiosity Shoppe.
Old Town mural on building wall was painted in 2013 by artist Frank Mando.
Old Town mural on building wall was painted in 2013 by artist Frank Mando.
Kids standing along sidewalk seem to have materialized from San Diego's past.
Kids standing along sidewalk seem to have materialized from San Diego’s past.
People walk past cool street mural near side entrance to Old Town Saloon.
People walk past nostalgic street mural near side entrance to Old Town Saloon.

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Silver Line trolley at City College station.

silver line trolley at city college station

This pic is definitely cool!

I happened to be at the Smart Corner building, the location of the City College trolley station, when a historic car belonging to the Silver Line came through! It was servicing the downtown loop.

This shiny, beautifully restored Presidents Conference Committee (PCC) trolley car was built just after the end of World War II. A whole fleet of electric trolleys like this one traversed San Diego until 1949.

Here are more pics of the same trolley taken on different days:

Cool restored Silver Line trolley at Fifth Avenue station.
Cool restored Silver Line trolley at Fifth Avenue station.
Silver Line trolley near the Convention Center.
Silver Line trolley near the Convention Center.

Unrestored vintage Silver Line trolley car.

unrestored vintage silver line trolley

Here’s a photo of an unrestored vintage trolley car. It belongs to the San Diego trolley and one day will run on downtown’s Silver Line loop!

One vintage car has already been beautifully restored and is running during special hours. I’ll try to get a good pic of it one of these days.

Five cars are scheduled for restoration. They are relatively elegant post-war Presidents Conference Committee (PCC) cars, which ran in the city until 1949. Some would like to see these revitalized cars run up a new trolley line from downtown along Park Boulevard to the San Diego Zoo and beyond. It makes sense to me. Balboa Park and the zoo would be more easily reached by out-of-town visitors.

Streetcars have been a part of San Diego history since the 1890’s. The first were open-air coaches pulled by mules and horses. Eventually, electric streetcars ran from downtown to Hillcrest and east through many local communities, including North Park, Kensington and East San Diego. With the rise of the motorcar, they vanished. That is, until the modern red trolleys began service in 1981.

This photograph was taken at the 12th and Imperial trolley station, right next to the train and MTS trolley yard. You can see the tall bayside Hilton hotel in the background.

The mostly forgotten San Diego Chess Club.

nearly forgotten san diego chess club

In 1961, the Balboa Club moved into a building near the southwest corner of Balboa Park. The building today is faded, padlocked, and seldom used. Few people now visit this once popular meeting place. It is the location of the San Diego Chess Club.

Taking a picture through a side window of empty chess club on a weekend morning.
Taking a picture through side window of empty chess club on a weekend morning.

Through a dirty window on the north side, rows of empty tables are visible. The place seems dead.

Most chess players now test their skills on virtual chessboards. Two flesh and blood players squaring off in a lively, tension-filled room across a common table has been replaced by isolated taps and clicks on small screens.

Passing years and neglect at San Diego Chess Club building in Balboa Park.
Years of neglect show at San Diego Chess Club building in Balboa Park.
Chessboard and other old images on side facing Sixth Avenue are very faded.
Chessboard and other images on side facing Sixth Avenue are faded.

Adjoining the building are numerous lonely horseshoes pits. The Balboa Park Horseshoe Club seems just as forgotten.

Unused horseshoes pits near San Diego Chess Club.
Unused horseshoes pits near San Diego Chess Club.

Walked past on a spring day… The game of horseshoes isn’t dead yet!

One fine Saturday afternoon, I finally saw folks playing horseshoes on one court!
One fine Saturday afternoon, I finally saw a handful of folks playing horseshoes!