Unusual, artistic street signs line Park Boulevard.

Unusual street sign on Park Boulevard shows a road in someone's hand.
Unusual street sign on Park Boulevard shows the road in someone’s hand.

A number of very unusual, artistic street signs line Park Boulevard in the vicinity of Balboa Park. Drive north and you’ll see them standing at intervals, all the way from Presidents Way up to Upas Street. For many years I’ve noted them.

I’m not sure how passing drivers respond to all the crazy artwork. I’m pretty sure these unique signs aren’t included in the Department of Motor Vehicles driving test! I hope not!

This funny sign shows a magician pulling a rabbit from hat.
This funny sign shows a magician pulling a rabbit from hat.
Drivers might think the speed limit here is 11 miles per hour.
Drivers might think the speed limit here is 11 miles per hour!
Odd, speckled sign stands beside Balboa Park's rose garden.
Odd, speckled sign stands beside Balboa Park’s rose garden.
This crazy sign is a meteoric explosion of creativity.
This crazy sign is a meteoric explosion of creativity.
Car near San Diego Zoo entrance heeds artistic street sign, I'm sure.
Car near San Diego Zoo entrance heeds artistic street sign, I’m sure.
Does this sign indicate that a lizard is crossing?
Does this sign indicate that a lizard is crossing?
This unofficial street sign is open for interpretation.
This unofficial street sign is open for interpretation.

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Symbolism in Barrio Logan’s new gateway sign.

The colorful new Barrio Logan gateway sign arches over Cesar Chavez Parkway.
The colorful new Barrio Logan gateway sign arches over Cesar Chavez Parkway.

A little over a week ago, the new Barrio Logan gateway sign had a dedication ceremony. The welcoming sign, arching over Cesar Chavez Parkway between Harbor Drive and Interstate 5, is similar to others that can be spotted in various communities around San Diego. Its design, however, is notably different. The cornice contains a variety of symbolic elements inspired by this neighborhood’s complex history.

The cornice contains a variety of combined symbols that represent the community.
The cornice contains a variety of combined symbols that represent the community.
One of two displays on either column that explains the design.
One of two displays on either column that explains the design.

Small displays near the base of each column can be read from either sidewalk. They explain the significance of the cornice design:

“This Barrio Logan sign was created with input from the local community. Their ideas resulted in this unique and relevant design, representative of one of San Diego’s oldest and most culturally rich urban neighborhoods.

The design pays homage to Kumeyaay, Aztec, Mayan and all other cultures, representing many concepts including creation, the cycle of life, and evolution into the modern world. The pyramids symbolize cultures coming together as one society. The fish and corn symbols refer to the reliance on the sea as a food source, and fertility of the lands.

The designs on the columns honor the kiosk in Chicano Park. The columns are also adorned with the Conch, Sky and Earth symbols, which were inspired by indigenous cultures.”

View of the gateway sign as one approaches from the Barrio Logan trolley station.
View of the gateway sign as one approaches from the Barrio Logan trolley station.

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Legends on the streets of San Diego’s Little Italy.

Pedestrian passes Little Italy sign on India Street in San Diego.
Pedestrian passes Little Italy sign on India Street in San Diego.

Today, if you were to walk through downtown San Diego’s historic Little Italy neighborhood, you’d probably see a number of very interesting street banners and plaques. These commemorate the Legends of Little Italy.

Early one morning while I walked to a nearby trolley station, I took a few quick photographs along India Street. You might enjoy looking at them. I transcribed much of what appears on the plaques.

Plaque explains the history of the Little Italy Landmark Sign.
Plaque explains the history of the Little Italy Landmark Sign.

The Little Italy Landmark Sign was dedicated and lit at the 7th Annual Little Italy Festa on the evening of October 8, 2000. The landmark sign was constructed as a tribute to this immigrant neighborhood which, until the late 1960s, was the hub of the world’s tuna fishing and canning industry. The nautical theme can be seen in the portholes at the top of the pillars, the blue neon of the lettering and the cable span which holds up the sign. The mosaic tile work on each side of the street tells how this immigrant community is historically tied to the bay, the church and the Italian homeland. This sign is a testament to the preservation of Little Italy’s cultural heritage and to the ongoing revitalization of this dynamic urban ethnic neighborhood in Downtown San Diego.

Mosaic tiles show the community's ties to Italy and traditions.
Mosaic tiles show the community’s ties to Italy and traditions.
Singing and acting legend Frankie Laine lived in San Diego.
Singing and acting legend Frankie Laine lived in San Diego.

On March 30th, 1913, in the Little Italy section of Chicago, Francesco Paolo LoVecchio was born. Mother Cresenzia Concetta Salerno and father Giovanni LoVecchio. Both parents from Monreale, Sicily. Frankie’s first introduction to music came when the Monsignor at Immaculate Conception recruited him for the all-boy church choir. Now, an aspiring singer, Frankie would work many jobs, singing wherever and whenever he could, traveling from town to town, experiencing many hardships. Frankie was in his mid-thirties when he attained his first hit “That’s My Desire”. 21 Gold Records followed, including “The Lucky Old Sun”, “Mule Train”, “Jezebel”, “High Noon”, “I believe”, “Cry of the Wild Goose”, “Moonlight Gambler”, and “Rawhide”. Frankie starred in 7 motion pictures, starred in his own television show, sang the title song for several motion pictures, including “Blazing Saddles”, “3:10 to Yuma” and “Gunfight at OK Corral”. Frankie moved to San Diego in the 60’s. He lived the rest of his life in his Point Loma home. Frankie loved San Diego and especially Little Italy. Frankie Laine passed away February 6th, 2007.

Tony and Rose Bernadino used to live on Date Street.
Tony and Rose Bernadino used to live on Date Street.
Tony Bernardini was an Italian immigrant who settled in San Diego.
Tony Bernardini was an Italian immigrant who settled in San Diego.

Tony Bernardini left his native Bari, Italy to sail to America in 1907. He came with little money, but his heart was full of hope and enthusiasm for the opportunities that awaited him in his New World. Passing through Ellis Island, he quickly made his way to San Diego, where he found a climate and a neighborhood that reminded him of the place he had left. Tony took a job with the San Diego Electric Railway Company, maintaining the tracks for San Diego’s extensive streetcar lines. He worked hard, saved his money, and sent for his future wife, Rosa Monteleone, in 1911.

Tony and Rosa married shortly after her arrival in San Diego. They went on to have seven children; Clara, Fred, Lily, Vito, Matha, Nick, and Angelina. With hard work, Tony was able to bring several other members of their families to America to join them. In the early 1930’s, he got an opportunity to buy the building located on this corner from an acquaintance, who offered to finance the transaction for him. He opened the Civic Center Liquor House. Rosa and all of the children helped him run the business. During the first seven years he ran the business, he was only able to pay the interest on the Property’s note. But with the Declaration of World War II in 1941, San Diego’s economy heated up dramatically. Despite the fact that all three of their sons joined the Army to fight in the War, Tony, Rosa, and their daughters continued to work in the business, and by the end of the War, Tony had managed to pay off the note completely. he had achieved the American dream!

The story of love, hard work, and strong family life.
The story of love, hard work, and strong family life.

To a store in San Diego’s Little Italy, Vincent DePhilippis (1903-1957) and Madeleine Manfredi (1904-1993) brought their version of the American Dream.

Vincent was born in New York and raised in Naples, Italy. Madeleine was born and raised in Nimes, France. They both came to America for a better life where they met and fell in love in 1922 and later married in 1925. Cooking for friends and family together was a passion they shared, everywhere from the Bronx, New York to West Chester, Pennsylvania. Always in the food business, Vincent was a pasta maker, chef and entrepreneur. In 1948, they finally settled in San Diego, California and opened Cash & Carry Italian Foods, a labor of love. Their strong work ethic, values, and generosity helped shape the budding Italian-American community. With the help of seven children and Madeleine’s infectious laugh, the small business grew to Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, the success story we all know today. Their children Roberto, Gina, Mary, Vincent, Alfred, Richard and William followed in their parents footsteps and grew the family business. Today the tradition continues with their grand and great grandchildren.

Banner on street lamp shows Tarantino family.
Banner on street lamp shows Tarantino family.
Past lives become legends in the annals of Little Italy's history.
Past lives become legends in the annals of Little Italy’s history.
Morning coffee and companionship on a Little Italy sidewalk.
Morning coffee and companionship on a Little Italy sidewalk.

UPDATE!

During another walk through Little Italy I discovered another fascinating plaque:

Plaque shows Rose and Salvatore Cresci, Family of Little Italy.
Plaque shows Rose and Salvatore Cresci, Family of Little Italy.
The story of Rose and Salvatore
The story of Rose and Salvatore “Sal” Cresci, Little Italy Legends. (Click photo to enlarge for easy reading.)

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El Camino Real bells around San Diego.

El Camino Real bell in front of California's first Spanish mission.
El Camino Real bell in front of California’s first Spanish mission.

Here are just a few random pics of El Camino Real bells around San Diego. During my walks, I’m often surprised to discover a new bell.

Many of these guidepost bells were placed in 1906 by the California Federation of Women’s Clubs. They marked the primitive roads that connected the old Spanish missions in California. El Camino Real, which means the Royal Road or King’s Highway in Spanish, led to 21 missions in Alta California, plus a variety of sub-missions, presidios and pueblos. The bells stand on tall posts in the shape of a shepherd’s crook. In subsequent years, bells have been removed or added to the California landscape.

Bell in front of Old Town's historic cemetery.
Bell in front of Old Town’s historic El Campo Santo cemetery.
Plaque explains history of the guidepost bells.
Plaque explains history of the guidepost bells.
El Camino Real bell spotted on Harbor Island.
El Camino Real bell spotted on Harbor Island.
El Camino Real bell by County Administration Building.
El Camino Real bell by the downtown County Administration Building.
Historic bell and palm trees in Imperial Beach.
Historic bell and palm trees in Imperial Beach.
I even found an El Camino Real bell near the Hotel del Coronado!
I found an El Camino Real bell near the Hotel del Coronado!
El Camino Real bell in Cesar Chavez Park in Barrio Logan.
El Camino Real bell in Cesar Chavez Park in Barrio Logan.
Plaque on Harbor Drive reveals nearby bell was donated by San Diego Woman's Club.
Plaque on Harbor Drive reveals that a nearby bell was donated by San Diego Woman’s Club.

 

El Camino Real bell on Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade by Children's Park.
El Camino Real bell on Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade by Children’s Park.

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Escaped zoo animals roam Hillcrest street!

Two metal sculpture elephants on First Avenue.
Two metal sculpture elephants on First Avenue.

Several large and dangerous wild animals have escaped the San Diego Zoo and are running loose in nearby Hillcrest!

Huh?  You don’t believe me? I’ve got some photographic proof!

Okay, okay, I’m kidding. These super cool metal sculptures stand in front of a residence on First Avenue. They appear to be made of rusted steel, but I’m not sure. I spotted them during my walk to work this morning, so I whipped out my trusty old camera!

Animal sculptures in front of a residence in Hillcrest.
Animal sculptures in front of a residence in Hillcrest.
Handsome metal horse looks out toward street.
Handsome metal horse looks out toward street.
Funny gorilla poses in front of someone's window.
Funny gorilla poses in front of someone’s window.

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Morning interplay of light and shadow.

Back of stop sign flashes silver in the morning sunlight.
Back of stop sign flashes silver in the morning sunlight.

Early yesterday morning I walked west down Cedar to catch the trolley in Little Italy. The sun had just risen above the horizon and its rays were slanting through the cityscape almost horizontally. Metal surfaces were shining and shadows were still deep. It made for some very interesting photos!

Slanting sunshine on building highlights layered geometry.
Slanting sunshine on building highlights layered geometry.
Light and shadow angled and entangled.
Light and shadow angled and entangled.
Shadows on wall cast by tree and street light.
Shadows on wall cast by tree and street light.
Early sunlight begins to penetrate dark places.
Early sunlight begins to penetrate dark places.

History at Horton Plaza Park construction site.

North part of the Horton Plaza Park construction site behind fence.
North part of the Horton Plaza Park construction site behind fence.

A large area between Broadway and the Horton Plaza shopping mall is fenced off for construction.  One end of the downtown mall has already been demolished and leveled to the bare ground.  The long-neglected Horton Plaza Park is being enlarged!

On the fence surrounding the construction site are a number of interesting old photographs showing the park’s history.

When real estate developer Alonzo Horton built the Horton House hotel (now the U.S. Grant Hotel) in his “New Town” in 1870, he included a small plaza on the hotel  grounds.  In 1895 he sold the half block plaza to the growing city of San Diego, stating his objective was “to provide a central, commodious and attractive place for public meetings, public announcements, public recreation and for any other proper public purposes, a place where all public questions might be discussed with comfort, where public open-air concerts might be given, where the people might rest, and where children might play in safety.”  In 1909 the first fountain in the United States to feature electric lights was installed in the park.

Over the years, the small park has seen a whole lot of history, as the following photographs at today’s construction site demonstrate.  Horton Plaza Park was designated a historical landmark by the City of San Diego in 1971.

Horton Plaza Park during 1935 California Pacific International Exposition.
Horton Plaza Park during 1935 California Pacific International Exposition.
Horton Plaza Park crowded for V-J Day celebration.
Horton Plaza Park crowded for V-J Day celebration.

The streets were crowded with a spontaneous celebration when World War II finally ended.

Thousands attend rally for John F. Kennedy in Horton Plaza Park.
Thousands attend rally for John F. Kennedy in Horton Plaza Park.

On November 2, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy spoke at Horton Plaza Park, seeking votes in the upcoming presidential election.  A huge crowd turned out.

How the new Horton Plaza Park will look at completion.
Sign shows how the new Horton Plaza Park will look at completion.

The beautifully renovated park will include lots of space for public events, including outdoor concerts!

A huge area has been cleared to make way for the new park.
A huge area has been cleared to make way for the new park.

Here’s a pic I took on January 31, 2015…

Construction of the new Horton Plaza Park is well underway in early 2015.
Construction of the new Horton Plaza Park is well underway in early 2015.