Monument to historic radio station KCBQ in Santee.

I remember listening to KCBQ 1170 as a youth. For decades it was one of San Diego’s leading radio stations, featuring radio personalities that are legendary, including “Shotgun Tom” Kelly and Charlie Tuna.

This groundbreaking AM radio station has had a complicated history, its many different owners moving the studio about from time to time and playing everything from contemporary music to country music. A detailed Wikipedia article can be found here.

A monument to the original KCBQ, which was influential in popularizing the Top 40 music format for the rest of the nation, now stands at the radio station’s old Santee transmitter site. It was dedicated on August 28, 2010. You can find the monument on Mission Gorge Road just east of Carlton Hills Boulevard, in front of an In-N-Out Burger fast food restaurant.

Scan the list of past on-air personalities and you’ll see names that have been well known in San Diego radio for decades. Personally, I easily recall the unique voices of Frank Anthony, Gene Knight and Gary Kelley, not to mention “Shotgun Tom” Kelly.

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Old photos on AT&T building in El Cajon.

I saw these during my recent walk through El Cajon.

Decorating the AT&T building at the corner of Main Street and Lincoln Avenue are various historical photographs on tiles. The old photos show telephone company personnel at work or out in the community.

One photograph shows Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co. employees or dignitaries on a parade float. That was the name of the Pacific Bell Telephone Company, now owned by AT&T, between the 1910’s and 1984.

I assume these photographs were taken around San Diego, but I don’t know. The one taken of a worker with his truck out in sagebrush covered hills does seem to show a Southern California landscape. The exact same photo can be found on an AT&T building in nearby La Mesa. You can see that here.

Do you know anything about these photos? If you do, please leave a comment!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

New lights, new life for historic carousel!

Last October I noticed the Balboa Park Carousel was undergoing renovation during the park’s COVID-19 pandemic closure. You can read what I wrote and see those photos here.

Today I was walking past this historic 1910 Herschell-Spillman carousel when I noticed one side of its enclosure was open and lights were on inside. So I approached the structure to sneak a peek.

And I saw the same Armored Horse that I saw before! But now it’s painted more completely–and beautifully!

I also spoke to William “Bill” Brown, who has been operating and tending this historic carousel since 1972. He was carefully painting an intricate part of the wooden horse.

It’s apparent Bill absolutely loves what he does. You can read it in his eyes and smile.

He showed me how an earlier “model” of a hand-carved Herschell-Spillman Armored Horse appeared. You can see with that particular model the sculptural detail and the color scheme was quite different.

Bill also showed me how additional lights have been installed on the carousel!

The 1910 carousel had originally been designed to feature more lights, but too many electrical lights constituted a fire hazard, so many had not been installed.

In the next photo you can see two lights on either side of the carved head, just above the oval mirrors. For a hundred years there were two holes and no lights. That has changed!

That’s because all of the carousel lights are now safer, more energy efficient LEDs. New fixtures not only brighten the upper part of the outer framework, but the interior part of the carousel as well!

When the Balboa Park Carousel’s renovation is finally complete, it will be brighter and more colorful than ever!

To learn more about this carousel, which was built in New York, and which had been installed at Tent City in Coronado before moving to Balboa Park in 1922, click here!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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First PRONTO ticket machine at a trolley station!

I’m a frequent user of public transportation in San Diego. I live downtown and work in Mission Valley. There are several different combinations of buses and trolleys that I can take for my commute. So I have a convenient monthly pass on my MTS Compass Card.

But there’s a new ticketing system on the way this summer that will replace the Compass Card. The new system is called PRONTO.

Today I saw the very first PRONTO ticket machine, which has been installed at the Convention Center trolley station!

If you want to learn more about PRONTO and how it will work, check out this website.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Art museum to use new antiviral technology!

I learned of another improvement to Balboa Park this afternoon!

I was walking through the Plaza de Panama when I noticed several banners on a construction fence in front of the Timken Museum of Art.

One banner states the Timken will be the first museum in the world to install revolutionary antiviral and dehumidification technology. According to a museum web page, here, this new technology “originally engineered in conjunction with the United States Department of Defense” is considerably more effective at eliminating airborne pathogens than systems presently used in hospital operating rooms!

They hope to demonstrate this technology can be used in other museums, and for common everyday use. (Air that’s much safer than a hospital operating room? Sign me up!)

Other banners on the fence direct interested people to the Timken Museum of Art’s website, where they will find online educational experiences, including virtual tours and art tutorials, plus lots of other activities.

The museum, presently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is scheduled to reopen in Summer 2021 with this revolutionary antiviral system installed and ready to go!

If you’d like to learn a more about the Timken Museum of Art, you might enjoy viewing an old blog post here. It includes photographs and notes that I took during a special architectural tour of the Timken’s uniquely beautiful building.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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Big colorful engine welcomes to National City.

Do you know anything about this huge colorfully painted engine?

The very unique public artwork sits near a welcome to the city sign at the north end of National City Boulevard, by Division Street. I believe it was placed here outside the National City Auto Center about a year ago.

I took these photos yesterday as I walked past. What kind of engine is this? Where did it come from?

Please leave a comment if you know anything!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Augmented reality outside the Museum of Art!

The San Diego Museum of Art recently installed a unique new outdoor exhibit in Balboa Park’s central Plaza de Panama. The surprising exhibit is titled Augmented Reality al Fresco. Using your cell phone, you can bring seven works of fine art to life with augmented reality!

Download the SDMA app, select the AR feature, point your phone’s camera at any of the displayed artwork reproductions and suddenly they begin to move!

A painting of the Molo in Venice, Italy by Bernardo Bellotto suddenly comes to life! Gondolas drift dreamily across the water, and flocks of birds rise among moving clouds!

Kilauea Calder, Sandwich Islands, by artist Jules Tavernier, begins to bubble and fume! Lava erupts! My San Diego Museum of Art docent friend showed me how the painting comes to life a couple years ago inside the museum. This innovative use of augmented reality is very cool!

Most of Balboa Park’s museums have closed again due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little culture–with an unexpected and delightful twist! Walk toward the Museum of Art’s front entrance and turn left. Then pull out your phone for a unique experience!

Now that most of Balboa Park’s museums have been forced to close their indoor galleries again, you can help them survive this difficult COVID-19 situation with a generous donation.

Earlier this year, I posted links to the donation pages of Balboa Park’s museums here.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park unveils new plan!

A performance in the Ford Bowl (now the Starlight Bowl) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park. No known copyright restrictions image from Flickr.
A performance in the Ford Bowl (now the Starlight Bowl) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park.

I just learned that the Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park has announced big plans for their future!

The long-hoped-for renovation of Starlight is now moving ahead! You can see the phased plan, including several renderings, by visiting their website page concerning the project here.

The visionary plan includes multiple stages, enhanced seating, a concession stand with healthier food offerings, and a digital media center that will be used by students across the county. As they explain: “Our goal is to empower students with an interest in the creative arts. Through seminars and a hands-on experience with state-of-the-art technology, students gain the tools they need to pursue a future utilizing multimedia arts, and have the opportunity to connect with Balboa Park.”

I personally have very fond memories of the Starlight Bowl, which I’ve mentioned in the past. I remember that as a young man my family and I watched performances under the San Diego stars of several plays, including Kiss Me, Kate and The Pirates of Penzance. But that was decades ago, long before the San Diego Civic Light Opera went belly up in 2011.

For many years this large historic amphitheater in the Palisades area of Balboa Park has gone unused. Occasionally groups of volunteers have assembled to pull weeds between rows of seats.

Not only is the entire South Palisades area presently receiving a major upgrade (a new pedestrian plaza, the coming Comic-Con Museum and a beautified Automotive Museum with fantastic murals), but it appears that the Starlight Bowl is now set to enjoy a very bright and vibrant future!

Check out their amazing plans and perhaps become involved here!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Monument in Otay Mesa to aviation pioneer Montgomery.

It seems few in San Diego know of the historically important hill in Otay Mesa West. From the top of this hill, which overlooks San Diego’s South Bay cities, aviation pioneer John J. Montgomery made the world’s first “controlled” winged glider flights in the late 19th century.

A monument to Montgomery’s achievements stands on the hilltop in the form of a vertical aircraft wing, erected in 1950. Words engraved on a black marble tablet near the wing include:

JOHN J. MONTGOMERY MADE MAN’S FIRST CONTROLLED WINGED FLIGHTS FROM THIS HILLTOP IN AUGUST 1883

HE OPENED FOR ALL MANKIND THE GREAT HIGHWAY OF THE SKY

Erected by the San Diego Junior Chamber of Commerce Montgomery Memorial Committee. Dedicated May 21, 1950

When I researched the early heavier-than-air flights of Montgomery, I noticed there’s a lot of debate about who in the world actually achieved various flying firsts. Some historians assert he made the world’s first “controlled” glider flights. Such as here. “Montgomery should be credited for the invention and demonstration of the 1st controlled glider flight, and patented hinged surfaces at the rear of the wing and a patent for the parabolic wing…

According to Wikipedia: “In the early 1880s Montgomery began studying the anatomy of a variety of large soaring birds to determine their basic characteristics, like wing area, total weight and curved surfaces. He made detailed observations of birds in flight, especially large soaring birds such as eagles, hawks, vultures and pelicans which soared on thermals near San Diego Bay…In the 1880s Montgomery…made manned flight experiments in a series of gliders in the United States in Otay Mesa near San Diego, California. Although not publicized in the 1880s, these early flights were first described by Montgomery as part of a lecture delivered at the International Conference on Aerial Navigation at Chicago, 1893. These independent advances came after gliding flights by European pioneers such as George Cayley’s coachman in England (1853) and Jean-Marie Le Bris in France (1856). Although Montgomery never claimed firsts, his gliding experiments of the 1880s are considered by some historians and organizations to have been the first controlled flights of a heavier-than-air flying machine in America or in the Western Hemisphere, depending on source.

Today, the Montgomery Memorial‘s 93-foot airplane wing juts vertically into the sky at Montgomery-Waller Community Park, which is located at the northeast corner of Coronado Avenue and Beyer Boulevard in Otay Mesa West. The silver wing is from a World War II Consolidated Aircraft B-32 Dominator heavy bomber. It’s an impressive albeit somewhat peculiar reminder of how aviation technology continues to progress.

Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego, one of the busiest airports in the United States for small aircraft, was once called Montgomery Field, named after the aviation pioneer.

When humans eventually land on Mars, and spread outward into the Solar System, it should be remembered that we made one of our first flights from a hilltop in San Diego.

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Riding the world’s first outdoor glass elevator!

If you’re familiar with the history of the El Cortez in downtown San Diego, you probably know it featured the world’s very first outdoor glass elevator. (Although I’ve also seen information that says it was the first such elevator in the United States, second in the world.)

Based on an idea suggested by a hotel bellboy, an outdoor glass elevator, called the Starlight Express, was installed in 1956 on the side of the El Cortez Hotel, then the highest building in San Diego. People from all around Southern California would converge on the elegant hotel to be swept dizzily skyward to the chic Starlight Room restaurant on the twelfth floor.

Today I came across a black and white 1956 newsreel that has been released by Universal City Studios into the public domain. It shows thrilled passengers going up and down what was then the brand new, incredible, jaw-dropping Starlight Express!

Check out the “futuristic” costume (uniform?) of the smiling elevator operator! And check out how downtown San Diego appeared in the 1950s. A bit different than today, right?

I snipped sequential images from the old newsreel so you can enjoy a fun look!

By the way, the El Cortez Hotel also featured the world’s first moving sidewalk! You know–the sort of thing you might stand on in an airport terminal or at an amusement park. It was called the Travolator. Both the Starlight Express and Travolator were removed many years ago.

Read much more about the El Cortez and its extraordinary history in this detailed Wikipedia article. Among other things, you’ll learn how this Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style landmark was built on property once owned by a son of President Ulysses S. Grant, how a third of San Diego’s population showed up for the hotel’s opening day, and how it had an anti-aircraft battery on its roof during World War II!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!