From Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association / Feb. 21, 2012
The Ocean Beach Woman’s Club has been a “Hub of Activity” in Ocean Beach for eighty-eight years. The majority of the club’s history from 1924 to 1937 has been lost from the official records. The information that we do have comes from historians and newspaper articles of the time. On September 21, 1997 the building sustained major fire damage. Again much of the club’s records and history was lost or damaged by the fire. It is gratifying that the sons and daughters of old time members are finding and presenting the club with memorabilia of the club in years past.
The Ocean Beach Woman’s Club was founded on November 24, 1924, and is one of the oldest civic groups in San Diego. Forty five charter members are listed as having signed the charter. Many of the club’s charter members were married to the Chamber of Commerce men, so the women had long been involved in public affairs. Records indicate that the club was a member of the National Federation of Women’s Clubs prior to 1936. The club was organized with a Constitution, Bylaws, and its first Board of Directors on January 12, 1925.
The purpose of the Ocean Beach Woman’s Club was to work for the community in its civic, educational, and social development. In those first years, Ocean Beach Woman’s Club’s along with the San Diego Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in paving the streets, installation of sewers, securing street lights, and garbage disposal. In 1939 the club improved the beach area by having lifeguards appointed for all year round and had money appropriated by the city for maintaining a recreation center with two directors a week. The Woman’s Club also helped to obtain our local library which is a great asset to Ocean Beach. Most recently the club helped get the skate park at Robb Field.
In 1929 the club’s garden department planted five streets in OB with trees and Shrubs. Oleanders were planted on Brighton Street, Acadia trees on Muir, Hibiscus on Long Branch, Cape May Avenue was planted with Coco Plumosa, and Sunset Cliffs Blvd received plantings of Jacaranda trees ( but only a few lived). Today it is understood that only two remain. The garden Department was also responsible with beautifying empty lots by sowing seeds and planting wildflowers.
In those early days meetings were held at homes, churches, halls, lodges, and other buildings. In January and June meetings were held at Alligator Rock Lodge at Bacon Street and Coronado Avenue. This was the summer home of an El Cajon family, and was rented when they were not living there. There were also meetings at the Masonic Hall on Newport avenue, above Faber’s Grocery Store. The club voted to withdraw eighteen dollars to pay for new chairs, and to pay five dollars a month to Trinity Mission for the use of rooms to rent.
In April of 1927 the club leased the Flatiron building and remained there until October 1941 when high tides swept the club out to Sea. Destructive waves destroyed the 200 foot long Flatiron building. The club was a complete loss, although some of the furniture and belongings were saved. The meetings again were held in rented buildings while the question of a new clubhouse became an urgent problem. At this time the club rented the old Safeway building (where Apple tree Market is now) for twenty five dollars a month.
December 7, 1941, after the attack of Pearl Harbor, soldiers were stationed in Ocean Beach to guard the waterfront. The women of the club were told that the soldiers needed a place to bathe and have hot coffee to relieve their long night watches. With this, a new era was opened for the Ocean Beach Woman’s Club. The club rented rooms at 1959 Abbott Street and turned them into a recreation center for the men. The Serviceman’s Club was a huge success. Members of various organizations such as Navy wives, American Legion, VFW Auxiliary Amistad Club, Friendship Circle, American Woman’s Volunteer Services and the Ocean Beach Woman’s Club acted as hostesses supplying baked goods and hot coffee 24/7.
March 9, 1944 was undoubtedly the most important year of our club’s existence. An Ocean Beach building that had been used as a Congregational church and an Ocean Beach Elementary School bungalow was sold by the Board of Education to the Ocean Beach Woman’s Club for the sum of $1,350. Next the club’s attention centered on getting a site on which to place the building. At this time fortune came to us in the guise of Miss Jean Rittenhouse, a charter member who graciously and generously donated three lots on the corner of Muir and Bacon Streets, to be used by the club as long as the club maintained the building and site. Open House was held in August of 1944 when Miss Rittenhouse hung many of her own oil paintings for the occasion. One of the most painful losses in the 1997 fire were the beautiful paintings of Miss Rittenhouse.
Since then the club has raised needed funds by renting the facility to many of Ocean Beach community groups including: the OB Historical Society, OB Town Council, OB People’s Food Co-op, OBDCD, Visions, San Diego Blood Bank, and San Diego Registrar of Voters, as well as, women’s networking groups, private weddings, birthday parties, and yoga classes. The woman’s club has had book clubs, writers groups, acting classes, arts and crafts classes, eagle scouts, church groups and ecological seminars. For many of the community groups the use of the facility is at little or no charge.
The club had been a social outlet for many seniors with monthly Bridge and Canasta marathons, weekly card games, and luncheons. For many seniors this was their only social activity. But as the needs and interest of the community change the club has continued its service to the community with donations to: Loaves and Fishes Emergency Food, Rady’s Children’s Hospital for their Neonatal unit, Sleep Train and Polenski Center for foster kids, OB Christmas Food and Toy drive, OB Firework Festival, , and the Halloween Carnival at the recreation center. We have helped Correia Junior High School buy microscopes for their science department and donated annually to the Ocean Beach Elementary school’s art department. We also sponsor a Mother’s Day Essay contest for 4th graders at the Elementary school in May.
Due to popular demand for urban gardening, recycling, and working towards a sustainable future the Ocean Beach Woman’s Club’s garden department has started a community garden at the site with communal and individual plots. All are welcome to join us and carry on our tradition of service to the community. For more information on becoming a member, renting the facility, or interest in the community garden, call (619)222-1008.
OB Woman’s Club Officers
Donna Bergerson, President
Julie Manning, Vice-president
Gloryanna Post, Treasurer
Isabelle Lalonde, Secretary