1st OB Rag History
This is the first in a continuing series of articles that talks about the early history of the OB Rag, of some of the people involved, the issues that concerned OB Rag staffers, the Ocean Beach activist network, as well as the community at large; (to quote a friend, “it’s interesting to see how much has changed and how much has not“). The items in the following list are links to each installment;
1st OB Rag:
- OB — the Haight-Ashbury of San Diego
- Summer 1970
- The First Circle
- Collier Park
- New Blood
- The Rag Once Again
- In Full Swing
- The Rag Matures
- The Early Politics
The first OB Rag, the O.B. People’s Rag, published its very first issue, edition no. 1, in September 1970. Published by a small collection of activists who lived on Etiwanda Street in northeast Ocean Beach — most of them recent local graduates of the University of California and veterans of the campus anti-Vietnam War movement — the OB Rag came to reflect the new counter-culture and militant politics of the era. And over time, it became a media icon for a community asserting itself against the establishment.
BACKGROUND TO OCEAN BEACH
The following is from Wikipedia’s “History” of Ocean Beach, California:
Ocean Beach was given its name by developers Billy Carlson and Frank Higgins in 1887. They opened the real estate firm of Carlson & Higgins and proceeded to develop Ocean Beach.
The pair developed the Cliff House, a resort hotel, and subdivided the area into lots. To drum up business for their subdivision, Carlson and Higgins organized a variety of promotional activities, including mussel roasts (thus the early names of “Mussel Beach”) and band concerts. Despite their efforts, the development did not do well, because it was 2-1/2 hours by carriage from downtown San Diego. They rented a locomotive, but by that time, the boom ended and the development was put on hold. The Ocean Beach Railroad, launched in April 1888, was a casualty of the economic decline. Passengers could take a ferry from San Diego to Roseville in Point Loma to ride the train to the Cliff House. Later, Higgins’ partner committed suicide and the Cliff House burned down from a fallen chandelier in 1898. Carlson sold the Ocean Beach development to an Eastern financier, and its development would wait another 20 years for permanent rail service — trolley cars — to arrive, carrying riders from Ocean Beach to Old Town. A wooden bridge, built in 1914 across the San Diego River flood-control channel between Mission Beach and Ocean Beach, was demolished in January 1951, thereby cutting off through traffic to Ocean Beach from the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach communities.
But Carlson and Higgins were not the first to file a subdivision map in Ocean Beach. Theirs was filed with the city on May 28, 1887, according to research done by librarian Rhoda E. Kruse.. Earlier, on April 22 of the same year, J.M. DePuy filed “DePuy’s Subdivision” on 15 blocks in the northern portion of OB.
The northern end of Ocean Beach was once dominated in the early 20th century by the Wonderland Amusement Park, which opened on July 4, 1913 and was constructed on the sand at Voltaire and Abbott streets. It boasted a large roller coaster, dance pavilion, large menagerie, roller skating rink, merry-go-round, children’s playground and 22,000 lights outlining the buildings. Wonderland was a popular attraction until 1916, when most of it was washed away by high tides. Some of the bungalows built as tourist accommodations atop the cliffs on either side of Niagara Avenue are still in use as businesses and homes.
By the middle of the twentieth century, Ocean Beach had become a classic Southern California beach town, with its main street running straight into the Pacific Ocean. The primary business district along Newport Avenue had a wide-variety of consumer and trade oriented shops, many locally-owned and managed; these included: a number of women’s and men’s apparel stores, a couple of pharmacies, a few diners and restaurants (one Mexican restaurant – Nati’s), a few bars, a couple banks, a hardware store, Cornet’s – one of the last Five & Dime stores-, a hardware store, across the street from a paint and glass store, an optimist, a camera store, The Strand movie theater and a Piggly Wiggly market. The business district served not only the local community, but the western half of Point Loma – a more upscale residential community.
The small cottages, bungalows, single-family homes and two-storied apartments were filled with college students from the several local colleges, joined by a good number of sailors, retirees and middle-class families. With the dredging and development of Mission Bay, the dismantling of the OB-Mission Beach bridge, Ocean Beach became geographically isolated from the rest of San Diego and the other beach communities, until the construction of I-8, which ended in O.B. The Ocean Beach Pier was built during the early sixties, adding to the attraction of the community’s waterfront.
Surfing, as a sport and recreation, began to take hold in Ocean Beach, and had become a prominent feature of the community by the early and mid-1960’s. Major surfing contests were held at the end of Newport Avenue, local surfers made it big-time and a number of well-known surf shops prospered (Duke Dana for one). Shooting the OB Pier on a surfboard became a kind of rite of passage for many local young boys and men.
Gradually, Ocean Beach became a youth-oriented community, what with the significant increase in college attendance by baby boomers. Ocean Beach became a college-town without a college. Even though OB had none of its own colleges, several were closeby, including Cal Western in Point Loma, San Diego State, University of San Diego, University of California at San Diego, and City College. Beginning each Spring, Ocean Beach would become a favorite local beach hang-out for many of the area’s youth. As in many a youth beach town, friction arose between the youth and local police. 1968 was a particularly explosive year, as there were a couple well-known police-youth skirmishes at the beach during the Easter weekend and the Memorial Day weekend that year.
Beginning in 1967, and fully-blossomed a year later, Ocean Beach morphed into the Haight-Ashbury of San Diego. The community became an attraction for every hippie and wannabe hippie in the San Diego area. Initially a pariah, the hippie became accepted by many local business establishments, as commercial interests bent to accommodate the wallets and purses of the new bohemians. The Black headshop opened on Newport Avenue; the Inbetween, a youth drop-in center was established down the block. Surfers with long, bleach-blond locks mingled with their long-haired hippie cousins, as the youth-oriented counter-culture manifested itself. Alternative newspapers also blossomed, first with the OB Liberator, and then with the O.B. Rag, which was published from 1970 -1975. Soon to follow was an organic food store on Voltaire Street, and eventually other institutions and facilities that catered to the alternative lifestyles.
Beginning in the early 1970s, development and land-interests pressed for the development of Ocean Beach’s ocean front, with plans for tourist-oriented resorts, hotels and a marina prepared in the Precise Plan. However, by the mid-part of the decade, opposition to the Precise Plan gelled and groups such as the OB Community Planning Group, the Merchants Association and the Town Council coalesced and successfully lobbied the City Council to authorize a direct election of the OB Planning Board. This election took place in 1976, and the first democratically elected planning committee in the history of the State of California was established. With the passage of the 30 foot height limit in 1972, and the re-writing of the Precise Plan, the commercial assault of the waterfront was defeated.
[For Wikipedia’s entire page on Ocean Beach CA, go here.]