Starting the Holidays with a Bit of History and Food from the Garden

by on December 5, 2019 · 2 comments

in History, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Barona Museum Mural detailing the early years at Barona.

by Kathy Blavatt

The season changed as cold weather has arrived.

In November, my husband and I attended a Congress of History San Diego and Imperial County board meeting at Barona Indian Reservation. After the meeting was adjourned, we toured the school and the children’s native garden, which included a lovely mural.

Congress of History S.D. and Imperial County tour of Barona’s Native Garden with Native Garden Mural, Created by artist P’Jay Vanegas and the 2013 Heritage Classs

After our visit to the native garden, we headed over to the Barona Museum.

The museum showcases Indian utilitarian and fine artwork displays, maps, and historical displays.

The museum also features a mural illustrating the early lifestyles of tribal members.

As a historian, I was fascinated to find out renowned architect Irving Gill’s last architecture project was for the Barona Indians.

Sadly, Gills’ style architecture fell out of style after the 1915 Panama California Exposition at Balboa Park.

By the 1920s, Gill found himself without much work. In 1928, he married Marion Waugh Bradshaw Brashears. Seeking a dryer climate and the mineral waters of Carlsbad, he moved to his wife’s small avocado ranch and sold avocados and occasionally worked as a cement and magnesite contractor.

Gill’s final architectural commission came in 1932 when he was hired to design and build affordable, easy to maintain homes on the newly established Barona Indian Reservation for the displaced tribal members.

Gills’ brick making machine used to build Barona’s affordable houses in 1932. All Photos By Kathy Blavatt, Photos © 2019

Gills’ original brick making machine is on display at the Barona Museum.

Now Gill is remembered for his acclaimed architecture but was sadly was listed as “laborer” on his October 7, 1936 death certificate.

Soon after our day at the Barona Reservation, we were ready to start the holidays. At least on this Thanksgiving, I felt more engaged in knowing about the local Indian culture and history.

Thanksgiving Day was unusual because we had rain and quite a downfall at that.

In past Thanksgiving Days we almost always had bright and sunny days. Not this year! Instead, we were dealing with a downpour of rain as my 97- and 94-year-old friends arrived at our home. Luckily all our guests made it safely into our home and were greeted with a cup of hot mulled organic cider.

A traditional fire in our fireplace was request came from my 94-year-old guest. Luckily, I had trimmed some trees in my yard and dried the wood for the fireplace.

It had been several years since we had a fire in the fireplace, so it was a bit of a treat that added to making the holiday special.

Before the rains came, I had collected herbs and fruit from a friends’ yard and my garden.

Pears and pomegranate grown in a local garden ripened up nice to be used in a Thanksgiving Day meal.

To help balance out the traditional heavy Thanksgiving dishes I prepared an Asian Pear (juicy and crisp like an apple) and greens salad with a ginger-mint dressing made from my Tomato-Tree Fruits.

Freshly picked parsley, rosemary and other homegrown herbs spiced up the meal.

For decorations I was inspired by colorful fall leaves in various shades of reds and yellows around Ocean Beach. I collected and scattered them onto a golden table cloth and around the room.

Fall wreath made by Kathy using plants from her garden.

A wire frame-base-wreath I picked up at a garage sale for a buck years ago was perfect for a live wall arrangement. The Spanish moss that thrives in my yard made the perfect wrap for the frame of the wreath for weaving plants into. I created a fall color scheme by attaching birds of paradise flowers and plum-colored succulents. Rosemary added fragrance, and autumn leaves tied the theme together.

Off white natural ribbon in contrast with an orange satin ribbon hold the garden wreath together, while vases full of orange garden flowers brightened the room.

The cozy atmosphere and good food made Thanksgiving Day a joy.

We welcomed Ocean Beach friends into our home. Our guest ages spanned over 600 years, included writers, environmentalists, artists, a surfer, a musician, small business owners, and a Frenchman.

As the evening ran on, my 97-year-old English woman friend and the 94-year-old vet were telling personal, heartfelt stories of WWII. It felt like we had stepped into a PBS documentary. In parting, the two sang “Kiss Me Once, Kiss Me Twice… It’s been a long, long time”. A popular song, both Americans and English, sang to their loved ones on the phone during the war.

Bill Corwin (Billy Lee and the Swamp Critters) later sang old tunes with the English woman making the night even more special.

Plates of leftovers were wrapped up for guests to take home.

After the guests left, my husband Ray and I laid down exhausted, but very happy to have had such a spectacular evening with our Ocean Beach extended family. As we spoke about the evening’s event, we both agreed that O.B. is a very special place and how lucky we are to live here.





{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

retired botanist December 5, 2019 at 5:02 pm

Great article, Kathy, as usual your love of flora and its unquestionable benefits shined. :). Not to mention community spirit!
I might add, since you are so attuned to plants and their usefulness and overwhelming benefits in our lives, a recent publication that heartened me. Caught an interview on PBS with this Native American chef and was heartened with his efforts, and have purchased the book for a few friends with bountiful gardens. Check it out. And thx for the good side of life!
Its Sean Sherman in case the link doesn’t work


Erik Hanson December 6, 2019 at 10:42 am

Not to take anything away from Gill’s work at Barona, but it was not Gill’s final project, there were several more. Those interested in Barona architecture should know that Gill did a further expansion for the Wheeler Bailey house in La Jolla, the house that Barona elders were taken to as an example of how certain details were to be done in the Barona houses, as described in the construction documents.
As a food critic, you should know of Gill’s 1936 Blade Tribune building in Oceanside (his only unfinished building at the time his death) which has been converted to a restaurant this last year.


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