About the OB Rag


Many don’t realize this image was hand-drawn by Patty Jones on her Toshiba Portege laptop.

It was early October in the year 2007 – George Bush was still president and the war in Iraq was in its 4th year. I lived in a small cottage on the 4600 block of Long Branch with Patty Jones.

I remember watching the news in the livingroom and yelling at the anchors and pundits for parroting the Bush administration’s lies . It was upsetting and that anger had propelled me to be involved in San Diego’s peace movement. The newspapers – especially the Union-Tribune – were no better. The truth, it seemed, had no outlet, both nationally – and locally – and the media only presented the corporate narrative. Progressive ideas were being stymied – I think there was just one liberal news caster on TV at the time, for example.

I recall this one program on TV – it was a documentary about the counter-culture and “the hippies” narrated by someone who should have known better, Peter Coyote. It was so bad – hippies, the movement, anti-Vietnam war activists were totally disparaged in a lopsided account of the late 1960s. I found myself literally yelling at the television and cuzzing out Coyote – (he had been a member of an early hippie network called the “Diggers” who distributed free clothing).

Patty – over in the dining area – had been putting up with all my ranting – finally said,

“Why don’t you start a blog.”

“A blog?” I responded. I knew what blogs were – sort of.

“Sure. I’ve been doing blogs for years – for my family, for work, … I know how to do them,” she said confidently.

“And,” she continued, “you could use the name of your old underground newspaper, the OB Rag.”

Boom. The idea was born.

(The OB People’s Rag was the name of a grassroots community newspaper I helped to start which flourished during the first half of the 1970s – see below.)

Over the next couple of weeks we prepared ourselves. Patty found a web platform we could use, hooked up with a reliable server and began doing the techy stuff that launching a blog out into the ether of the internet demands. She also began hand drawing the image on her old-school Toshiba portege laptop – an image we still use in our masthead today.

I began writing up articles to post for the launch and began circulating the idea to good friends who I knew could express themselves.

We didn’t know exactly what we were doing – but we thought people were using the internet more and more for their news – and the idea was to publish a platform run by progressives. And to reach out to other progressives and have discussions on important issues. Originally, we wanted to provide the San Diego scene with news and commentary from a distinctively progressive and grassroots perspective, and to also provide a forum for those views.

We wanted, as we stated then, “to rebuild a sense of community, not only on the neighborhood level, but also among those of a kindred spirit.” Importantly, we also wanted to provide some kind of web platform for the Ocean Beach community.

Then the fires began – October 19th through the 27th or so. It was the Witch Creek Fire that devastated good parts of the County. Far from the flames, we could only watch on TV with some frustration at government’s response.

And during that week of the fires, we launched the OB Rag on October 26 – 27. There was no champagne or fireworks but it was still exciting.

We told our readers at the beginning:

With mainstream media becoming more and more monopolized and centralized, there is a need for information and opinion outside the corporate media monolith. Blogs are helping to fill this role. Like during an earlier day, when underground newspapers filled the void, blogs today enable grassroots journalists and commentators to counter mainstream propaganda.

I began building a readership from all the emails I had already or received – and I would send out links to the blog. Gradually, we expanded our circle of friends and readers, established a solid base of Ocean Beach readers, with a San Diego, national and even international audience.

Psychologically trapped by the fires, our critiques began – and it’s true, some of our very first articles were about the fire, the extent and false expectations of “mandatory evacuations”, why it took so long for aircraft to be authorized to fly at night in order to attack the fires.

We suffered through that first year, slowly attracting sympathetic OBceans and San Diegans to our cause. We actively attempted to be a voice within the peace movement locally and tried to fire up discussions on the direction of the movement itself. We had only limited success as San Diego had only so many peace activists.

At our year anniversary – late October 2008 – we had a daily “visitor” or reader average of over 250.

And that Fall, we were joined by Doug Porter, who now is one of the primary writers and an editor for our online partner, the San Diego Free Press, and who also worked on the original OB Rag back in the seventies.

Also around that time, we were joined by Anna Daniels, who had been very active on city-wide issues over the years, and a community activist in her own neighborhood of City Heights. Today, she continues as an editor on the San Diego Free Press.

It was that Fall of 2008 – after nearly a year online – that we decided to focus more of our attention and energies on OB itself, the local businesses, very local, uber issues.

And it worked – our readership began to spike. Local OBceans it turned out craved news and info on what was going on within the nooks and crannies of the village, of local controversies, of the comings and goings of local businesses. We began to attract more writers and our readership just jumped by leaps and bounds. The rest, as they say, is history.

Annie Lane joined the Rag staff in 2010 and was part of the transition to the new publication we launched, the San Diego Free Press.

Fifteen years later the OB Rag continues to provide a web platform for OB residents and merchants, and covers local OB and Point Loma news, issues and events, meetings of community groups, with a special focus on local development and planning, restaurant reviews, and news from the merchants of the business districts.

Here are some of our milestones:

  • In November of 2008 the OB Rag along with the OB Historical Society, OB Friends of the Library, People’s Food, led a long but successful campaign to save the OB Library – threatened by city budget cuts;
  • By October 2009 we had a daily visitor count somewhere between 500 to 900.
  • Fall 2009 we began advertisements and sponsorships from local businesses; we began selling hot-looking T-shirts.
  • The OB Rag made national (even international) news in 2009 for our successful campaign to save OB’s firepits and our efforts to make local homelessness a human rights issue;
  • March 2010 we averaged between 750 and 1,000 visitors a day, and with over 26,000 visitors for that month
  • June- October 2010 we reached 40,000 – 43,000 readers,
  • Mid-December of 2010 we had our one-millionth page hit.
  • Fall of 2011 – we had our very best month – October with 108,000 visitors – during the Occupy Wall Street movement which we covered extensively.
  • Our two-millionth page hit in November 2011.
  • In June 2012 OB Rag staff began publishing a new online journal for all of San Diego – the San Diego Free Press. .
  • Spring of 2013, we opened up a small office within the Green Store on the 4800 block of Voltaire Street.

While we’re tooting our horn, see here for more.

Ten years is a long time for anything, especially in these days of instant news.

We couldn’t have done it without the material and psychological support from good friends, readers and local businesses. So …..

Here’s to the next ten!


The OB Rag has had a plethora of writers, bloggers, contributors, photographers, and close supporters over the years – some of whom continue to write and contribute.

They include (alphabetized by last name):

  • Plaque on building at corner of Newport Avenue and Bacon Street, commemorating the past. The original OB Rag had its office upstairs, circa 1974. (Click on image.)

    Jon Christensen “JEC”,

  • Judi Curry,
  • Anna Daniels,
  • Bob Dorn,
  • Jim Grant,
  • Meredith Houlton,
  • Patty Jones
  • Mary E. Mann,
  • Ernie McCray,
  • Brenda McFarlane,
  • Jim Miller
  • Rick Nadeau,
  • Geoff Page
  • Doug Porter,
  • Dave Rice,
  • Gregg Robinson,
  • Michael Steinberg,
  • Jeff Stone,
  • Lane Tobias
  • Brett Warnke
  • Matt Wood

Others who penned or typed an article or two or took photos for us include:

  • Brittany Bailey,
  • Mercy Baron,
  • Jon Carr,
  • Kristin Condon,
  • Colleen Dietzel,
  • Stephanie Denton,
  • Chris Dotson,
  • Dave Gilbert,
  • Gary Gilmore,
  • Nate Hipple,
  • Barbara Houlton
  • Rich Kacmar,
  • Steven Kindrick,
  • Kip Kruger,
  • Annie Lane
  • Sarah Little,
  • Danny Morales,
  • Jim Noble,
  • Abby Normal,
  • OB Cindi,
  • Bill Ray,
  • Genie Sapienza,
  • Stu Seymour,
  • Sunshine,
  • Wireless Mike Williams,
  • John Williams.

The First OB Rag

Page 1

OB Rag – March 1972, Vol. 2, No. 8


The first OB Rag, actually the OB People’s Rag, was an alternative grassroots newspaper for the Ocean Beach neighborhood of San Diego during the first half of the 1970s, with its first publisher, editor and writer Frank Gormlie. It published from late Summer 1970 to early 1976. The Rag’s volunteer and dedicated activist staff succeeded in fueling the community organizing in Ocean Beach during those years with their underground publication, taking on the establishment while giving voice to the burgeoning counter-culture.

The very first issue of the OB People’s Rag – September 17, 1970.

The OB Rag was once described by Art Kunkin, the then-publisher of the LA Free Press – the grandparent of alternative newspapers – as “the best alternative grassroots community newspaper in the country.” [See our page “1st OB Rag” for more complete history of the first OB Rag.]

Plus, many of the original OB Rags are now available for donations. [Go here for those Rags that are available.]

Much later, in the early years of this century, folks associated with the Ocean Beach Grassroots Organization (OBGO) and the Save Ocean Beach Coalition published several editions of a new version of the OB Rag (see below for a sample front cover of this version). There are at least two issues of that version of the OB Rag scanned here in our blog.



OB Rag – October 2002, Vol. 7, No. 2
This version of the OB Rag, was published by members of the
OB Grassroots Organization and Coalition to Save OB

“The Whole Damn Pie Shop”

A number of the current writers for this OB Rag published a left-wing magazine in San Diego during the first half of the eighties. Called “the whole damn pie shop” the magazine proudly announced on each front cover:

Our name is from a quote of a Brixton, England demonstrator who when asked in 1981 if he wanted a larger share of the pie, replied, “No, we want the whole damn pie shop!”

“the whole damn pie shop” No. 10 page 1

Describing itself as an independent left and progressive newsletter, the Pie Shop was initially sponsored by the Borderlands Education Committee – itself a creation of an Ocean Beach political collective. Current and occasional writers for the OB Rag, Frank Gormlie, Rick Nadeau, Michael Steinberg and Gregg Robinson all wrote for the Pie Shop from its inception in 1981 through the end sometime in 1986.

Issue Number 10 has been scanned and added to the site. Click the image to the left to view the whole issue.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Ted Clayton January 30, 2008 at 8:15 pm

I was stationed in & around San Diego with a string of commands in the Navy, from 1971 to ’75 … and I must say this website and it’s namesake have quite a familiar ring! ;-)


Frank Gormlie February 2, 2008 at 3:49 pm

Ted – yes the OB Rag thrived for a good five years, 1970 – 75, and became quite well-known. Every two weeks, from 5000 to 10,000 issues went out, mainly in OB but also across the beach area, some of the college campuses, and even (gasp!) on a few military bases. OB was also home to many sailors as well as hippies and surfers. It still is. Thank you for sharing, and you’re welcome to post any other comments or memories (well, just the good memories).


Lily October 6, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Hey Frank,

I used to carry the OB rag as far north as Leucada back in the day. I was also carrying oooo Off Our Backs I then too I think. Hope you are well.

the wild science girl
now of Montana


Frank Gormlie October 7, 2010 at 8:10 am

Hi Marcie of Montana – welcome “back”! Do you have any memories of the 70s that you can share with us?


Judy Burzell May 3, 2008 at 11:11 pm

Hi Frank,

I got such a kick out of seeing the OB Rag online after 30-some years! I worked on the paper, the OB Childcare Center, and a few other great endeavors in the 70’s…the paper looks great…having kept in touch with a lot of the old guard there are so many people who feel the same way around today…they are now grandparents but no less passionate about current issues…good job, it’s so great to see people beginning to do something after a period where not a lot went on.


TR @ WSB September 1, 2008 at 3:17 am

Just a shout-out from a former OB resident, and San Diego native, now running a neighborhood-news site, in blog format, in West Seattle, a ‘hood that has a bit of that funky OB-esque flavor. Glad to find this, so we can keep up with what’s happening, even though we’re long gone.


jeannie reeves October 6, 2008 at 7:46 am

Thanks for the OB blog. I lived on Bacon and Longbranch for 10 years…. In 2003 I moved back to Montana where I grew up. I think about OB everyday and miss my old life there! Thanks for the blog.


Frank Gormlie October 6, 2008 at 8:25 am

TR & Jeannie – thanks for checking in with us! That’s great. JR – tell us what you remember, and what you’ve been doing.

Jeannie – how about sharing your memories – or do a comment or 2 on our other articles.

Thanks for visiting, keep coming back, and let us know what you’d like to see or read.


Dawn Burris October 21, 2008 at 9:03 pm

This site really brings back some memories. I grew up in OB from 1973 through 1985, lived across the street from People’s Foods, went to the Free School (and spent many a summer with them at the Plunge, Camping, Blacks Beach, etc.). It’s great to see the old pictures – would love to see more! Living in OB really did leave a lasting impression, and I often look back at the path it set me on with a sense of gratitude for the unique life and experiences I had during that time.


Frank Gormlie October 21, 2008 at 9:09 pm

Dawn – welcome back. Hopefully your comments will be seen by other Free Schoolers. Please peruse our other posts and leave as many comments as you’d like. We love it when people contact us for the first time like you just did. And go ahead and share any stories – go to the part of the First OB Rag story that is noteworthy for you and make a comment there as well.


Dawn Parker-Waites October 30, 2008 at 11:41 am

I was searching online about the desalination issue and ran across your article written last November, and was wondering if there is any way we could re-post it on our site and give full author credit and link to your blog? I loved the coverage of the issues! Great job!


Frank Gormlie October 30, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Dawn – I decided to contact you this way versus your email; yes, yes, go ahead, the writer is Jon E. Christensen, and please do the link to our blog. And thanks. Come back again real soon. Also you can contact us via the contact page.


lisette littlemeyer September 1, 2009 at 11:21 pm

It is so good to see you guys back ! I was just thinking about the Rag the other day. I will support in any way needed, well , in any way I can.
I learned how to do keys and paste ups on the Rag when I was 12 years old.


Barb S. October 14, 2009 at 10:03 pm

I heard the helicopters today around the cliffs, watched on the news how a man had drowned, he was a “trans c ant” is how Kimberbly Hunt pronounced the news! I wonder if this would’ve happened in La Jolla or maybe if it was a visiting tourist, would the searched been called off after One Hour?


Judith November 19, 2009 at 9:31 am

I just discovered your site when looking for mre info on this poor kid in Arkansas tasered by the police at her mother’s request. good to hear a progressive voice out of San Diego. I’m frankly pissed over the whole affair, and so sad that this poor child has barely a glimmer of a chance at being a normal human being with parents and a “public safety” team like this. well, maybe the dad is half sane and ought to have custody,. but even tough I usually oppose adoption as a tool of class repression, i;d sure like to see this child placed in a home with some forward thinking people nwho know how to defuse a stupid argument over taking a shower rather than escalate it.

makes me rather *like *my life as a single mother in California despite its challenges. and, again, glad you are keeping the lower portion of the state a little more hospitable.


Curtis Fleming May 22, 2010 at 5:25 am

I just discovered your site when looking for mre info on this poor kid in Arkansas tasered by the police at her mother’s request. good to hear a progressive voice out of San Diego. I’m frankly pissed over the whole affair, and so sad that this poor child has barely a glimmer of a chance at being a normal human being with parents and a “public safety” team like this. well, maybe the dad is half sane and ought to have custody,. but even tough I usually oppose adoption as a tool of class repression, i;d sure like to see this child placed in a home with some forward thinking people nwho know how to defuse a stupid argument over taking a shower rather than escalate it.


Judith May 22, 2010 at 2:24 pm

hi Curtis. I’m actually not in Ocean beach, nor in SD County at all; I’ve lived in the Bay Area fort many years, with occasional trvel trips out of the country or across the continent. but I too as happy to find that Frank and the OB Ragers 2.0 or whatever you want to call them cared about this absurdity in Arkansas. wonder if there;s been any update on that cute little pixie. did you see the photo? she looks like aoperfectly adorable, not so scary kid to me and weighed about 65 pounds when it happened. her mother is the one with the problem!

maybe sometime we out of towners can all get together and enjoy the OB life. I have family in and north of Los Angeles, not sure when I’m getting to SD area but…well, let’s stay in touch through this site.

OB denizens, any of you who’d be willing to provide hospitality for some pilgrims maybe in the late summer?


tim ludwig June 19, 2010 at 6:25 am

It` about time more of us are taking issue over the homeless/panhandling in OB.The bumpersticker from The Black just keeps ”the lights on” about this annoying problem.Let`s keep the lights on and try and solve the issue as a community that does care about people.
Just a few tips we should practice..
Don`t allow people to go thru your trash.
Don`t give money/ food out.
Don`t allow campers/cars to park longer than 3 days


OB Jamie November 7, 2012 at 2:28 pm

To hell with you telling people what to do with there food.


liveinob November 7, 2012 at 2:49 pm

really OB Jaimie? it tokk you 2 years to comment on this post?
just get out of jail or something?


Robert "Bob" Sorben November 9, 2010 at 2:02 pm

How to advertise on blog? How much for a side ad?
Let me know when time permits.
Thanks Bob Sorben


ART YOUNG(BLOOD) AKA O.B. ART (BACK IN THE 70S) January 29, 2011 at 9:42 am



Rick Ward March 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Frank or whom ever.If you guys could come up with a T-shiirt W/ an O.B.(green,of course) on the back. And a O.B.Rag.org on the pocket. I would put up the first 500 dollars for a run,if I cpuld get five of them.This would be a good product for Jack’s(the Black) to distribute for you.Just remember,the main art work should be on the back.Surfer Style. e-mail me if this is something the Rag would be into.Time is of the essence as my cash is going fast.


Frank Gormlie March 22, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Rick, we’re interested. Why don’t you email us at our email : obragblog@gmail.com


Ann Miller February 25, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Dear Editors,

I love your point of view – it’s been mine since before The Deluge. I’m looking forward to many future hours of fine reading, courtesy of the Rag.

However, my experience this week has convinced me that my fellow comment-makers need some instructions on logical reasoning and the fine art of argument. I had to learn this the hard way. Listen and learn at my expense, fellow bloggers.

First of all, the columnist and his/her ideas are fair game for criticism. Being jumped on goes with the territory. Those who are thin of skin shouldn’t be submitting their work for publication. I’m sure Emilie, as a professional, didn’t flinch.

Second: The forum that follows the publication of a piece is intended to exchange opinions of that particular column and the ideas expressed therein. Taking pot shots at the personalities of the individual repliers – or having the termerity to psychoanylize them – is not good form. Arguments should be met with arguments supporting one’s view. If this is not possible, it is best not to write in at all.

Lastly, personal recollections, while often interesting, are no substitute for viewpoint. Viewpoints supported by robust reasoning make fascinating reading. Everything is just typing.

Finally: a confession. My main objective in joining in the recent discussion was not to win over hearts and minds. It was principally designed to send a message to Emilie, whoever she may be. Namely, kids grow up. Get used to the idea. (Believe me, you will eventually long for the day!) Have the grace not to agonize over every sign of development – and for Pete’s sake, don’t have the exteme bad taste to make these natural matters public at the expense of your child’s privacy. Ever again.

Sincerely, and with good wishes in the gallant task of bearing the torch of enlightenment for all of us progressives,

Ann Miller


Derek March 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Frank or whomever… are your t-shirts Made in the USA? Are they Union Made?

If no, please consider this the next time you get a run of them… Buying Made in USA products ensures that others have jobs and can afford to also contribute to our economy. Going one step further and buying Union Made shirts ensures that the shirts are made by workers that have a fair shake at a contract and healthcare and are not just coming from a sweatshop… and yes, there are sweatshops right here in the good ol’ US of A, just like overseas…

Being the progressive group that you are, I am sure you can see the real life issues associated with these questions. Thanks and keep up the great work!



Tina Merchant January 25, 2020 at 7:37 pm

Hi Frank,
Good to meet you tonight at Genie’s service. I sat and ate with you.
Tina :)


Frank Gormlie January 29, 2020 at 11:39 am

Of course! Hi back.


Hugh Brenner September 15, 2020 at 10:37 pm

Aloha to all-
Delighted to see the old OB spirit still lives. Wonder how many of you remember the Wall at the foot of Newport between the parking lot and the beach? Not the little shin-banger there now, but the old waist-high wall behind which countless nefarious activities occurred. Or the Naked People at Garbage Beach, below Cal Western? OB Sheriff’s place on LongBranch? Para’s Books? One more-the In-Between? Greetings from an old-time OBeacian


Tom Ryden April 26, 2023 at 4:58 pm

Farmer’s Market Bites the Hand That Feeds It
When I was “Sproutman” at the Farmer’s Market between ’96 and ’97, it was well known that the Newport Ave Merchants had originally brought the market to OB to increase foot traffic to their businesses–in addition, of course, to offering OB access to local produce. Visitors strolled the sidewalks inspecting the offerings of the farm marketeers situated in the street while simultaneously viewing the adjacent permanent merchants, winding back and forth between these offerings. Both merchants and marketers benefited from the event.
This situation remained until Covid, when social distancing required tightly restricting all market visitors to the “funnel” in the middle of the street by having the marketeers face the center of Newport Ave with backs to the merchants. This greatly increased the marketeer’s exposure to visitors because marketeers lined both sides of the pedestrian path instead of just one, with entry and exit to that path restricted to Cable and Bacon street openings. Like many of the other costs we endured in Covid, this funneling of buying power exclusively to marketeers was put up with by the Newport merchants who were excluded from market foot traffic. We expected things to revert to pre-Covid situations when social distancing restrictions were lifted. But the market management now say it is going to keep the Covid arrangement “because the city likes it better,” keep the funnel of foot traffic with entry and exit only at the open ends at Cable and Beacon with spacing so tight between marketeers that you cannot enter or exit the foot-traffic funnel anywhere except at one location in the middle of the block on each side. The city did not significantly prefer this funnel arrangement before Covid, or they would have changed it before the mandates. Rather it is likely that it is the market manager who prefers it, because he measures the market’s success according to income from fees marketeers pay based on a percentage of their sales that have likely increased by the funnel arrangement. But the marketeers gain by turning their backs to the merchants and literally trapping visitors in a funnel of foot traffic in which they have to pass by all the marketeers before they can exit to the sidewalks is at a cost to the Newport merchants who’s sidewalk traffic and commerce remain coordinately excluded: they remain essentially under “locked-down” conditions while Covid restrictions have been lifted everywhere else. Indeed, they might have even more foot traffic on non-market days, because the marketeers actually block visibility and accessibility to the merchants; out of sight, out of mind. Unless the city demonstrates scientifically preponderant reasons for keeping this Covid restriction on this farmer’s market when they have been lifted everywhere else, the original OB farmer’s market configuration should be restored by turning around the marketeers to the sensible arrangement of a sidewalk market that it has been since its origins. The Newport merchants who brought the farmer’s market to OB and who still enable the market by sharing for the day their owned venues that centrally includes street exposure deserve more than having the market literally turn their backs on them. Most important, the visitors deserve unrestricted access to all of the Newport Avenue shopping venues on farmer’s market days.


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