Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer Is Here

Hello friends, here is July's monthly WORD-- "WORD" being my acronym for Welch On Rice Diary. It will also serve as August's posting as I will be spending two weeks of that month in Holland-on-Sea, in Essex, England, visiting with my mom and sisters. Juliana, my 17 year old daughter, will accompany me, so it will be a lovely multi-generational get-together. We've got our fingers crossed for good weather, although Juliana said that she's looking forward to feeling the rain on her face!

Del Mar Fairgrounds

Opening Day, Oct 8, 1936 of the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar.

There is no sign of rain here in San Diego with summer in full swing. As locals we know that summer has arrived when the San Diego County Fair has its run. This year, despite the lagging economy, the fair saw record attendance as it celebrated it's 75th anniversary year. When the fair opened in 1936, it was a fall event. Opening Day was October 8, and the weather was not kind. Torrential rains turned the unpaved grounds to mud, and it is remembered that these fall storms reduced the fair's founder, Jim Franks, to tears. Most people do not know of Lilian Rice's indirect influence on the architectural design of the fairgrounds complex, which was designed by Sam and Joe Hamill. It was Ms. Rice who paved the way for Sam's career as an architect when she used her influence to get him accepted into the architectural department at U.C. Berkeley, in his junior year. Hamill had dropped out of UCLA in 1924 and at the time had no direction. Through Lilian's friendship with Bessie Sprague, the University's Dean of Women, Sam was accepted into the program, succeeded in earning his degree at Cal in 1927, and later went on to be a noted San Diego based architect who received the commission to design the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Later projects included the San Diego County Administration Building and the Civic Center Concourse, downtown San Diego.

Sam Hamill's original sketch of the fairgrounds complex.

L_R Sam and his brother Joe Hamill study the plans for the fairgrounds and racetrack.

Del Mar Racetrack

Summer in San Diego also means the Del Mar Races. This year opening day was July 20, kicking off the 72nd summer season. Funding for completion of the racetrack was provided by Bing Crosby, a world famed entertainer during the 1940s and 50s. He was also the founder of the Del Mar Turf Club, which brought thoroughbred racing to the track. Crosby hired Lilian Rice to restore the old Osuna hacienda in Rancho Santa Fe in 1934. Crosby had bought the property through real estate agent, Reginald Cloltfelter, whose son, Tom, and grandsons, Cutter and Chaco, continue the family business. Lilian added stables, a racetrack, tennis courts and a home for Crosby's father who was also his manager.

Bing Crosby at his RSF Ranch with his racehorse, Sally's Booter.

Giving Back

Yesterday Paul and I gave a presentation at the Senior Facility, La Vida Del Mar, where we showed our documentary, "The History of the Del mar Fairgrounds" which we produced to coincide with the release of our Arcadia book in 2008. We enjoyed a warm welcome, and those who came to meet us and learn of this important local history were engaged and asked great questions.

One lady in the audience was thrilled to see Raquel Tejada (now Welch) on the book cover.

On Monday, July 11, I took part in Celebrity Sonnets, a fundraising event for the San DiegoShakespeare Society. Not quite sure what to expect, I nevertheless threw caution to the wind, and prepared my own versions of Sonnet 27 and Sonnet 130. The former I rewrote in teen talk, and titled it, Sleepless in San Diego, the latter I rewrote from a female perspective and turned it into rap. There I stood on stage at the Schulman Auditorium at Dove Library in my yellow satin suit, white dinner plate hat--trimmed in swan's down-- with my pearls and specs on, doing rap. It was deliberately incongruent  and the audience clapped along and truly saw the humor in my version of the sonnet.

Your's truly performing at the Shakespeare Society Celebrity Sonnets.

Looking Ahead

I just got word that the board of ZLAC Rowing Club approved member, Molly McClain, to put forward Lilian J. Rice's application for consideration to be an honored addition to the Women's Hall of Fame, at the Women's Museum of California, right here in San Diego. The application has been submitted for the trailblazer category. If she is accepted it will be a most fitting tribute to Lilian Rice who had so many firsts here in Southern California. She was the first licensed lady architect, the first female to gain entry into the San Diego Chapter of the AIA, the first lady architect to win a WPA institutional building project with her design for the San Dieguito Union High School, the first lady architect to serve as supervisory residential architect for a master-planned community, Rancho Santa Fe, the first  lady school board trustee for the RSF newly formed school district and the first lady member of a three member art jury in RSF. She also influenced many upcoming architects, as we saw with Sam Hamill, to go on and become great architects in their own right. If Lilian Rice wins admission into the Hall of Fame, we should also honor her in recognizing her birthday, June 12th as the official Lilian J. Rice day. Friends, please help by showing your support for this proposal. Email me a comment or place a post here in support of this suggestion. It is my mission to share the history of Lilian Rice so that others may be inspired by her unique story.