History of Oceanside 1963-1987
By Kristi Hawthorne
Oceanside began its 75th year with expectation but the 1960's were not only a time of growth, but a time of change that few could anticipate.
With the opening of a new Small Craft Harbor in 1963 residents were delighted and proud of this new recreational location which drew thousands of visitors. Harbor Days became an annual event that at one time featured fireworks, log rolling and bath tub races.
In 1964 the Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College moved to a new 121-acre location on property once owned by Olympic skater Sonja Henie. The Junior College began on the grounds of the Oceanside-Carlsbad Union High School in the 1930s. Over 1,500 students enrolled for classes on the new campus on September 21, 1964. John MacDonald was named superintendent, a position he held for 18 years, until he retired in 1982. The name of the junior college was changed to “MiraCosta,” Spanish for “behold the coast.”
The retirement community of Oceana was developed in 1964, situated just east of El Camino Real it was the first in Oceanside for persons 55 years and over.
Also that year, Ted Vallas, along with actor Preston Foster, established the El Camino Playhouse. The playhouse was located in the original Baptist church building on Fourth Street (now Civic Center Drive). After $60,000 of renovations transforming the building to a place of worship to a theater and replacing wooden pews with 290 theater seats, the Playhouse opened December 3rd. Comedian Phyllis Diller performed at the playhouse, but it lacked community support or interest and closed after two seasons.
The City of Oceanside voted to approve the annexation of North Carlsbad of approximately 338 acres, more commonly referred to as part of the Fire Mountain neighborhood. It was once a rural area planted with avocado and citrus groves, and consists of customs homes, many of which sit on large lots, some offering views of the Pacific Ocean.
In 1965 it was announced that Oceanside’s historic Colonial Inn (formerly the El San Luis Rey and Beach Hotel) located at 314 North Pacific Street would be torn down and replaced by a $2 million commercial, recreational and apartment complex. Jerry Maler purchased the hotel from Paul Beck and Elgin Lackey in 1963 with plans to redevelop the block with stores, professional offices, a convention center complex and apartment units. The hotel was eventually torn down in 1966 but the land was never developed and stood vacant for over three decades.
The San Luis Rey Valley continued to grow and develop and in 1966 Deutsch Electronic Components Co. opened a new plant. Also that year, the Mission Valley Drive-In was built, initially with one screen, and additional screens being added in 1970 and 1974. Robert and John Siegel, who also owned the Crest and Star Theaters in downtown Oceanside, built the $520,000 Drive-In in the San Luis Rey Valley. It featured the newest type of screen, reflecting “three times the brightness of an ordinary drive-in screen” and provided space for 1,300 cars and included a cafeteria, which served “complete meals.”
In 1968 the Oceanside Police Department moved from its cramped quarters at 305 North Nevada Street to a new facility at 1617 Mission Avenue.
In 1969, the City welcomed a newly-created Convention and Visitors Bureau and celebrated ground-breaking ceremonies for A.C.D.C., a new electronics plant in the San Luis Rey Valley. However, all across the United States shopping malls were becoming increasingly popular and when Plaza Camino Real shopping mall opened in Carlsbad it had a tremendous impact on Oceanside not felt by other smaller coastal towns. Department, clothing, shoe and jewelry stores eventually made the exodus from downtown Oceanside to the mall and left a void. Empty store fronts were filled with military surplus and tattoo parlors.
The Viet Nam war also uniquely impacted Oceanside due to the close proximity of Camp Pendleton. Once a welcomed neighbor, the military base was now the focus for protests staged in downtown and at the beach amphitheater. Residents and business owners on both sides of the debate braced themselves for volatile demonstrations. Angela Davis, an outspoken UCLA professor and activist, spoke at a rally held at the beach stadium along with members of the Black Panthers. Demonstrators clashed with residents and riot police were in full force. Downtown businesses languished as residents and shoppers avoided the area.
The MDM ("Movement For A Democratic Military") was headquartered in Oceanside at 519 South Freeman Street, where Jane Fonda, then referred to as "Hanoi Jane" was a frequent visitor. The MDM was associated with "The Green Machine", which served as a "G.I. Aid Center" operated by Kent and Pat Hudson. One April night in 1970 the house was riddled with bullets, and one person was wounded, a Marine deserter and the unknown sniper never apprehended.
The last combat Marines returned to San Diego on the USS St. Louis, in July of 1971 marking the end of an unstable and explosive time for the country and a turbulent time for the city of Oceanside.
In 1970 Oceanside’s population reached 38,000. That year the historic Mission San Luis Rey received National Landmark status. Other developments included a new Fire Station on Thunder Drive, the opening of Joe Balderrama Park in the Eastside Neighborhood, the paving of Oceanside Boulevard from El Camino Real to Thunder Drive and plans for a 300,000 square-foot shopping center in the San Luis Rey Valley were approved by the planning commission located at the intersection of El Camino Real and Mission Avenue.
The landscape of the business district in Oceanside continued to change with the departure of car dealerships such as Weseloh Chevrolet, Dixon Ford and Rorick Buick and others. Car Country Carlsbad opened in 1972 and eventually nearly every new car dealership would make the move from Hill Street.
1974 welcomed the opening of “one of the nation's first planned residential estates community”: Henie Hills Estates. The development offered 112 home sites on 60 acres which were advertised as “estate-size lots averaging one-half acre with views of the sea, mountains and golf fairways in the valley below”. Homes ranged from 1604 to 2693 square feet, and were priced from $54,000 to $81,000.
In 1975 the Oceanside city council unanimously approved a redevelopment plan calling it the “greatest thing in the world that will ever happen to Oceanside.” It would take more than a decade to see the transformation of downtown Oceanside.
Oceanside dedicated Heritage Park in the San Luis Rey Valley in 1976 as part of the country’s Bicentennial. Planning began in the early 1970's and a site was selected just behind the Mission San Luis Rey. The old city jail, the Libby School house and the old Blade newspaper office were moved to the site and became the nucleus of Heritage Park. A later addition was the home of Soren Johansen who came to Oceanside in 1886. This building also served as the early post office.
In 1976 a new shopping center at 78 and El Camino Real began development. Originally Gemco, the shopping center now houses Target. Also built that year, Marina Towers, a high-rise condominium project overlooking the Oceanside Harbor and providing panoramic ocean views.
Oceanside’s population doubled by 1980 with 76,000 residents and the 1980s ushered an era of “out with the old and in with the new”. While industrial development and neighborhoods continued their expansion eastward into the sprawling valley, attention focused on downtown redevelopment.
In 1981 Bank of America built a large new building at Mission and Nevada Street and in turn demolished an earlier structure which was located on the northeast corner of Mission and Ditmar Streets.
The entire block on the east side of Mission Avenue from Cleveland to Hill Street was torn down. Plans for a new shopping center never materialized until the 1990s. Also succumbing to the wrecking ball was Borden’s Department Store at Third and Tremont Streets.
In 1983 the Oceanside Transit Center was built south of the existing Santa Fe Train Depot and when the train depot was torn down in 1987, the Transit Center became the focal point of public transportation. The unsightly railroad switching yards were moved from downtown Oceanside to Camp Pendleton which freed up 22 acres for development. With the removal of the yards and the train depot, Mission Avenue was opened beyond Cleveland Street to Pacific Street to provide easy access to the beach and pier from the freeway.
Oceanside Community Service Television Corporation (KOCT) was formed in 1984. Robert Bowditch was the creator and visionary and through his efforts the Oceanside City Council was one of the first councils in Southern California to allow its proceedings to be televised. Bowditch viewed the station as an "electronic tool of democracy." KOCT’s programming later expanded to include coverage of community events, political debates and a weekly talk show called the "Voice of Oceanside." It has filmed documentaries on the Oceanside pier, Mission San Luis Rey, the Americanization School and the building of the Civic Center and has played an important role in documenting the history and present growth of our city.
12/8/2015 09:50:29 pm
Please remove those unsightly and dilapidated drive-in movie screens!!
1/8/2016 06:03:03 am
I am a former Marine and got a tattoo at 4 Carr Street in Oceanside, CA in 1967. Can you provide any information on the name of the parlor or artist who worked there.
3/5/2016 03:22:53 pm
I was a Marine who made my first (and only) parachute jump with some buddies through a private jump school at your local airport in 1969... I turned my "first jump" certificate in to a local photo or gift shop for framing and was shipped out before I could retrieve it... I was never sent back to Camp Pendelton... I have no other information... I was hoping someone familiar with archives would make a few calls or snoop around for me and see what they could find...I would be "big news" up here in the Bangor, Maine news papers if something came of this... thank you in advance... Stephen Brown 207 884 6633
7/10/2016 12:39:12 pm
How can I purchase a newspaper that was printed New Year's Day in 1975 in Oceanside, California?
11/30/2016 09:06:46 am
I was a Marine in 75-77 living off base in Oceanside on South Hill St.
2/21/2017 07:28:39 pm
The name of Hill street in Oceanside, is now Coast Highway.
Faith y. James
8/9/2019 05:50:26 pm
It was changed to coast highway
10/12/2019 05:59:07 pm
It will always be Hill St. to me!
11/30/2016 09:07:21 am
I was a Marine in 75-77 living off base in Oceanside on South Hill St.
12/30/2016 09:26:48 am
It is now called South Coast Highway. Some of the little motels by Cassidy Street down to Carlsbad are still there. Elm street is now Carlsbad Village
11/30/2016 09:07:33 am
I was a Marine in 75-77 living off base in Oceanside on South Hill St.
11/12/2017 08:05:54 am
We lived on off base housing on Guadalcanal. Can't recall name of base housing and am interested in what happened to it and why! Thx
12/31/2017 10:06:52 am
I was told it became a Superfund Site not surprised the contaminated land itself!
6/22/2018 04:49:32 am
4/2/2021 09:12:17 am
I was a UPS driver in the late '80's and I remember Sterling homes as being a nasty place to deliver to. I always wondered how anyone could join the Marines and think to themselves I will be living there.
11/25/2021 08:12:34 am
Sterling Homes was the name of the off base housing-
12/31/2017 10:04:52 am
We lived on off base housing on Guadalcanal St next door what was an elementary school and a Big Bear Grocery Store across the street! What happened to that housing? Did it ever become an EPA superfund site?
1/2/2018 06:31:29 pm
Guadalcanal Street was in Sterling Homes. They tore it down and now there are nice town homes there.
1/6/2018 08:30:15 pm
In 1983 as a newlywed we stayed at the Seahorse Motel on 622 North Strand. Can someone please tell me if the street name is the same? Any recommendations for a motel/hotel near that location for our 35th Anniversary?
8/28/2018 03:13:13 pm
my marine husband was badly beaten at the Sea Horse motel on 3-3`-`81 and in a coma and now hemiplegic. I was wondering what the place looked like or if anyone can tell me if it was a hell hole or nice place. He was staying in 44...and the incident apparently happened in front of the sign .... He doesn't remember anything about it.
3/11/2020 03:32:47 pm
The Seahorse Motel is long gone. I see your post was from quite a long time ago, so you may already know this. There are a lot of condos / timeshares and Air B&B type places on the Strand now.
2/19/2018 08:07:38 am
What street was Ponzi's Record shop on? also the YMCA and The Sugar Shack ? All circa 1973-4 And is anything left of that area ?
6/22/2018 04:52:09 am
Ponzis was on hill st, used to go there every week.
7/1/2018 01:52:34 pm
Any relationship to shanks hardware? Used to shop there.
11/2/2019 12:07:17 pm
Hi Chanice or anyone really! I have been trying to track down ponzis records for years which was my grandfathers shop. Is there any more information? Exact address?
5/12/2018 10:20:23 am
Does anyone have any information or documents regarding the developer, contractors, plans or information about the construction of Original Oceana between 1968 and 1971
10/5/2018 09:32:57 pm
Can you tell me what happened to Flowers by Penny floral shop on Hill St. It was not to far from a funeral home and was in a house. I would appreciate any info you may have.
12/5/2018 03:36:08 pm
Any pictures of 1970s Oceanside police cars.
1/19/2019 06:34:41 am
Nice historical overview of the town. I grew up in Oceanside. My father managed the buick dealership on hill street. During the Vietnam era, Oceanside was considered a rough town, and had a high crime rate for its size. When I was a kid the Blade Tribune asked me to pick up a new newspaper customer. When I went to the address, the house was riddled with bullets and had sand bags stacked up on all the windows. The house was the MDM. I refused delivery of course. I live in another state but I miss Oceanside at times. Its just too expensive to live there now and very crowded.
4/3/2019 05:25:11 pm
What happen to hotel california on Hill st. And was hill street the place where we all marines hang out at.
5/6/2020 09:10:00 am
Hotel California was at 207 Hill Street. Hill Street is now Coast Highway. The downstairs part of Hotel California is now a very good rated rustic BBQ restaurant. The upstairs is just being used as storage. I would like to go up there for one last look myself, but I think the owners are afraid of the floor giving away. Did you know Ralph the manager?
8/2/2019 02:02:19 pm
There are so many errors in this story. Some dates are off by more than a decade. Fact check people, fact check.
Faith y. James
8/9/2019 06:01:37 pm
Can anyone tell me what the street number address was of the Pi Fin motel on the Strand?
2/4/2020 10:35:59 am
what ever happen to that lounge on oceanside blvd and I 5 called the Royal Inn anybody have pictures of that place
5/29/2022 11:29:19 pm
It looks like there is a Royal Motel in operation off Coast Highway in Oceanside.
3/12/2020 09:54:34 am
Enjoyed reminiscing through this article! I remember catching the fishing boats with my dad off the end of the pier before the harbor was built. As a kid, it was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.You'd walk down stares under the pier to the water, in the dark and have to time stepping out and onto the boat that was rising and dropping with the ocean swells👣
9/27/2020 07:36:06 pm
3/11/2021 02:53:46 pm
Tom Tomaro's father ran the fishing barge off the pier before the harbor opened
4/8/2020 11:26:37 pm
Does any one know the name of the pizza place that served a giant pizza back in the late 80s. It was on a block with a surplus store and a couple of tattoo shops and a barber. I'd even settle for the street. Used to eat there ever Sunday afternoon after a hair cut on the way back to Sunday role call.
8/30/2020 09:49:00 am
Manhattans Giant Pizza
4/29/2020 08:49:34 pm
buccaneer motel - is it still there? I stayed there in the early-mid 1960s. It was right across a road from the sand of a VERY wide beach. It had a huge pirate sign and marvelous turquoise naugahyde furniture. Many turquoise naugas gave their lives for that furniture!
5/6/2020 11:14:27 am
There was a diner in1976 at the corner of Mission and Hill St. It was ran by a man named Ski. Also anyone know what happened to the Mira Mar Hotel and the Ship Room bar at same property?
3/11/2021 02:54:54 pm
8/30/2020 09:55:28 am
There used to be a big white house on top of the hill at the end of Neptune way. Does anyone know the history of that house, or why it was shuttered for so long before it was torn down and the area turned into condo's?
3/11/2021 02:56:32 pm
They moved that long ago. It was always empty if i remember and rumor that it was haunted
9/27/2020 05:27:43 pm
1950's bowling alley under ground on corner of hill street and mission ave. Brunswick lanes. Maybe 10 lanes. I heard it is still there. That's when they had bomb shelters in many parts of town. Ie Wisconsin and Hill street.
9/28/2020 03:33:28 pm
Bought our Wedding Ring's from Tyrell Jewlers in1972 onHill St.
10/21/2020 10:53:28 am
Took pictures at life studios207 n hill st Oceanside need info on on all negative on all picture s
Jessica Ray Emerson
1/16/2021 03:46:05 am
To Chanice Shanks: TY for name of off base housing. My dad was a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton during early-mid 80’s & we lived there also. I remembered Kwajalein St but not the housing name. I remember we lived on bottom floor & neighbor next door had a pet snake, a boa constrictor & a pet tarantula. As a child I remember being scared & worried they would somehow escape & end up in my bed..Yikes Lol My brother & I would walk to & from school everyday, Mission Elementary. Such great memories ❤️
1/27/2021 07:03:48 pm
We used to shoot pool at the Normandy Bar before shipping out to Vietnam. Is there still a bar there?
3/14/2021 12:23:57 pm
Thank you Beverly Baker for the actual address of Hotel California on Hill St. I lived there in 1985 and had my first child there. I would love to have an old photo of the place to show my daughter! Anyone?? Beverly, I did know Ralph the manager. He was very good to me :)
6/20/2022 05:16:30 am
Back in the late 70's or early 80's there was a baby taken from Oceanside military base. I was curious to know if the baby was ever found and returned to the parents???
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