By Diane Y. Welch
Sixty years ago, several Solana Beach women banded together with a combined mission to help preserve the aesthetic nature of their coastal community through social and philanthropic ventures.
Formally organized in February 1953 as the Solana Beach Women’s Civic Club, these dedicated ladies were the forbearers of what is now the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society (SBCHS). While the name has changed the mission remains the same, and as this year marks a milestone anniversary, looking back is timely.
According to San Dieguito Citizen news clippings — preserved by SBCHS archivist Nancy Gottredson — the club’s first officers included Blanche Klintz, Thelma Crawford and Frances Cornwall, with Olive Smith as president. In total, 30 women were charter members. One of those founding members was Wenetta Childs who served as chairman of the library committee.
Back then the local library was in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Scialdo. It would be another 48 years until a new permanent library building was opened, aided by the later efforts of the Friends of the Solana Beach Library, founded in 1983 through seed money donated by SBCHS.
The newspaper noted that one of the club’s goals was “to help solve the problems confronting Solana Beach as a growing town.”
To generate funds for this effort the first event, “The Trash and Treasure Sale,” was organized. It raised $650, proceeds which purchased plantings for the beautification of Highway 101. Other events included bake sales and an official clean-up day. This would mark the beginning of many decades of community members embracing a common goal of civic pride and service.
A dedication plaque on the north end of the Coastal Rail Trail retells how Wenetta Childs – the club’s beautification chair and president in 1970 – initiated a campaign to remove billboards from the coastal corridor.
Carol Childs, the most recent SBCHS past president who served for three years and was first elected in 2010 (exactly 40 years after her mother), shared a story about Wenetta and those billboards. “The outdoor advertising lobbyists – who opposed her every step of the way – would often set up meetings with the supervisors during the holidays. Their assumption was that ‘the annoying little lady’ from Solana Beach would be absent then, being busy with holiday dinner preparations.”
But Wenetta always attended those meetings and would laugh at their obvious surprise when they saw her, said Childs. “She’d say to me, ‘The one thing those lobbyists totally failed to consider was that I hate to cook!’”
In 1966 County Supervisor Bill Craven sponsored an ordinance banning the billboards and within five years the last of them was removed. It was then that local Boy Scouts helped plant 450 trees which further beautified the property along Highway 101. When the train tracks were lowered in the 1990s all but 15 of the trees had to be removed. While most were “adopted,” 10 of them were carefully boxed for replanting and now take pride of place along the rail trail. The commemorative plaque was installed and dedicated in 2002, and funded by SBCHS.
After Solana Beach’s incorporation in 1986, the city council asked the club to become custodians of the city’s history. In 1989 its Certificate of Incorporation was officially modified to create the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society and men were welcomed into the organization.
Today the society’s focus is still on civic and cultural advancement, and philanthropy, with the added element of educating others about Solana Beach’s local history through programs at the Heritage Museum located in La Colonia Park. Sponsored accomplishments include the continued beautification of the city through plantings and public art; the creation of the Alliance of Education to connect the society with local schools; the renovation of the Fletcher Cove Community Center; and the donation of funding to many local nonprofit organizations.
On June 7 a special celebration at Lomas Santa Fe Country Club was held to mark the SBCHS 60th anniversary. A check for $10,000 was presented to the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy to be used for the Gateway Campaign and new officers were installed with Mayor Mike Nichols officiating.
Virginia Garland, Solana Beach’s very own opera singer, was sworn in as the new president. She said that she was surprised – pleasantly so – to be asked, but agreed to serve under the proviso that she receives lots of support, she said. “But that’s the wonderful thing about this organization, it’s about everybody working together for a common goal. They make things happen.”
To learn more about SBCHS or to become a member, visit www.solanabeachcivicandhistoricalsociety.org.