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.