Continuing the late historian Jim Nelson’s legacy, former Solana Beach Mayor Joe Kellejian recently stepped into the role of Sen. James West Stevens and brought history to life for local students at the Solana Beach Heritage Museum.
Solana Vista third-graders visit the Solana Beach Heritage Museum every year through Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society’s Living History program, which Nelson managed, along with his wife Kathalyn, until his passing in April. Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students in Skyline’s Global Education program also visit the museum every three years.
“That was my driving force — Jim Nelson,” Kellejian said. “What he had done for this community, and what he had done to make this a wonderful place where people could come and enjoy and learn about the history of Solana Beach — it’s a wonderful thing. They preserved this for future generations.”
Built in 1887, the museum is the first home constructed in the community. It sat on Pepper Tree Lane, now called Del Mar Downs Road, for 101 years. In 1990, the house was moved to La Colonia Park in Solana Beach, where it is owned by the city and operated as a museum by the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society.
Nelson, who authored two books on the history of Solana Beach, served as curator of the Solana Beach Heritage Museum.
“It’s Solana Beach’s best-kept secret,” Nelson said in a past interview.
The Living History program, which launched more than a decade ago, covers the community’s history, starting from when the area was inhabited by Native Americans.
During the nearly 2 1/2-hour program, volunteer docents dress in period costumes, inviting students to imagine they are spending a week at the 10-acre Molly Glen Ranch.
Nelson had played the role of the senator, who lived in the original house. He showed the students around the 1900s-style parlor.
Stevens, now performed by Kellejian, teaches the children how to perform chores such as filling kerosene lamps and sweeping the floor. The students then visit the 1900s-style kitchen, where Stevens’ wife, Susanna, demonstrates another two dozen chores.
After touring both rooms, students go outside to play traditional games such as croquet, hopscotch, and jump rope. After playing outside, they return to the museum, where it is now the 1930s, when Edwin and Jennie Stevens lived in the house.
With the construction of Lake Hodges, students learn how the impact of running water helped transform Lockwood Mesa to today’s Solana Beach. They discover how chores changed and tour a more modern 1930s kitchen and living room, which feature a sink with faucets, refrigerator, gas stove, washing machine with spin dryer, wall phones and more. Before the end of the field trip, students help make homemade ice cream.
“We’re carrying on Jim’s legacy,” said Jolene Bogard, who now heads the program.
The daughter of former Mayor Marion Dodson, Bogard asked Kellejian to step into Nelson’s former role, and her mother to portray the 1930s kitchen maid, a role formerly played by the late first Mayor Margaret Schlesinger. Kathalyn Nelson still serves as narrator.
“It’s wonderful to see former council members stepping into these roles and wanting to share the history of Solana Beach with area children,” Bogard said.
For information about the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society, the Solana Beach Heritage Museum and the Living History program, visit solanabeachcivicandhistoricalsociety.org.