How well do you know Del Mar? Take this quiz

Here’s a trivia primer on the little town “where the turf meets the surf” — lovely Del Mar. To test your knowledge of your hometown, answer “True” or “False” to the following nine statements. The correct responses will help you start the new decade off with appreciation and insight for the way things are today!

  1. Del Mar was named by early settlers from south of the border who set up seaside cottages and admired the coastal ambience so much, they affectionately called the community “Del Mar,” Spanish for “from the sea or marine.”
False. In the 1880s, contractor and engineer Theodore M. Loop, who was working on the first California Southern Railroad project that spanned from San Diego to San Bernardino, built a home north of San Diego along a mesa that he described as “the most attractive place on the entire coast.”

It was Loop’s literary wife, Ella, who named the beach city “Del Mar,” from the title of a popular poem at the time, “The Fight on Paseo Del Mar.” Incidentally, Del Mar does translate from the Spanish, “from the sea.”

  1. In 1933, the site of the future Del Mar Fairgrounds was picked — a 184-acre parcel in the San Dieguito Valley conveniently located off the major highways and the Santa Fe Road.
True. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided start-up funding for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, which opened on Oct. 8, 1936, with a flood of 50,000 people who enjoyed the exhibits and entertainment. The finishing touch to the fairgrounds would be the addition of the mile-long, oval-shaped racetrack.

  1. The annual highlight of the San Diego County Fair was the selection of the queen — “Fairest of the Fair.” The most famous winner was Norma Jeane Baker who was crowned in 1944, later to become the iconic Marilyn Monroe.
False. Marilyn Monroe was never a contestant in this pageant. Barbara Watson was the first winner, crowned Queen of the Fair in 1936. Then during World War II, activities at the fairgrounds were suspended until 1945. The most notable contestant was Raquel Tejada, a La Jolla High School student crowned in 1958. She later gained celebrity as actress Raquel Welch.

  1. Bing Crosby loved the ponies and owned a stable of horses he affectionately called his “nags” that consistently came in last. But he and his Hollywood cronies, including Pat O’Brien, still adored the Sport of Kings and dreamed of building a racetrack with an ocean view. Crosby, the principal investor in the project, had to mortgage his home in order to finance this undertaking. He recorded “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” to publicize the opening of the Del Mar racetrack in 1937.
True. On July 3, 1937, Bing Crosby would’ve greeted you at the gate for the inaugural Opening Day at his Del Mar racetrack. The legendary Seabiscuit and Ligaroti were in their heyday, and Del Mar was becoming the summer hot spot for Hollywood folks to come and horse around. Today, old traditions are still going strong at the track, and you can still hear Crosby’s scratchy lyrics rolling in the background over the loudspeakers.

The Del Mar racetrack recently underwent a $55 million facelift, transforming the site into one of the most upscale racing facilities in the country.

  1. Del Mar is one of the few places in the world where the Torrey pine tree, a rare and endangered species, grows.
True. This tree, also called the “Del Mar pine,” a local icon growing 8 to 15 meters tall, is the rarest pine in the United States. The tree lent its name to the Torrey Pines State Reserve, Torrey Pines Golf Course, Torrey Pines High School and Torrey Pines Gliderport.

The edible pine seeds from the Torrey pine were also an important food source for the Kumeyaay tribe of Native Americans.

  1. In 1969, Del Mar was named “Sexiest U.S. City” by People magazine, followed by Las Vegas, Honolulu and New York City.
False. But it did make Time magazine’s “100 Greatest Beaches in the World” list. The 15th Street Beach near Powerhouse Park ranked in the top 10 at No. 4, while Dog Beach made honorable mention.

  1. For decades, Del Mar’s racing season and natural beauty and calm have been a magnet to Hollywood folk. Some famous Del Martians past and present include singer and movie icon Jimmy Durante; Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, who had a home in the 1950s and ‘60s in south Del Mar when they were still married; and Burt Bacharach, composer of many popular songs including “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.” He also had a beach home in south Del Mar.
True. Other celebrity residents include motivational speaker Anthony Robbins; world-renowned fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, who splits her time between London and Del Mar; along with iconic skateboarding champ Tony Hawk.

  1. The Del Mar racetrack was closed during World War II, while the grandstand was converted into a makeshift bomber tail assembly production facility.
True. Racing resumed at the track when the war in Europe ended. On Aug. 14, 1945, Pat O’Brien announced to the crowd of racetrack patrons that Japan had surrendered to the allies.

  1. Present-day Del Mar was once populated by native Indian inhabitants believed to date back to 20,000 B.C.
True. The original inhabitants of the site above the San Dieguito River east of Rancho Santa Fe, who settled more than 20,000 years ago, are known as the San Dieguito people. Historians believed they migrated from southern Oregon via the Mojave Desert and Imperial County. The earliest cultural group of inhabitants, the San Dieguito Paleo-Indians, are described as having a “scraper-maker culture,” and trace back to 7,500 B.C.