Longtime residents remember the early years

Editor’s note: Del Martians who were around for the city’s incorporation shared their lasting memories of their first experience in Del Mar with the Times.

Sarah Dubin-Vaughn (formerly Bradshaw)

Moved to Del Mar in 1952

Memories from that time are numerous! Beach life is at the top of the list. With a dirt parking lot where the parks now stand, we trudged down a steep path at 17th Street, laden with young children, heavy wooden playpens and other equipment to spread our picnic on a blanket and spend a few hours almost every day. On weekends, large groups of families gathered to swim and play. All these children (four of which were mine) attended either the Del Mar Elementary School or St. James Academy housed in what is now City Hall.

In the town, two stores remain prominent in my memory: Gleason’s Department Store on the corner where Americana is now enjoyed, carried beach toys, clothing, dry goods - just about anything one may need. The Del Mar Hardware Store was housed in what is now Clone’s, and they made it almost unnecessary to go to the Lumberyard in Solana Beach for the kinds of things we now buy at Dixieline.

June Strausberg

Moved to Del Mar in 1957

My husband, Nathan Strausberg, brought me to Del Mar in 1957 as a bride. He said he was taking me to paradise. He was so right! Del Mar was so beautiful with its ocean views, and, thanks to incorporation, all the gas stations disappeared.

Dr. Richard Wheelock

Moved to Del Mar in 1955

I remembered driving up to Crest Road and how pretty (Del Mar) was. Encinitas had a Crest Road too and we were debating where to live. Del Mar only had one doctor and he was semi-retired so we settled on Del Mar.

You used to be able to burn your trash. People were burning their weeds on the side of the street and that eucalyptus smell - it was great.

We wanted to live in a smaller area near San Diego so we could take advantage of the small town feel. We’ve been really fortunate with a lot of things. As they say, “You could have done better, but you could have done a lot worse.”

Marie Doliva

Moved to Del Mar in 1950

At the time, Del Mar was called Gasoline Alley. It had five gas stations and was along the only road to Los Angeles. The home was my first home. We bought a lot on Rimini Drive for $3,000 that was big enough to build three houses. My fondest memory was when the neighbors would go house-to-house to collect courses for a big group dinner. They’d collect the salad from one house and appetizers from another … Another fond memory was when Dr. Ederer who lived on Rimini Drive built the first pool in the area. It was so exciting.

Katie Sanford

Moved to Del Mar in 1951

What my first impression of Del Mar was what a relief it was to come to this … to get out of the city because this was countryside when we moved here. It was a wonderful place for our children to grow up. North of us, near the racetrack, I think there was only one house. That whole area was built up for sale. We bought a peninsula on Sea View Avenue and just built in the middle of it. It was a wonderful place for the children to roam the hills and not trespass.

That true little village sense, where the telephone operator would call up and say “Jim doesn’t have a dime, but he wants you to know that he’s down at the swimming pool,” which was next to the Powerhouse.

My husband and I were never quite that involved in the political aspect of Del Mar because our work centered in Los Angeles and San Diego, but we certainly benefited from it.

I can’t think of a better place to live.

Claire Johnson

Moved to Del Mar in 1959

We have many fond memories but this is our first memory. In 1959, the town of Del Mar became a city and we came to live “by the sea.” Our young family was happy to find such a welcoming community. This first year we celebrated with other newcomers to Del Mar at a Christmas potluck. Everyone exchanged recipes and I found the Holiday Red Salad. It reflects the 1950s and is a simple and colorful treat. It has been a family tradition since our first Christmas in Del Mar. Now it is passing along to the second and third generations of our family as our grandchildren are requesting it for our family celebrations.

Holiday Red Salad


1 large package of red raspberry Jello

1 1/4 cup boiling water

2 cups unsweetened applesauce

1 12 oz package of frozen sweetened raspberries

Whipped cream and mint leaves (optional)


Dissolve Jello in boiling water. Stir in applesauce. Add defrosted raspberries to Jello mixture. Mold and chill until firm (overnight). Unmold and decorate with whipped cream and mint if desired.

It is excellent with any meat but especially poultry.


I use a glass bowl instead of a mold ... it makes a nice presentation and of course is easier.