FATHER JUNIPERO SERRA AND OTHER SAN DIEGO LEGENDS

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San Diego Legends 2nd Edition by James Scheffler Innis (Sunbelt Publications, Inc., 2015 - 290 pages).

Book Review by Jacqueline Carr

April 6, 2015 (San Diego's East County) - San Diego Legends 2nd Edition by James Scheffler Innis is filled with a plethora of information about famous and infamous San Diego Legends.  The stories are all interesting; some are quite humorous, while others are important history lessons.

There are so many noteworthy facts, and interesting legends within the chapters of this well written book that to name them all will entail me writing a whole new book.  However, a few of the legends  stand out  for me, and the first legend mentioned is Father Junipero Serra who the author describes as  San Diego's first radical, and who is widely recognized as having founded the city of San Diego in 1769 during a ceremony at Mission San Diego de Alcala. The author states that he was stubborn, strong willed and determined in his dream to save "heathen" Indians in the wilderness of the New World's western shores.

Father Junipero Serra encountered several problems by the many people who disagreed with him including Pedro Fages, another one of the author's referenced San Diego Legends. Pedro Fages was a military leader who was charged with providing security for the fledgling California missions. But professional and personal friction between Fages and Serra grew so chronic that at one point the Franciscan road a mule from San Diego to Mexico City to lodge a formal complaint.  Years later in an ironic twist of fate, Fages was appointed governor of California.  Today Fages' name appears on numerous state historical markers from the Arizona/California/Mexico border to the San Francisco Bay area.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Joshua Bean - San Diego's first mayor.  It seems quite odd that his murder has remained unsolved!! Also of interest was the narrative on C. Arnholt Smith who had amassed an estimated personal fortune of $20 million, circa the 1968 era!!  Mr. Smith had tremendous assets which consisted of the 21-branch US National Bank, National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., the San Diego Padres baseball team, and Golden West Airlines to name a few.  He was called "Mr. San Diego", a man who seemingly was a self-made man who came up through the ranks.

It was later discovered that "Mr. San Diego" was apparently "cooking the books" of his many businesses, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a lawsuit alleging that Smith and his lieutenants had engaged in massive fraud by manipulating the assets of some of his companies, additionally, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filed the then-largest ever income tax assessment against a citizen seeking $22.8 million from Smith. Mr. Smith was sent to a white-collar minimum security work furlough center, he later gave up the San Diego Padres baseball team, was evicted from his Rancho Santa Fe mansion in 1993 and roomed with his daughter until his death in 1996 at age 97.

San Diego Legends 2nd Edition by James Scheffler Innis, is "mind-blowing" from the standpoint of information, and fact-findings.  The chapter on "Lemurians Believe Sin Sank  Continent".  is rather interesting. It's believed that the Lemurian Fellowship, founded in San Diego in the 1930s and still active today had a civilization of advanced thinkers who inhabited Mukulia, a vast continent that existed for about 50,000 years until it sank into what is now the Pacific Ocean.

The chapter on Ballast Point Once Home to Whale Bombers was also of interest, and sparked my curiosity especially after reading that .." Even the most seemingly sedate whale could not be ignored in the bay. Such slow-moving leviathans were known to capsize small boats by merely swimming into them or surfacing from beneath them." The readers learn that during the 1800s San Diego was a whaling town, and whale oil was a valuable commodity as a lubricant and for burning in oil lamps.

After reading San Diego Legends 2nd Edition readers will learn about the San Diego's Gold Rush - The Julian Gold Rush which began in 1870 when African-American rancher Fred Coleman discovered flecks of gold in a creek in the Cuyamaca Mountains. The author states that the gold rush lasted about a decade. The Eagle Mine remains open to this day - its operators give guided tour.

Then there is the chapter on Prohibition Smugglers Cave.  Readers learn that somewhere along San Diego County's 50 miles of shoreline, an honest-to-goodness smuggler's tunnel exists.  The network of hand-hewn tunnels and natural grottos dates back to at least the Prohibition Era.

San Diego Legends 2nd Edition by James Scheffler Innis is a well researched, well written contextualized book, equipped with photos of the various story lines. There are numerous history lessons to be learned about San Diego, for example how it got its name, the many historical sites, Statutes of the famous legends, why were they erected etc. One gets to know the story behind each legend whether mysterious, funny or otherwise.  The book is replete with information for both the young and old.  And although I think it's a great history lesson, I also consider it to be a valuable source of reference material for both social and historical usage.

Jacqueline Carr - Author/Poet - A Selected Few Just For You Freelance Contributor of East County Magazine.