Festive events to mark Pacifica's 50thBy Julia Scott
In 1951, Dody Payne moved into her hilltop home that had a pretty good view of the neighborhood. After all, there were only two other houses around.
Back then Pacifica didn't exist. It was incorporated six years later, on Nov. 22, 1957.
Now 82, Payne still lives in the home she and her husband built in a part of town that later became known as East Sharp Park. From her perch on the hill, she's watched hundreds of homes being built all the way to the ocean.
"You couldn't get rid of me," joked Payne. "I love my place up on the hill. I'd say that people enjoy living here, and feel blessed to be in Pacificabecause of the ocean."
Members of the Pacifica Historical Society gave many residents a taste of what living in Pacifica used to be like on Wednesday, with a public celebration to mark the beginning of a citywide commemoration of Pacifica's 50th anniversary.
Dozens of locals, including Payne, listened to 1950s music and admired memorabilia from the era set on a table in front of Pacifica's historic Little Brown Church - including an old brass hand-crank coffee grinder, fashion magazines, and a heavy black camera. Pacifica Historical Society member Betty Garner dropped off two diaries she kept in the year 1957, when she was 16 years old.
"Did you read those?" she asked, chuckling.
People added a dog-eared "Better Homes" cookbook and green plastic salt-and-pepper shakers, among other items, as the afternoon wore on.
Next to them were items collected in 2007, destined for a "time capsule" the Historical Society will bury under the Little Brown Church and unearth in 2057. Items considered nearly obsolete, such as a CD player with headphones, were laid out next to copies of newspapers, playbills, posters and photographs.
Pacifica Councilwoman Julie Lancelle walked over to the table and added a Sacagawea dollar and a pin from the Kerry/Edwards campaign.
"The Sacagawea dollar is suggestive of our open-space ethic. And that was an important election," said Lancelle.
The city was originally just going to hold a traditional gala dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary, similar to what was done for the 25th and 40th anniversaries. But Frank Winston, a local resident and Pacifica Historical Society member, thought the city should celebrate for an entire year. He even gave the city a logo, "I love Pacifica, and you will, too," so that they could launch the celebration on Valentine's Day.
After obtaining a $10,000 grant to promote the message across town and to create a display at this year's 50th anniversary-themed Fog Fest, Winston jokingly declared himself the "emperor" of the proceedings. He came to Wednesday's kickoff event in a rose-colored jacket, crown and scepter.
Now, the whole town is getting into the spirit. A committee formed to restore the Little Brown Church will put on a 1950s-style fundraiser dance in September. The city's Parks, Beaches and Recreation Department will host a game of "Pacifica Jeopardy" using historical trivia in March at the Community Center. Popsicles and other food typical of the 1950s will be served.
Although everyone is glad now, Winston said Pacifica's incorporation was so controversial that it almost didn't happen. Ambiguously known as "the Coastside" for many years, the nine isolated neighborhoods that make up Pacifica today initially rejected incorporation in a referendum held in 1956. Another referendum held the following year passed narrowly, by 2,600 to 2,100 votes, according to Winston.
"The City of San Bruno was going to try to annex some parts and use them as a trash dump," he laughed.
In an ironic twist, liberal Pacifica also has always been proud of its close ties to former Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey, who launched his first run for Congress there when he discovered that his grandfather, Henry Harrison McCloskey, had built one of the city's oldest residences in Pacifica after the 1906 earthquake. The residence, known today as "The Castle," was where McCloskey's father was raised, and sits on a hill overlooking the ocean.
More than 10 people who participated in Wednesday's event were Pacifica residents before the city was incorporated. Some declared they had been living there since 1941.
Local resident Amy Listmann came to Wednesday's celebration with her daughters Hayley, 14; Anna, 9; and Svea, 6. They crowded around the table with 1950s memorabilia, looking at each object.
"They were all born here and lived here all their lives," said Listmann. "I wanted to show them part of the past, because they're part of the future ... hopefully they're going to be here 50 years from now to unearth this thing and they'll remember this day."
Copyright ©2007 San Mateo County Times. Published 02/15/2007.