I took my kids to see the wonderful “Pride” this weekend. The film is an inspiring look at the struggles of swim coach Jim Ellis to start a swimming program with the Philadelphia Department of Recreation in 1971. The movie, starring Terrence Howard and Bernie Mac, sweetly evokes the soul of the early ’70s with a great soundtrack (O’Jays, Isley Brothers and James Brown) and great retro outfits.
The movie reminded me a lot of “Roll Bounce,” a 2005 film about kids in South County, roller skating and a very nostalgic look at the ’70s. It is no wonder that both film brought back memories for my childhood in the South Bay. Both films were written by Norman Vince Jr., who grew up in the South Bay and set Roll Bounce in “Sweetwater.”
The South Bay really was separate from the rest of San Diego. The communities of Bonita, National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and San Ysidro shared a common geography, connectedness to the border, and a culturally diverse population.
Talk to anyone who grew up in the South Bay and chances are we remember many of the same places. I fondly remember going for birthdays at Farrell’s in Chula Vista (home of the infamous Pig Trough), watching AIP movies at the Sweetwater and Big Sky Drive-Ins, go-kart racing just south of the Big-Sky (where MoJo Nixon
got married to his wife Adaire) off the I-5, searching for vintage clothing at the thrift stores over on Third and Main in Chula Vista, and of course buying school clothes each fall (my mom would buy my brother a new pair of jeans and a surf T-shirt) at the Sears on H and Broadway in Chula Vista). I played the guitar and along with generations of band students, I would make the pilgrimage to Harper’s Music on Third in Chula Vista to buy my music supplies.
Before Eastlake and Olympic Parkway, Telegraph Canyon Road was a two-lane country highway that meandered out to Otay Lakes, where my Boy Scout troop used to do campouts in the fall (that campground has since been closed by the county). And generations of South Bay families celebrated important moments at Swiss Park at the west end of Main Street. When I received my driver’s license, my friends would load up in my ’64 Volvo, make a pit stop at Lucy’s Market over near Palomar, where Donny, the youngest looking of our group (he was 14) would buy a bottle of Boone’s Farm Wine without even having to have a fake ID. The wine would be chugged in the parking lot of the Roller Rink across from Sears. Invariably there would be a fight between a group of IB “locals” and what we called the Chula “hackers.”
Now the South Bay has been paved over. But there are still pockets of the old days. The Spring Valley swap meet is around. The South Bay Drive-In is still chugging along and with the upcoming release of Grindhouse and John from Cincinnati airing in June, the nostalgia train for old school South Bay will be complete.