Throughout his life, Billy Gene Medcalf managed to find the right tools when he needed them.

He managed to move past his Depression-era upbringing, when he lived with his fruit-picking family under trees in the California sun. He wooed and won a lady named Pat after meeting her at a Parents Without Partners meeting. And he knew just what to do when his granddaughter asked for some of his ice cream at dinner: He gave it up.

Medcalf, who died last month, knew his way around other kinds of tools too. He was such a whiz that his Pat’s Tools store in North Park, and later in El Cajon, became an institution.

“Bill knew what every tool was for. I’ve never seen him stumped,” recalled one friend, who added: “He was a tough old Texas boot.”

Look for more details in our story, one in a continuing series of obituaries about extraordinary, but often low-profile, people who have passed on.

In other news:

  • This week, we exposed how the city of San Diego subsidizes its sales of reclaimed water. In essence, the city pays more to produce the water than it sells it for.

    As you might imagine, this doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    It took us weeks to get the statistics we needed for the story. Why was it so hard? As our follow-up post explains, the Mayor’s Office “kept the city from promptly disclosing readily available information … an obvious attempt to keep us from reporting accurate information about the subsidy.”

  • Today’s the day for the San Diego school board to figure out what to do about summer school — keep it or eliminate most of it? The district is recommending that the board “spend $4.6 million to keep its summer school programs largely intact this year, offering summer classes to all high schoolers who need to make up Ds and Fs, along with students at risk of being held back in grades 1, 3 and 8 and kids entering algebra at schools in a special transition program.”
  • We’re analyzing local crime statistics and want to know what you’d like to know about. Are there any crime trends you’d like to better understand?
  • The Photo of the Day shows a couple of … holy guacamole, run for your life!


  • A local assemblyman unveiled legislation inspired by the murder of Chelsea King that would impose longer sentences on child molesters and force them to spend more time on parole. (LAT)
  • Never mind all those Nobel Laureates we have running around here. San Diego has a new Pulitzer Prize winner: UCSD writing and literature professor Rae Armantrout won the poetry award yesterday for her collection titled Versed. The NYT has more, including a link to a review of the book that called Armantrout “a poet of supreme concision” whose work is “skeptical about almost every source of human confidence, trust, hope, joy, strength or belief.”

    In an interview with KPBS last fall, Armantrout talked about her work and her bout with cancer. 

  • In the U-T: “The first outsourcing bid by San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders won City Council approval Monday despite skepticism over the proposed savings and the selection process.” Also: “Three defendants in a years-long bribery and fraud scheme at the SPAWAR research center, including a man described in court as the ‘linchpin,’ were sentenced Monday to federal prison.” 
  • The U-T has a big story about a pending Coastal Commission vote on a contentious $228 million project to overhaul the bay front. One commissioner is going to abstain
  • A woman held a press conference in San Diego over the weekend to discuss her alleged abuse by a Northern California priest who was seemingly protected from defrocking by the Pope. The AP reports that “she said it seemed the Vatican was more concerned with scandal than protecting children.”

    Also, the worldwide Catholic church has posted a guide about how it handles sex abuse allegations against its own. 

    As we reported last week, San Diego’s own Catholic sex-abuse scandal is poised to return to the public eye, three years after the local diocese agreed to pay $198 million to 144 victims.

  • One of the reactors at the San Onofre nuclear power plant is back online after being shut down for repairs for six months, the NCT reports
  • Back to the Pulitzers: several others, including those for newspapers, were awarded yesterday. As we told you last year, a San Diego reporter in 1924 won the first newspaper Pulitzer Prize awarded to anyone west of the Mississippi. That’s nice. But, as we discovered, there was much more to the story — and much less to the reporter’s winning story than meets the eye. 
  • Finally, baseball season is upon us, and it is good: The Padres won their first home game yesterday, 17-2 (that’s not a typo) over the Braves.

    As we learned last year from San Diego’s most prominent local baseball historian, America’s pastime has a rich history in these parts. 

    For one player, however, a visit to town almost turned out to an un-enriching experience.

    Last Friday, NPR re-aired an interview with former pitcher Bob Gibson, who talked about the art of brushing back batters by hitting them with pitches. 

    At one game in San Diego, Gibson said, a pitcher hit someone on his team. Gibson decided to retaliate. An umpire figured that was coming and gave him a warning: “Now, Bobby, if you hit somebody it’s going to cost you $50.”

    Gibson’s response: “I said Lee — and at that time I was making pretty good money — I said, Lee, I have a whole bunch of $50, so you start adding them up.

    “And he didn’t kick me out. First guy up, I didn’t hit him. I knocked him down. And he didn’t kick me out of a ballgame.”

    Looks like Gibson brushed back the umpire without even needing to throw a pitch.


Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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