In this weekend’s Q&A feature, we talk to a San Diego State professor who’s written a book about Mexican morals, American political corruption and a movie star’s memorable encounter with a whole load of manure.

Before Las Vegas, there was Agua Caliente, considered more than Monte Carlo and a lot more affordable. But “Satan’s Playground,” as humbugs called it, had a darker side, and it seeped back over the border on 1929 when mobsters and machine guns found their way to San Diego.

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The Tijuana gambling resort didn’t need the stars of Hollywood to give it a special shine, but they flocked south anyway.

So did thousands of other Americans who crossed the border in the 1920s in search of a legal drink (or two or 10), a big pile of winnings and a dip in one heck of a swimming pool.

Be sure to check out the photos with the story. They show just how fancy Agua Caliente really was.

In other news:

• San Diego schools may face an $18 million budget hit if state legislators don’t pass a law pronto.

• This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the days when 3,000 teens and young adults rioted on El Cajon Boulevard to protest a crackdown on drag racing.

There was rock-throwing on the night of Aug. 20 and morning of Aug. 21 along with tear gas and mass arrests.

“San Diego must not be intimidated,” declared the riled-up San Diego Union, which called for a severe crackdown and compared the riot to lynch mobs, student riots and (gasp) sit-down strikes.

Now, the riot is forgotten except by those who took part and leftist historians who say it was a harbinger of ’60s riots to come.


• The LAT says The Big One — the huge honkin’ earthquake from hell — should be coming around just about any day now: quakes on the San Andreas fault appear to happen every 45-144 years. The last gobsmacker of a jolt was back in 1857.


What We Learned This Week (Brought to You by the Letter D):

• Mary Shelley, Pick Up the White Courtesy Phone: The week’s news was filled with developments regarding Prop. D, the fiscal reform/sales tax hike measure.

A local activist filed suit against Prop. D, saying it’s a “Frankenstein proposition” and “monstrously unconstitutional.” A campaign consultant, meanwhile, said the pro-D troops are gearing up for battle even though they’ve been mighty quiet.

And: It turns out that one reform won’t save the city a dime.

And the whole package could save about $9 million … or about $855 million. Or somewhere in between. It sure was helpful for the city to clear that up.

Also: We fact-checked a statement by Prop. D foes, examined a claim about poor staffing in the fire department and found a mayoral statement about city health benefits to be short of the truth.

• Disaster Area or Big District that Could?: Students in the widely criticized San Diego schools are actually doing better on tests, and not just by a little.

• A Little Off the Sides, Please: The print edition of the U-T has undergone some shrinkage, becoming 14 percent smaller thanks to a narrower width. (A smaller paper means savings on printing expenses.)

The U-T redesigned the paper too, banishing the comics to the classifieds and adding new graphical touches. A KPBS blogger is not a fan, saying it looks like “a bunch of ads trying to blend in with the rest of the editorial.”

In the U-T’s defense, griping about the local paper and anything it does, ever, is a national pastime. It needs a bit of touching up, but I actually like the redesign.

• Money for Everyone: Almost 250 employees in Oceanside — more than one for every 1,000 residents — make more than $100,000. To clarify my previous mentions of this story, that’s pre-tax pay and benefits.


The Coffee Collection (stories to read over a lapsang souchong with a drip of molasses)

• The Kids Are All Right (the Parents, Not So Much): It should be easy to match tots and preschools. It isn’t. Preschool is still a privilege, not a right, and there are plenty of barriers to the land of juice boxes, sandboxes and educational advancement.


Quote of the Week: “Preschool is a luxury for those who are rich enough to easily afford it, charity for those who are poor enough to deserve it, and a headache for those stuck in between.” — Reporter Emily Alpert in her story about preschool.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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