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IB Historical Society Dedicated To Preserving Memories

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Posted: Friday, June 14, 2019 12:40 pm

About three years ago Former Councilmember Lorie Bragg received a large amount of Imperial Beach memorabilia, notebooks and history after unofficial IB historian Frieda Adams passed away. Adams was the author of the first book written on the history of the city and was a friend of Bragg. “It struck me that [the memorabilia] did not belong to me but the people of IB. “I knew other people had stuff about IB too,” she said. Her worry was that when those people pass away their historical collections may not be valued and thrown away. Then the idea came to her; to create the Imperial Beach Historical Society to preserve, catalogue and inventory the history of the city.

The society’s goal is to ultimately have a museum to display the historical collection gathered so far. “Our goal is also to be a research place. We have old phone books, photos of the city, the fishing pier. If someone wants to know something about the history, we’ve got the answer. We have nine or ten volumes of obituaries… obituaries can tell a lot about a community,” said Bragg who it treasurer/secretary of the group.

The historical society has continued with the tradition that Frieda Adams started years ago with a display table of local history at the Mayor’s Breakfast every year. The group has also had displays at city hall and a booth at events throughout the city to both showcase pieces of history and let residents know about the society. Some of the events where the group is a fixture is Military Appreciation Day, Surf Dog Competition, the car show and Dempsey Holder Surf Contest. “When our booth is out, people bring us stuff. Items can be donated or be on loan to the society,” explained Bragg.

The group’s Facebook page has received a lot of interest and now has 1,000 members and has grown quickly in just three years. “I’m surprised. We didn’t think we’d be this big so fast,” said Bragg. “I’m really proud of what we have collected. We went from cardboard boxes and plastic bins to a whole room full of items.” Bragg feels that the society is not just important for people who have lived here for a long time but for new people as well, so they get to know the history of their community.

When the group gets together to catalogue items they reminisce about the old days. “Sometimes we get together and laugh. We have fun but we are like a dog with a bone,” she said about pursuing a topic. Some of the members are very dedicated to research like Anne Price Fox Winkle. Case in point was when Bragg found an old military jacket at a thrift store and bought to use it for a military display. She then realized that the name of the owner was sewn in the jacket. Winkle took it upon herself to research this man’s life and dug through Census records and and she completed an entire file on him. His name was Lawrence V. Julihn, he graduated from the Naval Academy and retired in 1957 as a Rear Admiral and lived in La Mesa.

With any group, the members are interested in different topics of research they have dedicate themselves to. For example there are some who love military history, Native-American history or the estuary so they each can specialize and research one topic helping the group.

So far the collection of IB history is stored in a room at Winkle’s house. Lately, she has been busy archiving old newspapers in plastic sleeves. Some of the names of those old newspapers include the more recent Imperial Beach Star News and older publications like the Reminder, Chronicle and Bay Cities Press “I don’t mind the work. I enjoy it,” she said.

The members are currently trying to collect pieces of military history to create a memorial wall of locals who served in the military. “We are asking the public to give us information about servicemembers alive or deceased,” said President Jane McLaughlin. Both Winkle and McLaughlin grew up in Imperial Beach and they are a source of information in themselves. Winkle grew up in the same house she lives in now, McLaughlin’s mother Jane was one of the residents who worked to incorporate the city and served as a councilmember and a mayor. One of the interesting pieces of memorabilia in possession of the group is a 1930s chair which belonged to Paul Smith who was the first fire marshal. Winkle and McLaughlin proudly showed some of the items the society has acquired over time like Frieda Adams’ notebooks she used to write a book called “The History of Imperial Beach”, a plaque made for former Mayor and Congressman Brian Bilbray, a Garden Club sign which someone found in a thrift store, old MVHS yearbooks and T-shirts from past sandcastle competitions.

McLaughlin was immediately interested when she heard about the group and she is one of the people that attended one of the first meetings. “Lorie put out a flyer looking for people who had information on the 60th anniversary of the incorporation of the city. I saw it and went to the meeting,” she recalled. At that meeting she met Winkle and her husband, who is also on the board. “The original project was to put out a book, then we said ‘let’s make it a real group’ and we’ve been collecting items from people ever since,” she said.

McLaughlin was already a collector of old things. “I just happened to have things and lots of newspaper clippings,” she said. One of the most exciting pieces the historical society owns is an old sign that reads “IB Fishing Pier” with a picture of a whale, which was a symbol of the city. In fact the city’s logo was “A Whale of a City” The history group is resurfacing the whale symbol for their group. Hutchins Realty Group donated a framed Imperial Beach Monopoly game. The group has also done a sewage display at city hall dating since back to the 1930s. “We’ve been operating off ourselves and donations. Ann buys the [storage] boxes. We are doing this out of love,” said McLaughlin. The society is a 501(c) 3 thanks to member Joyce Ward who worked hard on getting that designation. This means that donations are welcome and are tax deductible.

McLaughlin has often heard from residents who praise the groups’ work, who are worried that many landmarks are disappearing from the city’s landscape like the old shopping center and theatre at Ninth and Palm. Fortunately the group has a treasure trove of old photos including some of the boardwalk that was destroyed in a storm and old buildings on Seacoast Drive like the post office. Thanks to the group’s Facebook page, residents have also posted old photos. “We love it when they post pictures,” said McLaughlin. “We take photos of old homes before they are gone,” said McLaughlin. “We also have pictures of photos of homes that are no longer there,” added Winkle who has been snapping photos of old homes for years.

The two women, who have become friends thanks to the group and their shared love of old IB, reminisce of the times the town boasted riding stables at Daisy and Date and Seacoast and Palm, the chicken farm behind what is now CVS and they remember playing in empty lots. Although it’s hard to believe today, Imperial Beach was a rural town at one time. “When my parents moved here there was nothing between here (Daisy Avenue) and Palm Avenue except for one house on Fifth and Elm,” said Winkle. Members of the group get excited when through research they discover some new piece of information and call each other to share the news. “We learn so much we call each other and say ‘guess what?’ ”

Anything related to old Imperial Beach is of interest to the group. Some of the unusual items they have in storage are matchbooks from old bars, business cards and menus.

“We do it out of love for our city. Imperial Beach is like any other city but it’s our city,” said Winkle.

IB Historical Society meetings are held in the library once a month. Membership is $20 per year. For more information or to contact the group check out IB Historical Society on Facebook.

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