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buy this photo Don Boomer / Staff Photographer Attorney Daniel Shinoff has been representing school districts countywide for 20 years.

Jeff Frank

North County Times

The biggest surprise in learning that the Escondido Historical Society is celebrating its 45th anniversary was that it is only 45 years old.

This is a city that takes pride in its past. Talk to anyone who has been here a while, and you'll get tons of stories about the way Escondido used to be and all sorts of details about how it grew.

So it's strange that it wasn't until 1956 that the society was founded. No matter, because it's done a great job of catching up.

Those unfamiliar with the society might be surprised by their first visit to the Heritage Walk Museum, where the organization is based. For one thing, it's not really a museum. It's actually six buildings that are not only filled with Escondido history, but are a part of it.

There's the city's first library, built in 1894; the Santa Fe train depot dating from 1888 with a railroad car from the 1920s; a replica of the Bandy Blacksmith Shop, which opened in 1908; plus a barn and a four-bedroom Victorian house from the early 1900s.

All of the buildings were relocated from their previous locations to Grape Day Park and are under the care of the historical society. A walk of 100 yards can take you back 100 years.

That's a journey I decided to take this week in recognition of the 45th anniversary. Historical society members Jack Owens and Jim Tucker, both longtime Escondido residents, joined me on the journey. You could call them the color commentators.

I'd look at a picture or artifact and they'd give me the background information.

We found lots of great stuff. The old library has Escondido High School yearbooks going back to 1903. The train depot still contains the dispatcher's table and telegraph, plus the platform scale used to weigh fruit grown in the area. Standing tall and looking fierce is the 2,200-pound grizzly bear for which Bear Valley is named.

The barn houses the 1935 Borra Winery Dodge panel truck and the 1917 Willys Overland used for deliveries from Rube Nelson's grocery, along with an old working printing press.

Blacksmiths still work in the Bandy shop making tools and doing all types of iron work. The railroad car features a working scale model of the train that used to make the 22-mile trip to Oceanside. The Victorian House is decorated and furnished in the way it might have looked in the early 1900s.

There's plenty more, all of which will be open to the public during the 45th anniversary open house from 1 to 4 p.m. today. The event features a bluegrass band and free popcorn, popped in a turn-of-the-century machine.

If you can't make it today, the historic buildings are open from 1 to 4 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Make sure you take advantage of the knowledge of the volunteer docents who staff each building. They've got the stories behind the pictures.

Contact staff columnist Jeff Frank at (760) 740-5419, fax (760) 745-3769 or jfrank@nctimes.com.

5/6/01

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