Working in 1928
Donated Photos Tell DPW Story
By Bill Polick, former Public Affairs Officer
You can almost hear clanking and grinding levers and gears on the old machines in the photograph. There, in a cut through a hill, sit five trucks, a tractor, grader, steam shovel and a dozen men for whom these are tools of the trade.
1928—the year after Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs for the New York Yankees, the year before the great stock market crash that threw the world into depression. Flappers danced the Charleston, Mr. Rogers was born and Amsterdam hosted the Summer Olympics.
Ernest Childs was County Surveyor and headed the Paving Commission whose responsibility was building and maintaining roads in San Diego. Earl Terry was a new employee working on the roads in those days.
Terry’s niece, Bonnie Briscoe of Safford, Arizona, donated photos of Terry and other road workers taken in ’28 to the department. One, taken at the Marrón Canyon cut during construction of Vista Way near Bonsall, shows equipment lined neatly with bare rolling hills in the background. It must have been an important project at the time to send a photographer 40 miles into the hinterland to stage the shot.
Another photo shows Terry with his son Joe perched on the hood with his dog.
Briscoe also sent a copy of a letter sent to Terry May 3, 1937, from District 5 Supervisor Bryan A. Sweet. That letter compliments Terry and his fellow workers on “the splendid cooperation that the citizens of your locality received from you during our rainy season just past.”
That letter also offers examples of the hard work done by road crews of the time: “I fully appreciate the difficulties that you were working under during this time, but surmounting these you and your boys have done a splendid job…”
The significance of the photos and letters is not lost on Briscoe.
“Even though I am not from your area, I was fascinated with these ‘photo moments’ and wanted to share them,” she wrote. “If only these pictures could talk.”
The pictures do speak—of the pride these men had in their work, of the rural character of North County, of the difficult job crews had with the equipment available.
Vista Way hums with tires on asphalt today. Motorists zip through the area now not knowing the legacy of Earl Terry and his road crew cohorts.
Bill Polick served as the DPW Public Affairs Office until his retirement in 2008.