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From the Archives: The First Issue of 'San Diego Magazine'

As a nod to our 70th anniversary, we dissect the makings of our first-ever issue


The Rancho Santa Fe Horse Show and Polo Matches

As a little anniversary gift to ourselves (and our readers), we’re dissecting the makings of our inaugural issue, dated October 1948. The magazine covers homes, travel, and lifestyle, and opens very much like The New Yorker, with theater and restaurant listings. (Publisher Ed Self told the San Diego Union in 1949, “We wanted it to be a combination Vogue, Holiday and New Yorker.”)

Up front is a story on the second annual Rancho Santa Fe Horse Show and Polo Matches, society pages (“The Social Whirl”), and a story on traveling to Ensenada via 45-minute private plane ride. Some of the recommendations include Hussong’s Cantina (still open) and Riviera Del Pacifico hotel (closed).

Next is a history of Captain George Washington Ayres, a “Yankee smuggler” who in 1813 was captured while trading with Spanish California from his ship, the Mercury.

A trend story, “Surfing at Windansea: The new year-round sport is mushrooming at San Diego beaches,” features a few of the 43-member San Diego Surf Club, 18 years before Tom Wolfe wrote about such locals in “The Pump House Gang.” The article includes an explanation of how one might turn on a 12-foot board.

A business story examines the state of San Diego’s radio industry, which had seven broadcasting stations and nearly three times as many advertising agencies. It was a crowded field, and one that competed with the cinema. One gripe among the stations was that the local ad agencies weren’t “giving radio its proper due and were not using the medium effectively.” The author laments one uninspired remote broadcast from a night club dance floor—what we might call “product placement” today. (Imagine what they’d think of our Happy Half Hour podcast taping at all those sponsored locations.)

In the fashion story, “Fall Is a Feeling,” several real housewives model clothes, starting with Mrs. Luther Barber of La Jolla, a “talented hostess” and mother of two. The “all ’round” dress she chose is described in detail—especially the color, a winter navy blue, since the photography is black and white. The introduction begins, “Fall is a feeling in San Diego rather than a season . . . and so here, where clothes rather than climate mark the changes of the year, what you wear takes on added significance.”

“Bachelor’s Retreat” showcases a ranch near Rancho Santa Fe. The homeowner was Legler Benbough, son of Percy Benbough (1935–1942), the only San Diego mayor to die in office. The younger Benbough used the 21-acre ranch, with its horses and 1,000 avocado trees, for entertaining, but managed the family mortuary and lived with his mother in Mission Hills when “in town.” He was a lieutenant commander in the Navy during the war, where he “saw a bit of overseas duty.” The article ends in a strangely familiar way, listing Benbough’s clubs—among them the Bachelors, Cuyamaca, Kiwanis, and University—much like how we end profiles with social media handles today. It makes you wonder how we’ll flash our social bonafides 70 years from now. You know what they say—the more things change, the more they stay the same. Read more about our covers from the last seven decades.

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