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'San Diego Magazine' turns 70 Years Old

We toast to our birthday with a look back at our favorite covers through the decades


The ’40s

October 1948

Price: 25¢ | On the Cover: A drawing of the old Majestic Hotel at Sixth Avenue and F Street, downtown, illustrated by E. Miller

For our inaugural issue, which marked the first established independent city/regional magazine in the country, we started with just 40 pages, including the front and back covers. At that time a subscription was $2.50, and 5,000 copies were printed—just a tenth of what we print now. We covered the Rancho Santa Fe Horse Show, the rise of San Diego’s radio industry, and the new trend of surfing at Windansea.


The ’50s

June 1956

Price: 50¢ | On the Cover: Bali Hai restaurant, photographed by Paul Oxley

The cover may be a breezy Shelter Island shot, but inside this 60-page issue are hard-hitting stories on local corporations using nuclear energy for good, an “on-the-spot” account of San Diego from an engineer who arrived on our shores in 1887, and a comparison of two candidates running for assembly positions. But there’s still plenty of San Diego flavor, including a feature on in-vogue swimsuits, ranging from $16 to $30. No two-pieces in sight!


The ’60s

August 1963

Price: 60¢ | On the Cover: The beach, illustrated by art director Donovan Maley

Honing in on the heat of summer, the cover captures some of the brightest parts of the season, a bustling beach and busy waterways. And the rest of the 100-page issue is equally heated, thanks to stories on the impending mayoral race and incumbent Charles Dail’s face-off about zoning procedures with hotel entrepreneur Charlie Brown. On a lighter note, the issue dips into The Old Globe’s Shakespeare Festival and reserves a full page for a poem aptly named “Canyon Heat,” by Ruth Rowe.


The ’70s

May 1976

Price: $1 | On the Cover: Joyce and Victor Grinius, photographed by John Oldenkamp

The Griniuses welcome us into their Mission Beach abode on the cover and at the centerfold of this interior design and modeling issue, which also includes stories on how not to remodel your home, why antiques are a design choice of the past, and inspiration from a Point Loma mansion overhauled by the American Society of Interior Designers. And there’s plenty of content to brush up on outside of the home, namely a ballot measure that would define who owned San Diego coastlines (the Coastal Initiative) and another on reevaluating the use of nuclear power plants (the Nuclear Safeguard Act), including today’s still-controversial San Onofre.


The ’80s

January 1983

Price: $2 | On the Cover: Jeannie Miller, cohost of TV’s PM Magazine, photographed by Chuck Kimball/Nanessence

Leg warmers? Check. Leotard? Check. Headband? Check! That so-’80s garb is all over the cover and inside the pages of this shape-up guide, featuring the best in health spas, gyms, and fitness centers for beginners. The issue also marks our second annual San Diegans to Watch issue, appropriately crowning 83 of them to keep an eye on, like San Diego Police Chief Bill Kolender, San Diego Clippers General Manager Paul Phipps (we had an NBA team), and journalist Tom Gable, who would eventually become our food critic.


The ’90s

December 1995

Price: $2.95 | On the Cover: Padre Tony Gwynn and Charger John Carney, photographed by Cluck/Giordano

Happy holidays from two of San Diego’s most iconic athletes. If the Santa hats weren’t a giveaway, this issue is packed with holly, jolly content, from an advice column on picking the right Christmas tree to the best spots in town to see the holiday lights (Sea World Tower, Spreckels Organ Pavilion, etc.). The dynamic duo on the cover are part of a feature on local philanthropists, from Joan Kroc to Sally Thornton. Just in case that was too much cheer for readers, there’s also the clickbait-style headline “Doctor Death: Murder for Hire,” a “Kafkaesque tale of greed, revenge, and death.”


The ’00s

June 2008

Price: $4.95 | On the Cover: Forkfuls from George’s California Modern, photographed by Brevin Blach

Island Prime, Bertrand at Mister A’s, Bronx Pizza, Rubio’s—those are some of the Best Restaurants winners as picked by 2008’s readers, many of which still populate our annual poll today. (Hey, if it ain’t broke.) The cover story also includes a deep dive into local burgers, where we name-drop Hodad’s and Rocky’s Crown Pub (much like we do 10 years later), as well as a look at then-new restaurants like Urban Solace and Bleu Bohème. The issue also has an Us Weekly–style roundup of celebrity sightings in San Diego. News flash! George Lopez partied at Stingaree and Al Pacino took his twins to Legoland. Stars, they’re just like us.

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