CommunityRolandoGrowing Up In Rolando, Late '70s To Early '80s

    Growing Up In Rolando, Late '70s To Early '80s

    Local Umbrela Media Jackie Flohr cropped

    Photo: Flohr, here now, and here then selling Girl Scout cookies!

    In early August of 1973, shortly after my graduating class at Craw
    ford High ventured forth into the real world—and as the Watergate Affair began to put President Richard Nixon’s feet to the fire—a relatively unknown movie director named George Lucas got his big break with the release of “American Graffiti.” It’s sometimes pointed out that the decade of the ‘70s divides relatively neatly into two distinct parts, and the reception of this low- budget film perhaps signifies the start of the decade’s transition from a kind of late-‘60s hangover to an era of nostalgic longing for a simpler, more clear-cut world.
    We, as know-nothing teenagers, occasionally wondered aloud how very far-out things could get and where they would lead. In a few short years, public schools had gone from dress codes to a kind of unisex and curiously conformist sloppiness in students’ personal appearance. Long hair on males was de rigueur. Soft-core recreational drug use had lost its capacity to outrage. Contempt for authority figures and lack of public trust were at an all-time high. What could be next, other than complete permissiveness and societal break- down?
    The answer to our wonderings—unsurprising in retrospect though barely imaginable at the time—was a return to relatively conservative values and a clean-cut appearance like that of the young heroes in George Lucas’s late 1977 monster hit, “Star Wars.” By this time, Jimmy Carter was confusing just about everyone with his peculiar transitional attitude of unpretentious presidential egalitarianism, and Americans of all ages appeared to long for more decorum, a little more self-confident leadership and maybe even a bit of larger-than-life grandiosity.
    With reverence for certain institutions, and for politicians in general, permanently diminished by the chronic mismanagement of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, cynicism seeped from the counterculture into the main- stream. The television program “Saturday Night Live” made its appearance in 1975 as a kind of live-action Mad Magazine. That which would have seemed edgy in the early ‘60s was now taken for granted, having lost its power to outrage–though it probably helped that it came on late at night rather than during prime-time, as the comparatively mild Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In had a half-dozen years before.
    Even the disco phenomenon of the late ‘70s might be interpreted as a reflection of a desire for things fancier and more grandiose. Disco wasn’t the zenith of cultural refinement, but it was undeniably different from the early ‘70s tendency to dress very informally and stand around, perhaps slightly stoned, while listening to ear-splitting hard rock. Even the basically anti-disco movement that followed, known as Punk Rock, fits the trend. Although it fancied itself nihilistic, it grew from a desire to get away from over-produced popular music and return to something more basic. The clothing, while outrageous, followed a definite “style.” It’s ironic that even rebellious trends tend to take on a conformist quality.
    I was away in military service for most of these years, and returned to find my sister all grown up and almost ready to graduate from college. It wasn’t that surprising when you consider she was only five years younger than I. But those five years can seem like an awful lot when they count for about one-fifth of one’s age. Odder still was to see some of the once little kids of the neighbor- hood, still at Henry Clay went I went away, getting ready to graduate from high school as Crawford’s Class of 1981.
    Among those once little kids are two long-time Rolando residents that I inter- viewed for this final look at growing up here. Jackie Flohr (Class of 1980) and Doug Lister (Class of 1981) are familiar to many as officers in the Rolando Community Council (RCC). Both grew up in Rolando, and both attended Henry Clay before going on to Horace Mann and Crawford. We got together on a mid-summer afternoon in what was less an interview than an open discussion with a few guiding questions. I was interested in their perspectives, as relative youngsters in our neighborhood’s history, on trends affecting society over the past nearly sixty years, and how they made each generation somewhat different from the others.
    Thus, the format of this final article is somewhat different from the two preced- ing it. I had my own ideas about those trends, which of course were reflected in the day-to-day lives of kids growing up here. While there are always any number of currents at work—often at cross-purposes—in any time period, I felt from our discussion that I had hit many salient points and really didn’t need to do much more digging.
    Besides, there was a more practical consideration: I found it harder to seek out willing interviewees among the generation of folks still in their working years. Perhaps that comes from our society’s perception that discussion of the past implies that one is—GULP—getting old!
    Jackie has worked in various volunteer capacities for RCC over the years. She grew up on Marraco Drive, and after majoring in Child Development at SDSU she spent time in Hawaii, working for Department of Defense schools. She returned some years later, and now lives again in the family home. Although I never knew her well, I have definite recollections of her as a very small child playing in the kitchen and living room while her dad conducted a Webelos meeting each week during my own 5t h grade year. For those unfamiliar with it, Webelos were a small group of senior Cub Scouts preparing for entry into Boy Scouts by completing requirements for the Tenderfoot rank in advance. As a kid at Henry Clay, Jackie was active in Girl Scouts; during high school years, she served at sporting events as half of the Crawford “Colts” mascot.
    Doug is the immediate past president of RCC, and a prominent real estate agent whose advertisements until recently adorned the divider sticks at the local Vons checkouts. He grew up on Alamo Drive, and still lives there. We share an odd connection in that my little brother was his first grade “safety,” or recess monitor, at Henry Clay. As a kid, Doug was active with Rolando Little League, which gave him his start as a pitcher. He would go on to play baseball at Crawford during high school. He was also a Boy Scout in Troop 900, spon- sored by the Rolando Methodist Church. Despite the eight-year age difference between us, we both were influenced during our scouting years by Jackie’s father. He had served as scoutmaster of Troop 900 for a while beyond his sons’ own scouting age, and I had known him from Cub Scouts. Doug and I recall Mr. Flohr with great fondness.
    The three of us discussed school days as well as current events of the period. Although born in the early ‘60s, neither Doug nor Jackie is old enough to remember John F. Kennedy, yet Jackie is told that as a very small child she accompanied her family down to the corner of College and El Cajon Boulevard to see his motorcade when he visited San Diego in June 1963.
    Doug baseball player
    Photo: Doug Lister, future Crawford Colts player.
    The earliest president both were aware of was Nixon. Both vividly remember the first moon landing about six months into his term of office. None of us have particularly fond memories of Horace Mann or junior high school. Doug and Jackie recall an overcrowded situation at Horace Mann resulting from the mid-70’s influx of Vietnamese refugees, as well as students bused from Tierrasanta due to lack of middle schools there.
    While long hair on men was becoming less common, it could still be seen in high school yearbooks of the period. Favorite teenage hangouts in the area included Square Pan Pizza near SDSU and Shakeys at University and Aragon, while Straw Hat Pizza, where Jackie worked for a time, continued to be popular. The old Campus Chuck Wagon closed and became My Rich Uncle’s, a bar and night spot they were too young to make use of. The Campus Drive-In Theater was on its way out, but still in operation at their graduation. The times, as well as familiar sights around the neighborhood, were slowly changing, although early in the ‘80s there was still a lot that a kid from the ‘60s would recognize.
    It seems to me that kids of later generations are more like my own generation than like kids of the early ‘60s. There’s something in the body language you see in photos, something about the way young people speak and the things they talk about, that shows a definite cultural divide between youth from the last third of the 20t h century onward and those that preceded it. It’s more than just the change from predominantly black-and-white to predominantly color photography, although that’s part of it. Probably it’s something in the radical changes that came during the late ‘60s, and the way they became institutionalized in the early ‘70s as attitudes that once would have appeared impossibly eccentric.
    The great commonality in all of us, regardless of age, is that we love the neighborhood we call home, and care about it in all ways past, present, and future. There’s a story behind almost every hill, canyon, and catwalk, and plenty to reminisce over even as we go about our lives in a vital present. Thank you to all who participated in the creation of this series of stories, and to the RCC for providing this opportunity for me to recon- struct some of the events that make Rolando what it is today.

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