Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ring in the New Year!!!!

In this post, I want to preview the first in a series of articles that I will start offering for sale on Amazon kindle in the new year. This series will present primary research into the jewel of San Diego architecture, the Villa Montezuma and her occupants.
I envision this series to comprise roughly 6 parts of varying length, focusing on newspaper accounts, but also pieces from magazines, books and personal letters.
This excerpt from Jesse Shepard & the Villa Montezuma: Tracing the Man and His Signature Creation Though San Diego's Print Media: The Golden Era -- 1887 - 1889 presents the "Editor's Comments", the "Introductory Comments" and first few paragraphs from the magazine article "The Abbe Roux" from the June 1887 issue of The Golden Era.
Jesse Shepard & the Villa Montezuma: Tracing the Man and His Signature Creation Though San Diego's Print Media: The Golden Era -- 1887 - 1889 will be available from Amazon.com's Kindle store beginning early January 2014 for $0.99.
As always, all comments are welcome.
Good Evening.
Now let the work speak for itself.

From 2002 through 2005 and a little beyond, I was very closely connected to the Villa Montezuma; first as Assistant Curator of Historic Sites for the San Diego Historical Society, then as a founding member of the new Friends of the Villa Montezuma, a non-profit organization, which I helped establish.
My involvement with the Villa Montezuma was one of the most frustrating, aggravating, challenging, irritating, heart-breaking, richest, rewarding and personally fulfilling times of my entire life. It fundamentally changed me and how I viewed the world around me...And I am grateful.
This article is the first in a series to present my research into the Villa Montezuma in the form of primary source materials from various nineteenth-century publications. Focusing on the years 1887 through 1889, the period in which Jesse Shepard lived in the Villa Montezuma, this series will also present pertinent and related materials from later in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Sincerely, I feel that these items should be made available to the greatest possible audience. Transcribing these articles in their entirety allows me to present primary source material in a format, that I believe is conducive to further interest and scholarship. Also, just because my researches into the Villa Montezuma may have come to an end, that does not mean that a newer, fresher Historian might not benefit from my previous documentary delvings.
This first issue showcases articles from the popular magazine, The Golden Era, from 1887 through 1889. Articles both written by and written about Jesse Shepard and the Villa Montezuma are presented for the reader to gain a better understanding of the man, the place, and the time.
Sean K.T. Shiraishi, M.A.
November 2013
Jesse Shepard and the Villa Montezuma were products of the San Diego’s Boom Time (1880s). With the coming of the railroad, the population of San Diego soared and rampant land speculation led to outrageously inflated real estate prices. However, in many ways San Diego was still a rough and tumble port town. To address this perceived flaw and to improve the town’s reputation overall, Jesse Shepard was invited to San Diego and the Villa Montezuma born.
The Villa Montezuma was built to impress and entertain as an example of the exuberance and opulence of the Gilded Age, especially when coupled with Jesse Shepard’s artistic taste and eccentricity. The story of the man and the mansion he designed can be traced through the pages of San Diego newspapers and journals. From Shepard’s first visit to San Diego, through the announcement that he would build a large home, to details about his farewell concert; all was documented in local newspapers and periodicals.
However, the story of Jesse Shepard and the Villa Montezuma does not end with the last newspaper article reproduced here. Indeed both of their stories go on for much longer. Jesse Shepard’s (or Francis Grierson’s, as he was later known) journey ended in May 1927; while the story of the Villa Montezuma continues to this very day.
What follows is a listing of articles by and about Jesse Shepard, the Villa Montezuma, and its subsequent owners as printed in the pages of newspapers and periodicals from the later years of the nineteenth century until the day the mansion became a museum in 1972.
This work is intended primarily as an aide to researchers by providing historical context for the Villa Montezuma and Jesse Shepard as well as a glimpse of the significance of the Villa Montezuma in the early days of San Diego’s evolution from small town to major city. But this monograph also expands upon the story of this mansion and this man and provides some satisfaction for those who desire more of the flavor of what life was like in San Diego when Jesse Shepard lived here. This represents a collection of resources gathered together in order to tell a story as well as further the research of late-nineteenth century San Diego.
Original spelling has been preserved as much as possible, except where it would cloud understanding. Grammar and word order have not been altered. While intended to be as comprehensive as possible, this work is intended to grow; whether as additional volumes or expanded editions, this tale is not yet fully told.
Sean K.T. Shiraishi, M.A.


 (from The Golden Era magazine, June 1887, pages 338-343)
Full well we feel, full well we know
Great sorrows spring from little deeds,
Great happiness from some great woe;
The truth humanity most needs
Affliction’s fires can best bestow.
Talent is the faculty of acquiring knowledge by the cultivation of certain gifts, such as singing, acting, story-telling, picture making, prose painting and the like, which may be moulded and modelled after almost any fashion; time patience, imitation and memory being the principal factors in its development; and if “poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes,” talent is genius en dishabille; the mimic of the model, poetic, plastic or philosophical; wit without thought; spirit without soul, head without heart.
Original thought and profound feeling constitute a union of the intellectual and emotional faculty which we may term personality. Without this blending of brain and nerve we have only the imitator, who mistakes the prevailing modes of psychological rhetoric for the highest and the deepest conceptions of united mental and moral attributes.
Clever repartee and clatter, some wordly experience, an apt mode of expression, sympathy and humor diluted to cover the susceptibilities of a large portion of humanity who judge of genius by the laws which govern their own limited capacity to know and to feel these things with much more of equivalent import are what cause the master of mere words and action to be mistaken for the profound thinker and creative artist.
From the times of Socrates to Dante and George Eliot, the individual environment has mystified the most experienced psychologists. Genius is rarely, if ever, displayed under a garb of physical attraction. Nature spreads before us an illusive show which deceives all who are not close observers of her laws. Compare the shrill cry and brilliant plumage of the parrot and peacock with the plain colors and pleasant song of the lark and the nightingale; the brightest flowers are commonly the least fragrant, and placid waters have the profoundest depths. These examples might be multiplied without limit, humanity itself presenting the most interesting and instructive; and in spite of the claims of certain professors of physiology, we and in almost every instance where the highest and most complicated natures are involved, that undecipherable hieroglyphs encompass the soul around about, and “thou shalt not know me,” written on the emblem of each lofty brow.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Everything is now as it should be.

I first encountered this when it made the rounds of email a few years back. I saw it again a few days ago, so I know it is still alive and moving. I put this here because it is worth the time to read and ponder. It is true that it is the little things that make Christmas; and if we can do the little things every day, then every day can be Christmas. How simple...

May the Lord bless you and keep you, this and every Christmas Eve.


Christmas At The Gas Station

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn't been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. It was just another day to him. He didn't hate Christmas, just couldn't find a reason to celebrate. He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through.
Instead of throwing the man out, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the heater and warm up. "Thank you, but I don't mean to intrude," said the stranger. "I see you're busy, I'll just go."

 "Not without something hot in your belly." George said.

He turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger. "It ain't much, but it's hot and tasty, "Stew ... made it myself. When you're done, there's coffee and it's fresh."

Just at that moment he heard the "ding" of the driveway bell. "Excuse me, be right back," George said. There in the driveway was an old '53 Chevy. Steam was rolling out of the front. The driver was panicked. "Mister can you help me!" said the driver, with a deep Spanish accent. "My wife is with child and my car is broken."

George opened the hood. It was bad. The block looked cracked from the cold, the car was dead. "You ain't going in this thing," George said as he turned away.

"But Mister, please help ..." The door of the office closed behind George as he went inside. He went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around the building, opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting. "Here, take my truck," he said. "She ain't the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good."

George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night. He turned and walked back inside the office. "Glad I gave 'em the truck, their tires were shot too. That 'ol truck has brand new ........" George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone. The Thermos was on the desk, empty, with a used coffee cup beside it. "Well, at least he got something in his belly," George thought.

George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start. It cranked slowly, but it started. He pulled it into the garage where the truck had been. He thought he would tinker with it for something to do. Christmas Eve meant no customers. He discovered the block hadn't cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator. "Well, shoot, I can fix this," he said to himself. So he put a new one on.

"Those tires ain't gonna get 'em through the winter either." He took the snow treads off of his wife's old Lincoln. They were like new and he wasn't going to drive the car anyway.

As he was working, he heard shots being fired. He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, "Please help me."

George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic. He knew the wound needed attention. "Pressure to stop the bleeding," he thought. The uniform company had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels. He used those and duct tape to bind the wound. "Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin'," he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease.

"Something for pain," George thought. All he had was the pills he used for his back. "These ought to work." He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills. "You hang in there, I'm going to get you an ambulance."

The phone was dead. "Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that there talk box out in your car." He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two way radio.

He went back in to find the policeman sitting up. "Thanks," said the officer. "You could have left me there. The guy that shot me is still in the area."

George sat down beside him, "I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain't gonna leave you." George pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding. "Looks worse than what it is. Bullet passed right through 'ya. Good thing it missed the important stuff though. I think with time your gonna be right as rain."

George got up and poured a cup of coffee. "How do you take it?" he asked.

"None for me," said the officer.

 "Oh, yer gonna drink this. Best in the city. Too bad I ain't got no donuts." The officer laughed and winced at the same time.

The front door of the office flew open. In burst a young man with a gun. "Give me all your cash! Do it now!" the young man yelled. His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like this before.

"That's the guy that shot me!" exclaimed the officer.

"Son, why are you doing this?" asked George, "You need to put the cannon away. Somebody else might get hurt."

The young man was confused. "Shut up old man, or I'll shoot you, too. Now give me the cash!"

The cop was reaching for his gun. "Put that thing away," George said to the cop, "we got one too many in here now."

He turned his attention to the young man. "Son, it's Christmas Eve. If you need money, well then, here. It ain't much but it's all I got. Now put that pee shooter away."

George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time. The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry. "I'm not very good at this am I? All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son," he went on. "I've lost my job, my rent is due, my car got repossessed last week ..."

George handed the gun to the cop. "Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then. The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through the best we can."

He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop. "Sometimes we do stupid things." George handed the young man a cup of coffee. "Bein' stupid is one of the things that makes us human. Comin' in here with a gun ain't the answer. Now sit there and get warm and we'll sort this thing out."

The young man had stopped crying. He looked over to the cop. "Sorry I shot you. It just went off. I'm sorry officer."

"Shut up and drink your coffee." the cop said.

George could hear the sounds of sirens outside. A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door, guns drawn. "Chuck! You ok?" one of the cops asked the wounded officer.

"Not bad for a guy who took a bullet. How did you find me?"

"GPS locator in the car. Best thing since sliced bread. Who did this?" the other cop asked as he approached the young man.

Chuck answered him, "I don't know. The guy ran off into the dark. Just dropped his gun and ran."

George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other.

"That guy work here?," the wounded cop continued. "Yep," George said, "just hired him this morning. Boy lost his job."

The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, "Why?"

Chuck just said, "Merry Christmas boy ... and you too, George, and thanks for everything."

"Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought to solve some of your problems."

George went into the back room and came out with a box. He pulled out a ring box. "Here you go, something for the little woman. I don't think Martha would mind. She said it would come in handy some day."

The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw. "I can't take this," said the young man. "It means something to you."

"And now it means something to you," replied George. "I got my memories. That's all I need."

George reached into the box again. An airplane, a car and a truck appeared next. They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell. "Here's something for that little man of yours."

The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier.

"And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with? You keep that too," George said, "Now git home to your family."

The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. "I'll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good."

"Nope. I'm closed Christmas day," George said. "See ya the day after."

eorge turned around to find that the stranger had returned. "Where'd you come from? I thought you left?"

"I have been here. I have always been here," said the stranger. "You say you don't celebrate Christmas. Why?"

"Well, after my wife passed away, I just couldn't see what all the bother was. Puttin' up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree. Bakin' cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn't the same by myself and besides I was gettin' a little chubby."

The stranger put his hand on George's shoulder. "But you do celebrate the holiday, George.  You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry. The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor. The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists. The young man who tried to rob you will make you a rich man and not take any for himself. That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man."

George was taken aback by all this stranger had said. "And how do you know all this?" asked the old man.

"Trust me, George. I have the inside track on this sort of thing. And when your days are done you will be with Martha again."

The stranger moved toward the door. "If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now. I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned."

George watched as the old leather jacket and the torn pants that the stranger was wearing turned into a white robe. A golden light began to fill the room.

"You see, George ... it's My birthday. Merry Christmas."

George fell to his knees and replied, "Happy Birthday, Lord."


Author Unknown


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

...just obsessing and making it worse.

In an earlier post, I presented an audio recording of a reading of an excerpt from a sci-fi magazine. (It was a lot of fun, by the way. I will be doing more of this soon.) However, as  I pondered and re-listened to the recording, I grew more and more dissatisfied with it, especially my performance. So I went about re-recording it. After several attempts,  I realized I was just obsessing and making it worse. So, while I may revisit this audio in the future, for now I will just offer it in another listening format and move on.


As a historian, I am called not only to research and publish in my chosen specialty, but also to make as much primary research material available.

I do this not only because I like the idea that others, perhaps more insightful than myself, might read these primary sources and come up with an entirely different understanding than what I put forth. But I also do this, present primary sources either in the original as here or transcribed - see my future kindle releases - because I respect my elders. I believe that if something was felt to be important enough to write down and publish or significant  enough to record for posterity, then I can certainly make sure their works are still available to this very day. This is my prayer-work.

To that end, I present THE MASTER MASON, a magazine published by San Diego Lodge No. 35, F. & A. M., August 1951, Vol. XXIX, No. 8. Reproduced from the collections of the San Diego Public Library, California Room.

Click here to download THE MASTER MASON

This particular issue commemorates the first 100 years of Freemasonry in San Diego. It is an excellent record of the Craft.

As the opportunity presents itself, I will make more like documents available.


Special thanks have to go to the San Diego Public Library's California Room for preserving wonderful materials such as this.