If you lived in Encinitas for more than a half-century, many of those years with an ocean view and few neighbors, would you still be stoked to live in Encinitas in 2012?
Your once pristine view is now blocked by a chic, bluff-top compound and your neighborhood’s decibel levels have shot off the charts.
For 90-year old Boyd Bahlmann, the answer, despite the monumental change, is, “Yes, Encinitas is still a wonderful place to live,” he says from the living room of the house he’s owned since the late 1940s, nestled in a rural oasis patch of land with free-range hens, in between the H Street and G Street overlooks.
His answer is no surprise but not only because of the obvious: that many of us regard Encinitas, despite the uptick in population and crime, as one of the most paradisiac places in the continental U.S. (if not the world).
Bahlmann also appreciates Encinitas because he vividly remembers his upbringing in Winters, Texas, where the winters—and dusty, scorching summers—were “miserable,” he says, in a clearly distinct prairie drawl, despite his living in Encinitas since 1942.
What led Bahlmann and his parents and four siblings to Southern California were residual awful conditions of the Dust Bowl era during the 1930s.
“There were hard times in Texas back then. The crops were really dry and the farming wasn’t too good; all the money was put into seeding,” says Baumann, the oldest sibling, who was 19-years old when he relocated to San Diego.
“Some friends of mine had visited Southern California and talked up the nightlife and the easy jobs to be had here,” recalls Baumann, who sent for his parents, three brothers and one sister from Texas to Encinitas in 1942. The shack-like skeleton of the house with chipped, fading green paint, in which they all lived, except Baumann, still stands on the property’s dirt lot.
Besides the obvious changes in the Encinitas landscape (check out the to see what Encinitas looked like decades ago), one perhaps unfamiliar fact about the scenery here: Baumann says that the H Street overlook, especially where a $6 million bluff-top mansion now sits, used to be a ‘pillbox’, scouting out Japanese warships potentially looming up the coast (which they did, from Ensenada up to Oregon).
Baumann moved his family here in the middle of the World War II. After finishing a stint in the Navy, he got a job with Convair, an American aircraft manufacturing company that was vital to the war effort.
Baumann wasn’t spending a lot of time sunning himself at Moonlight Beach, which he said ever since he can remember has been popular with residents and tourists alike; Baumann was spending most of his day working on blueprints for top-secret military aircraft.
Though in the summer, Baumann did manage to squeeze some beach time in, his job seems to have prevented him from enjoying much free time, or raising a family of his own, though he did marry someone—Elsie (deceased)—with two children of her own.
“Every summer evening, I’d come home and go for a little swim,” remembers Baumann, who says his memory is faulty after a stroke in 2008, though he otherwise seems lucid, witty and resolute.
He pleads with this reporter no less than 10 times to not print the name of the top-secret government operation he was a part of for 15 years.
Despite a counter-argument from his caretaker, Addie, and her daughter’s husband, John Duckworth, (who takes care of two of the three subplots of land, including the chickens; Boyd jokingly calls him ‘the chicken whisperer’), that the project is no longer top secret and has been reported on by The History Channel, Boyd is adamant that the name is not be released.
“I swore for the rest of my life I wouldn’t tell a soul. I’ve got enough problems, I don’t need the government coming after me, ya hear?” rhetorically asks Baumann, who was often woken in the middle of the night to work on the top-secret project, which involved the manufacturing of warplanes, and faced federal interrogation over a dozen times, to make sure he wasn’t spilling any secrets.
While Baumann was an important cog in the war effort, Encinitas nascent surfing culture was developing, though Baumann doesn’t exactly remember when he first witnessed surfing here.
“I don’t remember seeing too many surfers when I moved here. Actually, I don’t remember seeing any at all until maybe the early or mid-‘50s,” he says.
Baumann does have a couple regrets. He laments that people aren’t as outgoing to veterans as they were back in the day. “Used to be that if you came across a veteran you’d go up and introduce yourself and buy ‘em a beer.”
Also, Baumann, who was friendly with the original owners of the , Ruby and Frank Daley, is saddened by how many people can’t find a good job these days.
“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen it. When I was growing up there were lots of good jobs in aircraft and factories of all kinds. There were lots of machinist jobs…seems like American manufacturing is dead; back in olden times any man or woman with a dream had a job and didn’t have to worry.”
Still, Baumann is stoked to live in Encinitas.
“It’s kept its small town feel. The city’s done a good job not building any skyscrapers or building any smokestacks…. Encinitas has always been a nice place to live.”
That’s something to consider next time you or someone you’re talking to complains about how crowded Encinitas has become. If someone like Boyd Baumann, who celebrates 70 years as an Encinitas property owner this year, can tolerate—and celebrate—the growth, so, perhaps, can you.