This Myth Be The Place

About once every couple of weeks or so, somebody will ask about those “midget houses” on Mount Soledad. According to the story, circulated for decades by high school students who would drive up the mountain to , oh, “study”, there were small homes off to one side of the road. They were small, you see, so that midgets would be comfortable moving about therein. And not just any midgets, but the very ones who appeared in the 1939 classic film “The Wizard Of Oz”.

Or the San Diego Chargers, so named, it is said, because former owner Baron Hilton, the driving force behind “The Diners Club” card, wanted people to think of “Charging” their meals to a revolving credit account.

Or Thomas Edison, who, while attending an event at the newly wired Hotel Del Coronado was supposedly so annoyed with dimming electrical lights, that he rose from his banquet table, threw off his formal shirt, descended to the boiler room, and began shoveling coal until the bulbs were back at full brilliance. I love that story. It’s fun to think that the most creative and accomplished
human being since Michelangelo might have been stoking flames in the basement, as diners above slowly began realizing “Oh, this is fish”.

I guess it’s possible that if you built a small house, a midget might move in. But the houses in question certainly aren’t small anymore. They’ve been remodeled, and the truth is, they weren’t that small to begin with. They were simply built on level ground, while the road was built on a grade so the homes appeared to be smaller. Add to that some gingerbread eaves, and you’ve got the stuff to start stories stat.

The Chargers may have known a good thing when they saw it, and a lot of San Diegans can remember Dodge Chargers parked in the end zone of the stadium. But the actual name was suggested by a Los Angeles Area resident when the team was new up there, and held a contest to pick a name. He submitted a whole list of names. “Chargers” wasn’t even at the top of it.

And as for Thomas Edison, here’s the “what’s watt”. He never shoveled coal in the basement of the Del, and neither did anybody else. The power plant was in a separate building, and supplied sparks for much of the City Of Coronado. If the lights had really been growing dim, lots of folks would have been pounding on the door before Edison had even loosed his cummerbund.

Still, years become decades, the stories pass from generation to generation, and it’s easy to see why. Nobody likes to be the person to say they’re not true. Except they’re not. And that’s the truth.


2 Responses

  1. Great stories!

  2. I agree that the La Jolla cottages were not designed for midgets, but here is a TRUE story about San Diego’s “Munchkin” connection:

    The 1935 California Pacific International Exposition included many unique attractions, some more exploitative than others. The Midget Village and Midget Farm, “built on doll-house scale,” were billed as “the world’s greatest aggregation of little people” and displayed “more than one hundred Lilliputians [at] work and play.” Nate Eagle, a sideshow promoter, created Midget Village and its predecessor at Chicago’s 1933 fair.

    Midget Village had, “a completely organized civic administration with a mayor, chief of police and fire department.” Many of the little people from the 1935 Exposition went on to greater fame in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz portraying Munchkins and winged monkeys.

    The residents of Midget Village ranged in age from 18 to 60 years and included dancers, singers, artists, and craftsmen. During Children’s Day at the Exposition, Jack Dempsey, former world’s heavyweight boxing champion, refereed a bout between two midget boxers. For the second year of the Exposition Midget Village was replaced by the Mickey Mouse Circus, where midgets sang and performed with full-size elephants.

    [Excerpts from my book: San Diego’s Balboa Park.]

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