The Hotel del Coronado and the beach of my childhood.
The most frequent family vacation I took growing up was to San Diego. My parents had made friends with Larry and Jackie Croucher when we lived back in Indianapolis. After we moved to Mesa, the Crouchers were living in San Diego. So it was an affordable vacation to go and stay with the Crouchers and visit the beach. Most often we visited Coronado Island and played on the beach in front of the Hotel del Coronado.
We loved the beach at Coronado. We built a lot of sand castles, body surfed, and played Frisbee. The first year we visited there we took hobo/tinfoil dinners to cook. They were pretty much done cooking when the beach patrol showed up and said fires were not allowed. Oops. We were also reprimanded for having a kite because it might interfere with military aircraft. We learned our lessons from these experiences and were law-abiding beach-goers afterward.
My brother James, in particular, loved Coronado Island and all of its architecture. It perfectly suited the designer in him, as well as his appreciation for history. We teased and laughed at him when on one trip he began to give us a very tour-guide-like explanation of the bungalow homes: “After the end of WWII, service men home from the war wanted to build homes off the base. However, money was tight. The solution was to build the smaller bungalow style homes we see on Coronado today…”
My parents with the Hotel del in the background (1982).
Sometimes we would wander over to the Hotel del Coronado and look around inside. The Hotel del Coronado is a Victorian resort built out of wood; it is famous for its red turrets. The dark wood interior, creaking floors, and luxury décor were always exciting to see. We especially liked the various shops inside. There was more than just a regular gift shop found in a tourist attraction; it was like a little mall of stores, most selling clothes and hats. My mom loved the Christmas shop there and we started to make it a point to visit it regularly. I think we even bought a few ornaments, including a Hummel. The Hotel del Coronado was the inspiration for the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz, and it was certainly magical for me growing up—even though I have never stayed there.
We recently took a quick trip to Coronado and I had so much fun biking around the island. The Hotel del Coronado was just as majestic and beautiful and I remembered. Looking at the bay, the blue bridge, and reliving the memories I made there growing up made me wax nostalgic. Now I only wish I had taken my own children there more often.