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San Diego Aviation History in my own back yard

by Tracy R Reed — last modified Jan 01, 2009 11:48 PM

The former Hourglass Field is a block away from my place and served an important role in aviation training in San Diego, hosted drag races, caused a riot involving 3000 people on El Cajon Blvd, and is now almost completely forgotten as strip malls and housing take over the landscape.

A few weeks ago I stumbled across http://www.airfields-freeman.com which documents the locations and current conditions of old airfields. There used to be a lot more airports around the country than there are currently. You would think that with an increasing population we would need more airports but just the opposite seems to have happened. While perusing the list of former airport sites around San Diego I happened across this write up on Hourglass Field which happens to be just a block away from my place. Built sometime during the 30's it was used for pilot training, an emergency landing strip, and for dive bombing practice. The above url gives all of the details. After the Navy was done with it during the 50's the field was used for motorcross and drag racing. An accident which injured 3 bystanders in early August 1960 caused the field to be closed to racing (the Navy dug trenches across it) which sparked an actual riot among the young motorheads here in San Diego! 3000 people battled police at the intersection of El Cajon Blvd and Cherokee street. Here is a pretty good writeup of this riot and various other riots that happened during the same period. The conspiracy theories of the officials make them really look foolish in hindsight. It makes me wonder how foolish we are going to look in the future when we look back on this terrorist thing. It is also fairly clear that the authorities were against kids having any sort of fun at all and could have easily defused the situation by officially sanctioning a safe place to race their cars such as we have today in San Diego instead of trying to ban it outright. It is also interesting to note that while white kids with cars were rioting over the lack of a place to race in San Diego the black kids in LA and the south were rioting for such trivial matters as equal rights.

Wikipedia also has a good writeup on the field.

Hourglass field pavement This afternoon I took a walk over there and guided by the pics on the above websites and a satellite image and map from google maps I was able to easily find what remains of the old runway from the 1930's. The only thing remaining is the northern part of the intersection of the "X" in the crossing runways which made the hourglass shape. A new building was recently built on the north-eastern portion of the X so if you are at all interested in checking it out you should go soon because in a few more years it will be lost forever.

Hourglass field pavement The remaining asphalt is actually in amazingly good shape and if most of it had not been built over and there were not weeds growing through it you could easily land airplanes on it today. Brush the loose rocks and dirt off and mow down the weeds and you've got a landing strip better than many others I have landed on.

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