Three-Dot Lounge visits Rancho Santa Fe

Rancho Santa Fe Library/Ben Sever

We are going to consider a few outstanding three-dot items stripped from below, well below, today’s coronavirus headlines. But first, a reminder and salute about he who pioneered the three-dot way

Herb Caen at his office, Dec. 31, 1993/Nancy Wong

It’s been over 20 years since famed San Francisco journalist Herb Caen (1916-1997) died. For journalists and San Franciscans, Caen was a superstar. Known as “Mr. San Francisco,” his columns were a vital piece in the mosaic of one of the world’s great cities.

Caen wrote a column six days a week from July 5, 1938 until 1991 when he cut back to five days a week, then three, before dying in 1997 at age 80. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for lifetime achievement. A special Herb Caen day in The City in 1996 drew 75,000 enthusiastic fans to honor him at City Hall.

Mr. San Francisco was a master of what came to be called “Three-Dot Journalism.” He threw everything from one-liners, gossip, anecdotes and information into this format that became a journalistic staple in the 1930s and 1940s.

There was a method to the madness of presenting San Francisco legend Herb Caen’s three-dot lounge history along with its various re-interpretations. That was to set up Escondido Grapevine’s own three-dot lounge approach to local news. For more about the concept, visit our story here. For more local three-dot news, keep on trucking below…

The most beautiful fire station ever

When I was in Rancho Santa Fe last week (and I’ll be going again on Thursday), I took a self-guided tour of downtown.

There really isn’t much there except for ten banks, ten wealth management companies, ten real estate companies, ten escrow companies, and one fantastic restaurant which is way out of my price range.

I did find the most beautiful fire station I have ever seen. Looks like this:

At first I thought it was just another Rancho Santa Fe mansion, but why would someone build a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe that was just feet from a major roadway and not behind a high privacy wall protecting the compound?

— Russel Ray

6424 El Apajo, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067

Station No. 3 first opened in 1983 and is located in the community of Fairbanks Ranch across from the Helen Woodward Animal Center. It was rebuilt in 2011 and is now a state-of-the-art facility, designed to meet the needs of the community for the next 50 years. Fire companies from this station respond to emergencies in Fairbanks Ranch, Whispering Palms, Del Mar Country Club, RSF Farms, RSF Lakes, Santa Fe Sur, Rancho Farms Estates, Del Rayo Estates, Montecito, Rancho Santa Fe, and other surrounding communities. Get directions to Station 3

— Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District

Rancho Santa Fe Polo Club

Deceased attorney Richard Scuba was the eminence grise along with the Rancho Santa Fe Polo Club behind the now iconic Rancho Santa Fe July 4th Parade. This 2006 ad-hoc bicycle rally was part of the last parade in which Scuba was the street announcer./Ah-Ha RSF News

Richard Scuba, a Rancho Santa Fe legend, and 1965 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, died suddenly of a heart attack while playing soccer just before Christmas 2007; but he, and fellow members of the Rancho Santa Fe Polo Club — a polo club without any ponies, players or polo fields, by the way — started this patriotic fiesta that continues today under the proud guidance of former military special ops soldier turned real estate agent Chaco Clotfelter.

Scuba, by the way, served in the Vietnam War as second in command of the gunboat, USS Gallup, later opening a real estate office and graduating with honors from California Western Law School. He began a Rancho Santa Fe law practice and even claimed title in 1987 to the first, and seemingly only, title of mayor of Rancho Santa Fe..

“We never have a clue who will show up,” the ebullient Scuba used to say, “for we are the Rancho Santa Fe Polo Club, not the one with the polo club in Rancho Santa Fe.”

Assembled 30 years ago, the Rancho Santa Fe Polo Club, so-called, would assemble at area beer gardens for a bit of non-spousal revery. They needed a good cover story, obviously, and when the beer haze lifted divined one. They told significant others they were working on the polo club.

“Nobody played polo or even rode a horse,” Scuba said. As if it mattered.

During the course of polo club “events”, they came up with a new plan in 1981. “We’ll tell everybody about this parade and have everybody show up,” Scuba said. “We’re not political, just patriotic.”

People showed up alright, a whole lotta, lotta of them. They marched free-form in support of the Fourth. Towns-folk, kids on bikes, politicians riding convertibles, funny cars, service groups, anybody, and everybody, came to salute the nation. And so it went…

— Dan Weisman

The Lemon Twist keeps on Chubby Checkering

Once a lonely spot on the wide open road from nowhere to far, far away, the Lemon Twist Fruit Stand — now known as the Paradise Produce Market has weathered fires, frost and floods over its 40 year history.

The legend that is the Del Dios Highway farm stand began in 1980 with two recent college graduates, best friends Katie Shull and Trudy Tunstall. They figured the scenic two-lane road from Escondido to Rancho Santa Fe would be the perfect spot for local fruit and fresh produce. 

The area surrounding area featured significant citrus production, including world class lemons and oranges. The Shull family, as well as the McKrinks on the maternal side, ran significant citrus acreage, later opening packing and growing operations still in business at nearby Vista.

Katie Shull and Trudy Tunstall in 1980/Paradise Produce Market

The farm stand and the Shull-McCrink family represent an unique mixture of past, present and future reflecting North County agriculture, its growth and where it’s headed. Their story so intertwined with the graceful farm stand , and tasteful, farm stand, also reflects on the recovery of the area, or lack thereof, from the horrific halloween fire storm.

Katie Shull started the stand with a college friend more than 25 years ago on a portion of her family’s property fronting Del Dios Highway.

“When I started the Lemon Twist, Del Dios Highway was more of an old country road than it is now,” Katie Shull said. The first sales were fresh navel oranges and other fruit and vegetables produced on the family farm, she said.

Still a McCrink, Katie met, and married, Ken Shull, a general engineering contractor who did construction work for Edward McCrink, her father, and his M-K Ranch as well as R.E. Badger & Son, Rancho Santa Fe’s top citrus-growing and grove management group.

Ken Shull transitioned into farming as he became a family member, eventually managing M-K Ranch’s 540-acre Rancho Santa Fe holdings. They built a small on-site packinghouse and expanded the citrus operations.

Robin Shull with buddy in undated photo/Paradise Produce Market

M-K Ranch sold most of the land in 2006 for housing construction, an illustration of how the soaring land values made such a move profitable, perhaps even necessary. They relocated the citrus packing and export business to a 15,000-square-foot facility in nearby Vista. The family lives in Escondido.

While a Riverside County move may have been even better financially, the Shulls decided to stay in San Diego County, in large part, so the 20-person workforce would not be displaced, Ken Shull said.

The Lemon Twist, however, remained in its hallowed place along the two-lane highway.

The San Dieguito River Valley that runs alongside the stand has flooded several times. Cold weather, on occasion, has hurt the nearby citrus farms. All that was trivial, however, compared to the 2007 Witch Creek Fire that raced down Del Dios Gorge to Lusardi Preserve utterly devastating the small wood farm stand structure along with anything that stood in its way.

With only a small, fragmented outer gate still standing, Robin Shull, the 37-year-old owner and manager, and family, set out to rebuild the Lemon Twist, going bigger and better, to the delight of an ever-growing number of highway travelers. The reconstructed stand is several times larger, featuring expanded facilities and offerings.

The Lemon Twist/Paradise Produce Market is at 8175 Del Dios Highway. It’s open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. The website features additional information and online orders visit http://paradiseproducemarket.com. The stand can be reached by phone at (858) 756-0826.

— Dan Weisman

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