History Blog

Toyland Tinman

Hometown Testament to Day of Infamy

December 7, 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of US Naval forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which thrust the United States into WWII.

That morning, incoming communication of the attack was received at both the Communication Command on Point Loma and the Navy’s Chollas Heights Marconi Transmission Towers between College Grove and Lemon Grove. Meanwhile, North Park residents busily prepared for the annual North Park Toyland Parade.

Years before, in 1936, merchants of the North Park Business Association had finalized plans for the first North Park Toyland Parade community parade, which quickly grew to include over 100 floats, numerous animal performers, bands, and street vendors with trinkets and keepsakes.

By 1939, The Wizard of Oz, a Technicolor film adaptation of the beloved children’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, was released to wide acclaim. Baum, a New York interior designer, furniture maker, and children’s book author, incidentally wrote four of the fourteen books that comprise the Wizard of Oz series during winters vacationing near the Hotel del Coronado.

San Diegans, inspired by the beloved character from the hit film, constructed the Tin Man in time to appear in the 1941 parade. As news of the bombing spread locally, the military mobilized to thwart a mainland invasion by halting public transportation, instituting a curfew and black-out conditions for civilians, manning anti-aircraft gunneries along the Point Loma ridge and near La Jolla, and positioning armaments atop the El Cortez Hotel. In light of these conditions, the North Park Business Association cancelled the parade and did not resume it for the duration of the war. Floats and displays were dismantled and carried away by merchants and builders.

The Tin Man, at this time unpainted metal or painted silver, was acquired by Julius A. “Judge” Sabol, who operated Sabol Service (“Sabol Service with a Smile!”) located at University Avenue and Bancroft Street in North Park. His axe was replaced with a wrench and the Tin Man became a North Park landmark, towering over Mr. Sabols’ business until the late 1960s. Mr. Sabol first leased and then sold his business to Harry Vinal who operated Harry Vinal’s Auto Repair and in 1976 the business was relocated to 35th Street and University Avenue where the Tin Man found a new post on a service station island greeting customers. It is believed that it was during this period he was painted his present colors.

Prior to its donation to the San Diego History Center in 1991, the Tin Man resided at the home of Allen J. Jones.

The Sabol Service Tin Man is currently on display in our atrium and remains a large and unique example of American Folk Art and Trade Signs.

By Gabe Selak

By Gabe Selak

San Diego History Center History Ambassador

Grave Matters: Items of Remembrance

Physical items from the dead have, since time immemorial, been a way for the living to stay connected to those they have lost. Collecting physical mementos of the dead, such as locks of hair, prayer cards, funeral notices, and photographs, all suggest a strong desire to retain the memory of those departed. Regardless of a society’s customs, remembering the dead has been with us since the beginning.

San Diegans collect physical mementos to remember dearly-departed-friends and family members just as people have done for previous generations and the History Center’s Research Library and Archives contain representative funeral mementos and we will look at these items among others that have been commonly kept over the last two centuries.