Howard took this photo on April 7, 1980. I know this date well, because I was in the back seat of the Cessna Cardinal taking color slides. I recently grabbed a handful of photos out of the Rozelle bin and was startled at how closely this shot replicated the one below. It may answer our question as to whether the north-south artery below was Highway 101 or I-5. Notice the growth around the Pacifica Drive-In at the top, the completion of Soledad Mountain Rd at the upper left and the late, lamented Mission Bay Hospital in the upper middle.
THIS IS ROZELLE PHOTO #13463, which might allow me to research the date. Howard has written Cove Trailer Park on the back on the back, and 1980? I know the date is wrong. My guess is between 1955 and 1965. I'm going to tell you straight out what you're looking at, so you can help with the mystery. The photo looks north from the east end of Pacific Beach. At the very top you can see the old Pacific Drive-In. Below that you can faintly see where Balboa wends its way west under the freeway, past the Bekins Van Line storage building and the large Pacific Telephone building, just before the intersection with what is today East Mission Bay Drive. My question to you is -- is that Highway 5 at the right, or Highway 101. I'm inclined to go with Highway 5, but the on and off ramps are a puzzle. I think they were part of the old Highway 101, but -- in this photo -- are no longer functioning. What do you think? (I've come across some Rozelle negative numbers that lead me to believe this photo was taken on June 29, 1959)

Top center is the Pacific Telephone Building where my mother worked at from 1954 to 1966. To the right of the Telephone building you will see some poles, that is where they did telephone pole climbing and lineman training. Below the Pacific Telephone building is a trailer park. And below the trailer park is the Pacific Telephone garage. Note all the dark trucks parked in the yard next to the garage. In the forties and fifties the telephone trucks were all painted Dark Green. My guess is the photo was taken between 1950 and 1955. The road on the left is old 101, the one on the right is the 5 -- Terry Hall ‘64

I'm wondering if those on/off ramps were for the builders to take their big trucks up on the roadway when they built I-5. After building the free way they probably just left them until something was built on the land next to I-5. I wish my Dad were still alive as he worked on that stretch of freeway when it was being built. I'm sure the photo was taken before 1977 as we bought a Datsun pickup truck at Mission Bay Datsun along Pacific Highway just above the Grand Avenue split in January 1977.The dealership isn't in the photo -- Nancy Watson Wingo, Horace Mann ‘59

In that photo, what makes me think it's NOT U.S. 101 is that there a no train tracks to be seen. So the tracks must be east of the picture. So I'm guessing the freeway is either I-5 or some earlier temporary version of it --
Ron Bankhead '63

I’m pretty sure that’s old 101, and it you look carefully you will see it is one lane both ways. There is one center stripe of oil on the roadway and the cars straddle it. The ramps were closed off because new ramps were added north and south of the picture. This didn’t become I-5 until a few years later --
Steve Petty ‘66

I would say that it is 101. I can see the off-ramp on the right side right after Garnet. That looks familiar to me. If it is really 101, then I would say it was before 1963. I remember skateboarding on Interstate 5 when it was being built down in Little Italy. I think I was about 12, around 1963. Just guessing on the year. Interstate 5 went right over where the Safeway was, so, of course Safeway had to be demolished. Interstate 5 was 4 lanes on each side. This picture only shows 2 lanes on each side --
Guy Casciola ’69

Regardless what it was called when the photo was shot, the road in question is where I-5 is now. I learned to surf at Law Street in 1965 and went down there every chance I had. I think I would have to go to Tahiti now to get as excited as I would rolling into PB In those days. I’m still working on that time machine albeit without much luck. Stuck in the present --
Gary L Smith ’70

My vote is for old “101”. The photo shows a classic “by-pass freeway” built by CalTrans in the mid-1950s, perhaps just at the time that the Interstate Highway Act was enacted. These “by-pass freeways” were usually just a short segment for that one mile stretch or so, which would allow traffic to avoid a busy intersection, and at the same time, not disturb the existing commercial areas. Others like it were built in Buena Park and Camarillo, to name a few places. It’s interesting to see the northbound ramps for Balboa were placed after you crossed over the bridge, and the southbound on and off ramps at Bunker Hill Street. Both must have been removed when the freeway was widened, probably when the sections through Rose Canyon and along Mission Bay were built. In the upper left corner, there is raw dirt remaining from the WWII housing that had been built there, and before the current Naval Housing was constructed --
Earl Feldman ‘61

I think the photo is closer to 1965, given the look of the few cars that are identifiable by profile. I also think it is Highway 101. That is just how it looked as it passed by the Cudahy Meat Packing plant a bit further south. I don’t remember I-5 being only two lanes each way, but I left the county for a while around that same time. Where are the railroad tracks? They should be visible someplace along that run in the photo! -- Barbara Bright Wilder ‘62

It's 101, otherwise known as "Murder Alley" because of all the accidents. There was no "5" then. The stinky slaughterhouse (Cudahy, I believe) and slough is out of the photo. I think it was taken about 1958. The dirt area was navy housing.. Food City Market is the light colored building where the road bends going into PB – Jeannine Berger Passenheim ’60

I've thrown in a couple of maps just to feed the flames.
I'm guessing 1938 for the map on the left and 1952 for the one on the right.

It may have been both. My conclusions are at the bottom of this email. In between, I'll play Sherlock Holmes. According to Wikipedia, in 1964 California officially truncated the southern end of the designation "US 101" at Los Angeles. That may have been where 101 splits from I-5 in downtown LA, or it may have been where I-405 splits from I-5 in Irvine, the article doesn't say and I don't remember. But during construction of I-5 before 1964, the designation presumably continued intact along 101's entire historic length below that point, including where it was sharing long stretches with I-5. Most of the old route remains today, under various names. If the stretch in the photo is a common stretch, then it could have been US 101, or I-5, or both, depending on the year. So we need to know both the year, and whether it was a common stretch.

Per Wiki-p, the section of I-5 from Torrey Pines Road to Pacific Highway is shared with the old US 101; so it was made by improving 101 rather than replacing it. But I have a sneaking suspicion (from other evidence below) that 101 used to be called P Hwy further north than P Hwy is now, so it's not clear that Wiki-p knows exactly what was common. I have attached a scanned section of a San Diego street map with a 1993 copyright. On this map, the north end of Pacific Highway is the south end of East Mission Bay Drive, well south of the photo. The north end of P Hwy was realigned sometime before the 1993 map, since before I-5 it was a straight shot on P Hwy past I-8 (the old US-80), P Hwy there becoming 101 North up to LA, it was all one road. By 1993, P Hwy's north end curled around to Sea World Dr where it became E Mission Bay Dr. On the map, you can see how the old alignment went: P Hwy has a separate bridge over I-8 just east of I-5. Shortly north of that bridge P Hwy curls west on the map toward Mission Bay, but a short stub of road extended north. If you visually extend that stub, you can imagine it joining onto what by 1993 was called Morena Blvd, which a second website [ http://www.westcoastroads.com/california/i-005nb_ca.html ] says was originally 101 "until the parallel section of Interstate 5 was constructed in 1967". Aside from the fact that I am pretty sure that no section of US 101 was also called Morena Blvd at the time, the 1967 claim is an odd statement if, as per Wiki-P, US 101 below LA was de-comissioned in 1964! To reconcile the dates, I am guessing that somewhere near there -- but not necessarily in the photo -- a stretch of I-5 shared an old 101 alignment along what by 1993 was labeled Morena, until the new I-5 section was finished adjacent to it in 1967. A problem with this photo is that it does not reach far enough east to see the Morena Blvd alignment. And a problem with the Morena alignment further south (on the map) is that it is so close to I-5, and they both curve gently right and then left again, that P Hwy could well have been on that alignment briefly. Then, continuing straight where I-5 and Morena curve right, it would have merged into the I-5 alignment while still south of the photo. Now I have five clues to offer.

(1) Based on my reading of the map, this photo looks like it shows the current I-5 alignment, from Glendora St (the east-west street at the bottom) to the Damon Ave underpass (street name from Google Maps) cutting diagonally at the top (Mission Bay Dr ramps being out of the picture, a quarter mile north).

(2) But... both north- and southbound, the picture shows cars running along an old, bleached-out fast lane complete with an accumulated central grey stain. No way are the fast lanes a freshly built interstate! There are also cars in a very skinny dark slow lane (fresh asphalt covering part of a lane-width?). Northbound there is one car between those two lanes. For a while I thought that the highway department was trying to remark and squeeze 3 lanes from 2 older ones, maybe with a little widening of the right shoulder. Now I'm guessing that car is just changing lanes, or trying to avoid the black strip. Most slow lane drivers may be "hugging the rail" so that their tires aren't straddling an uneven edge between the black and light surfaces. I remember doing that a lot on California highways in the '60s.
(3) The westcoastroads web pages give various construction dates between 1962-67 for a few parts of I-5 between north San Diego and National City. The highway near Pacific Beach could also have experienced construction in that time frame.
(4) The photo shows two pairs of curving structures that look like on/off ramps -- or at least, embankments where ramps may once have been. One is the east end of Bunker Hill, one street up from Glendora. The other goes off the other side of the highway between Balboa and the Damon underpass. These ramps are inactive in the photo (note the absence of freeway signage overhead). The problem (or the clue) is that neither of these structures is shown on the 1993 map. On the map, Bunker Hill just dead-ends at I-5. The map shows no street at all coming toward the highway at the other structure, but it does show Morena bending away from I-5 just above Bunker Hill, to cross Balboa on a bridge east of the map's Balboa interchange with I-5.
(5) I know the cars are fuzzy when zoomed in, but I will swear that almost all of them have the longer flatter trunks and hoods (relative to cab length) that were just starting to evolve in 1955, and none of them appear to have bulky tail fins that went out of vogue quickly after Plymouth and Cadillac overdid them in 1957-59. I think that places this photo at least a few years after the '50s.
So, here's my best guess: This photo is looking at a stretch of US 101 that was in the process of becoming I-5. The two ramp structures would have been orphans from earlier US 101 access southbound at Bunker Hill and northbound at Morena Blvd (a little out of the picture east of the upper "ramp"). Those structures and the connection to Morena would have been removed to reduce the number of access points to the nascent interstate. The access ramps from Balboa onto I-5 that are on the map replaced both earlier accesses. The Balboa ramps were built after the photo, and they required rerouting Morena eastward. Because the old ramps are inactive, the highway may have qualified for interstate status and so may have been designated as I-5 as well as US 101 by that time. I think the picture was probably taken around 1963-65. If it was after 1964, then it was definitely I-5. Highway department records of when the old ramps were closed and the Balboa ramps were built could date it more accurately --
Larry Orwig, '63


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