Former Daily Californian editor Del Hood covers 50 years of Cajon Valley history in new book

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In June of 1995 the Lakeside Hotel, a 108-year-old landmark announced it would be converted into a halfway house for recovering drug addicts. A local pharmacist was arrested for planting a dynamite bombe outside the bedroom window of a 33-year-old El Cajon woman. On Oct. 1, 1997, The El Cajon Californian became The Daily Californian again, expanded its coverage to surrounding communities, the same name the publication used 10 years earlier. In 1953 is was reported that El Cajon’s population doubled in less than two years from 5,418 to 11,000.

In June of 1995 the Lakeside Hotel, a 108-year-old landmark announced it would be converted into a halfway house for recovering drug addicts. A local pharmacist was arrested for planting a dynamite bombe outside the bedroom window of a 33-year-old El Cajon woman. On Oct. 1, 1997, The El Cajon Californian became The Daily Californian again, expanded its coverage to surrounding communities, the same name the publication used 10 years earlier. In 1953 is was reported that El Cajon’s population doubled in less than two years from 5,418 to 11,000.

These are just a few of the snippets of East County’s history in author Del Hood’s “History in the Headlines: Half a Century of the Most Notable Events In El Cajon Valley and Surrounding Areas 1950-2000.”

Hood released “History in the Headlines” at an intimate press conference at the historical Knox House Museum in El Cajon on April 1. Befittingly so, as Hood spent hours upon hours there on Tuesdays going through the museums collection of bound newspaper archives, searching through the history of East County. After that, his time was spent at the El Cajon library going through day-to-day headlines utilizing its microfiche, often having to order more microfiche from the county library to compile his collection. He also received permission to go through the San Diego Union Tribune archives to fill in the gaps during this 50-year time span.

Hood, working in the newspaper industry since high school, was associate editor of The Daily Californian for 30 years. He said the reasoning behind all of the extensive research, was he himself could remember events of this region’s history, but had difficulty remembering exactly when the events happened, and invariably was usually off, and “sometimes way off” in his recollections. He believed that if he had trouble remembering, that many others had the same problem, so his goal was to create a reference book or record of history for others to see for the first time, or remember the events that led East County into the robust composite of cities and communities that it is today.

“History in the Making” is much more than a reference book. It is a collectible assortment of events and the people of East County. Hood, a master of the nut graph (who, what, when, where, why and sometimes how), not only took news headlines of the day, but included many human-interest stories. His ability to capture a moment in time with one to three sentences creates a grand collation of mini stories. And the best part of this book is that it can be read from beginning to end, start from the ending and go backwards in time or pick a certain year or date and look to see what was making headlines on a particular day.

“El Cajon Valley and surrounding area was an interesting place,” he said. “Much of it was because it was growing so rapidly. Governments were formed, schools had to be built, streets, and apartment complexes. The book is not about the movers and shakers, but a lot of what is in here is ordinary people doing ordinary or extraordinary things. This area is benefited with having a lot of homegrown talent. There were astronauts, Pulitzer Prize recipients and many colorful people.”

Hood was 31 when he began writing editorials for The Daily Californian. His wife, Sandy Cochran Hood, a native of El Cajon, said it was funny during those times. With a large mix of conservatives and liberals, she said that Republicans would approach him and tell him that he needed to get off the liberal wagon with his editorials and in return, Democrats would tell him he was too conservative in his observations. No one could identify his political preferences through his writing. Del Hood said that when it came to his editorials, he would look at both sides and his goal was to be fair in his opinion of any subject.

Eldonna Lay, El Cajon Historical Society and curator of the Knox House Museum said that Del Hood was known as “conscience of El Cajon” because of his editorials.

“History in the Making” is a phenomenal book, not only for those that have lived in East County during this time period, but for anyone that lives here now and wants to know many of the things and people that make East County what it is today. It not only has credible value for history buffs, as Del Hood is a large part of this regions history, it is also a fun and entertaining book for anyone to read.

“History in the Headlines: Half a Century of the Most Notable Events In El Cajon Valley and Surrounding Areas 1950-2000”can be purchased on Amazon and at Sunbelt Publications in El Cajon.

Also available from Del Hood is a personal memoir of his sister, who at a young age was unjustifiably institutionalized by his stepmother. Hood said this book is personal and was very difficult to write and even more difficult to read. “The Triumph of Belva Jane” is also available on Amazon.com.

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