Explore North Park


A Trip Back in Time: 1970s North Park

By: Angela Landsberg

It’s 1977 and I’ve just dropped my quarter into the coin receptacle on the number two bus headed to Palisade Gardens. My roller skates are in hand and I’m sitting down for the 15 minute ride that will take me from my home on Park Boulevard to the magical, music-filled arena where I will join hundreds of other bell-bottomed -clad girls and boys who will groove to the sounds of Rod Stewart, Andy Gibb and ABBA. The smells of hot dogs and popcorn will fill the space added to the occasional whiff of 12-year-olds girls oversaturated in the fruity flavors Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker.

These were the days when North Park was a much different place. North Park had its own charm; it was the 1970s after all. Health food stores and alternative book stores occupied the streets where swanky coffee houses and craft beer shops now live. Ethnic food stores offered items that couldn’t be found in many San Diego neighborhoods. These were the days when taboulé and hummus weren’t found in your everyday grocery store. North Park and Ocean Beach were the places to go to get fresh ground almond butter, carob milk and sprouted bread.

The once popular dress shops of the 1960s had been converted into less appealing storefronts filled with a variety of goods that reflected the eclectic culture of the era. One mainstream establishment, J.C. Penney, still remained as a remembrance of the days when North Park was a destination for San Diego’s shoppers before the malls of Mission Valley stole them away. J.C. Penney towered high as the tallest structure on the Avenue. It housed three floors of goods and I can still remember the vast selection of plaid pinafore dresses just right for back to school day.

The North Park Theatre posed in the center of the area with a sad look of some majestic structure that had long seen its better days. In the 1970s, the coined term “mega church” didn’t exist, but I can remember wondering why the marquee would post numbers of the Horizon Fellowship congregation count. Perhaps North Park was a trend setter in this way as well?!

The number two bus stopped across from my destination. I applied a thick layer of Orange Fanta flavored Lip Smacker, adjusted my handmade lime green & orange poncho, and dug out my Palisade Gardens day pass from the pocket of my favorite Wranglers with the sunshine patch sewn on the knee. Another great day in North Park was about to happen!


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