Q&A with local author Katherine Hon
Katherine Hon is a local author who has lived in North Park for the past 30+ years. Her deep ties to the neighborhood has inspired her writing, with many historical features in the Uptown News, and even our own Explore North Park magazine! She has a brand new book titled “History Snippets: Past Matters Stories of North Park.”
Tell us a little about your connection to North Park and what the neighborhood and community mean to you.
North Park is my adopted “hometown.” I’ve been fascinated by its history since I married Steve Hon and moved into his 1920s bungalow more than 30 years ago. I’ve lived here longer than any other place in my life. Being Secretary of the North Park Historical Society has given me a great sense of purpose and outlet for volunteering, which I think is very important for a meaningful life.
What are some of your favorite things about North Park and the community?
What I love most about North Park is that it grew up naturally as a walkable community from the early 1900s because cars were a rich person’s toy back then. The gold standard for current community planning is to create a “village” where residents can walk to stores, restaurants, parks, and services. We have that in North Park. Also, the architecture of homes here — with porches and tiny garages hardly anyone can fit a car into — means you actually have a chance of seeing your neighbors and getting to know them. That helps build a friendly community. We walk our Standard poodle, Truman, a lot, and love that we know neighbors from blocks away, because we see them regularly.
When did you start writing, and what was it about North Park that inspired your writing?
I have been writing ever since I was a little girl, when I created a very short story about Busy Buzz-Buzz the Friendly Bee. Through my career as a civil engineer, I wrote many reports about infrastructure like roads, bridges, and pipelines. But I definitely prefer writing about history and incorporating North Park history into other fun fiction. In 2007, I had the honor of editing and publishing the classic history of North Park’s first 50 years, “North Park: A San Diego Urban Village, 1896-1946” by Donald Covington, when the author died before completing his book. In 2009, I wrote a history-mystery-romance novel called “Coming of Age Song”, which is set in present-day North Park and 1870s Denver. Last year I published my first children’s book, “Mrs. Fluffernut’s Perfect Hat,” which I illustrated in a photographic collage style using North Park scenes in the backgrounds. A town parade is part of the story, and the illustrations for that chapter are pictures from the 1955 Toyland Parade. My most recent book, “History Snippets: PastMatters Stories of North Park,” is a collection of 40 articles I wrote for Uptown News from 2015 to 2019. My PastMatters column started as a response to the newspaper’s editor asking for articles about the community. North Park’s authentic historic character — which is still quite visible in our homes, commercial buildings, and infrastructure like the Water Tower and Georgia Street Bridge — inspires me. People protect what they love, and my goal is to educate people about North Park’s history so they love this community and want to save its original historic structures. All three of my books and Covington’s history book are available at Verbatim Books, a wonderful bookstore in a beautiful 1931 Art Deco building on the corner of 30th Street and North Park Way. “History Snippets” is also available at the San Diego History Center Museum Store and the Marston House gift shop.
What is one of your favorite articles about the history of North Park that you have published?
One of my favorite articles is about Olympic Café and the owner, John Kotselas. He and his family started their restaurant at the corner of Texas Street and University Avenue in 1985 and recently moved into more spacious quarters one building west on University Avenue. Part of John’s story in my PastMatters column was that he hit the winning home run for his Little League team, the Optimists, in the 1971 championship game. When Gregg Schloss of A&B Sporting Goods at Ray Street and University Avenue read that article in Uptown News, he flagged John down and gave him the 1971 championship trophy that had been sitting on a shelf in the A&B Sporting Goods store for 45 years. They think that the team coach must have left the trophy at the store when he moved away. John was so excited, he emailed me that day about getting the trophy, and I included his email as an epilogue to my article in the History Snippets book. You can see the trophy at the restaurant. I feel so gratified that my article brought joy to one of my favorite people in the community.