Some 40 years ago in my capacity as a driver for Coronado Cab’s long-defunct Dial-A-Ride service, I made the acquaintance of a talkative nonagenarian named Louie Chvatal, who told me he’d built his house at 803 San Luis Rey in 1920 for the princely sum of $2200 in construction costs, not counting his sweat equity, of course.

Can you imagine? Me, neither.

Louie’s old house was a simple, white, wooden affair, complete with the obligatory white picket fence: the quintessential American Dream circa the Roaring Twenties. Around back, facing Guadalupe Avenue, was a modest garage. Okay, so it was tiny, looking very much the worse for wear, listing slightly, showing its years. Don’t we all? The pint-size garage was just spacious enough to shoehorn-in a Model T Ford, so said Louie.

The main house stood askew from the street at an odd angle, because when Louie built his oh-so-humble $2200 home down there in The Flats, there were no paved streets as of yet, and few neighbors to speak of, save those living in a small smattering of scattered houses of similar vintage. Louie said Glorietta Bay at high tide would lap up against the edge of his property, because the surrounding area had yet to “benefit” from subsequent dredging of San Diego Bay, occurring for the first time in 1936.

Louie had the whole ‘hood to himself, for the most part, staking out a claim to his own little piece of paradise right on Glorietta Bay, looking straight across the water at the Hotel Del. Quite the view, Louie!

“Those were the days, my friend,” as the old mega-smash hit song from ‘68 states.

After a network of streets was eventually installed, the neighborhood grew apace as more and more homes sprung up around Louie’s, including a row of three stately mansions, all moved down from Adella Avenue to Visalia Row in 1926. Really? Really. And once the current version of the golf course was re-imagined and re-formed following yet another iteration of harbor dredging, the area morphed into the exclusive sweet-spot we see today.

These are the days!

Good ol’ Louie was full of vim and verve. Other than using a walker to amble about uptown, this only after having been struck by a car as a 90-year-old pedestrian, he was a spry, affable sort, and sharp as a tack.

After Louie entered into rest at the ripe old age of 100, the 803 San Luis (hmm...) Rey property soon changed hands, whereupon the old abode was razed and replaced with a beautiful modern residence, built for the new owner by Lorton Mitchell, my late friend and Little League teammate. Lorton is missed by all who knew him, but I digress, yet again, as usual.

From time to time, I think of old Louie, and of how much I treasured listening to him bend my ear, sharing various and sundry stories of Coronado’s days of yore. If anything, the ol’ man sure could spin a yarn.

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