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The last story that I wrote for this website was about Mount Dora, Florida, which is not a mountain. This story is about Coronado Island, California, which is not an island. Located in the middle of the San Diego Bay, Coronado Island is connected to the mainland by a ten mile isthmus called The Silver Strand and is the safest area in Southern California, because the crime rate here is zero. Not surprisingly, it is one of the most expensive residential areas in the entire United States. Even the small homes are very attractive and are in the seven figure price range. About 25,000 people live on the island.
Pat and I visited Coronado in September 2012. One can reach Coronado by taking a ferry from the San Diego waterfront. Alternatively and as we did, one can drive across the San Diego-Coronado Bridge which soars high over the water and which was opened in 1969 by Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California. Our driver showed us a photograph of her father with Governor Reagan at the opening ceremony. Her father was the mayor of Coronado at the time.
The views from the bridge are truly spectacular. It’s like looking down from an airplane as one sees the whole of Coronado, as well as the San Diego skyline. There are no barriers to prevent anyone jumping off the bridge, which is so high above the water that one imagines that the death of any jumper would be inevitable. Indeed, hundreds of jumpers have plunged to their death here. As a venue for suicides, the bridge ranks third in the country.
To discourage potential suicides, there are notices every few yards giving the telephone number of a suicide counselor. Amazingly, a few jumpers have survived and (when interviewed later) they almost always tell of the regrets that they experienced during their descent. In other words, on the way down, they wish that they hadn’t jumped.
Coronado Beach is ranked by The Laboratory for Coastal Research as the best in the country. It consists of very fine sand. The US Navy operates a Navy Air station on Coronado and this occupies half the land on the island, which is home to three aircraft carriers. In addition, Navy Seals train at the Naval Amphibious Base on the southern side of the town.
Coronado is also home to the famous Hotel del Coronado, which was built in 1888, only three years after the town was founded. The hotel has been the location for the shooting of many popular films, including one of my favorites – Some Like it Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. I first saw the film when it was released in 1959. The plot involves two musicians witnessing the St Valentine‘s Day massacre in Chicago and then fleeing to Florida, disguised as females, in order to escape the mob. I was disillusioned to learn that the scenes in Florida, which I so much enjoyed, were in fact filmed at the Hotel del Coronado. However, it remains a wonderful film.
In November 1892, a young woman named Kate Morgan checked into this hotel and was found shot to death in her room five days later. At the time, the death was treated as a suicide, but it now appears that she may have been murdered. Her ghost has often appeared in the hotel since then, accompanied by other curious paranormal events.
For example, in May 1983, then Vice President George H W Bush was a guest during his official visit to San Diego. The secret service agent assigned to protect him was given Room 3502, Kate Morgan’s old room. He did not last the night and left, complaining of breezes and billowing drapes although all the windows were closed. He also objected to gurgling sounds and a ghostly glow in the room.
Coronado Island claims to operate the finest gondolas to be found outside Venice, Italy. These ply the canals in the Coronado Cays, which is a residential area in the southern part of the island. Whether or not one travels by gondola, one certainly does not need a car on Coronado. A speed limit of 25 mph is in force for the whole island, which is very flat and little over a mile wide. Therefore everything is within walking distance, but bicycles and golf carts are much in evidence on the island.
Where does everyone go, apart from the beach? Probably to a restaurant or a café, because there are over 70 of them on Coronado. Yet one man who was in no mood to walk around here was Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly the Atlantic. He flew from New York to Paris, France in 1927 in his plane, The Spirit of St Louis, which was built under his supervision in nearby San Diego.
After taking possession of the plane, Lindberg took off from Coronado. He circled the island and flew west for a few miles over the Pacific. Then he made a U turn and headed for St Louis, Missouri, where he landed at Lambert Field. The next lap of his journey was from St Louis to New York, from where he flew off across the ocean to Paris and into history. But how many of the millions who attended New York City’s subsequent tickertape parade to honor this epic flight knew that the journey began on tiny Coronado Island?