From Beth Wyman (AKA Sammie Dunham):
I am reminded of our first days in California in the winter of 1940 when it rained every day from January to March. We had come from Kansas and expected to find eternal sunshine in California, so we were extremely disappointed. However, everyone told us the weather was very unusual and later we knew they were right.
My most vivid recollection of that first wet season was the rising of the river that flowed nearby from it's source by the El Cap Mountain to the San Diego Bay. As the banks overflowed the old-timers recalled previous floods, before the bridge, when farmers had been forced to float barges into town to obtain feed for their livestock. They were amazed at the amount of debris the water took with it, whole trees, garbage, all sorts of timber, and even automobiles that had not been moved in time. This was, of course, long before the river was dammed at El Capitan in an early effort to provide water for a thirsty and growing population.
In the summertime, when the riverbed was dry, there were deep cold swimming holes created by the companies that mined the sand for concrete manufacture. On hot days, Dad would take us to these sand pits to cool off and that is where my sisters and I learned to swim. Once, a few years later, a friend and I missed our school bus home. Usually, that meant walking two miles, but on this day, the river was running and there was no indication of where the holes were, so we both stripped down to underwear and swam across, holding our clothes above us. Calling our parents to come and pick us up never ever crossed our minds.
Until the dam was built, the river was an important resource for the county. Further downstream, in Mission Valley, where the flood plain was at least a mile wide, farmers planted and harvested dozens of crops in the fertile soil. I remember acres of flowers and row crops. A family friend lived on a hillside above the valley and when we visited them we always stood at their picture window, entranced by the vast scene of production below. Even in the earliest days of settlement, the Spanish padres erected Mission San Diego de Alcala along the riverbank. Of course, brand new "Padres" inhabit Mission Valley today, and hotels and shopping centers long replaced the farms.