The 1920s

Home of the Avocado

In the 1920s, Carlsbad began to flourish as an agricultural community and soon became known as the “Home of the Avocado” and later “the Flower Capital,” a title shared with neighboring Encinitas. Dry farming, the town’s main industry, expanded to include growing flowers, fruit, and avocados.

In 1923 the first Avocado Day celebration was held, offering avocado sandwiches, avocado cake, and avocado ice cream. The South Coast Land Company took advantage of this opportunity and began selling five-acre lots of “avocado” land. In addition to the avocado groves that dotted the landscape, flower fields and subtropical fruits were introduced to the area.

St. Michael’s parishioner Louise Curley remembers, “One of Carlsbad’s main industries was the production of avocados in its then extensive orchards. We take avocados for granted now, but in those years the market was just being developed, and people east of Arizona called them “Alligator Pears.” The bad times [the Great Depression] put an end to most of the efforts to educate the eastern public in regard to avocados, but they were a useful form of barter and they were plentiful. We ate them because they were there, and, I might add, we loved them!” 

A Growing Community

By the mid-20s, Carlsbad had its own school district, several churches, a movie theater, and a weekly newspaper. Constant improvements were undertaken, upgrading the conditions of the area. In 1925, the population of Carlsbad had grown to 600.

Much of the groundwork and infrastructure of community was built during these years. The support businesses needed by the farmers, such as building supplies, small hotels, blacksmiths, and mercantilists, congregated near the rail lines creating a solid downtown business district.

State Street (pictured right), where most of the businesses were located, had the distinction of being one of only two paved streets in town, an honor it held with Lincoln Street.

St. Michael’s Parish Hall

1928 was a big year for St. Michael’s. With financial assistance of the American Church Building Fund, the Parish Hall was built.

Parishioner Betty Ramsay remembers, “At last we had adequate accommodations for card parties, potlucks, bazaars, food sales – even a badminton court, in spite of the low ceilings – not to mention church affairs like choir practice, Guild meetings and YPF meetings. We even contrived a removable stage for amateur theatricals.”

Along with the original chapel, this building was relocated to the present church location and gradually expanded into the larger space used today.

[PHOTO] Beach camping nearby in 1929 Oceanside.

The Red Apple Inn

Built in the 1920s, the Red Apple Inn on Carlsbad Boulevard was a popular place to dine, with unique apple and avocado dishes on the menu. However, the inn and restaurant did not survive the Great Depression, and eventually the building was purchased in 1936 for use by the Army and Navy Academy.

The Army and Navy Academy still stands today as a neighbor to St. Michael’s!

The Carlsbad Theatre

The Carlsbad Theatre celebrated its grand opening on February 9, 1927, with a showing of the silent film “It” starring Clara Bow, billed as the “It Girl.”

The theater was grand and lavish for a small town like Carlsbad and it featured a full stage, fly gallery, orchestra pit, pipe organ, and flyable movie screen. It was decorated with large murals depicting Carlsbad and surrounding landmarks.

It can still be seen in town today as the Carlsbad Village Theatre.


[PHOTO] Dewey McClellan and Dolores “Dee Dee” Chase in the 1920s. Dewey became Carlsbad’s first mayor when the city was incorporated in 1952.

Text Sources, Photos, and References:
• A History of San Diego North County: From Mission to Millennium (2001) by Lola Sherman
• Carlsbad: Images of America (2009) by Jeannie Sprague-Bentley
• Windows on the Past: An Illustrated History of Carlsbad, California (2002) by Susan Schnebelen Gutierrez
• The Carlsbad Historical Society
• Historic Carlsbad: A Self-Guided Tour, Carlsbad City Library Brochure
• The San Diego Union-Tribune
• St. Michael’s History Booklet: From 1894 to 1983
• St. Michael’s Archive