BY ALEENE SEXTON QUEEN
Coronado became home to the Walter and Katie Sexton family almost one hundred years ago. My grandfather was a circuit rider Methodist minister, living in Dalles, Oregon, but traveled south with his brother to find relief from a lung condition. He found it when they came to Coronado, not San Diego, but Coronado. He knew he had found a place to raise his family and returned to Dalles to bring my grandmother and their four children here to Coronado. They boarded the steamship Roanoke and arrived in San Diego in January 1913. Grandpa held a few jobs, but he loved attending to St. Paul’s Methodist Church. He ministered there and has been honored with a room in his name “The Sexton Room”. They rented one of the old tent houses on the block of 5th and G until Grandma decided to put a down payment on the house at 717 E Avenue. There she would bring expectant mothers in and care for both for ten days after the baby was delivered. It was a house filled with children and love and military for Sunday dinner, many visiting on their return from the war to thank Grandma and Grandpa for their prayers and hospitality. They lived there the rest of their lives, into their 90s. The house still stands today and holds many memories for me and the years we lived there.
My Daddy, Laural, known as Skippy, Skip, and the Skipper, was two years old when they arrived. The town folks gave Laural the “Skippy” name from a cartoon of a “street-smart kid” in the funny papers at the time and it stayed with him the rest of his life. Laural didn’t like wearing shoes and left them in the crook of the tree in front of their house as he left for school. Grandpa Sexton did odd jobs at the school so he’d find out Daddy was barefoot and give him a reprimand, but the next day would find his shoes in the crook of the tree again. Skippy was one of the early surfers during his young years in Coronado, surfing on his paipo board. Our home now boasts a large poster made by his grandsons, Kevin and Jef, dedicated to their beloved Bapa. He worked many jobs at an early age to contribute to family finances. It was the 1920s, and another child had come into the family – my aunt, Lucille Sexton Bandel, age 94, a life-long supporter of St. Paul’s Methodist Church at Seventh and D. Skippy had a paper route, then worked as a soda jerk at Bill Smith’s Malt Shop on the island. He operated the first malt machine to come to Coronado and received it as a gift from Bill Smith when the malt shop closed. I still have that malt machine.
Skip’s graduation gift from Coronado High School in 1929 from the family was a trip to Washington D.C. He and his older brother, Charlie, who had graduated from college, were driving East when the car broke down in Salt Lake City, Utah. They went to get a sandwich at a place near the car repair garage and, in the wink of an eye, my Daddy fell in love with the waitress! Yes, I do believe in love at first sight because that chance meeting ended in 45 years of the happiest marriage ever! Daddy went on to D.C. and worked in a cigar store in or near the Senate building. I have many signatures he received from Washington dignitaries — he was well-liked for his happy personality and easy smile. After one year, Skipper returned to Coronado and wrote to ask my mother, Billie, to come and meet his family. She did come, accompanied by her mother, and Skip and Billie were married two years later. I made my appearance in April, 1934. They suffered the loss of several children so I was the only child and got lots of love! I never heard angry words spoken in our home — I do remember Daddy going for a walk every now and then! Hmmm, ever the peaceful man!
Daddy, Momma and I were a trio — we’d put on our roller skates and skate to the movie house, leaving our skates in the lobby, and they’d be there when we came out! We’d go for a “toot” around the island after dinner to watch the sun go down, with me riding on Daddy’s bicycle handlebars. He’d show us a house he was working on and tell us about the families living there. Many families were Navy and would have to leave things behind so I was the recipient of many nice toys — a beautiful doll house with lights, Story Book dolls and once, a little black Cocker Spaniel puppy we named Cinders. Skip was an Air Raid Warden for our block at 4th and E Avenue during WW2. He would walk our block just after dark to make sure no lights were shining from the windows of the houses. Gas masks were issued to island families and I remember Daddy gently instructing us how to put them on, though I’m grateful we never had to use them!
Daddy loved to go fishing and made me my own fishing pole out of wood doweling and an empty spool of thread that he’d fill with fishing line. I did catch a few fish at Lake Cuyamaca with those home-made poles. We all remember his chuckle as he told a funny story (he had many) and his deep laughter when he heard one. We all miss his deep baritone as he sang, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” all during the holidays.
I always treasured the trust my Dad gave me. He gifted me with a silver charm of Jiminy Cricket when I was 14 and said, “Always let your conscience be your guide.” I wore that charm for many years and have been guided by his words many times in my life. Thanks Daddy and Jiminy!
Skip loved his Coronado home and only left for a few years during WW2 to work in a defense plant in Los Angeles. Our family returned home to Coronado after the war and he returned to painting houses. Daddy figured he painted most of the houses on the island in his lifetime and had much pride in his work. The people he worked for weren’t just customers, they were friends. If someone didn’t have the money to pay for his work then he’d barter for health care, groceries, car repair, etc. But Daddy wouldn’t go into debt to buy a car or a home — he always paid cash. So he never owned a home but treated every rental like it was his own. I started school when we lived at 412 E Avenue (the house was offered to Daddy for twelve hundred dollars in 1942 – imagine that!) and it brings many memories when I pass by now. We also lived at 536 ½ C Avenue during my high school years (CHS 1952) until Daddy’s death in July 1976. That home gave way to a modern building a few years ago.
A heart condition retired the Skipper and not being one to sit and watch TV, he had received a “start” for Shepherd’s bread from a real sheepherder, a relative of my Mother’s in Utah, and had kept it “alive” for years. He made loaves of bread from that start in coffee cans (a popular thing in the 70s), and while the bread was still warm, would deliver loaves to friends. Kimmie Dill says she remembers that bread — and my Daddy!
Skip’s grandsons, Kevin and Jef, were born here in Coronado, in 1955 and 1957, and loved spending time with their “Bapa”. He taught them to fish, both on the ocean and the bay, took them on helicopter rides over the ocean, and taught them his magic tricks. The best “magic trick” of all was his disappearing act on the walk home with the boys after playing in Spreckles Park — later he would just tell them he “fell in a hole!” Now the boys know the “hole” was right behind the VFW Hall and they laugh! The Skipper is still remembered by family and friends for his laughter, love of life, and his gentle spirit.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Because of the creation of the article, “The 1022 Crew”, I became reacquainted with Aleene Sexton Queen, “Queenie”. Through the same method of communication that the 1022 Crew found each other on Facebook, it was communicated to me that Aleene was Skip Sexton’s daughter. At once, memories flooded from my childhood of the handsome and cheerful “Skipper” not only doing repairs and paint jobs at our family home, 1132 Glorietta Boulevard, but also of how great that warm, freshly baked, delicious Shepherd’s bread was. When Skipper made a delivery of his flavorful variety loaves (wheat, sourdough, white, etc.), the whole Dill family’s mouths would start watering. Boy, was it yummy! His daughter, Queenie has it right, Skipper was more than an employee of sorts, he was also one of this family’s best friends and his memory lives on in all of us. Thanks Skipper!