Woman recalls Carlsbad life in the ’20s

CARLSBAD — It didn’t matter that it was November. When Louise Getze, 11, and her older brother, George Jr., 13, arrived in Carlsbad in 1926 they couldn’t resist the temptation to run into the surf with their clothes on. After all, the ocean wasn’t something they saw in Andover, Ohio.
Their father, Dr. George Getze, scolded them and said they could never go in the water again. He was overridden by their mother, Florence.
Getze moved his wife and four children to Carlsbad to set up shop as the town’s first practicing physician. He built a home at Fourth Street (now Jefferson) and Grand Avenue. His first office was at State Street and Grand Avenue, on the first floor of the building that is currently home to the Caldo Pomodoro Restaurant.
“Daddy decided that if you were a doctor you needed to live downtown,” recalls Louise Getze Curley, now 94. “When he started it wasn’t easy. He sat in his office a lot. Then people (in Carlsbad) realized they had their own doctor.”
Soon Getze’s practice flourished with patients from affluent businessmen to Hispanic families who were the backbone of Carlsbad’s agricultural industry.
 “There were a lot of Hispanic children born George W. or Jorge,” Curley said.
In addition to the ocean, Louise Curley marveled at other wonders — horn toads, roadrunners and alligator pears (avocados).
It was also the first time she had ever seen Hispanic people.
“I thought they were the most beautiful people I had ever seen,” she recalls.
After the first day at Pine Avenue School, where he dressed in knickers with long brown socks, high-topped shoes and a jacket, George Jr. announced he wouldn’t return.
“He said, ‘They all laughed at my pants,’” Louise remembers. “Daddy took him to Oceanside where there was a J.C. Penney’s and bought him jeans.”
Curley said California schools were different than those in Ohio in other ways.
“There was a bus that took us to the zoo and Balboa Park,” she said. “I remember being excited. We never went off the school grounds before.”
She recalls that before school and during recess a teacher would put a record on the phonograph so that students could dance the Virginia reel.
Curley was also amazed to see the community come together for potluck dinners that were held in a produce warehouse adjacent to the train station.
During the 1930s she remembers attending dances at the old women’s club near Pine Street.
“I wasn’t allowed to go unless Mother or Father went,” she said. “Daddy was a gentleman of the old school and he expected his children to be ladies and gentleman. He made me promise I would never neck —  and I didn’t.”
The fact that peers enjoyed greater freedoms was a source of frustration to Curley.
“The bus would take us to Lake Cuyamacha for the day,” she remembers. “I had to sit on the shore with a dog while some girl was making time with my beau in a boat.”
As she matured, Curley discovered that Dr. Getze had a rebellious streak in his own youth. At 17, his father, also a physician, put him on a school ship with other wayward teenage boys where they learned to be crewmembers.
“They weren’t allowed to get off the ship when they arrived in France,” she said. “When they docked, my father got his camera and ran away to Paris. When he returned the captain put him in hand and leg irons in the bowels of the ship.”
Dr. Getze’s independent nature continued after medical school.
“After graduation he jumped a freight train,” Curley explains. “California was always in the back of his mind.”
Dr. Getze saw California for the first time when he arrived at the Presidio in San Francisco as a physician with the Army Medical Corps that escorted wounded troops via rail and sea from Europe during World War I.
“He was thrilled with California,” Curley remembers.
Louise Curley went on to become an R.N. herself. Today she lives in Vista with her son, Jim Simmonds, and his family. She has two other children: Hank, a retired physician, daughter Leslie and a total of six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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  1. Yolanda Mitchell says:

    Oh Mrs. Curley, I wish I’d seen this when it came out! I just mentioned your name last week!! I will never ever forget your mother and her sweet peas!! I miss you and have tried to find you!! I’ll look a little harder!!
    Love Yolanda Mitchell-Sheets!

  2. Bill Curley says:

    Hi Louise, enjoyed your story and I hope you’re doing well!

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