The 1883 Schoolhouse, home to the Encinitas Historical Society, has a huge array of old photographs, mostly showcasing the very earliest pioneers, so I was delighted to come across this faded photo in a forgotten pile of pictures. There was no clue on the back as to who it might be, other than the scribbled words, “Man from Mars.” A little detective work and I discovered that it was Gerard Roy, father to the more famous Carolyn. Bit by bit I pieced together his story. This is what I love so much about Encinitas — the people who left their familiar landscape and traveled thousands of miles across mountains and oceans to start a new life way beyond their comfort zones; who put down roots and raised families so that their children would have all the opportunities they themselves had missed out on. It must have been such an exciting time to be plowing new furrows (literally) and watching your dreams take shape. It was a simple formula: you worked hard, and when the day was done, you got to play. It seems that Gerard Roy knew how to do both extremely well! — Alison Burns Image Caption:Gerard Roy, born in 1912, the 11th of 18 children, left Quebec in the 1930s and found work in downtown Encinitas in the Miller Brothers’ grocery store. He quickly earned such a good reputation for honesty and reliability that when he was ready to build his own store friends and family happily lent him the money, knowing that with his strong work ethic Roy would prove a solid investment. Roy’s Market, on the corner of Phoebe and Coast Highway 101, known as “the friendly store,” was stocked from floor to ceiling with essentials. He even taught himself the butcher’s trade. When the US government asked him to build the Leucadia post office on his property, the family’s income was guaranteed.Although Roy never progressed past eighth grade, he was a genius inventor. He had several gadgets patented, including his BAR-B-TORCH, an intricate adaptation of his wife’s handheld hair dryer with a long tube attached to a receptacle full of lighter fluid. Roy advertised his novel way of igniting barbecues in Popular Mechanics and spent a season at the Del Mar Fair working hard to promote it, but the device never quite caught on.
By far Roy’s greatest invention, in the 1950s long before the skateboard put in an appearance, was a set of motorized roller skates. With a gas-driven engine mounted on his back, Roy would zip down the empty Interstate-5 freeway while it was still under construction, reaching astonishing speeds. One day, while hurtling along the aptly named Vulcan Avenue, he was stopped by the local sheriff for exceeding the speed limit—but was never ticketed because the officer was unsure how to write it up.
It was only when a student at Palomar Junior College asked to feature Roy as part of his filmmaking course that the full dress of “Man from Mars” truly evolved. Thereafter, Roy became a much-loved regular in the Encinitas Christmas Parade, and even appeared on the Art Linkletter Show. He passed away in 1988, but the spirit of a self-propelled green-helmeted alien rocketing down historic Highway 101 still lives on. Photo courtesy of San Dieguito Heritage Museum.