«1. General Information: HD: My name is Homer Delawie, H-o-m-e-r- D-e-l-a-w-i-e-, I am an architect, retired. I live at 2749 Amelia Drive, San Diego, ...»
Homer Delawie Interview April 1, 2007
Happy Hazard LLC
Transcript and Ephemera
Date: April 1, 2007
Location: 1833 Neale Street, San Diego, CA 92103
Homer Delawie = HD
Allen Hazard = AH
Janet O’Dea = JO
Kurt Schuette = KS
1. General Information:
HD: My name is Homer Delawie, H-o-m-e-r- D-e-l-a-w-i-e-, I am an architect, retired. I live
at 2749 Amelia Drive, San Diego, 92106.
AH Ok, Mr. Delawie,
AH: Thank you. Homer. Lets start with the basics. Where were you born?
HD: Santa Barbara, California AH What Year?
HD: Let’s see, in 1927.
AH: What were your parent’s names?
HD: Fred and Gertrude.
AH: Do you have or have you brothers and sisters?
HD: I had a sister that died last year and two brothers who died as infants.
AH: What was your sister’s name.
HD Geraldine Blankenship.
AH: How many children do you have?
HD: Six AH: Great, did any of your children follow in your footsteps as an architect?
HD: No, I have a grandchild that I am pushing in that direction. He’s only 8. My kids, one is a diplomat, one is a veterinarian, and one is an electronics specialist, one works with Fed Ex. One works for...Do you want me to give you their names? My oldest is Gregory Torrance Delawie;
my second is Tracy Elizabeth Delawie, and Scott William Delawie.
Homer Delawie Interview April 1, 2007 Happy Hazard LLC I have three grandchildren and three stepchildren, Clare Benet Sonsa, and Chandell who is the Vice President of… she just got a new job. One of the Furniture stores, Renaissance Furniture Stores, which used to be with Design Within in Reach and they stole her away. (unintelligible).
AH: What year did you join the Navy Homer?
HD: 1945 and fourteen days later they surrendered. They heard I was coming and then they quit.
All: Laughs AH: You probably didn’t go to the pacific theater did you?
HD: No about six miles out.
AH: What did you study in school before you entered the Navy?
AH: So you studied architecture afterwards?
HD: You have to remember in those days, there was only one thing on your mind and it was to hit the beaches in Japan. There wasn’t a whole lot of worrying about what you were going to do.
You knew that you were going to have to go to war. So I didn’t even think about going to college.
AH: So when did you get out of the Navy?
In 1946. I enlisted on the 27th of July 1945. I got out 13 months later.
AH: You studied architecture at California Polytechnic at San Luis Obispo.
HD: Right. You asked me if I knew what I was going to do and I really didn’t. So when I got out of the school, I got a job in the Forest Service in Santa Barbara County and I had worked one summer before and they had a deal that veterans had a year off, so then I took a year off. I went to work in the Forest Service.
There was a fire one night. I was the hose man and it was a forest fire. And I had two other guys with me who was manning the hose. I was the nozzle man. At one point, I looked back and the guy behind me had run off. So I also decided, I am not going into this fire alone.
So then anyway, my mother and my wife at the time, suggested that I go to college to take an aptitude test from the VA. Putting square pegs in round holes was the most important one. I took the entire test and they said that you should be an architect. I said, “I can’t even spell it.” So they said, why don’t you go to Cal Poly and start in their program. So I took off to San Luis Obispo and a month later I was in love with it.
AH: You were approximately 30 years of age at that time. What did you think about style or architecture or Frank Lloyd Wright or modernism? Did you as a young man, find any buildings that influenced you?
Homer Delawie Interview April 1, 2007 Happy Hazard LLC HD: Not as much but I would draw and those types of things. It was a learning process when I went into school. When I graduated, I was the first architectural graduate from California from Cal Poly; I was their first award winner and the first fellow, and first honorary graduate. I was lucky that I got to be first as there weren’t a lot of people before me.
AH: It’s good to be first. Did you study building post and beam architecture in school?
HD: Yes, it was the simplest structure that you could have. I had two professors. One was Bill, Bill Rucker, who was an excellent designer and Gene Hasslein 1, who was the dean of the school. Hasslein and I stayed friends for 40 years. He died a couple of years ago. I would come back to college and give lectures to the students about what they could do with their career.
AH: Then you had the fateful vacation to San Diego when you relocated here in the late 50’s.
HD: After I got out of school, after thinking for a few months, I got out in 1951. I looked around in Santa Barbara but there were no jobs. It was a neat place to work, but no jobs.
I went to Fresno and that was an experience. I got a job but that was not exactly the right office.
I’ll never forget the guy. The third time they wanted me to design a (sounds like new auditorium.) I quit. They just wanted to turn out schools and stuff like that. It wasn’t very good.
JO: What was the firm name?
HD: (sounds like Sam Chasten).
HD: Run by a guy in Modesto, Ken Kastner so I went up there shortly thereafter I had taken my state boards and passed all of them. Interesting to note, the one thing I didn’t pass the first time was the planning portion. (Laughs).
AH: How did you get a great job working for Lloyd Ruocco?
HD: We decided that I was going to try to go back to Santa Barbara. I had been working in Modesto great for about a year and a half. I came down here and she had a sister who lived in Claremont and we were driving down 5th Ave. I was coming up the street and I saw a fantastic building (The Design Center). And I slammed on the brakes. There was a man in the street and he was looking a little mad. I almost ran over him and I stopped and it was Lloyd Ruocco. So, we started chatting, then we started talking and after about three hours later I had to go back to Santa Barbara and he said, “Give me a call.” Then, I didn’t think any more about it, the next day when I got back home I had a phone call from Lloyd offering me a job working on the new Channel 10 (studio). Which is the Channel 10, which is still in the same building out there now.
It was great fun. I had done all of my work in Fresno and Modesto and with schools but nothing creative. I didn’t do great work there so this gave me a chance to come to San Diego. Ruocco had a partner with the schools, I worked with them, and then Lloyd offered me a partnership. Then after a year and a half or so Lloyd was going to take a trip around the world. So we had an Born in Los Angeles, CA on Aug. 31, 1917. During his college years at USC, Hasslein painted watercolors while studying with Dan Lutz. After earning his B.A. degree in 1946, he taught architecture for 40 years at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. He died there on Aug. 24, 2001.
Exh: Calif. WC Society, 1939-40.
Source: Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940 Homer Delawie Interview April 1, 2007 Happy Hazard LLC agreement to become partners. When he left I was in command. When he left we had three jobs and when he came back we had ten.
He was a neat guy. I owe him a tremendous amount and he taught me how to see and detailing and planning. I learned a lot. I started jobs and after he got back a year and a half or so, I realized that we were competing with each other. So it wasn’t good for Lloyd or me. So we talked about it and decided to split up the firm. In a partnership, you need to be compatible and not doing the same things.
AH: How were you different from Lloyd Ruocco?
HD: We were not very different. We both learned how to experience the environment; I learned that from Lloyd. He pushed me to be involved in the community. Watching his work, we both did things the same way as far as detailing and things like that. He taught me how to get along, work with the city and to become involved in the community.
Lloyd was starting a group, which he called Citizens Corner. Now Citizens Coordinate for Century 3. He introduced me to, and got me involved in various things –with the Lyons club, and with the city. All together, I was working with the city for 30 years.
I was first appointed to the Housing Appeals advisory board. It is Ironic that these were the guys who tear down buildings. I served on that board, for 5-6 years. I was a member of the AIA and the AIA wanted an architect on the Planning Commission. Believe it or not a city the size of San Diego did not have an architect on the planning board up until then, no architect had been appointed.
So finally, Bob Moser and Frank Hope had the mayor (Pat Curren) appoint me to the Planning Commission. The Mayor didn’t want an architect on the planning commission. He was not comfortable with someone who knew more than him about planning. He told me: “Here is the deal, write two letters, one letter accepting the appointment and one resigning the planning commission. So I will put this letter on my desk. If you give me a bad time I will use this” (resignation letter).
AH: Your boxcar house is nearby and Kurt tells us it just sold. So that was your first residence?
Homer Delawie Interview April 1, 2007 Happy Hazard LLC showed it to his friend Douglas Simmons. Douglas was a very well renowned photographer. I think that he was better than Schulman. In fact I know he was better when it came to houses. All of these pictures are by Douglas Simmons. (Referring to photos from LA Magazine.) Homer Delawie Interview April 1, 2007 Happy Hazard LLC Homer Delawie Interview April 1, 2007 Happy Hazard LLC 1833 Neale Street, LA Magazine photos by Douglas Simmons c.1965, provided by Homer Delawie Homer Delawie Interview April 1, 2007 Happy Hazard LLC
2. 1833 Neale Street AH: How did opening your own practice and building your own office down by Presidio Park, the year before designing this house, have an influence on the Neale Street house and the way you wanted to live?
HD: None. I am not sure what you are asking.
AH: Neither am I. So you opened your practice.
HD: Right. January 1961.
AH: January 1961. And this house is actually according to this list, about the tenth; well a couple of these are offices. So this is about the 8th or 9th house that you have built.
AH: Approximately, this is only a partial list. What influence did the boxcar house and the office that you designed have on this house as far as the relationship with the land, the use of cedar siding, the post and beam?
HD: I liked it, because things were simple and direct. The use of glass and wood siding, and post and beam construction. I could float spaces around that complimented each other. You will notice in any one of my houses, there are no corners. Like when you look that way, (points to the north east edge) the glass goes right out and same right here (points to the north west edge).
The influence of the boxcar, showed me I could do it. I turned it into a design competition for a design award.
AH: This house?
HD: No, this one hadn’t come along yet. And I turned it in and won an award of merit from the San Diego Chapter of American Institute of Architects. At the same time, we discovered we were going to have a brand new son. So I built the boxcar for that. Then at the same time, I knew that I couldn’t do work on the kitchen table the way I still do today. But for all of my work I had to have more room. So I expanded the boxcar idea into this house AH: So you were originally planning to live in the boxcar?
HD: I did. I lived in the boxcar for a time.
AH: But then your son came along and you needed a bigger house.
Homer Delawie Interview April 1, 2007 Happy Hazard LLC Realtor promotional postcard announces the sale of the Boxcar house, March, 2007.
HD: This house (1833 Neale Street) was started and we moved into this one (The Village in Point Loma) in 1973. I lived in this house for some time between 1968. I guess we lived in the boxcar for about six years. That is not adding up now.
AH: My dates are 1958 for the boxcar and this house is completed about1963.
JO: December 16, 1962 is the water record. It looks like 1963 is when this one finished construction.
AH: I think this is a fascinating location, because you have a 1949 John Lloyd Wright, 1950’s Sim Bruce Richards and this house. Did you think that it was interesting to place these together?
HD: I didn’t think about it.
AH: You weren’t really thinking about it.
HD: There is another one you left out, around the corner on the other side on Washington Place it is a Leibhard Weston house.
HD: It is right around the corner.
AH: There are a number of modernism...
Homer Delawie Interview April 1, 2007 Happy Hazard LLC KS: It is the one on the corner of Washington Place and Pringle. And didn’t you do the twostory addition on the backside of it?
HD: Yes, that is what I did. I didn’t remember what I did.
KS: I can spot it a mile away, because it is perfect. It is very much Homer Delawie I thought you had done the whole house.
AH: Did you know John Lloyd Wright?
AH: Did you socialize during this period?
HD: With who? Leibhard Weston or Sim Bruce Richards?
AH: Sim Bruce Richards?
HD: Yes, more on a social AIA level. We were not close friends. I mean we were friends but we were not close.
AH: What do you think of Kurt’s fence?
AH: How does that differ?
HD: I was wondering about it today, about what I had. It ties in. It is different but it ties in.
AH: How does it compare to the one you had?
HD: I can’t remember what I had for the moment. It was a louver type of thing wasn’t it?
KS: It was translucent panels.
HD: That’s right. OK. That was a (expletive) Lloyd Ruocco idea; he was into modern design of fences.
AH: But this looks ok now, the fence that is there now.