Del Mar Fairgrounds – The Beer Gardens

The meda group

A Mac Meda founders sharing a good time at the Del Mar Beer Gardens: L to R, Fat Art (RIP) Pattie Brewer, Jack MacPherson, Dave Osborn, Bob Okey. Photo by Gerie Osborn.

In 1880, a group of San Diegans organized an agricultural Fair to bring county farmers together to share ideas, see who had the best citrus fruit, who baked the best pie, and who had the fastest horse. By the 1930s, faced with fairs that struggled each year for survival, voters approved pari-mutuel racetrack betting to help fund the state’s agricultural fairs. In 1936, the 22nd District Agricultural Association bought land at the mouth of the San Dieguito River for a county fairgrounds, and with that said, by 1984 it became one of the Nation’s Largest Fairs. However …

… for Mac Meda, the prime reason to go was not the excitement of the crowds, the rides that made you puke (which was bitchen to some), the carneys hacking butt-ugly kube dolls or the freak show of a a 600-pound lady, a two-headed mummified cow or a sword swallower or the conventional displays of cheap gimmicks that you buy, but never worked the way the hacker demonstrated and the delight of gut-twisting junk food.

Oh yeah …  you guess it, it was time for 10 mile road trip from La Jolla’s to Del Mar’s famous Beer Gardens.

In a rare picture

This is a very rare picture taken at the Beer Gardens from L to R, Dave Osborn, Pat Shea, Fat Art, Rent a Cop, Steve Gray and a rare shot of Robert Rackstraw. Photo by Dave Osborn

Back in the good ol’ days, the Beer Gardens were right across from Don Diego’s Tower. A cute white picket fence surrounded a grass lawn with metal tables, chairs with tacky umbrellas that provided shade and supposedly a quiet time for an adult to have an ice cold beer that was fairly cheap, a $1 would get you a 16 ounce pour.

Did I say quiet time?

My mistake. And who cared about an umbrella at night. Well, the umbrella served a very important role during night; it helped hide the underage drinker and provided a shield for some extra activity that kept one pounding beers down. Hummm, wonder what that was?

The Beer Gardens became very popular with Mac Meda almost the day they opened. A great way to spend a Friday or Saturday night that many times ended up with a few fights, loud behavior and a ton of underage drinkers. They never or rarely checked IDs. If you looked 21, you were in. And besides, who is going to check IDs when there is money to be made.

During those weeks of fair festivities, it became the general meeting place for La Jolla’s beach crowd.

Beside Jack and his company, others that were known to have a good time was the Shores/Sea Lane group like Bill Canning, Beachball, Skip Wolff, Billy Humes and Steve Wyre etc etc …

… but we will get into this groups later, and one of the reasons,  Del Mar almost closed down the Beer Gardens.


  1. Dave Osborn says:

    Posted on this site 1 30 2014
    Pat Shea:
    Macpherson like to mention Pat Shea when he was interviewed about Mac Meda
    as Pat was sort of the real life Mac Meda powerful man image.

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013
    My recollections: Pat Shea

    About 1960 the Chargers where formed in Los Angeles part of the new AFL. The NFL didn’t like the competition and the survival chance of the AFL seemed slim. Shortly after the Chargers moved to San Diego, SD’s first & only pro-football team. AFL teams gave a lot of players a chance to play pro that would not have gotten a chance, (With just the NFL), Pat had played for USC. Shea was motivated to make the team and was known to work very hard in the gym & in practice..

    The old Balboa Stadium was the only stadium available to play at. Built in 1914 Balboa it was outdated, the seat where just stepped concrete (as I recall) you could rent cushions to sit on for about .25 cents. I understand the Chargers practice facility was more or less a farm field.

    The1962 Chargers got beat up with about only 4-wins. Coach Sid Gillman brought in a “Strength building” guy and that he did**, in 1963 the Chargers won the championship and as the NFL would not play them (Chargers in a post season game) as it was sort of below them and they didn’t want to give the AFL any credibility, so I think the Chargers just took claim to being world champs. I recall the old Stadium was filled to the rim by the end of the 63 season.
    Pat Shea was on the starting lineup on the’63 offense along with his friend, Chargers great Walt Sweeney both where guards. I was told that Howard Cosell (On Monday night football in the 70’s?) once remarked something like(Pat & Walt) where the best par of pulling guards ever (Of that era). I never saw Pat with out his Championship ring***

    As the pay was low in those days for most football players Pat worked off season (Jobs often provided by Charger Supporters). In maybe 1964 after he had back surgery he never was able to get back into AFL football (Although he wanted to & felt he could still play). He did try out for the short lived World Football League’s Portland Storm in about 1974 (Ron Mix was in Portland’s management & may have gotten him a shot as he was getting a little old for a comeback) but was injured in practice and that was it. At about that time I recall seeing him running in La Jolla Shores trying to get back in playing shape again… the man looked strong enough to tear the door off a bank vault.

    Ernie Ladd on Pat: “ Shea was just raw animal.”

    Pat may have still been playing for the Chargers when he started to become well known in La Jolla, (CA,) for his lifestyle including being involved in a bar in downtown La Jolla, I think it was called the Gladhand. In the late 60’s he operated the famous & wild ‘Sip& Surf’ bar in Bird Rock, (District of La Jolla).

    Pat moved to North County in about 1971-2 (San Diego) where a lot of athletes and sports fans lived there then, Pat became a popular personality. He worked for his friend Phil Brown at his restaurant, P. Rodney’s (About 1972-3) then at the ‘Belly Up’ when they opened in 1973 (he may have been the first daytime bartender). Also Pat & Walt Sweeney fronted a Bar called ‘Sweeney O-Shea’s with a backer in about 1981-2 all where in Solana Beach, CA. After that Pat went back to the Belly up for quite a while.

    I lost contact with Pat after the late 80’s & I may be off on some facts as its just what I can recall. I was fortunate to have known Patrick!

    Dave Osborn


  1. click for more…

    Del Mar Fairgrounds – The Beer Gardens |…

Speak Your Mind