‘Reflections from Box 150’: Former resident publishes her memoirs of growing up in La Jolla
To offer readers a glimpse into old La Jolla, long-ago resident Beverley Whitaker Rodgers has unboxed her memories from decades past and compiled them in a book.
“Reflections from Box 150: Chronicles of a Childhood Growing Up on the U.S. Horticultural Field Station near Torrey Pines, La Jolla, California” details Rodgers’ memoirs from the 1930s through 1952, when she graduated from La Jolla High School.
For the record:
4:38 p.m. April 5, 2022This article has been corrected to state that “Box 150” refers to the Whitaker family’s post office box.
Rodgers will sign copies of her book at noon Sunday, April 10, at Warwick’s bookstore, 7812 Girard Ave., La Jolla.
In “Reflections from Box 150,” Rodgers explores issues of war, disease, religion and more through short stories from her childhood, relating the vignettes to current events.
Her father was ethnobotanist and horticulturist Thomas Whitaker, whose work on the U.S. Horticultural Field Station researching lettuce, melons and gourds for the U.S. Department of Agriculture led to the development of produce more easily shipped across the country.
“Box 150” refers to the Whitaker family’s post office box.
Digging through her memories was a difficult process, Rodgers said. “I wanted to make sure that all my facts were correct.”
The verification involved many phone calls and a lot of rewriting to “get rid of a lot of exaggeration on my part,” she said. “But it was fun and interesting.”
Rodgers, now a resident of Glendale in Los Angeles County, began cultivating her stories while taking a memoir-writing class years ago, before the internet was widely available. She said she loves to write and is an avid reader, and “learned how to write how I thought books should be written.”
She said she’s glad for the thorough research she did for the book, “because now I know I can remember those things.”
Rodgers’ most poignant memories from La Jolla are planted in the field station, the location of which is now part of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
It was “a beautiful, beautiful place,” she said. “It had canyons that you could walk down and feel like you were in the Grand Canyon. When it would rain … it would go down like a river and there would be a waterfall at the end. It was so exciting to see things like that.”
She said she would ride horseback through the 63-acre field station and admire the valleys below.
Rodgers visited La Jolla last year, and it looks “quite different” now, she said.
However, some things are unchanged, such as the post office mural she remembers being installed in 1939, most of La Jolla High School’s buildings and the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, which was once the location of a general library.
Rodgers credits that old library with propelling her love of books. She recalls her mother, Mary Beverley Somerville Whitaker, taking her to the library, where “these two ladies [who] looked like guardians of the gate … introduced me to the young people’s libraries, and that was really exciting for me. It was a step forward.”
“Reflections from Box 150” also recounts World War II, when Rodgers would discuss with her classmates whether the West Coast might be attacked and would save metal scraps and watch soldiers at then-Camp Callan build foxholes on field station land, which she said infuriated her father.
Rodgers said a major focus of the book is her father’s agricultural and horticultural work “for the goodness of the people of the United States.”
Rodgers said she remembers the excitement of tasting the cantaloupes and other melons her father and his colleagues grew. “They were new and different and very good to eat,” she said.
To purchase “Reflections from Box 150,” visit BeverleyWhitakerRodgers.com. ◆
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