By Ruth Lepper
February 13, 2005
BORREGO SPRINGS – In the history of Borrego Springs, 1949 is an important year.
That was when the spelling of the town's name officially changed from "Borego" to "Borrego."
Borego, with one R, first appeared on a county map in 1883, according to a 1997 article in the
Journal of San Diego History. It was believed to have been a misspelling of the Spanish word borrego, which means yearling lamb, according to the author of the article, Phil Brigandi, a local historian.
When the town's first post office opened on March 1, 1928, it was called Borego Valley Post Office.
It wasn't until 1949, when a new post office was built near Christmas Circle, which is now the center of the business district, that the spelling of the town was changed to Borrego with two Rs.
The first post office was on Rango Way in the home of postmaster Eslie Wynn. It was a popular meeting place for homesteaders in the valley who came there to pick up their mail, according to the article.
Wynn was an enterprising man. Because many cars and trucks passed by his house, he added a gas pump, and it became the first service station in the valley.
Business was booming in 1928, so the following year Wynn built a building to house the post office and a general store on the north side of Rango Way. The county established a public library inside the store. The branch library remained there until 1935, when it moved to a small building nearby.
By that time, Wynn had built a garage next to the store. He hired a mechanic while he took on the added duties of mail delivery to increase his income. Wynn drove to Julian twice a week to pick up Borrego mail. The mechanic, James Thomson, became postmaster and ran the garage.
"Before going to Julian, they had to go to Ramona to get the mail," said Bob Cassidy, past president of the Borrego Springs Civic Foundation. "It was a five-day round trip to get the mail from Ramona."
After Thomson, Glenn DuVall, who lived across the road, became proprietor of the store and garage and took over as postmaster. He was followed by his younger brother, Eddie DuVall.
Brigandi's research shows that the post office closed in July 1940, when business and population in the valley went into decline because of the Depression. Mail was delivered by carriers out of Julian.
But Eddie DuVall didn't give up. He kept the store and garage open for nearly 20 more years. He also served as the town's deputy sheriff.
Rango Way near Borrego Springs Road – the area that was the center of town in the 1930s – is now known as "Old Borego." The post office, store and house remain, but they are in poor condition. Four cottages Eddie DuVall used as rentals stand nearby. All of the property is privately owned, and the buildings are closed.
However, every October the buildings are opened for Old Borego History Preservation Day, sponsored by the Borrego Springs Civic Foundation.
"I do hope someday we get it as a museum, showcase it for what it stands for," said Cassidy.
The annual celebration includes showing a short film taken in the early 1960s when actor Gale Gordon, who played Theodore J. Mooney on "The Lucy Show," was honorary mayor.
"It's advertising for people to come to Borrego and live here," said current honorary mayor Sam Webb. "Gale Gordon is the announcer. It's really interesting. It shows the town as it looked back then."
Ruth Lepper is a freelance writer based in Ramona.
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